Archive for August, 2013

Authored by:

Paul Dunay

I had a chance to sit down with Porter Gale former VP of Marketing for Virgin America and author of the new bookYour Network is Your Net Worth to discuss some of the topics that you will see at the Social Shake-Up Conference. The following is a transcript of our conversation. Enjoy!

SMT:   Talk a little bit about the role that networking plays in today’s economy.

PG:     Networking is more and more important because the world is getting smaller and smaller.  What I mean by that is that in the past we were six degrees of separation apart.  But now because of technology, we’re three or four degrees apart.  So what’s happening with the economy is that more and more jobs are being filled through internal referrals, and internal connections.  We’re also seeing a lot of decision-making processes in purchase decisions that are being influenced by shared connections.  So it’s really important now with the world of having an online and an offline brand to really think about the power of your network and how it can impact your success and your happiness.

SMT:   Why is it so hard for some people to do networking?  What’s holding them back?

PG:     A lot of people actually think of networking with kind of a negative connotation.  Maybe the word “schmoozing” might be one that people associate with it.  Other people are just fearful about meeting new people. What I’ve recommended to people is instead of thinking of it as a transaction where you’re just trying to get tons of business cards out into the marketplace, think of it as authentic, transformational relationships.  Go for quality relationships over quantity and try to connect with people that share your passions and values.  When you do that, you’re going to have a more successful and a more enjoyable time networking.

SMT:   Do you have any advice to individuals who are just starting out and building their network?

PG:     I advise for a new person who’s entering the job market is there is no better time to start building your network than now.  It’s the relationships that you are creating now through internships or job experiences.  There was a quote by Steve Jobs in his famous Stamford speech where he said you can’t connect the dots until you look back.  So I really encourage people now to get out and network at events that are relevant to their industry, to keep researching, and try to figure out who the influencers are in their category, and dive in and try to get connected in the industry that you’re interested in.

SMT:   What role is social media playing in all this networking?

PG:     Social media has changed the way that we network because, again, we have both an online and an offline persona now.  Social media has accelerated the way that we connect.  It’s given us the ability to connect with people online that we might not have been able to reach before.  Time and time again you hear stories of people connecting with a CEO on Twitter or a sports figure.  So it’s reduced the separation between contacts.

And then it’s also increased our “circle of empathy”.  Steven Pinker who has done a lot of research in this space found that in the past, we had probably 10 to 15 people in our core circle.  But now with social media, we have about 150 people that are in our networks at any given time.  So it’s increased our circle of empathy. James Fowler also did some research on this – that people can actually feel waves of emotion going through their social networks.  So for example, recently there was a gentleman from NPR that was sharing about his mother passing away through Twitter.  Obviously, people that were reading his tweets could feel emotion, sentiment, and thoughts for him. So social media has accelerated, amplified, and it’s really brought connecting to a new level and made it a global playing field.

SMT:   So is there a right way to use social media in order to network?

PG:     Yes, there are a couple of principles that I believe.  One is to first of all figure out what you’re trying to accomplish and what you care about.  Just like a brand would go through the steps of figuring out their mission, I think people need to think about what kind of personality they’re trying to build online.

For example, if you’re interested in country music, you might be tweeting and posting about country music.  If you’re interested in sports and fitness, you might be tweeting about that.  So talk about the things that you care about and you’re passionate about.

I also recommend focusing in on a couple of social media sites instead of spreading yourself too thin.  For example, Instagram would be good for someone who’s trying to communicate very visual messages.  Facebook might be good for a small business that’s trying to have some interesting connection and engagement with their audience.  Again, go for quality over quantity.

Another thing that’s important is use social media without expecting anything in return.  So you need to be using it and not expecting a tweet or a retweet for every one of your actions.  You’re using it to communicate value to a community.  And make sure what you’re putting out there isn’t just spam.  You don’t want to overwhelm people with posts where they’re going to start unfollowing you.

SMT:   Do you recommend any technologies to help organize your networking efforts?

PG:     There are so many apps and so many different ways to organize your online networking that, first of all, I would recommend doing some research based on what you’re trying to find.  For basic things like business cards, some people use CardMunch or shoebox.com to make sure that you’re tracking your contacts.

If you’re trying to minimize the amount of time on social sites, using a platform like HootSuite or something that integrates your posts across platforms is really important.  There are also apps like Here On Biz that you can put on your smartphone now where it integrates into your LinkedIn data, and you can use it when you’re traveling and it will show you if people in your network are in nearby locations.  There are apps like Evernote and Dropbox the list goes on and on and on.  But definitely leverage technology to enhance your networking.

SMT:   Will you be speaking at the Social Shake-Up event?

PG:     Yes, I am speaking at the Social Shake-Up, and I’m very excited about it.  In fact, I’ll be talking about my new book, Your Network is Your Net Worth. And I believe all attendees also will be getting a free copy of the book. I think it’s going to be a really fun and engaged event, and I’m really looking forward to being there.

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Authored by:

Kate Rose

What are Vine and Instagram?

instagramThey’re relatively new content creation platforms which are almost entirely visual.Instagram offers both still photograph and short video capability, while Vine is video only.

They’re both arguably social media sites in their own right, in that users create standalone accounts and can interact directly with one another. However, they’re most commonly used in conjunction with one of the bigger sites like Twitter or Facebook; so users who have already built up substantial networks on those sites can share content without having to build up a “new” following. They are also predominately in use as mobile apps rather than desktop websites.

Vine is actually owned by Twitter. Instagram used to be closely integrated with Twitter – for example,  a Tweet which included an Instagram image would show the image when viewed through Twitter.com, without the user having to click a link and load a separate page. Earlier this year, Twitter decided to launch their own Instagram-like functionality however, and to change their code so that only “their” images would be embedded in this way. Presumably that may also be linked to Instagram’s recent decision to launch short video clip functionality, putting them in direct competition with Vine.

What’s the attraction?

In the case of Instagram, it basically boils down to: making your life or brand look cooler!

The main feature of the App is an extensive set of “retro style” filters and image editing capabilities, to be used on images you’ve snapped on your smartphone.

When Instagram launched, these capabilities were really revolutionary, allowing users to have the kind of control over how their images looked which had previously only been available to photographers with sophisticated software like Photoshop.

The attraction of Vine is perhaps a little less obvious, but possibly more addictive once sampled. The App allows you to create short video clips of just a few seconds long, but the creation tool allows the user to stop and start recording many times within that period, which means you can make animation or stop motion content. It may not seem that great an idea initially, but there are some amazingly creative users out there making highly engaging content.

Who’s using them?

At a fairly recent count (July 2013), Instagram has 130 million registered users. In August Vine had just 40 million. However Vine came along much more recently, and it’s likely that their user base will continue to grow more quickly than Instagram’s – that 40 million figure represents a tripling of their user base from just a few months previously.

In terms of who those users are, there is little detailed demographic data BUT, the fact that they are mobile-only Apps is going to immediately exclude those demographics who don’t use Smartphones – predominantly the older age groups. Although Instagram has a desktop site now, there is no such equivalent for Vine; if you come across Vine-generated content on Twitter, like this:

Vine on Twitter

actually clicking on the link takes you to what is effectively a holding page inviting you to “install the app”. If you are viewing from a Smartphone with the Vine app installed, it’ll work. Otherwise, it won’t. This is the biggest and most obvious limitation of creating Vine content at the moment; although it is also possible to embed the content in a website, there will be many active social media users who don’t have Vine and so won’t be able to see it.

Are Vine and Instagram business tools?

Yes, they most certainly can be. Some big consumer brands wanting to take advantage of access to the younger, trend-aware market jumped on Instagram very enthusiastically; Starbucks is a notable example, creating beautiful images themselves but also actively encouraging others to contribute their coffee-themed snaps. US Interiors firm Homegoods is taking a similar approach.

But really, any business can use Instagram to build deeper connections with their customers, for example by providing insights into what staff actually *do* on a daily basis. It’s fun, it’s quick and it’s easy – but you do need to apply slightly better quality control standards to your images than the average user, in order to keep it reasonably professional!

Vine’s big strength is in showing off visual content where movement is important – for example, a short video clip might show off a clothing retailer’s dress far better than a simple still. But there are also businesses using Vine in really creative ways, such as Natwest using it as part of their customer service strategy.

Authored by:

Shannon Willoby

What’s “pulling a Miley”? Well, it’s an attempt at rebranding that has gone very, very, wrong.

I’m sure you’ve seen the new and not-so-improved Miley Cyrus since she’s, unavoidably, been everywhere – on our radios, in our Twitter streams, and traumatizing our eyes with a VMA performance comparative to that of a D-list stripper on her first day on the job.

Rebranding Miley Cyrus Style

From fresh-faced teen star to tongue-wagging train wreck, Miley’s failed attempt at rebranding has just about twerked herself right out of a legitimate career. Learn how you can rebrand your business without “Pulling a Miley.”

What makes her rebrand so shocking? She went from a fresh-faced-family-friendly actress (who made millions off of her legions of devoted Disney-loving fans) to some kind of tongue-wagging-train-wreck version of her former self whom her fans can barely recognize.

And guess what? Her rebrand hasn’t received quite the favorable response she was hoping for. In fact, people are reacting with a whole lot of confusion and a little bit of terror at her drastic transformation.

Still, as your business and/or your personal brand develops and grows, it’s natural that the time may come when a minor – or major – rebrand is necessary. But how can you do it without pulling a Miley?

A rebrand is possible without alienating and confusing your current customers with some kind over-the-top change that shocks your audience. Check out the great tips below that’ll help you pull off a successful rebrand campaign — all while keeping your tongue in your mouth the entire time.

Plan It Out

Before you make any changes to your brand, whether personal or business, you need to come up with a strong, detailed plan, says Christian Muller for Big Girl Branding.

“If your campaign is not thoroughly planned out in advance, you could end up throwing something together, which could cause confusion among your current and potential customers. If [that were to happen] you could end up losing your client base,” warns Christian.

Christian advises that before you begin to create your new image, you should take a thorough look at your company and seriously consider how you want to be perceived not only by your current customers, but your potential customers, and others in the industry.

You should also predetermine what elements of your brand you are going to change, whether it’s your logo, company’s goals, message, culture, or all of it.

If you want to know what happens when you don’t plan out your rebrand attempt, just take a good look at Miley, mindlessly twerking herself right out of a legitimate career.

Don’t Overdo It

Rebranding tips

Shocking your audience isn’t usually the goal of a successful rebranding campaign.

Maybe your fans aren’t connecting with your conservative brand and you think by spicing things up you’re going to finally win them over. This may be true, but if you’re heading in a completely different direction than you were before, it’s also a very risky move to make.

Instead of just going all balls-to-the-wall with your rebranding, why not make slow, subtle changes to see if your current audience reacts favorably first. This could be mixing in some controversial topics on your blog, switching up the language used in your social media posts to show a slightly edgier, lighthearted side to your brand, or taking a more fun, informal tone with your email marketing.

If you notice that your audience seems to dig the changes, then you might want to consider taking it further. What you have to remember is this: If your audience doesn’t like the brand you’ve developed – or the one you change it to – you’re not going to be successful. Being mindful of what they respond to, and what they don’t, is going to be key to retaining your current customers and gaining new ones.

Miley can definitely be used as a cautionary tale of what happens when you overdo a rebranding attempt. Yes, people are talking about her, but as we know, all press isn’t good press. More than that though, people are laughing at this new “edgy” brand she’s created for herself but instead of listening to what her audience is saying, she just keeps taking it further.

Don’t let your brand become a joke. Change can be a good thing but creating some kind of shock-jock brand will not lead you down the path toward a strong, lasting business.

Give Your Customers a Heads-Up

A very important part of your campaign is letting your customers know that change is coming. Christian from Big Girl Branding agrees. “You cannot simply rebrand your company and throw it out in the world without any explanation or forewarning, as this too can cause (major) confusion among your customer base.” (Read: Rebranding Miley Cyrus-style.)

Here’s how to ensure you have a smooth rebranding process according to Lauren Drell from Mashable:

  • “Send an honest, heartfelt message to your customers/users/subscribers explaining the rebrand, why it came about, and what this means for the company and for the consumers.
  • “Promise (and mean it) that there will be no adverse effects on customer service or product quality and reiterate how important your extant fans are.
  • “Be responsive and receptive to complaints and feedback that come your way.
  • “Your customers come first and need to be treated well in order to adapt to the rebrand.”

Rebrand Like a Pro – No Twerking Necessary

Since every company is different, it’s hard to generalize what will work for one and what won’t work for another during a rebranding campaign. Still, be very careful when deciding to make a drastic change as this is when things get extra risky. However, if you have a good reason for the changes, communicate this to your current customers, and you should be able to retain their business.

It’s also important to note that you aren’t ever going to be able to please everyone. There’s always going to be someone who doesn’t approve of the new brand you’ve created for your business – and that’s OK. What’s not OK is recklessly changing a brand without knowing if your audience wants or is even ready for a change.

By doing your homework and thinking logically and logistically about your campaign, you’ll be able to rebrand like a pro without pulling a Miley – no twerking necessary.

Have any tips on how to avoid rebranding Miley Cyrus-style? Share below!

 

Authored by:

Chris Street

One of the best ways to get the best results from social media marketing is by utilising the vast amount of useful resources available online – from bloggers, industry websites, other competitors, and resource-based infosites.

But, as with all marketing, the best returns come from taking action and doing it – social media marketing is, after all, experiential. It’s only by rolling up the sleeves and making consistent effort toengage via social media that worthwhile results follow.

_DSC5573.JPG

However, one of the problems with so much information available online regarding effective social media marketing means that one of the biggest challenges for many is actually getting started, and making a significant start to their social media and blogging.

With this in mind, here’s my top six tips for hassle-free social media marketing:

* Keep it simple

My favourite social media all-stars are the folk who manage to effortlessly engage in their own style, in their own time, and with a voice all of their own. For me, keeping it simple is all about retaining a unique voice online.

* Keep it real

There are so many blogs, social media profiles, and an increasing amount of white noise online, that keeping it real is critical. By being true to your own offline style, you’ll also stand out when it comes tosocial media marketing, too.

* Keep it timely

Time is the biggest gift we have to give, and social media engagement can be time-consuming. Free up your time by looking at social media management platforms to save time. My favourite isHootSuite Pro.

* Keep it focused

Retaining focus is crucial with social media marketing. There are lots of chattering, random and ineffective profiles out there – don’t become one of them. Use marketing tools such as Lead Forensics to pinpoint who to target with your social content.

* Keep it engaging

Social media marketing needs to engage, to engage well, and to engage often. The attention span of your target audience is vastly reduced online, so step up your game and keep them coming back. A blog really delivers the goods.

* Keep it integrated

Effective social media marketing should be integrated with the rest of your marketing. Consider linking up your social media engagement with everything you do, such as a monthly EnewsletterTry Madmimi.com for seamless integration.

Posted by: Julie Hall – Editor in ArticlesJulie’s BlogMarketing

Commenting on blog posts is a great way to build natural links back to your own website and start to build relationships with other bloggers … And you may have noticed that some people have their pictures next to their comments, and some people don’t.  Those pictures are called a Gravatar image.  Gravatar images can be a great way to make your comment stand out and also are a useful relationship building tool if you are active on social media.

Setting up your Gravatar image

Thankfully Gravatar’s are really easy to set up.  You can have a gravatar that reflects your brand, like we have one that uses the four circles of the Women Unlimited logo or you can have one that is a picture of you or you can have one that is more abstract.

Given a choice, I would recommend using a photo of yourself, but do think it is also valid to use a brand icon image for your gravatar.  If you are active in social media, your photo can become very recognisable and it is useful to use the same image every time.  So using the same photo on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Google Plus means that every time someone sees it, they will recognise that it is you.

A gravatar is attached to your email address.  So when you leave a comment, you will need to put in the email address that you set up the gravatar on.  You can attach other email addresses and you can also set up separate avatars for different email addresses (which is what you would do if you wanted to have a brand based gravatar image plus a personal gravatar image).

You create your gravatar image by visiting en.gravatar.com

Create your gravatar step by step

 

Step 1: Enter your email address that you want to attach your gravatar image to.

Get started with your gravatar image

Step 2: The system will send you an email to confirm… Click on the link to confirm

gravatarconfirmation

Step 3: Finish completing all the details including selecting a username.

create your gravatar image account

Step 4: Select My Account and Manage My Gravatars

Gravatar image website

Step 5: Select the email address you want to use or add a new one

uploadgravatar

Step 6: Choose where you would like to upload your gravatar image from

selectgravatar

Step 7: Adjust your gravatar image until it is just right

adjust gravatar image until it is just right

Step 8: Test your gravatar is working properly by adding a comment

testgravatar

Hurray! It’s worked

seegravatar

So now I would like you to go and create your gravatar and leave a comment below so we can see it action.

 

Posted by: Keren Lerner in ArticlesBusiness skillsRunning your business

Your website. That all important representation of you, on the web. I bet there are things you would like to change about it if you could. If you had the budget, or the time, or you could just do it yourself quickly, wave a magic website wand – you would go and tweak and fix a whole load of little niggly things that are bugging you.

Some websites are really bad – so bad I would put them in a box labelled “lost causes” or better yet, take them off the internet so no one else’s eyes need to bleed again.

In these cases, you should really just start again with a fresh new site (and put up a nice clean holding page instead for now). You need to be honest with yourself if this is the case for you. It’s often more expensive to try to fix a badly built or badly designed website than it is to redo it – in the long run. As my mom says – “cheap is expensive”.

But I just wanted to give you some tips on things you could do to improve what you have, even if you have a limited time. You will have to do it eventually, so may as well schedule an hour in your diary and sit down with yourself, your website, and a cup of tea (or coffee, or a smoothie, or sparkling water).

Ready? Here we go, a meeting with your website

Remember the website is a key component of your business marketing – a central focus point and the hub of your business online. This is where your social media activities will lead back to. The tips that follow are all easy tips – so the idea is they will make a difference but won’t take a lot of time to implement. See how useful I am being already?

1. Those leading headlines

Does your homepage clearly state what you are all about? Is it clear what you do? Instead of using a generic headline like “Welcome to our website” try coming up with a clear headline – helping your audience (solve a problem) (in a unique way). Or, use the headline to ask a question that speaks to your audience. Some examples, and for the purpose of these 2 examples I am going to use a career consultancy company:

“Helping women get back to work after a break.”

“Are you ready to get back to work?”

These clear headlines help reinforce what the company does. Headlines are important everywhere – so try to use great headlines all over the place. Like in the About page, you could have “About Us” or something like “A team that really cares about our clients”. Write something that is meaningful so people scanning the site can get some real key messages. Check all pages, and see where you could add or improve the headlines.

2. Images – are you loving them?

Whatever images you are using, they should not be any of these things:

Cheesy, bad quality or broken.

Check through your site and make sure the images are looking amazing. Images should add impact to the site. People should look at the site and tell you, “I love the images on your site!” You should look at your site and go, “I love the images on my site!”

Be critical, and if there is an image you aren’t sure of, look for replacements. You aren’t allowed to just go into Google Images and take images from there – that’s stealing.

Be sure that whatever you use as images, they are licensed to you – and that they come from a photo library like Istockphoto.com or Dreamstime.com – or they are your own images (taken of your business venue or people).

If you aren’t sure if your images are cheesy, just email me and I will have a look for you!

3. Write a snagging list – as if you are writing a brief

For this you will need to open up a document, or a draft email, and start making notes there. Look at the website, and go through it, page by page, write clearly what you see that needs changing. Write it as if you are writing a brief, as if this will be sent to whoever is going to fix these things for you. Speak visually so you can point out WHERE you mean – eg “Services: on the top right hand side, under the image, please change the caption to read, “A picture of a Billy the man and his dog Frank” instead of “Man with dog”.

Then split this list into what you think are “easy” changes and “harder” changes. Maybe if you aren’t experienced in the world of changing websites you might not be sure, but text changes are really easy, and swapping pictures is easy, but changing the design/layout is harder. Fixing errors on form submissions or on e-commerce parts of the website, is usually more time-consuming and therefore usually more expensive to fix.

Once you have the final clear snagging list, or wish list, email it to a website design company or whoever did your website initially, and let them know what you can afford to spend now.

They can then let you know what items in your list are possible to fix now within your budget, and quote for the remaining changes. Then you can decide what to do next.

There you go – 3 actionable positive steps – progress towards a better website.

That’s it. Hopefully you feel better. At least you have made positive steps to improve your site – making the headlines more meaningful, the images more impactful and a writing a coherent brief you can ask someone to follow, to fix those snags and niggles. Please comment below and let me know if this has been helpful, and if you feel accomplished and much less stressed!

Posted by: Michelle Daniels in ArticlesMarketingRunning your business

It’s a competitive market out there with more start-ups joining the commercial landscape every day.  So how do you make your business stand out?  Branding isn’t the exclusive domain of large corporates. There are simple ways to create a positive brand around any size of business.

Whether you’re selling products, services or expertise, branding can have a powerful role to play in drawing customers to you.  For the unfamiliar your brand is more than just a logo – it’s a number of facets about your business or offering that give people an impression about it. That includes the quality of your products/services, how you deliver those, the look and feel of all your ‘visual’ elements (packaging, website, documents, advertising, vehicles, clothing, signage etc) and the personalities and capabilities of your people who have an effect on the customer experience.  Collectively these build an image of your business and over time they help to create a reputation – either good or bad.

Long-term value

A great reputation often makes the process of attracting new customers that much easier. Highly regarded businesses often find their existing customer base recommend them and draw in other customers.  A good reputation can draw on success stories and anecdotes from delighted customer that in turn reassure new customers to invest their cash in that product/service over another supplier’s.

Credibility and reassurance

Let’s compare two accountants each building their own business.  You meet them at a networking session and let’s say you are looking to take on someone to help with the accounting side of your business.  The first person you meet is Anne. She’s nicely presented and speaks well.  She leaves you with a business card that is printed on flimsy card, looks a bit dull and has the sense of being reproduced at home.  She has a Gmail email address and a mobile phone number as the main contact point.  There is a website mentioned on the card but, after the session when you look at this, it comes up as ‘under construction’.

The second accountant you meet is Kate.  Kate is also nicely presented and speaks well.  She gives you a business card that looks and feels professionally designed.  It has a logo and on the back, lists the services Kate offers.  Her business is KZQ & Associates and she owns the domain name. This is reflected in her email and website address. Kate has a landline business phone number as well as a mobile shown on the card. When you look at her website, its design also ties in with the colour, font and imagery on her business card.  In fact there are also some handy free fact-sheets and guides to download around business accounting issues and these too, reflect the colours, font and look of the business. Everything is consistent and professional appearance and as a result reassures you that this is a stable company. You probably give Kate a call in the first instance as, let’s face it, you want an accountant who is credible and looks committed to their business.

Kate has no doubt invested more in her brand and the first impressions her business gives but it probably hasn’t required a massive budget. In the long-run it will no doubt pay for itself many times over in terms of business enquiries.

Build on your real strengths and what engages your customers

When creating your branding, the first step is to think about the strengths of your business offering – the real strengths you have and the ones which customers recognise you for (not ones you wished you had).  If you are just starting out think about your own strengths in previous roles (try Marcus Buckingham’s Strengthsfinder) or the qualities that your product or service possesses.  If you’re unsure about the latter, ask your customers what they particularly like or value in what you do.  It is important to build your brand on real strengths rather than aspirational ones, as you are more likely to deliver these now, and over time, to your market.

You then need to think about the customers you want to attract. What visuals appeal to them and what would they ignore? What service/product components engage them and which switch them off?

Creating your ‘visuals’

Let your market insight and your strengths now influence the visual image you forge for your business offering. Depending on what your business does, your ‘visual’ image will be evident through things like:

  • Your logo, stationery, documents (electronic/paper), business cards
  • Your website, email appearance, social media sites
  • Your packaging
  • Yours and your team’s appearance when interacting with customers
  • Your premises, signage etc
  • Your vehicles

It does pay to invest up front in a good design for these visual elements to avoid having to fork out for redesigns further down the line.  Make sure any designs reproduce clearly in both printed and digital media and in treatments from the very small to the very large. Opt for a relatively simple colour palette for your company that you stick to (say 1-3 colours max) and a font that’s clear, attractive to your target market and won’t look out of date too quickly.  If part of your business offering includes being passionate about certain values or representing a certain level of quality then this needs to be factored into your ‘visuals’ too… for example using recycled materials (and communicating this), opting for elements that feel as well as look luxurious etc.

The power of consistency

We humans find reassurance in consistency. Now more than ever with our fast pace lives, consistency is something that’s quite hard to achieve and maintain over time. It impresses us when we see positive examples of consistency and associate it with reliability – even trustworthiness.  If you can be consistent in the application of your image, colours, font, message etc across all your different visuals, people will find it easier to remember your business and may begin to view it as a stable enterprise, worth their investment.

The experience you create

Obviously the visual side is only part of your branding and the phrase ‘mutton dressed up as lamb’ gives a warning.  Even if you have tried to create a visual impression of professionalism and high quality, if people’s experience of engaging with your business offering is negative – no level of investment will help you secure that vital customer loyalty or attract new customers.

So consider again your strengths. In terms of the experience side of your business what are your:

  • Service standards – turnaround times, responsiveness, ability to keep customers informed?
  • Communication styles – are you and your people easy to understand? Are your communications clear, free from typos, easy and quick to read?
  • Personalities – how personable are you and your people to customers?
  • Product or service quality – how faultless is your product or service?  What added value do you deliver within the price people are happy to pay? Are people satisfied with what you deliver?

Avoid undermining your brand

Reputations take time to build but can fall in an instant and, once fallen, they are very difficult to rebuild. So be very careful that your product or service quality isn’t undermined in any way. Find ways to prevent the business offering deviating from the strengths that your customers favour you for.  Remember that what you and your people say and do in other areas can still have a detrimental effect on your business.  Be mindful to establish social media policies and codes of conduct if you feel it’s an issue.  Of course recruiting people who fit with your business strengths and values will definitely help, as will training and clearly communicating the quality standards, strengths and the ethics you are building your business offering around.

Summary

Branding is affordable to the smaller business.  It is achieved through sticking to your real strengths, adopting a consistent approach in all your visuals and delivering an experience that your customers value for the money they’re prepared to pay.  Further consistent application over time and a reliably good customer experience will be key to your long-term success. Your brand’s reputation is worth protecting. Remember no trademarking, copyrighting and expensive visuals will safeguard a brand if the quality and experience it represents falters in your customer’s opinions.