Robert M. Coles

Author, World Traveler, Public Speaker

Category: small business marketing

Creating Brand Identity Without Creating Brand Confusion

Developing Trust and Confidence In Your Brand

6a00e008d932ff88340163044a8d28970dIt’s a fact that people identify with brands they like. McDonalds has capitalized on this concept. Those golden arches are placed as high as regional height limits will allow them to go in the hopes that people see and recognize them and pull in for a burger. No one can dispute that they’ve made their billions off of being recognizable.

The same principle has to apply to small and medium sized businesses. A lot of people are intimidated by the successes of large companies, but they forget that they started out small and built up from there. They did that by becoming recognizable and building a positive brand identity.

I went to a conference recently with other marketing professionals (and with the story I tell, you’re going to think I should have used that word with quotation marks) and I met with a company that isn’t too far away, and they’re in a smaller market, and they have had a tough time finding success in gaining recognition. I talked to the owner for about 20 minutes and couldn’t figure out what was going on until she said this:

“I just love logos. I love to design them, so I designed five different logos for my company. I’ve got an elegant one, a fun one, colorful ones, and I put them everywhere. I have one on my Facebook, one on my Twitter, one on my websites.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. First of all, she said, ”websites” meaning more than one. She had three different websites, each with the same content, but three different logos and looks. She was building brand confusion rather than brand identity. Her customers weren’t able to find her (or trust her) because everywhere they looked they found something different.

To help build a better brand, follow these five tips and tricks to ensure your customers are able to find you and indentify with you rather than get lost in the jungle of companies offering the same services.

#1 – Pick a design and stick with it.

Let’s take the person I mentioned above as an example. She’s creating logo after logo and three different websites for her business. You can bet that her customers are getting confused about what her main focus is when they find five different designs for her company. More importantly, they’re probably doubting her abilities as a marketer. When you pick a design and stick to it, your customers get consistency.

She mentioned using a different logo for Facebook and a different logo for Twitter. Once people get a visual idea of your company they’re not going to focus so much on the words in your name. They’re going to be looking for those golden arches, so to speak. Do yourself a favor and pick one logo for all of your social media platforms. It’s going to pay off in the end.

#2 – Cross-promote, but don’t cross-confuse

A major mistake people make is over-posting materials, not posting enough materials, or posting conflicting materials. This is horrible for establishing a brand identity. If you say one thing on Facebook, but something completely different on your blog, you’re hurting your chances of becoming a trusted source of information. Consistency is key.

Another way to create confusion is to over or under-post on social media. It’s estimated that 62% of consumers check out your social media presence before making a purchase. If you aren’t posting to your social media sites daily, you aren’t posting enough. Going weeks without posting simply is not an option.

#3 – Establish a Personality

If you aren’t already spending a fair amount of your day on social media sites, it’s time to start. However, this being 2013, and with more than 1.06 billion people logging in to Facebook every month, chances are you’re familiar with the site. Still, it’s time to use your business page to establish a personality for your company.

Make it well-known the personality of your business. If you’re going for a fun vibe, post memes, jokes, and fun material to make your customers laugh. If you’re leaning more toward serious business, be sure to post scholarly, trustworthy material. Most importantly, make sure your posts are appropriate for business.

Establish trust with your clients. Everything you do is in the public eye, whether you know it or not. If you aren’t working to create a positive brand identity, all you’re doing is creating brand confusion. There’s still time to get on the right path!

Content Overload: Setting Your Content Above The Rest

Originally written for Sona Creative Marketing by Robert Coles as a guest post.

Content Marketing Tips and Tricks From A Silly American

content-writingI don’t know about you, but I find myself constantly overloaded with content on the internet. Everyone is trying to sell something, there’s always a contest to enter, and someone is constantly trying to push a brand that you just don’t want to think about (like the Snuggie… Or is that just an American thing?), yet we as inquiring humans always want to know more.

With over 160 million blogs currently on the internet (only half of them are mine), and more and more being created each and every day, it’s difficult to weed through the quality content if you’re a reader. For a content marketer, this becomes a huge challenge, and it’s one that hasn’t entirely been solved yet. While we’re coming up with new way of marketing almost by the minute, the world hasn’t quite caught up to our brilliant minds.

We’re constantly having to come up with new methods of blog creation, and new ways to make our titles interesting. Simply put, if it isn’t interesting in the first 10 words, no one is going to read it. Fortunately, we content marketers have the numbers on our side, regardless. 46% of internet users read blogs more than once per day, and when marketing for businesses, that can convert to real leads, and real sales. Companies that blog have 55% more visits to their website than companies that don’t.

So what is the internet marketer to do? For starters, it’s about creating interesting content what will hold the reader’s attention. Check out these 5 ways to keep your content interesting and your audience begging for more.

#1 – Your titles are boring. Spice it up a bit!

If I read another “X Ways To Improve Your Business” article one more time, I’m going to throw my computer out my window and adopt a life without technology. Seriously, your titles matter. Consider coming up with something interesting. If you’re forced to write an article about ways to improve your business, think about what area you’ll be focusing on, and the spin it. If that article were to focus on ways to improve your business using social media, use a title like “X Ways Your Business is Failing (And How To Improve Them).” People are drawn to the negative, so use that to your advantage.

By the way, I did a Google search for the best blog titles and all I got were search results like “How to Write a Captivating Blog Title.” I didn’t click it.

#2 – Don’t forget mixed media. It can save your life.

In a world where 72 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, there will always be a video to spice up your content. The fact is, people are attracted to what they can easily see and watch. They don’t necessarily love reading anymore (and that’s a shame) so it’s important to spell things out for them. The best way to do that is with a video. If there isn’t a video out there, make one. With apps like Vine making short videos are easy, and if you want, you can use a website like fiverr.com to have a video created for you with graphics based on your script.

If videos aren’t your thing, no problem. Use infographics that drive your point home. You can also use screen captures if you’re referencing something you’ve found on the internet. For example, I wrote an article about social interaction, and included a screen capture of people interacting socially. It’s that simple. People just want to be able to see what they’re reading, rather than actually read what they’re reading.

#3 – Talk as you. Not about you.

People want to hear your voice rather than your life story. Sure, you should write with your own personal flare, and almost make fun of yourself (coming from the silly American), but people don’t want to hear about your life and what you ate for dinner. That’s what Facebook is for. Instead, consider telling about a product or service that you’re marketing in your own tone, but don’t insert personal stories about Aunt Cathy’s hip surgery.

#4 – Stay consistent

If you’re going to take a stance on something, stick to it, especially if you’re talking about a theory. People are going to site you and use your word as a source. If people end up linking to your blog, or your client’s blog, you are going to want to make sure that one blog post doesn’t contradict another. You’ve just made yourself or your client look ridiculous.

When you’re blogging, its also very important that you use consistency in your grammar, punctuation, and style. You can change things up a bit, but not too much. Your readers are going to get accustomed to your style, and if you change things too much they’re going to rebel. You’d be surprised how many people actually do read your words.

#5 – Offer a unique point of view

With over 160 million blogs on the internet, there are bound to be repeated views, but if you can find a way to present a unique point of view you’re going to captivate your readers. For some of my clients, I write the every day business blog because that’s what they want, but for others I have the freedom to experiment with humor and stylistic choices.

Content marketing is still very young in the marketing world, but it’s growing quickly, and staying ahead of the curve with your writing will ensure that you ride the content wave smoothly to the finish line. Good luck!

Small Business Marketing Is A Big Job

You’re Only Hurting Yourself

small-business-marketing-planLet’s face it, there are never enough hours in the day, yet for some strange reason small business owners are expected to cram multiple days worth of work into a single workday. It’s not healthy, and it’s no way to expand your business. It was once said that, in order to be truly successful, you have to stop working inyour business, and start working on your business. I don’t know about you, but that sounds a little convoluted.

We’ll break things down with some facts and figures. Currently in the United States there are roughly 23 million small businesses that account for around 54% of all sales. Through the recessions of the 90s and 2000s, while big businesses cut jobs, small businesses continued to add job. Small businesses are no small business.

But how in the world does one get to the point of expanding and growing? What does it take to build a better business, not just a sustaining business? Sure, we all want a sustaining business. It’s easy, cheap, and efficient. But is there any room for advancement? One of the biggest areas of concern that cannot be avoided is small business marketing. It directly ties into the business’s successes and failures, and it’s too much for a small business owner to handle if he or she wants to join the other successful businesses climbing their way to the top. Here are 3 reason marketing is too big of a task for small business owners.

#1 – Marketing takes time

If you’re fighting the 12 hour (or more) workday blues, the last thing you want to do is interact with your customers when they aren’t even asking for anything. Save your energy for something more worthwhile, like relaxing. Marketing has become a full-time job for small businesses. The world has changed, quickly, and it’s difficult to keep up with whatever latest trend has come up in the marketing world.

Fortunately, there are services available for the savvy small business owner who wants to begin working on his or her business. For starters, you don’t have to do everything yourself. Hiring someone to handle the marketing and design aspect of your company frees you up to deal with so much more. If you’re really looking for a good deal, be sure to choose a marketing agency. It’s less of a financial commitment than a full time staff member.

#2 – Marketing isn’t an ad in the paper anymore

If you haven’t noticed, there’s this little website called Facebook, and this other one that’s slightly smaller, called Twitter. Together they account for over 64% of the internet’s activity.No doubt you’re a technical person (you found this blog, after all) so we’re not going to dumb things down for you. Marketing has gotten harder.

Marketing is no longer putting an ad in the paper and making sure your storefront is clean. No, those days have long sense past. In fact, it should be noted that roughly 74% of consumers look up a company before entering the store or picking up the phone. People are looking at your brand and social interaction on websites. They’re picking apart every word you say to see if you fit in with their personal style. The ones who don’t fit will be left in the dust. Do you have the hours a day it takes to monitor your online and social media presence?

#3 – Customers have evolved

By show of hands, how many of you have always heard, “The customer is always right?” Now, keep your hands up if you still believe the customer is always right. Several of you just put your hands down, no doubt because you’re a business owner or you’ve worked retail. In fact, it should be pointed out that now even the customers don’t think they’re always right. Sure, they always want the best deal, but they’re willing to bend for quality.

Consumers are starting to bounce back from the recession. Spending is up, and businesses that are prepared for the new-age customer will profit. The new-age consumer is looking for the best product or service to enhance their personal image. What does your marketing strategy offer your customers looking to build a reputation and enhance their image? If it doesn’t speak to them, you can bet they’re going to keep moving.

Marketing is a tough job in today’s economy, and it takes a village to raise a business. Don’t attempt to raise the business by yourself. Stay focused on your advancement goals and make sure you’re letting a dedicated team of individuals take care of all your company’s marketing needs.

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