Marketing is a fun, creative activity that can also test your patience, especially the area of reputation management. Everything is marketing, not just your logo, your business card and advertising campaigns. Everything your audience sees you doing both personally and professionally represents your work. So your personal life can become a marketing asset or even a liability if you have any activity in social media and/or are visible in your community. Your brand identity is ultimately the experience your customers have with your product and any time they interact with you as a person. This can lead to your corporate identity being synonymous with your personal public image. To be clear, how people know you CAN impact your business, so it’s crucial to think before you speak, as the saying goes.
So you’re wondering the obvious question, where is the line between my public and private life? Clearly everyone in any business just wants to shed themselves of their work and do their own thing on their own time and not be seen, even if it’s just for a little while. Those days are over. The era of social media has essentially eliminated the privacy anyone ever really enjoyed. Unless you’re inactive on your social channel profiles, the world has access to your pet pictures, social vents and your personal beliefs and values. And because they won’t ever really go away, your words and images on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have the potential to define your brand identity and overshadow your products and services. As soon as you start to share all things personal, the line between your public and private life has essentially been erased.
So the concerns you may have about how to maintain your positive standing as a business owner are best answered by how you choose to be visible. Here are 6 tips to managing your reputation online and off, and preserve a bit of that line that separates the personal image from the public.
- Avoid public discussion on deeply controversial topics. Many families still adhere to the maxim “don’t discuss politics and religion” at holiday gatherings. The point is clear. You can’t change who your family is but you can avoid conflict with the people who are always yours. Do the same with your customers and community. Your business is about selling a product or service you believe in. The second you walk into a dispute entirely unrelated to your work, it may mean a loss in revenue. If someone wants to buy a dozen cookies from your store, should it really matter who they voted for in the last election? You may never restore a relationship with a customer or client if all they remember how angry you got in social media or the argument they witnessed in your store.
- Don’t share your boudoir photos. If you’re on social media and you like to post selfies, be sure that the context in which they are taken doesn’t morally compromise any projects or products you’re involved with. For instance, if your work entails counseling people with alcohol addiction, don’t post images of yourself drinking 6 martinis. If you are the president of a local nonprofit aimed at helping underprivileged children, you should reconsider posting anything that has sexually explicit themes. People shouldn’t judge–but they do.
- Get out in front of a story. If there is some bad press coming your way about something you may or may not have had control over, be the first to address it. Don’t hide from it or give people time to make up their own mind about why you’re not addressing the issue. Take responsibility and practice transparency. Make all apologies that are necessary and take appropriate action to rectify the matter. It’s important to listen, respond and show your willingness to alter policies or procedures to inspire the confidence of your audience, especially those who are paying real close attention to the matter at hand. Marketing strategy often involves crisis communications. To stay in business, you need to be able to manage a crisis and not let it manage you.
- Privatize your emotions. If something or someone on social media or in the community upsets you, don’t fly off the handle. Give serious thought to your reactions and responses. Always keep the long game in mind, because people remember who the keyboard warriors are. If you must address an issue, make sure you’re addressing it with facts. Avoid attacking and insulting people, keep the focus on the issue. Remaining cool, calm and collected in your community is the recipe for a solid reputation.
- Be positive and supportive. If your local and social footprint is known for being an encouragement to others, you really don’t have anything to worry about. Be a team player in the community and in social media. Support the great work that others are doing. This is another great way to get your name and business out there, too. Show empathy when necessary and be a person known for charity and courteousness. People love to support businesses who are known for supporting a community and its causes.
- Keep your social posts to a minimum. Whether for personal or business purposes, if it seems that all you do is hang out on Facebook, this probably is not helpful. Push your business posts only as frequently as necessary. People who follow your business online don’t want to see their feed filled with just your content. Be strategically discreet on the social channels so that people remember who you are instead of wishing you’d go away.
Owning a business isn’t for the faint of heart because leaders must be courageous. Daily, you are faced with challenges that require an immediate response, and when you fail to act it becomes easy to spiral into fatigue and a sense of failure. Self doubt often sets in and you don’t challenge your own negative thinking, because second guessing yourself seems like the right thing instead of leaping to action. Sometimes we buy into the negative self-talk that we really can’t do what we set out to do and this happens at both the conscious and unconscious levels and can be debilitating. I’m not suggesting we should never challenge ourselves and re-evaluate things. What I mean is that if you don’t have confidence in the decisions you make and the reasons behind those decisions, you’ll lack the courage to act and finding forward momentum will be next to impossible. You need to confidently make a decision until you need to confidently make the next decision. That’s how we learn to lead. (more…)
You don’t have a blog on your website? Blogging isn’t for you? There are so many reasons why you should blog and zero reason to wait. It doesn’t matter what industry you represent, blogging is one way to keep the traffic coming to your website. And its not like writing a book – a blog post can be as long or short as you want. It can be funny or serious. Your blog can even include pictures! Blogging doesn’t have to be a synonym for boring. Here are your 10 great reasons why you should blog and add a new dimension to your marketing strategy.
1. Search engines are watching for fresh, new content on websites. Whether its written content or even video, keep the content coming because search engines like Google and Bing look more favorably on sites that are regularly updating content with original material..
2. Blog content can be used across various channels. Use the same content it in a newsletter, a podcast or even a public presentation that you would in a blog. You can get a lot of mileage out of one blog post!
3. Blog posts give you more opportunity to connect with your customers. You can tell them exactly what you want them to know! If they’re reading, they’re paying attention. Give them reasons to visit your blog like upcoming sales, special event announcements, and even human interest stories. By keeping their interest on your website you have more opportunity to draw new visitors to your website.
4. New, quality content means repeat visits. Keep writing and they will come back!
5. You become known as an expert in your field. If your writing regularly on philosophy, golf, event planning or whatever your favorite topic is, you can bet there’s an audience looking for it. There is always someone who shares your same passion, don’t lose the opportunity by maintaining a stale web presence.
6. Blogging keeps you connected with your community, especially to the media. You’re having a ribbon cutting, a fundraiser or a special performer at your business – don’t forget the press release! A website properly set up will allow press releases to run through the general blog feed as well as post on a separate press release page. I can help you with that!
7. Writing is good for you! It can be beneficial to your mind, body and spirit. Writing can teach you to communicate better in general and build confidence. It can also be therapeutic, providing an outlet for emotional energy. And if your goal is to write well, it can also make you smarter.
8. Blogging will eventually force you to learn something new. Unless you have nothing else to learn, chances are you’ll have to research something about your topic to deliver a great piece.
9. Blogging creates the opportunity to engage your clients and customers. When they leave comments you can engage them and find out what other help you can provide. Its another way to stay connected!
10. Blogging can be a means to financial growth, not just because it brings more people to your business, but monetizing a blog is an actual option. If you can build a substantive readership, sponsors are out there and interested in clinging to your success with paid advertising. Affiliate marketing is another option. Definitely something to consider!
I could probably list 10 more reasons why blogging can benefit your business or organization, but even my first 5 were sufficient in making the point. But you need to make sure you’re blogging at your website, not somewhere that takes people away from your business, geographically speaking. Your work will be enhanced simply with you engaging the writing process, but don’t limit its impact to the professional development side. Blogging can have a real impact on your bottom line, too.
Probably the best marketing device at your disposal is the
ability to create an amazing experience for your customers. When they leave
your business establishment, what they are motivated to speak about—positive or
negative—has great power to influence. Word of mouth is a form of influencer marketing and is growing
exponentially in the virtual world. But
the product promos by reality stars and sports figures on Instagram don’t carry
the weight of the customer who just left your store with the memorable
experience they will share with their friends and family—online and off. Let’s give your customers something to talk about:
One chance to make a
first impression. The old adage is true, and if you fail to make a
positive, memorable connection you may never have the chance again to convert
them from browser to buyer. The days of “how may I help you” need to be
replaced with “welcome” and an attitude of “how can I make this a great
experience”…and then actually creating an experience that they will want to
repeat over and over again. They may have walked in to simply find something
they need, but make sure they get what they want, too.
Value. It goes without saying, if your product or service isn’t worth what the customer paid for it, whether an issue of quality or price, they will share their product experience with others. Customers want to feel as if they got a great deal for a great product, which is why businesses like Kohls are so successful with their discount programs. Kohls has figured out how to make the customer feel taken care of in an area of high priority—the wallet—and they know their customers talk about it to their friends and family. Those last few minutes in Kohls is what causes them to return again—when they receive their Kohl’s Cash and receipt showing how much they saved which makes them feel happy. Make your customers feel happy by creating a sense of value in your product or service.
Respectful. People have come to accept all the buzz words and jargon when they
enter a business establishment. But when a server effectively communicates that
they care that you enjoy your drink, or the cycle shop talks through your uses
of a new bike and doesn’t try to close the deal on the most expensive bike in
the shop, you feel respected and taken care of. As a business owner, you’ve been
in the shoes of your customer too, so don’t try to sell them a product or story
that you wouldn’t buy yourself.
The experience people are looking for when shopping online
is both the quality of the product and the convenience of shopping. In your
local business, people are wanting more. Enjoy having the opportunity for the
face-to-face exchange and make the most of their experience. They will tell
others about it and so will you. Give people something to talk about that is
beneficial to you and continue to find ways to create a memorable experience
for your customers every time they visit.
If you’re just getting started in email marketing or
considering taking the leap, you may be wondering about what it takes to grow
your email list. How do you get people to sign up to receive your emails? It’s not
Here are some great ways—online and off—to capture email
leads and continue to generate awareness of your products and services. Its
certainly not an exhaustive list, but these are the key ways to stay connected
to the people who are already interested in what you do!
- Website and social media sign-up forms. After setting up an email marketing account, there is code that can be generated to place on your website. Visitors to your site will fill out the form and, like magic, they are now a member of your list! Facebook also has sign up form integration capabilities for your business page, so make sure you take advantage of these digital means of gathering leads.
- Special events. Photobooths aren’t just for weddings anymore! Corporate events, conferences, and special storefront events are great opportunities to hire social media savvy photobooths. Your customers will want to get in on the action with your business’ fancy filter and share their pictures in social media. But first, you can capture their email address and cell phone number where the image is sent. You get their contact info for a longer-term marketing strategy and in the short term, they become an influencer for your business on their social media page. Learn more about this strategy from Midwest Selfies.
- Point of Sale. At some point during the check-out process, just ask! Utilize a POS system that allows you to gather information about your customers and enter their email address right there—with their permission. This will increase your ability to promote your future sales and events. If your POS system doesn’t accommodate the gathering of that information, simply ask and have a growing list you can enter in to your email marketing platform later. This can also be an aspect of your online shopping cart check-out process.
- Contests. People love FREE and will almost always give you an email address for a chance to win something. Have a fishbowl for business cards or sign up slips and once a month plan some sort of give-away. In the meantime, you’re growing your list and increasing sales! The old saying that you have to spend money to make money is true, but you don’t always have to spend much to see a return on your investment.
- Special offers. Do your customers want to get 20% off in the store or online? Special offers to anyone who provides an email address is a strategic way to gather more leaders. Not only do people love a good sale, but their willingness to spend money makes them a lot lead and a valuable member of your email list. You can utilize this method with free downloads on your website as well.
Email capture is worth the effort because it keeps you in
front of the people who are already interested in what you do. Don’t neglect the
opportunities to connect with people who have already made purchases or have sought
information. You’re on their radar, so don’t let them forget about you!
Whether a business or a non-profit entity, a sole-proprietorship or a large corporation, your brand is at the foundation of successful marketing efforts. But your brand doesn’t start with your logo because it is much more than that. You have to know your business identity before you can select fonts or logo elements. Your brand is what people know and feel about your business. Reputation is as much a part of your brand as the quality of the products and services you promote. Reflecting on these 5 areas of brand development, take another look at your current strategy and see what needs to change in more completely establishing your brand.
The Emotions. What you sell isn’t your brand. When customers purchase your products, they are left with feelings of satisfaction, contentment…and sometimes buyers’ remorse. If what goes home with your customers doesn’t leave them with a positive feeling in the long run, they probably won’t be back to repeat the purchase. Consumers are usually driven by emotion when making purchases.
The Experience. Closely related to the emotional side of buying, the experience of buying is significant in establishing your brand. While your brand isn’t your product, the experience of making a purchase is an aspect of your brand. The music playing in a store, the lighting, the merchandising, and the greeting are all integral to the experience of your customers. They will remember if the shelves were messy, if the music was too loud or if they were ignored. The point is, we remember great shopping experiences, and we remember those not so great. We remember if the store environment makes us feel old, if the store was busy due to mismanagement or if it didn’t meet our expectations. Do all you can to ensure customers have an enjoyable, memorable shopping journey.
The Truth. People are not usually taken in by shallow marketing efforts. When they learn they have been taken, they react by taking their business elsewhere. There are plenty of lessons to be learned from the unethical business and marketing tactics we’ve seen over the years from popular national brands. While its easy to want to overstate the quality of our product or service, the bottom line is that the best approach to marketing is an honest approach.
The Visual. Your logo and your tagline aren’t your entire brand, but obviously they play a crucial role in becoming established in the minds of your customers. You know your favorite brands because their logos vividly come to mind when you think about the experience with their products. You’re drawn in by the quality and your experience with it. As people have an experience with your business, make sure your logo represents what you do in style and quality. Keep it where it can be seen to help people to remember who you are. And while a lot more can and should go into your brand scheme, your logo is the gateway to your brand because it opens doors to more opportunity.
The Difference. Positioning is the key element of branding. What makes your product or service different from the competition? When traveling, I prefer to stop at gas stations like Kwik Trip or Casey’s because of what makes them so different from their competition: clean bathrooms and the availability of affordable food options. The consistency is apparently in each of their locations, a part of their marketing strategy that can’t be ignored. Clearly communicating your brand’s personality – what makes it unique – is key to growing your business.
Branding your business doesn’t need to be an overly complicated process, but these 5 areas of branding will help you to better define who you are and stand out in an among the businesses around you.