Given many small business retailers across Australia are preparing to reopen their physical stores as lockdowns look to soon be lifted by the end of the year, it’s important to have a consistent look across your physical marketing materials and your website, emails and digital communications.
Image is everything when it comes to making a great business impression.
Vistaprint Digital’s Customer Expectations Report found that over 50% of consumers have the same expectations about the experience they’ll have on a small business website as they do about that of a major company. So even if you’re small, it’s important to get your online presence right – and a critical first step is to ensure it matches up with the brand image you create offline, in order to convey a consistent and trustworthy business identity.
With small businesses across Australia drastically pushing marketing efforts online alongside the transition back to physical stores, it’s always a good time to review your brand for online and offline consistency. Here are five guidelines that can help you.
1. Standardise your design elements
The essential elements of a brand include a logo, color palette, fonts, and style of imagery. Once you’ve defined each of these components, ensure they can be used in various places, such as on a business card, a website, or in a social media profile. When viewed side by side, all your marketing materials, both online and offline, should be complementary and feel related.
If you have existing materials, use these as a guide when creating new items. For example, if you have a brochure and are building a website, use the logo, fonts, images or graphics from that brochure and insert where appropriate on your website. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel, and customers actually prefer when businesses have consistent information and aesthetics across their marketing efforts. It instills confidence in the brand and develops recognition, which is what every small business needs.
2. Define your tone of voice
Another way to create consistency is through your tone of voice. Every business has its own way of talking to their customers. Depending on your industry, your brand voice may be formal and business-like, or friendly and familiar. Once you’ve settled on an appropriate tone of voice, carry it through every communication. This means everything from email marketing campaigns to thank you notes should sound similar in tone.
The one instance where your tone of voice may vary slightly is on social media channels, where a more casual tone is accepted, regardless of industry. However, don’t stray too far from your normal voice as that could confuse your audience. Try throwing in a little light humour or simply be more conversational to help you connect with your followers. These are the types of casual nuances that make your brand more human, which is what people want and expect on social media.
3. Repurpose your content
Repurposing content not only provides consistent messages across marketing materials, it also saves you hours of time. If you have a website with an ‘About Us’ page, a ‘Contact’ page, and a products or services page, take that information and use it elsewhere. Apply the text and pictures to your folded leaflets, flyers and even business cards.
Repetition is a big part of creating brand recognition, and you never know where a potential customer will discover your business first. Make it simple for prospects to know your brand by using the same content across various marketing materials.
There’s no reason why an image featured in an email campaign shouldn’t appear on your Facebook or Instagram feed, with a clever caption and link to your website. To successfully repurpose your content, you can use existing text and add a new image or write a fresh caption that differentiates it from its original use. These simple changes help build your brand identity and authority.
Social media profiles should be as consistent as possible in terms of your bio text, profile picture and linked URLs. People stumble upon brands on various social media channels, and when a brand has a matching presence, it reinforces its validity.
4. Pick your platforms and stick with them
Lastly, to effectively build a reputable brand, it pays to figure out where your audience is most active: is it on the web, social media, email, or simply in-person through shop visits? Once you’ve determined where to invest your efforts – both online and offline – establish a regular frequency for communicating with your customers.
For social media, commit to posting at specific times and days of the week. This way, your followers come to expect new content at those times and are more likely to chime in, comment, or share your posts. The same goes for offline marketing efforts. If you send thank you notes after a purchase, make sure it happens every time.
Consistency is key and helps create brand recognition – and this applies to everything from Facebook shares to newsletters, flyers and catalogues. By creating a schedule that works both for you and your customers, you can help ensure your business is always top of mind.
5. Brand consistency checklist
Keeping track of your brand elements can feel overwhelming until you get the hang of it, so we created a checklist to help you keep your brand consistent online and offline. For any of the items below that you already have, or plan to create, look at them side by side and see if they go well together.
Marcus Marchant is CEO of Vistaprint Australia.