Archives for September 2011

Ways to Increase Online Brand Visibility

The Internet is a competitive space. Since people turn to the Internet to find information about pretty much everything, marketers are trying their best to make a name for themselves online. It isn’t easy, and while it’s hard enough to even establish an online presence in the first place, it’s even harder to maintain a positive brand image over time. It isn’t something that magically happens. It takes a lot of time and effort to build up brand visibility and brand equity online but it’s time well spent since it will result in establishing trust with your target audience and with the search engines which are two key factors to online marketing success.

Here are 3 ways to increase online brand visibility:

Produce Quality Content

Obviously, you need to have a website filled with lots of useful information but that’s not where your content marketing strategy should end. The more “real estate” that you have online, the better. Remember, content shouldn’t be a sales pitch for your product or service. The content that you produce should provide some benefit to your target audience and establish yourself or the business that you represent as a trusted industry expert. By producing quality blog posts, videos, articles, whitepaper, E-books, and more you will gain a certain level of trust with target audience members and the search engines which will establish your brand identity.

Form Relationships with Others in the Industry

As they say, “location, location, location”. While the content marketing piece is extremely important to build brand visibility, where those articles, whitepapers, E-books, etc. are found plays a large role in its success. It’s necessary to attract the attention of the right target audience. This is why it’s important to reach out to and cultivate relationships with influential people in the industry, bloggers in particular. By establishing a relationship and a level of trust with the owner of a popular industry blog that gets thousands of unique visitors a day, you may be asked to become a guest contributor which may even lead to becoming a regular writer. Gaining support from a trusted industry expert passes authority on to you which builds brand equity and will also result in increased traffic to your site.

Develop an Online Community

Social media is great for brand building online. Of course, it requires developing a strong social media strategy. You simply can’t sign up for an account and expect that to help your cause. You need to be active and post content daily while taking the time to interact with followers. In social media, your fans and followers are your greatest asset. As long as you post quality content, they will share it, Like it, and re-tweet it to their followers expanding your brand visibility. While it’s certainly important to be active on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, there are numerous smaller and niche social networking sites that may be a good fit for your business that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Content Marketing Blunders that You Must Avoid to Save Your Business

Content marketing is all about generating and sharing content with the people. Businesses can also use it as an effective way to educate people about their company. Content Marketing is believed to be highly useful for creating brand awareness and increasing business by converting the regular contacts into clients. Content marketing is the best practice that can put your business on the map.

While, properly executing your content marketing strategy can produce some spectacular results for your business, mismanagement, on the other hand, can make it go horribly wrong. There can be several reasons behind it. Some of the blunders you need to avoid are discussed below in detail.

Businesses use content marketing as a call for action but what if it falls flat and does not offer your readers any value? Your business does not need content which fails to impress your readers. If you have brought your readers to your door, why not escort them in? Finishing the content with a question which will make your readers seek for answers. This quest for an answer might very well lead them back to you!

Another common mistake that most of the content marketers make is the practice of restricting the content only to their business. To be honest, nobody really likes to read dry content. You need to entice your readers with more than just business talk. A good writer must blend general content with business to make a story bigger and interesting for the readers. Involve your customers and optimize your content both via search engines and social media so that your content finds more and more readers.

The biggest mistake content marketers make is to generate content by ignoring the actual need of the end-users. They want to get the concrete information when they search online about your business. Customers want to know how the particular product can make a difference in their lives, if it meets their requirements or if it fulfils the purpose it is being bought for. They want relevant information and if all a content marketer is doing is swarming them with advertisement then it could have adverse effects on your business. Make sure you share unique information about your business to attract potential customers to generate business leads.

Most of the marketers ignore quality and instead invest their time concentrating on quantity alone. Businesses invest too much in generating content in the form of articles, blogs, newsletters, e-books and even arranging webinars. However, do not forget that content is an opportunity to show your business potential and the unique traits that make you stand out. Content is the soul of your web business that can make or break your business.

Once-and-Done is a strategy that does not work in content marketing business. Most of the companies start working on content marketing enthusiastically in the beginning but after few weeks, the passion starts ebbing away. It always takes time to build a closer relationship with the potential customers to convert them into leads. It needs patience and long-term commitment to get favourable results. It is fun to create content in the initially but it needs real hard work to keep it that way.

You can learn to avoid these mistakes by practically implementing them in your business. If you also have some other tips to overcome content marketing blunders, then please feel free to share.

When Passion Alone Doesn’t Cut It!

You hear it all the time, “Do something you’re passionate about.” Or, “they’re successful because they’re passionate about what they do.” While at the surface I agree that it takes passion to soldier on, you have to feed that passion with a strategy to connect. I have passionate entrepreneurs reaching out to me all the time, and I reaching out to them. I firmly believe in the adage that it’s not who you know, but who knows you.

If you are by nature shy, then knowing them will certainly not be enough. BUT on the other hand them knowing you, provides them a conduit to you. That is powerful. And how do you do that?

Branding.

Here at Ken’s blog Small Business Branding, we discuss branding at every level. Branding has the ability to give that passion of yours an identity. It allows people you don’t know the benefit of knowing you. If you take your brand seriously, you will be reaching out on a number of fronts to make that connection. You have to embrace your passion and start reaching out on AND offline. Just because you built it, doesn’t mean they will come. All of us out there recognize that simple truth. It’s a great start, but now it has to stand for something and that is where branding comes in.

You have to translate that passion by taking a leadership position and make your brand known. Step away from the computer and get out into your community. Network, speak to your audience. Volunteer – give of yourself. Allow people to like you and in turn recognize your brand for all that it can benefit them. Here you are reading this article, reach out to me and your fellow readers and give us your opinion by commenting. That one simple move, takes your brand out of the shadows and allows the thousands of readers here to identify with you. Many of those readers are your future customers if you allow it.

Offline, join networking groups that speak to your customers. Help the groups grow and watch your brand soar. Passion IS a great thing to have BUT it’s a better thing to share. Your future customers will then know you by your willingness to share your passion.

Small Business Resources and Tips For Veterans

As a veteran, you may have a hard time transitioning to an office environment and opt for starting a small business instead. The thought can be exhilarating and daunting at the same time. Fortunately, there are some organizations that will help you start and manage your veteran owned small business by providing initiatives to aid in your success.

Programs such as the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Patriot Express Loan Program or the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) VetBiz program provide veteran owned businesses with the tools to successfully run their own business; however, it is up to the business owner on how they are seen by their customers, which stresses the importance of protecting their brand.

Veterans Resources for Small Business Start-up and Management

Patriot Express

The Patriot Express program is designed to reward our veterans through offering the lowest available interest rates for our service members. Rates can fall as low as 2.25 percent to 4.75 percent, depending on size and length of the loan, as well as credit history and business experience.

Some business owners are members of the National Guard and when called to service, they may consider shutting their doors or leaving their business in the hands of someone who may not be qualified to run the business. This is why the SBA gives veterans the option to use their Patriot Express funds towards finding management in the event of deployment.

Funds are also designed to go towards business purposes, such as funding for start-up costs, like real estate, equipment, and inventory purchases. However, veterans already running a business can use the funds for expansion and disaster recovery. Note that the loan use is restricted to business purposes only.

The SBA considers the following eligible:

  • Veterans
  • Reservists and National Guard members
  • Active duty service members eligible for the Transition Assistance Program
  • Spouses of the above
  • Spouses of service members who have died while serving or due to a service related injury

VetBiz

A longer-standing program through the VA, VetBiz, assists veterans in starting or expanding a small business. Veteran-owned businesses are encouraged to sign up and use VetBiz, due to the fact the government and other prospective clients can look at the business’ ability to meet the needs of certain projects all from the VetBiz site. Therefore, contract buyers have access to all of these veteran-run businesses, their products, and services.

VetBiz gives veteran owned companies priority on government contracts. Contracting officers can easily compare veteran owned businesses from the VetBiz site and narrow down the list of possible contractors. Such ease of access means more business and prime government contracts for veteran entrepreneurs.

Small Business Branding and Reputation for Veterans

Just as trust and reputation were important part of your military service, it is also important in your business. Without a good brand and reputation, your business won’t succeed.

Build Your Brand

After taking advantage of the great programs available to get your business started, be sure to immediately begin managing your brand from the first day your doors open. Building a strong brand takes time, but being proactive while your company is young can lead to much success.

Forums, discussion boards, and social networking sites can easily being a breeding ground for negative comments about your brand, and if a potential customer comes across one of these comments while researching your business, they will most likely go to a competitor with a better image. To protect your brand and image from any potential naysayers, online reputation management must continuously be on the front of your agenda. Businesses frequently perform keyword searches to determine what is being said about the company, while more advanced search engine optimization (SEO) techniques should be used to bump up sites with positive reviews.

Increased Brand Visibility

Achieving the top positions in the search engines has historically been a great way for businesses to achieve greater visibility; however, it is no longer enough. With social networks that carry millions of users, your companies must adapt to promote its brand on these channels as well. It is important to keep your social media sites frequently updated with relevant content because a neglected account is worse than no account at all. To determine post frequency, try experimenting with different numbers of posts and checking you feedback.

Brand Image

Complaints will happen, so be prepared in advance. Whether it is a complaint on your Facebook wall or on a third party reviews site, handle it with speed and care. Show good will to the customer and try to resolve the issue. Even if nothing can be done to please a specific customer, it is still in the best interest of your company and brand image to try and work things out. It shows other customers that you do care and are willing to resolve any problems. It is also a good practice to comment on positive reviews as well, thanking the customers for their patronage, which can build repeat customers and brand advocates.

As a member of the military, you may face many challenges when transitioning to a civilian role. Fortunately there are programs available to veterans to help you make the transition smooth and provide tools that will help you succeed. If you’re a service members interested in starting your own business, look into the available programs and keep in mind it is important to maintain your business’ reputation.

How Your Brand Can Frame “The Bigger Picture.”

Here’s the set-up: you’re an oil products supplier to a retailer whose end user is the general public.

At first glance you might not feel that the public at large is your audience so your branding needn’t concern them. That stance makes direct business sense, but not necessarily brand sense. Since you are involved in an industry laden with a plethora of chemicals and environmental compliances and your company’s end user deals with the general public, there are still brand opportunities that make good business sense to keep the general public on your radar even though they may not be a direct customer.

How? By providing your customer with a good sustainability story. If your business is 100% compliant and more, then he (your customer) can provide his customer with a great story to tell about their supplier.It shows a concern for the customer’s well being. Anything you can do to make your customer look golden is great for the relationship you are continually nurturing.

“The Bigger Picture” is the community in general. If your brand is a shining example of corporate responsibility, letting the world know about it brings your business a lot of attention. That attention is essentially a great brand story that attracts key employees and potential buyers and investors for your company. Ignoring the bigger picture keeps these people out of your loop.

As a part of any buying cycle, you must follow the money. Be forever aware of the general conversation within your industry, chances are everyone is talking the same story. Your brand should do what it can to change the conversation to a story that benefits you. Even if it seems like old news to you, there are many ways that you can use it to your benefit.

Branding is all about resonating with a customer and getting them to look at your business as THE leader. No matter where your business is located, everyone plays a part in their community. A brand is linked to community through a mutual pride among stake holders. Even sponsoring a junior ball team, tells local industry that it’s not all about money for you. Encouraging your employees to embrace volunteerism (even on company time) is an example of “Bigger Picture Branding.”

The bottom line is that you should take every opportunity to grow your brand in a positive light. Don’t you hold it back, there are enough barriers in the marketplace for that. Your brand is more far reaching than you might imagine. Even if you don’t see an immediate or direct return, keep an open mind and build an advantage for yourself.

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