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.
5 Tips Every Entrepreneur Must Follow In Order To Build A Personal Brand That Sells
Personal branding, a service once reserved for politicians and superstars, is nowadays the key to entrepreneurial success. Personal branding is the venture of the future. It is the best investment you can make in yourself.
Personal branding is a disciplined process meant to differentiate and elevate the brand owner from the competition. A clever personal brand entails a series of elements such as but not limited to strategy, logo, website, professional photos, social media platforms, social circles – depending on the goals of the entrepreneur.
Owning a personal brand not only ensures the entrepreneur sells more, it also increases legitimacy, transforms the entrepreneur into a respected thought leader, attracts investors and partners and ensures overall upward mobility.
Even though branding is a current buzzword, proper personal branding remains a mystery for most entrepreneurs. To navigate this intricate process, read the following real-life tips for brand building and reputation management.
1. You are not born a brand, you become a brand
From Oprah to Obama and Ellen to Elvis, every grand personal brand was once a mere mortal – just like you. They had a dream and they hustled just like you. Personal branding when done right is interlinked with personal development. Through an intricate process and an array of strategic actions, entrepreneurs just like you became world-wide leaders.
- Branding is an ongoing process.
- When in doubt, ask for professional help; an entire team is involved in managing a brand.
- Do not compare your first week to someone’s 40th year.
2. Do not be a copycat
Good brands get replicated. Great brands cannot be replicated. If you want to own an average brand, go ahead and copy one. However, you will only be able to copy another brand up to 80% and usually the remaining 20% makes the difference. If you aim to be special, you should incorporate your authentic self into the brand – showcase your mission, vision and story. If you cannot do your business at a superior or different level from your competition, you should probably be doing something else!
3. Stable is better than spectacular
- In the world of Elon Musk and Richard Branson, the brand of the average entrepreneur may seem quite dull. Remember though that your mission is to receive legitimacy to sell your services not appear in the tabloids.
- You do not want to be a one hit wonder. You want to be in business for many years. Focus on building a stable base for your brand that will evolve and develop throughout time.
4. You network really is your net worth
- Who you surround yourself with is who you become. You know it, but are you implementing it?
- Every business is run by an inner circle of individuals; befriend them! The creme de la creme have specific mannerisms and a characteristic way of doing business. Learn to speak, act and behave that way.
- Before you break the rules, you should know the rules. You learn the rules when you are at the right place with the right people.
- When your potential customer sees you with accomplished entrepreneurs, you receive instant validation.
- Your friends with a bad reputation might be costing you brand equity.
5. Brand building is a life-long game
- Building a brand that sells takes time. You are not selling a product in the supermarket, you are selling a perception. Every online and offline interaction potential clients have with your personal brand straightens or decreases its value. The ROI is often slow in the beginning.
- Once your brand is established, the world or some part of it will be at your feet!
3 Mind Hacks For Overcoming Your Fear Of Marketing Yourself
Take it one step at a time. You get nowhere until you put yourself out there.
When I first started my business, I was so uncomfortable about marketing myself and putting myself out there. For most of us, that’s not something we were raised to do or taught in school. Many of us are taught the opposite.
These days, I see many of my clients struggling with this same challenge. They aren’t sure what to say when asked, “What do you do?” Or they’re afraid to go out and market their product or services.
They’re afraid they don’t have enough experience, or are not an expert and people won’t want to hire them.
The only way to get experience is to get some business. And that requires marketing. So what can you do? The key is to get yourself in the right mindset. Here are three mind hacks to help you overcome your fear of marketing yourself:
1. You only have to be one or two steps ahead
If you are offering a service, you only have to be a step or two ahead of someone to be able to help. If you’re offering a product, you only need to know a little more about the product than they do to help them make an informed choice.
It’s also okay to tell people that you’re just starting out or to say you’ve reduced pricing for a limited time in order to build your new business and gather testimonials.
Keep reminding yourself that you don’t need to be at the finish line – whatever that may be for you. You only need to be a little ahead of the people you want to help. Everyone starts somewhere. As Lao Tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Take that step.
2. Get clear on your message
When you have a clear message, and you know it inside and out, it can give you a much needed boost of confidence to get out there. That confidence has the added benefit of drawing people to you.
Obviously, your business evolves as you evolve. Your message might change with time, but it’s important you start out with one that is clear and consistent – something that gets you excited so others can feel your excitement and confidence.
Create a statement about what you do, and make sure it aligns with your values.
Distinguish yourself by including the following info:
- The issue or complaint your ideal client is facing
- How you can help them
- The shift – the benefit or outcome of your product/service
Here’s an example. You know how some people are living a life others want for them, instead of doing what makes them feel good? I guide people on how to ask themselves powerful questions to figure out what they truly want, what fuels them, so that they can be the CEO of their life and business.
I could just say what I am – a coach. And so could you. But when you say it, people will just think of the last person they met who does something similar. A clear, consistent and exciting message makes you stand out.
3. Get your feet wet
“Do. Or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda.
These words may have been uttered by a fictional character, but their meaning is very real.
If you want to get into the mindset of doing something, do it! It’s okay if you’re uncomfortable initially. You’re doing something out of your comfort zone.
Welcome to entrepreneurship. As an entrepreneur, you will always be doing something out of your comfort zone. That’s what keeps your business moving to new levels. You are always trying, testing and trying again. It’s not about the failures or missteps. It’s about the doing.
Go to networking events, go where your target clients hang out (online or offline), join a group or just start speaking to one person at a time about what you do. It truly does get easier and easier.
It’s the same when it comes to selling your product or services. Reach out to one person or one company at a time. You’ll start out with one client, then two. And with each client, your confidence builds.
Take it one step at a time. If you have a fear of speaking in public, go to Toastmasters to practice speaking and overcoming objectives. If you have a fear of contacting someone by email or phone, commit to just one a day, then five a day, then 10 a day. Take it step by step. It doesn’t have to be a big step, but it does have to be a real step.
Whatever fears come up, remember they’re normal. This is something totally new for you. It takes time to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. Those thoughts in your head that prevent you from moving forward, the ones that want to keep you safely in your comfort zone, you need to identify them and reprogram them with thoughts that will help you create the successful life and business you want.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
The Real Value Of Building A Brand
Young people today are likely to join or stay with a company, even if the pay is less, if they feel they belong and are part of the team.
What is your company’s brand? That may sound like a strange question and the answer could range from thinking about your logo or colour scheme, or the values you frame and put on the wall in your reception area. But that is not what your brand is.
Let me ask you another question: what do customers and employees think when your company’s name is mentioned? Do they think you are a great bunch of people who go the extra mile to deliver on your promises, or do they think you’re a bunch of incompetents who always deliver late and below standard? Do employees think their company is money driven and couldn’t care about people?
What do these people feel when your company is mentioned or when they see your logo? Do they have positive feelings about the company and certain employees they deal with, or do they cringe and hope not to have to deal with you again?
The answers to those questions is your brand. It’s the ability to articulate and deliver on the promise your company makes to the market. It is the integrated result of the values the company leaders hold and the values they inculcate into their employees through their actions. It’s the quality and usefulness of your products or services, and how you deal with customers. And it’s how you promote and operate the company. All these things are your brand.
While the company’s executives are key to developing the brand and all it stands for, the brand promise is the who, what, where, when and how of all you do; the sum of all the company’s interactions with the market and internally with each other. Gartner indicates that companies that prioritise the customer experience generate 60% higher profits than their competitors.
Who you are and what you stand for is critical to companies in today’s market where trust is a rare commodity (86% of US and European customers says their trust in corporations has declined over the last five years). Your promise to the market and your ability to fulfil it again and again engenders that trust, which puts you at the top of the pile when it comes to competition.
Related: Are You A Commodity Or A Brand?
When it comes to your product or service, are you the first name that comes to mind because you are a trusted partner? Do your employees deliver on time and to or above the standard expected as far as is possible? Do your employees represent the company in a natural, proactive manner because they are invested in the company and its culture? Or do they do the minimum to get by and collect their pay at the end of the month?
There’s much talk about company culture in the media, but most of these articles miss the most important aspects of culture, buy-in and commitment. When your employees value the culture they are part of, when they feel they belong and are valued, it shows in their commitment to the company, each other and to their customers. Did you know that between 60% and 75%of customers will do business with a company again if it deals with a customer service issue fairly, even if the result is not in their favour?
In fact, young people today are likely to join or stay with a company, even if the pay is less, if they feel they belong and are part of the team.
Customers are the same. While everyone wants to pay the least possible for a product or service, your brand and the associated value (and positive feelings) customers associate with you means you don’t have to cut margins to the bone to get the job. Customers will pay a bit more (within reason) to ensure they get the full package – product, service, support etc.
So your brand, its value and standing in the minds of people includes the marketing and brand building you do, but the promise you make (sometimes unknowingly) to each customer and each employee is what is critical to success. That promise is made up of the products and services you have on offer, if you are meeting the real needs of the customer. It depends on your culture and how valued and appreciated your employees feel, which extends to how they value and treat your customers. And finally, all that impacts customer service, how you react when there is a problem and what you do to keep your promise and develop and maintain their trust in good times and bad.
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 or on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/kyle-rolfe-brand-engineer.
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