With the advent of online business development websites and portals, organizations in general and small businesses in particular have unlimited opportunities to expand their client base in a global economy where physical borders are increasingly becoming irrelevant. However, if you own a small business, the challenge for you is to differentiate yourself from the countless other businesses that are offering similar products/services. This becomes even more important if the majority of your potential clients is based outside your country and has never met you in person. Your online brand image, therefore, can be the deciding factor when it comes to acquiring established and high paying international B2B clients. It can either win you long term customers or turn them away forever – even when your product quality and service standards are higher than your competitors. Fortunately, it’s not as hard – or costly – to strengthen the image of your business online as it once used to be. With a carefully developed strategy, you can easily outweigh your competitors and win much better B2B clients. Here’s a 7 step strategy to make you look apart from the rest. #1. Build a Comprehensive Corporate Website Most businesses, whether online or offline, have their own company websites these days. A vast majority, however, considers it a formality and fails to utilize the true strength of this platform. A corporate website is the online identity of your business. It’s the face of your company and, in most cases, the first thing customers look for when dealing with a new business. If you don’t take it seriously, your potential clients wouldn’t give much importance to your business. Invest in a modern website design that is based around the main theme of your business. From your company logo and slider images to headlines and color combinations, everything needs to reflect your brand identity. Link all your other online assets, like social media profiles, interviews, news updates etc., with your main website. Make it the hub of your online activities and use it to manage your brand image. Action Items: Create a modern corporate website (read this for more). Invest in your design, it always pays off (learn more). Add About Us, Vision, Mission, Services, Blog and Contact pages. Add call to actions throughout your website content. Add links of your social media profiles and add an email subscription box. Add icons of verified payment gateways in the footer to build trust. Consult a website security expert to ensure your online assets stay safe. #2. Actively Update Your Corporate Blog Building a strong corporate website is important, but it’s not enough. In order to differentiate yourself, you need to continuously come up with high quality and action oriented content related to the most common problems of your customers. And there’s no better way to do that than starting an official company blog. There are still people who either underestimate the impact of blogging or simply do not know how to make use of it. There are 2 primary benefits that your business will get from blogging. It will create more content related to your industry and will help Google index more pages from your website and route more potential customers to it. More importantly, high quality blog content will help you truly establish your business as the go to source for all the major problems in your industry. Action Items: Start a WordPress blog (read this, if you need any more convincing) Create a blogging schedule and stick to it religiously. Do NOT focus your blog content solely on your own products, services or company news. (this post on Problogger explains more) Create every post with the objective of resolving the problems of your potential clients. Offer solutions, clients will come automatically. #3. Engage Customers on Social Media Social media websites are probably the best thing that ever happened to small businesses. There’s no better way to interact with your customers and understand their actual needs. However, most businesses are doing it the wrong way. Social media websites are not for broadcasting your company news and blog links. Instead, they give you an opportunity to bring out the lighter side of your brand and get closer to your customers in an informal manner. Don’t waste it with your self-obsession. Stamp your social media profiles with the brand theme that you’ve used on your corporate website, and use it as an extension of your existing website content. What you share on these networks will leave a long lasting impact of your brand in the minds of your customers. So don’t take it lightly. Action Items: Don’t waste your efforts with dozens of social networks. Instead, focus on 2-3 main platforms. Like blogging, create a social media posting schedule. Use combinations of images, humor, news and opinion based posts to engage your followers. Your Facebook cover and Twitter background images should clearly reflect your brand theme. Click here to learn more about using the top 3 social networks more effectively. #4. Build Credibility With Industry Specific Certifications Nothing impacts customer psyche more directly than a few established and recognized industry specific certifications. They immediately erase any doubts or fears that potential clients might have about the quality of your products and services. Action Items: Acquire the most relevant certifications in your industry. Display them across all your online assets including your corporate website and social media profiles. #5. Offer Expert Opinion on Top Industry Blogs Another extremely effective way to elevate your brand image is to feature on the top websites and blogs of your industry as an expert author. The top category blogs in any niche receive millions of monthly visitors that include major industry influencers and opinion makers as well. Featuring on these blogs will not only add credibility to your profile, but also expose you to a much wider and highly targeted audience. Action Items: Identify the top blogs of your industry and offer them detailed actionable content as free guest posts. Use the author bio at the end of your post to communicate your brand’s message and link back to your main website. Display the logos of these top blogs on your corporate website under the heading “Featured On” or anything similar. Read this, to know more about featuring on the top blogs of your industry. #6. Use Client Testimonials to Your Advantage Testimonials from satisfied clients can add a lot of weight to your online brand image but, for some reason, many businesses seem to underestimate their value. Make it a standard practice to ask for testimonials every time you satisfy a new client. You can even ask them to highlight particular aspects of your services that you feel important. Neil Patel, a famous content marketer, uses client testimonials to great effect on his website Quick Sprout. Action Items: Ask all your existing and previous clients for testimonials. Display them randomly on your corporate website. Quote them in your blog posts and guest posts. Link back to their original websites – it increases the credibility of their testimonials. #7. Acquire Clients on B2B Trading Portals The first six steps I’ve mentioned in this post will provide a solid platform to your brand and help you connect much more effectively with your target market. You can now use this foundation to your advantage and acquire new B2B clients through aggressive marketing and business development. Online B2B trading portals are the best places to do that. These websites have thousands, sometimes even millions, of businesses, both buyers and suppliers, registered from all across the globe. All of them are there to explore new business opportunities and expand their networks. The challenge on these platforms, however, is to stand out from the crowd. But with your solid online brand image, you have the perfect opportunity to get ahead of your competitors and make major progress in acquiring high paying B2B clients. Action Items: Register on the top online B2B portals like QualityTrade, Alibaba etc. Build your profile on these websites and link it with your other online assets (website, social networks, certifications etc.) Actively approach buyers in your industry and send detailed inquiries to their requirements. Conclusion There are several other ways to strengthen your online brand image that can be used from time to time. But the steps that I’ve discussed in this post will provide a strong foundation to your online branding activities and will make it much easier for you to differentiate your business in an online space that is increasingly getting crowded. 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