There are many elements to a brand.
They all need to work harmoniously in the machine that is your business. We have identified the five key components that, when functioning properly, will connect your brand with it’s audience.
Digital, analogue, environmental.
Wherever seen, used, discussed or heard, your brand needs to be consistent. All this matters.
When talking about your brand, you need to be clear who you are. This prevents confusion for stakeholders, therefore increasing engagement.
Whatever you offer it needs to be talked about through the most appropriate channels. Make yourself heard above the whirring and clanking of your competition.
Once your brand is out there in the business world, don’t be afraid to evolve and adapt. Start it up and never stop.
It’s vital that your team functions as a unit, embracing your brand values, vision and aims. Inspire them to bring their own career goals in line with your brand, ensuring success for all. With all these in place, there’s that can’t-quite-put-your-finger-on-spark that every successful brand has.
This can be a man, a mind, a machine or a means.
Yours is there to discover.
As social media has become too big to ignore, most companies are dabbling with it in some way. There are also businesses that take social media extremely seriously.
Meanwhile, others are merely dipping their toe in the water. Of course, the million dollar question that every company wants to know is this — will social media be an effective communication channel for my business and will my investment in it pay off?
To be honest, I have become bored with the question. In fact, asking the question in itself shows a complete lack of understanding of the communication revolution that we are experiencing.
I have yet to work with any business that has not acknowledged that one of their most important lead sources is word of mouth; in other words, recommendations and referrals from existing customers, or those people who have been “touched” positively by your business in some way.
If word of mouth is not an important marketing channel for your company, then you can stop reading right now. However, if it is, then the truth is quite simple:
There is no point thinking of social platforms as one channel to market and word of mouth as a separate route to gain customers. They have become one and the same.
For example, I recently saw an extremely funny sketch about an electric toothbrush that the comedian Rhod Gilbert received for Christmas. I was crying, I found it so funny. In the past, I would have mentioned it to several friends, in conversation, until it was something about which I forgot. Instead, however, I found the sketch on YouTube, and posted it up to several friends who I thought would appreciate it as much as I did.
The point is, whether the platform be Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube or Twitter, these tools have become the way we regularly share stories, events and information. For many individuals there is no difference between telling a friend face-to-face or tweeting the same information. We do both things seamlessly depending on where we are and who we are with.
The single biggest inﬂuence on human behaviour is “social proof”. That is, our actions are greatly inﬂuenced by what others say and do — especially if these are friends and colleagues whom we respect and trust.
The simple truth is this. Social media is a vital channel for your business because this is increasingly where the conversations are taking place. The challenge is to become part of the conversation. In order to do this you have to ask, “what value can I give which people will want to share with others?” Whether your audience comprises mechanics, estate agents, footballers or lawyers, what value can you provide that they may share with some of their colleagues?
With old marketing, your reach was limited. If your company had a database of 5,000 people and you decided to send them a direct mail piece, your biggest hope was to reach 5,000 people. This is because people generally, when receiving a direct mail piece, don’t carry it about in their pocket, or handbag, with the intention of showing it to others.
However, with digital media, this is not the case. If we read an article, listen to a podcast or watch a video, we will often retweet it or send it on to friends to whom we think it will be appreciated. In other words, with digital, you are not limited to those people with whom you are in direct contact.
As a professional speaker, I have more professional speakers in my network than the average person. Therefore, if a business wants to engage with professional speakers, and I see a communication from them that I decide to share, they are likely to reach a disproportionate amount of professional speakers. Whether you want to reach lawyers or accountants, recruitment agents or doctors, the best access to these people is via those with similar proﬁles already in your network.
The point is this — I do not know a business that would declare they do not want word of mouth recommendations. That being the case, social media is impossible to ignore, because it is where word of mouth is now taking place.
Asking whether social media works is akin to asking whether referrals and recommendations work, a dumb question by most people's standards.
The reason, however, why so many businesses fail to make social media work is their complete failure to produce, or say, anything of value or interest to their prospects and customers. One of the keys to making social media work is to ensure people are sharing and talking about you. This requires companies to produce comments, materials, contests and information that are worth talking about. If a business succeeds in that, then they will get a “return on sharing”.
Does social media work? Please, don’t make me laugh.
Further reading on the Marking Donut:
One of the major advantages of an economic downturn (even a landslide like the current one is shaping up to be) is that there are great deals to be had. The challenge is that many of us are very bad at negotiating.
There is clearly an element of nature vs. nurture here; some of us are clearly genetically more inclined to haggle, while for others the process is more unpleasant and degrading than having teeth pulled.
This is especially true for salespeople who are typically outgoing and persistent, with a hide as thick as a rhinoceros. But when it comes to negotiating the detail of a deal, many experienced sales people crumble, especially under pressure from a well-trained negotiator or purchasing director.
Negotiation is a basic skill we use every day of our lives, whether it is making sure we get a cup of tea in the morning at home or in buying a car, when we are up against an expertly trained and highly motivated individual. Negotiation is not a black art: it can be studied and learned, and I have had advice from a true expert: Derek Arden.
Arden started his working career in a bank, in training and development; but soon found himself in major account management, negotiating with hard-nosed senior buyers at a large supermarket chain. He says he often left meetings with a strong feeling that he had come a distant second in the negotiation, if only because he was operating solo against a team of four people who were clearly expert in identifying and exploiting any of his personal or business weaknesses.
He resolved to read all the books available and go on courses to develop his own best practice for negotiation. He has since spent more than eight years passing on this knowledge to everyone from teams of salespeople to a high-profile individual in the Middle East who needed one-on-one coaching for family as well as business negotiations.
Arden explains that developing negotiation skills is a constant process; you always learn new techniques. Where most people fall down is in understanding the timing of a deal. This is aptly illustrated in his first major personal negotiating challenge, which was to arrange a favourable exit from the bank where he was working.
Arden's advice is that the secret to making a graceful departure from your current employer is to understand the timing: there will be a perfect time to leave, and forcing your own schedule on their internal processes is likely to be very counter-productive.
This leads us naturally into the key element of negotiation: preparation. Arden believes strongly that the most important work is done well in advance. The better prepared you are, the more likely you are to secure a good deal for yourself and for the other party. Successful deal-makers always ensure a win for both sides as they are always looking for a long-term relationship with the buyer.
The hardest part of negotiation is always the price, especially if the buyer gives no clue about what they want to pay. Arden suggests having three prices always to hand. First you should always have a high-value dream price, which buyers will accept more often than you might suspect, for example if they need your products or services in a hurry or are looking to empty a budget before the end of the financial year or risk losing it for the following year.
Then you should have a target price which represents what you feel the customer should pay, based on both value for money for them and a sensible profit for you. Finally, you have a walk away price, below which you cannot go, based on hard evidence developed internally from your delivery and finance people.
In a friendly negotiation you can even share this information, and a fair buyer should appreciate your openness and respond favourably. It is important to remember that very rarely do people buy the cheapest offer; what is more important, especially in these hard times, is your providing proof of value for money and return on investment.
Arden also trains people in advanced techniques including influencing and body language, all based around asking good questions, prepared in advance. As Rudyard Kipling aptly put it, "I keep six honest serving-men; they taught me all I knew. Their names are What and Why and When, And How and Where and Who.”
Copyright ©Mike Southon 2012. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced without permission in writing. Mike Southon is the co-author of The Beermat Entrepreneur and a business speaker.
Why does good writing on websites resonate? Often writing strikes a chord because the writer seems to encapsulate something you were already thinking. They capture an idea that was swirling around in your mind, and they skewer it perfectly. That’s it, you think! That’s what I meant to say! That’s what I need to do!
The intimacy that this kind of resonance creates is powerful. We trust people that understand us and share our view of the world. We want to get closer to them.
So how do these writers do it? What’s the secret for writing so it feels like a one-to-one conversation?
Sadly there is no magic formula, but there are some techniques you can learn which will give your writing more power, and make more people feel that you are genuinely talking to them.
Picture someone you know well — a client you’ve been working with, a colleague you know inside out — and tailor your writing precisely for them. This act of visualisation will set the right tone. You want writing that feels like a conversation, not a lecture.
Don’t tackle too broad a subject. It’s better to be deep than wide. You worry that fewer people will read it? Perhaps, but it means that the people who do choose to read it are already in the zone. Your niche headline will pull in the right readers, who in turn are more likely to share it with their circles of like-minded contacts. Try and be everything to everyone and you end up pleasing no one.
There’s nothing like a spot of confession to make people feel more inclined to warm to you. I’m not suggesting you fill your business blogs with your deepest darkest fears, but revealing something of yourself instantly makes your writing feel more intimate. If you want to see this done brilliantly, sign up to Chris Brogan’s newsletters. He’s the master of copy that feels like it’s written just for you.
Don’t be afraid to tackle difficult subjects. Some of the strongest writing touches us deeply because it taps into things we’re not even admitting to ourselves that we’re thinking. It’s a cliché to ask clients what keeps them awake at night, but writing that addresses those issues in a helpful way demonstrates that you understand, and will be welcomed.
If you know your clients well, you’ll know precisely what it is that they’re searching for, and you can provide the answers or guidance that will help. The right article, at the right time, creates that buzzy serendipitous feeling that gives your writing power.
A lack of time and money mean that many small businesses are neglecting valuable marketing opportunities. This infographic from Pitney Bowes illustrates the SME marketing gap.
Owning an email inbox can, at times, feel like a game of guard the castle, where you have to defend it from unsolicited – and sometimes solicited – emails you have no interest in reading.
According to research conducted by Smarter Tools, an average email account receives about 65 emails a day. Common sense tells us that we can safely assume that a lot of those emails are moved to the trash can without getting so much as even a glance.
So how do you ensure that your emails are not the ones that are being thrown away unread? Or to put it in other words: how do you make sure your emails get the open rate they deserve? By being relevant, that’s how.
The first thing you need in order to send relevant emails is a database where you store information about your clients, prospects or recipients. What products are they interested in? Which kind of emails have worked best for them in the past?
Assuming you only recruit opt-ins that have interest in the product you’re selling, or at least have some affinity with the industry you operate in, this shouldn’t be too hard.
Using the information in your database, you can start sending your recipients relevant information. Centuries ago the Romans built an empire by adopting the “divide and conquer” strategy, and now it’s your turn to conquer your customers’ attention using the same technique.
By segmenting your database you are able to approach recipients personally, providing them with relevant content. And one of the best ways to do so is by sending event-driven emails.
An event-driven email, as the name suggests, is an email that is sent after an event takes place. For instance, when you email someone a user manual for the product they purchased in your webshop yesterday. Because of their relevancy, event-driven emails not only help you increase your open rate, they also give your conversion rates a boost.
Take the abandoned shopping cart email for example, reminding your customers of a purchase they didn’t finish. Research suggests that up 75% of online shoppers abandon their shopping cart during the purchase process. However, up to 20% of these shoppers can be won back if you use abandoned shopping carts.
The last thing your recipients want is for you to contribute to the endless stream of useless emails they are swamped with every day.
Don’t send your customers an email with an iPhone5 offer a week after they already bought a new mobile phone in your webshop. Not only will it annoy them, it’s also a waste of your time and effort.
Your energy can be spent better on creating relevant emails your recipients are interested in.
Michael Linthorst is an internet entrepreneur and CEO of Copernica Marketing Software.