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Gaining new clients who are excited about developing a corporate Web site and are gung-ho to get started is a dream come true. But, oddly enough, I've found that clients falling into this category seem to be missing out on other essential branding fundamentals.

They are ready to get started building the empire of their dreams via a snazzy new Web site. They truly believe "build it, and they will come." Maybe so, but a Web site alone won't increase sales. It's as if there's an imbalance, and rarely do you find a client that fully grasps both ends of the branding spectrum and how they should work together.

There are several keys to developing a winning brand for your company, and an effective corporate Internet branding strategy is only part of equation.

If you are going to take the time to develop a brand for your company, you may as well do it right the first time. Having to do it over again and again will cost you in consultant fees, lost clients, lost sales and lost earnings potential.

To ensure that you are on the right track, you need to understand what these keys to branding success are.

In a nutshell, an effective brand encompasses many things, and not just an eye-catching look. Consider the list below, and ask yourself how much of this you were aware of already (better yet, print it and use it as a checklist):

  • Understand that your target market is most likely well informed —even before they find your product or service, they know what they are looking for.

  • Relating to your customers and your target market via your brand is more essential than the visual appeal of the brand itself (think Saturn).

  • When you are conducting all of that endless research, make sure someone carefully considers the emotional attachment your brand should create with your target market. If your business is all about quality and affordability, for example, find a way to communicate the feel-good experience of getting a really good product or service at a great price—perhaps through imagery, perhaps through a tag line or perhaps through your offline and online marketing messages.

  • Never discount the power of consistency in a brand. When it comes down to visual appeal, nothing is more detrimental than being all over the map with color and design. It's amazing how many companies actually use their logo in several different color combinations. Make sure your logo, colors, design and presentation are consistent for print and Web. Variations may work, but they must be complimentary.

  • Never regurgitate your printed marketing material onto your Web site. If you are going to take the time to extend your corporate brand to the Internet, make sure your Web site uses compelling text (Web writing is much unlike the corporate brochure), and make sure it isn't just a repeat of your marketing material. After all, you want to refer others to your Web site via your business card, brochure, special promos, etc. Those on the receiving end will expect a greater benefit if they take the time to check out your company Web address.

Yes, it's a big job. But it's made easier if you understand the key branding fundamentals. Take your time, do some careful research and read as many case studies as you can get your hands on. Take a good look at your competitors and see what they are doing (especially the most successful ones).

You'll soon realize that there are all kinds of opinions and theories out there on what successful branding is about. Keep focused on what you already know about your company, your current clients and your target market. Make sure you understand what they want, not necessarily what they need.

Above all else understand that for a brand to work you need to put together a complete branding strategy that must encompass the best forms of marketing to reach your target market. Most often, that involves a combination of traditional methods and the Web.

Here's to your continued business success!

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Amanda Ayles is the proprietor of Amanda Marks Business Solutions (www.amandamarks.com).