When it comes down to it, branding is simply how you choose to present your story. Every business has a unique history, a founding anecdote and mission behind it. To brand yourself effectively leverage these distinctive components to create an authentic presentation of your business. A cohesive digital identity is arguably the key component of a successful marketing strategy because without one, what are you presenting across your platforms? At first glance, customers want a sense of who you, what you can offer them and then how to engage with you and your business.

Whether you’re doing it yourself or hiring a professional, here are a few things to keep in mind as you get started.

Tell Your Story
The first piece of creating your brand is about zeroing in on what sets you apart. Questions to consider: What product or service do you offer and how do they differ from your competitors? How did you get started, what seeded the idea? Is there a mission or purpose behind what you have to offer? Is there any socially constructive relevance to your product?

Once you’ve considered these questions, try to assemble them into a quick, easily digestible story to present as an elevator pitch about what you do. A simple format to follow would be to introduce what you do, state why it matters and identify how it’s different from the industry standard.

For example, here is a pitch for a technology company: We are Insurance Innovators and we provide solutions for insurance carriers by harnessing cutting-edge insurance technology to introduce a revolution in underwriting transparency.

Get Visual
Once you’ve drafted your message, it’s time to move on to imagery. To start, a logo and website should be your first move. Awesome design is your ticket to a memorable first impression. In fact, Hubspot found that when people hear information, they only retain around 10 percent versus when it’s paired with a relevant image, the retention jumps to 65 percent. This drives home the importance of fleshing out design guidelines that resonate with both your business goals and your audience.

It can help to do a bit of benchmark research in preparation. Take a look at some websites and logos in your peer group and assess what you do and don’t like about them. Then, you can be specific about what you’re looking for and how you want to present your brand visually. Once you have a logo and a website, you can use these same assets as well as your story copy to populate your social media pages and tie together a cohesive digital identity across all channels.

Nurture Relationships
Once your story and design pieces are complete, it’s time to start relating to your audience. Once you’ve made the initial impression through your words and imagery, nurturing the customer relationship is essential to retain a following. How you interact with customers is another key component of your brand, just as the way you interact with people is a key component of relationships after the initial first impression. You can decide if you’re going to keep it formal, light, funny, or friendly but setting up an expectation for your social media manager or whoever is handling customer digital interactions can be helpful to keep your online voice consistent. These guidelines will also dictate future copy and messaging for your site, pages and descriptions.

And remember, the best brand is an authentic one! By sticking to your guns and building from your unique strengths you will attract clients who are not only interested in your product but your message as well. That’s the magic of branding.