Start-ups have a lot on their plate: cash flow, pleasing investors, finding the right people to help grow the business, late nights, tough decisions – all of which can cause digital identity to slip from the top of the heap, but that’s a mistake. More than half of the UK’s start-ups fail in the first five years and while difficult in obtaining funding are key, and unanticipated business costs can be a crucial factor, lacking a solid digital identity can also be the kiss of death.
Most people will experience your business online. Even if you run a location based business such as a corner shop, people will use their mobile devices to find out when you’re open and what you stock. Failure to build an online presence that supports your business strategy is guaranteed to cause problems.
Corporate identity isn’t just about being found and remembered. An appropriate digital identity (or ‘brand) creates several responses in the viewer:
- identification – understanding your organisation and what it does
- memorability – a pleasurable feeling of recognition when they experience your brand on subsequent occasions
- action – the desire to buy/experience/share what it is that you have to offer.
That’s three critical stages in building a sustainable business, all of which are delivered by a strong digital identity. For any start-up or new business, the day to day activity of the early months has to be balanced by investment in the organisation as an entity that will have a viable future. If digital identity isn’t established you may:
- cease to differentiate yourself from the opposition – possibly losing market share because you’re not memorable enough
- fail to get the best people – as your company grows, it has to be attractive to the best talent you can afford, but if you aren’t identifiable and attractive, the best won’t want to come and work with you
- be overtaken by rivals, who start to eat into your customer loyalty because they are more recognisable, more appealing and more comfortable to work with.
Digital identity has several distinct questions to answer:
What’s the problem your company solves, and how does your digital identity express this?
Your website has to reflect the aims and interests of your customers, using colours, language and style elements that show what you can do for them.
How should customers feel when they see your online identity?
If you’re a service provider they might need to feel reassured, if you’re a game designer, they should feel excited, if you’re a holiday resort, they should feel welcomed – digital identity creates feelings as well as answering questions, and a good online persona is a fantastic marketing device.
What should visitors do when they’ve experienced your digital identity?
Should they buy something, receive something, commission something, ask you a question, offer you something, share your site with others, follow your twitter feed or like your Facebook page? Every organisation has different priorities – identifying yours and ensuring they are built into your digital identity is the best way to create a business that has staying power.