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From the Trenches

Fall Cleaning: Clean Up Your Online Brand

Mike Sweeney | September 8, 2009

As part of my normal procedure before meeting with a prospective partner, I explore as many of the company’s marketing vehicles as possible.   Sometimes that list is short – a website and a brochure.  Sometimes that list is longer – a website, brochure, blog, social media profiles, search engine listings, executive LinkedIn profiles, etc.

Over the weekend I went through this process to check out a prospective partner, and ran into some good news and bad news.  The good news is that this company has clearly embraced the idea of expanding its footprint by using a variety of offline and online marketing tactics and properties.  The bad news, however, is that as the company has expanded that footprint, it seems to have lost control of its brand and core messaging.

Here’s a sampling of what I found:

  • Archaic website design
  • Outdated content on all properties
  • Disjointed messaging and copy
  • Inconsistent color schemes and logo usage
  • Mismatched fonts
  • Broken links
  • Blog created from “packaged” industry-specific software
  • 5-6 different company descriptions on website, brochure, search engines, etc.
  • Links to other poorly-branded companies
  • Sporadic social media usage
  • No consistency in messaging across social media platforms

You get the point.  Some of these things, when considered as individual items, might seem nit-picky.  Combining them all, however, took me from legitimately excited for the meeting to nonchalant about the meeting at best.

That’s branding folks. Or in particular, that’s how poor branding and brand management can negatively impact your chances of landing that next big account or partnership.

It’s time to do some fall cleaning.  Don’t wait for the recession to end.   Make no mistake: business people are making decisions now, and your brand and overall identity is likely removing you from consideration sets on a daily basis.  The fact that you don’t know about it doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

I am not suggesting that you run out today and task your marketing team with rebranding the company in the next 30 days.  That’s unrealistic for the average firm, and frankly not enough time to do it right.  What I am suggesting is that you take these seemingly minor errors seriously, and create a schedule to address each vehicle/component thoroughly.  And…if you do determine that you may need to reconstruct the brand messaging and identity, spend the time to get the right person or firm to manage that process.

In the meantime, here’s five quick things you can do to clean up your brand today:

1) Build a simple one-sheet summary of your messaging. What do you do, who do you do it for, why do you do it well, what are the typical results, etc.  Don’t make the mistake of making that a marketing-only document; everyone in your firm is a marketer and should learn the messaging.

2) Update your content. You likely have updated press releases, blog posts, articles, photos, video and other material.  Use it and date it; the average B2B services buyer doesn’t like the idea of dealing with a company that doesn’t have much going on.

3) Fix the broken “stuff”. Links that don’t go anywhere.  Videos that won’t load.  Broken images.  You’d be surprised how quickly a staffer with an eye for detail (and authority to execute) can plow through and fix errors.

4) If you’re going to continue to use social media, put a simple one-page plan in place that identifies what you post, who posts, when you post, and where you post. That should be tied to the messaging plan you put together in #1 above.

5) You may not be able to do significant brand research, but guess what you can do – ask a few “friendly” prospects or customers what they think of your company and your brand. Ask them to cruise the website, blog and social media properties and offer some unfiltered opinions.  Give them something in return, although you’d be surprised how many might do it out of the kindness of their hearts.

Remember:  If it doesn’t look like you’re paying attention to detail from a marketing standpoint, it may indicate to your prospects that you’re not going to pay attention to the details surrounding their business.  Right or wrong, that’s just the way it is.

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