Yes, planning. We've heard it a million times. "If you fail to plan, plan on on failing". It sounds cliche but the point is, it's true. I've written several articles on How to Write an Effective Internet Marketing Plan which outlines the very basic elements that should be considered when planning a new online venture.
But what I want to discuss today is the importance of properly planning your brand and what impact having a properly planned brand could mean for you. Your brand is far more than your logo. It's the synergy between who you are, what you do, how you think, what you represent and how others see you. It's everything from the look and feel of your website to the values you communicate to your target market.
Let's have a look at the affiliate marketing industry as an example. There are two ways people in this industry have successfully built brands. One is to brand themselves and the other is to brand their product or company.
1. Your Personal Brand
Examples of individuals who have successfully branded themselves are people like James Martell, John Chow, Missy Ward and Shawn Collins to name a few. These people, when you say their name, have huge brand recognition and chances are, even someone new would have heard their name a time or two.
If you visit their websites they have pictures or "icons" of themselves and have a strongly recognized "voice". You wouldn't have to have met them to know what they look like and chances are if you did (for the first time), you might be slightly nervous because they are considered slightly iconic in the industry.
Each of these people make it clear what they do and who they are. James Martell teaches newbie affiliates how to make money online through his Affiliate Marketers SUPER BootCamp. Shawn Collins and Missy Ward are most famously known for co-founding Affiliate Summit the affiliate industry's largest and most recognized conference. From these other new successful brands and products were born.
But did this all happen by accident? Absolutely not. Each person spent countless hours (even years) carefully planning their brand and delivering a consistent message about who they are and what they do. Its that effort in planning, foresight and consistency that has helped them become the household brands they are now.
2. Your Company Brand
The second way to brand in this industry is to focus on your product, service or company as a whole. When you think of ShareaSale you think of honestly, strong ethics, personal attention and warmth toward both merchants and affiliates. You don't only picture their logo. In fact, I personally am on their website daily and don't remember exactly what it looks like. But I do know where to find them, know that they will be at all the industry shows and can name at least half their team and call them friends.
We think of the people behind the brand and what they stand for and how they will affect my business and my affiliates. I think about the good tools they offer, the quick response times from their IT department and the fact that when I call for help, I get immediate, friendly attention where I know I will be well taken care of. ShareaSale, through careful planning, long term vision and deliverance of a consistent message, have successfully build a brand around their people and values and as a result are one of the fastest growing affiliate networks in North America.
So I challenge you, whether you are an affiliate or a merchant, to look at the big picture of who you are and what you represent. Look long term toward the feeling people will have when they think of your brand and how they will respond. Then work your way backwards until you achieve it.
Just one thing to note, sometimes your brand might turn out differently than what you expect. At the end of the day, it's your audience that determines what your brand really means. With proper planning your brand won't be too far off.