Authentic ways of building online brand for small businesses in India.

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In this article we will discuss what it takes to build the online brands of small businesses, with turnover under INR 20 Lacs in India. I will quote some of the best practices we, at Cranburry, have evolved over the years and mix with my hands-on experience and what I’ve studied at IIM Indore during my MBA.

The Traditional Approach : Monkey in Sales

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A monkey trying to sell Nike shoes at the Times Square

When it comes to building online brand of small businesses, the most important question is, where to start. Most businesses, which are already operating in offline channels, start with building a business profile on Google. And about 50% of these businesses don’t need a website. Their online presence becomes limited to the Google Business Profile.

Then there are some businesses which decide to go a few steps further to scale their business – they get freelancers to build their websites and some other freelancers to make their social media posts. They operate on the principles of perseverance, as is told by many digital marketing gurus. They believe, you just have to stay in the game long enough to survive. You’ll hear this statement over and over from different influencers and founders. However, this is an incomplete truth. It may help in the context of running a business but when it comes to scaling it online, this approach will backfire on different levels- Alignment of message, Content Strategy, Branding Strategy, Brand Consistency, Google Rankings, Customers’ trust, Excessive waste of time and a lot more. If your message is not aligned with your content strategy, ratings, etc; you’ll lose your credibility from Google. That way, you’ll have to invest way too much to get the ideal results.

The Approach that works: Monkey in Marketing

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A man dressed as a monkey trying to sell Nike shoes at the Times Square

For building online brand, you need to start working from the ground up. Before you even decide to go online, ask yourself three questions:

  1. Do I need to go online?

Analyze whether your business is scalable. If your customers are not looking for you online, there’s no point in going there. For example, for a local bakery shop that is getting good business from its outlets, going online will cost them more than they will make from sales in online channels.

  1. How much can I scale?

Figure out how much your expected return will be on your efforts to go online. It will depend on how much deep you want to go. If you’re going all out, it will cost you around INR 1 – 5 Lakh upfront, and an annual fee of INR 10 to 30K. It will include website, all digital marketing channels – organic and paid, automated sales, lead generation, CRM, etc.

Let’s say you’re investing to get only website and some organic ads with an automated sales system in place and it costs around INR 70,000 to 1 Lac, you should be expecting to get back the same amount in profit in 2 to 3 years.

  1. How to begin?

This is the most important question and this is where most of the business owners make the mistake of hiring individual freelancers to do the job. NEVER HIRE FREELANCERS to do the branding. You can outsource the work of making content to them but that’s it. This is because your business as a whole is seen as a capsule by google. That capsule contains a network of your website, your business profile, your social media activity, the ratings you get from customers, the message you put in your articles and a lot more. If you let different people handle different aspects of this capsule, google will take it with a pinch of salt. Meaning, it will effect the efficiency of your brand and online presence. Remember, you cannot game Google. But you can make it easy for Google to recognize you. The simpler you do this the better. Always hire a single entity to do it.

Summing it up

Once you have the answer to these questions, the first thing you’ll need to do is to create a Branding Strategy – It includes the content strategy, the website, value proposition, the brand message, the channels of branding, and the level of business automation.

On a concluding note, don’t try to apply the lean start-up methodology to your branding strategy because it won’t work. Building an online brand for small businesses requires careful planning, including a branding strategy that aligns with the business’s overall message and content. This includes a focus on creating a consumer-grade experience and a commitment to maintaining consistency and credibility.

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