These days, the word “branding” gets thrown around a lot. Everyone knows what it is: Branding is what makes Apple “Apple” instead of “shiny gadget producer,” “Starbucks” instead of “premium coffee seller” and “Nike” instead of “sturdy running shoes.” That being the case, how do you make it work for you?
To be specific, how do you make customers say “Oh yeah!” instead of just “Oh…” when they hear about your company? How do you create a brand that’s memorable, sustainable and true to your company’s values in an age where branding is harder than ever? How do you build something so powerful from the ground up when you’re still new to business?
Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to those questions. The best branding strategies depend on a ton of factors: Who your target customers are, what those customers think about you, how comfortable you are with your company’s current image, etc.
Better grasp the answers to those questions when you follow the tips below.
- Write Your Brand Mantra: Keep in mind that your brand mantra is different from your mission statement. For example, Nike’s mission statement is “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete,” while its mantra is “Authentic Athletic Performance.” You can think of a company mantra as a three- to five-word answer to these questions:
- Why does your company exist?
- What makes it different from similar companies?
- How can you make that mantra — and, by extension, your company — memorable?
In Nike’s case, their mission statement answers the first question. However, by adding the word “authentic” to their mantra, they also managed to differentiate from their competitors, which simply offer “athletic performance.” Also, the alliterative “As” make the mantra easy to remember, and a clever allusion to batteries (“AA”) as a source of energy.
- Be True to Your Mantra: Your mantra should trickle down to every aspect of your business. For example, if you have a shipping company and your selling point is speed, it should reflect not only in how fast you deliver the goods, but also in the way you handle customer concerns, the way you change according to the needs of your industry, etc.
- Have a Logo: Your company may have a mantra, but it’s not going to be the one that’ll stick in your customers’ minds. Rather, it’s the logo — which you’ll need to have STAT.
Why? Because people remember images better than words. If your company’s posts pop up on your target customer’s feeds, your logo/profile picture is going to be the first thing they’ll notice. Similar to your mantra, your logo is a deceptively simple element that should be conceptualized very carefully.
1stWebDesigner has a great post on how to design logos in 2016, but to sum it up:
- Remember the K.I.S.S. principle (Keep It Simple, Silly). If you can shrink a logo to the size of your fingertip, and people can still recognize it as yours, that’s a good sign.
- Make it different. Even though your logo should be simple, that doesn’t mean it has to be bland. For example, Coca-Cola has a logo completely made up of letters, yet its unique typography makes it stand out. Try to make your company logo simple enough to remember, but different enough to be unforgettable.
- Make it versatile. No matter what color scheme you apply to your logo — black, white, black-and-white — it should still look good. This comes in handy when you have to use your logos for championship matches, trade shows and other public events where you’ll have to make do with differently colored backgrounds.
- Give it a story to tell. Remember the FedEx logo? If you look closely at the space between the “E” and “x,” you’ll see an arrow pointing to the right. The same goes for these 40 companies with hidden messages in their logos, which obviously work as far as their customers are concerned.
Luckily, you don’t have to get a logo perfect the first time. Many large corporations change their logos every few decades or so. What’s important is for it to reflect your company’s values and how those values have changed over the years — hopefully for the better.
- Build Your Social Media Presence: Since people spend a great portion of their time on social media, it’s a great place to attract as many eyeballs as possible. Also, setting up a profile on sites like Facebook is incredibly easy and inexpensive, making it an efficient, cost-effective way to get in touch with your target demographic.
The only thing you need to worry about is getting drowned out by the social media noise. To avoid that, do one or more of the following:
- Make your posts pop with beautiful, relevant images.
- Cross-post across your social media channels.
- Repurpose old yet evergreen posts. For example, if you had a “How to Prepare an Awesome Thanksgiving Dinner” last 2015, you can promote it again, and make a few tweaks to keep the post updated.
Keep in mind that social media is a two-way communication tool. Don’t be afraid to engage your customers by responding to comments, sharing their positive posts about your company and promoting posts from related, non-competitor companies. Always add value to any conversation, whether online or offline, and it’ll be easier to attract loyal, paying customers.
- Build Your Target Demographic
Before you try to be “all things to everyone,” think about what your ideal buyer is like. Is it a young, hip person who has loads of cash to spare? Or is it a senior citizen who prefers to keep all the dollar bills close to their chest, so to speak?
Focus on grabbing a large chunk of your target buyers’ population first. This way, even if expanding to other markets doesn’t work as well as you want it to, you can count on your core market to keep your profits healthy.
Over to You
These tips may be simple, but it’s important not to skip them. Execute them in the best way you can, and if you ever need help or guidance, remember that Pink Studios is always here to help you with community management, editorial calendars, promoted posts and so much more. Contact us now and let’s elevate your business’ success today!
Lexie Lu is a designer and blogger. She actively contributes to the design world and usually has a cup of coffee in close proximity. She writes weekly on Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.
As many small business owners know quite well, a website is an outstanding way to let potential customers know about your company and its products and services. A well-planned website can also be a terrific marketing tool that will help to generate leads. In order to create a website that will increase the chances of getting some new customers, Unbounce notes it’s important to have a landing page that is expressly designed for getting as many qualified leads as possible. For example, the following tips will help you to create a lead-friendly website:
Make it clear who you are marketing to
While this may seem like an obvious point, there are plenty of websites that don’t let visitors know who the key customer is. In order to make the website as lead-friendly as possible, know who your customer is, and design the content around this person. Even if your small business has a variety of clients, try to design the site to appeal to the one that is a more typical and profitable customer.
One website that does this quite well is QuoteWizard; the large text at the top of the page that says “Auto, Home, Renter and Life Insurance Leads” lets visitors know that the site offers top quality leads to people in the insurance industry, and right below it short descriptions of lead types combined with small but eye-catching photos makes it clear who can benefit from working with the company.
Offer customers something
Just about everybody likes to get something for nothing, whether it’s free shipping, a coupon they can use right away on their order, or a complimentary e-book. Freebies are also a terrific way to get more leads, Jenny Shih notes. If you promise people something tangible in exchange for an email address, they are more likely to provide it. They key is to come up with something that customers will actually want. In general, the offer should be valuable enough that they will click on it, and written in a way that it’s very clear what you are offering.
In addition, the offer should tie into something the customer is already thinking about; for example, Hallmark.com does this not once but twice on its landing page. Customers who are wondering if they can purchase items on the website will see an offer for free in-store pickup on the main page, and those who are hoping to save money on their order will be happy to see a high value coupon that they can use right away.
Have call to actions where people can see them
In order to capture as many leads as possible, you need to place call to actions and other clickable links in prominent places on the website. You could have the best free offer in the industry, but if it’s tucked at the bottom of an ordering page, chances are good many potential customers won’t even see it. An example of a company that has a well-planned website is Starbucks; the site features an appealing call to action that’s placed smack dab in the center of the home page. “My Starbucks Rewards” is advertised in a white font over a black graphic, and then visitors are told that they can sign up for a loyalty program that’s “all about you” just by registering their Starbucks card. Not only is the positioning of the call to action ideal, it’s also a great example of asking customers to do something that will not overwhelm them and will make them feel like they are gaining something really cool by clicking on the link.
A 2005 study by the Department of Business at Kristianstad University found that brand awareness was the most influential factor in first-time consumer buying scenarios. The other major factors were brand loyalty, price, quality, and advertising, according to the study.
Smartphones have become an extension of the American consumer. Nielsen estimates 65 percent of Americans own smartphones and spend at least 60 hours per week consuming content across all their mobile devices. Your brand must have a way to reach the masses and constantly remind them of your products and services to maximize profits. These three methods will help you get started:
The 2014 Social Media Marketing Industry Report found 92 percent of marketers believe social media is an integral part of their overall marketing strategy. It’s essential for every business to have a presence on the “Big Three” social channels: Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Profiles on LinkedIn, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Stumbleupon are also important for expanding your overall reach.
One of the most important keys to a successful social media campaign is consistency. For instance, the Facebook page for DriveTime, a used car dealership network, uses its logo and same color scheme on Twitter and its home page. Customers know exactly who they are dealing with when they see the signature green logo regardless of online channel.
Social media should be used to showcase your brand and engage customers at a personal level. It can also be used to build trust, boost traffic to your Web page, and increase search engine rankings. Though keeping social media platforms up-to-date can be done by just about anyone, consider hiring a specialist if you’re just getting started. Elance and Fiverr.com are two options to find a freelancer who can do the job for you.
A 2012 data analysis by Hubspot found 92 percent of companies that published blog entries multiple times daily acquired at least one new customer in the process. Further, blogging was identified by marketers as the top method for increasing traffic to their Web pages.
Blogging is the one medium that can make your company stick out among the crowd. All the fancy SEO tricks in the world cannot substitute for quality content that is searchable, clickable, and sharable by readers. Content is king in the world of SEO, and marketers who are serious about brand awareness ensure their blogs are active and full of useful information.
The same person you hire as a social media expert could double as a blogger. The two work hand-in-hand, as you create content on your homepage and promote it via social media. Odesk and Writer Access are two sources to consider for freelance writers and bloggers. Remember the content should be interesting and clickable first, and advertorial second.
MarketingZone.com asked 500 business owners who use Google Adwords if the advertising system works for them. Most pointed out how inexpensive the program is, but also clamored about the immediate results it can offer in search engines. At the same time, marketers generally said the program is hard to use, pricing is somewhat arbitrary, and its difficult to get a Google representative on the phone for customer service.
Despite the wide ranging reviews of Adwords, the fact remains you can get paid search results for the keywords of your choice that appear on the first page. Adwords is especially cost effective when your keywords are not as common. Adwords Express was introduced by Google to address some end user complaints about the platform being difficult to use. A new company could certainly benefit from paid advertising while building an organic link portfolio via their blog and social media platforms.
Business owners should do a brand awareness survey before and after incorporating all of the above marketing techniques into their overall strategies. The results are sure to keep profit margins positive and marketing personnel motivated.
The phrase “Grammar Nazi” might be familiar to you. It’s a rather less-than-respectful way of pointing out when someone takes an interest in the use of proper grammar on the Internet. However, the question really shouldn’t be “Why should I care about grammar?” but rather, “Why wouldn’t I?”
You don’t have to be some stuffy academic or a contender for Stephen King’s throne atop the literary universe to appreciate how bad grammar can seriously damage your credibility. I’m not just talking about off-the-cuff text messages to friends, either; you’d be surprised by how many “worldly” brands out there don’t take grammar seriously. Here’s why they should.
Credibility and Beyond
When you want to learn more about a particular person, brand or company, what do you do? There’s a good chance you set a course for their official website or social media page. If you should find that it’s riddled with spelling mistakes, poorly-worded posts or language that barely passes for English, what would you think of that person or brand?
You’d probably think they lack a certain attention to detail. You might even begin to question whether the product or service they’re selling is also of dubious quality.
We search the Internet for all kinds of things; suppose you were looking for something as innocuous as squirrel repellent or mosquito traps. You’re fairly likely to gravitate toward a company whose word you can trust when they talk about the effectiveness of their products. The aforementioned examples – Havahart and Mosquito Magnet, respectively – make a point of using excellent grammar across their main sites and their Facebook pages. They know what it means to put their best foot forward. Anything less would be a letdown, wouldn’t you agree? It’s due in no small part to their commitment to good grammar that you can believe them when they say that their products work.
How to Maintain Good Grammar
To some extent, carrying on about maintaining good grammar is going to make all of us feel as though we’re back in junior high, but maybe that’s what it takes. with people sharing and linking to the content you’ve created. Imagine how quickly one mistake can snowball.
Imagine how disappointing it is for a customer to find a company that has something worthwhile to say, but can’t seem to get it out in a coherent manner. It’s like finding out your favorite musician exclusively uses Auto-Tune; they might have pretty words, but have no talent for presentation.
The most elementary advice I can give you is to read everything you write out loud. Better yet, get someone else to read it out loud. Obvious mistakes will jump out at you. Then, if you need a little bit of help nailing down the difference between “your” and “you’re,” take a look at CopyBlogger’s Grammar Goofs cheat-sheet.
The English language has suffered enough damage over the last few years. I’ll echo what I said above: You don’t need to sound like a pompous intellectual to get your point across, but maintaining your credibility means sounding smarter than, say, a 12-year-old.
People who use the Internet have certain standards when it comes to the companies and brands they interact with. Having standards of your own is the first step toward leaving a lasting impression on them.
Question: Have you seen companies promoting their services or communicating to their followers and visitors with poor grammar? What is your take on that?
In today’s digital age, getting your business to stand out among a seemingly never-ending pool of competitors is not an easy task. After all, those competitors are doing all that is within their power to ensure that their businesses have a more prominent digital profile than yours. With this in
mind, trying to position your company in such a way as to drive more traffic to your website — and maybe even diverting it away from your competitors’ sites — is a continual process.
Luckily for business owners seeking to fortify their online presence, there are a few easy tricks that can be leveraged to accomplish that goal in earnest. One such trick is establishing and maintaining a regularly updated blog.
Why Your Business Needs to Blog
For those decision makers who are intent on increasing sales, gaining more exposure and boosting brand awareness, blogging is important for your business website, whether you sell Etsy graphics or s-type load cells. No matter what your business’s specialty is, it’s virtually guaranteed that there will be companies doing almost exactly the same thing you are doing. And, financially speaking, those competitors are trying to get as big of a slice as possible from the same pie you’re trying to eat.
With that in mind, you’ve got to do all that is within your power to differentiate yourself from your competitors. That’s where blogging comes into play. By launching and maintaining a blog, your company will benefit from:
Increased traffic: Blogging organically increases your company’s placement in search engine results, which are determined by complex algorithms. Generally speaking, search engine spiders like content that is relevant, has the name of the author attached to it and is current. The more often you blog, the more often your company’s blog will turn up in search results. And the numbers support that claim, with businesses maintaining blogs saying that they’ve seen their web traffic increase 55 percent thanks to that particular platform.
New customers: With increased traffic comes new eyeballs to the content you’ve created and the products you’re selling. With that in mind, it’s very likely that some of those new visitors will be converted into customers at some point down the line. And research supports that claim, with 57 percent of businesses indicating that they’ve grown their customer base thanks to their blog.
Thought leadership: If you’re in the market for buying a car, for example, it’s likely that you’d rather buy it from someone who is knowledgeable than someone who knows nothing about automobiles. That concept can be applied over a variety of products and industries. Blogging about industry-specific news, developments and ideas proves to your customers that you have your fingers on the pulse of what’s happening. In turn, this helps you become a thought leader in your respective space.
A fortified business: When you hear the word “blog,” you might not think much of it. But the fact of the matter is that in actuality, well-crafted and pertinent blog posts become assets
to your company. With those assets simply living on your website, traffic will be directed in that direction continually over the years. Put another way, spending 20 minutes today crafting a clever and informative blog post could pay dividends for quite some time. In addition to landing a new customer tomorrow, you could also land a new customer four years from now through the same post. What’s more, according to HubSpot, 70 percent of the traffic that that company receives on a monthly basis is due to posts that were published in previous months.
Starting Your Blog
Are you ready to start writing? It’s important to remember that while starting your own blog is great, you’ve got to maintain it as well. If you’ve crafted the perfect blog post and subsequently welcome a host of new visitors to your website, it’s almost guaranteed that some of those visitors will be curious to read additional content that they
expect you to produce. In other words, once you’ve attracted them to your website, it’s important that you give them a reason to keep coming back.
Many businesses that launch blogs don’t spend the time necessary to maintain them and likely lose customers along the way because of it. Have you ever visited a company’s website and clicked on its blog only to find out that it hasn’t been updated in a few years? What does that make you think about that particular company?
In order to differentiate yourself from your competitors — something which is essential for businesses wishing to navigate today’s difficult economic climate — you’ve got to provide something that other businesses simply do not. By creating and dispersing informative, entertaining and unique blog posts on your website, you’re able to attract the attention of potential new customers while proving to your existing customers that they’re making the right decision to support your business.
So what are you waiting for? Better get blogging!
Need help setting it up, shoot us an email! We can surely help!
Places to Find Legal Images on the Web
It’s a common occurrence: You’re looking for a cool photo for your blog, and within seconds, a Google search brings you a ton of images to choose from. You drag it, download, and most likely forget about the photo’s origins. Happens every day, but unfortunately, you probably just stole an image without knowing it.
Don’t just rely on Google’s image search engine to take you there. That could become costly. Sometimes, a company such as Getty Images might contact you demanding payment for usage of their image. So, make it simple; avoid the impulse. Why risk it when you can find a variety of sites that give you free access without legal issues?
Free Image Sources
With a little patience and endurance, you’ll find exactly what you are looking for. Here are five popular choices.
Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that encourages creative people to share across the Internet by using free copyright licenses. It’s also a place to find some of the best images for your projects. Creative Commons has thousands of images to sift through. Simply type in what you’re looking for and wait for the results. As with most searches you have to do the grunt work to get the job done. Creative Commons images usually require a link back to the original source, so read the licensing information carefully.
Part of a group of free sites devoted to giving creative people a voice across the Web, MorgueFile has the distinction of being not just completely free, but a throwback to times past. MorgueFile takes it name from the old newspaper days of a file that holds “past issues flats,” according to the site. Of course, you’ll have to wade through some things that won’t quite fit your expectations, but that’s always the challenge. In pretty much all cases you’ll be required to credit the photographer or artist when using the image.
Stock.xchng works best when you know exactly what you want. The website will work to narrow down the best choices. The images are typically very high quality, and if you’re an artist, it actually works as a great site for
exposure. The browse categories cover abstract, nature, people, streets and cityscapes and more.
Wikimedia Commons is a product of the Wikimedia Foundation (the folks responsible for Wikipedia), so you’ll find a wealth of information on their site. The site makes it easy to find license-free material, including not just photography, but drawings as well. Use it to deepen your search.
Advanced Google search
While it’s not ok to simply use whatever image Google discovers from your search you can certainly use Advanced Google Search. By going under the “advanced search” drop-down menu, you can find copyright-free images. Although Advanced Google Search is a reliable source, you might want to try using TinEye, a website that uses reverse image search to find any copyright issues before they spring up.
Step It Up: Paid Services Worth the Price<
Once your website or blog takes off, you’re going to want to stand out – and that means not using the same, average-quality free images everyone else is using. After all, how many times have you seen this free image of social media icons on an iPhone? You may not realize it, but it’s probably more times than you can count.
The solution are royalty-free photography sites where you pay a modest fee in order to license an image that will ultimately be far more unique and most likely higher-quality. Here are five options:
iStock is a royalty free photography and illustration collection by Getty Images. Start looking for the perfect image using the category collections on their homepage, or using their great advanced search. Pay as you go if you just need a single image, or buy credit packs starting at 30 credits for $49.99.
Shutterstock’s massive collection features over 30 million royalty-free photos, illustrations, vectors, and videos, with over 10,000 new items added daily. Choose to pay as you go or get a subscription in order to download 25 images per day for $199 per month.
Thinkstock may not have the biggest collection out there, but it pulls some of the best images from Getty Images and iStock into its catalog. It’s cheaper than many services, with a 5-image pack for $50 or a monthly subscription at $139 per month to get 25 images per day.
Fotolia is a great choice if you regularly need images for projects. Pay as you go for as little as 74 cents an image, or choose from one of the subscription options to get between 2 and 1000 full-size images per month.
PhotoXpress is a great paid stock image site to use if you need a small number of unique images for your projects. Their credits don’t expire as long as you continue subscribing, allowing for a design schedule that may be busy at times and slower at others. Single images start at $1 and subscriptions start at $9.99 per month for five images.
Whatever your needs, taking the time to find copyright-free images will potentially save you money, and allow you to focus on what matters most: having a powerful and unique website that stands head and shoulders above the rest.
Adrienne Erin is a freelance writer who covers trends in social media and social marketing. She has written for Content Marketing Institute, MarketingProfs, and Search Engine People, and is always looking for new opportunities. To see more of her work, follow her on Twitter or check out her blog, Pongra.