Archives for February 2015

Using Segmentation Strategy to Connect With Your Customers on a Deeper Level

People want to be treated as individuals catering to their thoughts, beliefs, likes, dislikes and so on. Using mindset segmentation can help you create a stronger bond to your customers. You’ll get some great ideas to help you implement a strategy of your own from a recent post at MarketingProfs.com.

Using Segmentation Strategy to Connect With Your Customers on a Deeper Level-022715

Boost Your Business Intelligence

When running a small business you wear many hats. It can be a struggle to maintain and follow through on everything you need to do to grow your business. Here’s an infographic that provides you with some great information to increase your “business intelligence.”

BU-BusinessIntelligence-Is-Key

Boston University Online

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 Branding Debt Ratios are Determining Factors in Your Brand’s Success!

Over many years a business’s brand accumulates dreaded branding debt. The more branding debt accrued the bigger the challenge to come out from

The Branding experts, Branding Debt

The Branding experts, Branding Debt

under it’s weight and move your brand forward. The more branding debt you own the harder it is to differentiate yourself and grow your marketshare. If you haven’t figured it out yet, “Branding debt” is real and it’s damaging your company from the inside AND out. Branding debt is all the negative things that is dragging your company down.

Branding debt can include but is not limited to:

•Image inconsistencies.
How many times have you seen one sign on the building, another different one on a sign or vehicles, and yet another different logo on the web and stationery. An inconsistent identity confuses your customers. Sometimes it looks like entirely different companies.

•You’ve been reduced to a commodity.

You’ve aligned yourself so close to the sales leader in your category, you’ve reduced your brand to commodity – selling on price.

•Internal communications lacking.
You’ve allowed your staff to keep abreast of company news through the rumour mill. They hear directly from management so little, they’ve lost trust it what they say.

•Corporate culture.

The cultural well is poisoned. Staff are disenchanted with company direction and are hungry for solid leadership.

• You’re a follower brand.
Your brand follows at the heels of the competition falsely believing that if it’s good enough for them, who are you to change up things.

• Failure to engage the competition.

Your brand is lacking the confidence to stand for something, being content with the mediocre.

•What is your brand?

Failing to define your own brand and exploiting it’s uniqueness.

• False differentiation.
Failing to see the true differentiator, excepting that it is the low hanging fruit such as employees.

•Using a crutch.
Looking at a re-brand as changing the logo and slogan. Lipstick on a pig. These changes do nothing for the fundamental branding debt you are carrying.

•Paying down branding interest and hoping the branding debt principal will take care of itself.

This is a wish and a prayer. Succumbing to this strategy will send confusing messages to your stake holders.

•Lack of Confidence.
How many entrepreneurs don’t see themselves as the experts they are. They fail to center attention on their achievements and benefit from the attention.

•Discrepancies in brand values.
Not living up to your brand values or even compromising them adds to your branding debt.

Just like financial debt, branding debt is a liability. Knowing how much branding debt your company can withstand, will help you to determine what resources are needed to put your brand in a healthier position. Your branding debt ratio allows you to compare your debt to your branding assists. What items are contributing to the success of your brand and how much debt is holding it back. A brands goodwill is defined by its branding debt. Through proper analysis a bread with 10 brand assets and 4 brand liabilities could be said to have a branding debt ratio of 40%. This important ratio is the benchmark or limit that will allow your brand to thrive or suffer. The strength of your brand will best determine if a high ratio is sustainable or not. The stronger the brand the higher the branding debt ratio it can withstand. If the brand is weaker a lower branding debt ratio is all it could support. If the weaker brand has a high branding debt ratio then it is much harder to sustain negative market conditions and that results is a loss of market share. Branding debt ratios are common sense. The more things your brand is doing wrong directy infringes on its ability to succeed. More assets than debts means the brand could withstand some devastating blows that a weaker brand would succumb to. Like financial debt, branding debt is best when there is very little of it.

Reap the Benefits of Using The Cloud In Your Business

Running a small business has so many things to consider to be profitable. Keeping expenses down is just one of them. By using The Cloud rather than expensive hardware, you can save money by keeping your data in The Cloud which also allows you and your team to work together seamlessly on projects. These are just a couple things utilizing The Cloud can help you with, to learn more read How the Cloud is Reshaping Small Business Productivity.

Reap the Benefits of Using the Cloud in Your Business

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.

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