Publishing Your Brand

If you listen very carefully, you might hear it… the groans from small business owners all across the land when the phrase “Content Is King” is mentioned to them.

As true as that saying may be, most of today’s consumers go directly to search engines to answer even the slightest of trivial questions.  The mistake that most businesses make today is that they churn out content every day, but without making it part of their overall communications strategy.

Content publishing should focus on two simple goals: educating and building trust.

Content strategy is delivered through very specific content forms, and not volume alone.  Every business today is publishing content, and today is the day you need to think like a publisher.

How best to build trust with your audience?
Blog: There’s no doubt that blogs are the best starting point for content strategy as they allow for simple content production, and syndication of your message.  Search engines gobble up blog content.  Blog content can easily be delivered through other channels like e-books, workshops and guest articles.

Social Media: Step one – claim your stake with profiles on sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.   But don’t let that stop you.  Take it to the next step by claiming your place on communities like Entrepreneur, Inc., or even Business Week.  Creating these profiles and optimizing links back to you site plan an important role in content strategy publishing.

Testimonials:  Third party testimonials may be the most powerful tool in your publishing arsenal.  Seek testimonials in a variety of forms including written, audio and video.  Share them on sites such as YouTube and Google+ to continue to build your publishing portfolio.

Reviews:  Depending on your specific business, sites like MerchantCircle, CitySearch and Yelp! can offer positive user referrals.  While never in control of reviews, overlooking them may prove more harmful than bad reviews.  One thing is certain, you’ll need to actively monitor these channels at all times.

Consider these two easy ways to educate your customer with content.

Seminars:  Today’s consumer wants their information neatly pre-packaged for easy consumption. Seminars, workshops and presentations are everywhere – both online and offline.  Once engaged, these channels provide a great opportunity to really engage your audience.  Taking your white paper or ebook and turning it into a 30-45 minute, value-packed presentation may be the most cost-effective way to both engage and convert casual leads into loyal customers.

White Papers & Ebooks:  In communicating their brand story, documenting the values and views are effectively done in the form of a white paper or book.  This content needs to highlight the businesses truly unique values including why it exists, what it will accomplish, and ultimately – it’s special purpose.

This is certainly a short list of ways and channels for you to reach new, actively engaged customers. What are others you might be using that are working for you?

Once you’ve developed your specific system of content publishing that works in unison for your brand, maintaining and growing our channels becomes a fun and welcomed task, instead of one to dread and avoid.

Smart, Savvy Social Media Tips From Alice Heiman


Our good friend and affiliate, Alice Heiman, has kindly offered to allow us to re-post some of her smart, savvy sales tips here on SmartBrand’s blog to help our readers maximize their marketing investment.  After all – a great marketing strategy must ultimately result in increased sales, and it takes a synchronized effort from both marketing and sales to make that happen for any business today.

Here’s Alice’s insightful tips on social media for your business:

To be successful using social media to promote your business take the following steps:

1.      Take a look at your current plan and review the ways you are currently reaching your target market.  Ask yourself, what’s working and what’s not.

2.      Think about your ideal customer, what social media are they using?  Look at the demographics of the users of LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and the others and see if it matches.  Ask your current customers what social media they use.

3.      Think about your image and the messaging you want to use to communicate on social media.

4.      Make an editorial calendar for what you will post.  Good content is the key.  Push out content on a regular basis and then in between you can promote your events or specials.

5.      Determine who is going to be responsible for posting.  It needs to be done consistently.

6.      Review and evaluate the results of what you have executed.  Make changes to your strategy based on this information.

They key to successfully promoting yourself or a business with social media is to have a plan that integrates with your overall sales and marketing strategy and enhances that in some way.  Know what your goals are and measure the results.

Utilizing social media properly is a lot of work and in many companies becomes a full time job.  There are many companies you can outsource to and I recommend that if you can afford it.  Just make sure they develop a plan in conjunction with your current sales and marketing plan.

Marketing To The Recession Focused Consumer


Marketing professionals across the globe are collectively scratching their heads wondering what today’s economic challenges have done to the strategies and practices of yesterday – literally…just yesterday.

Everyone knows that consumer’s aren’t spending, and that the upcoming holiday retail season may likely be another nail in the failing economy’s coffin.  Today’s consumer has taken a completely different approach to their spending habits – one where discretionary spending is no longer an accepted practice.  In every aspect of our lives, many of us are looking to put off what they want for what they can afford – and most importantly, looking for real value in what they can buy today.

This new mindset has altered marketer’s approach radically, of course.  And there are at least a small set of tactics we can all adopt to help ease the transition to a more normal economy – no matter how long it may take for a recovery.  In fact, these are good strategies for every business phase; in good times and bad;

* Justify Your Value. This seems obvious, doesn’t it?  No matter how the economy is faring, customers are always looking to understand the underlying value of your brand.  In fact, this is your brand – and if you’re unable to clearly define and message your value – how can your prospective customers be expected to understand your product or service?.  Even if your brand costs more than the competition, it’s imperative that you clearly define why your value is worth the extra investment.  Better results is worth more money if you can clearly communicate that to the public.

* Provide comparisons and alternatives. By giving your prospects a range of comparisons and alternatives, you can help position your brand as the right choice.  There’s a good argument for making a case for non-action and the potential hazards it may present – especially in the fields of health care, insurance and investment which are all to often seen as luxuries in today’s climate.  Not buying that new fuel efficient car may, in the end, prove a more costly decision than doing it today.

* Prepare Your Sales Force. Today’s market requires more personal attention to “close the sale”.  Now is the perfect time to invest in your sales team and customer service staff by providing them with the training and detailed information they’ll need to handle a much broader range of objections and concerns.  The ability to help move a prospect from consideration to purchase may mean the difference between survival and failure – especially if your competition has an equal or better product or service.

* Identify A Broader Competition Range. In today’s roller-coaster market, you aren’t simply competing with similar products and services, you’re in a much broader range of penny-pinching options you need to identify that are related to your brand.  Buying a used car or taking a vacation may be the choice facing the consumer – not whether to buy a new or used vehicle.  When consumers are tightening their overall spending habits, a much broader range of considerations come into play.  Identify those options and position your brand against them – you’ll remain a more competitive option in the consumer’s mind if you recognize the changing landscape of their decisions.

Today’s consumer continues to make decisions based on an emotional attachment to the brand – and not simply their concern for value.  Once they’ve made that decision, they deserve to be treated with a great deal of respect and appreciation – an element often missed in today’s challenging market.

Buying decisions are still being made today – and for those who take new steps and innovative actions to forge a different kind of bond with their customersm, they’ll emerge a much stronger brand with a wider audience when the economy begins to grow at a normal page again.

WordPress Marketer’s Blog Roundup


We’re fortunate to be included in a collective of bloggers on WordPress that concentrate their efforts on marketing reviews and ideas.  Here’s a quick recap of some of their latest (and greatest) updates:

* Brady’s Crew has some 50 great ideas from Time Magazine on how to improve your website.

* Dave Knox over at Hard Knox Life has some compelling ideas on why corporations should integrate social media into their communication mix using Motrin as a good example.

* Rick Leibling takes time with Junta42’s content marketing list, and notes Eyecube is growing in readership.

* Francis Anderson takes a quick look at Dido and Elf Yourself.

* Groves Media survived hell week with a round-up about manic Christians, Google, Crunched Celebs and Dead Parrots!

* Jax Rants investigates a really cool Sweet Spots site by Nike.

* Liquid Architecture shares some insights about the gaming community’s reaction to President-elect Obama.

* Marketing Integrity’s new site location rethinks church marketing, and it’s role in growing participation.

* Micha Solomon give props to Elite Media’s truly elite sales rep and process.

* Nicola Davis shows us something really interesting – AC DC’s innovative music video in an excel spreadsheet!

* Octagon First Call makes a really good point for brand communication, using XBOX as an example.

* Online Marketer Blog is offering a free e-book for download about writing holiday donation emails.  Take time to read it…great advice.

* Share Media’s Matt Hames takes note of Motrin’s social media response challenge, and the importance of context over content.  Something’s obviously up with Motrin…this is the second time the brand is on our radar.

* And finally, Weather Pattern’s shares the experince of getting a free future edition of the New York Times.

This roundup is just a sampling of the great ongoing work these bloggers passionately cover.  Please take time to read them, and share their insights and information with those you know might enjoy them as well.

Your Brand Probably Sucks


The term “brand” continues to have a good deal of misinterpretation and misinformation attached to it – even today as it’s become part of our common daily conversation.  Many, if not most, brands today are not truly brands – they’re simply nice logos attached to products.

Martin Lindstrom, author of Brand Fast Trackers, tapped into Brand Connections’ CEO & Founder Brian Martin about every marketer’s holy grail – consumers’ innermost thoughts.  In his latest book “Buyology – Truth Lies About Why We Buy” Martin cleverly connected over 2,000 people to brain scans in a scientific effort to really determine exactly how different products affect the brain.  Measuring the subject’s pleasure centers in an effort to prove his “smash your brand” theory.  Martin’s theory is that brands continue to retain their value – even when devoid of logos or other clues which consumer’s instinctively recognize.

I’d agree with Lindstrom’s suggestion that the vast majority of today’s consumers are so overwhelmed and jaded by year’s of a barrage of commercials that they now guard themselves when they perceive traditional advertising messaging and collateral.  In that environment, subliminal messaging is far less invasive, and achieves a much higher degree of positive response.

Lindstrom weigh in: “[Marketers] have become so rational,” with their “better-for less” positioning  “it is such a short-term way of building brands.”

To the point, he’s noted that visuals (yes, your logo) is last in the list of sensory importance:  “We’ve learned that the most powerful sense when we’re building brands and selling brands is not the sense of sight, it’s the sense of sound, followed by the sense of taste, touch & smell, then followed by the sense of sight.”

The combination of all five sensory experiences is the goal of marketer’s everywhere – and too often we forget the experience of the brand while concentrating on the imagery and positioning of it.

The challenge may be to take your personal perspective of the brand you know and love aside, and allow others to give you honest (perhaps even painful) feedback about what your brand truly means to them.  Then, reposition the elements of the brand to address those common perceptions.  You may be surprised to learn what your customers and prospects truly feel about it, and how your current brand is, or isn’t working as you’d believed.

Perception is reality – especially in today’s barrage of messaging.  Do you really know how you’re being perceived?  In today’s more-than-challenging market, getting in touch with the reality of your brand, and taking a hard look at the many facets of it (including your logo) may be the difference between survival and financial ruin.  Don’t take your brand for granted – you may well be the worst person to truly identify it’s real value and viability.

Religion And Advertising Just Don’t Mix

American Humanist Association's
American Humanist Association

At first, I had a difficult time wondering why, for any reason, someone would launch a $40,000.00 ad campaign that asks: “Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness’ sake.”  Was this some sort of sarcastic reference to one of my favorite holiday songs?  Or a pitch from an obscure religious group of some sort?
The American Humanist Association, a Washington-based group, has entered into the yearly battle between commercialism and the true meaning of Christmas – but for the first time, in a very public way.
“We are trying to reach our audience, and sometimes in order to reach an audience, everybody has to hear you,” said Fred Edwords, spokesman for the humanist group. “Our reason for doing it during the holidays is there are an awful lot of agnostics, atheists and other types of non-theists who feel a little alone during the holidays because of its association with traditional religion.”
The ads and posters include a link to a site with the purpose of connecting like-minded individuals in the D.C. region.
The actual proof, however, may well reside within the polled responses to the campaign provided by AOL:
Clearly, the majority of respondents say they participate in Christmas, and nearly as clearly, the ad campaign isn’t appreciated by a wide majority of respondents.
Edwords continued to support the campaign by noting that its propose isn’t to argue the existence of God, or change anyone’s opionions, although “we are trying to plant a seed of rational thought and critical thinking and questioning in people’s minds.”
Whatever your position, the campaign doesn’t seem to be changing any behavior or attitudes toward God or the holidays.  To me, it only helps to illustrate that religion and advertising simply aren’t compatible mates.
What’s your opinion on the campaign?

Simple Marketing Strategies For Today’s Economy


One of the biggest mistakes any company can make in challenging economic times is to severely cut back (or worse yet, stop) their marketing efforts.  One of my favorite quotes is from Peter Drucker:

“Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two–and only two–basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.”

As the distinguishing element of any business, your marketing message is the main point to communicate your brand.  In today’s economy, it’s often difficult to keep your marketing efforts moving forward at a pace that keeps your brand relevant, and moving into new economies.

So what are the basic steps every brand must continue to survive, and even thrive today?

1. Contact and engage your existing customer base. It’s more than easy to understand that you best opportunity for stability and sales lives within those that already believe strongly in your brand.  Within those loyal customers reside new sales opportunities, and most importantly, a strong base of customers you cannot afford to take for granted.   Sure…you’ve heard this before…but really…what are you actually doing about it?

Don’t forget the 20/80 rule: 20% of customers provide 80% of sales.  Reach out to them.  Thank them for their patronage, and offer them something to meet their needs in their own challenging times.  While you’re at it, take this opportunity to meet with them in person to express your loyalty face-to-face.  You’ll learn what is happening with them, and establish and even deeper brand relationship.  Ask them what you should focus your efforts on to make your product or service even better for them.  Then do it.

2. Give customers economical solutions and options. You know it – times are hard for everyone now, and that includes your customers.  Show them that you have an option that takes current economic challenges into account.  Empathize with them, and provide them with alternatives through your products or services.  Wouldn’t you want them to find a way to buy them from you?  Make sure you have options that make sense, and promote them.

3. Most importantly… Network, Baby, Network! You can understand there are clients that simply can’t afford to enter your market now.  This isn’t permanent in our business cycles – so take the time to meet new people while they’re looking for the same new connections.  When the economy does return, you’ll be well positioned to take advantage of the new business you’ve developed.  Keep your T.O.M.A. (Top Of Mind Awareness) level up.  Show up…meet… introduce – now is not the time to be shy.

Social media marketing provides a great set of cost-effective opportunities to expand your reach into new markets with a minimal expense – a good position to consider that can have far reaching, lasting effect on your brand and its value.

These aren’t simply “hard time strategies”, they should be part of everyone’s marketing efforts in good times and bad. Believe that our current challenges are temporary, and when the markets return to a normal pace of growth and expansion, you’ll be stronger, and more prepared to take full advantage of the new economy.

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