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Archive for April, 2014

Strategic Brand Development

Branding is that part of your marketing plan that sets your business apart from others in your industry and lets your customers and potential customers know what’s unique about your company. Your branding can include every aspect of your business, including your logo, website design, how your employees answer the phone, your office decor, your social media pages and every public-facing aspect of your business.

Every business can benefit from branding, but small businesses especially need good branding to set them apart from their competitors. Entrepreneur magazine calls developing your brand a journey of self-discovery, and that’s a good way to look at it. To get the most from your branding efforts, you need to meet with key employees and define:

  • Who is your ideal customer?
  • What makes your company unique?
  • What words and qualities do you want customers and potential customers to associate with your business?

The best brands answer those questions … and ask again and again as they grow.

Good strategic brand development

How does a small business with a limited budget get the most from branding? Below are a few strategies to consider:

1. Splurge on a dynamite logo. Your logo makes your business and all of your marketing materials distinct and unique. A great logo can impart your business philosophy, your company’s personality and your strengths all in one graphic. This is a must-have for any new business. If you’re bootstrapping your business, issue a call for submissions through a third-party freelance service like Odesk or Elancer.

2. Create a voice. Like a logo, the “voice” is the way you tell your company’s story, and it helps define your company’s personality. Progressive Insurance is an example of a company that uses a character – Flo – to represent the company’s voice. Other examples:

  • Coca-Cola is the voice of proud Americans
  • American Express’s voice is well-heeled, intelligent, sophisticated and worldly
  • Nike’s “Just Do It” speaks confidence
  • GoDaddy’s voice is a little rebellious, edgy and humorous

3. Tie it all together. For your branding to be successful, you need to have all aspects of your marketing plan interlinked. Your website should mention your print publications. Your print advertising and direct mail should mention your website, and so on.

4. Get the most for your branding dollars. Start-up companies, by definition, lack huge marketing budgets. To get the most from your branding dollars, invest first in the essentials—a great logo, a great website, business cards and someone to manage your social media and email marketing efforts. As you grow, you can add other components like point-of-purchase displays, direct mail marketing and logo items.

What are other examples of brand voices? Share your thoughts in our comments section.

SEO Terminology

Search engine optimization, or SEO, is one of the most important tools for improving your company’s standings in search engine results pages (SERP). A well-optimized webpage will appear on the first page of a Google search; excellent SEO will put you in the top three of organic results. Online advertising network Chitika says the No. 1 result on Google SERP gets nearly one-third of all traffic while the No. 10 website will get only 2.4%. If you are new to SEO, the first step is to learn the lingo.

Search Engine – A website devoted to helping Internet users find websites.

Keywords – People type keywords into a search engine to find websites. Keywords for laundry soap might include laundry soap, detergent, clean clothes and washing clothes. Webmasters try to guess which keywords their customers might type into a search engine and then pepper those keywords in strategic places throughout the website. They also use SEO tools from companies such as SEMRush and Moz, to gather data from users and competitors to determine keywords.

SERP – Acronym for search engine results page. A SERP is the page you see when you perform a search on Google or other search engines, such as Yahoo and Bing. Chitika reports that fewer than 6% of users go beyond Page 1.

Backlinks – Rather than finding your website on a search engine, people might also find out about your website from other sites. A link from any website to your website is known as a backlink. The better the quality of the site, the more it helps your site rank higher on SERPs. A backlink improves the credibility of the less popular website.

PageRank –Google ranks websites 0 to 10, with the most authoritative websites ranking 10. In late 2013, Search Engine Watch reported that Google updates page rank less and less because it’s based on the number of links you have to your site. Google and other search engines have been shifting away from links and toward quality content in their algorithms.

Above the fold – Websites that appear at the top of search engines results, visible without having to scroll down the page. A website appearing above the fold gets more clicks than those that appear below it. It’s an old newspaper term that referred to news stories that appear above the fold in racks.

SEM – Stands for search engine marketing. You use SEM to market your goods and services on search engines. There are two main types of SEM: SEO and pay-per-click.

SEO – Any process that increases page rank on a search engine results page.

Clicks – In SEO terminology, a click occurs when an Internet user sees your website on a search engine result then clicks on the link to visit your site.

Click-Through Rate – Sometimes called CTR, click-through rate is the percentage of people who click on your link out of the total number of people who see it on websites. If three out of ten people who see your link click on it, for example, you have a 30 percent CTR.

PPC – In pay-per-click advertising, you pay a set amount of money for every click on your ad. PPC ads usually appear on the right side of search engine results pages. Before you jump into PPC advertising, keep in mind that 70% to 80% of users ignore paid ads, according to Search Engine Journal.

Black Hat SEO – An aggressive approach to SEO using unethical practices, such as keyword stuffing. Many search engines ban websites using black hat SEO practices.

White Hat SEO – Above-the-board SEO practices that result in organic results. Examples include using keywords in permalinks, article headlines and page titles.

Is Print Collateral Dead?

It’s easy to think that traditional print marketing material is passé. It’s not. Although digital e-books have cut into the realm of traditional print publishing, more than 80% of books sold in 2012 were printed. What’s true with book publishing holds true with marketing publications. Printed, physical marketing pieces, like business cards, brochures and product comparisons, still play a vital role in today’s marketplace. In fact, they can even be used to enhance your Internet marketing.

What are sales collateral pieces?
Printed marketing and sales pieces include newsletters, business cards, brochures, sales flyers, product comparison pieces and company letterhead, just to name a few. Such pieces can be used in point-of-purchase displays, direct-mail pieces and giveaways at trade shows.

Benefits of using printed sales pieces
Printed marketing pieces serve a variety of purposes. For one thing, they can reach your customers who aren’t online and those who rarely use computers. Yes, those people exist. Print marketing pieces…

1. Serve as reminders. An important benefit of printed marketing collateral is that they give your customers and potential customers something with which to remember you. Those business cards you distributed at a trade show might not generate immediate sales, but they help people remember you when they have needs for your product six months from now. Likewise, that refrigerator magnet can help customers remember your HVAC company the next time their furnaces need repaired.

2. Add legitimacy. Your company’s website is well built, user friendly and robust with content. You invested a lot of money and resources to develop your online presence; don’t diminish it with homemade brochures, business cards and logoed print pieces.

3. Stand out. A printed newsletter with interesting graphics and images is more likely to get read than just another email message announcing an e-newsletter. Many such messages are deleted before the recipient ever gets to see your brilliant writing and sales copy.

Digital marketing can be dynamic and exciting. However, the best marketing plans feature a combination of both print and digital sales collateral material.