Old School New School Marketing: Going to the Wisdom Well

marketing
photo credit: pixabay

Back in the day, marketing your business looked like this:

  • Hang a shingle; join the local chamber of commerce; hire someone to design business cards and a tri-fold brochure … wait for the phone to ring.
  • Sell, sell, sell.
  • Send out a direct mail piece … wait for the phone to ring.
  • Sell, sell, sell.
  • Flyer the parking lots around town … wait for the phone to ring.

All that old school sitting around waiting for the phone to ring can be depressing and scary. We feel much better today, don’t we? Today we just launch a product, tap a few clever social media keystrokes, and then wait for the payments to fall into whatever account is connected to the “Buy” button.

What about the days when the buy button seems to be broken? How about when the email that says “you just got paid” is delayed? I know … hang a shingle, join the chamber and make yourself some new business cards!

Going “old school” is not a bad thing. It’s simply a matter of going to the well of wisdom (like the people who say “back in the day”) and pulling up a pail of what has always worked.

Thriving

Customer service, a reliable sales cycle, and relationship-building are needed whether your marketing strategies are old school or new school.

I assume you are a focused, directed, optimistic and forward-moving person with a message, a gift, a product or service that the world is waiting for. How do you thrive and flourish in a buzzy, noisy, crowded arena? You need well-honed strategies for crafting a clear and concise message that gets you noticed and remembered. Here are three things to remember:

  • Clever never goes out of style (but not TOO clever).
  • Unique wins the prize (but not SO unique that you have to struggle to educate people before they buy).
  • Offering up what your ideal customer wants is the ultimate brass ring (what they SAY they want, not what you think they want).

Personal Branding

If you are that person with something the world is waiting for, your personal branding strategy is really important. Your brand is all about what makes you unique, relevant, irresistible and compelling to your market.

There has NEVER been a more important time to build your brand because today, no matter what business you are in, your customers are online checking you out and checking out others who do what you do. Never has there been a more vital time to stand out and make sure your potential customers choose you, recommend you and stick with you.

Branding is the conversation about trust and expectation that occurs between you and your clients and would-be clients. It may not happen in words you will ever hear, but the conversation is happening. You want to control it by giving people all the possible visual cues, consistency, and tools for remembering you.

The essential parts of your brand include dozens of touch points: your business card, stationery and collateral materials; your voicemail greeting and invoice; your attire and where you choose to network; your CD, web or print portfolio; your blog and other social media, including what you do or don’t reveal about yourself; and on and on.  

Your brand includes the colors and style and consistency of message, of course, but it’s also the promise associated with all the physical components you have chosen to represent you and your product or services.  

The promise is the strong emotion or feeling you hope to convey, and you need to live up to it at all costs! Your promise is an agreement with your prospects and clients alike that you are indeed the best choice, and the trust they are going to ascribe to you is an asset they won’t give away to the unworthy.  

Your brand is an experience. It’s all the parts that make YOU (if you work in a company) or YOU (if you are an entrepreneur) stand out in the crowd.  It’s your promise to be a certain way, deliver your goods a certain way, correct errors or disappointments a certain way.

Add Some Va Va Voom

Va Va Voom will help you put your values, passions, and strengths into a more effective branding strategy.  

The first “V” is for VECTOR, which means a heading or a chosen or taken course. Take time to establish where you are, where you’re going, and once you get there, will you like it?

The second “V” is for VITALITY. You’ll need to exhibit all the spunk, pluck, pizzazz and sparkle you can muster to not only stand for your promise, but to stand out from your competition. The audacity, intensity and zest you deliver in all your communication and relationship management will be a signal that people will remember – so tune up and go for it!  And while you’re at it, see what you can do to ensure that you are indeed the best choice, maybe even a “Category of One” (think Virgin Airlines).

The “V” in Voom is for VISION. The quality of your vision determines the creativity, quality and originality of your ideas and solutions. A powerful vision statement should stretch expectations and aspirations, help you jump out of your comfort zone, and open your eyes to what is possible.

The “M” in Voom is for MISSION. A personal mission statement is a brief description of what you want to focus on, what you want to accomplish and who you want to become in a particular area of your life over the next one to three years. It is a way to focus your energy, actions, behaviors and decisions towards the things that are most important to you.

That takes care of the consonants – now what’s left in Va Va Voom?  A couple of a’s and a pair of o’s.  Aaaa,  oooo.  Or better yet, ooo aaa.  That’s the piece you can really use – what is the ooh ahh you want to convey? That’s the thing that makes you different!

Class dismissed.

 

Deb 150 x 150Deborah L. Brown has over 30 years’ experience as a publicist, marketer, editor, publisher, promotional consultant, and freelance commercial writer. As the co-host of over 1000 episodes of The Boomer and The Babe Show, Deborah has given voice to 78 million Baby Boomers from coast to coast. She operates a boutique firm that provides platform-building and publishing services for authorpreneurs, including editing and formatting their books. In addition to writing a series of marketing books and trying her hand at flash fiction, Deborah designs and illustrates coloring book journals for adults and children. Connect with Deborah via http:ColoringJournalsforHealthyLiving.com

3 strategies for achieving business growth

strategies for achieving business growth
photo credit: freeimages.com

As a small business, growth is what will make or break you. If you don’t adapt to the current economy and maximize your success, the outlook is very bleak. In today’s world, where a terrifying number of SMEs fail within the first five years, it’s imperative to take a proactive approach when it comes to securing the future prospects of your business.

You don’t have to leave the fate of your business up to chance if you’ve implemented a secure strategy that you’ll follow closely. Nothing is foolproof, but careful planning will give you the best shot at success.

1. Focus on customer retention and brand loyalty

You’re going to need capital to grow. Where is it going to come from? If you’re frivolously advertising, attempting to rope in as many new customers as possible, you may not see the results you’re expecting. That’s why you need to focus on the customers you already have. Develop a loyalty program. Go above and beyond to service the customers who already recognize and value you. Creating a core set of customers is essential for a predictable profit.

Brand loyalty is equally important. New customers will be more inclined to continue their relationship with you if you incentivize their loyalty. Those small perks do come at a minor cost, but it isn’t nearly as large as the cost of recruiting new customers. Most people are inclined to shop for value, and making it worth their while can carry you further than the best advertising campaign you could possibly conceive.

2. Outwit your competitors

There’s always going to be competition – you just have to make sure you’re winning. Businesses that never achieve their desired level of growth (or even worse, businesses that fold) often find themselves in that position because their competitors have an edge. If you’re providing a useful product or service, it’s not that people don’t want it. Chances are, they just like someone else’s better.

This involves a certain level of risk taking. Always keep an eye on what your competitors are doing. Understand what it is that they’re doing better than you are. You need to not only match, but exceed their best qualities. Even if it’s merely in customer service, you need to give people a reason to choose you over someone else. Growth requires constant innovation. You can’t fear what lies outside of the box – you need to make it your default to think there.

3. Watch your numbers closely

If you’re making a profit, that’s excellent. The problem lies in being content with the profit you’re making, and stopping there. Look at all of your numbers. Some aspects of your business can be showing excellent performance while others are subpar. Determine how to maximize everything. It can be as simple as replacing something with an upgraded version, or as complicated as dropping something altogether and doing a total restructure. Don’t let things get to rock bottom before you decide to take action. Always stay three steps ahead to prevent a predicament. Every aspect of your business presents you with an opportunity to move forward.

…And remember to keep a level head

As you likely already know, the best plan is one that can be adapted at the last moment. You can still be cautious while being inventive. If you see things aren’t working in a particular area, don’t be afraid to make small adaptations. Always change one thing at a time, investigate the impact the change has had, and rework your plans through fine tuning.

 

Kelly SmithKelly Smith is a technology addict and an experienced writer at CourseFinder. She combines her huge interest in new tech solutions and leadership trends with her love for writing.

How to Know if Your Marketing Strategy is Working

marketing strategy
photo credit: Pixabay

It’s easy to be impatient, but you know you can’t expect to see amazing results from your marketing strategy overnight. Results take time, but as a small business, you don’t have a lot of time to waste. This creates a dilemma – how long do you wait things out before making changes? Your success is riding on a steady incline on your income graph. It won’t be too fast, but it can’t be too slow. Changing up your marketing because you aren’t getting immediate results can potentially drive you into debt. The trick is looking at the numbers, knowing what to expect, and understanding the impacts that small tweaks can make when they’re enacted at the right time.

Keep an inquiring mind

Many businesses use survey questions with their customers. Large businesses tend to offer small rewards for feedback, but that may not be feasible for your small business. Try offering one prize through a feedback based raffle. There is a core question you want to ask to measure your marketing success, and it’s a simple one: How did you hear about us? This one is self-explanatory. If your customers are referring to your advertising, you know it’s reaching at least some of your desired market. Get to know this market, and tailor your marketing towards this group for maximum success.

Get smart with analytics

Analytics are useless if you don’t know how to read them. These figures, especially with social media and tracked advertisement, mean the world. It doesn’t matter how many people you’re reaching if you aren’t engaging with them. Comments and interactions are what actually signify that your marketing plan is working. If you aren’t getting an active response, it’s time to change the way you handle your interactive platforms.

Measure your plans against your goals

You’re going to have no idea whether something is a hit or a miss unless you have a direct goal you intend to use as a measurement of your success. Before you start marketing, know what you’re trying to accomplish. Maybe you want to see a ten percent revenue increase at the peak of your marketing campaign. Maybe you want to recruit 30 new valuable customers within the first half of your ad outreach. Keep modest goals, but always know what exactly you’re looking for as an indication that things are going according to plan.

Make sure your demographic matches your platforms

Where are you advertising? How are you advertising? Who are you advertising to? If your advertisement is geared in areas where your target customers aren’t likely to see it, things aren’t going to work out in your favor. Minimal response may not be the result of a slow trickle of new customers, but instead the result of your desired customers missing your advertisement entirely. Know your demographic. Understand how they want to observe and interact with marketing. If you’re looking for customers in all the wrong places, your return is going to be as small as possible.

If you find yourself in a marketing slump, it’s time to try something different. You need to make sure your new strategy is the right kind of different, instead of merely something else. Look at your competitors and weigh their success against yours. Marketing success is a game of innovation, so sharpen your wits and get in the game.

 

Monique CraigMonique Craig is a blogger and an employee at Oneflare, a reliable online marketplace connecting Australians with local businesses. In her free time, Monique enjoys reading self-improvement books and learning more about new technologies and strategies that allow businesses to grow and expand.

10 Visual Marketing Ideas to Implement This Year

 photo credit:stencil - 10(license)

photo credit:stencil – 10(license)

Marketing online an interesting task. On one hand it is easier than it ever was before thanks to our improved platform for such advertising. Likewise, our reach is more impressive than it has been in the past. You can attract customers from all over the world, while still focusing a strategy on localized business, without diluting your results.

But there are some cons. Like how oversaturated the market – every market – happens to be.

Getting seen is difficult at best and you have to be constantly vigilant to make the most of your campaign. Squeezing every little bit that you can out of a single marketing source is stressful, even if it is beneficial.

With the introduction of social media, things have changed even more drastically. But perhaps the biggest change in that regard is the way it has adapted over time to include more visual content. In that media lies our biggest and most effective marketing tool. With it, we can create visual marketing.

1. Stop Using Average Stock Images

First things first: avoid average stock images. There is a reason people make fun of stock photos; they look bad, and they are cheaply produced. A room full of laughing people in business suits might get a message across, but that doesn’t mean it actually enhances your content. Which is precisely what your images are there to do.

Cracked uses basic stock images on their content because it looks ridiculous. They use witty captions that underline the boring, mundane aspect that each picture is illustrating.

Stay away from basic stock photos: They make your content look unnatural and cheap!

2. Instead…, Reinvent Stock Images More Creatively

You don’t have to keep your stock images as they are. Borders. filters, crops, additions, changes… these all give stock images a more unique bent, and all rely on your aesthetic and creativity to work.

Be sure to check licenses prior to changing any images. Some will prohibit the work being used if it is not fully intact, as it was published. If you are on a subscription service and there are no licensing specifics on each image, you may want to double check the service FAQ’s.

PicMonkey is a great tool for that: From filters to collages and nice-looking text overlays, you can easily make any basic image look unique and cool.

picmonkey

3. Stop Using Thumbnails: UPLOAD Your Visuals to Social Media Channels

Social media platforms are wicked beasts: Like any other sites they don’t want their users to abandon them by clicking the link you share there.

They want their users to stay and keep browsing: This is why, if you upload content versus just linking to it, they will give it a boost.

Don’t believe me? Look at your social media stream: Notice that if you share a link, all you get is a couple of likes. But as soon as you upload a pictures, there’s a flood of likes and comments.

That’s not just because your friends like to see pictures more than read your blog posts: It’s because Facebook will show your pictures in overwhelmingly more feeds than it will show your links.

4. Think In Memes

Memes are a great way to connect with the collective consciousness of the web. Of course, you want to do this the right way. There is nothing clever or helpful in misusing a meme. You should know how it applies, and make it funny and relevant. Don’t just toss a meme in for no reason, or it will backfire.

It is like when you see a marketing blog putting up an image of Boromir, with the caption “One does not simply forget about email newsletters”. You can almost see the eye roll of the reader.

boromir

5. Make the Most of Visual Quotes

Visual quoting may be overused and sometimes abused (Many of visual quotes you see these days are fake: Those people never said that) but, hey, they still work! And if you approach visual quoting responsibly, you’ll see great results.

Try using Recite to put your favorite words into images. And don’t forget what we just said: #3!

recite

6. Mix Up Your Media

Finally, who says all of your visuals have to be pictures? It is better to think of visual content as an expanded category, filled with different types of media to appeal to your site visitors.. Buzzfeed is a great example of this in principle, with their GIF based content that allows moving images to tell a story.

But earlier examples are introduction videos, integrated animations embedded in stationary backgrounds, and really anything that catches the eye.

7. Collect Your Media to Create New Channels

Look back at your visuals you were publishing over the past 12 months. Are there any that can be collected together and turned into a cool into a slideshow or video?

Do you know that visual quotes make an incredibly popular Slideshare content?

Or do you know that you can collect those visuals and pack them into a cool video? It can take around 20 minutes to do so with tools like Animoto! And those videos look fabulous!

animoto

8. Enhance Your Tutorials with Animated GIFs

Do you describe simple steps using lots of screenshots? Try using an animated GIF to make your point clear: These are very sharable and really amusing. As an additional incentive, you’ll be able to re-use those to market on your Pinterest, Twitter and Google Plus channels: These all play animated GIFs right in the feeds making them impossible to miss.

RecordIt is an incredibly easy tool to create those animated GIFs easily: just do your steps and the tool will turn those into a GIF image:

recordit

9. Take It Offline

Believe it or not, advertising in the real world still works. Less crowded than the ad-heavy Internet, you can use business cards, fliers and creative print marketing to drive traffic to your site, and generate leads for future profits. It is also ridiculously cheap and easy to do.

Keep an eye out for opportunities to get out into the community, such as related public events. While we won’t name a specific example here, multi-level marketing (while shady) prove the concept.

Picaboo and PrintMePoster are both two easy tools to start bringing your visual strategy offline: The latter even provides Instagram printing tools. You can even consider printing eBooks and whitepapers if you have any developed in a digital format yet.

10. Start Using Visual-Marketing Oriented Tools

While popular digital marketing platforms like Hootsuite provide options for image uploads, they lack visual marketing features. The most visual-strategy-friendly platform out there is MavSocial.

They let you upload images or use built-in search to use visuals they provide. You can bulk-schedule visual updates to go live on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, and Tumblr.

mavsocial

Do you have any ideas for unique photos on your site, that don’t require you to be a professional photographer? Let us know in the comments!

 

anna-03Anna Fox is the blogger behind Hire Bloggers, social media marketing enthusiast and stay-at-home mom.

 

Build a foundation that will grow with you

Ducttape1
photo credit: pixabay

Like love, the course of running a successful business never did run smoothly.

Chalk it up to the sheer number of variables – on both a macro and a micro level – that a business has to deal with. Regardless of how much time and effort you pour into planning things out, success is never going to be linear. Instead, it’s dotted with peaks and troughs, twists and turns. And those peaks and troughs can seem magnified unless your business is agile and flexible enough to handle change with aplomb.

That flexibility and agility is rarely a happy accident, but rather the result of a concerted effort to build a foundation that is able to adapt as circumstances change and your business grows.

Here are three essential skills you’ll need to ensure your foundation is one that can grow as your business does.

Learn how to build the right team

Ducttape2
photo credit: pixabay

We all know that finding the right talent is a crucial aspect of building a successful business. However, when you’re starting out and don’t have the resources and skills of an immense HR department at your disposal, it can be difficult to know how to find – and retain – the best of the best.

One thing that tends to trip up small or new businesses is the belief that the only way to attract top talent is with top dollars – something that your business just might not have yet. However, a 2014 survey by Flexjobs found that, of the 1500 people surveyed, 20% of those would be willing to take a 10% pay cut in favour of flexibility in working conditions, and 22% would be willing to forego health benefits.

Ultimately, building a great team doesn’t mean hiring those with the most prestigious qualifications, or spending big on salaries. Instead, place your energies into two areas: building flexibility into the roles you create so you can be sure to attract great talent, and hiring staff who are a good personality and culture fit.

Learn to compartmentalise

Ducttape3
photo credit: pixabay

In the early days of your business, you’re probably going to be wearing a lot of hats. Depending on the nature and scope of your business, you may be salesperson, bookkeeper, marketing manager, customer service rep and director, all at once. And when you’re performing multiple roles at once, it can be hard to separate them out once  the time comes to hire help.

What you need to do is compartmentalise. For each role you’re performing, determine the core activities and tasks that define that role. As your business grows, you’ll add more and more tasks to that list, which will make writing position descriptions when you’re ready to hire staff infinitely easier.

This advice also comes in handy when you, inevitably, need to work on separating your work and your personal life.  If you’re juggling, say, being a parent and running your own business, you may want to take the time to write out the tasks you perform as a parent, and those you perform as a business owner. That way, you can assess whether you’re focusing on the right things at the right time.

Learn to document your processes

Ducttape4
photo credit: pixabay

In almost all fledgling businesses, there’s a great deal of tacit knowledge – that is, information, processes or procedures that are undocumented. For example, you may know how to update your website, or change the outgoing voicemail message, or which suppliers can deliver at short notice.

Relying on tacit knowledge, however, leaves your business vulnerable. The director of a company I used to work for was inordinately fond of asking his employees, ‘What if you get hit by a bus tomorrow? Will anyone know how to do your job?’

It’s a valid – if morbid – point.

Documenting processes, while time-consuming and frankly a little dull, is crucial to the success of your business. Keeping in-depth, up-to-date documentation on processes and procedures (you can find an easy 10-step method for documentation here) makes coping with change and growth a far less stressful experience. It also means that, when things go wrong, you can easily backtrack and ascertain where things went wrong.

 

Ducttape5Kimberley Schollick is the marketing coordinator and resident blogger at Ento, which provides cloud-based software to help businesses manage their scheduling, attendance and communication. After years working in a variety of industries (including retail, not-for-profit and publishing), Kimberley has learned a lot about team development and management, and now aims to use that knowledge to help businesses get the very best out of their teams.