The words “business” and “brand” tend to be used interchangeably when speaking about business. However, these two terms are very different from one another and have a very different meaning for entrepreneurs. A lot of experts out there always tell entrepreneurs that they must build a brand around their business. But if you’re not familiar with the distinction between these two terms, you might be confused—you already built a business, why do you need to build a brand as well?
Below, we’ll explain the distinction between a business and a brand, why you need to become a brand if you want longevity with your business, and how to build a brand online.
Business vs. brand
To simply put it, a business is a company that produces and sells a product. A brand is the business’s identity and how they present themselves, with their tone of voice, branding, and the lifestyle they sell. It’s the part of the business that connects to the customers and builds lifelong connections.
An amazing example of brand versus business is Coca-Cola. They have been building their brand for decades. So whenever the conversation goes towards soft drinks, it’s safe to say Coke is top of mind for nearly everyone. And, Coke isn’t the only company to build a brand name like this. Whenever you think of home organization, likely Marie Kondo comes to mind. Or when you think about millennial makeup, Glossier is top of mind.
The idea of building a brand versus simply being a business is what ensures that your business has longevity and will be successful in the long term. That is why figuring out how to build a brand online should be on every online course creator’s priority list.
Online course creators with brands
Many successful online entrepreneurs started as small business owners selling online courses and grew their businesses into multi-million dollar brands. There’s a lot to learn from them on how to build a brand online. Take a look at some of our favorites, below.
One of the most well-known online course creators is Pat Flynn. Known for his Smart Passive Income courses and podcast, he’s been in business for many years already and isn’t stopping now.
Flynn started out as an educator, creating an online course to help pass an architecture exam because he was an architect and had a strategy that helped him pass his exam. He had a simple wish to share his knowledge with others, who were struggling. It turned out to be a hit.
From there on, Flynn had transitioned into teaching other people how to build their passive income streams and slowly build a brand where now he’s known to be the to-go man when it comes to passive income as well as podcasting.
Tiago Forte is one of the world’s best-known productivity experts and uses his online courses and workshops to help people be productive with their time and efforts.
In 2013, he founded Forte Labs. From there on, his brand as the productivity expect and coach grew. Right now, he’s the go-to person for hacking your brain and unlocking the ultimate productivity potential for many people around the world.
Kaya Putman is a psychology-driven brand strategist that helps entrepreneurs build their brands. She built her brand as a business strategist around the brand archetypes that she developed throughout the years of working with different successful entrepreneurs.
Because she built her brand around the idea of mixing business and marketing with psychology, this is what she’s known for. When entrepreneurs are looking for someone to help them built their brand intentionally, they go to Putman.
Put it in action: How to build a brand online
Now that you know the difference between a business and a brand and why you need to be a brand, here’s how you can build a brand online to ensure longevity with your business.
Step 1: Get the basics right
When you’re ready to transform your business into a brand, the first thing you’ll want to do is get the basics right. And the basics of brand building are:
Ask yourself—why does your business exist, and what is its purpose? Why are you doing what you’re doing and how it matters to the world around you?
Brand loyalty is not the same as it used to be in the past, with people having more options to choose from now. But the way people choose the brands to support has changed. People care about the brand itself more than ever before. Statistics show that even 83 % of customers care about authenticity when choosing brands to support.
So, figure out your why, as it might become a reason why a customer chooses your online course business over someone else.
What does your business promise to the customers? What is the mission of your brand? Why should people be interested in you?
Your mission statement or a promise to a customer is just as important as knowing your why and plays an important role when customers choose your business over others. With the mission statement, you have the opportunity to show your potential customers what they will get if they buy from you.
For example: If you a jewelry-making teacher who believes in sustainable craft, your mission and a promise to the customer could be that you’ll teach them how to make exquisite jewelry that looks just as good as Tiffany&Co but without harming the planet.
That’s one strong brand mission, and it’s one that’ll surely give you a solid foundation to build your brand on and stand out amongst other jewelry crafting businesses.
The tone of voice
How do you communicate with your customers—are you cheerful or serious? Casual or luxurious? Your language and tone matter when it comes to brand building, so spend the time honing in your voice and what words you’re going to use when talking to your audience.
Example: Apple is a perfect example of a brand that has its tone of voice figured out. They use clean, short, minimalistic sentences that are appealing to their target audience and work well with the overall minimalistic and modern look of their brand.
Colors have a strong impact on us and how we perceive things. Specifically, younger generations care more about the visual aesthetics of products than older generations. If you look at a beauty brand Glossier, a huge part of their success was the impeccable branding and packaging of their products, as well as the dusty pink color that’s been branded as Glossier pink since they started using it.
Research has shown that using a signature color increases brand recognition even by 80%. As you’re striving to turn your business into a brand, you want to focus on creating a visual branding that will immediately help people recognize you in a crowd.
As well as color, professional logo, and other branding assets like brand photography, fonts, and social media posts should all be matching and visually recognizable. When people scroll through their feeds or Instagram Stories, they’ll immediately know who they see if your branding is coordinated.
Digital assets include your Teachable course page, landing pages, sales pages, and most importantly, your website. You have 0.5 seconds to make an impression to a person who first stumbled upon your website Ask yourself: Is your website up to the standards that would make them want to stick around and find out more?
Your website should be up-to-date with the most recent technologies as well as designed to fit in with the overall look of your brand. It should also have a fast loading speed. In fact, according to marketing expert Neil Patel, even 47% of consumers expect the website to load in two seconds or less.
The speed and the comfort of navigating your digital assets are extremely important parts of your brand.
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Step 2: Be consistent
Consistency is the key to the success of your business. Only by showing up and consistently building your business can you expect to see results and reap the benefits of your hard work. And consistency is equally as important for how to build a brand online.
There are two ways you want to make sure your brand is consistent:
- Showing up regularly for your customers and delivering on your promise
- Visual brand consistency
We’ve already covered the importance of being consistent with the branding visuals before. Customers appreciate consistent branding over social channels and media. And research shows brands that are consistent seem to increase their revenue by 33%.
Showing up on your customer’s feeds consistently helps the customers to get to know your brand better. This in turn, builds trust with them. Building trust is important because most customers need to trust the brand before they buy.
Trust also allows you to create brand ambassadors or superfans of your business who are always going to be there, coming back for your new products and courses. And most importantly, they’ll shout from the rooftops about your brand, helping you build awareness and make more sales.
Step 3: Choose your marketing channels
Marketing is the heart of the brand building. When starting out with marketing, you might feel the need to be on every single platform out there, but it might not be the best idea. You can start small if you don’t have the budget or a team to help with your marketing and expand as you grow.
We recommend choosing two platforms to concentrate on. This will depend upon what type of content you enjoy creating and where your audience hangs out. If you’ve done your market research, then you’ll know where your audience is.
Set up your profiles, optimize them and create a solid content strategy that will allow you to be present and consistent, making the connections with your target audience. Once you’ve got the gist of the two platforms and you see that your growth is accelerating, then you can further expand and venture out to other platforms where you can continue marketing your brand and reaching new audiences.
Step 4: Establish your presence as an expert in your niche
Fifty years ago, nobody cared who was behind the brand, who was the driving force of a business. In 2021, customers care about the person behind the wheel. This means that you, as the owner of a brand, can also be the face of it—the expert in your niche.
This puts more responsibilities on creators, yes. But it also opens a lot of new doors and opportunities. When you start building your own personal brand and establishing yourself as the expert in your industry, you’re going to be networking and connecting with other experts, dipping into their audiences, and broadening your horizons.
Go on podcasts of people in your niche and others who might be interested in what you do. Write informative guest blogs on other websites, showing up in front of their audiences and providing value. If you have a website with a blog, accept guest blogs from other experts, building connections and cross-promoting between your audiences.
There are many more ways to establish your presence as the expert in your niche and connect with other people as well; you just have to be willing to put yourself out there.
Step 5: Create a community
As we mentioned before, your community will be your brand ambassadors and people who will help you grow your brand and reach more people. So, when you’re considering how to build your brand online, focus on building the community around your brand.
Building a strong community around your brand will allow you to pivot your business and expand. You’ll be able to go from one social media platform to another, from one content medium to the next, and even as you release new courses and products, they’ll be the ones who will buy from you.
For example: Pat Flynn is a great example of what having a dedicated community means to your brand as an online creator. He had shifted from blogging to podcasting to now a YouTube channel, and his community has followed him everywhere.
He even ventured into book publishing, diversifying his income streams and expanding his brand, which was all possible due to the strong community he had built around his brand throughout the years.
Building a brand takes a little extra work, but when it comes to a business that lasts, the input yields high reward.