Customer touchpoints are the points of interaction between your customers and your brand. A sales call, a voice mail greeting, your business card, your website, your packaging, your in-store service, are all examples of touchpoints.
You can manage your customer touchpoints so that they are consistent with your brand. A properly managed customer touchpoint builds brand equity.
Since we are interested in internet branding, we will review some of the most important online customer touchpoints:
After your positioning and your competitive advantage, you need to choose a domain name. Online presence is so important that you should choose your domain even before your company or brand name to make sure it is not taken.
Your domain must include your brand name and if possible a keyword. For example, if you have a web design company called Element Web Design, a good domain name would be elementwebdesign.com.
Your brand name provides brand recognition, while the generic keyword tells your visitors and search engines what you do.
Since search engines rely on keywords to classify and rank pages, you should not underestimate the importance of including your main keyword(s) in your domain name.
Aside from that, try to make your domain name short rather than long, and .com rather than .net, .org or .biz (although you should register all those extensions to prevent unscrupulous competitors from stealing your brand equity).
A logo can be a name, symbol or a combination of both, and is a visual reminder of your brand. Logos provide instant brand recognition and visual appeal to any website, and they are a shorthand for what your brand is all about.
Trade dress is the look and feel of your website, your packaging, your collateral material, etc. The most important elements of your trade dress are your logo, colors and typeface.
They are important because both colors and fonts project emotional connotations that must be in tune with your brand’s personality.
Once you have defined your logo and trade dress, you must incorporate them in your website’s design and use them consistently across all pages.
If your site is a blog, you can use an existing template. WordPress, the popular blogging platform, has hundreds of free themes that you can choose from. I recommend using a minimalist template paired with a professionally designed logo.
I also recommend using a one or two-column layout instead of three since it looks less cluttered, and it is easier to highlight your most important calls to action. More is not always better: fewer choices lead to better click-through and conversion rates.
Your website content offers many different customer touchpoints, each with its own objectives. For example, you can have the following pages or sections:
- FAQ: are you answering all your customers’ questions or concerns? Are your answers clear? Do you have a searchable FAQ database?
- About Us: this is where you “sell” your brand and where you can create trust.
- Online Customer Support: is it easy for your customers to ask questions? Are you answering them quickly? Can your customers perform the needed tasks easily?
- Contact Us: Do you have a 1-800 number prominently displayed? Do you have a short and easy contact form? Have you included your physical address, directions, hours of operation, etc.? Have you set up different email addresses for different “departments” (even if all of them forward to your own email address)?
404 Error Page:
Instead of the generic “Page not found” white screen, you need to create a branded 404 Error page. Your 404 Error page should have your website’s look and feel and offer links to the main sections of your site.
It should also have a site search box so that your readers can easily find what they’re looking for.
A favicon is a small 16×16 pixel graphics file (.ico format) that you can place at the root level of your site. Every time somebody bookmarks your site, or types your site’s URL in the address bar, the favicon will display to the left of your page title or URL.
A favicon can be a small version of your logo or a small element of it. For example, Google’s favicon is the letter ‘G’. CNN uses a tiny version of it’s name. Shoestring Branding uses a letter ‘S’ (look at your address bar now to see our favicon).
To create a favicon you can use this favicon generator. Just upload the picture you want to use and the program will create a favicon based on that picture.
To install your favicon, upload it to the root level of your site and include the following HTML code:
<link REL=”SHORTCUT ICON” href=”http://www.yourwebsite.com/favicon.ico”>
Use it on your index page, after the <HEAD> tag, or in the header.php page if you’re using a WordPress theme.
Every email you send is a branding opportunity. End your email messages with a branded signature file that includes your name, company logo, tagline, address, phone number, mobile phone number, website and email address.
You should not use the email address of your web service provider or web mail program. Instead, use an email address that has your domain name to the right of the “@” symbol.
For example, use
A low-cost way of having your own branded email address is to use the free email forwarding feature offered by most domain registrars. It will let you receive emails to email@example.com and forward them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
An email newsletter helps you build brand equity by giving useful, free advice. You should use an HTML template with the same look and feel of your website.
You should also archive your email newsletters on your site so that search engines can index that content. The more relevant content you give the search engines, the more authority your site will earn and it will rank better.
An author box is a small paragraph that you are allowed to include at the end of your blog posts and your guest posts on other sites. Your author box is where you market yourself and link to your site.
It should include:
- Your name
- Your website’s address
- Your elevator pitch (one to three sentences explaining what makes your brand/company unique)
- Links to your social media profiles
Search Engine Results
The results of a search engine query can be a powerful branding signal. 36% of search engine users believe that companies which appear at the top of the search results are the top companies in their field. Therefore, the importance of search engine optimization (SEO) to your overall online branding strategy should not be underestimated.
Ranking high for competitive keyphrases is extremely difficult and time-consuming, and showing you how to do it is beyond the scope of this article. You can, however, rank well for many long, highly targeted keyphrases by posting content related to your brand frequently.
The first objective of your SEO campaign is to rank #1 for your brand name. This is fairly easy to do If your domain is a combination of your brand name and keyword.
For example, this site was already in the #1 spot in Google for “Shoestring Branding” after its first week online, by just including those words in the homepage title.
Granted, the search volume for your brand name will be very small, but it’s a branding issue: nobody should be ahead of you in the SERPs for your own brand name.
SEO is a fairly tricky and ever-changing subject so you may want to start by reading a basic SEO tutorial or good ebook on the subject.
When you use a third-party shopping cart program or payment processing service, the default look and feel is that of the third party. Visitors may think that they have left your site and become reluctant to give away any information.
Take advantage of all the customization features offered by the third-party service, so that the user interface looks as close to your site as possible. Depending on the service, you may be allowed to use just your logo or your full website’s template.
Text and Banner Advertising
If you’re running your own affiliate program or advertise on other sites, provide the exact copy you want to be used in the link text.
Also, provide your affiliates with a wide array of brand-correct buttons and banners, so that your affiliates are not tempted to create their own.
Social Media Profiles
Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook let you upload a picture and a small paragraph about you or your company. You can leverage these profiles for branding by uploading a logo of your company instead of your picture and writing your brand’s elevator pitch with a link to your site in the profile text.
This isn’t by any means a comprehensive list. There are other important touchpoints: your RSS feed, the special reports and ebooks you may give away or sell, your network and the partnerships you develop (you are known by the company you keep), and even your writing style are powerful branding signals.
We will be developing these and other topics in the future so come back often, or, even better, subscribe to our feed or email list.