Archives for August 2009

10 Things I Hate About Branding

ONE:
Frankly it takes a lot of work to stay on top of my brand. If only I could just push a button like the Staples “Easy Button” ( which I have on my desk). I hate that I can’t!

TWO:
I hate having to remind businesses that their brand is more than their logo. I have every design shop and ad specialty shop to blame for the mis-information I guess. (I could be painting with big a brush too)

THREE:
I hate companies who don’t realize that branding is a top down initiative. Without the captain on board, who’s piloting the brand?

FOUR:
Just too many great books to read. I’m stuck on historical fiction right now and so slipping in books on branding is a tight fit – I hate that.

FIVE:
I hate those who confuse their brand message with their slogan. There is a difference. I guess since they are both important, I should be happy that they have anything.

SIX:
I hate followers. Why do some businesses still feel they must follow the leader in their category? A commenter to one of my articles recently lamented their displeasure at businesses who copy the leader’s image almost to the letter. Sheesh!

SEVEN:
I also hate people online who make the simple complicated in an attempt to screw a few dollars out of your pocket, only to reveal the obvious. If you see something online you want to get into, email the author – I’m sure they’ll help you.

EIGHT:
I love it when someone says, “Hey, you’re the branding guy!” I hate that it took so long.

NINE:
Sometimes I hate that consistency is worth so much to your brand. I get the itch like many of us to change things up a bit. BUT, my better judgement knows that that would diminish what I have achieved so far.

TEN:
Sometimes I hate focus groups when judging brand image. By their nature they look to criticize regardless if it is even necessary. Sometimes you just have to go with your gut. Was your brand built on consensus or instinct?

Thanks for letting me vent a small bit, I hate keeping it bottled up inside.

Common Linking Methods of Affiliate Programs Explained

LinkingIf you’re a small business owner, an affiliate marketing program is a fantastic opportunity to make a lot of money without having to have a lot of capital or overhead costs.  And if you have a web page, affiliate marketing is a great way to make quick cash without adding a lot of extra work.

But just because you find a popular webpage to promote your product or the right product to promote on your page, doesn’t mean it’s going to work.  In affiliate marketing, it’s all about the link.  The kind of link you use and what you link to are going to make all the difference.

Here are the most common methods of linking for affiliate programs:

Photo Courtesy of Paul O’Connell

– Text links These are a good way to put links on your site because they stand out, but at the same time, still look natural and don’t have the appearance of an ad.  When you have a related word in your text, just embed a link in the word to a product or website.  But if you overload your text with links, it will become unreadable or just annoying.

– Banner Links These are ads that are usually at the top or side of the page.  They can be plain, but are often catchy to try to get the attention of the reader.

Just remember that people who surf the internet a lot see hundreds of banners in a day and ignore pretty much all of them.  If you’re going to make advertisement banners, make something that’s going to stand out and get you noticed.  The more clever and unique, the better.

– Search Box Most people are familiar with search boxes embedded in a website that will do a Google or Yahoo search of the web.  You can embed search boxes that will do this type of search, but search a marketer’s webpage instead of the whole internet.  That way people can search an affiliate marketer’s website, sometimes without even knowing it.  And they can find exactly what they’re looking for, even if the marketer has thousands of products.

Just because they’re linking to an affiliate marketer, doesn’t mean all links are the same.  The link depends on what the affiliate and the vendor want.  Here are the most common options:

– Website main page
This is better if you’re selling services or simply looking for business connections rather than selling specific products.

– Specific product This is a good idea if you have one product that is expected to make high sales and pertains directly to the website it’s linked from.

– Vendor Storefront
If a vendor sells a variety of related products, this is a great idea.  If there is more variety in the products, you may be better off using a search box instead of a direct link.

I personally use my own website www.verarecommends.com to hold all of my product recommendations. Just remember that links aren’t everything; you still need quality products and a popular webpage to make money on sales.

How To Police Your Brand!

Your brand is probably your company’s most valuable asset. It is what provides you the opportunity to make money based on strong relationships.

Your brand makes advocates out of customers which means that they in effect become salespeople for you.

Being an advocate for a brand, makes it a pleasure to recommend that company to your network of contacts.

Paying close attention to the environment in which your brand exists will reward you at times when you find your brand in a bad place or subject to sloppy practices.

Because your brand is essentially your reputation, it is therefore, dire that you always defend its integrity. Here are 7 critical areas where you should police your brand:

ONE: Corporate Logo.
Your corporate logo is the face of your brand. It is what the public sees and identifies as your company. Every logo has associated with it a color palette and distinguishing features. Even the space your logo occupies is valuable real estate. Explain the rules for reproducing your corporate logo. Be sure to have an RGB, Hex, Pantone, Process Color, Black & White and Gray Scale version of your logo. DO NOT compromise on your palette/real estate. Once you drop the ball once, your audience will be confused. Consistency is powerful magic.

TWO: Type Style.
Choose fonts that accurately represent the personality of your brand. Use these fonts in everything you do. Apple has gone to the trouble of designing a font expressly for their use. Fonts like other graphic elements set a tone that can be recognizable over time.

THREE: On-Brand Thinking.
This one is over-looked at times. Be sure that your entire staff has a keen understanding of your brand statement or unique positioning strategy. If staff is allowed to define what you do, you stand a good chance of jumping into the sea of sameness along with the competition. On-brand thinking portrays an image of confidence.

FOUR: Internal Communications.
Internal communication is a sub set of on-brand thinking. Keeping your organization current with company news and direction, helps to eliminate communication by rumor. Rumors are often wrong and typically negative. It eats away at your brand from the inside and contributes to the erosion of business.

FIVE: Poor Corporate Behavior.
We only have to cast our eyes upon Wall Street to quickly see how well-established brands are destroyed overnight when greed rules the day. Once your brand has been trashed by your corporate officers, it is often nearly impossible to recover. Brand trust is what makes you money.

SIX: Exit Strategies.
If an individual represents your brand as it’s icon, do you have a plan in place if they should suddenly disappear due to natural or other causes? Mascots or spokes people are a double edged sword for your brand. Done well they can cement a relationship with an audience, but the trick is to make them larger than life – something beyond themselves. Great ones are Colonel Sanders, Ronald McDonald and Dave from Lenox.

SEVEN: Risk Planning.
Utilizing Compliance Branding and having a plan in place help offset an unplanned event that threatens your brand. A case in point: Martha Stewart. How Martha responded to the situation she found her brand in, resulted in a secure brand once the event was over. Determining how the company should react to any negative publicity and who should speak for them is important to weathering a storm.

Policing your brand is an ongoing effort. Your competition is only too happy to see you fall. Unless you take the proper steps to protect it you stand a great risk of not only allowing the competition to define your brand but it puts you in the undesirable position of reacting constantly to events that didn’t have to happen. Ignoring your brand takes money directly out of your pocket. The suspect in this crime is in the mirror.

Photo Courtesy of Paul Keleher

Police your Brand

Creating Software To Advertise And Build Value: What You Need To Know

As we all get more Internet and mobile phone-centric, you see more and more software built to either promote or add value to a service or product.

For example:

  • Nationwide Insurance created an iPhone app for their customers to help them make the task of filing a claim easier.
  • There is Revver who created an official plugin WordPress to make it easier for their users to display videos and earn money.
  • Pizza Hut has an iPhone app that includes a game, ability to order food and receive coupons.
  • And there are countless Facebook apps created by big name companies.

I love it. On every project I have, I try to figure ways to build in an app or plugin to make people utilize the product more or spread the word about my web site but there are some issues which I’d like to highlight if you have been considering the same thing yourself.

To date, my biggest problem is licensing and distribution. Sometimes the issues occur together, sometimes they don’t. I don’t (or haven’t) yet built software for the iPhone, because I believe that if I were to build a mobile app, I wouldn’t want to piss off the rest of my customers or fans by offering the app *just* for iPhone but that’s a whole other blog post and we won’t go there today.

Building for iPhone or iTouch

Back to iPhone, if you are planning to build for the iPhone platform, you should know that:

All applications must be distributed via Apple iTunes. Your app has to be digitally signed using a system that Apple approves off which is tied to the distribution available only via iTunes. If you try to install an unsigned app, then technically you’ve broken the law under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

You are free to give away your software once on iTunes. You just can’t distribute it in any way other than the manner Apple set out.

And if they reject you?

Well… I suppose you can appeal, but good luck! Keep in mind, Apple can do this anytime because they control what Apps are allowed to be sold/given away on iTunes and since you can’t distribute it anyway other than iTunes… you get the picture.

Building for WordPress

This is another hotbed issue and interestingly enough is the opposite side of the pendulum. First of all, no matter what it says on the box, no software is free. It costs thousands and probably millions of man-hours. Similarly, let’s say you want to build a plugin that would make your services more valuable for your existing customers only. I won’t be far from the truth to say you would probably hire a developer to do it correct? So would I but you or your company pays the developer to develop this. So the cost is on you.

Because WordPress uses GPL licensing, plugins also have to be licensed as GPL as well. Which means, if you are going to distribute the plugin, even under limited circumstances say, to your own customers, you must also give them access to the source code. It doesn’t matter whether you sell or give away the plugin but whoever receives or buys the plugin must be able to access the source.

Which means, users of your software can take the plugin, build upon or even not do anything and simply re-distribute it openly. They can even re-brand it as their own and distribute it via channels you may not want.

There are plugin authors who go against this by hiding the code and issuing different licenses. I haven’t heard of any big crackdown but the bottom line is still a violation of WordPress license. Which means if they want to pursue it, they could.

By the way, if you develop it for your own use – no distribution to other parties, you are not required to give away your source code.

Not Scare Tactic

While all this sounds super scary and downright draconian, that is not my intention. I am merely sharing what I’ve encountered while pursuing Technology-Based-Marketing strategies. It has not scared me off from developing these apps. I did spend some of my own money to develop a plugin that is released as GPL on WordPress.org. It is a risk and eventually it will be outdated or eclipsed by someone else. Right now, I am enjoying a some traffic as a direct result of releasing it.

Photo courtesy of Jason Rogers

Blog Mastermind Review – Checklist Available

I’m A Graduate! But I Don’t Have My Certificate Yet 😉

Update: You can read here my latest blog post about the program, with a fun picture of Yaro & I when he came to Vancouver, BC.

Checklist for Blog Mastermind

I started Yaro’s Blog Mastermind Program and am now a Graduate! 🙂 The good thing about the Blog Mastermind Program is that it’s a program that is handy to refer back to here and there. No I didn’t follow every single step, but I will.

When I feel I’ve given the program all I’ve got, I will report back on every single success this program has brought me. I have achieved some pretty cool things, there will be more to come on this in a bit.

So far I’ve been pretty excited about the people I’ve even come into contact with through Yaro’s program.

My Cool Checklist – Well It’s Nothing Fancy But It Gets the Job Done!

A while back I put together a checklist for myself for every single step that I need to complete through this program. I sent off an email to Yaro and let him know that he is able to use it within his program for his students. I find checklists help me out BIG time! I’m all about learning, pondering, thinking, etc. But nothing gets things done like a Checklist. 🙂

Another good thing about the Checklist is that I’m going to offer it as a bonus to anyone who purchased through my affiliate link. So If you purchased the program with my link, please forward the receipt to vera @ smallbusinessbranding.com.  And I will forward you the Checklist no problem.

Success With The Program

I’m SO amazed at how much Success others are having with Yaro’s program and I’ll be reporting back my own findings soon. If you’re ready to join me in my journey you can sign up to the program here.

Customer Testimonials: How To Use Them To Benefit Your Business

People buy for a number of reasons.  We buy because we like the personality behind a product or company.  We buy because the product or service taps into an emotional need and we buy because experts tell us to – credibility and authority.

Customer testimonials can help tap into all of these buying behaviors and they’re much more effective than sales copy because they’re coming from an outside, presumably unbiased, source.  Testimonials are worth their weight in gold!  Here’s how and where to use them to their fullest.

Website real estate. One of the popular locations to place your most powerful testimonials is right on your home page. Many website owners situate them in a sidebar so they stand out from the rest of the content on the page or they place them in the midst of the content in a call out box. Your most powerful testimonials will be the ones:

Provided from notable personalities or names in your industry. For example, if you’re a commercial real estate agent then a testimonial from Donald Trump would certainly warrant prime website real estate.  Anyone who is highly thought of in your industry would definitely capture the attention of prospects and customers.


Glowing endorsements
.  Let’s face it, while all testimonials are good some testimonials are better than others. Place the extra powerful, glowing endorsements right where your prospects can see them, on your home page.

Sales Copy.  Any good sales letter will include testimonials from happy and enthusiastic customers.  It’s often the extra umph that people need to make a purchase.  In fact, quite often people skip reading the body of a sales letter and read the offer, the postscript and the testimonials.

Autoresponders and enewsletters
.  Email is a positive way to stay connected with your clients and prospects.  It makes good business sense to include testimonials in these communications. It’s not bragging, it’s sharing your good fortune with others and encouraging them to become part of your community.  Of course, it’s still important to stick to 80% information, 20% promotion.

A separate website testimonial page.
When you collect enough testimonials, you may want to create a separate page on your website to share them.  You can call it your “Testimonials” page or “Success Stories,” whatever feels relevant for your website and your industry.

Testimonials are a strong motivator.  They help prospects see the power and benefit of doing business with you.  Because they’re provided by an outside source, they’re perceived as unbiased and therefore carry more weight than sales copy.  Encourage testimonials from your customers, reward them for their success stories, and share them with the world.

Business Idea: Ghostwriting

For the last year I’ve been operating a ghostwriting business, I hired ghostwriters to provide content for my clients. The business got very busy VERY fast. It turned out that I was spending 90% of my time working on requests, editing content, and getting things back to the client.

Having to deal with being in and out of the hospital, the stress of it all made my decision pretty easy to let go of the ghostwriting business. I have a GEM here at Small Business Branding and I’d rather work hard at bringing valuable content and ideas to the readers here. The site that I owned “Get Content Results” is now owned by Anne Marie, one of my very close personal assistants.

Today I wanted to share with you some ideas on how to become a ghostwriter if this is something you’re interested in doing.  You can also contact Anne Marie here to become a writer for her, just tell her that Vera sent you from SBB 😉

What is a Ghostwriter?

A ghostwriter is someone that gets paid to write for other people. Once a ghostwriter has written the article, book, speech, etc, and the customer has paid the ghostwriter, the customer then owns sole rights to it, can put their name on it and use it however they choose. The ghostwriter retains no rights and gets no public credit for the work.

If you are a skilled writer, proofreader, etc. ghostwriting could be just the business for you.

What skills are helpful?

To become a ghostwriter you need to have reading, writing, proofreading, communication and grammar skills. You also need strong researching skills as you often find yourself writing on topics that you have no personal expertise in.

What tools are needed?

Ghostwriters need to have a computer with a word processing application like Microsoft Word. You’ll need an internet connection and fax machine. Keep a good dictionary and thesaurus handy as well.

How do you get started?

To start a ghostwriting business you need a website. You can use a site builder or hire someone to build it for you. You will also need a really good reliable host. Your website needs to clearly define your services available, your rates, etc. The next step is to find some clients.

Take a little time to research your competition and find ways to stand out above them. Don’t expect to have a website up and running one day and the next to be swamped with work, that’s not reality, although there is a big demand for skilled ghost writers among the internet marketing community.

Online networking groups are a great way to get out there, advertise you, and start building some relationships. There are freelance sites that allow clients to post projects for you to bid on. Some of these sites require a paid membership from you to participate.

Building up your business will take time and a little elbow grease. If you have the desire to be your own boss, be home for your family then that motivation should keep you going even in the slow times.

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