Your Brand Is More Than The Obvious

A brand is a far reaching thing. It involves more than just the obvious. A good many businesses have brands that are less than they ought to be. They’re not the kind of company to take bold moves and create a unique experience. I am quite frustrated when I see companies play loose with their visual brands. Take the accompanying photograph. When this business took over the building and removed the old lettering, they took the cheap way out and failed to bother re-surfacing the facade. What you have is what looks like the building was sprayed with bullets. Ironic that it’s a legal office.

photoThe proper move would have been to resurface then apply the new signage. MUCH more professional. This is just sloppy and lazy. Is their legal advice any better? Who knows, but their street level visuals is saying exactly that. The few bucks they saved may have cost them business. Something so basic can and does damage brands. If you were to ask them if they run a tight ship, no doubt they’d think they are first class operation.

Is there an aspect of your business that could show better than it does today? It might not be a visual thing but an experience perhaps. If you have service as one of your brand values but it is common practice to leave a customer on hold or put them through voice mail hell, that speak as negatively of your brand as the unsurfaced facade. Uninspired sales teams – same thing.

I constantly try and add value to my brand service. It’s a practice what you preach philosophy.
Imagine the message I’d be sending if I let mediocrity rule my brand. What you even consider retaining my services? All of us must walk the walk. Too much effort goes into doing what we do to make a living to risk it’s value as a brand.

Capitalize on 4th of July Merriment with These Five Marketing Incentives

Capitalize on 4th of July

Marketing is nothing without opportunity. Every business — even the largest and most recognizable brands — are marketing at every chance they get, and holidays are one of the best ways to capitalize on a great opportunity. Everyone from big-box retailers like Best Buy to your local car dealership is known for having great sales on weekends surrounding Columbus Day, Labor Day, Memorial Day and the like. So, for the upcoming July 4th holiday, use it to your business’ best advantage. Learn how you can capitalize on 4th of July merriment with these simple marketing incentives.

Many people associate July 4th with fireworks and barbecues, but there’s more to it than that. This year especially, July 4th can be a great marketing opportunity because it’s attached to a weekend; once the fireworks have ended, it’s a great long weekend where people likely have the opportunity to “catch up” on things they’ve been meaning to do. Here are a few reasons why it can be beneficial to use a splashy incentive for the July 4th holiday:

Utilize the season

July 4th is the “official” beginning of summer. By creating a limited-time offer to encourage a customer to buy now, you can capitalize on 4th of July merriment and that early-summer momentum. Especially if the product or service that you’re offering is something that can be tied to the summer months, let your customers know that the offer won’t last forever so they need your product now in order to get the most use out of it during the summer that they can. If you miss that “window” of opportunity, the summer goes by too fast — by August 1st, retailers are advertising back-to-school sales and you can no longer use the summer as your incentive.

Social Media

Email and social media can be your best advertising technique when it comes to holidays, especially 4th of July. If your brand already has a solid social media following, use it to your advantage. It seems counter intuitive to assume that people will be trolling Facebook and Instagram when the days are long and outdoor activities are plentiful, but the “me-centric” culture that abounds on social media these days is your best asset. Everyone wants to show their friends just how much fun they’re having… whether they’re posting photos of their legs tanning on the beach, or “checking in” at some fun destination, they are broadcasting to the whole world what they’re doing this summer — the flip side is that they also want to see where their friends are and what they’re doing. That includes YOU! If you’re having a July 4th sale or special event, share it on social media as far as you can reach. Include some beachy-looking photos to catch the user’s eye (even if perhaps they’re unrelated to what they’re selling). Chances are high that lots of people won’t be spending a holiday weekend watching TV or reading the paper, but they will be checking their social media accounts. It’s a great time to increase your brand’s social following, capitalize on 4th of July merriment, and activities by joining the party online.

Be Memorable

Have your brand do something unique. Having a July4th sale? Go the extra mile to bring customers into your store. The best thing you can do for your brand is to build customer loyalty that will last year-round. Throw a party — especially if your business is in the center of a town or walkable area, find out whether you can put on some music and perhaps set up a grill. If every customer who walks through the door is greeted with a free hot dog and soda, it will make the experience memorable and that customer is more likely to come back to you, rather than the big-box retailer, the next time around.

Be Patriotic

Capitalize on 4th of July merriment by being patriotic and showing some red, white, and blue. Americans love holidays where they can show their American pride. July 4th, Memorial Day and Labor Day are unique in that they are great times to really let a business show its all-American roots, and when people are most likely to be feeling that patriotic pull. Even if all that means is adding some red, white and blue to your storefront’s décor. Whether it’s a sign, a flag, or even some balloons, it’s an easy way to put people in that patriotic, warm-hearted mindset. This is especially helpful when you have customers who really do prefer to support small businesses, but who will shop online or at the big-box retailers simply for convenience. When you do something, however small, to remind them that your brand is all-American, local and patriotic, it might make them go the extra mile to seek out your products or services in the future.

Relationship

Maintain the relationship. Depending on the nature of your business, maintaining the relationship with an existing customer by creating a method of post-sale follow-up could be a practice that you employ all year. If your business is small, but caters to higher-end products, following up after a July 4th (or any) sale is the perfect opportunity to build customer loyalty. As customers enter your store, encourage them to sign a guest book that includes their name, email address and phone number. Whether or not you close a sale at that time, a phone call the following week might be just the personal touch that the customer craves. If a sale was made, inquire as to how the customer is enjoying the product and if there’s anything further that s/he needs. If you didn’t close a sale, let the customer know that you’re happy to answer questions about any of your products and that you always have new inventory becoming available.

Especially for the small business, what will keep you in business is building customer loyalty. In this society, where retail is ubiquitous and you can get almost anything you need online, your customers can find what they want with a click of a mouse. What will keep them coming to you, whether your business is online or brick and mortar, is the customer service experience and that little “something special” that draws them in.

July 4th is a great opportunity to capitalize on not just patriotism, but the whole feeling of summer. Set your business apart from the rest by using this holiday (and others) as an opportunity to do some “out-of-the-box” marketing.

Brand Naming: You Can’t Sell it Until You Put a Name on It

You have a concept for a product and a business plan — or maybe you already have the product or service, itself, all ready to go. But, you can’t market a product or service without a name. It’s the single-most important aspect to your marketing strategy, so it’s imperative that you choose wisely. If you have kids, chances are that you thought long and hard about what to name them… you looked at every angle: Would other kids make fun of them on the playground? Would it be a name that could transition from childhood to adulthood? Would there be any nicknames? How does it sound with your last name? Do the initials spell something embarrassing?

BrandNaming

A name that can grow with your brand

You need to consider all the same issues, and then some, in choosing a name for your brand. For one thing, the name needs to be able to withstand the test of time. Consider the current popular baby names: Aiden, Violet, Grayson, Avery… they’re trendy now, but think of how they will sound when they’re 30, 40 or 50 years old. Similarly, when the dot-com boom took place in Silicon Valley, brands were popping up everywhere with super-techy sounding names. Now, those that have endured sound a little dated and kitschy. As well, you want to leave room for growth. In other words, even though it may be your intent to brand one particular product, it would be wise to select a brand name that is not product-specific so that if you expand your product line, or add another set of products, you can continue to use the same brand name without it becoming incongruous. For example, if your business is based on home interior design, choosing a name with the “home” or “residential” means that if you decide to eventually branch out into corporate design, you either have to rebrand your entire enterprise or create a separate brand for that aspect to the business. Neither of those options would be good for growing a business. Instead, select a name that focuses on an aspect to your business that has more to do with the result than the venue. Anything you can do to ensure that the brand name you choose isn’t pigeonholing your business is smart — plan for now, be ready to be wildly successful later!

Keep it simple and memorable

The next time you travel through a densely commercial area, check out all of the businesses with intentionally misspelled names and “creative” use of the English language (I’m looking at you, Krispy Kreme). Don’t do this. Yes, Phish and Eminem are successful; they’ve created brands that are recognizable and have become household names, but that’s the exception to the rule. Since you’re building a small business and not a rock band, stay away from creative misspellings and the compulsion to use a “4” in lieu of “for” in a brand name.

Following these rules will help in a few ways. First, you’re avoiding search confusion for your customers and prospective customers. Depending on the type of business you’re branding, the odds are that the vast majority of customers who find your business will be doing so on the Internet. Search engines are not infallible, and whether someone is trying to find you on Google or whitepages.com, or searching your name by asking Siri, a name that includes “2”, rather than “to” because you thought it was cute is going to mess up the search results, which could lead to a loss of business.

Second, you’re going to want your website’s domain to match your brand name. Whether you’re an Internet-based business or otherwise, a business’ website is the gateway to customer service and discovery. A simple, correctly spelled brand name will be easier for a user to input directly to a browser, and also is more likely to rank better in search results for someone using Google or other search engine to find your business.

Be unique

Now that almost any business has the potential to become a global enterprise, it is becoming more and more difficult to find that unique brand name that no one is using. You can choose something that’s not necessarily a unique word or name, but that’s used in a unique way within your industry. Google “Apple”. Go ahead. Do it. For me, Google’s first auto-complete is “apple store”, and you can bet that it’s not my local supermarket. However, you may not be quite so fortunate with your brand name. Search engines have special arrangements with enormous brands that have “common” names like Gap, Target, Apple or Amazon. A small business with a single-word common name will never compete on that level. However, if you can combine something simple with something unusual (but still easy to spell), you could have branding gold. Also, do a little research of your own. Spend a few minutes looking up your potential brand name, and close variations, to be sure that someone else isn’t already using it. Your state may have an online registry where you can search DBAs and corporation names, but that won’t help you find national brands. Really, the best way is to spend some time searching and see what’s out there.

The brand name and logo are not mutually exclusive; the name might not lend itself to a specific logo right off the bat (unlike, say, Apple), but try to envision what your logo might be and make sure that it seems cohesive with your name of choice.

What message do you want to send?

Generally, a best practice in branding is to steer clear of any name with emotional, sentimental or political associations. The exception is that many of the country’s largest and most successful brands are associated with a sense of patriotism, but not because of their names. In a recent study, the brands deemed “most patriotic” by Forbes were Jeep, Hershey, Levi Strauss, Disney, Colgate, Zippo and others. Certainly, if you’re considering branding strategy for your business, those are some accomplished role models. Bottom line: You can profit from patriotism. Your brand name, itself, doesn’t have to scream patriotism — your logo could sport an American flag, which would evoke a good down-home image of American workers with U.S.-based jobs bolstering the economy and keeping your business going, while keeping this country strong. Go with that. The key, when brand naming and otherwise, is instilling confidence in your customers. It has been shown that consumers will be more likely to choose a brand that they associate with some type of U.S. pride and patriotism than one that doesn’t.

Confident. Unique. Memorable. Let your brand name speak for your business and set yourself up for success.

Building an All-American Brand

Building An All American Brand

If you own a business, or do marketing for one, you likely are looking to sell your brand not only locally, but in the global marketplace. For better or for worse, taking your brand online gives it the potential for worldwide customers. And, in this day and age, just about every business in the U.S. has an online presence, even if it still exists as a true brick-and-mortar business.

Why construct a brand?

It’s crucial that you build a brand for your business. Your “brand” encompasses everything about how your business is perceived by its customers. It’s not just having a snappy-looking logo or catchy slogan. Your business’ brand is what promotes recognition and association, lets customers and potential customers understand what your business stands for, generates referrals, helps you and your staff stay focused on your business’ strategy and provides value.

Your brand is encompassed by each interaction a customer has with your business, from the moment that customer visits your business, views your website or calls on the phone to the conclusion of the transaction —  the goal, of course, is that the start-to-finish experience with your brand will have been so positive that the customer becomes a repeat customer, and also a source of referral to others.

The significance of patriotism in branding

It’s been established that consumers have national pride, and that pride is reflected in their buying decisions. Especially before and after the Olympics and around holidays like Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day, Presidents Day and Columbus Day, brands capitalize on Americans’ nostalgia and U.S. pride by selling items with American flags or American flag-themed designs or using popular Olympic athletes to promote their merchandise.

In a recent Forbes story, the example is provided of the dollar bill as a brand. The Federal Reserve is the owner of the brand, which is known and valued worldwide. It carries testimony from the most recognizable American there is, George Washington, and it states the message “In God We Trust”, which tugs at the user’s loyalties. A dollar bill is more than just currency; it has value as a brand that represents the United States and it’s as ubiquitous as the American flag, itself.

Especially when the American economy is suffering and people feel the pain of unemployment either in their own lives, in the lives of people they know or simply from seeing stories about it on the news each day, Americans put a real value on knowing that what they buy was made by a company that is giving Americans jobs. Each time you see a product label that says “Made in the USA”, on some level you’re recognizing the fact that whatever company made this item is keeping people employed on our home soil. Studies have shown that if all else is equal, a majority of Americans will choose an American-manufactured item over one from overseas if they’re aware of the distinction.

How to “Americanize” your brand

So, you see the value in expressing patriotism in your brand and products, but if you’re not manufacturing American currency, American flags or George Washington-style wigs, how do you accomplish this? For one thing, you can not only demonstrate that your products are made in America, but tell consumers that your products are made here. That’s as simple as an “About Us” on your website or an insert in your packaging. Don’t assume that people are reading every label or that they are going to actively seek this information. Most of them aren’t and won’t. But, if it’s included as part of the product or company description, it’s an added incentive to purchase your product.

Also, don’t be shy about being specific in your marketing efforts. Roberto Torres, president of men’s clothing retailer Black & Denim, told Entrepreneur that his company’s support of American jobs through suppliers that make everything from zippers to patches is evident when he talks to retailers. He lets them know that his company is helping keep jobs in this country. “We … talk to our stores about the impact that one American job has on the economy,” he said. “We market [the fact that we’re helping job growth] in the hopes that [the retailers] can become advocates for our cause.”

Be creative. Does your packaging include an organic substance raised on a farm in Texas? Well, by all means, tell the consumer about it! Are you selling a product for which the idea was borne from a need of workers on oil derricks in North Dakota? These are things that you want to market to the best of your ability, because that’s what drives home the concept that your company, your brand, your product is patriotic. And that’s what the U.S. consumer wants to see.

The world is shrinking every day, but your brand doesn’t have to. Part of being a successful businessperson is taking what you have and using it to your best advantage; if you own an American-based business, regardless of size, not using that fact as part of your brand could be missing out on an opportunity. The next time you gaze out the window at an American flag flying high on its flag pole, consider what that means to you. Then remember that it means something to your customers, too, and work it into your brand in the strongest, most effective way possible.

How Small Businesses Can Use Press Releases to Generate Leads

When did you last use a  Press Release?

If you’re having trouble generating leads for your business, you want to make the most of every tool at your disposal. However, many businesses don’t consider using the age-old tactic of sending out press releases to bring readers in. This may be because many believe it to be old fashioned.

Press Releases

This may be true – press releases are positively ancient compared to some of the mediums we rely on these days – but it doesn’t make them any less viable for generating leads. Here’s how:

Online Exposure

 One thing many forget is that press releases aren’t just for newspapers and magazines. They get put on websites, blogs, and wherever else the media has a presence. They get tweeted out and re-blogged and put on Facebook and even emailed to friends and family. There is huge online life potential for every press release that gets written.

This is why releases give small businesses such a huge boost in today’s world. While big businesses can basically just throw money around to generate leads, small businesses have to be innovative and think outside the box. Since press releases can literally go around the world, they’re a wonderful lead generation tool.

Also, it’s not like those blog posts etc. just go away after initial interest dies down. They stick around, waiting for someone to search for the right thing on Google or Bing. It could be one, ten, or a hundred years from now, and someone can find the time you released your first product and wrote about it.

More Dynamic

Press releases have changed over the years. Releases printed in a newspaper are just articles that people read and potentially look up online later. However, online releases have a much longer shelf life, and can be much more dynamic in the way they’re used.

If you send your press releases to media outlets that are more adapted to the digital world, you can embed videos, pictures, graphics, and even music in your press releases. This creates a more visually and engaging experience for readers that also shows off how “modern” your company is. They also show off better what your company is all about rather than just a stagnant article in the newspaper, potentially bringing in more leads than ever before.

Re-purposing

The information in the press release doesn’t stop being interesting after it’s published in the publication you sent it to. No matter how many readers that particular publication has there are still a ton of people who didn’t see it. They still need a chance to enjoy the story of how your first product came out and blew your industry leaders away.

So why not re-purpose it? Turn the information into a series of blog posts, emails, or social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, whatever works) posts to generate even more leads. These can even be more direct as you can point them directly towards the product for sale on your website.

Have you had a very successful press release in the past?

Stay Compliant and Current with QMS Software

How Does QMS Software help you ?

Industry regulations are ever-changing, and operating a successful business is hard enough without having to keep track of industry compliance regulations, and whether or not your business matches up.

Of course, not keeping track of this information would be detrimental to you (particularly because the law says so), and until the release of QMS  (quality management systems) software, businesses were forced to keep track of compliance standards and data manually. Now, thankfully, keeping tracking of quality management information need not be tedious, require a team of employees, or necessitate a daily referral to regulatory standards.

Keeping Tracking of Quality Management Information Need Not be Tedious QMS Software

Benefits of Cloud System Software

Instead of taking up space on the network drive, cloud-based QMS systems enable companies to access, store, and modify their quality management information without slowing down their computers or requiring software installation company-wide. For larger companies in particular, this can save IT guys from major headaches and streamline account access across the board.

Compliance Standards Update

One benefit of the software is that it will let you universally adapt your processes if industry regulations get updated.  Using QMS software, you can change the process once and ensure that all users are automatically in compliance with the regulation updates.

Document Control Management

One feature of QMS that is particularly beneficial to businesses is it’s document control feature. QMS software often has built-in document regulation that allows users to upload, send, approve, safely store, and access company documents securely, and from any computer with cloud-access. Such systems also guarantee that users have access to the most up-to-date versions of documents at any time, streamlining effectiveness and ensuring real-time information dispatching.

Customer Complaint Management

If your business handles clients day-to-day, you’ll likely have collected a costumer complaint or two. Along with document storage, QMS software can serve as a database for all customer complaints, and allows management to track complaint records from start to completion so that no record gets lost or overlooked.

Who Do You Think You Are?

confusedAs we head into the new year, do you have a clear understanding of your own personal brand? Are you aware of what the perception on the street is of you? Does your personal brand reflect consistently with your business brand? All good questions if you’re looking to go into the new year on a high note. Look around your circle of influence. Like myself I’m sure you’re witness to individuals who don’t have the slightest idea who they are. They call themselves specialists who list a flurry of services they try to deliver on – but excel in very little. I’ve been asked to coach a number of individuals to develop a brand for them. But, I can’t help them if they don’t know who they are. As I tell them, “it’s not up to me to tell you what you should be. I can help if you know who you are but are floundering in how to present yourself in a way that resonates with your target audience.

The problem stems from a lack of confidence. They suspect (but haven’t committed to the concept) that they are experts. They lack the confidence to express it in a tangible way. They question what the perception might be. Will their audience ridicule them for what they think is a lack of excellence. They throw up barriers to move forward. Having a lack of confidence is a scary place to be. Not only does it hinder who your are but also aids in failing to charge a fair dollar for your deliverables.

Lack of confidence is a psychological barrier, but one, that if you can breach, will deliver immense rewards. Those of us with confidence find it hard to understand why someone would be so hard on themselves, when the rewards are so encouraging. When I work with people and companies, I’m using the strategy that they focus on the money-maker. Most have a tendency to want to list everything they do, to show their scope of services. Lists are dangerous in that customers believe that since you’re listing services, if you fail to list something then you don’t do it. Ouch! My take is by focusing on your strongest service to get the door open, once in you have the opportunity to sell what else you do. It’s easier to build confidence if you focus on your strong point. Every time this happens, clients clearly have more fun and are excited by their brands (personal and business) again.

Understanding who you are can only make your brands more powerful, resonating in a big way. Not everyone is cut out for this bold a strategy and wish to remain with what keeps them safe and risk-free. Where has a safe harbour ever gotten anyone? Leaders are folks who embrace excitement and a challenge. Identifying who you are and acting on that in a direct way, changes the script you’re currently playing to. That in itself will generate enough confidence to hurdle the challenges you face.

So moving into a brand new year – who are you?