My friend Justin Peters may have coined the term ‘brand activation’ as a way of describing the need to bring a brand story to life. For many, the go-to for ‘activating’ a brand is a web site, and everyone is eager to launch their own as quickly and cheaply as possible. Recently, Squarespace has become my number one referral source. As templates go, they offer good ones. If you are ready to DIY your web site, I recommend SS.
But are you ready?
Your site will go up with billions of others and will compete directly with anywhere from a dozen to a thousand sites offering what you are offering. Are you ready to tell the world why you are better / special / unique ? And is that story compelling enough to engage the audience you want? And who are they?
Branding Is The Beginning
Brand values, promise, position …. these are the result of a researched and well crafted business model. Knowing what position to take is about knowing the need your brand fills, the problems your brand solves, the competitors doing the same and the audiences who are in need. Take those thoughts and turn them around to be what the audience expects, and you’ll be successful. Fail to deliver what your target audiences want from their point-of-view, and perish.
Without Search Engines, Your Brand Doesn’t Exist
The other entity you need to make care about what you have to offer is an enigma. It’s an often cold, not entirely accurate, bombastic, automaton called a Search Engine. They will reward you for popularity weather you got the traffic you wanted or some other accidental demographic. They will reward or punish you for being redundant. They will punish you or reward you for saying to little. They will change the rules of the game often, without warning or explanation, and you’ll spend a lot of time playing catch up if you get caught up in the game. Your marketing goals are never aligned with a Search Engine’s, but without them, your brand doesn’t exist. Any site might get you noticed, but you need to teach a Search Engine what audience you need — what audience will find your brand relevant to them.
Be In The Right Place, At The Right Time
And then on to deployment, or, to be in the right place, at the right time, in front of the right audience, where and when they are most likely to care. Print, web, advertising, Social Media… choosing the right channels makes the difference between relevant and irrelevant. A web site is just the beginning.
A Web Site Is Only As Good As It’s Content Strategy
A Squarespace call for me often starts with ‘it’s too hard‘, or ‘I am not a coder so…‘. SS is designed to be very easy to implement, but folks get very stuck when the modules don’t fit what they intend. This is because they don’t know what they intend. The real obstacle to launching a web site is the lack of one plan that unifies all of the major influencing factors above — a content strategy.
I think that devising your own content strategy would be like trying to cut your own hair — though it could be done, you might want someone else to hold up that mirror, bring some expertise and give you an objective view. My experience has been that some research and objectivity are critical, but so are my clients’ instincts, and the truth of what will really work lies somewhere in between.
With a content strategy, you strategize activation and then choose a technology or a venue that activates your brand instead of retro-fitting your brand to a template that everyone else has. The content strategy helps start your ongoing process of engagement, makes it easy to assign resources to each publishing task, helps identify the content you need to create, and also identifies the legacy content you may be able to re-purpose. After putting in the blood, sweat and tears of creating any content, a content strategy will help you re-purpose, re-purpose, re-purpose in long form, short form, sound bite, post, tweet, ad slogan, etc., making your resources go far further, adding relevant audience reach and keeping search engines interested for the right reasons.
If you are stuck on Squarespace, you are not alone. Rethink where to begin — build a brand, then a web site. Have a content strategy.