It’s a cut-throat world out there and as competing businesses clamber for ever wiser customers, you should be focused on carving out a competitive edge for yourself. A company has achieved a successful visual presence when their customers can find them easily and, more importantly, when their customers can understand them.
Graphic design is often misunderstood and seen as an unnecessary cost. Many businesses severely under-utilise the power of visual design. But one thing is for sure, design-led businesses stand out from the crowd. Successful businesses of any size are embracing design, using it as a strategic resource to strengthen their products and services in order to achieve profitable growth.
Visual design should not be seen as a cost. If a company is achieving a successful visual market presence, design is not money down the drain. Rather, a strong visual presence gives your customers a compelling reason to buy from you and not your competitors.
Before any potential client even walks through your door, they have undoubtedly experienced the visual identity of your company. This identity can make you look fun or serious, large or small, traditional or forward-thinking, professional or unprofessional. You need to strike a chord with your target audience. Customers know what they want. The question is, can you successfully communicate to them that you know what they want and that you have it?
Here are a few things to think about: What does your logo say about your company? What impression does your company literature give your potential customer? Is your website pulling in customers or turning them away? Why? Can your customers find you and can they understand what you offer?
A healthy and strong brand will stand above the competition, standing more chance of being chosen if it's not been tried before as well as having a loyal customer base once it's been purchased.
It all started with cows and making sure you could distinguish your cow from someone else's cow. That led to the most basic form of branding with a unique stamp on your cow's rear end region. With most businesses being a little more complicated than cows nowadays, branding and brand management have had to become more and more sophisticated.
Even now this rather more basic cow example of branding is what people think it's all about - the name and the logo. It's not that simple, and lots of different inputs from all around your business will work together to make up your brand. What is blissfully simple however is the benefit of a well managed, clearly thought through and strong brand. And that is the very catalyst behind the cow example above: being unique, standing out and being identifiable.
That's because a strong healthy brand can:
This is all fairly critical to us humans, especially when you account for the fact that your average person is exposed to over 5000 messages each day. That's huge. People process information very quickly, and so you have to be at the top of your game to ensure your brand can cut through quickly, be understood, resonate and then become part of a consideration choice. Notice we haven't got to purchased yet!
A new report into the benefits experienced by small and medium businesses with blogs has been conducted by social media research specialists, Hubspot. Having previously released findings that demonstrate blogging businesses experience 55% more visitors to their target website than those who do not, the latest research has shown the overall reach a blogging business can expect through Twitter increases by 79%.
The most impressive statistic for small businesses with blogs is that small businesses that blog, on average have 102% more Twitter followers than those who don't. This highlights the personal relationship and down-to-earth communication a small business can take advantage of over big businesses and businesses that do not make the most of blogging opportunities. The more open and regular your conversation with existing and potential customers, the more likely they are to invest time, an online connection through a follow or subscription and ultimately, financial commitment.
The report, which looked at a dataset from 2,100 Hubspot customers, concludes,
“…businesses of different sizes and service nature can reach more potential customers via Twitter by enriching their Twitter streams with content from their blog.”
A blog alongside your business website is a great way to add that splash of personality and open up your day-to-day business experience with your customers. Everytime you publish a new blog post, tell your Twitter following all about it, you are writing for them as much as for yourself and so you should let people know and join up your online community dots.
The more you engage with your customers and link up your communications through Twitter and blogging, the greater the opportunity you have to be noticed as an expert in your business area and as a small business, you offer personality, understanding and an environment where consumers build-up trust and a relationship with you the company and the products or services you can provide. So, why wouldn’t you want to put your business in the proverbial shop window?
What do you use your blog for? How do you make your blog stand out from the other 126 million?
The difference between businesses that survive and those that struggle in 2010 depends on whether or not you are online.
A number of 2010 forecasts, including our own, have pointed towards an increasing dependence in the small firm workplace on the internet. A small business in 2010 must be all things to everyone if it wants to secure customers. Consumer behaviour is driving the need for small businesses to adapt to an increasingly online world.
If you have a physical store you will also want to replicate it as best you can with an online e-commerce solution. Your customers are also likely to want a two-way experience with your online and physical store operation too. For example, if a customer buys a product from your website, they are also going to want the option of returning it in store should the need arise. Also, are you using social media tools to amplify your marketing message and listen to what your customers want?
What Small Business 2.0 can do for your firm, as an event, is bring likeminded and eager small businesses together to share their experiences of trading online. In addition, the line-up of speakers boasts representatives from small businesses that have now graduated to market leaders, as well as our humble MD.
The event takes place in London this Saturday and will consist of a range of workshops, discussions and presentations on how to run every aspect of your online operation.
You may already know, or at least think you know, everything there is about running your website but the day will take you across the spectrum of SEO, Google AdWords and social media to give you the confidence to turn your online operation into a strong profit-making venture.
One of the key features of this event is the low cost and relaxed format that it will take, making it a truly accessible event for small businesses. The Marketing Donut will be attending the event and shall bring all the pertinent thoughts from the day through Twitter and lengthier discussion pieces on the blog.
VoIP or Voice over Internet Protocol offers businesses the lead when it comes to communications. It’s a cost-effective, flexible and professional option for businesses that want to benefit from the cutting edge of communication technology.
But can VoIP (or Internet telephony) really help your company improve its marketing? Well, the short answer is yes. Clearly, the most frequently given reason that people switch to VoIP from traditional calling plans is the amount of money that can be saved. VoIP uses the Internet to call, which massively reduces your calling costs, especially if you call long distance or overseas.
VoIP offers many more advanced features than regular landlines could ever provide. Nevertheless despite the technological advantage and the greatly reduced costs, it’s the marketing benefits that must not be so easily overlooked.
When VoIP is used for business, it helps to improve the relationship and communications with your clients. The VoIP system allows you to easily track and monitor calls and offers a professional front for anyone calling you. You can create specific numbers and attach them to particular promotions, products or services. Your staff can answer the phone with this already in mind and offer the caller a specific greeting that’s particularly targeted to the promotion, product or service that’s associated with that particular phone number.
By choosing to use a range of phone numbers for different types of marketing (newspaper ads, emails, website or poster) you’ll be able to tell which campaign is the most successful and tailor your future marketing strategy accordingly.
Using Gradwell’s unique VoIP control panel, you can produce monthly reports showing precise call statistics : how many calls were made to your numbers, which number was used most frequently, how long the call were and more. You can also relate the data to the productivity of your employees for motivational purposes. Reports can be exported and circulated for analysis in your marketing strategy meetings.
While each of your marketing methods may display a different number, all of the calls can be directly routed to come through to just one desk, one office or a whole call centre. Furthermore, when someone calls one of your VoIP numbers, a short piece of text can be displayed to your staff telling them which product, service or promotion the caller is interested in learning about, preparing them for the call. It really is that simple to improve your marketing efficiency and reporting with VoIP.
Traditionally, we think of the New Year as a time to approach life and work with renewed enthusiasm after a good rest at Christmas. The widespread snowfall in the UK soon put an end to that. As a result of the drop in temperatures and significant snowfall, a week of unsettled working arrangements has ensued. The Federation of Small Business estimates that lost productivity due to the snow could result in losses of at least £1.2bn to UK businesses.
The 40% level of absenteeism has been crippling to some businesses, with closures up to a week long due to an inability to access premises or as a result of the knock-on effect of closed schools and subsequent emergency childcare needs. The Forum of Private Businesses has estimated that staff absenteeism alone could cost UK SMEs £230m.
Some businesses have profited nicely from the weather. Percentage of sale increases in various stores on products such as soup, cooking salt and cat litter have risen 80%, 500% and 55% respectively. Around the corner from our own office (where it’s so cold I’m typing with fingerless gloves on) the local pub has been running an impromptu BBQ stand on the street in order to provide hot food to the public. Only when it snows in the UK can you be guaranteed that the Butcher, the Baker, the Candlestick Maker will be able to sell you a sledge.
We asked our Marketing Donut Twitter followers for their input on how this week’s weather had impacted on their small business activities. The responses were mixed and perhaps it is a pointer towards the increasing work-from-home-culture afforded by the Internet, that for some, productivity may even have increased.
Please do add your experiences from this week’s snow disruption.