Backyard Farms, a tomato grower based out of Madison, Maine, is active and promotes brand consistency on its social media accounts.
Screenshots from Backyard Farms’ social media pages

The internet is a busy and noisy place these days. Standing out in the digital crowd might seem like an insurmountable task. If you’re on the wholesale side of commerce, you might also be tempted to assume you don’t need to work as hard on your digital branding as retailers do to meet your goals. Not so, anymore.

The digital world has both eliminated the distance between the end consumer and you (the wholesale grower or producer), and amplified your responsibility to manage these virtual relationships. You can’t rely on your distributors or retailers to represent or promote your brand for you online, at least not up to your chosen standards.

When you need to measure where you stand, digitally speaking, the first place to go is your website. Is your site responsive, clean and easy to navigate with good visuals? Does it quickly communicate who you are and what makes you different? Your website must run fast, or vendors and consumers will quickly abandon it. It must also be secure, especially if you provide customer login capacity for accounts, orders and payments. An SSL certificate should be installed on your site, which you can identify by that little padlock icon up next to your URL in a browser. Also, if you’re using an open-source software platform for your website, it could be more susceptible to hackers. If this is all foreign language to you, then it’s probably time for a chat with your web developer and IT agency.

Beyond how your website looks, how easy is it to find? Can “Googlers” discover your website quickly without knowing your domain name or clicking a direct referral link? If not, you’re probably going to need to work on your content strategy. When it comes to organic web rankings these days, you must produce and publish useful and relevant content regularly to achieve better search rankings. If you’re treating your website like a static placeholder, the search engines will do the same. Ideally, you want your website to come up on the first page of organic search returns when people search for topics related to your brand or product. But that is only going to happen with a serious commitment of time and strategy to digital content.

What is digital content, exactly? It can be anything from articles, blog posts, videos, photos, social media posts and photos, recipes, how-to guides, case studies, white papers, webinars — you name it. It’s all content. If you want to see a great example of a well-rounded digital brand presence and content strategy, check out the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council. They have a stylish logo, a great-looking and easy-to-use website that is full of useful, up-to-date content, plus their very own celebrity brand ambassador, Alison Sweeney. They captured my attention recently when I saw an ad for a Hallmark Channel movie titled “The Irresistible Blueberry Farm,” starring none other than — you guessed it. Alison Sweeney. Now that’s a slick content marketing move. Well played, blueberry guys, well played.

If you’re maintaining social media channels, you’ll need to apply the same consistent approach. Make sure your logos, taglines and photographs complement your core company branding and represent you properly. You must engage in these channels constantly and consistently for them to be useful. Use them as distribution channels for the content you publish on your website. I’ve noticed that Backyard Farms, tomato growers located in Madison, Maine, have really stepped up their branding and social media presence as of late, making great use of their digital content resources. Kudos.

Alison Sweeney serves as a celebrity brand ambassador for the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council.
Screenshot from U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council website

Don’t forget about email. Direct emails to your customers and other subscribers is still one of today’s most powerful digital marketing tools. But for your emails to have value to subscribers, they must contain useful relevant information, such as links to all that helpful content you’re publishing on your website.

Visual branding, in the form of logos and taglines, needs to match up across your digital media and your tangible collateral, such as business cards, company stationery, product packaging and the like. If the branding used for your digital real estate doesn’t look consistent with the logo and taglines you’re using on your printed materials, you’re generating brand confusion. Each piece of “you” in the digital world should complement all your tangible branding efforts.

The things people say about you and your products online, in the form of reviews and social media posts, is another crucial part of your digital brand. Consumer reviews can boost your business or cause you a lot of pain. And don’t forget about employees — what they say about you online (good and bad) can have a much bigger impact than you might think. Be sure to involve them in your digital strategy to incorporate their ideas, thoughts and experience with your products, and they’ll be more likely to better represent you in their personal digital sphere of influence.

Ultimately, your goal should be to send a consistent message about your company and products, through your branding efforts, across the digital marketplace. A message you control. A digital audit can get you moving in the right direction.

Leslie (CPH) owns Halleck Horticultural, LLC, through which she provides horticultural consulting, business and marketing strategy, product development and branding, and content creation for green industry companies.