It starts with comments from the sales team, “our customers can’t find what they need on our website.” It moves to grumbling in management meetings, “our website it out of date. It doesn’t reflect us at all anymore.” Finally, a budget for a new website build gets added to your annual marketing spend. You immediately jump into all the cool, new tools you’ll be able to use when your new and improved website is launched. It’s hard not to jump in immediately and start designing – or hiring a design firm.
Taking a step back and asking the question, “why”, can reveal the crux surrounding the negativity of internal and external customers’ website experiences. Is the site outdated on a basic level, belonging more to the era of Myspace than Snapchat? Do you need to incorporate a major new component such as an e-commerce portal? If the answers are no, then it is probable that it’s not so much the structure of the site as it is a mismatch of the incorporated branding and how your company has evolved since that brand was developed.
Your website is a vital part of your brand’s connection to the world at large, and as such, should accurately reflect your brand values. Developing your website from a holistic mindset will lead to a far better result than a site developed in a silo. To develop your website holistically, start with your brand strategy.
How to Start with Brand Strategy
If your company has taken the time to go through a branding strategy workshop start with updating your documents to reflect your current company path. Branding documents should be living documents, not file drawer liners. If your company has not gone through this process yet, then start by going through a branding workshop to create these core pieces.
What core pieces? At a minimum, address:
- Brand vision (why)
- Brand mission (how, what)
- Competitive landscape
- What do your competitors excel at?
- What does your company excel at?
- Your key customer profiles, also known as personas
- Your value propositions, or how do you solve your customers’ problems
Why start here?
Developing your website site map and content will be much stronger if you can clearly articulate who you are speaking to (personas), how you can/will help them (value propositions), and ultimately connect with them on a gut level by inviting them into your company story (vision and mission).
Imagine taking your branding documentation and working from it to develop a website that clearly tells your key customers why they should work with your company in terms they will identify with. Your website won’t speak to everyone, but it will speak to those people you want to attract – your key customers. And that makes all the difference.
Is Starting with Brand Strategy Worth It?
Yes. It really is. We have worked with companies who came to us maybe a year or 18-months after their initial web launches looking to re-do their sites. They did not take these steps prior to the initial development of their websites and were unexcited with the results. On the other hand, we have worked with companies that did go through a branding process prior to the launch of their sites and are only now, five years later, looking to redesign their websites.
Yes, it is an initial investment – an investment in overall strategy. What is developed in this process should NOT apply only to your new website, but to other materials as well. In creating a website that truly represents your company as well as strategizing other collateral, you’ll save money by not recreating the wheel each time you develop a marketing piece. And you’ll represent your brand in a cohesive fashion to the marketplace, unifying your messaging to your audience.
Next month we’ll address how to tie your website visuals into your brand strategy. It’s not just about the words! A key piece of your brand strategy is your brand and style guide.
Looking to go through a branding workshop, but don’t know where to start? Reach out. We can help.