Can your company’s content pass the “no-logo test”? When I work with digital strategy clients who are struggling with content marketing, I always ask them to take the logo test, inspired by this excellent Content Marketing Institute article. You should try it, too.
To do that, copy and paste articles you’ve written, along with articles from your competitors, into Word documents. Print out the documents and lay them side by side. Now, can you identify your content from the competition’s without the aid of any logos or company names? If your content lacks a distinct voice and tone, it won’t stand out.
I get it: When you’re first getting started with content marketing, even publishing a blog post every few weeks can feel like a major victory. But once you work out the mechanics of content ideation, you should put in the time needed to create content that brings your brand to life. Why? In a world drowning in digital clutter, content marketing is most effective when you provide a clear, distinct viewpoint that’s beneficial to your target audience.
“Brand voice is the intentional, consistent communication of your business identity,” brand strategist Dima Midon told me in a recent phone interview. Midon, who founded the brand strategy and digital marketing firm TrafficBox, is an expert in all things SEO and search-engine marketing. He also knows that these digital strategies are incomplete without a solid branded content foundation.
“From start-ups to global businesses, the organisations with the best content strategy are those that create content reflective of their brand’s unique personality and then use this content to build stronger relationships with prospects and clients,” says Midon.
Branded content has exploded in popularity over the last five years. For clients and customers, reading branded content – in general – is far more interesting and relevant than a marketing ad. “Branded” means content that’s informative, interactive and entertaining and brings value to a reader’s day. Thanks to social media, such content can catch on like wildfire, rapidly reaching a far wider audience than a standard marketing message.
Vision, voice, and value: Bringing branded content marketing to life
As the name implies, “branded content marketing” needs to be grounded in your brand’s identity. If your content can’t pass the “logo test,” it will be just another of those generic pieces daily bombarding your target audience. To make your content stand out, bring your brand identity to life with three steps:
1. Define your vision
Your organisation likely has a mission or vision statement, company goals and core values. Consider how the content you create will reflect this mission, goals and values. Then align this vision with your customer’s needs. Every piece of branded content you create should apply your company’s unique perspective and expertise to problems your customers face.
Example? Consider the “Open Forum” American Express sponsors, to provide small business owners with the “insights, inspiration and connections” they need to grow their business. While topics range from money management to team building, every piece of content Amex publishes here is dedicated to advancing its vision of helping small businesses thrive.
2. Define your brand voice
A distinctive, unwavering brand voice is an essential component of successful content marketing. While you may have a very clear idea of your brand’s voice, ask yourself, is everyone else at your company on board with this voice, too? Brands, like people, need to prioritize certain traits, to build a reputation. Scattered messaging and inconsistent brand voice can confuse your audience.
So, take time now to codify brand voice and guidelines. Many B2B companies, for example, seek to strike a balance between professionalism and accessibility. They want to be viewed as subject matter experts without sounding too technical or complex. Consequently, the corresponding brand-voice guideline might emphasise the use of clear, concise language that avoids technical jargon.
Example? MailChimp’s brand voice is a great example of how a B2B company can strike this balance. The company isn’t afraid to show a little personality with the use of cultural references and colloquial phrases its customers can relate to. Consider the clever Sherlock Holmes reference for the website’s 401 error message, below.
What’s the secret ingredient that elevates generic content to a brand-building masterpiece? Your brand voice.
Your own brand guide needn’t be lengthy: Voice and tone can be covered by just a few guidelines. (I’m a fan of MailChimp’s voice and tone guide, available free as part of its master Content Style Guide.) What matters most is that you codify these guidelines so there is a single set of rules for everyone working on content at your company. From the work of freelance writers to that of marketing directors, your company’s content marketing will reflect a consistent brand voice.
3. Define your value
Branded content is beneficial not only for defining the buying vision in your favour but also for reminding existing customers about how valuable your offerings truly are. From case studies to white papers, how can you create content that helps existing customers maximise the value of your offerings? Perhaps you can spotlight a new offering or provide tutorials for advanced features. The key is to use your branded content to move from a transactional relationship to a customer-centric one that delivers real value.
Example? The enterprise software company SAP has nailed this mission. While many of its products and services seem technically complex to the average B2B decision-maker, the company’s white papers expertly explain the importance of digital transformation in accessible layman’s terms. Most importantly, this content is never a “hard sell” for SAP, but instead subtly reminds customers about the valuable benefits SAP can present as a strategic partner.
Rather than sending marketing material to customers touting your “top of the line products,” then, send them branded content that explains how to use your products to solve their problems. Content that maximises perceived value strengthens your brand and drives customer retention.
Content marketing is an essential B2B marketing strategy that’s continuing to gain in importance. According to HubSpot, B2B marketers allocate 28 percent of their total marketing budget to content marketing. But before you too jump on this bandwagon, be sure your content is aligned with your brand vision, voice and value. Doing so will ensure your content is impactful, relevant and worth the investment.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
It’s Okay To Promote Yourself – In Fact, It’s Necessary. Here’s How To Do It Better
Here’s what to do if you aren’t a natural marketer.
If you ever heard the expression “Pride goeth before a fall” or you were ever scolded by a teacher or a parent for “thinking too much of yourself,” chances are promotion of yourself and your business is a challenge for you.
There’s a problem with that: You can’t grow a business if no one knows about you.
“Nice” people don’t brag. “Nice” people don’t boast. “Nice” people don’t talk about their successes, their industry standing, their awards or what they and their company can do to make the prospect’s life that much better. After all, who wants to be seen as arrogant?
One of the worst adages wrongly applied to business is, “Good things come to those who wait.” Ba-humbug!
So you wait for the phone to ring. You wait for that handful of previous customers to tell their friends. You wait for the Magic Business Fairy to come turn your business from “barely-getting-by” into a NASDAQ listing. Ain’t gonna happen.
A young friend started an online clothing store just two months ago. Yesterday, she complained, “I’ve got cute stuff, a great website, a perfect shopping cart, fast shipping. I ran a one-day-only 50 percent off sale, but I didn’t even get one order!” I said, “That’s because you don’t have traffic. Get traffic, then you get sales.”
Traffic, customers, prospects and money come when you promote yourself, not by magic! Start intelligent promoting today.
If you don’t fiercely believe in your company, and share your positive message over and over and over and over again, including your own part in its quality products or service (especially if your business is still mostly you!), your sales will never get any better than they are today.
You have to get out there and shout it from the rooftops!
For example, there are millions of people on social media. If you write a blog or a book that no one is reading, it is not a “lead generator” for your business. If you have a sign and a great location but very little foot traffic, you are not marketing your business. In 2016, an astonishing 787,000 books were published in the USA, most self-published. The average sales? 117 copies in two years!
Throwing something into the world and crossing your fingers is not a marketing strategy.
Here are three real, practical, hands-on steps you can and should do today to promote yourself and your business effectively – and fast.
1. Get over it
If you want to have insecurities about whether or not it is proper or right or even holy to be a self-promoter, nurse those worries on your off hours. No fewer than 40 hours a week, pretend like you have the best product or service in the history of the human race … and do your best to live up to what you tout from this day forward.
Fake it ’til you make it, Baby.
2. Ditch whatever isn’t working
The blogs no one is reading? Fugeddaboutit. The big fancy Sale sign in your window? Stick it in the stockroom. Going to all those dull networking breakfasts and handing out your business card? Try a toaster waffle at home next time. Stop doing what isn’t working so you have time to figure out and focus on what will bring in business.
3. Figure it out fast
As Tony Robbins often says, “Success leaves clues.” What are your competitors doing? If you can’t afford their ad budget, then what similar thing could you do to divert just a small percentage of their revenue into your cash register?
No clue? Could you hire a marketing consultant to give you a hand – even for just a few hours? Make sure the person you hire has actually helped at least two other people achieve what you want to achieve! When new speakers or authors hire me to help them get more speeches or sell more books, I literally force them to check out my long list of successful clients so they know I can do what I am promising. Check the person out before you pay them (especially “social media experts”!) When you get their good advice…take it! Most people don’t take the advice they get…and pay for. This is what keeps psychologists and diet book authors in business.
Not the type to do corporate espionage or won’t hire a consultant? Read books! All the knowledge in the world is there. I strongly recommend The Ultimate Guide to Platform Building, of course, but there are many other niche books on everything from Facebook marketing (so people actually read your blogs!) to networking (my author-client Judy Robinett wrote How to Be a Power Connector) to podcasting (Stephen Woessner’s Profitable Podcasting is the best I’ve seen so far). Decide what you want to do, what you can do easily and what matches your customer’s way of finding out about businesses like yours, learn how to do it, and begin. It’s really that simple.
If what you’re doing now isn’t working, educate yourself so you can do it right and get the best results.
It’s OK that you can’t afford to do everything, or don’t have time, the interest or the talent. Do what you like, check if it is working, and do more of it. Or hire people to show you the best way to achieve it, or even hire someone to do it for you. There have never been so many great, easy ways to promote a business or a person! A little belt-tightening pain now could mean a huge payoff later.
Still feeling a little shy about self-promotion? Imagine that your business is your beloved child. You want your child to get into Harvard, right? Or to star in the school talent show? Or to ace the MCATs? Even though for most small businesses, the owner is the business, suspend your enmeshment long enough to imagine your business as separate from you. Imagine that it is someone you deeply care about and want to help. It’s no longer about vanity or ego. It’s about love and faith and all that good stuff. After all, whatever your business does, it’s purpose is to help the world in some way, to solve a problem your customers want solved.
To keep up your spirits, start collecting testimonials today. Ask for Yelp or Amazon or OpenTable reviews, collect written testimonials, or video tape happy customers telling you how much they love your business. When you’re feeling a little low, watch them or re-read them and boost yourself up again. You’re doing good in the world. You deserve to be paid for it. You deserve to share those testimonials (with permission, when appropriate) with your prospects. You earned them!
P.T. Barnum once said, “Fortune always favours the brave, and never helps a man who does not help himself.” You don’t have to become P.T. Barnum, although he made a heck of a lot of money by being a relentless promoter. You just have to stop doing what isn’t working, summon your courage and try new things.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Move Your Brand Forward With Eye-Catching Vehicle Wraps
The Sign Africa Expo is Africa’s largest dedicated print and signage exhibition. Covering 13,000sqm and with the objective of attracting 6,000+ visitors, Sign Africa provides an ideal platform for visitors to investigate available business ventures, innovative products, technology, applications and education programmes for the signage and display industries in the sub-Saharan region. Entrance is free and the event is co-located with FESPA Africa, Africa Print and Africa LED and will take place from 12-14 September 2018 at the Gallagher Convention Centre, Johannesburg.
Business owners are constantly seeking ways to get their brands noticed. And with all the gigantic billboards, street pole advertisements and other media vying for consumers’ attention, it’s difficult to stand out. Enter vehicle wrapping, which is an effective promotional tool as it’s cost-effective, impactful and long-lasting.
‘Car branding will transform your vehicle or fleet into mobile billboards. Used for short-term promotions or long-term exposure, it is one of the more cost-effective advertising methods available. It is also a great option for personalisation or to improve the appearance of your vehicle,’ said said Manny De Souza from Wrap Vehicles.
Besides cost-effective general wraps for corporate fleets, custom vehicle wrapping offers special effects that create Instagram-worthy wraps that get brands noticed. Different textures such as chrome, wood grain, carbon fibre and a variety of metallic effects, glitter, ultra matte finishes and ‘sandpaper-like’ non-slip surface finishes are also available. One can also create pearlescent effects and even velvet, while colour changing vinyls also provide really unique wraps.
Vehicle graphics can also be tailor-made to suit any budget, allowing for options like partial wraps or small decals on elements of the transport such as the doors. A professionally installed wrap should last between five to seven years if properly maintained by regularly washing the vehicle. Many reputable wrapping companies offer warrantees on the wrap’s longevity.
Wraps also increase a vehicle’s value by protecting it from nicks and scratches. Then there’s the benefit of the conspicuous branding possibly making your vehicle less appealing to criminals.
Of course, you’ll have to ensure that you and your fleet drivers obey the rules of the road as reckless driving can damage your brand.
Speed Wrap Challenge
An expo highlight is the Speed Wrap Challenge, a thrilling, live wrapping competition. Come along and watch experts compete against the clock for the title of champion. Vehicle wrapping companies can also enter their best wrappers. The challenge will take place on all three days of the expo. The first round will be at 10am and the final round will take place on Friday 14 September. For more information, visit: www.signafricaexpo.com/entrepreneur1.
The featured image is credited to Wrap Vehicles.
Personal Brand Or Business Brand: Which Is More Important?
Business today is all about relationships and the person behind the brand. The more the market knows the founder, the better their business performs in the market. But can we take this too far?
If you’re like me, then you love reading online articles, opinion pieces and general books on the topics that you find interesting. It’s one of the ways that you can ensure that you keep your interest piqued and stay abreast of what’s going on in your industry. One of the topics that gets me thinking has always been the concept of branding.
It’s why I studied an undergraduate degree in marketing and I completed honours in brand management at Vega, the Brand Leadership School. I’ve always been curious to find out more. But one aspect of branding that hasn’t been given enough thought I believe is the relationship between the brand and the CEO of that brand.
Who should be more prominent?
It’s a straightforward question: Should the brand of the CEO or the brand of the business be more prominent?
What are the implications of the CEO’s brand being more prominent than the business’s brand? Similarly, what are the consequences of an unknown CEO where the business’s brand is the hero in the relationship?
Let’s perhaps start answering that question by talking about what a brand is. At university, you’ll be taught by your lecturer that Philip Kotler says a brand is a ‘name, term, sign, symbol (or a combination of these) that identifies the maker or seller of the product’. That’s technically correct. However, I’ve always believed that at the heart of branding lies perception. A brand is a perception. As marketers, we’re ultimately in the game of shaping positive perceptions, because perception sells.
I believe perceptions are shaped by three factors. What the brand tells us about itself (including what Philip Kotler mentions), what our acquaintances and friends tell us about the brand and what our personal experiences are with that brand.
Then there are the secondary factors that include where you were born, your cultural nuances, your history and so on. I’m sure it’s becoming clear that no two people can have the same perception. Nevertheless, perception matters and the art and science behind branding matters in shaping those perceptions.
So, then what’s more important? The brand of the CEO leading the business or the business’s brand? Depending on who you ask you’ll receive different answers.
CEO vs business brand
Let’s introduce two well-known South African brands into the conversation. Discovery and First National Bank. Both operate in the financial services industry, both are healthy brands — but chances are most of you can only name the CEO of one of them, and I’m guessing its Discovery.
That’s a typical example of CEO brand vs business brand. Adrian Gore, Discovery’s CEO, is an influential leader with a strong personal brand that works hand-in-hand with Discovery’s overarching brand. FNB’s CEO is Jacques Celliers, and in this instance, he’s mostly unknown to the general public. So, which then is more important? I spoke to a few thought leaders about this, and the general sentiment is mixed. Some believe a strong CEO brand does well for the business, others think the company comes first, and it’s first about the brand of the business. Personally, I believe it depends on the company and the health of the brand.
Let’s look at other examples; Apple and Steve jobs, Amazon and Jeff Bezos, Tesla and Elon Musk. All of these businesses, we can agree, are a success mainly because of the value that the CEO’s personal brand brings to the table. On the other hand, we have Coca-Cola, BMW and Microsoft. I bet most of you couldn’t name the CEOs of those companies off the cuff.
People do business with people
I believe that fundamentally people buy into people, not brands. That’s why I think there’s a strong case for a CEO with a solid brand. However, there are cons that exist. What happens when the CEO leaves? Has this CEO become so large that the business fails without them? After all, leadership is about passing the baton. In my opinion, Steve Jobs is the ultimate reason for Apple’s success, however he did a poor job of passing the baton. Luckily, Apple’s brand is strong enough to withstand uncertainty, but I think we can all agree that under Tim Cook, Apple has started to decline.
I used the example of FNB earlier because one of my favourite CEOs is Michael Jordaan. Under his leadership, FNB had what I like to call it’s ‘glory years’. They were simply unstoppable and every other bank in South Africa was struggling to keep up. Or at least that was the perception from the outside. Remember perceptions? Michael’s brand is strong, so much so that since his departure FNB has lost its story-telling innovative mojo.
Enter Bank Zero. An app-driven bank opening in South Africa in the fourth quarter of 2018. Why is anyone even paying attention? Because it’s Michael Jordaan. His personal brand is strong enough to grab attention. If it was a no-name would we care as much? Would there be nearly as much hype?
We therefore have two sides to the coin. A CEO’s personal brand is incredibly important when the business’s brand needs an injection of credibility. But the CEO must be careful that he doesn’t become too big when credibility is formed or restored. After all, great leadership is about passing the baton and leaving a sustainable legacy. Which means the CEO has built a brand that the customers buy into. I think Coca-Cola, Microsoft and BMW have done brilliantly at this. Their brands are sustainable because it’s about the brand, not the CEO’s brand. I also think there’s a strong case for choosing the next CEO from within the current pool of employees of that business.
The elements of a strong CEO brand
- A fearless leader who motivates his/her employees into action
- A leader whose vision is simple and easy to follow
- A leader who rallies not only his employees but customers and clients too
- A leader who isn’t afraid to be in the media and on social media.
On the business side, here is what you should keep top of mind when building your corporate brand:
- Create a strong corporate identity. That doesn’t mean doing it yourself, get the professionals to do it. It’ll include your logo, collateral and how your brand lives online.
- Create your experience. It’s incredibly important that what you say is also experienced by your potential and current clients. This includes user experience offline and online.
- Run online thought leadership and PR. This is what builds credibility. It’s one thing for you to talk about yourself, but when others talk about you it builds your brand in a way that adds much needed credibility. This also increases your SEO because any online thought leader should be linking back to your website.
- Lastly, drive brand integration through your value-chain. When your audience and stakeholders see your brand they know you and what to expect.
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