Web Design, Online Branding, and Marketing Tips!

North Carolina Blueberry Council, Inc.exclusive member content.
It is impossible to not notice how the Internet has infiltrated every aspect of the business, professional, and personal life.  The days of ignoring branding and marketing online are over. To make this point, go online and search your company name. Even if you don’t have a website, there is greater chance than not, search results will generate a reference to your company.

Just because a company ignores the Internet doesn’t mean the Internet is going to ignore the company. At the minimum there are business listing bureaus that generate company profiles based on public information. Angie’s List, the Better Business Bureau, Google and even Facebook and Google 1+ generate “places” that some may think are authorized listings of a company. Unfortunately if a company does not take the lead on branding itself online, others will fill the void.

The “good old days” when your customers were loyal and competition came from around the corner are over. When it comes to blueberries, competition is expanding from the maritime provinces, south to Florida, to as far west as British Columbia. Beyond North America, blueberries are becoming an attractive crop to export to the US because of our expanding consumption. This competition wants a bigger piece of the blueberry pie and that includes your customers if you don’t protect your turf and your brand.

That is part of the reason the North Carolina Blueberry Council, Inc. will offer a series of written and video blogs as member-exclusive content via this website. The idea is to help members understand the importance of even the most basic web presence and the new responsibilities of living in a world where marketing and information sharing is dominated by the Internet. If all you did was buy a domain and put up a one-page online “brochure”, you would have your foot in the virtual door. That is not the recommended plan, but much better than nothing at all!

Every member of the North Carolina Blueberry Council, Inc. has a part to play in the overall success of the blueberry industry in North Carolina. In the most simplest form, more websites mentioning “blueberries” and “North Carolina” increases our opportunity to make the blueberry consumer, as well as the market aware that everything is better with North Carolina Blueberries!

This series will end with tips that will be expanded on in the next post. The following tips are crucial in ways that will become clear in later posts. The following tips are also a very inexpensive way to protect your brand and begin to use and see the Internet as a tool to increase the awareness of your product. Even if you don’t put a label on one clamshell, the following information is critical.

Protecting Your Brand – Buy A Quality Domain!

Even if you don’t think your company will ever need any kind of website buy your brand name in the form of a website domain!
1. Protect your company name/brand by acquiring your company name in a domain.
– Using a company like GoDaddy, 1and1, or other registrar, search for a domain that represents your company name.
2. Look for a domain name that matches your company and ends in “.com”.
Most any other domain suffix, i.e. .org, .us, .net, .biz, etc, are undesirable as both professional and consumer users of the net automatically think “dot com”.
3. Buy that domain and lock it down for at least 5 years.
At full retail price that would cost you about $80.00. If you search for discount coupons, that price can be as low as $50. This is much cheaper than trying to acquire your domain from a third-party company that buys domains for speculative purposes.

If a company buys and “squats” on your trademarked brand, there is a process (ICANN Despute Resolution Policy) that can help you take force a “domain squatter” to release the domain. It is easier and cheaper to avoid this by acquiring your domain before someone else does. The key word here is “trademark*”.

Even if you are not considering creating a website, acquiring a domain protects your company name by denying access to the domain name to a third-party “pirates” or worse, unscrupulous competitors. You can’t buy an hour of an attorney for $80.

To save money at this step, start out with Google and search “domain” and “coupon” for links to discounts. One advantage that GoDaddy has is that the company does allow for multi-year domain registrations. Other registrars like “Registrar.com and Network Solutions only allow for single year registrations with low buy-in front ends followed by “regular price” renewals. With multi-year registrations you can lock in today’s prices for up to ten years!

*Note that if there was ever a reason to trademark your farm or brand, the Internet kicks it up a notch. It is always easier to defend your brand when it is registered with the US Patent and Trade Office, (USPTO.gov). State trademarks to not count when it comes to pursuing a bad faith use of your company name by another company in the form of a website domain.

Suggested Course of Action:
Buy your company or farm name domain
– Finer points
Avoid using words that can be spelled in multiple ways
Avoid using numbers, hyphens, or any word “trickery”.
Think “KISS”!
Good Domain: www.franksblueberryfarm.com
Not so good: www.frank-grows-blueberries.net
Terrible: www.6pointblueberryfarm.us

After January 1, this series will only be visible to NCBC members via secure links. If you want to follow this as well as have access to other member-exclusive content designed to assist your blueberry enterprise, consider joining the North Carolina Blueberry Council.

This information is not in any way construed to be legal advice. Also given that this is published, the conditions that affect the issues here are volatile, subject to market conditions and changing laws. Originally published on 11.18.2013 for the sole purposes informing members of the North Carolina Blueberry Council, Inc. in support of how to improve online branding and marketing. Any course of action taken by anybody who reads this is done so at their own risk and in no way can the North Carolina Blueberry Council, Inc. be held accountable for any success or failures in executing an online marketing plan.

This post is based on the experience and research of John L. Wood – Digital Content Manager of the North Carolina Blueberry Council. It is designed to offer suggestions that members of the North Carolina Blueberry Council, can use to advanced discussions with their website and Internet-based marketing partners/teams.