The World Of Brand Awareness has Changed – Sort Of.

There was a time when you started a business and the first thing you did after putting up the shingle was to start building brand awareness. The first order of the day was to find a location. If it was a business that met with consumers you chose a location that was convenient for them to visit you. If you had a services business you like chose a location that was prestigious and would immediately impress those who crossed your threshold.

Next order of the day was to decorate. If your budget for decorating was several hundred or several thousand it was all to make you look competent and professional.

Brand Megaphone Advertising Product Awareness Build LoyaltyThe on of course came your logo and marketing materials that you would distribute manually and using direct mail. You’d hire a professional graphic designer to help your brand image look like the large players in your category. It was key that a prospective customer have the right gut reaction when they first came into your circle. Brand image was recognized as essential for business success.

Then came along the “advertising budget.” How much were you willing to spend to build awareness of your new business? The marketing plan. Who are these people who will make your business a success? How do you reach them? What will it cost? I used to look at it from an individual cost perspective. I’d ask the question – “How much are you willing to give someone so that they become aware of you? Are you willing to give them a dollar, 50¢ or 5¢?” This was of course determined by the budget. If you had an audience of 10,000 people and a budget of $20,000 then you’d expect to pay 50¢ each and so on. How you spent that 50¢ was key. Was that 50¢ a one-time thing or would it have to spent over 6 months or more. No matter the size of the business it was an expensive process. But done well and by those who were well seasoned in the exercise, it could prove very effective over time. Brand awareness was and still is a long term strategy.

THEN, every small business played that game. Some were great at it and some sucked. It made brands and killed brands but the common denominator was brands had to spend money building awareness or fade away and their dreams with it.

TODAY, every business can play on the same playing field to some extent. Thanks to the web, businesses can build brand awareness for free. They can join other players on dozens of social media channels and build incredible opportunities. Free is a relative term on the web though . Free as far as parting with coin but not free in dedicating time. To run socially takes an enormous amount of time and coordination. Many businesses are dedicating their whole existence to web-based promotional efforts. And, of course they can also engage the services of seasoned pros who can help assist them at their web efforts and achieve goals in a quicker time-frame.

What astonishes me and influenced this post, are the businesses who in the face of free choose to do absolutely nothing about building brand awareness. Nothing. Then when nothing happens, they blame the economy, their customers (or lack there of) – never the fact that their frugality and lack of confidence is killing them. They continue to dream of course – that’s really all they have. You see them all around you.

Go to any live networking event – they’re the ones swimming the room, politely smiling but have nothing to add to conversations. They view networking as showing up and trolling the attendees and desiring new bodies each time they go – failing to understand that when all the same people keep attending the better it is to build relationships that will extend to referring you to their networks. Most of these events are free or close to it. They only want to do business with those attending. BIG brand awareness mistake – short sightedness.

To make brand awareness really work for you, you have to have a dynamic on AND offline exposure. They need to compliment each other. Together they are like a 1-2 punch. You have to be flexible enough to see opportunities and be willing to engage them. Don’t base your planning on what’s free or not. If you won’t invest in yourself why should you expect your customers to? As a friend of mine says, “If clients witness a lack of confidence they couple that with a lack of competence.”

Oh, so true.

How To Use Instagram To Promote Your Brand

Social networking has created helped level the playing the field for many small business owners. While Facebook and Twitter has always been the giants, the world of social networking is constantly evolving’ and smaller, somewhat newer networks such as Instagram has some great opportunities to offer.

Photo Credit © Depositphotos.com/gustavofrazao

Photo Credit © Depositphotos.com/ gustavofrazao

If you don’t know already, Instagram is a photo sharing app, with a social networking component. Since pictures are easy to take and have a low barrier of entry, they also make it a wonderful tool for promoting your brand without a ton of work. Here are some effective ways to use Instagram.

  • Show off your products. Instagram is perfect for promoting products with visual appeal. For some brands, Instagram is used much like a catalog. All you find on their profile are photo products. While that can be effective, a better approach is to demonstrate your products in action.

For example, cosmetic companies could showcase customers using and wearing your products. These photos help the customer visualize herself using your products.

  • Demonstrate the end results. With some products, it’s all about the visible results they create. Weight loss products and the classic before and after are the perfect example here.
  • Liven it up with your personality. If you have a business that provide a service or something that isn’t easily photographed, nor look appealing when photo graphed, that doesn’t mean you can’t use Instagram. Take and use photos that showcase your human side. These can be photos of you and your team in action. It doesn’t have to be serious all the time either. Add a fun or thought-provoking caption to these photos. Also, when you engage in charitable work, post those pictures. Finally, don’t forget, post photos of your employees or clients along with brief profiles. With their permission of course.
  • Get your community to help. Still stuck? How about a photo contest? These are great for getting noticed on Instagram. First, come up with a theme. Next, ask users to post images using a unique hashtag. Whether you offer a price or feature the best photos on your site is up to you. Although one would think you’d get better traction with a prize. Can’t afford to run a contest? How about a simple email to your customers asking them to show you a photo they took using your product. Give them a mention and shine the spotlight on them.

This helps create a better connection between you and your customers and takes almost no time nor money.

Unlike many other social networks, Instagram is among the few that doesn’t require a large amount of time or commitment. Do you already use Instagram? Show us how you do it. Share your best photo.

5 Things That Determine Your RETURN On Investment?

When companies of any size spend money they expect (or at least) hope to get a rerun on that investment. It’s not too much to ask. Of course the trick is to determine “what” will bring in the greatest return. You have to be honest with yourself and recognize that that return isn’t always about the money. We know the end game is money but the road to getting there – the motivator, is often times something entirely different. It’s usually some event that motivates brands to take a hard look at themselves and determine whether or not a brand needs an over-haul.
ROI?
Five influencing facts might be:

ONE: Low hanging fruit – let’s say it is the money.
They want more of it. They want to increase the brand’s market share. A tell-tale sign is that sales are flat and the sales staff have hit a wall. This happens when brands follow perceived industry leaders and the sales staff are having the same conversations with their clients that their competition is. They have no differentiator. Sales needs a reason to sell, to draw their customer base to them. This attraction would be their ROI

TWO: Succession.
What becomes of a brand when the leadership decides to retire or there is a death? They chose to re-brand to make sure the brand is seen in it’s most desirable light. This makes it to be more desirable to a buyer. It doesn’t matter whether this new owner is from inside or outside of the company. Desireabiility is the ROI here.

THREE: Buy-out.
If someone approaches them to sell – the decision makers choose to re-brand so that they are ready to sell if that sale becomes an actuality. They want to be perceived as powerful. Perception is the ROI is this case.

FOUR: Culture.
This comes up if the staff are not so motivated anymore. Internal communications are lacking and the general atmosphere needs an energy pill. Each company’s culture is unique and affects the mechanics of the brand – it works in unison. That energy would be their desired ROI.

FIVE: A negative Event
Maybe the brand was recently part of a scandal, the stock nose-dived or some other catastrophic event. The leadership wants the brand to regain it’s power position. If the brand is powerful, it is able to withstand these overwhelming events. The ROI hoped for here is power in the comeback.

There are whole number of reasons why you and many other companies like you might desire a closer look at their branding. These reasons each carry with them an expectation for ROI. Addressing them is the sign of a very pro-active brand. One that refuse to accept the mediocre and strives to be the best in their category.

Get Real! Brand Authenticity and You.

Today’s marketplace is a great place for brands and their advocates to exist. Traditionally, prior to the web, all a brand could do was to make their consumers “aware” of their brand was using advertising channels such as bill boards, transit, radio, TV and public relations. Once a consumer got wind of the brand that interested them, they would have to physically visit the bricks and mortar location for more information. Or they could look in their mail boxes for flyers, or their daily newspapers for inserts and printed ads etc. The entire buying cycle was initiated by the brand and reacted to by the buyer. Very straight forward and not very deep.

Get Real- Brand Authenticity and You-012815

In today’s marketplace the consumer has a limitless access to the brand’s environment. Brand’s can more easily form strong relationships with their customers. Some would say today’s digital environment makes loyalty tougher. I believe it to be easier, so long as you’re willing to engage customers with a genuine brand experience. If the brand chooses to try and manipulate the experience based on an unrealistic expectation, they will more likely be viewed as not being authentic. That authenticity is a hallmark of proper branding.

But if your brand strives to provide an authentic persona, it’s a great platform to engage customers. You’re able to feed them your expertise on many levels. This acceptance allows you the potential to charge more for your services. If you’re a services based brand this open environment allows you to properly exhibit your expertise and this draws customers to you. Your are perceived as the expert your brand touts you to be.

The bottom line is to embrace the opportunities the digital world is serving up. You make think that there’s no space for you to play or that it’s over your head. Toss those barriers aside and embrace the web. You will be shocked with the results of your efforts over time.

Now’s the Time to Step-up your Game – AGAIN!

9673439_s2015 is the year that you’re going to do things a little differently. The time is right to step up your game. Without gazing at the past too much, recognize that that was how you used to conduct business. That’s when all you’re best strategies delivered on making your brand better, more memorable amidst your stakeholders. Give yourself a well deserved pat on the back.

That said, the fastest way to step-up your game is to change-up your game. Start doing business differently that anyone in your industry. Break the norms, shake the bushes and start acting in a way that has the competition questioning your sanity. “Bob’s finally lost it.” they’ll say. “Where’s he coming from” they’ll add. Those are comments aimed at a person who keeps ‘em guessing. These are brands who are following not leading. They spend more time watching the other guy’s butt to the point they have to keep putting the brakes on for fear of (I think you’ve got the picture).

There’s one strategy that will absolutely change the game once again for your brand and that is positioning your brand. I would hazard to guess that well over 90% of companies have never effectively positioned their brands or even considered it. They’ve certainly applied pretty catchy slogans but they’ve never given positioning a second’s thought. Many, if not most think the slogan IS their positioning. A slogan inspires the brand culture while positioning makes your brand the only choice. It absolutely resonates in the mind of your stakeholders. Jack Trout and Al Ries call it, “the battle for your mind.” The perception of your brand in mind of your stakeholders is your positioning whether you enjoy it or not. This perception is key to making 2015 your best year to date.

You see it all around you all time – more of the same. I often wonder why businesses just carry on all the same practices without any strategy in place to help them leap ahead of everyone else. Great brands sometimes get there in spite of themselves, others use strategy to their benefit. We all know there’s no magic answer – there is only effort and a willingness to change-up how your do things. Not only does it keep the competition ay bay, but it also reinvigorates your entire brand culture. Brands people like to talk about are inspiring by just how different they really are. These are the brands who walk the talk. You see, hear and read about them in the media and social channels. These are the brands that are well known within their communities. They are known and spoke about. They are judged favorably and are the ones who seem to bounce back fastest from brand foibles. But don’t kid yourself, these brands are there through shear effort. They keep their eyes on the ball and watch for any opportunity to step-it-up.

What can you do for your brand this year. Make it something that gives the competition the cold sweats. Help them out with a case of Ban Rollon.

Why Are You Afraid Of Me?

I’m seeing more and more of this -especially on tech sites. On the contact us page all they offer you is a form so that they can qualify you. What I don’t see is anything about where they are located, what they’re phone number is etc. For me, I want to know where you’re from. No particular reason -I just like to know. Sometimes you’re near other companies I know.

It concerns me that you don’t want to divulge that information. God forbid I actually call before you vet me. Already I can see that dealing with these hidden companies shows that they are all about their convenience not yours.

It is a pet peeve of mine, but I think it speaks to authenticity in a brand. I would bet that one of their brand values is service. They understand the word, not the effort that goes in to making service part of their corporate culture. If I was to somehow find their phone number what do you think the chances are you’d find a live body answering it?

Great service is not convenient it’s expected. Every little thing you do to diminish service is one step walking away from you. There are manufacturing companies in my region who have replaced live contact at the front door with a telephone and a directory. How’s a new customer to feel when they are forced to sit in a cold little seat searching a tacky directory to hale their contact to recover them from the vestibule?

Both of these examples are from the front end of the business. Both initial contact points. Sometimes saving a few dollars or being closed to connecting personally are small ideas that can cost you a huge amount of money in the long run.

Or it could just be me. I’m guessing a lot of professionals resent these tactics. Are you willing to bet
your brand on it?

Does Online Advertising Really Work For Brands?

We all have this nagging feeling in the back of our heads. Is what we’re doing working? How would we know? It’s a fair question.

As a (very) small business with two partners, no employees and several freelancers, the question whether digital advertising works is a resounding yes. In fact, I can’t imagine advertising anyway else.

Online advertising is very friendly on the small-micro business budgets and it is immediately measurable. However, if you are a long time brick-mortar business or mid-sized business. I can understand the question. Here are 8 reasons why online advertising works, backed by research data.

As much a fan as I am on online advertising, I didn’t know about #1 and find it highly encouraging for consumer goods. Also, I think #7 is a path we’ve been traveling to for a while. I’m not surprised and we can’t ignore the trend. What do you think?

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