Business and Launch Your Brand Online Without Losing Your Money or
A great idea can hit you anywhere. It can wake you at 2:00
a.m., so compelling that you jump out of bed, put on a pot of
coffee, and begin outlining your business plan.
Remember, though, in the heady rush of dreaming up the
business, to build a launching pad for it. In other words, a
presence on the Internet. Because in today’s buzzword search-engine
climate, a website is the most powerful marketing and sales tool
available to any company, large or small, cottage industry or
You don’t need to be a cyber-genius to go online and get
results. But unless you have a clear business objective and message,
you could waste a lot of time and money without accomplishing much.
Here are seven steps to guide you in developing your website. Use
this system as a clear roadmap, so you don’t find yourself wandering
Step 1: Strategize:
strategy with your website designer — clarify how your business
goals and objectives translate to a website. You can’t create an
effective website design if you don’t know what you want the website
to do for you.
Step 2: Define Your
Target Market and Niche:
What overall customer base do you serve? — that’s your target market. Who
are they? Any particular field or industry? What characteristics,
interests, or needs do they have in common? Within that customer
base, find a smaller group that’s a more specific fit for your
product or service, and which may not be served by your competitors;
or both — that’s your niche. If your target market is people in job
search, for instance, your niche might be people in job search, over
50, who don’t just want to change jobs, they want to change careers.
Why do you need to define your target market and niche?
Because: (1) you can’t be all things to all people; (2) you and your
customer base need to find one another; and (3) the more specific
you get, the more your niche will feel you understand them and can
serve their specific needs.
Step 3: Position
If you’ve done your
homework, then you’ve researched the competition. Who are they? What
sets you apart in terms of customer base, quality, service, and
other aspects? What makes you unique? Look for gaps in the market
that aren’t being served – those gaps will help you position
yourself and define your niche. Plus, it’ll help you hone your
offerings, making you the expert who is sought out for your
Step 4: Describe
“What” and “How”:
selling a product or a service, what you’re offering has to
solve something or offer something for your customers. How it
does that is key to making them choose you. If you can’t describe
the “what” element, your customers won’t know you have a product or
service that might benefit them. If you can’t describe the “how”
element, your customers won’t be clear that it is doable, usable,
and of value. The “how” element also gives, in precise terms, the
ways in which the product or service will provide the results
customers want. It is a descriptive roadmap from Point A (their need
or want) to Point B (the results or benefits).
Step 5: Brand
Let’s say you’ve
already named your business. Now you need images, words, feelings,
to make it distinctive. To make it a brand. Branding involves
How do you want your customers/clients to think about your
business? How would your customers describe you and your
business? What value do your products/services provide, and how
do you want the world to perceive that value?
Logo — Clarify
your message based upon the perception you want your customers
to have about your business, your niche, and how you want to
position yourself. Distill that into an image that will be the
visual representation of your company: your logo.
Tagline — Then
translate that into a powerful, compelling tagline. Keep it
brief (3-7 words). Make it memorable. Be sure it fits your
business. The best taglines are evocative, meaning they conjure
images, thoughts, and feelings.
Choose visuals that best express and integrate with your logo
and tagline. Support your message with every visible aspect:
colors, typeface, styles, and other graphic elements.
Step 6: Create Your
The nature of your
business will drive and designate your website by topic — e.g.,
content, features, directions, contact info, blogs, links,
biography, photos, itineraries. Then start writing your copy, making
sure its tone fits the website design. State the key benefits
clients will receive, the key values you deliver, the key concerns
What topics does your website need to cover? — use that list
to create your website pages. For example, a lecturer or public
speaker may need a:
Who We Serve
Classes, and/or Retreats page
(books, CDs, DVDs) page; Shopping Cart
Planners page; Contact page
Resources page; E-zine; Special Reports
Design and develop your site using your visual brand elements
(logo, color). Review and test it before going live, to make sure
everything works, error-free. Offer a free report or e-zine that
provides value to website visitors, while building your list at the
Subscribe to an auto-responder program, to make it easy to
follow up with prospects and send out broadcasts to your clients.
Then go live and do a final testing to ensure accuracy on all
Step 7: Optimize,
Market, and Network:
your search engine optimization (SEO) goals and your return on
investment targets. Hire a specialist to do foundational search
engine optimization with meta-tags and images. With your specialist,
set up monthly, robust search engine optimization strategies, driven
by your specific goals.
Next, establish search engine marketing (SEM). Set up pages
on and participate in social networking sites. Post comments on
blogs that relate to your business, customer base, and overall
market. Write and publish articles offline and online for inbound
These seven steps aren’t simple, and they take work, but they
generate results and this year you just might watch your business
take off. With a powerful brand, backed up by a website that
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