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Small and Medium-Sized Business Tips On Raising Your Brand

I posted this article late last fall and today I think it needs repeating. Since posting, I’ve come to realize that small and medium-sized businesses have difficulty understanding the need of developing a recognizable brand. Why would Harry’s Garage in Green Bay or The Little Doz’ Inn in Appleton, WI need a brand? Because it pinpoints what you provide in images, words and actions. It helps your customers understand why and how you are different from your competition. It gives you a chance to stand out from the crowd. In today’s tough economy, how can that NOT be important?

Like Raising A Child, It Doesn’t Happen Overnight.

Building a brand is a little bit like raising a child. You start with a baby, an infant. You really might not feel much of an attachment right away, but slowly something magic starts to build. You feel something. You form that malleable little being into something that models yourself and those around you. You help define their morals, their judgement, their humor. It’s the same for a brand as it is with a child. Now, your child isn’t full-grown for many years, sometimes kids never grow up; the same with brands. Budget-wise you may spend a lot on both children and brands, but it is done slowly over time and just like with children you usually know pretty quickly when your money has been well spent. If you do it right, you’ll see it as the best money you’ve ever spent, giving you rewards far into the future.

Below is the original article from last fall, let me know what you think.

Wait! Don’t Forget Your Brand!

It’s hard to handle everything during the launch of a dynamic inbound marketing strategy, but don’t forget your brand along the way. It’s at the top of the marketing priority list of every successful business. Take Apple, for example. When a person buys an iPad or Mac they are buying the appeal, design and support of the Apple brand. They know it will be trendy and cutting edge. It will make them feel cool. That is the power of good brand creation and alignment.
future apple brand whorephoto © 2005 james keller | more info (via: Wylio)

Every marketing dollar you spend should support your brand. It’s how you stand out. It adds value to your product or company that can be measured in dollars. The brand is the story you tell people about what you provide. Below is a short overview on branding and some tips to be sure you don’t overlook your brand as you launch inbound marketing efforts.

A brand

• Expresses your company name and essence visually through a logo

• Extends throughout an organization’s communications and includes all functions of a company, product development through sales, as integral pieces of your brand

• Includes how customers perceive the company and the inherent value they place on your business

• Provides something that consistently draws attention and focus

• Is distinguished – your brand should give your audience something it wants but is not getting from your competitors

Defining your brand identity

• Determine your company’s positioning and core values

• Understand your strengths and weaknesses through honest analysis

• Know the why. Why will people want what your offer?

• Discovery — Getting to the brand’s essence takes introspection, participation and work.

Building brand equity requires a team that can create a consistent, predictable approach that stands out every time. No matter how brand efforts are scaled to fit the size and scope of the business, ignoring brand principles places businesses in peril and does not capitalize on its benefits. As a brand-experienced Inbound Marketing Coach, I would love the opportunity to help align your brand, while getting your inbound marketing efforts underway. Give me a call today!

Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their visibility online.

In addition to building dynamic and affordable websites, we integrate inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and utilize digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

Who Should Be Your Next ‘Go To’ Employee?

“So I have a website –now what?” That is the question I often get when a client is asking why the website they either made themselves or ‘had a friend’ design isn’t getting any results. And I mean it –ANY RESULTS. So many small business owners are not getting the point. A website is only one piece of the online marketing puzzle but its potential to help your business is the secret to solving that puzzle. Your website is not the place to CHEAP OUT.
INTERNETS: ON/OFFphoto © 2005 mikael altemark | more info (via: Wylio)

Many entrepreneurial business people consider a website an afterthought and as not really that important to the success of their company. They are quickly being proven wrong. Inbound marketing which starts with having a website, is the most affordable method of marketing your business and is most likely to get you the best results. Using a pull strategy in Inbound, a.k.a. Online Marketing, you interact with people through many social media networks, then pull them into your online business realm via a website or social media platform specific to your business.

What a website isn’t

It should not be a static online brochure, a website that after you’ve given people your web address they can pull it up and… what? Gawk at it? Exclaim of its beauty? See all the ‘stuff’ you’re trying to sell? It should DO more than that.

So what should a website do for a business?

Kirt is beaming with new careerphoto © 2011 www.lancashire.gov.uk | more info (via: Wylio)

Every smart or lucky business has a ‘go to’ employee. Someone that takes on every challenge, is your best advocate, is the warehouse of much of your companys’ knowledge. That ‘go to’ employee, in this case, is your website and it’s vital that you prepare it for the challenge it is about to face. It will provide a foundation that you can use to venture into the social media network. This foundation should have SEO capabilities for every single thing that you publish. It should have reporting capabilities both short term and long term. It should nurture your leads or in other words help you convince consumers to buy or at least engage with your business. It should allow you to work the way you want to –either on a day-to-day basis or with scheduling far into the future. It should allow you and your business to grow.

What are the other pieces of this Internet puzzle?

“Build it and they will come” strategy may work for big brands like Disney, but if you have a small business, how are people going to find you? You need to chart out ‘how’ that is going to happen. Where are your potential customers now –online or off? What would make them visit you online –and keep them coming back? What would entice them into buying your offering?

Social Media sites

Sure, there is Facebook and it is not to be overlooked. But more specifically, there are social media sites that let you, as a small business owner, narrow your efforts to get closer to your niche. If you’re selling craft or gift items, then Esty.com may allow you the larger, targeted audience your business needs to sell successfully. For service companies, like automotive service or beauty salons, I like Yelp! Yelp! Is a review site for professional services offered in your area. Let your customers do the talking for you. That is far more powerful than tooting your own horn. For the travel industry, Trip Advisor is fast becoming the most respected of online travel sources because of the use of customer reviews.

Don’t forget email

internet explorerphoto © 2010 Sean MacEntee | more info (via: Wylio)

It’s not really glamorous, but small business owners should not forget email. Email offers a one-to-one relationship with your client and is of high value in the world of marketing, do not under-estimate its power. Plus, it’s affordable. Have you been collecting business cards for years and just use them to draw for a free dinner? It’s time to up the ante. Keep collecting those cards, but then start an email campaign that first gets them to ‘approve’ of you sending them these email messages from time to time. This would be called the ‘opt-in’. Then provides them periodic updates and offers to keep them interested and directly relating to your business over a period of time. Include links to your website that provides even more incentives and more info. An extra reason for keeping a solid email list is that it is an actual business asset. Think of it as an investment into your businesses future. –One more thing about email. Do you have your website address and social media handles at the bottom of your email signature? No? Do it today! It is a vital part of branding your business and should not be overlooked.

Integrate it!

With today’s popular mantra of “online marketing is where marketing is at”, one thing that seems to get overlooked, and is critical, is the integration of ALL your marketing efforts. On –AND Off line. Integration helps you get every bang for every buck. TV Advertising? Add in your web page. If you are planning on having a booth at a local farm market, be sure you have a brochure or business card that has your website on it –and maybe even add in how people may find extra value by looking your business up online.

Better yet, design a campaign that integrates some of the traditional advertising that you have done in the past and uses the website as a critical piece that drives excitement. Maybe it’s a TV campaign for a free prize that takes entries via your Facebook page, thus resulting in a large audience that ‘likes’ your site.

There are so many options and some, frankly, work better than others. Give us a call today, we’ll help you hone in on the audience you need and plan a strategy that will pull them to your business.

Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their conversion rates by adding proven online marketing techniques to their marketing mix.

In addition to building great dynamic websites, we do this by integrating inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and by utilizing digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

The Secret is in Breaking the Chicken and Egg Problem

I found this BNET blog article interesting. BNET interviewed Ceriac Roeding of Shopkick and he discussed the ‘Catch 22’ facing many entrepreneurs. How do you establish that first base of business? Credibility struggles with success. You have to make someone actually BELIEVE. He cited examples he learned through his startup, Shopkick. These examples are transferable to many small business situations. They will even help me as I continue to establish my first year’s ‘base of business clients’ and as I help some of my small business clients address this same issue. I think its good stuff and I hope you like it.

Here is the BNET article below, visit BNET for more depth on this article:

“Too many entrepreneurs get caught in the age-old chicken and egg problem.”

“If you had consumers using your app, then you could get the first retail partner. If you had retail partners, Cyriac Rodeing of Shopkickthen you could get consumers to use your app. If you had funding, you could build a team and breakthrough technology. If you had a team and breakthrough technology, then you could get funding.  And so on, and so on forever, at every critical moment. The art of the entrepreneur is to break through that – to find ways to “crack” the chicken and egg problem.

Never believe someone who says one depends on the other. As an entrepreneur, you have to believe so fully in your vision that you can convince others to agree. Find a way through, get the first hook, find a few consumers or find a way to the top of a partner and convince them the world is changing, and you can help them change with it.

Seem like too much, too quickly? Select the one piece that would set off the domino effect in the fastest and most furious way, and focus on that.  Even if it is the hardest piece to get.

With Shopkick, that was getting the first retail partner. With a large retailer, funding from a top VC would follow, and from that, a team, and from that, technology. How to get that first piece? Find ways to get to the very top of the partner quickly, and explain how your idea can address their major challenges. It must be so compelling, have so little downside, and so much upside that there is no other option but to say yes.

And then you go in parallel and try that at 10 potential partners, not one, and create a “rush” effect. And then hold on, because things go big very quickly once you crack that problem.”

Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their conversion rates by adding proven online marketing techniques to their marketing mix.

In addition to building great active websites, we do this by integrating inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and by utilizing digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

Dynamic Websites and What They Mean For Your Small Business

There are a lot of people out there suggesting that a small business owner can create their website overnight. And you can. But will it do what you want it to do?
A is for Accessphoto © 2007 Ben Zvan | more info (via: Wylio)

What exactly do you want it to do? Are you happy with a simple online brochure, one that can be visited by existing customers to find what you offer and where you are located? What do your customers expect?

Or do you want it to open doors? Maybe to attract new customers with a site that gets attention and keeps it? Get customers to visit it regularly? Should they understand your business, in part, because they have interacted with your website and have struck up a bond of familiarity? That is the difference between basic brochure websites and today’s dynamic websites. Dynamic websites can do a lot of the customer acquisition steps for you …and at about the same cost!

Dynamic Website Structure

A dynamic website requires an integrated strategy and platform. One which may include blogging, lead generation, SEO (search engine optimization), social media, web-blog-CMS integration, analytics, plus may add in some key traditional marketing techniques that can really optimize your reach. What’s behind the site is as important as what is seen by its viewers. When done well, this package helps drive customers to your business and allows you to successfully reach your goals. The first step is to create a dynamic website that supports and is integrated with some of the tactics listed above.  Does your site do this? Can it do this?

Have I scared you? That’s a lot to take in and it takes a different approach than was used to create websites of days gone by. Dynamic websites should be thought of more as a process (that you, the business owner, are a part of) than a project that you can check off your to do list. Today’s websites should be the center of your marketing activities and should support those activities. The benefit? Less guesswork, better measurement, better realization of where your marketing efforts and monies are going; all getting you to your goal faster.

Scalability to Fit Your Needs

Scalability is important to small business owners. A 3-5 page website is fine for some, where a 20 page website is needed for others. For some, blogging is the way to go, and for others maybe an online service that produces the same results is the answer. A dynamic website can offer many integrated features no matter the scale. Choice is the key. It can be scaled to fit the small business owners’ goals, and by implementing the right choices, also fit into their busy time schedules. Do you only have an hour a week to spend? There are many options to support the time crunch, which will also get you great results.

I can help you make the choices that make the most sense for you and your business. Call today for a free consultation. You really won’t know the possibilities until you check out your options, will you?

Attention, please

Chris Brogan

do not click here, not the video

Frazzled? Me, too. Leave it to Chris Brogan to help us find our ‘center’. Check out his short video entitled, “What Has Your Attention“. He sure set me straight. I think this is something that all entrepreneurs and small business folks struggle with. Sometimes there are so many choices of what you COULD do that you lose track of what you SHOULD do.

Now, it’s time to get down to work. I will do something that will make me profitable and happy. (Repeat 3 times softly)

My Focus

Here are five things I plan to do to make that happen; per his suggestion, three are work related and two are personal.

1. Write 3 blogs

2. Add a page to my web site, SocialEnergizer.com

3. Finish up with that ‘dangling’ client (you know the one that’s stuck and needs a gentle nudge)

4. Walk 1/2 hour

5. Pack for vacation

I’ll let you know how I do. How about you? What five things do you need to do TO GET THINGS DONE!

Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their conversion rates by adding proven online marketing techniques to their marketing mix.

We do this by integrating inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and by utilizing digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

We invite you to comment and rate each blog, so we can ever improve our offerings to you.

Image Basics for Bloggers

Attract their attentioncamera and scanner for use in blogging

When it comes to blogging, we all know that it takes great content to attract attention. Part of this is the written content, but just as important part are the visuals you find to support your words. Yes, the secret is in the pictures. Adding just 2 images can increase the time someone stays on your blog by up to 300%. This happens because a person’s eyes are drawn to the photo and they study it. If the photo is good enough to attract their attention, then they are more likely to read the content.

Keep it simple for the web

The two nicest things about using photos on the web is 1) aesthetically, they do not need to be ‘photo shoot’ quality and 2) by file-size standards, they can be small, low-resolution images.

What do these two things mean to you? Not needing to hire models, hire a dedicated professional photographer and buy props will save you thousands. Thousands you probably wouldn’t want to spend anyway. And by being able to save your images at a small file size, lower resolution of 72dpi (dots per inch), allows you lots of flexibility. But again, what does that all mean? It means that you can practice, practice, practice on your low-cost digital camera, smart phone and scanner then quick and easily post them to your website and blog.

How to pick an image?

To choose an image, you really just need to tie the writing and the topic together. I do that by closing my eyes, thinking ‘big idea’ and seeing what comes to mind. A 30 second brainstorm. It usually works and my first impressions are usually the best ones.
Simple doodles, scanned on a low-cost scanner, and household items, taken with a digital camera, make great fodder for blogging images. Here are some examples based on topic:

  • Confusion, use a quickly drawn question mark and scan it
  • Buy Local, take a quick shot of your dad or uncle farming
  • Strategy, take a quick shot of Monopoly, or your favorite boardgame pieces
  • Sustainability, take a picture of your recycling by the curb
  • Planning, scribble out a ‘flow chart’ on a scrap of paper and scan it

See! That wasn’t so hard, was it? Keep it simple. That’s what works for blogs. Just tie it in to your topic and you’re all set.

Then what?

After you have your images, you can save them at 72dpi, which is usually a default setting on your camera (lowest quality). I suggest for the first few months of blogging you take lots of pictures and label them with keyword(s). Put them in a folder labeled for images that you created (and own).Blog Library

Pay attention to events you may attend for that perfect photo opportunity. For added impact, give your camera to friend and have them take some pictures of you, the author. Little by little, you’ll perfect your skills and build that perfect blogger’s library.

Next week. Finding free and legal images –online.

Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their conversion rates by adding proven online marketing techniques to their marketing mix.

We do this by integrating inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and by utilizing digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

We invite you to comment and rate each blog, so we can ever improve our offerings to you.

Five Ways to Poke the Box

I just read Seth Godin’s “Poke the Box” and learned a valuable lesson. It’s okay to fail, actually it’s a good thing. I have to admit, I have been embraced by a “trying to be perfect” mentality from time to time in my life. Maybe even a little bit everyday. As usual Seth helps me open up my mind and see new ways to do things and recognize opportunities.Seth Godin -make something happen

If you’re not failing often and repeatedly you are being remarkable in a way that is going to make a difference. Making incremental changes and doing what everyone else is doing, aka being ‘safe’, is not going to make the difference needed today to stand out from the crowd. Seth says, “the enemy is not piracy, it’s obscurity.” Did you know that 99% of the musicians on You Tube have not been heard? How do you suppose that converts to visibility for authors? I’d bet about the same or even lower.

Here’s a couple more thought-provoking ideas.

  1. Everyday, see things that scare you and notice things that are interesting. Write at least one of them down.
  2. List your daily failures and what you’ve learned from them. Put that into practice.
  3. Watch people. Who’s curious versus uninterested in the great things occurring everyday? What can you learn about them?
  4. Try BIG, new ideas –it’s okay to fail. Great actually. His viewpoint, “The cost of learning is so much less than that of not learning.”
  5. Create moments and movements that people want to talk about. Don’t sink into the blah, blah blah world of ordinary.

So get out and ‘poke the box’ a bit.  Buy the book, it’s a great quick read. Then experiment freely. See what works and what doesn’t. Use the power of the Internet to test various approaches and ideas. You really have so little to lose.

Your Website is Your Base Camp, Is It Solid?

Whether you’re climbing Mt. Everest in the heart of the Himalayas, like adventurers Rhys & Nicky, or leading your company into the world of inbound marketing, your success depends on having a solid base camp. Your website is your base camp.

A Base You Can Rely On

First off, your website is the most important part of your base camp, and making sure that you OWN your website is crucial. If you are unsure if you are the owner of your website, you can check on several registrar websites such as www.who.godaddy.com. If you are not the owner of your domain, you need to make sure that transferring your domain is high on your list of things to do.

Next step in having a solid base camp, is making sure your website is well designed and up to date to represent your hotel at the highest level. Here again, ownership is key. Self-hosted websites are affordable and offer the opportunity to retain all content, analytics and security making it a viable asset for your lodging property.

Closely Located to Your Final DestinationMt Everest Base Camp and Websites

Your website needs to encourage a sense of community, but that is not where your community ‘lives’. Easily visible and friendly links to social media networks like Facebook, Twitter and Google+ will provide the conduit from your site to places where you can interact with your community.

Interesting Enough That It Can Be Considered Part Of The Journey

Your site should be intuitive and attractive, certainly even more attractive than the base camp at Mt. Everest. Your blog, if you have one, should contain engaging content that relates to your hotel/resort and brings the customer back time and time again. For more information on blogging, check out our articles:

10 Easy Tips for Better Blogging

So if I have to blog, where do I start

The Place Where You Realize Dreams Can Become Reality

Your engagement on various social network sites drives visitors to your website which is the place where your efforts can be measured best. Google Webmaster Tools and other analytic tools provide a consistent and straightforward means of tracking your traffic.

Your Strategic Centering Point

In the world of inbound marketing, the pull strategy is the rope that allows you to get up the mountain. With each effort, whether it is sharing on social networks, posting interesting videos, or writing interesting content about your area and events, your goal is to “close the sale.” At each step of the relationship with your hotel and potential customers, your website must strategically provide the information they desire and persuade people to proceed to the next step of staying at your property. Strong and compelling call-to-action mechanisms will pull your customers in, guiding both them and yourself to the top of the mountain.
For help creating and inbound marketing base camp, i.e. a company website, give us a call. We’ll be certain to include all vital gear and advice just like the best Mt. Everest Sherpa would.
Social Energizer’s purpose is to help lodging properties develop lasting relationships with their guests and increase their satisfaction and returning visits.
We do this by integrating inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and by utilizing digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated email campaigns.
We invite you to comment and rate each blog, so we can ever improve our offerings to you.

We invite you to comment and rate each blog, so we can ever improve our offerings to you.

Top Five SXSW 2011 Videos

NASA at SXSWSXSW 2011 has wound down for this year, but they’ll be back next year and I plan to be there. SXSW has something for everyone, especially in social media or inbound marketing. So many of the heavy hitters are there that it makes ones head spin.

It has taken a bit of searching around, but I found several short videos that really share the SXSW experience. These are all worth watching –sometimes more than once. Let me know what you think. It’s almost like being there.

3, 2, 1, Twitter: The NASA Tweet up Shuttle Discovery Launch

Phylise Banner, from APUS, speaking on how people are using tweet-ups to gather for Shuttle Take-offs. Sounds like fun.

“Mario” – SXSW 2011 Film Bumper

This film bumper makes me feel like I can’t wait to see the movie, a grown-up tongue-in-cheek version of my favorite video game. Just a bit naughty.

Gary Vaynerchuck -Author, Wine Connoisseur, Explorer of all things Social Media

You can’t help but love Gary. Such passion! He epitomizes the energy born from social media. Three for the price of one here:

Keynote part1- http://bit.ly/i3lcej

Keynote part 2- http://bit.ly/fuGxSz

Keynote part3 – http://bit.ly/hOx9ac

More Gary Vaynerchuck –he was a busy boy

1-1 Interview part1- http://bit.ly/ffpS1K

1-1 Interview part 2- http://bit.ly/hlvWeg

Matt Mallenweg, WordPress/Automatic

Speaking on the growth of WordPress and next step P2. Matt says that, yes, WordPress has moved beyond a blog platform and is, in fact, a complete web platform. Yes, indeed.

Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their conversion rates by adding proven online marketing techniques to their marketing mix.

We do this by integrating inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and by utilizing digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

We invite you to comment and rate each blog, so we can ever improve our offerings to you.

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