In many ways, it’s easier than ever to start up your own business but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to stand apart from the crowd. But it’s not impossible. Here are four ways to help your business to gain valuable visibility.
Businesses that lose themselves within the crowd are often the ones that don’t have anything to stand for. I’m not saying you need to be prepared to fight crime Batman-style, but do agree on a clear message that you want to communicate and share this with your audience.
People will remember you for your message — just look at Volvo, with its “safety first” message. This is how we remember Volvo; this is what makes the brand stand apart from its competition. If you want a safe car, you know where to turn.
We can’t score the winning goal on our own — we need a team around us to help set it up, block the defence and pass the ball. The same applies to making your business stand out from the crowd; you have to create a trusted dream team — and that includes partners and customers as well as your own staff (if you have them).
Whether you have a marketing team or do that job yourself, you need a fearless brand leader, loyal staff and brand advocates (the customers). These are the people who will set your business apart. This dream team can be difficult to construct but get it right and you will be able to take on the world.
If your company isn’t online yet — it should be! A lot of businesses make the mistake of thinking what they do or sell won’t translate online. They couldn’t be more wrong. It’s time to make what you do or sell visible online because this is where your audience is.
There are many ways to communicate with your target audience online — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Tumblr and YouTube. This is where your message needs to be clear — it’s easy to confuse what you’re trying to communicate with the audience and your message can get lost in translation. Don’t spam your audience, choose the most appropriate media, have a clear message and communicate at the right time.
Going digital is perfect for small businesses as it cuts out the advertising middle man, saves thousands of pounds and provides you with greater control of your marketing message.
If you don’t know what the competition is doing, how can you set yourself apart? Take time out to research what those around you are doing; what worked and what didn’t.
If your competitors are doing something you like, think about how you can adapt the idea for your own ends and do it better. Or better yet, take on board everything those around you are doing and do something completely different.
Leah Jarratt is writing on behalf of Salt Recruitment.
Marketing automation will create a world where brands will know what you need before you do. However, there will always be a temptation to go one step too far.
Exploiting the power of big data, we're told, will deliver the marketer's holy grail and a promise of untold riches; delivering a VIP experience to consumers across all the channels they use. That means giving your customers a personal service highlighting the things that interest them via email, online, social media, mobile or geo-location.
Armed with the right tools, businesses are already analysing big data to predict what we’d like even before we’ve thought about it. Data is mined as we go about our daily lives and our behaviour is analysed —interactions made online, over email or through our mobiles. Put through a recommendation engine, our needs can be predicted then electronically addressed wherever we happen to be.
The technology that makes this happen is already here. Marketing automation is acting as the glue that binds these elements together, helping marketers shift from manually creating campaigns to fully automating the majority of their communications with customers.
Take lifecycle marketing — technology is used to manage and send out emails or messages at calculated times using predictive technologies; sending the right messages at appropriate times:
All of these are automated marketing activities, which are executed in the background and based on a series of events. Created once then forgotten, an automated marketing engine manages the whole process.
In the case of abandoned shopping carts where a purchase had not been completed, the automated marketing engine knows to send you a reminder some hours later, telling you how and where to pick up from in order to finish your purchase.
Automated marketing engines can be set to manage multi-step or single-step triggers; automating tasks so customers can be treated as individuals.
Of course, small businesses may not have the resources to exploit big data. But the principles remain the same. Overuse of email, for instance, with broad messaging that is neither timely nor relevant can harm your firm’s reputation. Persistent offenders will, at the very least, be unsubscribed and could be reported as spam.
A more focused approach — using audience segmentation and relevant communication — will pay dividends, not just by reinforcing positive brand but by driving more sales.
Fast forward and imagine a world where businesses can reach you anywhere with a message to buy based on what you had been doing. Just around the corner there are a clutch of new technologies that will give marketers the opportunity to reach consumers anywhere and anytime.
Augmented Reality systems could open the floodgates for imaginative marketers and brands to bombard us with messaging 24/7 and potentially intrude in our private lives. But is it inevitable that someone might go a step too far?
It’s all about exercising restraint. Avoid bombarding people with what is unnecessary. Marketing automation with big data is going to deliver the actionable intelligence to tell us what we want, when we want but, if used correctly, it will also keep a check on that step too far.
John Fleming is marketing VP at Emarsys, the global provider of email marketing solutions and services.
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.
The vision you create for your business is one of the most powerful drivers of growth. Having a vision of what you want to achieve, and where you want to get to, is infectiously compelling — to your consumers, to your team and to any potential investors.
As a company founder or MD, your greatest challenge is not just defining your vision in a way that reflects your brand, but in ensuring that everyone on your team buys into it. Your team — be it managers, contractors or even the student who works part-time in-store — needs to have a passionate appreciation of what you are trying to achieve and how you are trying to achieve it.
Here are four ideas to help you define your vision and motivate your team:
1. Keep it simple and make it powerful
Making a vision easily understood is one thing but making it resonate with your audience is more complicated. The key is to avoid jargon and use words and phrases that anyone in your business can associate with. Perhaps the most famous example of this was back in the 1960s when Nike’s vision simply said “Crush Adidas”.
The tone of that statement draws on the competitive nature of sport and the target audience. Its clarity of purpose couldn’t be mistaken by anyone. Nike’s vision was simple, do anything it takes to be bigger and better than its main rival.
2. Be ambitious, paint the future
The most customer-centric businesses will share their vision from the perspective of their customer, and there is no more compelling a way to do this than painting a picture of an ambitious future you want to create for your customers.
Henry Ford used this method — creating a vision that would have been impossible for any person to misinterpret — “I will build a motor car for the great multitude... When I’m through, everybody will be able to afford one, and everyone will have one. The horse will have disappeared from our highways, the automobile will be taken for granted.”
3. Convey the passion
The way those at the top convey the business vision has a direct impact on how customers and staff respond to it. It’s not surprising that many of the world's most successful companies have been led by founders who lived and breathed their business.
Steve Jobs once asked the chairman of Pepsi, “Do you want to spend your life selling sugar water or do you want to change the world?". Apple's own vision was certainly ambitious — “To make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advances humankind.”
4. Make it relevant
Bold and ambitious visions inspire teams but only when they understand the relevance to them. You must involve the team in order to encourage engagement with the business vision. Co-creation is one of the most powerful ways to do this.
A compelling brand vision, that is understood and believed by your team, is a competitive advantage. It becomes a growth driver for a business and it can make the vision self-fulfilling.
When running your own business, you can find yourself in contrasting situations with customers, suppliers, employees and others. Whether you’re in a meeting, sales pitch or negotiation it’s important to remember to always look smart and professional. The more organised you look, the more people will trust your expertise and advice. However, another way to influence outcomes is to carefully choose which colours you wear, because colours can influence people’s emotions and decisions.
Blue and earthy shades are good for building partnerships and relationships with people. Collectively liked by everyone, blue helps instil a feeling of trust and security. Earthy tones such as beige, peach and tan can make you look friendly and approachable therefore helping develop the initial relationship solely by first appearances.
Red is great for negotiations for its association with action, energy and passion. This can lead to impulse decisions and purchases. You should, however, balance how you present yourself when wearing red because it can be connected to feelings of intimidation and aggression. Simple items can impact how people react towards you, so start small by wearing a red accessory such as a tie or handbag.
Where there is the possibility of a large audience, such as a sales pitch, wear purple or orange. Purple is linked with creativity and confidence, while orange commands attention without being too controlling. Use these colours to connect with your audience. Try an orange shirt or purple blouse under your suit and see what effect you can generate.
Black, charcoal and dark grey are more conservative colours. They are an indication of power, boldness and authority. Wear these colours to formal meetings where you wish to keep your personality hidden or reserved.
Avoid green and white when it comes to business meetings. These colours can make you seem inexperienced and innocent. Green is often related to money and jealously, which could hamper your chances of any positive outcomes.
Overall, lighter colours present a friendly and more sociable image, so use this to your advantage when you’re working with people in a pleasant, comfortable environment. Darker colours should be worn for reserved situations to instil power and influence the current mood. Avoid mixing dynamic shades and neutral colours excessively, otherwise you could create an array of confusing emotions and conflict between you and your customers or employees. Keep it simple and smart and you should receive the required level of respect.
This article was written by India Cash who is working on behalf of ASOS who are retailers of day dresses, suits and accessories.
Branding - It's a word that’s bandied about a great deal these days. But what does it actually mean and what's changing within the world of branding? The Design Council defines a brand as: "a set of associations that a person (or group of people) makes with a company, product, service, individual or organisation.
These associations may be intentional - that is, they may be actively promoted via marketing and corporate identity, for example - or they may be outside the company's control." (Source: The Power of Branding: A Practical Guide, The Design Council)
While the value of branding is growing, many small businesses still overlook the relevance of its role in helping to increase leads and revenue.
In an increasingly visual world, it's surprising that so many businesses still view branding as being purely about a logo. While a powerful logo is still important, bringing branding to life in business means ensuring that the look or design of a company matches its overall strategy. Linking brand and design with your overall value proposition and business strategy is the way to make it work for a business.
Almost half of UK businesses believe that design contributes to some extent to increased market share (46%) and turnover (44%)
So why is it that many companies continue to miss out on the full benefits of branding? Is it possible to build a company brand that actively connects with customers and delivers a real return on investment?
The secret is not about having a big budget, but about taking a well considered approach. Integrating branding within an inbound marketing approach allows companies to achieve this because inbound marketing uses technology that allows companies to research the demand that exists in their target market.
Business-owners looking for a brand with commercial impact may ask ask a design or branding agency to do the job for them. But in return for their fee they often recieve only a one-off logo or website design along with the significant level of consultation and cost associated with the rebrand. On its own this misses out on the bigger picture of branding, which is to make money for the company. Instead, it is very likely that the agency will focus on:
Great, you have a new logo, but does it reflect what your company stands for and your marketing strategy?
Even better, your branding agency or design agency is focusing on creating a powerful, joined up brand and overall design. But before you go there, take a closer look at what these companies are offering.
Do they link branding and design directly with Return On Investment (ROI)? With 7,099 design businesses in the West Midlands alone (Source: The Design Council), it's important to select a design or marketing agency that actually aims to look at what your customers want.
Despite the popular myths, your brand, your logo and your company look and design is not intended for you - it's intended for your target audience and, most importantly, aimed at generating visits, leads and sales. Here are some ways to build branding that actively boost company performance:
Make sure your branding is shaped around the demand in your existing market. Inbound marketing technology allows you to research the demand that is already out there.
Align your branding with your company's value proposition. This provides a better ROI and ensures that your branding shows what differentiates you from the competition. Combine the online research into your market with marketing persona research where you interview your existing customers, potential customers and even competition to find out what your target audience really want, what their business plans are and how your competitors sell.
Use a range of resources. Why leave your entire brand in the hands of a design or branding agency when you can have access to a wider range of resources to make it work harder for you? From heat mapping that allows you to see the demand for your services to mystery shopper facilities, inbound marketing gives you the insight to shape and create a more meaningful and profitable company brand.