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.
Brush Up On Your Personal Branding To Cement Your Success As An Entrepreneur
Check your life skills ratings in these three key everyday areas to see whether you need to pull back from the edge.
When you run your own business, you are the brand champion and the brand ambassador – in fact, you are the brand. That is why in all the turmoil of start-up or getting a new product launched, you need to spare a moment to step back.
Think about how you are presenting to the world the brand that is so precious to you and that means so much for your future. Your clients certainly want to know and even see evidence that you are deeply committed to your brand. But there is a fine line between living the brand and letting the brand take you over and cloud your better judgement.
This is where personal branding becomes as important as your innovative product solutions or your customer service excellence. Edgy entrepreneur is one thing – but clients might shy away if they think that you have stepped over the edge and are more involved in process than delivery.
Check your life skills ratings in these three key everyday areas to see whether you need to pull back from the edge:
- Time management: Despite traffic problems or transport schedules, getting this right is vital. If you do not make it on time to an initial meeting with a client, this will raise alarm bells. The client’s immediate thought is, “Can I trust this person’s word about delivering on time?” Time is money and not being on time could ultimately cost you money.
- Look the part: If you look tired, dishevelled or have poor hygiene, instead of giving you a high five for pulling an all-nighter trying to troubleshoot a new product, clients might simply think that you do not fit with their corporate culture. Ask yourself if you even fit with your own corporate culture? Is this the way you want to present your brand and your business to the world?
- Clear the decks: You might just get away with your office or workshop looking like a tip where only you know where to find something. But do not let that attitude spill over into the world outside.
That apparently friendly and innocent courtesy of being escorted to your car by your host when you leave the meeting could cover them checking you out. Many business people judge potential service providers or partners by their car – not the brand but what it looks like.
Is it covered in dust and badly in need of a wash? Is it full of the rubbish of several lunches on the road and a muddle of paperwork? It is likely that they will deduce that this is how you run your business and how you would run your business relationship with them. In other words, the state of your car might get you the thumbs up or put an end to what had been a promising negotiation.
You can be how you like, do what you want when you are off duty. But when you are on your own business’s time, you are your own brand and you need to live up to it if you want to make your mark.
5 Things You Can Do To ‘Humanise’ Your Brand
Face it: Consumers don’t automatically trust your brand or anyone else’s. Whaddaya gonna do?
Let’s face it, consumers don’t trust brands. Most people view companies like faceless enemies; they’re just out to make money; they’re just telling us what we want to hear. So, if your company wants to win over more customers, you’ve got to get them to trust you.
In fact, according to PwC’s Global Consumer Insights Survey 2018, more than one in three consumers surveyed ranked “trust in brand” among the top three factors, other than price, influencing their decision to shop at a particular retailer. How do you get consumers to trust your company? You do it by showing them the human side of your brand. That will inspire more trust from consumers and boost your conversions.
To form meaningful relationships with your audience, check out these five ways to humanise your brand.
Show off your funny bone
One easy way is to show off your funny bone. According to researchers from the Turku PET Centre, Oxford and Aalto universities, social laughter leads to an endorphin release in the brain and may promote the establishment of social bonds. So, if laughter can make us feel good and encourage connections between people, you should consider using it to get the same results for your business.
Not a comedian yourself? Don’t worry; you can share popular and funny content that already exists. It’s what Netflix does when the media giant shares funny images from its shows.
Showing your more playful side will help consumers see that you’re not just a business focused on selling a product; you’re a human who can put aside your seriousness and have some fun.
Put your team members in the spotlight
Letting consumers see the people behind the business is a powerful way to humanise your brand. If consumers are looking at just your logo all the time, they might not see your brand as human. So, put your team members in the spotlight.
Shoot some quality photos of your staff members and display them on your website and your social media platforms. You don’t need to hire a professional photographer; iPhones today can take some pretty stunning shots. You might even share your employee of the month and include a story about what makes that staffer so great. Seeing the amazing people “behind the curtain” will help consumers put a face to the brand name.
Share user-generated content
Sharing user-generated content works to humanise your brand in two ways: First, it’s exciting and flattering to the user who gets his or her photo featured on your website or social media feed. Second, it shows other consumers that you have great relationships with their peers and that those people already enjoy your products.
Instead of being asked to blindly trust a company’s claims, consumers will see real-life people falling in love with your products, which will promote trust in your brand. Example? Airbnb does user-generated content well by sharing with its followers the amazing experiences its customers are having around the world.
If you don’t have any user-generated content, ask your customers for it. Do this in an email marketing campaign; add it to your branded packages for shipping; or create a post on social media encouraging users to take a photo of/with your product and share it in combination with a unique, branded hashtag.
Tell authentic stories
Don’t spend all your time online just talking about how great your company is; humanise your brand by telling authentic stories. Sharing real stories about your failures, hardships and lessons that you’ve learned will help customers better relate and sympathise with you. According to Psychological Science, research suggests that shared pain may have positive social consequences; shared pain acts as a “social glue” to promote solidarity and togetherness between groups.
So, tell your target audience members stories that they can relate to, instead of simply presenting your brand as perfect. You could even share stories of your customers who previously struggled but then achieved success with help from your company/product. This will not only humanise your brand, but boost sales too.
Show appreciation for your customers
Letting your customers know that you care about and appreciate them is one of the best ways to humanise your brand. So, show appreciation for your best customers by sending them company swag or offering special discounts with a personalised message.
Buffer thanked one of its stand-out customers with not only company swag, but a personalised gift. I’m sure that those customers then became lifelong fans.
Not every company can afford to send out swag to all of their best customers, but sending a gift to just a few of your rockstar fans can go a long way. For a less costly strategy, show appreciation to new customers by simply sending a welcome/thank you email. Not only will such appreciation for your customers humanise your brand, it’ll turn those customers into brand ambassadors.
Over to you
Be prepared for your business to have a lot more die-hard customers. With these tips for humanising your brand, consumers will be able to connect with your business, relate to you on a deeper level and want to have a relationship with your company for the long term.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
How A Strong Brand Protects Your Business
Brand enthusiasts are welcome to follow Kyle Rolfe’s latest thoughts on brand building in South Africa and his analysis on relevant global trends and issues via Twitter @kylerolfeSA.
It is all too easy for small businesses to become victims of intellectual property theft and seeing their products and services copied by unscrupulous competitors. A clear case in point is that of Woolworths, which was recently accused of copying a baby carrier made by Ubuntu Baba, having a cheaper version made in China and selling it as its own in-house product.
Woolworths eventually apologised and withdrew its product, after Cape Town entrepreneur Shannon McLaughlin exposed similarities between the retailer’s baby carrier and that made by her company, Ubuntu Baba.
Small business owners can protect themselves from having their products or services copied by developing a strong and unique brand.
Brand uniqueness and an authentically developed product will give you a level of protection in the market, as it will be more difficult for a competitor to copy your offering.
What small business owners should avoid is the “white label solution”. This is taking any product, even one manufactured overseas, and putting your own branding and packaging on it and reselling it as your own.
There is nothing stopping your competitor from sourcing that same product and putting their branding on it and selling it as their own. In this case, as a small business owner, you would have no recourse.
Ubuntu Baba’s unique brand and authentically developed product, designed and manufactured locally, is what helped the small business successfully take on a giant retailer like Woolworths. They didn’t simply take someone else’s product and rebrand it as their own, they actually designed and built their own product.
A unique brand and product will position you as more than just a reseller and will give you a certain level of strength and protection in the market. It allows clients to differentiate you from your competitors and can also positively affect their purchasing decisions, directly impacting your profitability.
Effective branding, that is well defined and distinct, will not only help build your reputation, but it will also make you stand out from the competition.
Ultimately, your brand is your business identity. It is the image that you show to your client, making it one of your company’s most valuable assets. Effective branding portrays a company’s values and attracts the right client.
A strong brand identity also has the benefit of making your company appear bigger and stronger than your competition and consumers are generally attracted to well-established companies. So, ask yourself whether your branding conveys professionalism, reliability and trust.