800+ Venture-Funded Startups Across the USA Trust Burkland

The Steps for Building an Incredible Digital Brand

Juntae DeLane walks us step-by-step through what it takes to build a successful brand and convert customers in today’s ever-shifting market.

No matter what industry you’re in, your audience is savvier than ever about digital branding and marketing. The tactics that worked 5 years ago no longer apply. And this makes growing your business and driving sales more challenging than ever.

That’s why today, we’re excited to sit down with a true digital marketing and branding expert to delve into strategies that will help your startup break through the noise.

Our guest, Juntae DeLane, is a sought-after strategist, thought leader, and the Founder + Chief Strategist at Digital Delane, a full-service digital marketing agency. He also founded the Digital Branding Institute and has spoken around the world on the practice of digital branding.

Juntae walks us step-by-step through what it takes to build a successful brand and convert customers in today’s ever-shifting market.

We discuss:

  • The new rules of SEO and how to align content with Google’s latest algorithm
  • Why credibility & trustworthiness are key to your content creation strategy
  • How a CRM system can multiple the efforts of small teams
  • Why personal branding is especially important for founders
  • His assertion that today all brands are built on social

Juntae wraps up with insights he learned along his founder’s journey … “Being a successful founder really starts from within. It takes something on the inside that keeps you going. You have to ask yourself if you have that grit.”

Don’t miss this incredible episode packed with the best digital branding and marketing advice out there!

This discussion with Juntae DeLane of Digital Delane comes from our show Startup Success. Browse all Burkland podcasts and subscribe to the show on Apple podcasts.

Episode Transcript

Welcome to Startup Success, the podcast for startup founders and investors. Here you’ll find stories of success from others in the trenches as they work to scale some of the fastest growing startups in the world stories that will help you in your own journey. Startup Success starts now.

Kate 00:17
Welcome to Startup Success. Today, we have Juntae Delane in studio, who is the founder of Digital Delane. Welcome.

Juntae 00:26
Hey, how’s it going?

Kate 00:27
It’s great to see you. Thanks for being here today. So we’re going to talk all things branding and digital for our startup founders listening, which I’m excited to get into. But just so we can get to know you, would you mind sharing a little bit about your background and how you got to the founding of your firm?

Juntae 00:46
Yeah, so I started my marketing career as a DJ as a college DJ. I went to UC Berkeley for my undergrad. And I focused on helping other local artists and bands in the Bay Area to help build a fanbase that led me to start a social network that competed with some other guy back east who was starting a network only for college students I thought would never actually take off. But that founder is worth what, 63 billion now. So there’s that?

Kate 01:15
(laughing) Yeah. All right.

Juntae 01:19
So I stepped my big toe in the water of social networks. And it was called Bay Vince and really was focused on that and promoting music artists through that platform, as well as establishing a fanbase through MySpace Yeah, back in the day. And so that was my first foray into marketing, connecting my love of music, and being a DJ. And from there, I started to really grow within the field and start to take on other larger artists for major record labels. And I essentially was that guy in the Bay Area for all the local promo when it comes to music, in particular, hip hop music. And so after that, I opened up my first marketing agency, which focused on music, promotions, and entertainment, and I started to infuse brand relationships and deals within entertainment, and then branched off focusing on products and services. So that’s what led me to start Digital Delane as a full service, digital marketing agency.

Kate 02:19
Great. What a fun background. So Digital Delane. How long have you been in business now.

Juntae 02:25
So technically, it’s been almost over eight years now, founded in 2015, where essentially, I was actually on campus at USC working as a digital brand manager there. Working on all aspects of digital campaigns for the university proper. And I also had passion projects and created an online community where I just started doing a brain dump on all things digital branding, and created a great deal of content around it, and was able to build that community. And that community essentially wanted “done for you” services. And that’s pretty much how the agency started.

Kate 03:01
That’s so smart. Do you have some of that content still online? For people that want to learn more?

Juntae 03:07
Absolutely, absolutely. It’s digitalbrandinginstitute.com. All my content there myself, as well as my friends in the industry, other fellow practitioners and influencers and specialists and experts, all that stuff, all the content is there.

Kate 03:21
Oh, cool.Sounds like a great resource. Can you share with us some of your branding experience, like maybe walk us through some of the work you’ve done with some brands?

Juntae 03:32
Yeah. So you know, I think first and foremost, when we talk about, you know, branding, and in particular digital branding, I have defined digital branding as your identity, your visibility and your credibility in the space. Now, there’s more of a holistic marketing that is needed in order to really truly convert your target audience. Because nowadays, as I’m sure you know, your audience is becoming savvier. Pretty much everyone’s a marketer, or everyone can think they are a marketer, right. And so, a lot of the marketing tactics that we once employed 5-10 years ago, obviously, are not going to work. But when we think about building a brand around our offering, we focus on more than just building a website, or having paid media, or SEO, all of these things are channels and touchpoints that your target audience is ultimately going to connect with and engage with before they even do business with you. And then you have that along with the leader of the brand. In this case, his founders are oftentimes the face of their organizations. And you know, now especially when you look at the likes of Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, so on and so forth, they are the face of their brand so people are connecting with those individuals. So as you begin to flesh out your overarching digital brand, your personal brand also plays a major role in that. Which is why no channel can be stuck in vacuum, we have to think about how we’re going to market and position ourselves in this digital space from a brand perspective so that all touch points are covered.

Kate 05:09
That makes a lot of sense, especially like you can’t be in a vacuum, because people are interacting with you in so many different ways nowadays, right?

Juntae 05:17
Absolutely. I mean, let’s be honest, you know, if you have an ad campaign, well, maybe they can click through to your ad, but they’re probably going to end up Google searching you, probably going to end up going through your social media profiles, and really digging down. I mean, for the clients that we have Digital Delane, we noticed that from some of the ad campaigns that we create, and some of the contacts that come in through a client website, we can see that there is a gap, there’s a delta between the two. And we figure out well, why is that? Well, it’s because people are finding out about your brand through all of those top of the funnel activations, your paid media, your SEO, so on and so forth. But then they go through and they dig into other touchpoints that your brand may have, before actually making that decision, and then going to your website and purchasing directly or submitting some contact information. So we have to consider those things. When we talk about building that digital brand.

Kate 06:10
That makes a lot of sense. So if you’re starting out building a brand in today’s world, like what are some of the must do’s when you’re getting started?

Juntae 06:21
Yeah, there’s so many. So if you are a founder, and you’re looking to build your digital brand, obviously, there’s certain steps that are needed in order to build that digital brand. I think ultimately, first you need to, you know, establish your home base, right, whatever that is. Most people may say, this is a website, you may have a prototype, but there has to be some type of home base. And it could even be where you ultimately decide you want to send people to or live in. For some organizations or some business ideas, it could be a social media page, but at the end of the day, you have to establish that home base. Once you’ve established that home base, I would ultimately connect that with a CRM. And I think this is something that many founders and SMB small and medium size businesses are really played with is trying to identify how they can work smarter, and not necessarily harder. And I think the CRM helps them do that. For us Digital Delane, we help our clients establish a CRM strategy from the onset, so that they can handle both their sales and their marketing, and create workflows and automations and things of that nature to help alleviate some of the friction in their business and basically optimize what they have going on. So establishing a CRM and attaching it to your home base, I think is key. We currently use Upsurge CRM as pretty much the backbone of our agency, we send out all proposals, emails, follow ups, all that stuff goes through our Upsurge CRM account. I think they also need to establish a content strategy as well. Right. So starting from the top, when you have your home base, you’re looking at establishing a CRM that is aligned with your business workflow, and then looking at the content you’re trying – that you should create. So obviously, developing a content marketing strategy is key. When we think about both sales and marketing, there should be content for both. So you’d ultimately want to audit if there’s any existing content that you have or create a content map, where you can establish all the collateral that you have for your sales, or the collateral that you’ll need for your marketing as well. And create an initiative to develop those content pieces, and make sure that they’re mapped with each of the phases of your users journey. Well, what does that mean? Well, we know the general marketing funnel is you know, your awareness, your consideration and your decision. What content are you going to have for the awareness, top of the funnel awareness? Is it going to be information about your offering? Is it going to be information about the people on your team, the founder, so on and so forth? So that people become aware. Then you have consideration phase? Well, once they are aware of you, now what? What type of content do they need in order to get them to actually convert, create that content? And then for the conversion content at the bottom of the funnel? It’s, well, how can we push people over the edge? They know us, they know about our offering? Now, how can we actually get them to purchase or patronize our business? So there’s content that should be created there. This could be case studies, testimonials, things of that nature. So again, as a startup founder, when you factor in developing a content marketing strategy, you want to make sure that you’re creating effective content that is mapped to the lifecycle of your target audience. And you also want to make sure that you don’t get stuck on a hamster wheel of creating content for content sake. Right. Let’s focus on the cornerstone, premium pieces of content that you’ll need and stick to repurposing some of those content pieces instead of thinking about being stuck on that hamster wheel and, and just creating content for content sake.

Kate 10:13
Wow, you know your stuff. Okay. I would say to everybody listening, you should play that back like three or four days. You just really walked us through all the great first steps. I couldn’t agree more about content to somebody who’s been in marketing for a long time. And one of my biggest pet peeves is when people are like, oh, we need this, we need that. And it’s like, stop, do we really need that content? Like you said, so you can get on that hamster wheel. That was really helpful. Let me ask you something that people always wonder when they’re starting a company. What about SEO? Like, you know, is it still as important?

Juntae 10:53
So that’s, that’s, that’s interesting. I think SEO is still important. I just think it’s different now. And obviously, Google is the main we pretty much create all content around Google’s algorithm. So we have to determine one how to play into the algorithm. Yes, right, understand what the algorithm really wants, and then create content around that. So if you’re not familiar with the latest algorithm update from Google, it’s the EAT. It’s the experience, the expertise, authority and trustworthiness. Yeah. Right. And so there’s an extra E that’s added on that. And I believe it’s expertise. So what can you do to establish your expertise in this space? Well, obviously, creating content about a whole bunch of things is not going to cut it anymore. So I’ll give an example. Very personal example. So I’m here as a guest on the Startup Success podcast. Yes, the Startup Success podcast is probably going to have the show notes and a link back. Yeah, right. And Google’s gonna say, Hey, Juntae Delane, founder of Digital Delane, actually is an expert in his field, because he was featured as a guest on the Startup Success podcast. These are brand signals that the algorithm factors in when trying to determine, Okay, out of all the people that are making content, and we know there are a lot, especially with AI, who are the actual experts, and can back up what they’re saying. And so it all makes sense, right? When you think about serving the best product out to your clients, you ultimately want to yield search results that are truthful, and that are from experts, regardless of how many backlinks they have, how beefy their content is, these are the brand signals that are important when it comes to SEO.

Kate 12:43
I like that answer. I like how you call them brand signals, I think that makes a lot of sense. I’ve asked you about SEO because we were talking about content, I want to walk back to something you said too, and that’s about a CRM. I think a CRM is critical. But so many founders and small business owners are hesitant to go there because it can be expensive. Just walk us through a little more detail around that and why it’s so important.

Juntae 13:10
It’s so important. Because for one, especially for teams that are small, if you’re a lone soul, if you have a small team, having a CRM is so impactful, because essentially, you’re going to multiply yourself, right, you don’t have to remember to touch base with individuals, you can have triggered behaviors, you can have behaviors that trigger certain communications that may go out. It’s critical. And I think that small business owners in particular, they don’t really focus enough on a CRM, and it’s partially because they probably just don’t know the functionalities, or to your point is just an expensive endeavor. And the learning curve is great, right? You have to have someone there that understands your business workflows, and then be able to create a strategy using the CRM to do so. I mean, we do this for our clients, and it’s about a three month process, and we take them under our wing, we really understand their business process and business model and then map out a CRM strategy. A lot of the friction there could be really understanding your business model and what you want to do. Right. And some of those thoughts are either half baked and going through a CRM development process and strategy is really going to surface a lot of those potential points of friction in the business. And it’ll force you to try to find a solution. And that’s what ultimately some of the things that we provide for our clients at Digital Delane is the opportunity to look at their business, focus on their goals, their target audience, and use a tool such as a CRM amongst others in order to attract and convert those audience members.

Kate 14:49
So we would be amiss here if we didn’t talk about social media in this day and age. I mean, where are your thoughts? There’s so many new channels.

Juntae 14:59
There is. You know, with regard to social, I think that most brands are built on social nowadays. And, of course, it depends upon the specific industry in terms of the impact of that channel. But ultimately, I think all brands are built on social. So when we think about as a founder, establishing our brands, oftentimes perception is reality, right. And so the things that we do within our personal lives, the things that we do for our business, this is just a way to keep in touch with people. And I think as a founder, all founders should be fairly active on social media. Because you’re going to want something from that network that you’ve built through social, we’re going to want a potential investor to know all the things that you’re doing with regard to how it contributes to the business, you know, things that showcase how innovative you are not just your product, but you as a person, because obviously, when it comes to investment, people are investing in people, as well as business, and so leveraging social media is certainly going to help, you may also have need some help for an initiative that you’re doing well, you can tap immediately into your social network, because they ultimately are going to help you solve problems as you go on throughout your founder journey. So I think it’s critically important to be active on social media as a founder, and I certainly believe most brands are built on social media. So that’s essentially imperative.

Kate 16:31
I agree with you, and so based on the companies that you work for, I mean, I have this feeling that not all social media channels are appropriate for each brand. Like what are your thoughts on that? I think there’s differentiators if you’re b2b or b2c? I mean, what are your thoughts?

Juntae 16:52
Yeah, I think that each social network should have its own strategy. And the social networks that really stick out to me in terms of being an outlier across main social strategies is LinkedIn, as an example, but you can certainly argue that LinkedIn is starting to become a little bit more personal, less suit and ties, more memes. and other …what did you eat for dinner. So I have my opinion about that. But essentially, LinkedIn is an outlier there with regard to you should have a separate strategy for LinkedIn. In particular, that strategy could revolve around your employer branding, when you are looking for talented individuals. Also, if you’re looking for investment, and so on, there could be individuals on there as well. So your tone of voice, this content strategy, the topics in which you focus on for LinkedIn, in particular, is more than likely going to be different than you would on let’s say, one of the major networks such as Facebook, or Instagram, I think Twitter is almost the same thing there in terms of the strategy should be around, obviously, relevancy and frequency, you’re going to increase your frequency of post on Twitter itself, obviously, because the the lifespan of a tweet is a lot shorter than the lifespan of a Facebook post. Right. So you’re going to want to post more frequently on that. And then when looking at, you know, your core audiences, where people are based upon b2b, b2c based upon specific industries, I think that one, you can pretty much know that all of your audience is pretty much on all profiles. However, when they log into those social networks, their mindset may be a little different. When you log into LinkedIn, you’re probably going to be ready for business, have some professional talk. And when you log into Facebook or Instagram it may be a little bit different. Right? Facebook, you’re probably looking at family photos, things like that Instagram are you looking for, you know what’s kind of going on in the space? TikTok, you could be looking for specific trends as an example, but you may not be as receptive to certain things, just like in any physical place that you may go to, right. Ultimately, your mindset is different when you walk in different doors. Right? So if you’re looking to attract people across the gamut of social networks, you can still reach out to that same person that you reach out on to LinkedIn onFacebook, but the conversation is different.

Kate 19:25
That makes perfect sense. I like how you framed it around the conversation and their frame of mind because you’re right, a professional could be on TikTok, and LinkedIn, but their mindsets different and also how you probably communicate with them is different than. Switching gears here because we have a lot of founders listening you founded you know your agency. We always like to wrap up the show with just general advice for starting a firm or any agency or company for those founders listening, anything you can share with the audience of things you’ve learned, you’ve been in business now for eight years, congratulations.

Juntae 20:09
Thank you. Well, I guess my first piece of advice would be don’t. I’m just kidding. (Laughing). No, you know what, I’ve had some of the best times and worst of my life being a founder. And I would say that being a successful founder really starts from within. Sure you can have all of the classical training in the world to be a founder, but it really takes something on the inside that really keeps you going. And you have to really ask yourself, if you have that grit, and even why you’re in the field. Some people make great number two’s, right. Some people make great COOs, but it’s those other intangibles and nuances, that could be very difficult to swallow. For example, most of the times, I’m sure you founders who are listening can attest to this, you’re probably the last person getting paid. Right? You may have a team of people who have their livelihood that depends upon your creativity, and your ingenuity, right. And so it’s critical for you to do that internal self check to determine if you have what it takes.And to be honest, there are plenty of situations where you can probably make more money being a number two, right. So kind of looking at, you know, your motivation, you know, figure that out, and make sure you’re in proximity with people that ultimately can complement what you are ultimately are looking to do. So that would be my suggestion for any founders here. Other than that, you know, it is obviously become a lifelong learner, right? Because things are always changing people’s challenges of your target audiences, there’s always new tools, new processes, and so on. But ultimately, you have to, especially if you have limited funds, you’re essentially going to, as I’m sure you all know, where as many different hats that are needed. So until you are able to have all the pieces put together, you obviously have to find someone to assist and complement any challenges that you may have, or any weakness that you may have as a founder. And you ultimately want to put yourself in a proximity where you’re constantly being poured into, and making sure that you’re speaking with other founders, so that, you know that you’re not on an island, where you know, there’s someone else in your same situation that has gone through some of the same things that you’re going through now. So that would be my advice for founders. And it’s something that I’ve learned over the past decade or so of being a founder. And hopefully, that advice would help some of you. And if you guys have any questions, feel free to reach out to me, I can certainly share some of my stories and connect with you and provide some guidance and advice.

Kate 23:13
Thank you for that. That was a wonderful answer. Yeah, it’s really apparent, you know a lot about branding and setting up a digital brand in today’s world. Very impressive answers. And you walked us through a lot of helpful information in a very clear manner. So those listening if they want to learn more about Digital Delane, and possibly working with you and your team, where do they find you.

Juntae 23:39
So the first thing would be to go to our agency website, DigitalDelane.com. Even if you Google it, or Google my name, I’m going to come up because I have a very unique name. So feel free to visit our website. And I ask that you check out our newsletter, we have a weekly newsletter called the brand behavior and check that out pretty awesome newsletter has all the insights that we’ve gathered from across the industry, not just only our content, but just great content across the board, great engagements, we have a community so on and so forth. But definitely check out the brand behavior and you could do so by going to Digital Delane.com and clicking on the brand behavior.

Kate 24:19
Thank you. So fun chatting with you. You really know your stuff. Thanks for being here today. We appreciate it.

You’ve been listening to Startup Success. To make sure you don’t miss out on future episodes. Subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast player. Like what you hear. Tap the number of stars you think the show deserves and Apple podcasts. For more tools and resources for your own startup success. Check out burklandassociates.com Thank you so much for listening. Until next time…