If you are like most people, you probably believe you already know what a brand is and perhaps think it has nothing to do with you.
Sure, big companies like McDonalds, Lexus and Coca Cola have big brands. Everyone knows that. But pause for a moment and think about your favourite mom-and-pop restaurant, your preferred dry cleaners, or even your doctor.
Why do you go to those particular places for what you want? In those cases, you’re not shopping price, you’re shopping something else. Something intangible. Something called “brand”. It is not only about how good the food is or how fast they clean your clothes. It is a feeling you get when you go there.
The feeling may be that you are special; that you are a valued customer; that you believe they know you or actually care about you. Maybe they do.
Does your business give customers the “right” feeling? Curiously, what you think brings in your customers may be wrong. It is the customer’s truth that matters most. I prefer a certain coffee shop because I like the morning sunlight in their open, airy dining room and their iced tea is good. But I agree with the other regulars: Their food is pretty bad. Yet when I asked the owner, he assured me that his place is popular because of his great food.
It is crucial that you not only know the elements that make up your brand, but find ways to convey your unique brand identity in ways that will attract more customers who want what you’ve got.
Related: How To Brand Your Business
To figure that out for your business, reflect on these questions, and then poll them. Good brand awareness makes good sense.
What do people hear?
- Is there a voice or music that starts playing as soon as they hit your landing page? Could it be turning people off? Personally, I will leave any site that immediately gets noisy.
- Is there music in your business that attracts a certain age group? Does it repel another?
- When a prospect calls, are there dogs, kids, TVs, shouting, etc. going on in the background? If you aren’t in the business of pet grooming, daycare, television sales or marriage counselling (smile), these sounds shouldn’t be heard.
- Do you have annoying hold music? Or none at all? Or the kind that makes people feel anxious, even if it is your favourite song?
- Is it loud while they are in your place, when more customers might want quiet, or vice versa? Everyone has left a restaurant because it was too loud or too quiet. Make sure your noise level matches the brand reputation you want to build.
What do people see?
- Is your website some hokey, outdated template from two years ago that doesn’t help customers get where they need to go with minimal fuss?
- Are you using unpopular colours on your site, your walls, or your uniforms? Each country, each region has colour preferences. Look them up online if you don’t know yours. It’s not about you, it’s about the people you are trying to attract.
- Is your storefront appealing or messy? What’s the first thing people see when they step into your place of business?
- Is the first employee a customer sees unappealing in any way, texting on their phone, or otherwise a turn off to your customer?
- Is your place dark? If it’s not a tavern or a night club or a swanky restaurant, you are losing business if it is dark in your shop. The online equivalent is websites with black backgrounds and white words. (There are some exceptions). Note that the grocery store in town doing the most business is the one with the best lighting. This isn’t an accident.
What do people taste?
- You make think this sense applies only to places that serve food, but it doesn’t. Surprisingly, there are many ways to make sure your wares “taste” right to the customer.
- Obviously, is your food appealing? A group of researchers filled three bottles with the same tap water.Two bottles had the big brand labels. They affixed a made-up label to the third. Then they asked people to sip their usual brand, then try the “new” brand.Most taste testers were able to identify multiple differences between “their” brand and the new water. But all three bottles contained the same water!It is the brand positioning that determined the customer response, not the water itself.
- Is your place of business in “good taste”? Everyone has seen calendars of women in bikinis on the wall of an auto repair shop, but is that making any of the customers uncomfortable?If your office furniture is a mishmash of second hand stuff, your desk is a mountain of clutter and old coffee cups, or your space is crammed with dusty old stuffed animals or your beloved collection of Barbie dolls, would you guess that the majority of customers and prospects see that as being “in good taste”? Probably not. Does your furniture belong to a prosperous business or one hanging on by the tips of its fingernails?
- Do people walk away from a customer service interaction with you or your team with a “good taste in their mouth”?
What do people smell?
- There’s a lot of research into smells and how they unconsciously affect customers. That’s why you can smell McDonald’s fries blocks away. That’s why when you walk into certain stores in the mall, you smell a specific scent. Is there a scent you could subtly share near your entrance to anchor that into your customers’ minds? Our olfactory sense – the sense of smell – is thought to be one of the most primal and the most memorable.
- Naturally, it is important customers don’t smell anything unpleasant. Like that garlic pizza box you stuffed in your desk drawer…last week. Or the banana peel in your trash. It seems such a small thing, but you have the opportunity to control the entire customer experience, so you may as well make it optimal. At the very least, get a bottle of Febreeze.
- People who do not have pets or who do not like a certain type of animal (or have allergies) can immediately smell an animal in someone’s office. Unless you are a vet or a groomer, it is probably a good idea to make sure that your pet is bathed regularly, its bedding in the office is washed often and careful attention is paid to any “accidents”.
What do people feel?
- Is your place grungy or dirty? Are your restrooms? Women usually notice this stuff. Once, I was lying in a hospital bed watching an orderly “mop” my room, but he was just swishing debris around with a rag mop. He didn’t cover even 30% of the surface. No one I care about will ever use that hospital again. If customers feel like they have to go take a shower after being in your establishment, you’ve got a problem.
- Do people feel like you’re glad they are there or like you’re an imposition?
- Does your sales pitch make them feel slimed?
- When the minimum wage clerk you hired mumbles “May I help you?”, do you really think that is engaging the customer and making them feel welcome?
- When it takes you 48+ hours to respond to an email, or an online inquiry, or a complaint – does that make the customer feel valued?
- Do you feel like your doctor – who has seen more of your body than most people – would recognise you if you approached him or her in a public place? Would you recognise your customers, even your best ones? The more special you can make your customers feel, the more loyal they will feel toward your business.
- When they leave your place of business or your website, what feeling do they experience? Are they smiling or running for their car?
- If you sell online, does your relentless, thoughtless, overwhelming follow up sequence make them feel like they got their lips wrapped around a fire hose inadvertently? Your opt-outs will answer this question.
The “five senses check” is a good idea to run your business through twice a year, so you can be sure what you’re doing is aligning with the brand you are trying to establish. Consistent, positive, reliable, repeatable brand interaction is a key component in any business’ success.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
How Content Marketing Adds Real Value To Your Customers’ Lives
If you’re marketing on a budget, content marketing is a great way to reach your audience, add real value and gain brand traction – without breaking the bank.
Content marketing is a relatively new type of marketing that most businesses are still trying to get their heads around. Unlike traditional media advertising, which interrupts customers to get noticed, content marketing provides content that customers want in exchange for permission to market a product or service.
There’s a saying, fish where the fish are. Marketing is the same. You need your message to appear where your audience’s attention lies. I don’t believe billboards or even TV adverts hold consumer attention anymore. People aren’t looking at billboards as they drive past; most aren’t even looking at the road, they’re so busy staring at their mobile device or listening to a podcast.
The traditional advertising model creates ad content that interrupts consumers. Billboards, TV commercials and radio advertisements momentarily disrupt what you actually want to be doing — watching your favourite TV show or listening to a song or chat show.
These ads don’t provide any real value to the customer and they don’t offer an immediate reason to even be viewed or engaged with. Instead, they rely on good placement, clever wording and brilliant creativity to capture your attention for a brief period of time.
The rise of content marketing
In response to these problems and restrictions, content marketing is on the rise. As a marketing alternative, it’s not only more cost effective, but it doesn’t aim to interrupt your customer. Instead, it aims to add real value to their lives and businesses by plugging directly into their interests, problems and challenges.
So how does content marketing work? Companies and marketers create content in the form of blog posts, podcast recordings, downloadable guides and infographics, video content and articles that don’t push products, but offer interesting advice, tips and opinions.
The value to consumers is provided in two ways: As educational content and as entertainment content. In both cases, access to this content is free, heightening its value.
Get the most out of content marketing
Here are three ways to get the most out of your content marketing efforts:
- Provide content that your customers want. Don’t make the mistake of writing your blog posts about your business. Lesson number one is that people don’t care about your business. Provide valuable content that customers want and need in exchange for their attention. This content can be educational or entertaining. It can be a ‘How to Guide’, an in-depth stats-driven article or an entertaining video. Just make sure it’s about them, and not you.
- Focus on content for the customer’s benefit and only occasionally promote or push your product. This is the rule most brands and companies struggle to understand. If you’re going to provide value to your customers, you need to mostly write content for the customer’s benefit and only occasionally promote your products within the content. People are interested in articles and posts that benefit them, not ad posts touting how awesome your products are. Give your customers content that they want, and nine times out of ten you’ll be rewarded with engaged and targeted audiences.
- Write cornerstone content. Cornerstone content is content that can be easily found by your ideal customers. It’s content that provides incredible value to customers over a long period of time. How-To Guides, resources, 101 content and instructional videos all fall into this category. It should be content that customers can refer back to, and which has a long lifespan. This also immediately increases the ROI of your content production, as you only need to create the content once, but it will continue to bring returns.
Bringing it all together
As you make your final marketing push for the year and gear up for next year, make sure content marketing forms a vital part of your strategy. Learn to write engaging blog posts, invest in a podcast setup and push video content. No one is expecting your content to be perfect — you are the expert in your area, and have great advice to share. That’s what will keep your audience engaged and coming back for more.
Just remember that this is a long play. Success won’t happen overnight. It takes time to build momentum — but over time, you will notice increased traffic, more leads and more sales.
- Do you know what your clients are interested in, concerned with or challenged by?
- Are you offering advice, tips or opinions that tap into these areas?
- Does your content mostly focus on your clients and not you?
4 Ways To Implement Strategic Marketing Without Breaking The Bank
Marketing your start-up is all about the right strategies, not how much money you spend. You need to build your reputation from the ground up. Here’s how you can get started.
Building a fledgling business is as much about increasing your client base as it is about building a positive reputation around the business and its expertise. Many experts and seasoned entrepreneurs argue that clients buy from people they trust and building that trust hinges on various parameters.
Take Steve Jobs, Wendy Luhabe, Richard Branson and many other leading business minds whose brands are built on years of credibility and trust. The truth is that equal attention needs to be given to great products and building trust within your client base.
Here are five skills that we’ve used to build our reputation at WordStart.
1Sharpen your writing skills for media and general communication
Create media coverage. Write on a company platform (like a blog) or for established media outlets. This will position you and your business in ways that get people to listen and share your knowledge.
Having your name next to an article on a respected platform can lead to useful connections with relevant contacts. A series of media features and industry commentary also help to position your business and team as experts in your field.
2Share industry trends
People will generally do research in and around an industry to find insights and trends, sometimes before they buy anything in that industry — and even afterwards. When I search for information on photography, Canon appears more than any other brand and they tend to set the scene on which device to buy.
Imagine your business is construction and that homeowners endorse your skills as a home improvement specialist. Packaging your knowledge into industry trends is also a great way to use your own lessons about the industry as you grow and it also helps you to connect with potential customers. Useful information with your name on it can increase your sales and client base.
3Edit. Edit. Edit
Something that cannot be stressed enough is that your writing in client documents can tarnish your brand. Many businesses tend to overlook the importance of grammar in their documents.
It can be difficult to reread and rewrite documents that you use in the business, but that is precisely what can lead to the loss of new and existing business.
Pay attention to how your business uses language and edit that work. When in doubt, read it again and be sure that nothing was missed.
4Practice public speaking and search for opportunities
After you have written for various publications, you increase the likelihood of being invited to speak at conferences and seminars, which means that people put a face and voice to the written expertise. In some instances, the speaking engagements can be paid for by conference organisers which can be an additional revenue stream.
Public speaking, especially industry-related speaking, will increase the likelihood of selling more products or services and this will separate you from the competition. By increasing the trust customers have in you, you can improve the likelihood of them buying from you.
Once a business is positioned as a team of experts with the ability to speak for their industry, opportunities open up for that business to create unique content. Industry leaders who are able to help the public to connect the dots through the information they share are regularly on guest lists.
Is there anything you can share that your industry peers and the public may find eye-opening? There may be a conference organiser looking for you.
5Educate the market and build a client base
One of the advantages of being part of an industry is that you have inside information that the general public does not have. This presents an opportunity for you and your business to become a self-nominated industry mouthpiece.
When an individual and business share news about an industry, they can create a new client base because the public associates them with that information.
One of the best cases in South Africa is Discovery’s Vitality rewards programme, where you earn points for being healthy. This does not mean that Momentum, Bonitas, Sanlam, Sizwe and other players do not have similar or even better offerings. Vitality is more visible and more vocal about the fact that leading a healthier life can get you rewards.
A great reputation may lead to positive word-of-mouth for your business and increased sales over a longer period than a single marketing message.
Cut The Bull That Comes With Women Saudi Drivers
If there is an opportunity to increase sales and dominate a market, hell they are going in, briefing their agencies to start the marketing and… well, cue the thoughtlessness.
Women belong in the kitchen, right? Wrong! Now they can drive in Saudi, and you know what that means? They can fetch the groceries too!
Bet the Feminists clicked on this article looking to wage a social media war. No need. The afore mentioned thinking is exactly how the quick acting social media teams of major car manufacturers are acting after King Salman announced the lift on banning women drivers in the kingdom.
Whether we think it’s progressive is not the debate here right now. I personally think its great that such a country who has long ‘protected’ its women from the horrors on the road now believes that women are capable of taking care of themselves out there. The issue? Let’s take one step back and mention one South African social brand so you can see where I am heading. Take Bic Pens with their infamous 2015 #HappyWomensDay post reading, “Look like a Girl, Act like a Lady, Think like a Man, Work like a Boss”.
What does a Pen in South Africa and a Car in Saudi Araba have in common you ask? All their CEO’s have a twig and two berries (66% of those car manufacturers who ‘praised’ Saudi Women drivers on social, are white men) and they didn’t get there without some form of business knowledge.
Related: 10 Laws Of Social Media Marketing
If there is an opportunity to increase sales and dominate a market, hell they are going in, briefing their agencies to start the marketing and… well, cue the thoughtlessness.
Thinking before Tweeting
There is nothing like a good tactical on Social Media. Every brand wants to be Oreos during the super bowl when the lights went out. Every Marketing Manager wants to be the one to get his or her clever execution out first because time is of the essence.
Did the car manufacturers do great tactical work? Absolutely!
Did the car manufacturers think about the role they didn’t play in the fight for the cause? Absolutely NOT! They just saw another opportunity to capitalise on ‘to be relevant’.
This ever-connected digital world we live in comes with an opportunity for brands to build deep relationships with their customers. Sure relevance is key, but do (straight, white, male) brands have a place in that conversation now that the hard work is done (by strong Saudi Women)? Was fighting for women’s rights to drive in Saudi ever part of their Brand DNA before the last week of September 2017? Nope, they just see an increase in sales come June 2018.
Common amongst those tactical auto brands’ values were customer service promises, the comfort of people in cars, and sustainability. Only one vouched for the respect for diversity, while another strived for integrity, vowing to keep its doors open to men and women alike. While I can understand that a Trans National Corporation needed to respect culture and politicophere of Saudi to be able to operate there, was there not an opportunity to lead the charge and help the 10- year fight for equality on the Kingdom’s roads? Would their auto brands need to advertise after being part of the battle after that?
The irony is that The Women to Drive Movement started with a 2007 YouTube video. Did none of these brands have an ORM tool that picked this up? I wonder if any evaluated the risks vs the returns had they supported the movement.
Sullivan Principles Anyone?
Back in 1977, The Sullivan Principles was a part of the world’s Corporate Social Responsibility as brands applied pressure on apartheid, South Africa. The corporate protest came with the thought that if business divested in SA, apartheid would eventually be cash-strapped and collapse. At the time General Motors was the biggest employer of Black South Africans and eventually was the first to pull out.
In 1999 the new Global Sullivan Principles was unveiled by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and the preamble reads:
“The objectives of the Global Sullivan Principles are to support economic, social and political justice by companies where they do business; to support human rights and to encourage equal opportunity at all levels of employment, including racial and gender diversity on decision making committees and boards; to train and advance disadvantaged workers for technical, supervisory and management opportunities; and to assist with greater tolerance and understanding among peoples; thereby, helping to improve the quality of life for communities, workers and children with dignity and equality.”
The first part of the new Sullivan Principles reads:
(We) “express our support for universal human rights and, particularly, those of our employees, the communities within which we operate, and parties with whom we do business.”
If brands actually invested in the people and their lives first, the customers will follow. Do this and there would be no need to be super tactical when it comes to the celebrations of the marginalised. We need brands to value ethical and corporate social responsibility they have in the markets they operate in. We have seen that the likes of General Motors can have an impact on a country, especially in South Africa (let’s drop the fact that they have divested again for the purposes of this).
Bottom line is advertising, marketing and brands have the power to shape the world years before a few people can go at it alone. Yes, businesses need to make money, but see the bigger returns when you are a part of something. The returns will be greater than the PR value you got on that meaningless, thoughtless, and unearned tweet. I promise you.
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