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Did you know your brand starts with your online storefront and presence, also known as your website and anything else that the general public can find about you online? That’s right, your website, your Facebook account and everything else posted about you online are critically important to your business. Americans today are connected and active online and many have already established their initial impression of you and your business from your presence on the web.

In working with financial advisors across the country, I have found that many have spent thousands of dollars on elaborate offices, hired interior decorators, and thought extensively about their office floor plan and ambiance. For some, it may be a reflection of their personality or an elaborate expression of their desire to create a warm, welcoming and comforting environment for their clients and prospects. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t spend money on this concept or carefully plan the layout of your office. All of this enhances your appeal to your target audience, and positions you as a professional that is organized, credible and cares about appearance. But what if many of your potential prospects — many of whom you aren’t even aware exist— never make it to your office because of a first impression based solely on a website that is circa 1990? (Now I’m being dramatic, but you get the point.)

To begin analyzing your web presence, ask these questions:

  • When is the last time you updated your website? (And I’m not talking about the address change you made when your office moved four years ago.)  
  • How often do you analyze your website to determine if it is effective at enhancing your business?  Does it appeal to your target audience? Do you have a goal for your website?

If you cannot quickly answer the questions above, I highly recommend you consider allocating time to review your website. During your review, do the following: determine what you are trying to accomplish, establish a plan, set goals, and begin to take corrective action to bring your website up to date with 2012 standards.

Your digital footprint

We’re not done yet. I mentioned earlier that your online presence or brand involves your website, but it also consists of all references to your name and business on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or any other means available to post content to the Internet (whether you post it or someone else does the posting), along with many other online activities. This is sometimes referred to as your digital footprint.” Unless you have lived in a cave or on a remote island without access to the Internet for the past 20 years, you have a digital footprint.

Have you ever Googled yourself or your business name?  What do you find?  How many references appear in the results and how far down in the results do they appear?  BEWARE:  This may be a humbling experience. The good news is that regardless of what you find, there are things you can do to further enhance the positive aspects of your online brand, and to repair any potential negative information lurking in the deep corners of the Internet.

The first step is acknowledgement; the second step is to take corrective action and ownership of your brand, both online and offline. In today’s business environment and marketplace, you cannot have one without the other. We live in a connected world with motivated people eager to learn about a company before doing business. We all want to do business with people and businesses that we like and trust. The question is, will they develop a positive impression of you and your business from what they see online, or are you leaving that to the chance they choose to come into your office?

There is no better time to own your brand both online and offline. It is the best way to maximize your opportunities to build relationships and create loyal clients.  

For more from Todd Greider, see:

S.O.S.: Simplified Online Strategy

LinkedIn Success in 5 Simple Steps

The (Regulatory) Rules of Social Media