Archives for April 2009

5 Reasons Why Branding Won’t Work.

They’re never going to buy you’re the expert.

Here’s the thing, you really are an expert in your field, but here’s the rub – YOU don’t believe it. If you don’t believe in yourself , don’t expect customers to believe in you either. You have plenty of sales-worthy knowledge and a waiting audience. Roll up your sleeves and jump in. Failing isn’t the problem, refusing to get back up is.

You’ve got a wild idea, but nobody’s going to buy it.

Isn’t it better to try your idea and fail KNOWING they don’t like it, rather than presuming to know they don’t like it and never really finding out?

The timing isn’t right.

That’s the same as giving me a dozen reasons why you CAN’T do something rather than reasons why you CAN.

Branding is expensive.

Ignoring your brand is the real money pit. Placing ad after ad saying nothing special or countering a competitor makes you a follower. The competitor is actually defining your brand and you’re throwing money at defending yourself rather than leading with a strong positioning strategy, which gives your customer a compelling reason to buy from you.

I tried re-branding: I got me a new logo and tag line and guess what? Nothing changed!

What did you expect to happen? Your brand is your REPUTATION not your logo. All you did was spend some cash putting a new face on an old problem. If somebody tells you that re-branding is changing your logo – RUN as fast as you can – they have no idea what branding is!

As much fun as this post was to write, the honest truth is that all of us have to pay very close attention to our brands, how we sell ourselves and be open to new opportunities. Stop blaming the economy, stop blaming yourself and stop blaming finances. If you try and win – great! If you fail – so what? Keep moving, keep learning. You can’t reach your goal by standing still and that I can guarantee you.

Don’t Put Anything Off: Get Things Done Today

Don’t put anything off, if you want something done for your business, get it done right now. 🙂

I’ve been very blessed this last while, I was able to stand by my daughter’s side through her bone marrow replacement. I can tell you it’s something else to be able to grab the laptop and stay inside the isolation room with her all the while. The beauty of the internet!

We’ve been back home for a month but it hasn’t been easy, thankfully she’s completely healed now, cancer free! and we’re just waiting on her appointments coming up for radiation. Not easy for a 16 year old kid.

You may think since I was stuck in a hospital for months on end that I probably didn’t get alot accomplished while I was in there. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Actually, I’ve developed some very great relationships and partners in the last while and I’m looking forward to sharing with you things I’ve been working on.

One thing that I’ve been following along is Darren Rowse’s 30 Days to a Better blog. It’s free to follow along and each day I’ve been taking his challenge and copying it into a Google Doc. I’m not doing the challenge every day like some, but I will get to each day as I go along and have some spare time. It’s a great challenge, and the first day I’ll be implementing is to follow another successful blog.

Not to copy what they’re doing, but to see what “works” in the industry. What keeps people coming back, participating, and commenting. I’ll take away the things that I like and implement those.

You can join Darren’s challenge Here.

If you haven’t seen his challenge yet, it’s located here. Also, I’m a member over at Yaro’s new program Membership Site Mastermind program, I always love to follow his work and what he’s up to these days.

If you’re looking to grow a recurring income on the internet, starting membership sites is certainly the way to go. 🙂

>> You can download Yaro’s free report here.

That’s it from me today, Have a GREAT day!

Visual Triggers To Boost Your Sales

We’re visual people and we often make purchasing decisions based on an image alone. Our vision is our primary sense and we rely on it to make quick assumptions about people and products. This means image can play a strong role in both the branding of your business as well as your profitability. Here are a few ideas on how to use great visuals to market your business and your products.

Apple Chips

Tip #1 Keep it simple. Think about the Nike swish or the golden arches. Those two visuals represent huge conglomerations and yet they evoke a personal experience, emotion, or thought. Logos do not have to be complicated to be effective and too much going on will detract from the effect and power of your visual.

Tip #2 Place your logo consistently and continuously. Use your logo in all of your marketing materials from advertisements to emails it’s how people will begin to associate and identify with you.

However not all images are logo images. If you’re selling products then it pays to display those products in photos. You aren’t likely to buy a product without seeing it and your prospects aren’t either. However, simply placing a photo of your products on your website or in your catalog may not inspire a purchase. Sometimes you need to finesse it a little bit.

Tip #3 When displaying products, make sure they’re prominent in your photo and use good lighting. That means there are no other items in the picture distracting the eye and no shadows obscuring the image. If you’re selling clothing, sometimes it helps to have it worn by a model so people can see how the item fits a real person rather than a two dimensional photo. An attractive model also taps into your customers desire to also be attractive and can actually influence a purchase.

Tip #4 Show people enjoying your products. Hot tubs are a great example of this strategy. Instead of showing an empty hot tub, show it with an attractive couple holding hands or show it full of smiling people – depending on your market.

Tip #5
Show people using your products. Yes, a great set of colorful kitchen bowls may sell quite well with a photo of them sitting on a black marble table however what if someone is using those bowls or serving dip to a friend at a cocktail party or mixing a cake with a cute child? Your audience and prospects are an important part of your graphics and your decisions and should represent their hopes, dreams and desires.

Images can tell a story, they can highlight the benefits and features of a product without saying a word. They can brand a company, evoke emotions and inspire purchases. Take the time to create a strategy with your visuals, logos, catalog images and website graphics, and reap the rewards.

Photo courtesy of Sage Media

Texas Brand’em – Your Ace In The Hole!

More and more in the popular media, the term branding is being introduced into the business psyche of the watching/listening audience. The understanding that your brand is NOT just your logo, is still the number one misunderstanding of businesses and organizations that I meet. When you understand that your brand is essentially your reputation, then you will understand that “re-branding” your business with a logo change is simply “putting lipstick on a pig.” Put another way: Let us say that you don’t like Pepsi. If I change the logo and slogan, are you going to like it now? No, of course, not. You have to fundamentally change the way Pepsi does things, and here it is changing the taste. Then they have a chance of getting you to switch. Your brand is no different.

Wouldn’t you love to understand how you could make your brand more powerful? If you could find a way to make your brand a leader, you’d be interested right? What if I told you that strategically positioning your brand with a compelling offer, REMOVES you from commodity hell – wouldn’t that intrigue you? The answers to all these questions are no-brainers.

The fact that you should draw comfort in, is that most – I’ll say that again – MOST businesses, communities, and people (brands) completely ignore their brands. This short-sightedness is your ace in the hole. Even if you were to tweak your brand a little bit, you’d be miles ahead of the other person.

I recently gave a lecture to a packed house (and more on the waiting list) to the Center for Business, Advancement, and Research in Windsor Ontario. It was a one half hour discussion on “Branding Yourself Online.” I was very well received. So much so, that a line following the event formed in front of me and took 1-1/2 hours to clear. But, the simple truth is, MOST of these well-meaning entrepreneurs will do absolutely nothing about their lack lustre, follow the leader brands.

Take place branding – how many communities in your area could use a boost in their economic development portfolios? How many would love to be considered first choice for convention business? (more no-brainer questions). BUT, most would rather ignore their brands and turn direct their priority to changing logos and tag lines. Instead of analysis of why their brands are attracting negative attention and fixing the problem, city fathers again and again opt for short-term, same old, same old strategies creating the perception of doing something. The fact will remain that when the audience reacts negatively to your community brand, it’s too late. The same holds true in business branding. In both cases, it becomes a commodity issue. You have to buy their business. You’ll have no staying power. Their business moves from price to price. No powerful relationship to retain them.

If you want to stand out and play a different game, you might want to get in on Texas Brand’em and leave 52 Pick-up to the amateurs.

Here’s your winning hand, in a game of Texas Brand’em:

CARD ONE: Establish you brand values and personality, as the foundation of your brand.
CARD TWO: Establish your brand message. What is it you do that your customers value the most.
CARD THREE: Have a positioning strategy that compels your audience. Establishes you as a leader not a follower.
CARD FOUR: Make sure that your brand image is consistent with your values and personality and is consistent across all materials.
CARD FIVE: Live the brand, it has to be authentic. Build relationships with integrity.

Business is a high stakes game. Picking up the hand above ends the temptation to bluff your opponent. They’ll have no option other than folding.

Blog Commenting: What Do You Allow On Your Blog?

Picture Courtesy of Geoff Harries

I recently received this comment inside my WP Dashboard and realized that I’ve never addressed the “rules” here at SBB. I thought I’d take a moment to share with you a recent comment I have received…

I am new to the blog commenting realm. I have always read blogs to find useful information but have recently started leaving comments to build up my linking campiaign. I only leave quality comments on the topic of the blog and I believe what I add to the discussion is useful. However, I have noticed that most of my comments never show up. I wish someone would go into detail about what spamming a blog is. Maybe, I am doing something wrong. I think knowing the rules could be benificial to a lot of people.

Now I’m no expert on blog spam BUT… I do have a sense of what I will and won’t allow here on my blog. I personally find it difficult to approve comments that seem well thought out, but then have no name in place. It’s instead the name of their business or worse yet a keyword to direct traffic over to their blog.

I have no problems with people getting exposure from commenting here but I don’t personally like it when there is no name in place. I prefer to get to know who the readers are here at SBB and would like the opportunity to build a relationship with all readers.

What do you think? Do you approve comments that are not from an actual name?

5 Tips for a Better Outsourcing Experience

Outsourcing can be a valuable practice for many small business owners. It frees up time allowing them to handle the important areas of their business. Those areas include ones the owner truly needs to focus on. Outsourcing allows someone else, a paid assistant or other professional, to handle areas such as email, bookkeeping, etc. However, to make the most of outsourcing it is important that it be handled strategically.

The following are some tips for a better outsourcing experience:

Communicate! With outsourcing, communication is the key. Without proper communication between the business owner and the assistant, things can take a turn for the worse and quickly. You will want to make sure from the beginning that your helper understands what is expected of them, what your agreement is and how you will go about communicating, paying them and evaluating their work. A good assistant will know to ask questions should they need clarification on a project, but you can also facilitate the process. Proper communication can make life easier for both of you.

Sign an agreement. This can truly make or break the relationship. Treat your outsourcing agreements properly as a business agreement that needs to be handled in a business manner. You will want to draw up a written agreement that the both of you are satisfied with and make sure that you have a signed and dated copy to keep for your records. This will save you a lot of pain in the future if the business deal, tasks or payment arrangements are ever in question.

Be explicit with instructions and deadlines. More often than not it pays to be specific. When you give very specific instructions and set specific deadlines there are fewer questions and concerns for both parties. Even if you think something is a “given” still specify to avoid misunderstandings for the both of you.

Let go! That’s right, once you’ve given a task away to an assistant do not try to hold on and control that job. That’s why you hired someone to handle it for you, so you wouldn’t have to worry about it any longer and so you could free up your mind and your time to handle other things. So, don’t try to control all the details of the situation once you’ve passed it on.

Take time to evaluate. Take the time to review the working relationship between you and your assistant. Every so often (at minimum once a year), evaluate the work being performed and how it is helping your business. Make sure you are spending your time and money wisely. Make adjustments as necessary.

Do You Give Spectactular Customer Service?

Customer Service

Photo Credit Courtesy Of Eco Photography

Over the long weekend I have gone over my site with a fine tooth comb. I’ve looked at every single page, and finally created a shopping cart to serve my clients better.

In a business world which is getting more competitive each and every day, there’s one thing which will keep your customers coming back again and again – a valuable customer experience. Your customer experience begins and ends with spectacular customer service.

What Is Customer Service?

It’s being there for your customer from the moment they meet you, whether it is online, on the phone or they walk through the front door of your establishment. It’s being there to prevent any potential problems and it’s being there to resolve any issues that come up. Finally, customer service is about being proactive and engaging your current customers so they always feel valuable and appreciated.

For many businesses, and you’re sure to have had this experience as a customer, customer service is an afterthought. It’s when the problem solvers step in and attempt to appease you. While this is certainly part of customer service if this is your approach you’re going to spend a whole lot of time solving problems.

Spectacular customer service means being in communication with your customers to make sure they’re happy, to find out what they need and want and to meet those needs with innovative products and services.

How To Provide Spectacular Customer Service

Be transparent and available 24/7. This doesn’t mean you have to answer the phone at all hours but it does mean providing all the information possible for your customers to have easy access to. An FAQ page, a Contact Page you can hire a customer service company to answer phones, address problems, and even have a presence on your website in a pop up customer service chat screen. I even created a support ticket system for Small Business Branding here as well.

However as mentioned earlier customer service is about more than answering questions and solving problems. It’s about creating strategies to solve problems before they occur, to embrace your customers’ needs and wants before they know what they are and solve them.

This can be accomplished with regular communication, surveys and polls, special offers for your loyal customers only and regular tracking and analytics. Data is a valuable asset to providing an ideal customer experience.

For me, the one I use most of these is communication. I love to hear what clients are saying and what their needs are right from them. I love to get on the phone and chat with clients but for the most part, just watching closely with the questions they ask works best for me.

Think about your last shopping experience at your favorite store. Chances are your satisfaction with the outing was influenced by the sales representatives you encountered but also by the layout of the store – how easy it was to find things – and how easy it was to check out. Online or off these little experiences add up to a spectacular customer service experience.

The happier and more satisfied your customers are the more they’ll come back and the more they’ll talk about you to your friends. It means a bigger and better business and more profits. Focus on your customer experience and you’ll be building the kind of success which lasts. 🙂

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