As I often tell my clients, , the internet is a tactical part of your business strategy, just like the yellow pages; newspapers; direct mail; a storefront; your business cards; even your business model and product design. In fact, every tool you use to communicate and grow your business is a tactic.
In the article, "5 for 5 Business Consulting on Video" series I stress that each tactic requires a strategy of its own; but each of those tactical strategies must be based on your larger overall business strategy, and that larger strategy must come first. I call this larger business strategy your “Brand Strategy.”
So as you can see, the terms Internet Branding and Online Branding really aren't helpful if you are developing them in isolation, without the guidance of an overall Brand Strategy.
So what is a Brand Strategy? You can think of it this way: when consumers think of your business, they think of what you do or sell; but when they think of your brand, they think of what you stand for, the idea your company represents. Marketing your brand is far more powerful than marketing your business; and more powerful still than an isolated attempt at internet branding or online branding.
An example I use in one of my "5 for 5 Business Consulting on Video" episodes is Marlboro Cigarettes. When you think of Marlboro cigarettes, what comes to mind? Chances are it isn’t an image of a cigarette, but an image of a cowboy, accompanied by associations of masculinity, independence, freedom and rugged American spirit. Wow! All that from a cigarette? That’s the power of a Brand Strategy.
To be most effective, all aspects of your business, from the business model itself, to product development, to the thank you cards you send to clients after doing business with them - and everything in between - all of it must be in alignment with your Brand Strategy. Therefore, it is critical to understand your Brand Strategy from the very inception of your business. That way, your Brand Strategy can be ‘built in’ to every facet of your business.
I’ve coined the term “strategic congruity” to describe a business in which all of its tactical strategies are in alignment with their larger Brand Strategy. Every tactic that does not align with the Brand Strategy is a “strategic incongruity.”
Let’s use Marlboro again to demonstrate “strategic incongruity.” Suppose the cigarettes were pink. A Brand Strategy for a pink cigarette based on an image of rugged masculinity would be an obvious “strategic incongruity”.
As you can see, it is for this reason that your Brand Strategy is most effective if it is determined at the inception of your business so that the product itself, and all the tactics used to promote it are “strategically congruent.”
Start by looking for your Brand Strategy within the truth of your product or service. What is the promise it makes to your customers? How is it different from alternatives they may have? What value do you add that is available nowhere else? Once you’ve answered these questions, and found your company’s core truth, analyze every aspect of your business to see if there is “strategic congruity” up and down the line. Where there is, nurture it. Where there isn’t, change it.
The moral here is that you shouldn’t think in terms of internet branding and online branding as strategies in isolation. Instead, think of your company’s larger Brand Strategy. Then, the internet branding and online branding you do will actually be outgrowths of your larger Brand Strategy. And remember, build “strategic congruity” into all your tactics to take full advantage of the power of having a Brand Strategy.
-by Andrew Sokol