A woman takes a photo of her tailored dress to post on her business's website.
Engaging with your audience and building trust are key to building a strong brand. — Getty Images/vgajic

Creating a lasting impact on a potential customer holds immense significance for the reputation and identity of your company. In a saturated market, consumers have more options of who they can choose to patronize — and for 82% of customers, the decision comes down to finding a brand that holds the same values and reflects them in its branding.

Here are six strategies to establish a robust brand for your business.

Amp up your SEO

It’s hard to grow your brand if clients don’t know you exist or can’t easily find you online. That’s why it’s crucial to improve your rankings among search engines like Google. The goal is for your site and any content you publish to be among the top results that appear when people conduct a keyword search.

The steps to achieve this are numerous, but often include the following items:

  • Adding titles, descriptions, and keyword metadata on your website.
  • Using alt tags.
  • Employing plenty of links throughout your site’s pages and content.
  • Enhancing your page loading speed.
  • Using header tags to break up your content.

Ryan Fitzgerald, owner of Raleigh Realty, followed these and other tips and saw his website traffic increase from 5,000 to nearly 100,000 visits per month.

“Our SEO branding strategies created a lot of trust with folks,” he said. “Now, when you Google ‘moving to Raleigh’ or ‘moving to Charlotte,’ you see that our website ranks at the top of the search results because both people and Google trust our brand to provide valuable information.”

Fitzgerald added that “a referral from Google is even more trustworthy than a referral from a friend in the eyes of a consumer because they come across our brand in an organic way — through search.”

[Read: 4 Affordable PR Strategies for Small Businesses]

Understand your target audience

Developing a strong brand requires a thorough understanding of your target audience. To determine which audiences you should target, consider the demographics, habits and behaviors, needs, and goals of your preferred consumers. You will likely want to target a primary audience followed by secondary audiences that are viable options but of lower priority. Once these audiences have been determined, cater your branding to them. The end goal is for your audience to understand the “why” of your product.

Many businesses aim to get a full understanding of their audience by developing customer personas, or fake profiles that represent the types of consumers the company is marketing to. These personas, which include information regarding a fictional person’s lifestyle, interests, age, occupation, education, personality traits, motivators, and more, can help a business to understand who exactly their target customer is, along with why that customer is a good fit for the brand. These personas can ultimately guide a business as it develops its marketing strategy and pinpoint ways for businesses to better connect with their target audiences.

Building your brand around your target audience is an effective way to establish a loyal customer base, as consumers want to know a business is listening and catering to their needs — and loyal customers often turn into ambassadors who spread the word about your brand.

It’s also a good idea to encourage your customers to post online reviews and include photographs of their own in their reviews.

Joe Palumbo, owner, Ice Dam Guys LLC

Create compelling content

One surefire way to establish a stronger brand is through clever content marketing, advised Tiffany K. Schreane, marketing/advertising expert and professor with the Borough of Manhattan Community College.

“Creating white papers, blogs, articles, videos, podcasts, and other content online — posted on your website and social media platforms — that educates your target audience and draws awareness to your company and its offerings and benefits is worth the effort. It has the potential to position your brand as an industry leader among other competitive brands,” she said. “But this content shouldn’t be a sales pitch — it should be aimed to inform and inspire.”

First, carefully identify your target audience. Next, create a list of topics and subject matter categories that you can create content around and for which your business provides solutions.

“Make sure the content is relevant to your business and your clientele. And ensure that all information you write and post is accurate and factual,” Schreane said. “If you’ve conducted any research and have any interesting data or statistics to share, try to include them in your content, too.”

Also, always check for typos and grammar to ensure clean and easy-to-read content.

Construct a compelling brand story

Humans are drawn to stories, which convey a message more clearly and memorably than just basic facts. Therefore, brands can establish a trusting, emotional connection with their target audience by sharing their brand story.

Through an effective brand story, companies can shape their own narrative and establish connections with like-minded audiences, leading to more enthusiastic patrons and an increase in revenue. The story doesn’t have to be a heart-wrenching tale to be compelling, but it should demonstrate the value of your product/service and explain the “why” behind your business using motivators and emotions.

Ensure your brand story encompasses your company’s mission and personality — consumers want to find an emotional connection with the brands they support and will likely be loyal to businesses whose story resonates with them. The story can be shared across various marketing channels, including social media, email newsletters, and TV or print ads, but the message should remain consistent across all platforms.

[Read More: How to Build a Memorable Small Business Brand Customers Will Remember]

Showcase great photos online

Any small business can repurpose stock photos or generic images to convey a message. But smart business owners go the extra step by creating and posting fresh and relevant photographs that are better visual representations of what they do and who they are.

“We take copious photographs and videos, mostly of our work at various stages of completion, and post them on our website,” explained Joe Palumbo, owner of Ice Dam Guys LLC, a company that removes ice dams from roofs. “Reusing some ‘greatest hits’ kinds of photos is OK, but, in general, you should try to take and post as many different images of what you provide as you can.”

Instead of hiring a costly professional photographer, Palumbo secured a quality camera and got into the practice of taking photographs of himself and his crew while on the job — including before-and-after shots to demonstrate the impact of his services. He said patrons appreciate seeing who they are considering doing business with — the actual professionals at work on a real project.

“It’s also a good idea to encourage your customers to post online reviews and include photographs of their own in their reviews,” Palumbo said. “Photos make your expertise seem more real to others; they make it easier for would-be customers to know what to expect of your company and what it offers.”

[Read: How to Find an Influencer to Help Boost Your Word-of-Mouth Marketing]

Design your brand image

To find success and stand out among competitors, a brand should maintain a positive and consistent image — this starts with building a unique identity. A brand identity encompasses all of a brand’s visual elements, such as its company name, logo, voice, colors, and design. It plays a large role in how customers perceive a brand, as it visually represents what a company is about and differentiates the brand from competitors.

A brand image should be authentic and appeal to your target audience, demonstrating both the value of your product/service and the benefits consumers who patronize your business will find. It should highlight your brand in an impactful way, showcasing your brand’s promise to consumers and the overall personality your business is trying to reflect.

When creating or reinventing a brand image, keep a uniform and consistent identity — it’s important that customers know what to expect when they see your branding. For example, take a cooking brand whose social media accounts consist of recipes written in a friendly tone accompanied by visually appealing videos with branded colors. If a customer signs up for that brand’s email newsletter, they will likely be surprised if that newsletter features colorless, formally written content that bears no resemblance to the brand’s social media — that’s because customers want consistency from the companies they patronize. Therefore, companies should ensure that the same brand image is maintained across all channels it utilizes.

Keep in mind that your brand image will require consistent improvement over time to fit the needs of the company.

This story was updated by Miranda Fraraccio.

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