advice

Building a Cohesive Brand Identity

489783302I know companies understand that they need to have a brand, but many miss the mark on creating a cohesive brand identity. Although many may see this as ‘fluff’, creating a strong brand identity can be a complicated process that’s difficult to master.

As I tell many of my clients, brand identity is not just a logo; it’s the entire visual language that your company uses to communicate with its audience. It’s the art of portraying the right message and making a lasting, first impression.

Brand identity answers the questions what do you want your story to be and how do you want to be perceived in the marketplace? I’ve outlined below 7 steps that will I hope will help you in developing a cohesive brand identity:

  1. Review your current brand and your competition: Think about how your brand is being perceived in the marketplace and whether the message you’re delivering is clearly understood and reaching your target audience. It’s not enough to just review your brand; you need to understand what you’re up against. Have you done your market research? If not, now is the time.
  2. Audit your audience: Know your audience! Build a brand around what they want (not what youwant). It’s a competitive world out there. If your customers don’t find what they’re looking for from you, they will find it from someone else.
  3. Choose your theme: Choose your theme wisely. A well-conceived theme creates a powerful and effective communication platform which will deliver a higher ROI. A theme is compelling and engaging because it’s able to communicate your brand identity more effectively. It takes brand identity to a whole new level.
  4. Develop a consistent colour palette: Your colour palette is typically defined by the colours in your logo and is the foundation of your visual brand identity. The colours don’t have to be identical to those in your logo but should complement them. Very important – your colour palette must work well with your website and printed material.
  5. Don’t go overboard with fonts: There are hundreds of fonts to choose from but don’t go overboard using too many fonts that may look creative but are difficult to read. Less is more. You can use a different font for headlines than for body text, but the font must be easy to read, and be consistent across your website and print materials.
  6. Use custom design elements: Looking off-the-shelf isn’t going to help you stand out. Custom design elements can be a huge asset to your brand identity. A professional graphic designer can create your logo and various elements of your website. The images don’t have to be the same throughout your website and print materials but all of the visuals should contribute to a consistent look and feel.
  7. Use a consistent tone of voice: You can’t tell your story without words. It’s important to give a great deal of thought to what style of writing will be consistent with the image that you want to portray in the marketplace and mesh well with your imagery. Consistency is key to a successful brand identity. A professional writer will be able to understand your voice and produce work consistent with it.

Every company needs a cohesive brand identity to compete in the marketplace but many miss the mark because they attempt it on their own. You need a professional marketing agency with strategists, graphic designers and professional writers. CreativeWorks Marketing has over 20 years of experience helping companies like yours build cohesive brand identities. Give us a call today and maximize your return on investment.

Content Contempt

At the end of last year, I wrote a blog about the lessons we learned from marketing in 2016. One topic I touched on in that blog was about purchasing content on the Internet. I’d like to delve deeper into this issue because as a marketer, content creation is one of my main responsibilities.

So what exactly is content marketing? The Content Marketing Institute describes it as “the technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience.”

Content marketing is key to the marketing process because it adds value to your business in the eyes of your customer. Your business’ page is not just a website where you can purchase a service, it’s a website where people can go to learn about your business and what you stand for. That’s why I was surprised when I started noticing a lot more pay-for-content websites appearing online. These websites are essentially content stores; a user can go in and purchase a generic blog or a video while gaining the usage rights. Who is writing the content about your business and for your customers seems to be not too relevant or valued. Although you can pay extra for it to be “customized” content, the writer does not know your voice, your brand, your company, you, or the value you bring to your customers.

While this content is quick and easy, as a professional marketer, I know how important it is to know my customers before I can write for them. Whenever I finish a blog or an article, I have to look at it and say, “Would my client say this?” If not, I have to re-work it. If blogs are used as persuasive text written by an industry authority to inform a targeted audience about an industry issue, then that content needs to be an informed and educated one.

The blog writing process can be lengthy and it can be difficult to fully capture someone’s voice and opinion on a subject, which is why bloggers often interview, create outlines, have many conversations, discuss topic ideas and angles before writing the first word. This process is not part of the “buy a blog” dot com experience; in fact it is quite the opposite.

I have personally tested many of these online content sites, only to find spelling mistakes or generic content that adds no value to the conversation online. I have downloaded a blog on LinkedIn, only to find LinkedIn spelled incorrectly. If small business owners were to simply buy and post the content, what would be the result?

I have heard that from a Search Engine Optimization perspective, these online sites offer great content, but blogs contain SEO based on the sheer fact that they are online content, not just based on keywords thrown in. More importantly, I don’t feel a quest for SEO results should detract from the value of a good blog.

I work with a lot of small businesses, and one of the main things they want to promote to their customers is the personalized quality of their service. I am not convinced that any online content provider site can create this level of quality prose, simply because there is no investment in understanding exactly what the client’s value is to their audience.

When it comes down to it, marketing isn’t a commodity. It’s about the relationships you form with your clients and the work you produce for them to get them the results they want. I love the feeling of writing something amazing for my clients, because I know that both themselves and their clients will get value from the message.

So next time you are shopping online for content, remember: if you don’t value the content on your site, how can you expect your clients to?

Finding Your Own Marketing Path

As the owner of a marketing agency, I hear it all the time: “If my competitors are on social media and writing blogs, or hosting webinars, then I need to as well, right?” On the surface this seems like a slam-dunk “yes!” answer, as we’ve all been taught that you need to be where your competitors are. While I would agree to this on some level, I vehemently disagree on a more fundamental basis with this belief because good marketing practices will tell you that each business is unique and has to offer a unique value proposition to its customers. Therefore, your customers are not exactly the same as your competitors’, and you might want to consider delving a little deeper into what sets you apart, who your audience is and what services/products are relevant to that specific audience.

For example, a car is a car is a car, until Tesla came out with a “car experience”. They could compete, and do compete on some levels with high performance, expensive cars, or some may argue with the “green cars”, but what Tesla did is carve out their own brand, unique placement and experience that sets them apart from the rest. Tesla did what Porsche had done before them, and are forging their own way, creating their own marketing path and winning the hearts and dreams of millions of daydreamers around the world.

Not every company needs a website or social media to be successful, as these are simply tactics, but what they all do need is a service/product brand that is unique. This uniqueness is what will set you apart from your competition and dictate where and what you should invest in to win out your competition.

Is your marketing based on placing your marketing investments where your competitors are? Has this strategy worked well for you? How might you change this moving forward?

For CEOs of SMBs Facing Marketing and Sales Challenges: Seeing is Believing

https://i0.wp.com/medcitynews.com/wp-content/uploads/bigstock-Jumping-Over-A-Challenge-To-Ac-8850217.jpgThe day after one of the most heightened elections in Canada’s history, where the “underdog” came through to win the election and become our second-youngest Prime Minister, I felt it apropos to draw an analogy to CEOs and sales and marketing.

Canada had a need for change. We were calling out for change as many did in the U.S. before Obama was elected, and when it came time for our elections, the need was answered with a new direction and a different party.

When I recently read a study conducted by the BDC that said that one of the most challenging business functions for business leaders in Canada is Sales and Marketing Strategy, it validated my experience working with CEOs of SMBs: they have a need.

The study breaks down this sales and marketing challenge further into the following areas:

  1. Increasing the number of customer prospects (58%)
  2. Developing and executing a sales and marketing plan (54%)
  3. Converting prospects into customers (52%)

There were other sales and marketing challenges including conducting market research, integrating or improving the use of social media and other digital channels, understanding the competitive market, and developing an online presence.

As a CEO myself, I know that most of us wear multiple hats and are responsible for many of our businesses’ key functions in addition to sales and marketing, including HR, operations and finance. When we know we need help in these areas, we hire accountants, Human Resources consultants, and business advisors. Why would sales and marketing be any different?

It spells out in this study that business leaders prefer to hire an external expert to help them to resolve their sales and marketing challenges, so why is it so difficult for a CEO to have faith and to trust a marketing expert promising them that they can help them with their marketing and sales challenges?

Ultimately, hiring an external provider will come down to a few key factors: their reputation, references, price – but the essential factor is whether as a CEO you feel you can trust this candidate – whether you believe they can deliver on their promises. Once you have that, you have a winner.

As a CEO, have you been approached by an external marketing agency? If you decided not to work with them, why not?

5 Tips to Evaluate Whether an App Adds Value to Your Brand

CWM_Sept 22When we talk about apps, we often focus on the consumer application. Without a doubt, apps have provided a lot of value in the B2C market, but as a business owner who deals mainly with B2B clients, I wanted to address the value of utilizing an app for the B2B market.

If you’re a B2B owner thinking of creating an app for your business, in addition to asking yourself if there is something specific that you can accomplish with a mobile app that you can’t with your website, you’ll want to evaluate the need for an app in terms of adding value to your brand.

I’ve outlined below a few areas to consider when evaluating whether an app will bring value to your brand:

  1. Provide a direct marketing channel

A mobile app essentially narrows the gap between you and your customer. It reduces the steps that your customer has to go through to reach you. You can use an app to make it easier for customers to pay bills, place orders, book meetings, or get rewards.

  1. Showcase products and services

You can use an app to showcase your products and services. This would be especially useful if you have a comprehensive product offering. Customers can shop for parts, accessories, and features through the app. The great thing about apps is the ability to send notifications to the user’s smartphone or tablet device. The benefit of that is that you can increase the likelihood of your customers discovering featured products and services.

  1. Customer service and support

An app can also be used to provide customer service and support directly to your customers. You can build a messaging feature that allows customers to reach you directly. You can also offer resources, such as instruction manuals or help guides, which can help your customers access your products or services.

  1. Brand extension

Increasingly, mobile phones and tablets are becoming the primary tools for accessing the Internet. The change has been most profound in the consumer market, but as these mobile computers become more powerful, businesses are increasingly relying on them to do work. An app can extend the reach of your brand by making it easier for these mobile users to access your business.

  1. Stand out from the competition

Mobile apps at the small business level are still rare. If you can add value through the app, then the app can be leveraged as a point of differentiation from your competitors.

The greatest benefit of an app in the B2B space is the ability for customers to engage with your brand by offering them a benefit that they then tie to your value proposition. An example of this is through reward apps. Reward apps allow businesses to know more about the buying habits of their customers by giving them reward points towards free merchandise or services. If there is a perceived value of your app by the customer (i.e. reward points), then there is a greater likelihood that it will succeed!

Do you see the value of creating an app for your business? If so, will you take the next steps to creating one? If not, what is holding you back?

3 Things to Consider to Overcoming Privacy Concerns of Cookies

CWM TuesdayYou may have heard of the term “cookie” or come across it in your online experience. But what does it mean? What does it mean for consumers? And what does it mean for you as a business owner or manager?

Have you ever noticed when booking travel destinations online that the next day or time you are on the internet, ads or messages will appear from other travel sights? This is not a coincidence – this is as a result of cookies tracking your purchasing and surfing behaviours.

Cookies are therefore a key tool that we marketers can use to track customer behaviour and purchasing choices. They can help your business understand your customers so that you can provide them with tailored content specific to their behaviours.

From a marketing perspective then – cookies provide us with a pull-push approach, but the challenge is we need to make sure our campaigns are transparent and therefore we need to utilize cookies in a way that the customer does not consider invasive of their privacy.

I wanted to share with you a few tips that will help you overcome privacy concerns raised by cookies when planning your next online marketing campaign.

  1. Show transparency

The most important thing to consider when using cookies is that privacy is the biggest concern. Let your customers know when they visit the site that you are using cookies to provide them a tailored experience.

One popular approach is to provide a notification on your website. For example, a website will post a notification like this:

Company X sites use cookies and similar technologies. By using company X sites, you are agreeing to our revised Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, including our cookie policy.

A simple notification like this serves to provide both knowledge and consent. The choice is then on the consumer to continue using the service. Your customers will appreciate that you are being transparent with them, and that they are being given a choice.

  1. Value-added, permission-granted

Make sure you have a strong value proposition. Based on consumer behaviours in downloading Apps, if you can provide them with the tailor product/service they need, and the value is there for them, they will grant you permission to track them.

  1. Make it part of a larger strategy

For a cookie to be effective, it should be used as part of a larger marketing automation strategy. Just simply placing cookies on your site only tracks users on your site, and does not give you much “intel” on what your customers are doing and where they are going online. You’ll need to track them across many sites, to gain a richer understanding of who they are and how you can push them targeted content.

With all of the exciting automated marketing technology that is available to us today, we need to always put our customer first and ensure they are not feeling their privacy is being compromised.

Do the benefits of cookies overcome its potential danger to privacy? Do you have other online strategies for understanding your consumer behaviours?

What Should I Be Getting From My Marketing Expert?

 No matter what realm – fie-marketingnancial, legal, health or business – we rely on experts to provide us with answers that we otherwise couldn’t come up with on our own.

Marketing is the one thing all business owners know they must invest in to be more successful. In fact, this is why most CEOs hire internal expertise through their marketing staff, externally via a marketing agency, or do a combination of both to ensure they are getting the knowledge, insights, guidance and solutions to help them achieve their marketing and sales goals.

Whether your expert is internal or external or a hybrid, you’ll want to make sure your “experts” are taking care of your marketing to ensure you meet your objectives and goals. I have outlined below a few tasks you’ll want to make sure your experts provide you with:

  • They have created a strategic marketing plan based on your business goals and reaching specific objectives you have outlined for your business (this may include increasing revenues from a target audience, introducing a new service or product, increasing sales by a certain percentage, etc.)
  • The strategy clearly identifies your audience, your brand, messaging, your revenue streams, approaches for implementation, and measurement approaches
  • They have created a detailed marketing plan, with determined messaging, what area your marketing team is going to focus on, what objectives they are hoping to achieve, what marketing mix they are going to use, the number of campaigns, and what the projected ROI will be for each
  • They have created a detailed tactical plan to execute and implement the marketing strategy including clearly identifying individuals, roles, timelines, outcomes, ROI
  • They have outlined documents for each campaign to identify who will monitor results, tweak as necessary, and ensure that your company gets the best results from their marketing efforts
  • They have included you as part of the process (if appropriate) prior to, during and upon completion of every campaign. This could be a quick meeting with your team, a call, or an email.

As a CEO or CMO, your team needs to be able to not only think creatively but analytically. They must be able to not only be creative, but to be able to gain results from that creativity.

This is your business, so make sure you really have the right team at the table to help you achieve your business results and growth. Your relationship with your marketing advisor(s) should leave you always feeling secure in their expertise so that you can focus on running your business. Trust that they only have your best interest in mind and that your success is their success.