There’s a silent killer plaguing small business owners. This debilitating condition can cut down even the most promising entrepreneurs and most are not even aware that they’re afflicted until it’s too late.  What is this brutal bane of business?  It’s a little known disorder called “AOBD” – Ambiguous Online Brand Disease.

AOBD strikes unsuspecting entrepreneurs at the very core of their business, eating away at their foundations and undermining all of their otherwise productive efforts.  Ambiguous Online Brand Disease occurs when the business owner has failed to develop a clear and compelling online brand – one that boldly states the company’s unique selling proposition and differentiates them from the competition. 

Obviously, it’s no longer enough to have a professional web presence, social media savvy and a kick-ass online video.  Today, all of that has to communicate your BCB (Big Customer Benefit) in a distinctive and memorable way.

Sadly, most small business owners don’t realize that they suffer from AOBD until it’s too late and their competition has squeezed them out of the market. However, it is possible identify the early warning signs of AOBD and treat the debilitating disorder. Take this quick AOBD quiz:

  1. Is your brand promise clear and compelling?  Can you differentiate yourself from your competition online?  Do you communicate your message so that it’s motivating and memorable?
  2. Does your slogan or tagline capture the imagination and does it reinforce the essence of your brand?  Does the visual image of your brand tell your story and communicate your big benefit?
  3. Is your website distinctive and memorable?  Is it clear from the first click what action you want your web visitors to take?  Do you have a video on your home page to make your website more dynamic, personal and engaging?
  4. Does your brand pass the “who gives a sh*t” test?  When you describe your business, do your prospect’s eyes glaze over? Is that replaced with a look of confusion or indifference? Can your brand be clearly articulated in just a few simple sentences or do you get tongue-tied when explaining what you do?
  5. If a prospect was to visit all of your online “outposts” – website, blog, social media – would they find a consistent presence and brand identity?

These are just a few of the questions to consider to ensure that your online brand is not ambiguous or unclear.  Given the warning signs of AOBD listed above, here are a few key ways to treat the disorder:

  • Be consistent across all of your online platforms – both visually and with your messaging.  At its simplest, this may mean using the same photo or avatar on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.  (And, by the way, lose the pet photo as your avatar.  Fluffy the cat may be adorable, but she’s got nothing to do with your business!)  Pick a professional photo and stick with it.  Don’t make people wonder whose site they’re on.
  • Consistency counts with your tone and content, too.  You’ve got to develop and maintain your unique voice online.  Share your personality continuously and maintain a well-articulated, unified message.  Keep in mind, though, that being consistent does not mean being predictable or “vanilla.” Flaunt your personality. Share your uniqueness. Show off your character.
  • Stay “on message.”  When done correctly, it works in politics and it works for brands.  Build your brand deliberately and don’t send mixed messages.  Remember, Tweets, Facebook updates, blog posts and even Pinterest pins are the building blocks of your online brand.  Manage them carefully and you’ll never suffer from AOBD.

Gone untreated, Ambiguous Online Brand Disease can be fatal to your business. You can increase your odds of survival dramatically by practicing safe (and consistent) branding using the tips listed here.  Help us stamp out AOBD by strengthening your own brand today!

So, what do you think? Is online consistency something you strive for? Do you think it’s important? Please share your experience in the comments below.