Use Big Business Branding for your Small Business Pt 2.

Marketing ChannelsIn our last post on Big Business Branding for small companies, we asked you to research your UVP (Unique Value Proposal), your current and future audience, and how you can solve their problems. Matching the answers to these questions to your Marketing Content, you now need to find the best ways to reach your audience; both existing customers and prospects.

Marketing Channels

What channels do your prospects use, and how can you get to them? What is the use of creating an incredible content and not have it seen? By finding out if it’s local print, TV and Radio, online, or ‘billboards’ in public signage, how do they find you? Spend your budget getting to your prospects in the areas they will see you easiest.

Even if they prefer sourcing and buying via referral, listen to what people are saying and where they are saying it. You will have to streamline your content to be broadcast over the channels that consistently bring you new people. Above all, remember that it not just “You are there and you are done with it”; you have to live there, you have to contribute, monitor, respond, and build trust. You have to make sure are along with them always.

Online this will mean the right web content, optimized for the right Search Engines, updated often, and always tailored to your audience and prospects. You can add Blog posts, Video and audio, updates, breaking news, pictures, and honest company news. Social media is great for this – get to the people that will require you in the future, interest them, and keep in touch.

Offline, this means understanding your prospect community and being a part of it: Charity events, seminars, and workshops. Sponsor other events, get to your audience where they live and work. Keep in mind that you have to solve the problem or you are just empty vessel making noise.

Measurement

How do you know if your branding campaigns are working? You need to monitor and measure your results. This isn’t so much setting goals, as understanding what analytics you are using, and growing them. If something isn’t working, find out why and move to others, or change your message.

Do your live events attract people? Has your website increased its traffic size? Do your social platforms show an increase in followers? Does your Newsletter or E-mail marketing show a larger and larger audience, or response rate?

So originate some rules for yourself to constantly monitor your Branding efforts: Look at your target audience. Is it right? Does your message match it? Have you found your Ideal Customer? Does your content excite these people? Does it change, and is it updated often enough? Does it match your marketing channels, and is it being received?

Your written material could be the greatest Ad Copy ever, but if it doesn’t match the channel you are using, it is useless. Look at the market leaders in your industry, and parse what they are saying, and where.

Finally, test out different messages on different platforms in different ways at different times of the year, to find out which ones work best, to whom, at what time, and through which avenue. It’s only when you find out the best possible match between Prospect pool, message and channel that you will truly discover the best message – and THAT is your brand.

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Use Big Business Branding for your Small Business Pt 1.

business brandingThe American Marketing Association (AMA) defines a brand as a “name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers.”

But, I hear you saying, isn’t this just for major Corporations that have a Marketing department, and the time to take time considering what their Brand is? No, it’s for every business of any size, and how they communicate with their own audience. The earlier in your businesses’ life that you can uniquely help someone, the sooner you will be looking at business spread and growth. Any business can dominate their community, but it takes some work from someone that completely understands their business to do it. In a small business, that person is probably you.

Start the process into ‘finding your brand’, by asking yourself the following questions: Who you are?  How are you different from others? Who is your community? How do you help solving your communities’ problem?

Your Community

Knowing your target Community is the most vital part of your branding process, if we ignore this we will never reach our target audience. Here are the questions you need to answer about your prospects:

Where are they?

How will you reach each other: Phone, website, social, mobile, or email?

What is the problem what you can solve for them?

Content

Content is very important, as Content is going to talk for you every day. Content should be created/marketed as it builds awareness of your Service, and trust in you as a person and your company.

It also creates fans of what you do. Fans come back over and over again, and they evangelize for you with other prospects. In essence, they become an unpaid part of your sales and marketing force. Word-of-Mouth marketing is the most important type of Advertising there is, so work hard on discovering how you deliver a message to your fans that they will repeat to others.

Most important of all, your marketing effort/strategy runs on content. Plan five or six steps ahead, and ensure that the content you deliver consistently telegraphs your core message. In our next post on ‘Big Business Branding, we will investigate your choice of Marketing channels and how to make the most of them and measure your ongoing successes. Before then, however, start your Branding Campaigns by answering the preceding questions, and make some educated guesses on how your business would benefit from the Big Business approach.

Keyword Listening – Predict the Future, and Sell your Business

keyword-research-toolsHow can you become a trusted information source? Or, become one of those bloggers that appear to know trends before anyone else?  How do they get their information? If you are trying to become a source of new information for online prospects, then you have to say something that no-one else knows – or hasn’t figured out yet. Try a neat trick called Keyword Listening.

Keyword Listening is a buzzword or phrase that suddenly becomes hot, and everyone wants to coat-tail onto its popularity. It could be predictable, like time of year, or a sudden pop-culture phenomenon (Remember Tebow-ing?), that turns into a trend.

If you think that something has legs, grab that keyword for your website before anyone else does and the stampede turns up its competition, and its cost. Adding these organically into your articles and blogs will rank your site higher because there is little or no competition, and when everyone catches up, you will remain on top because you have been there the longest

Predicting keyword interest is more than staring into a crystal ball. Make it part of your daily marketing background work to add such trends into a Word document or spreadsheet. If they have anything to do with your niche, you want to be on top of it. If you come up with an elegant way to harness a cultural point with or business, then save it. Right now, Hurricanes threaten the Caribbean and the US’s Southern coast. In turn, this has heightened interest in everyone’s safety from sudden, destructive natural phenomena. Is there a way that you can utilize your business messages into that? The key is to get your version of the keyword out in public as soon as you can.

See what I did, there? I already know the trend, and have added it into my blog post – and into my keywords when I post it.

However, don’t rely on anyone else to tell you what is trending, because if you can read it, others will, too. Try to get in when there is a dip (before a keyword is in demand) by using ‘Google Trends’ to gauge the ongoing popularity of a keyword over time: https://trends.google.com/trends/

Subscribe to a wide variety of news and social outlets, and follow your audience. Are they thinking about the economy, finance, etc., and will these subjects impact your niche?  If your audience wants something (e.g., answers, solutions, products, services, etc.), someone is going to eventually deliver it. What is your audience asking? Check their questions for keywords and provide answers.
Spot buzzwords and use them before they’re hot and you’ll capitalize on the traffic wave as they start to become more widely used. Target both long and short-tail keywords for the trend. As the trend begins, search users may not know exactly what they’re looking for yet and benefit from short-tail keywords. As the trend heats up, your audience will branch out to more specific queries and your long-tail keywords will garner more interest.

It’s all to do with listening and realising that if two people are talking about something, and it has been on TV, others are about to start, too.

What the Hashtag is this? Part Two – What’s trending?

hash-tag2Now that you have a ‘handle’ on what a Hashtag is and what it can do, it’s important to know the differences between them, and how it can help your own small business marketing.

The #Brand Hashtag:

A brand hashtag is a way for users to let the social community know what they think about your company. Instead of just sending you a message, they’re speaking to their followers and other users who look for tagged posts. These are very useful, so it’s worth creating one for your business. You can build a discussion around your brand, encouraging the online community to learn more about your products and services while promoting them. Ideally, consumers will also follow links you share. Those using the hashtag will also draw attention to their posts, possibly earning more followers. You can also use it to run a promotional contest. For example, the person who creates the most-shared post using your hashtag will win a prize at the end of each month. Just watch engagement steadily rise!

The ‘Trending’ #Hashtag.

The dream of everyone that writes online is to be responsible for a ‘trending’ piece. When many users pass on messages online by using a trending’ hashtag, it’s spread is sudden, and wide enough to make the list of trending trending topics on each site. Now, complete strangers, and those that never shared your original content amplify the message to even more strangers. You can suddenly gain Millions of users.

Of course, you can also help the spread of existing trending topics. Twitter’s left sidebar display trends, and Facebook ‘s top-right corner shows their most popular trends. By entering the conversation, you are opening your invitation list to huge numbers of people that didn’t know you before then. Of course, when you see a trend that relates to your business, jump into it with relevant content. Your audience potential is limitless and, if that post is witty, original or informative, the shares it generates will further boost impressions and comments.

The #Chat Hashtag

Popular on Twitter, chat hashtags are a popular way to discuss a topic with users who are interested in the subject matter. There are many industry- and audience-specific chat hashtags. A quick search using key terms should reveal one. We suggest  using https://top-hashtags.com/ to see the most popular hashtags on any given subject.

Imagine twitter charts during live sporting events, or TV Reality shows. It’s ‘live’ appeal makes it a wonderful magnet for tweeters to agree – or fight with – like-minded individuals that may live in a completely different geographic location to them. You could start your own chat, promote it, and give your brand more exposure. A tip, though, is to make sure the hashtag is short. Encouraging meaningful conversation is important, remember Twitter’s 140-character limit, and leave everyone enough space.

A popular chat hashtag appealing to a lot of people, mean that an audience is already established and waiting to talk.  People want to talk about topics they’re passionate about, so Twitter chats can give you access to a receptive audience. Contributing to a Twitter chat using a chat hashtag is a way of informing them about your ideas, as well as your products or services, demonstrate your expertise on relevant topics, and spark meaningful conversations.

There are many more hashtags, too: Those that reflect content, and are calls to action. By using the right kind of hashtag for your purpose, and when you identified the right time, you can attract many more prospects to your business. Do some research on how household names, or giants in your own business niche, use hashtags, and join in with the crowds!

What the Hashtag is this? Part One

hashtagIf you are confused by the entire ‘Hashtag’ culture of tagging pictures and quotes online in order to promote yourself, you can help your business by thinking more about them than simply casually plugging them into your tweets and posts. Purposeful hashtag marketing can boost impressions, make your content more searchable and encourage users to talk about your brand.

A great resource to investigate is https://top-hashtags.com/ . With this tool you can not only find hashtags that are already in use, but also find the most popular ones online, both overall, and in business niches.

Chances are that you want to steer clear of the ‘Branded Hashtags’ that the giant companies’ marketing campaigns use, unless you feel that you can use it to promote your own business successfully. While you can piggyback on all well-known hashtag phrases, this won’t guarantee a big following.  However, you can use your own branded message to promote your own brand. As with all marketing, it is best to create your own then see how you can leverage what is already online. Let’s look at an example:

If you own a small shoe store in Fort Worth, you can market on Social Media by highlighting who you are what you do and where you do business. When starting Pinterest or Instagram campaigns, for instance – great ways to show graphic attractive representations of your goods or services, a couple of checks through Top Hashtags show you more creative marketing options.

Entering Top ‘shoes’ requests for hashtags, show the following post numbers:

1 #shoes 58.36M  2 #flatshoes 3.798M    3 #instashoes 3.121M    4#newshoes 2.184M

5 #flatshoesmurah 1.969M    6 #shoestagram 1.858M    7#shoesoftheday 1.498M

8#nikeshoes 1.370M

Obviously, if you stock Flat Shoes (Or have a special price on them for a while.), or Nike Shoes, you have a built in global audience for them. #ShoesOfTheDay would be very cool ‘loss leaders’ for driving interest to your other stock.  Instagram-only special pricing would be a great fit for both #Instashoes and #Shoestagram hashtags. Whichever ways you want to use these figures, you can see the benefit of using these hashtags instead of a brand tag that you create. How about the city where you are doing business?

Top ‘Fort Worth’ hashtags along with post Numbers:

1 #forth 45.34K 2 #worth 789.2K

Obviously, these figures are much smaller, but definitely show some interest in the area where you are doing business. You could add one of the Shoes result hashtags from above to one of these to grow your local audience. Additionally, by looking at the top 10 hashtags overall, you can find some very interesting ideas:

1 #love 1.069B   2 #instagood 584.5M   3 #photooftheday 414.0M

4 #beautiful 384.9M   5 #fashion 375.0M   6 #tbt 369.8M 7 #happy 366.6M

8 #cute 363.1M   9 #followme 334.7M   10 #like4like 323.9M

Obviously, any combination of three hashtags from these lists has some incredible numbers attached to them.  ‘Cute Shoes in Worth’ garners built-in interest figures of almost 500 million posts, boosting your geographic prospect area’s numbers. Just 1% of these along with an engaging picture and copy would result in some great visitor figures, and possible store visits.

Encourage your followers to use them as well. This way, they’ll have a clear method of sharing posts with you and others interested in your company’s products or services. The online community will also know how to find content about your brand.

This is really just scratching the surface of Hashtag Marketing. In the post, we’ll be addressing some more ideas on how you can spread the word about your business using the ubiquitous hashtag.

‘Going Viral’ Mysteries revealed

Viral MarketingEveryone would love their message to become an internet ‘star’, and have their words and pictures to be an online darling, but is it possible, or do you have to be a ‘Grumpy Cat’ in order to do it? Is it purely by accident, or is there a formula to “virality”?

There IS a formula, but it takes the assistance if a lot of people that you don’t know, and Google. Some forethought also helps, and setting up a promotional avenue ahead of time just in case it happens, and you need it is also a good set of keywords. To have all of these checklists going at the same time sounds like a lot of work for a hope that something will happen at some time, but the spin-offs could be immense.

Firstly, you need to write for Google, and not your readers. This doesn’t mean keyword stuffing or any of the tired old tricks that ‘The Big G’ has already outlawed, it simply means an understanding of what Google is looking for, and to write your headlines along those lines. The body of your post should also feature its copy laid out in a certain way, so this is another reason to perform random Google searches and read the posts that are the most popular – whether they are from professional journalists, or talented amateurs.

Secondly, you need perfect timing. This is more art than science, but you need to be talking about a subject at the exact same time that a lot of other people are. It’s tough to be ahead of the curve with this, but your posts so far have been (hopefully) different from what is already out there, so you are accustomed to being different, now you have to be the same, but slightly ahead of everyone else. This is simply a case of being aware of what is probably being written and doing something different.

Finally, you need to be part of communities that will voluntarily spread the word on your behalf. This means continually searching the ‘net for groups, communities, and other gatherings that talk about your subject.

A few years ago, a blog I was writing went viral. By that I mean my usual readership of 50 – 60 hits per day suddenly grew to over 5,000 visits in a 24 hour period. Wow! I picked up more friends, +1’s, followers and likes than at any other time. How? Well, luck was involved: I was working in an industry that had millions of fanatical followers across the globe. A famous international incident happened one day before I was due to write a post. Thanks to inside information concerning the industry (Not the incident in question.), and at least part of my mind being on what I was going to write in my next blog post – which was timed for the next day – the proverbial light-bulb went on, and I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

I was working outside of the North American and European markets at the time, so I wrote, edited, and posted it in what was overnight in those geographic areas. Then I forwarded the post to a well-known Message Board Community that printed my writing on an ongoing basis. The next day, I had thirty minutes to spare, so I shared my newest post on all of my social media platforms.

By this time, the message board had posted my blog, and it was a huge hit, because for many people it as the first place they turned to get the information they wanted at the exact morning they wanted it – Message Board members tend to believe each other, rather than news outlets for gigantic news like this. Of course, they shared it with others not in the message board, and then my social posts were shared almost simultaneously by my friends outside of the industry.

I realized later that I had written my headline, and had lines within my copy that exactly mirrored the phrase that millions of other people used for Google searches that day to find more information on this exact subject, so Google thought that – as my use of these keywords were among the first printed on the web on this subject –  it MUST be the most popular place where people got their information, and I became an instant expert. This is what I mean about thinking along the same lines as Google: Think ; “how would people search for this”, and write those words in that order three or four times in your post, and especially in your headline and title tags.

It only lasted one day, but you can imagine that the amount of people that became followers of mine could become life-long followers if you continue to prove that you are an expert. Do you want to do all of this to ‘go viral’? Well, that isn’t the point. Do you want a lot of people to read what you say? Do you want to grow your popularity? Well, be ahead of the curve, lay traps in places where people who want to read your prose are likely to find it, and write it for Google’s bots. You will get lucky occasionally, and that means more people listening to you.

‘Tis the Season – Planning the Year ahead

meetingIn a few weeks it is Easter – the first ‘major’ holiday week of the year. While everyone is looking to some well-earned time off it is the perfect time for the small business owner to do some long-term planning. After all, everyone has a broken work schedule for the week, and possibly next, too. While everyone is relaxed, and can think in a much more expansive way, it’s time to call a Planning Meeting. By programming these during the four major Holiday weeks: Easter, July 4, Thanksgiving and Christmas you will be able to gather everyone’s thoughts on planning for the next quarter, what has worked in the last and long term planning for the next year.

While this sounds like a reason for an argumentative free-for-all, some simple planning steps on your behalf can smooth the way, and ensure that everyone is thinking of the Business, and not just their role in it. The result may also mean actioning ideas that will further engage employees to the business, because you will be auctioning ideas that they feel is theirs.

Whether you are able to make this an entire ‘round-table’ day of planning, or a series of one-on-one interviews the overall path is the same: This is your chance to think in a Macro fashion about what is happening – in turn it makes all of the Micro decisions you have to make on a daily basis much easier to understand and track. It also sets up a planning calendar where you can measure progress and results of all initiatives, be they one quarter in length, or tailored for annual outcomes.

This is your day to ask ‘Where are we,  What if, and Why not’ – or perhaps just ‘Why’! Don’t worry about tough questions, new opportunities, and embrace changes, but be prepared to leave with a list of jobs, priorities, course changes and equipment requests that will probably change what you are doing right now, and how. It may even change your company’s future! It may be one of the most exciting and exhausting days of your year, but it’s a practice that we suggest every business, no matter the size, commit to doing.

Here are a few suggestions for you to use as a starting point that will help all businesses become more efficient and profitable:

Fewer Priorities

The amount of small details we have to deal with onside a business culture can lead to ‘Paralysis by Analysis’. Identify no more than three priority objectives for the year that result in you aiming higher and stop sending time on low priorities.

Embrace Results

Tracking results for ongoing projects can easily be sidetracked. By creating a list of “what we gain” if we win and by contrast “what is costs” if we lose, we create the motivation to overcome distractions and stay focused on results that matter.

Commit to Change

Strategy without change is worthless. If you ask “What needs to change in order for us to actually do this?” the answer will be a simple Yes or No.

Create Owners

Every objective will naturally spin off a list of projects: The things that need to be done, the new products, the new positions, or the new processes. Identify these projects and assigning an owner to each. After all, this was introduced by someone – at least in part –  so make them the one that cares the most about the project and carries the responsibility of moving it forward.

Focus on High Payoff

Identify the highest payoff work for everyone in the organization. This is how you properly assign tasks, and stay focused on what matters most. The three or four high payoff tasks will differ for everyone in the organization, but they become a “go to” as you plan ahead Quarterly and Yearly.

The One Page Plan

Finally, take our goals you need to reach and projects that all have identified to reach them, and align them on one page each in support of the proper top-line objective. Assign each project an owner and charge that person with assembling the team, resources and plan for tackling the project related tasks.

When it comes to keeping our entire business focused on what matters most this is the most important day our organization has in search of day-to-day alignment and focus. Take those broken weeks of holiday work, and ignite your business with simple, clean planning tasks that will move your business forward and engage your workforce.