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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Why Customers Should Be Your Brand Hero And How

Came across this presentation today on Slideshare. Essentially, it’s about Brand Democracy where the heart of it is letting your customers become the story behind your brand. Check it out.

What do you think? Do you agree? Are you already practicing this and how? Show us what you’ve done.

Hey! Did You Know That The CEO Of That Mega-Brand Was Born Here?

How many times have you heard that one or similar stories to it? Such and such a rock star, movie actress or mega-mind was born here, they attended university or did their internship here. As if to say being from here had a role in that success. The real truth is every community across our fair planet has their share of rock stars. What all these individuals have in common is not so much that they’re from here but that they looked outside of here to realize their dreams and goals.

Most home-town business people and other talents and skill sets for that matter build their futures close to where they were born. Local stars and celebrities. And there’s nothing wrong with this. Nothing at all, but what is worth noting is those “star” individuals that dream beyond their noses. They are the ones with global aspirations. The local tool shop with global locations to supply a world market, local fitness clubs that franchise and branch out across the country and consultants who market globally to share their expertise. These are the people who recognize opportunities in risk by looking to unfamiliar territories and seeking to engage and profit from them.

Municipal brands (I think) are missing out on a great opportunity, one that is right under their collective noses. Most of them (that I watch) spend a great deal of resources and energy drawing the brilliant minds inward rather than retaining what they already have here. There is very little effort and resources encouraging home grown businesses to stay put and headquarter their resources at home. Our towns and cities try very hard to lure business and industry to them. They use corporate welfare to entice them, while putting the burden back on what businesses choose to stay at home. The sad fact is most “stars” recognize early on that their best opportunity lies away. In many cases taking valuable jobs with them.

Distant opportunities slowly suck the life out of many business communities who fail to witness the growing talents at home and do nothing to encourage their success until it’s too late. These true entrepreneurs are our youngest and brightest minds. As they leave the void is filled with businesses who are afraid to look globally, They prefer to follow rather than lead. They do not look to distant horizons but prefer to be big fish in small ponds.

The best this scenario can produce is events that bring these stars in life back to do a keynote and have all the local leaders anguish over what could have been. It’s time they stopped gushing, and started to adopting long-term strategies that not only encourage outside investment but inside as well.

Create a Memorable Business Card That Nails Your Brand and Gets You Noticed

If you still have a perfunctory business card, you know just something thought of at the last minute and maybe even worse; printed out on your computer you’re not taking your business seriously. You know the kind that you punch out of a sheet?

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You’re missing the point of having a business card. The point is to let someone know your brand and make them curious enough to call you when they need what you have to offer.

Business cards are another way to brand your business. You don’t want to be branded like everyone else, boring or worse… standard. Right?

You want business cards that people look at and remember you, your business, and what you can do for them. Consider getting special cards for events and regular cards for other uses.

With today’s printing technology you can have your information printed on almost any surface and your business card doesn’t have to be the normal shape or even size. Think outside the card, if you want to get noticed, but you still want the people you meet to be able to carry your card so don’t go too nuts as you don’t want them left behind.

Know Your Customer – Before creating any business card design it’s important to understand your customer and what they need to know. Of course your business card needs all the normal stuff on it, how to contact you, your website and so forth. But how can you get through to the person looking at the card that you have what they need? You know who they are and design the card with them in mind.

Consider Your Industry – For example if you are serving people in the construction industry how can you make a card that appeals to them?  This is an excellent way to think outside the card and create a card that is either 3D or can be constructed into a 3D card by the receiver later. The card again, needs to appeal to your ideal client more than to you.

Start With Your Logo – You probably already have a logo, which can be how you start your business card design idea. You want to keep this the same throughout your business card design too, but also make it stand out. If you don’t have a logo yet, this is your chance to really think outside the box and come up with something new.

different business cardsMatch The Brand You Currently Have – If you already have a lot of marketing collateral you likely already have colors, fonts, tag lines and what not. You still want people to know it’s you, but you want them to be impressed by your card which will make them impressed by your business too. Plus, it’ll ensure that they really look at it and take notice.

A good business card will tell your audience who you are, what you can do for them, and how to find you. It will do all this with the right fonts, the right colors and the right designs that will stand out so that they won’t soon forget you. You can use a standard card, or you can think outside the card and use other materials.

It’s up to you. Don’t be afraid to get creative so that you can be remembered and get noticed. I have a friend who owns a chocolate shop, her business cards are chocolate, and they’re okay to eat because they’re wrapped with the right information which is also printed on the chocolate.

However, the final thing that’s most important about a business card is to actually give it out at events. So many opportunities can arise whether you’re at an event or not. You might even meet someone while waiting on line at the grocery store or in the doctor’s office. Have your cards ready to give out and give them out liberally to get the most from them.

If you feel like reading some more here are some awesome examples of non-traditional business cards that might spark your creativity.

29 Cool Business Cards

One of the most clever usable business cards shown here is also a cheese grater.  As you can imagine something like this would be quite expensive, but at the right event you won’t soon be forgotten.  People would actually get use from it and think of you each time.

On the more practical side I love the tearable divorce business card. You can tear it and offer it to a friend, while keeping the information for yourself. Tearable business cards can be used for all sorts of business and won’t really be that much more expensive. Your customers, and those to whom you offer such a card can easily share with others.

Many of these examples aren’t totally efficient for every day, but they work great at events to help make you stand out. What’s more is that you can carry over some elements of the design to your regular business card for normal use. Entrepreneur.com says that you should copy other people’s business cards and stay standard to your industry. I don’t necessary agree. I think you should do what you can to stand out and get noticed within your budget.

What does your business card look like? I’d love to see them if you have created something different.

Image © Depositphotos.com/realcg

How To Stop Selling and Start Educating.

I’ve just completed a workshop teaching branding to graphic design firms from Canada and the United States. As part of that training, confidence in selling is a crucial element in delivering branding 10587534_sto their customers. On the surface it would appear that selling is a crucial first step. “Selling” is a difficult skill for many of us – myself included. It’s something I work at tirelessly. Defining my brand and working at it is one part of my overall branding strategy. To me selling is a bit of a misnomer. I don’t so much sell, as participate in a conversation. This conversation involves engaging the potential customer is a discussion about their brand challenges and understanding just what it is that hinders it.

Sometimes the barriers are self-generated. These are things such as culture or negative past histories. We all know people who get in the way of themselves simply because they don’t believe they have what it takes to deliver on a desire. That lack of confidence holds them back. Other barriers are market driven like bad economies, dying industries etc.

I recommend to businesses they should immediately change the conversation and watch opportunities present themselves. Customers cringe at the thought of someone selling something to them. Whereas they embrace conversations that help them. They also enjoy talking about themselves. I often enter into conversations where i am providing entry level branding advice on the spot. This is a great opportunity for me to show how fast I am on my feet, and how confident I am in what I do by my willingness to share. It’s no different than when in a networking situation – the wisdom is that you give before you get.

Challenge your comfort zones. Drive yourself to succeed. Don’t let the words “it’ll never work” or the “time just isn’t right” ever pass your lips. I believe confidence comes from challenging yourself and believing that customers really do find you a source of value. An expert lies within all of us. Don’t trap yourself by assuming you know how others think of you. Sometimes that blank stare isn’t that they can’t believe how stupid you are but it is more, they are pondering the brilliant thing you just exposed them to, and they’re wondering how they can use that nugget to their advantage. I experienced that last thought more times than I can image when speaking to groups of people at a speaking event or in a sales meeting. Lack of confidence makes you think the worst. But when you believe in what you’re saying, those blanks stares are gold mines to opportunities.

It makes me smile to realize that the quietest person in the room is actually your biggest advocate. The word ASSUME feeds on a lack of confidence and is the biggest killer of opportunity. When you assume the worst – worst is what you get. It’s not a hard concept to understand. Because I am aware that I have a difficult timing reading people, I have learned not to assume what lies before me. I often watch that person closer and give them time to react to what I’m saying and I’m often rewarded. All of this within the confines of a conversation on branding. I don’t think you can sell branding as much as you can build a hunger for more knowledge. Satisfying that hunger is something even the most shy can deliver. Imparting knowledge is enjoyable and the thanks awarded following such an exchange doesn’t feel disingenuous or contrived.

Trust in your experience. There lies the root of your confidence, and with that powerful conversations await you!

What to Do When Your Branding No Longer Fits Your Business

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Brand Words Sticky Notes Perception Identity LoyaltyAny business that has a long life also goes through many different branding identities.

If they don’t, the business may end up stuck in the past marketing to customers who no longer exist. For instance, a demographic such as women in their 20’s, looks completely different today than it did 20 years ago. Since a company’s brand is about the audience more than anything else, it’s important to consider how things change.

Look at a company like Johnson & Johnson.

They have been around for over 120 years. If they kept the same branding over the years, it would be difficult for them to keep marketing to the audience they want to attract. In fact, without appropriate branding they might even offend their audience.

The same can be said for your business.

It doesn’t matter how big or small your business is, over time your branding may need to be updated or changed completely to reflect the direction your audience has moved. If you’ve paid attention to your audience, you are aware and open to how they’ve changed and in what direction they are leading you.

Let’s take a look at what branding does:

  • Branding Communicates Directly to Your Audience
  • Branding Engages Customers
  • Branding Connects Your Product to Your Customer Emotionally
  • Branding Motivates Buyers
  • Branding Confirms and Increases Your Credibility

If your current branding is not accomplishing those goals, it’s time to make a change.

The change might be as simple as a redesign of the logo to a more modern logo, it might mean a change of fonts, or even how your web design looks. Whatever you do, your re-branding should focus completely on your audience and the people who you want to be your customers. After all, it’s the audience that informs the brand, not the other way around. It’s how they see your business, not how you see it.

The choices you make when branding your small business will make a huge impact on every aspect of your business moving forward. The branding will inform the messaging you use going forward, how you connect with your customers, and even how you tell the story of your products to your audience.

The research you do about your audience in order to improve your branding may also impact the choices you make regarding product creation in the future. In short, branding is everything. But, it’s not static. It can and should change over time as your business and customers evolve. Branding, after all is all about your audience.

Spending time developing and building your brand is like building your relationship with your customers. It takes time; it evolves, and leads the way for all your marketing efforts. If the branding is not right, it’s okay, just work on it, and perfect it over time keeping your mind open to your audience and their needs, wants, and desires.

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Is Your Brand Living Someone Else’s Life?

A brand is essentially the reputation of any company. In the day-to-day operating of a company, it’s confronted by a plethora of challenges. It takes a particular sort of person to grow a company while hurtling these obstacles. Brands that I admire are typically ones that are leaders in their category. There are the obvious ones that catch the global eye. Companies like Apple, Google and Virgin. But locally there are also companies whose brand shines. They are on the front lines and manage to lead in their own ways. Their positioning differentiates them and that difference rewards them.

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Then of curse there are the other companies. They’re the ones living some other brands life. These are the obvious brands that rely on analyze what the leaders are doing and mimic them. They believe that since Nike uses a swoosh, then dah, if they use one too they will become as successful as them. This of course is quite a stretch. But you see it every day.

How many hamburger joints follow the McDonald’s model? I’m surprised they don’t adopt a clown of their own. Notice how all auto dealers look exactly the same. Grocery stores also follow each other.

Where someone dares to break the mold and forge out with a brand that screams leader, the public usually rewards them. The norm is broken and they rise to the top. iTunes changed the way music was sold. Amazon revolutionized book distribution. Whole Foods showed traditional grocery a thing or two. Richard Branson and Virgin break boundaries all the time. He seems to take normalcy as a personal challenge. Steve Jobs as well.

In my own community, I see companies copying other companies all the time. I recognize that a major cause is a complete lack of confidence. The desire to BE an entrepreneur but not the where with all to actually behave like one. They all have this wait and see philosophy. Odd, the thing is they’re not waiting for themselves – they’re waiting for you. You take the risks on an idea, if you have some success they’re quick to swoop in and copy you.

I had a leading window and door manufacturer who did a fabulous job retailing his product. He was flustered by the fact that once his flyers went out, the leading competitor would mimic everything he did. As a credit to his sense of humour, he grew so tired of this that a week before his flyer ran he’d send the owner of that company a heads up as what he would be offering. It gave him the last laugh.

All laughing aside it spoke to the lack of confidence that manufacturer suffered from. It made his brand an also ran. His company name should have been called “Me Too!.” You can look exactly like any company you wish. You can behave like any company but your can never BE that company. The cultures are different and the leadership is different. A brand has to be authentic to be successful. If you’re copying then there’s nothing authentic about your brand and it’s not fooling anyone. It’s the reason Apple outsells anyone else even with a substantially more expensive product. The other-lifer’s – THEY’RE NOT APPLE. THEY’RE NOT AMAZON OR GOOGLE.

You are you. It’s that simple. To be great your brand has to lead not follow. If you follow someone else you are by definition already behind. Following doesn’t put you out front. Living someone else’s life pays homage to the original. Makes sense when you think about it.