How do you build a loyal customer base? For most modern brands, the answer doesn’t actually lie with authenticity – rather, it depends on building credibility.
According to the Association for Consumer Research, “As a signal of product positioning, the most important characteristic of a brand is its credibility … Credibility affects consumer choices through perceived risk, information costs saved and perceived quality in most categories, even those with only moderate levels of uncertainty.”
Even for relatively low-cost purchases, whether customers perceive a brand as trustworthy – as someone who fulfills their promises – will have a big impact on their buying decisions.
Unfortunately, many brands falter in their credibility-boosting efforts as the result of relatively minor mistakes. The following online habits may not seem like a big deal, but they can easily derail your brand-building efforts.
1. You’re using vague superlatives
Every brand wants to position itself as the best in the business. But, rather than showcase their best work in an online portfolio, many businesses instead choose to use non-specific superlatives like “high-quality,” “best in the business” or “experienced team.”
Media experts have found that such vague superlatives actually crush your credibility, hinting at underlying insecurities about what your business has to offer. Instead, mention specific credibility-boosting examples, such as awards you’ve won or how many years you’ve been in business.
Related: How to Manage Your Personal Brand
2. You haven’t claimed your business on Google
Most potential customers (and even many of your returning customers) aren’t going to remember your company’s URL. To find you, they’ll do a search on Google. While your website should come up as part of their search results, many customers will actually look at your Google listing first – and if you haven’t added or claimed your business, you could quickly lose credibility.
Claiming your business helps prove to customers that you have an actual online presence. It gives them a chance to check out reviews and quickly find other essential information. If you don’t claim your business, you send the message that you don’t care about your web presence – and that your website probably won’t help customers solve their problems, either.
3. You’ve neglected the testimonials page on your site
Customer reviews can make or break your ability to attract new business – even for decidedly non-tech-savvy industries like plumbing or lawn care. However, far too many brands let third-party review sites do all the heavy lifting, even though a website without testimonials will have a harder time establishing credibility.
4. You consciously try to use smart-sounding words
A key part of building credibility is proving that you actually know what you’re talking about. This is why so many brands embrace the power of blogging – sharing facts and tips is a great way to showcase your expertise and improve your SEO rankings. The problem comes when blogs and other online content are peppered with “smart” words in an attempt to sound more authoritative.
Words like “deosculation” (another word for kissing) or “laodicean” (which means indifferent) may help you sound more intelligent, but they’ll only confuse your audience. Worse yet, trying to use more complex language makes it much more likely that you’ll make an embarrassing mistake. Keep it simple, and you’ll build your credibility with easy-to-understand language.
5. You’ve failed to humanise your brand
Scams and fake websites are all too common these days, and as a result, many consumers are understandably wary when checking out a new brand for the first time.
Unfortunately, in an effort to save time and money, many smaller businesses use stock photos and a generic “About” page on their site. Such a move may be more convenient, but it illustrates a lack of transparency, and signals to customers that your site could be a scam.
Instead, humanise your business with pictures of the people who actually work there. Personalise the “About” page with unique details about your company’s past. Don’t be afraid to include personal info about your team or pictures of your office. Such additions can go a long way in proving your legitimacy.
Related: 9 Tips For Creating An Awesome Brand
6. You’ve passed on old-fashioned communication
A quality website is a great asset, but it likely won’t answer every question your potential customers might have. While email and chatbots can be helpful, many customers still prefer traditional communication methods – and according to the Harvard Business Review, “74 percent of people who have a bad phone support experience are likely to choose another business the next time they shop for that product or service.”
Including your business’s address and a contact phone number not only gives potential customers more ways to get in touch – it also helps legitimise your company for consumers and Google alike. Even a digital-only brand will gain legitimacy by giving customers a way to talk with a real human being.
As you avoid these negative online habits and take steps to correct them, you’ll make a better impression and build a stronger reputation with potential customers. Even more importantly, you’ll generate the sales growth needed to keep your business moving forward.
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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