You remember your first business endeavor. You were probably around the age of 10. It was a lemonade stand and the reason you started it is because you wanted to buy something that either your parents couldn’t afford to buy for you or you needed earn the money to do it yourself. So without regard for any cost-benefit analysis, you asked your parents for the sugar, the lemons, and the markers and tag board for your marketing materials and you set up on the front sidewalk in front of your house with your plan to make all the money you needed all before dinner.
You didn’t know at the time that you needed a business plan and a marketing strategy. All you knew was that 1) you needed the cash fast and 2) people get thirsty. There was a definitive need for what you were selling.
But you were selling more than lemonade. You were selling a dream. Every child who got a nickel from their parents to buy your product was thirsty. Every adult who told you to keep the change was sold on your dream—whatever it was. They didn’t care to know.
It gets a little harder to sell anything as a budding entrepreneur. People don’t buy because they think you’re adorable and want to play a role in helping you buy your next toy. They want to buy because you’ve sold them on the notion that your product or service fills a need or solves a problem. That connection has been made in their mind, at least a few moments before they have presented you with payment.
Moving product is as much about selling ideas as much as it is the transaction at the cash register. Successful businesses know this. Many fast food establishments have sold you their product before you even get in the car. If having it “your way” is more important than “fresh never frozen,” then your lunch-time path is predetermined and the work of sales has been reduced to “may I take your order?”
Its never been more important that you know who you are and what you’re selling. Differentiating yourself and your product is one of the clearest ways consumers can answer the question of need or desire. You need to be willing to make your personality, your store, your product and your service look different from the 20 other similar establishments in your community. Standing out is how people begin to make product considerations. You can’t be seen among the competition if you look exactly like them.
Starting a business and having any long-term success is well beyond the anecdote of the lemonade stand. You’re just not cute enough anymore to start a business venture that inspires people much older than you to buy things because it will make you feel good. Before you can move any product or service or persuade people to give to your cause, you have to convince them of the need it fills in their life. Eventually you’ll create a brand reputation that stands out among the competition and that people have learned to trust.
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.
U2 stated the problem but never really offered us a solution. Your potential customers may be climbing the highest mountains and scaling city walls looking for you. But if in the spirit of creativity or so-called “trends” you’ve obscured your brand in such a way that you’ll never be found in searches on Google, Yahoo or Bing, you’ve created a problem that needs to be fixed.
While involved in a recent networking conversation, a question was posed about whether a personal coach should continue to use “coach” in her title or should she get with the times and adopt the language of “consultant.” The answer to the question is ultimately another question: what are potential customers searching for?
It’s true that titles and terms get overused or stigmatized. In the world of “coaching” there is concern it is being overrun with unskilled and untrained people lacking certifications and tarnishing the reputation of the industry. Here’s a newsflash for you coaches, this is true in every industry – but changing your name from “coach” to “consultant” may just create confusion.
If at some point all restaurant chefs wanted to change their title from “chef” to “meal constructor” and began promoting their services with this new title because a chef somewhere brought shame on the entire industry due to some rookie mistakes, potential employers would be very confused. They aren’t searching Indeed or LinkedIn for “meal constructors.” Restaurants look for chefs.
People who look for coaches are familiar with the word coach – don’t miss the opportunity to expand your business by obscuring yourself among your competition. But don’t take my word for it. Do the research and see what your most successful competition is up to. Where are they located? How much business are they known to be generating? Are they a coach or a consultant? Whatever you’re doing to promote your brand, unless you have unlimited financial resources, breaking new ground by repositioning the entire industry within a new framework because of a trend you heard about is not what’s going to lead you down a path of success. You need to market yourself so that when potential clients are visiting Google, Yahoo and Bing, they can find exactly what they are looking for and you are included in those search results.
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.
“Build it and they will come” works well for some well-known brands, but for others it can be a blind leap of faith. While faith in the future is a great attitude to bring to the table, faith without action is a recipe for disaster. It takes work to get the word out about any business endeavor. Even for businesses that have been around for a while, marketing challenges will create upheaval for you and your business.
Lack of Visibility. Does anyone know you’re open for business? Are you engaging social media channels and connecting with your target audience? There are many ways to get your business noticed. From billboards and print ads to social media marketing strategies, the options are many. Your online presence and your local visibility are equally important. But even worse than a lack of visibility is poor visibility. How people see your brand represented matters immensely. Establish your brand with quality marketing efforts and your target audience will want to remember who you are. Be seen!