How Your Brand is Sucking the Life Out of Your Business

Your brand is this – your brand is that. Some would have you believe that your brand is this OR that. The fact is your brand is everything. I enjoy speaking with businesses on branding and helping them to understand the what their focus should be in branding. It is almost without exception that business people assume that a brand doesn’t extend much beyond the visual elements. Most think your brand is your logo and marketing materials. When you think of it, that’s a lot of pretty heavy lifting for something visual. If that perception were true, brand problems would be a cinch to resolve – just change your image. Don’t like that soft drink – change the logo. Do you think it will taste better? Not likely. I’m guessing you’re going to have to tweak the recipe to lure you to buy.

How Your Brand is Sucking the Life Out of Your Business-041615Sales are flat? Maybe the problem goes way beyond a tired logo. Perhaps the sales staff have aged to the point that they’re not hungry anymore. Maybe your business culture has deficiencies. But chances are strong that it’s a little of everything. You’ll discover (if you’re brave enough to look) is that slowing sales is a symptom of an overall slowing of the brand. As Auston Powers might say, “You’ve lost your mojo!” And in the marketplace your mojo is your brand.

A re-brand if handled properly is absolutely more strategic than visual. But both are joined at the hip. The strategic side involves all experiences of your stakeholders. Those experiences are those that exist on line and off-line. From the way reception answers the phone to how an employee might talk about the company at a church picnic. Stupid things said on social media has in numerous cases taught business brands to react publicly where in the past it was handled behind closed doors and often ignored. Today you can’t ignore anything. Everything affects your brand.

The solution to a happy brand is to get your brand strategy in shape, then tie it all together with relevant visuals that represent your brand values and personality. This essentially boils down to defining your brand and reaping the rewards company-wide. Companies that do this right go on to raise the bar in their industries. They are the companies that inspire others to emulate them. They are the leaders. Of course it’s not for everyone. You have to be bold and willing to believe in what makes your brand great. Steve Jobs had it when he said that Apple had to develop products that were – “insanely great.” Most companies are followers. Followers embrace price over value. Followers copy smart brands. Followers allow the marketplace to define them. Followers never reach their potential or attract top talent.

And followers think that their brand is their logo. If it were only that easy.

You Might Be Surprised at Where Some of the Most Successful Tech Businesses Started

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Using Your Tax Refund to Jump-start Growth

It’s that time of year already, where everyone has to do their taxes. Most people, about 54 percent of filers in the USA, end up getting a refund. When you receive the money, you’ll need to think about what you should do with it. Since you’re a small business owner the most likely thing you should do with it is invest it into your business.

Using Your Tax Refund to Jump-start Growth

Photo Credit © Depositphotos.com/phodopus

Pay Off Revolving Credit

First things first, if you have any interest bearing loans over six percent you should pay it off. If you do you’re earning that percentage on your money. It’s a great way to stretch your income tax refund. Now that you’ve paid off high interest debt you can now invest the amount of your former payment into your business on a regular basis. With the monthly savings you can now do several things that you couldn’t do before.

  • Have immediately improved credit. You can sign free with Credit Karma to find out what your credit rating is. Please, ignore the credit card ads as they are very tempting since they also tell you how likely you are to get approved.
  • Invest the former monthly payment. Whether it’s $50.00 or more monthly you can put that right back into your business investing in website upgrades, software, a mastermind club, or a savings account to save up for something more expensive. You can also up the amount you’re putting in your individual retirement account. (IRA)
  • Breathe. You paid off a debt and you don’t have to pay it anymore. Take a break from spending money and celebrate your smart financial move by not going into more revolving high-interest bearing debt.

Nothing can jump-start growth more than being debt free, turning around and putting that money back into your business or freeing up money that is going to debt is important. If you’re fortunate enough to get a tax refund, or find yourself with extra cash for any reason, use it wisely with thought and care.

Invest in Business Automation

If you’re one of the smart people who avoid using high-interest revolving debt and you’re debt free, you can now invest in something that helps your business by improving automation. Perhaps you need to invest in technology that improves your website, backs up your website, or makes your website better in some way like a complete rebuild and design. Of course, it depends on how much your refund is as to how far you can get with improvements.

  • Mastermind Club – This is a good investment in your business because the connections you’ll make are innumerable. You may likely earn back your investment in the club due to the people you meet.
  • Business Coaching – If you received a substantial refund you may decide to invest in business coaching. There are many great coaches, so be sure to pick the one that is right for you and has experience plus good reviews.
  • Software/Technology – If you have a lot of websites or a very important website that is most of your income, are you protecting it sufficiently? If not then you should highly consider backing up your site. Using Dropbox.com or other file storage solutions isn’t really good enough; please consider using something like Mozy.com, BackupBuddy.com or BackBlaze.com if you use a Mac.

The important thing is that when you get a tax refund that during the time you’re waiting to receive it from the day you submit your tax return to the IRS that you sit down and give a lot of thought as to how you’ll use the cash to make it pay off today, tomorrow and well into the future. You won’t be sorry.

How To Use Storytelling To Build Marketing Messages

Everyone loves a good story, right?

Many brands are using this to their advantage by creating powerful stories based around the brand. See how 4 brands are putting this strategy to work for them and making it big.

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How to: UNSELL. BRAND!

If you’re out there selling something – stop it right now!

Stop selling and start branding. Your brand has a story to tell. Educate your buyer so they have all the knowledge they need to make an intelligent decision. If you start selling, they’ll just roll their eyes and try to get away from you. They won’t trust you. Find out where their anxiety lies, and show them a way out with knowledge. Encourage them to compare. You’re approach will be refreshing to what they see.

I take myself as an example. I position myself as the branding expert. I have an 8 page brochure that educate’s my customer on “How to give their brand a boost.” The whole point is to help them position their company as the first choice (of their buyer) rather than just more of the same.

SNAFU Branding Brochure

You often hear that people don’t like to read much anymore. It’s not that they don’t like to read, it’s more that they don’t like to read copy that benefits you more than them. Give them information that makes you the first choice. You have to show your confidence and give away information that empowers your buyer.

Branding as an empowering tool draws to you customers who also value knowledge. It drives away buyers who fixate on price alone. These are not the customers you can grow on. You’ve heard of “price wars,” well this is a battle that only deep pockets can win. If that isn’t you, then it’s time to change the game to one of an intelligence strategy.

Don’t concern yourself if the competition starts to copy your model. That means they have their eyes off the ball and squarely on what ever it is you’re doing. You can’t control them, so keep your brand out front. Their ignorance can only help you.

It’s like I always say: “Lead don’t follow.”

Facebook Groups For Business Case Study: 90 Day Low Carb Challenge

This is the third case in a series about using Facebook Groups to grow your brand, engage with your community and of course, ultimately, market your business. Today’s case is:

90 Day Low Carb Challenge and Bonus: Weekly Marketing Challenge founded and managed by Lynn Terry

Facebook for Business - Part 4

At the time of writing, this group is over 40,000 members strong. A mind boggling number. Lynn is a natural at engaging her people so let’s find out how she does it.

Why Did You Start Your Facebook Groups?

”If you build it, they will come” only works for Kevin Costner. :) When it comes to getting traffic, which is what we all want and need, the key is to know your market – and get in front of them. To do this you have to find out where they are, then (and this is the important part!)… meet them there (where they already are).

My biggest Facebook Group is actually for my low carb blog at TravelingLowCarb.com. It currently has over 40,000 members (and growing by the hour!). I started the group to help my readers experience RESULTS.

If you can keep your audience seeing results they will continue to open your emails, click / like / share, recommend you to friends – and more importantly, they’ll continue consuming products and services, which equals SALES!

The key to Facebook Groups is to come up with a creative angle that gets people actively engaged in your topic.

In the case of my low carb group, it’s a 90 Day Challenge that doesn’t just put content in front of them… but gets them actively involved in eating low carb. We’re eating together, losing weight together, and we’re even creating new content together! Many of my blog posts are “crowd-sourced” from the group, or inspired by topics my members bring up in the group.

My new WMC group was started as a way to reconnect with people in a fresh way – outside of blog comments and emails. It’s a very focused group, based on a focused task/topic with a specific objective, and the purpose was to attract “action takers”. Any group or community you create should have a strong objective, and mine was to get in front of people actively growing their businesses… and also to create a more public mastermind group with these types.

Why Facebook Groups over a forum on your own site?

I already have a forum on my site at ClickNewz.com and I use that to host my Private Brainstorming Group. It’s a good platform for that because it’s private. Unlike Facebook Groups (unless they are “secret”) lurkers and trolls cannot make their way into the group.

As for ”why Facebook Groups”, the answer is simple: they’re HOT right now. People like them. They’re super active. It’s an easy way to get people engaged. And unlike Facebook Pages, Facebook actually promotes Groups for you – free. They recommend relevant groups to people based on what their friends are joining, or based on their updates and preferences. You can’t beat that kind of free marketing!

A forum is great for membership platforms, but a Facebook Group is better for a more public community.

Why did you choose to have a closed group?

With a closed group, only the members of that group can see the posts and replies. It gives members privacy on specific topics that they don’t necessarily want to share with their family and friends, such as business strategies or weight loss.

A secret group cannot be found on Facebook unless you are specifically invited, but a closed group can be found in searches and anyone can ask to join, so it’s the best of both worlds!

What’s one thing you’d suggest people do to grow their groups?

It all starts with the creative angle. You need a strong “WHY” to motivate people to join and participate in the group. What would get your market actively engaged? If you have a knitting blog, start a “project of the month” group where you lead your community through fun projects together. This could be really fun with seasonal projects!

Like anything else, you have to promote your new group until it takes off on it’s own. Use it as a call to action in relevant informational blog posts, post invites on your social media channels, etc. If you’re doing a new craft every month, or a new challenge every 30 days, this is a great time to ramp up the invites!

What are some suggestions you can give to help keep the group orderly and not overrun with SPAM or off topic chatter?

First, create rules and policies and put them in a Pinned Post at the top of the group. Nobody will read them (lol). You should make sure they are there, though. I also include a line like, “I reserve the right to remove content or members at my discretion.”

I simply remove off-topic posts, and if people complain I refer them back to the rules (the Pinned Post). I also teach my community how to move off-topic posts, spam and arguments out of the feed. I tell them not to respond, but to click “Report / Mark as Spam” so that it goes into moderation. I can then delete the post, or clean up the comments (if they unravel, which they often do! lol) and put it back in the group.

And of course, once your group grows large enough – or just active enough – bring on moderators. It helps to find someone who has an incentive to help out, like another blogger in your niche that you trust and admire.

What’s the one thing people must do to keep their group members engaged?

Three things: Education, Inspiration and Interaction.

Wait, you asked for one… :)

Ask engaging questions, hit emotional hot spots, invite them to share personal experiences or brag about their achievements, challenge them to do something specific, host giveaways and drawings, share helpful tips & information that they can apply immediately (actionable tips), etc.

Just be actively involved, with the goal of helping every single member see RESULTS. :)

What’s the one thing people should avoid in setting up or structuring their groups?

Don’t be afraid to be TOO topical. General is boring. Get strategic with your angle, and consider the best way to use a micro-topic in your niche to help people see fast results.

You also want to be “real” with your community, and also let them feel like PART of the community. I monetize my low carb group of course, and I’ll often be very conversational in my disclosure as a means of letting them “contribute”. Example:

“Taking advantage of these FREE offers is what helps keep this group running – and free to you! I earn a few cents for every coupon print session, which is peanuts… but every little bit adds up to help keep me here helping YOU every day. Thank you for your support!!”

^^ This went along with free printable grocery coupons for low carb items, and again for a Whole Foods Market giveaway campaign I ran. People like giving back, or feeling like they are contributing to “their” community. Especially when they are getting something out of it. :)

I will also say, from my personal experience, that you really shouldn’t do “30 day, 90 day” etc type groups. Keep it open ended. People join all the time, and then think they can’t participate if you’re in the middle of a “timed” project or challenge. Avoid confusion and keep it ongoing instead.

How does having a group translate to growing a business, (increasing sales, reaching new customers, etc) which is the end goal for most of us?

As I mentioned earlier, Facebook will actively market your group FOR you, which really helps you increase your reach and get in front of new people consistently. Your members will do that as well, telling their friends and family or inviting people into the group, so the group will gain momentum and start growing on it’s own once you get it going.

Thanks to my active low carb group, Facebook is now the #1 source of traffic to my blog. I share links to informative blog posts in response to common questions, and create blog posts for questions that get asked a lot – for the same purpose.

The goal is to get as much traffic back to my blog as possible – both for ad revenue and product sales, and for “traffic numbers” for my Media Kit (to attract sponsors & advertisers). I also monetize directly in the group by sharing offers, featuring a “product of the week” and discussing it, etc.

Tip: Create a “one page” – a landing page for your group (ex: 90DayLowCarbChallenge.com). Facebook is “rented land” so I promote my landing page when using it as a call to action, or inviting people to join. That way if I ever lose my group for some reason, or Facebook goes the way of MySpace (lol), I only have to edit ONE page on the internet.

The page gives them all the information they’ll never read (lol) in the Pinned Post at the top of the actual Group, and it also includes my recent blog posts and social links. And most important of all… it includes an opt-in form to join the email list for “Official Group Updates”. :)

I use incentives to encourage people to go to the page and “get official updates by email”. Sometimes I’ll mention that it’s the only way to let them know where we’ve moved in case our group disappears from Facebook (ack!).

I also use the list to notifiy them of upcoming meetups, let them know about contests and giveaways, to get free tips & creative ideas, etc. The incentives you use will depend on the topic if your group of course, but the goal is to build that list!

Above all, to see results (traffic, revenue, growth) you must help your community see results. Start and run your group with that in mind: “What can I do to help them see results?” It’s a question I ask myself every single day when I log on to Facebook.

cheers

-Lynn Terry

p.s. If (and only if!) you’re a serious action-taker, you’re welcome to come check out the WMC group

You can check out and model my “one page” here: http://www.90DayLowCarbChallenge.com. Credit goes to Kelly McCausey for that brilliant idea!

Facebook Groups For Business Case Study: IM Super Friends

This is the second case in a series about using Facebook Groups to grow your brand, engage with your community and of course, ultimately, market your business. Today’s case is:

Internet Marketing Super Friends, founded by Mike Hill.

Facebook for Business - Part 3

Why did you start the Internet Marketing Super Friends Facebook Group?

To prove that we could take the largest group of people who were thought of to be “greedy” and make “giving is the highest currency”.

Why Facebook Groups over a forum on your own site?

Because everyone was doing forums and not coming to the people where they were! I had told many clients to build a group, but none listened. So I did it myself to prove it can grow, and boy has it. We are moving members to a forum as an addendum to the group, but not in lieu of the FB wall.

Why did you choose to have an closed group?

It was originally open for years so that those who we did not immediately “approve” could still see the content. Only in 2014 did we close it to the public to encourage more open sharing.

What’s one thing you’d suggest people do to grow their groups?

Be the change you seek. Set your intent and know that people will follow you if you are not afraid to lead and be yelled at. We were scolded and yelled at for years, but we stayed true to our rules and in the end, people just keep coming.

What are some suggestions you can give to help keep the group orderly and not overrun with SPAM or off topic chatter?

Zero Tolerance Policy. Do not set precedence and don’t break your own rules. If you have sponsors, thats one thing, but don’t spam your own group.

What’s the one thing people must do to keep their group members engaged?

Engage yourself, set the culture, and be sure to feed the soul of the group. Know that its not “their group”, its the groups group.

What’s the one thing people should avoid in setting up or structuring their groups?

Vanity, it will kill you.

How does having a group translate to growing a business, (increasing sales, reaching new customers, etc) which is the end goal for most of us?

Depends on the intent. For us, the business is secondary to the groups intent and a by product of giving.