Three Essential Steps To A Strong Online Identity

Grant Leboff

The digital media transformation has changed everything for businesses. When anyone and everyone has access to media channels, a compelling online identity is essential to ensuring your company won’t disappear into the din of information overload. 

Whether it is a website, blog, or social media presence, digital media requires companies to have a clear position and an arresting message. To be attractive to an audience, people need to know what you are about, what you stand for, and whether they can relate to your identity. 

Here are three key steps to build a strong online identity: 

Crystallize the purpose

Identify the big vision. Beyond making money, why does your enterprise exist? Your ethos must excite customers and employees alike. Bill Gates was clear on Microsoft’s original purpose in 1977:  “Put a computer on every desk and in every home.” Ken Blanchard, co-author of the mega-bestseller The One Minute Manager, had a dream with his wife Marjorie to “drive human worth and effectiveness in the work place.” That’s the kind of vision that attracts people to engage with a company’s media channels.  

But your purpose can’t just be to capture the online market. Your online identity may have a brick-and-mortar impact as well. A 2016 global consumer study by Neilsen reports that behavior is shifting. Instead of looking in the showroom and then buying online, some customers are also window-shopping online — “webrooming” — and then purchasing in a store. This doesn’t just hold true for goods like electronics or clothing. 63% of respondents in the market for travel deals and services researched online first before going to make a purchase. 

Clarify the value proposition

To paraphrase Blaise Pascal, the French philosopher, “I would have written a shorter letter, but I didn’t have time.” Can your company explain the value it provides in one sentence? That’s about how long companies have in this age of shrinking attention spans. One career-training firm I worked with had the motto, “We believe in delivering a return on education.” Its value proposition was  “We build careers.” The customer can understand the deliverable in three simple words. Both sentences work to form two sides of a strong identity that really stakes a claim in the marketplace. 

Conveying value could mean making it clear that your customer comes first. A 2014 report found that 69% of online customers were turned off by a website’s complicated return process. 61% would leave a website that doesn’t offer free shipping. A firm belief in customer’s security in another critical factor: 60% on that study said they wouldn’t make a purchase at an online shop if it seemed to lack safeguards against credit card fraud.  

Understand the emotion

In his book Descartes’ Error, neuroscientist and professor Antonio Damasio wrote, “We are not thinking machines that feel; rather, feeling machines that think.” Emotions play a role in every decision we make. A company must understand the emotional deliverable to its customers. Is it selling candles, or invoking romance? Are you about coaching or empowerment? Are you selling financial services or a sense of security? Identifying the emotional proposition affects the language a business uses to describe its services, the colors it chooses to be associated with, and even what employees wear when they interact with customers.  

Companies must also make sure that emotion remains relevant. Harley-Davidson sells freedom to a traditionally white, male, 45+ demographic, but that demographic is now shrinking. So will its emotional value proposition work for other, faster-growing segments? Or will it need to shift gears?  

A company’s strong online identity can’t be forged without knowing purpose, value proposition, and the emotion behind it. Until that clarity is achieved, the enterprise will struggle to make its media channels interesting and engaging. Take a position and stand for something and your voice will ring loud and true. That’s what it takes to be heard in this clamorous, crowded digital media marketplace. 

For more strategies that boost customer engagement, see How To Build Customer Loyalty Through Digital Emotional Affinity.

Grant Leboff

About Grant Leboff

Grant Leboff is a leading expert on digital marketing. Based in the UK, he is the founder of Sticky Marketing Club Ltd., a strategic global consultancy that is transforming how we sell in the digital environment. His approach is that traditional sales and marketing doesn't apply in a world that has radically changed, and it has transformed selling success for his clients and followers. An in-demand speaker and thought leader, he is a fellow of both The Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing and The Institute of Sales and Marketing Management. He is regularly featured in numerous publications and broadcasts, including The Financial Times and BBC Radio. His latest book, Digital Selling, is an Amazon chart-topper and follows in the footsteps of his three previous best-selling business titles.