brands

3 Ways to Leverage Instagram for Your B2B Business

1115_instagram_365_244colo-24-42-70-10Over 400 million people are on Instagram these days. This creative, visually led social network is rapidly becoming a place where people engage with brands and share content. Yet, many B2B companies dismiss Instagram as not being right for their brand. Instagram doesn’t immediately come to mind when you think of B2B marketing, but there are huge opportunities to promote your brand values.

Storytelling has become a great way to give B2B brands a personality. Storytelling is about connecting with your audience and moving away from the self-centred, sales-orientated advertising that just doesn’t work for B2B brands anymore. The key to leveraging Instagram as a marketing tool for B2B brands is to not think of it as a marketing tool at all.  Instead, you want to think about Instagram as a way of telling your story as part of a larger online marketing strategy. Here are three ways that Instagram can help you tell your brand’s story:

  1. Establish long-term connections

B2B brands need to embrace the fact that marketing on Instagram is less about selling the benefits of your products and services, and more about establishing deeper connections with people including industry thought-leaders, employers, and prospective clients. Instagram is about building and maintaining awareness of your brand. Think of Instagram as a way to grab the attention of industry influencers and potential clients at a time when they’re not really in work mode, as they’re not going to be interested in being sold to.  This is your chance to seamlessly integrate your brand values into their Instagram feed.

  1. Humanize your brand

Another way you can give people an insight into your company culture is to use Instagram to offer a behind-the-scenes look, as people love seeing what goes on in other offices. It can be as simple as snapping a quick photo at your company’s event, or taking a photo of one of your employees to publicly wish them happy birthday. B2C brand’s social media channels thrive on being relatable and yours should be too.

  1. Contribute to the conversation and be part of the community

As well as interacting with clients’ photos and comments, responding to big news stories, industry developments and trending hashtags can be a great way to engage your followers and show the world that you have your fingers on the pulse. Give your brand a personality through comments and thoughtful posts in the public space.

Take the time to understand the benefits of using Instagram to communicate your brand’s values to potential clients and industry influencers, if you’re looking for new ways to engage with your B2B community.

This visually led social channel might have its roots in B2C marketing but, with over 400 million subscribers, you might want to take a look to see if this platform is right for your B2B business.

For 93% Of SMBs Branding Is More Important Now Than Ever

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According to a survey released this summer by the American Express Small Business Monitor, the vast majority (93%) of small business owners (SBOs) cite having a unique brand that differentiates them from the competition is more important now than ever.

The following is an excerpt from a CNW news release on this survey. It highlights the key outcomes of the survey and also some of the reasons why SMBs feel the need for strong branding is more relevant today than in the past:

“In today’s highly competitive business climate, creating a recognizable and trusted brand is an important concern for many small business owners (SBOs). Increasingly, SBOs recognize the importance branding has on business success, and as such, are focusing on providing an overall brand experience to their customers.

It’s evident that business owners have seemingly prioritized branding strategies with 71 per cent saying brand experience is the most important part of their business’ overall brand.  SBOs are also placing a high value on branding as the majority (51%) report branding is critical to attracting new business.

“Having a powerful brand is vital in today’s economy, it can be the difference between a business that blends in with the crowd or stands out from the competition,” says Athena Varmazis, Vice President and General Manager, Small Business Services, American Express Canada. “It’s refreshing to see business owners placing an emphasis on branding since it’s their platform to tell their business’ story with current and future customers.”

SBOs display a willingness to go digital but stay true to traditional approaches

With consumers increasingly embracing social media and leveraging social platforms when making purchase decisions, almost three quarters (73%) of SBOs report that they need to constantly monitor their brand’s perception. As such, SBOs have welcomed digital elements into their branding with over half (52%) of business owners utilizing a company website to build their brand.

Yet many still rely heavily on traditional approaches stemming from internal communications. A full 60 per cent of business owners rely on the actions of their employees to communicate their brand to their customers and almost half (45%) of these report it being effective. Furthermore, 32% of small business owners leverage events to help increase brand awareness.

SBOs desire a strong brand presence, yet have room for improvement

The demand for a strong, prominent business identity is at an all-time high with 84% of business owners stating that branding is important to the overall success of their business.  While SBOs feel an increased need to stand out from the competition, 55 per cent aren’t refining their brand annually and may be missing the opportunity to assess the evolving trends to ensure their business stacks up in the market.

Thirty-six percent of SBOs admit that they are interested in expanding their brand but don’t know where to start. Despite this, a substantial 86 per cent of SBOs still choose not to capitalize on the resources third party experts offer with over one quarter (29%) of SBOs rely on themselves in the development of their business’ brand.

“It is surprising to see that the majority of SBOs aren’t investing in the necessary third party resources to help them develop and refine their brand, yet they are willing to invest in other areas, such as accounting, legal or payroll,” says Varmazis. “Branding plays a significant role in the overall success of their business and shouldn’t be taken lightly by business owners.”

Do you agree with this survey?  Is branding become more significant to your business?  I look forward to reading your comments below.

If it’s a Good Product – Why Don’t I Know It?

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We hear it all the time: “Why haven’t I heard of it if it’s as good as they claim?” The answer could be that the product or new brand is not as good as it claims to be OR, more likely, it is a great brand, but the company lacks the funds to create a branding strategy.

I recently came across an article in a local paper about a fantastic cleaning product that has been able to strip wood and treat it without any toxic chemicals or ingredients. Despite the proven success from various carpenters, the product has only received distribution via two small retail stores.

This is an ideal example of a great product idea that may in fact be the uber wood-refinishing product, but without a strong branding or a strategic marketing plan, the public is just unaware of this product.  In a world of supply and demand, if the public is unaware of a product then there is no demand, and with no demand few retailers are going to carry said product.

Unfortunately, without deep pockets it is difficult to get your brand noticed. Most large “name” brands not only had branding strategies, they had substantial marketing budgets that involved cross platform spending.

As a smaller brand, it is hard to get noticed, particularly by large retailers who need product to fly off their shelves. Though our pockets may not be as deep, the good news is we can all take a page out of the “big brand” approach by taking the initial steps of having a strong brand and a strategic marketing plan.  Here are a few tips to keep in mind to make sure your small brand gets the recognition it deserves. 

  1. Prove validity: Create a strategic plan (include some competitive research, outline your target audience, what makes your brand or product unique, etc.)
  2. Plan in: Create a detailed tactical marketing plan – this is where you outline marketing tactic details and your annual budget to implement said tactics. This would include pricing and finding relevant community events where you can market your product or brand, as well as pricing ads in publications relevant to your audience, the costs for sponsoring a sports team, etc.  You will need to outline a yearly and a month-by-month budget with the details of what can be achieved each month.
  3. Build it: Create consistent messaging, imagery and branding (use the same colours, same tag, same placement, etc.)
  4. Stick to it: Stick to your plan; do not veer from what you have planned
  5. Evaluate: As the monthly activities are completed, assess and evaluate them for ROI. If certain activities had a good ROI, you might want to reinvest or even expand next year. If the activity did not meet the mark, then you may want to consider eliminating it, altering it or replacing it next year.

Without deep pockets, having a strategy and detailed plan will allow you to build a slow and steady brand… and as you may remember from the childhood story The Tortoise and The Hare – “slow and steady wins the race!” With the right amount of determination, your brand can become so well known that you can take your name right off your logo – and still be instantly recognized!

Do you feel if you had a larger marketing budget your brand would be more successful? Do you feel having a solid strategy has helped you build your brand?  Do you have a tactical plan? Please share your experience in the comments below.

Create a Strong Brand – Make an Emotional Connection to your Customer

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I came across a blog by Jim Joseph of Entrepreneur and thought the message was worth passing on to you:

Many people have different interpretations about what brand positioning means. It’s one of those concepts that is hard to pin down, yet at the same time is so important to the success of your brand. Positioning is at the heart of your brand. It’s essentially the summation of everything your brand is about.

Positioning is built from what you know to be true about your customer. It takes the benefits you’ve outlined and makes them meaningful to customers. In its simplest of forms, positioning is the mental space you want to occupy in your customer’s mind. It’s the first thing you want your customer to think about when they hear your brand name.

An emotional connection with your customer is the key to being a brand. But that emotional bond should be reflected in the positioning statement for the business. Positioning is more about emotions and less about the facts.

That’s why marketers who think a claim about their product or service is a positioning statement, really miss the boat. The same goes for a description of your type of business. There’s no emotion in that and it’s emotions that differentiate a brand.

Your brand’s positioning is the basis for building the brand experience across the entire marketing plan. The key is to make sure the actual brand experience delivers on what was intended in the positioning.

Let’s take a look at a few big brands and what they’ve done for positioning. The tagline can often be a big hint:

  • BMW: “The ultimate driving machine.”
  • State Farm: “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.”
  • L’Oreal: “Because you’re worth it.”

Notice the level of emotion in each of these taglines, which essentially highlights each brand’s positioning.

Here’s how they might be translated into positioning statements:

  • BMW: Makes you feel powerful.
  • State Farm: Makes you feel secure and safe in times of need.
  • L’Oreal: Makes you feel valued and good about yourself.

These are obviously big blockbuster brands, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t do the same for your small business.

Here are a few tips to creating a positioning statement for your company:

  1. Think about the emotional benefit that you offer your customer.
  2. Think about how you want your customer to feel about you, every time they think about you.
  3. Try to capture that emotion in a brief statement that best describes what you can offer, and jot down a few options.
  4. If you have a team, run the ideas by them and do a little brainstorming. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you start generating ideas.
  5. If you need help with any of these, have a marketing agency facilitate this process, their expertise will help you.

Do you feel your brand makes an emotional connection with your customers? Please share your experience in the comments below.

Brand Advocacy – Shares Drive Action 10 Times Higher Than Paid Impressions

Rarely do we think of tweeting, posting or pinning as drivers for social advocacy, but that’s exactly what they are. Every day people have millions of conversations about brands around the world, which result in increased brand recognition and sales.

In a recent study conducted by Ogilvy, they looked at 7 million media mentions, 22 brands and 8 feature films spanning four countries.   Their study suggests that social shares drive action at a rate as high as TEN TIMES that of paid impressions! In some cases, passion about a brand generated more advocacy than blockbuster movies!

OgilvyBlog

The research suggests that up to 80% of reach from marketing campaigns now comes from network amplification through advocacy. This means brands that can’t generate substantial advocacy will simply pay more to market less efficiently than those who make advocacy a brand priority.

The study makes five recommendations to help brands build advocacy and amplify passion:

  1. To drive passionate advocacy, know and focus on your fan’s true advocacy
  2. Identify and use your brand’s differentiated advocacy drivers
  3. For global relevance, emphasize product features
  4. Move beyond the blunt metric of “sentiment” to tracking advocacy levels
  5. Encourage and enable advocacy everywhere

For full details go to: http://www.slideshare.net/socialogilvy/socialogilvy-advocacy-studyjuly2013-1

I hope you have enjoyed this insightful presentation about how advocacy mentions help brands significantly amplify their marketing.

I am always interested in hearing from you. Did you enjoy this study? What is your take away? Will the results of this study influence your strategic marketing? If so, how?  Let me know in the comments below.