marketing agency

What’s the Difference in Selling Your Product or Your Brand?

Screen Shot 2018-04-17 at 12.02.57 PMAs a business owner, you probably hear about the importance of branding all the time. However, I’ve seen many small business owners confuse selling their product with selling their brand. You already thoroughly understand your product, but since 30% of Canadians base their purchasing decisions on their trust in certain brands, it’s essential to note the differences between the two.

When businesses come to me wanting a better ROI on their lead generation, I often find the issue is not with their product, but with understanding the difference between their product and their brand. If we push one without the other, the results can be sales stagnation. Products and branding should go hand in hand. To do this, you’ll need to understand how they are different. I’ve outlined below what I feel are the differences between products and branding and why these differences are significant.

Product

Your products are specifically the objects or services you provide to customers in exchange for payment. They fulfill your customers’ needs. There are likely many competing businesses that offer the same or similar products that would also adequately fulfill their needs, so it’s your job to convince your target market that your products are the best. That’s where your brand plays a key part!

Brand

Your brand is how your target market perceives you. When they think about your business, what words come to mind? If your customer surveys and reviews are coming back with negative descriptors like “slow”, “unavailable”, or “no follow-up”, it might be time to rethink your brand. The goal is for your brand to resonate with your customers.

Your product may fulfill your customers’ needs, but your brand fulfills your customers’ wants. When you and a competitor have similar pricing and quality, the business with the better branding comes out on top; it determines which business they want to purchase from.

Your brand is your promise to your customer. Your brand clearly differentiates your company from your competition, so your audience will not only understand who you are but also clearly identify your value and the benefits of buying your product. Strong branding equals increased business results. Believe it or not, businesses have just as much personality as people.

A short and simple way to remember the difference between your product and your brand is this: You sell your product, but your brand sells you.

For award-winning help with your branding and help determining your brand’s personality and the direction it should take, contact CreativeWorks Marketing today!

Why Your Company Needs to Invest in Marketing

Marketing is not an option; it’s a necessity. And not just for the giants like Coca Cola and Nike. Whether you’re a Fortune 500 or a company of one, you need to invest in marketing in order to be successful.

What does marketing do?

One of my favourite explanations of what marketing does comes from the often quoted Peter Drucker. “The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself”. Mr. Drucker is right. You can have the best product and/or service in the world but without marketing, it’ll be the world’s best kept secret.

Marketing isn’t just one thing. There are many components to marketing – advertising, promotions, websites, social media, content strategy, SEO, SEM, public relations… – all of which are designed to introduce and promote your products/services to potential customers and as a result, generate sales. Marketing:

  • Builds your brand
  • Reinforces your brand
  • Introduces your products/services
  • Promotes your products/services

What questions should you ask yourself before investing in marketing?

Before you invest in marketing you need know everything about your product/service. I suggest that you ask yourself these seven questions:

  1. What is my product/service?
  2. Is my product/service well priced?
  3. What is my value proposition?
  4. Who are my potential customers?
  5. Who is my competition?
  6. How am I different from my competition?
  7. What are my objectives?

How much should my marketing budget be?

I understand that you may be trying to save money, but marketing is not a DIY project and it’s definitely not one-size-fits-all. I’ve seen all sorts of numbers tossed around, but the truth is that there is no hard and fast rule about how much your marketing budget should be.

Every company has different goals, needs, and objectives and these have to be addressed individually. A good marketing consultant/agency will be able to work with you and help you establish what your budget should be in order to realize your objectives. Here’s a great download to help you in your search.

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?

The Rise of Digital Marketing

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 1.26.20 PMThe digital world is tied directly to data, and data is everywhere. When it comes to marketing, data informs marketers about audiences, their interests, intentions, and where they choose to interact. I believe that being able to analyze big data, create original content and having a sound digital strategy are three key factors a company should consider while aiming for success in the current digital climate.

Big Data

Because of the rise in available data, digital media has become an incredibly integrated part of consumers’ daily lives, and digital platforms are constantly updating themselves in order to provide the best user experience.

Being able to analyze and report data is a key component to any marketing strategy (at least it should be). Everything will be enhanced by the growth of big data – get ready!

Content

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “content is King”. When content is relevant and interesting, consumers cannot wait to read and share your brand’s content. This includes video content too (Instagram recently introduced a looping feature on their videos!).

Also, blogs are making a comeback because SEO matters now more than ever, and you need content to post on your social media sites – what better content than your own, right?

Digital Strategy

The changing digital landscape means digital marketing is constantly evolving, and marketers, like myself, are forced to learn how to use new software, how to use different platforms (including mobile), how to apply new techniques, and how to manage and optimize marketing efforts.

Location matters more now too. As the Internet grows at an incomprehensible rate, users are looking for more local experiences. We’ve seen the emergence of companies, like Uber and UberX, providing local goods and services at the push of a button. Being able to offer customers a local experience (that’s easily accessible via their smartphone – think convenience) keeps you relevant. This means we should see a rise in the amount of geo-targeted advertising, and social content created.

Content creation, SEO, and social media, shouldn’t be treated as specific departments, but rather as skills that exist inherently within your marketing agency (or internal marketing team).

What does this mean for businesses today?

Before you, or your company, settle on a marketing budget, I recommend you look at the latest trends and technology, and understand which of these your customers use so you can create a plan that leverages all available data. The success of today’s marketing campaigns largely relies on sound marketing strategies that have adopted new digital technologies.

If you’re unsure of where to start or if your marketing strategy is outdated, please contact me at info@creativeworksmarketing.ca to see how I can help your business.

Does your company have a digital strategy in place? What are your biggest challenges with digital marketing? Comment and share your thoughts with me!

Think Strategically for Proven Results

Want proven results from your marketing- who doesn’t? To really reap the benefits of your marketing activities, you’ll need to have both a marketing strategy and a marketing plan.

Strategic marketing

Marketing Plan

The marketing plan, also sometimes referred to as a tactical plan, comes as a result of having a clearly defined strategy. With your strategy in hand, you can then create a plan that targets your audience with activities that resonate with them. e.g. If you want to target teens, you wouldn’t place an ad in a print publication as this demographic is engaged through online media. The marketing plan outlines the details of the tactics (roads) you will take to attract new business. It is a practical application of your marketing strategy, which includes details of what marketing activities you need to implement (online, website, advertising, videos, radio, etc.) to support the strategy in getting your business where you want it to go.

Marketing Strategy

The marketing strategy is your road map – the holy grail, if you will. It is shaped by your overall business goals and strong market research and includes a definition of your business, a description of your products or services, a profile of your target audiences or clients, and a definition of your company’s role in relation to the competition. The marketing strategy is essentially a document that outlines who you are, why you are unique, and what value you bring to your targeted audience.

As a strategic marketing expert, I can assure you that creating a marketing strategy is essential if you want proven results. I’ve outlined below a few of the preliminary questions you need to consider when engaging a marketing expert/agency or working with your internal team.

  1. What do you think is your unique selling proposition versus the competition?
  2. Why is this unique selling proposition compelling to your audience?
  3. Who is your target audience?
  4. Have you done any client surveys?
  5. Who are your key competitors?
  6. Have you conducted any market or competitive research?
  7. Is your pricing inline with your competitors or at parity?
  8. What is the ROI for all of your marketing tactics to date?
  9. Is your business trying to lead or follow industry pricing?

If you are serious about your marketing and want proven results, then stop buying and implementing adhoc solutions that are not tied to a strategy.

You Need to be Found: Google Adwords

Google-Magnifying-Glass1

Today’s economy is challenging for many businesses, but it’s an even bigger challenge for the SMB owner, who is forced to use increasingly smaller marketing budgets to increase brand recognition and drive sales through lead generation tactics. One such lead gen tactic is Google AdWords. You’ve seen those ads that appear on the side of the page every time you search for something on Google. Businesses bid for this online advertising through Google AdWords. All you have to do is create an ad, and choose specific search keywords which you would like to target, and, voila! Your ads might appear on Google, next to the search results. The idea is that people interested in your product/service can simply click on your ad to either make a purchase or learn more about your company.

Sounds simple, right? Well, from a conceptual standpoint, it is. In practice, however, we have found that for many of our small business clients, using Google AdWords is more of a science. Finding the “right” balance of key words, with the words used in the ad, together with the right bid amount takes many, many hours of ad monitoring, key word adjustment, ads revisions, as well as working to increase ad click-through rates and daily budgets.

Google AdWords is generally thought of as an ideal advertising “add-on” for small businesses with limited budgets, but even if you know what you’re doing, depending on your industry and keywords, it can be an expensive venture, and therefore needs to be closely monitored (in fact, hourly monitoring is best!).

Here are a few lessons that we’ve learned about Google Adwords for small business that I’d recommend to any small business considering investing in this advertising program.

  1. Before you create your ad, spend some time reviewing your web analytics to see what terms people are using to find you online at this point. Google Analytics offers this type of information.
  2. In combination with the keyword tool Google Ad Words provides, create a list of targeted keywords (narrow these down to focus on a specific service/product and your targeted audience).
  3. Create two very targeted ads. Always create two ads, so you can see which one is doing better, and simply replace it as the campaign evolves.
  4. Decide on your maximum monthly budget (I suggest being able to spend at least $100 a month).
  5. Direct the ad to link to a specific page on your site. Or, if you have the budget, create a landing page on your site specifically for this ad. For services, this page needs to have the ability to capture lead gen via a form or download. For products, this page needs to have a special offer.
  6. Launch the campaign, and monitor it hourly. Keep a close eye not just on your cost-per-click (CPC), and the Average CPC (how much you are paying on average per click), but also the first page bid estimate (which tells you how much you need to spend to be on the first page).  These three areas will help you to decide which terms you may want to pause, and which ones you might want to increase your bid rate on.
  7. You’ll need to make sure that you have metrics on your website to track the number of people that are actually coming to the linked page via Google.
  8. Run the ad campaign for a month (if funds permit), and generate a report at the end of each week to capture the CPC, which key terms did well, increase in traffic to your site via the ad, how many leads were generated (or products sold), and note if there is a pattern emerging. For example, you might notice that there are lots of clicks on Thursday and Friday mornings, and it tapers off over the weekend, and early in the week.  You can then decide to put more money towards your CPC on Thursday and Fridays.

I have tried to capture the basics to help create and launch your Google AdWord campaign, but it’s worth noting that this tool has a huge number of functions. There are other options to consider, including impression vs. clicks; how to increase your quality score; what is the advantage of display networks vs. search; what are filters and ad extensions; and how should you determine your campaign settings and so much more.

With such a deep online advertising tool with a multitude of variables you can see why, if used correctly, Google AdWords has the potential to increase your ROI. It does, however, require considerable thought, time and effort to make it work for your business.

Have you used Google AdWords in your small business? If so, have you found it helpful? Has it increased your ROI? Do you have any questions about how to set up a Google AdWords campaign? Please share your questions and comments below.

Who Needs Integrity in Marketing?

cheating_rectAs part of my business development strategy, I help business owners understand the WHY as well as the HOW behind their marketing, as I have seen, time and time again, many businesses hoodwinked by self-proclaimed marketing experts promising results from a carbon-copied set of tactics. As a business owner, I want my peers to know what questions to ask!

I have dedicated my business and this blog specifically to helping medium-sized business owners because they often fall prey to unscrupulous companies looking to make a quick buck. I feel that these growing organizations, the backbone of our Canadian economy, are being taken advantage of by an unregulated industry that is just as likely to sell websites as it is to sell iPods or mugs. They approach the small to mid-sized business owner with flashy razzle-dazzle and some even “talk the talk”, hitting them up for thousands of dollars in website design and site management with no intent to actually help the client.

Like most of us, unless you know what you are looking for, you don’t know what you don’t know. As such, I have outlined a few questions that will hopefully protect you, the small to mid-sized business owner, against web designers or web programmers calling themselves marketers.  If you need help in deciphering the legitimate companies from the charlatans, consult a real marketing consultant to help guide you.

When a business owner wonders why their brochures or flyers, e-newsletters or e-blasts are not working for them, or says that they really want to create a new website or add QR codes to their business cards – as a marketing professional – I have to put on the brakes and ask them why they want to do so.

The Anti-Charlatan Questions to ask:

  1. How did they hear you needed a new site – e.g. solicitation via email or online?
  2. How well-written was the email or letter of solicitation? Did it provide you with links to projects they have done?
  3. Ask to have a meeting with them at their office. This will give you some indication if they have a legitimate business.  If they work from home, then they should be comfortable telling you that.
  4. When you meet with them, do they spend most of the meeting talking about what they can do for you, or on finding out more about your company and your challenges and needs?  If it’s all about them, you might expect your site project to be as well.
  5. Did they claim to be a web designer or marketer? Can they substantiate their claims of experience and practice?
  6. Do they have examples of their work? You need to know exactly what their involvement was in the development of the site. Did they design the site?  Did they design it using a website template (e.g. WordPress), or are they custom sites?  Note:  A template is a sort of prototype that they would simply modify by adding your content and pictures. The amount of design is very limited, and these sites all look very similar, but this is the least expensive option. A WordPress site also offers templates, but can be customized (although the WordPress icon in the URL will be visible to your audience).  A custom site is developed from scratch by a true designer, and this is usually the most expensive option.
  7. Ask them about the project process – do they create a critical path, a site map, with timelines clearly stated, etc.?
  8. Do they have writers who can write the content for the site? Is the content written from an SEO perspective or is it straight copy?
  9. What kind of SEO provision is outlined in the project?
  10. Do they write the programming for the sites? You are looking for them to tell you PHP, Java scripting, etc.
  11. Do they provide you with a Content Management System (CMS) so you can manage the site in-house?
  12. Ask them if they create wireframe designs.  If yes, ask them to show you an example.  If no, ask them why. The answer should speak to their expertise.
  13. What types of quality control measures are in place?
  14. Do they have references you can call?  Look through their work samples, and choose ones you’d like to talk to. Make sure it is a senior person at the company, not a reference for a junior employee.
  15. How will you be able to measure the ROI of the site?  You are looking for them to tell you that they use Google Analytics or other site measurement metrics. You’ll need to discuss if they will be providing on-going site measurement and recommendations.  If they are not marketers, I strongly recommend you work with a marketing agency or consultant for increased site value.

As a marketer and business owner, integrity is more than simply a word – it is something live by, to follow and believe in. Integrity is one of the most vital assets I bring to the table for my clients.

Was this blog helpful?  Do you have any questions I can help you with?  Please share your questions or stories in the comments, so that others may learn from your experiences.

Emotional Branding – Why your Business Needs it!

Dove

Making an emotional connection with your audience should be a year-round priority for your business, as consumers and clients (both B2B and B2C) make most of their buying decisions based on emotions. As I pursue business development opportunities, I aim to provide my potential clients with a brand that resonates with their audiences, and this often involves developing messaging that evokes emotion and impact.

Last year, I came across a blog by Jim Joseph of Entrepreneur and thought the message was worth reiterating with 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:

  • L’Oreal: “Because you’re worth it.”
  • BMW: “The ultimate driving machine.”
  • State Farm: “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.”
  • Dove: “You are more beautiful than you think” – featured in photo above in ad called, “Real Beauty Sketches”

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:

  • L’Oreal: Makes you feel valued and good about yourself.
  • BMW: Makes you feel powerful.
  • State Farm: Makes you feel secure and safe in times of need.
  • Dove: Makes you see what other people see when they look at you.

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 experiences in the comments below.

Why Stop-and-Start Marketing does not work

start stop

 

 

We’re just over halfway through the summer – how has business been? If summer is a slow time for your business or industry, you might be looking for ways to shave some costs before the boom September hits. Take my advice from this previously posted piece, and ensure that you don’t compromise branding in the name of saving a couple of bucks.

All businesses see fluctuations in their revenues. And it is understandable that when faced with “cash flow” issues, many businesses owners look to cut what they deem to be “unnecessary expenditures”. However, I can tell you from my many years of marketing experience that marketing is an integral part of your business, and stopping marketing activities can have a dramatic impact on your business.

A good example of this in practice is the 2008 financial crisis. Many businesses were faced with huge revenue challenges, and although some decided to stop their marketing and withdraw from their consumers’ radars, there were those that looked at it as an opportunity to “market smarter”. They continued to invest in their marketing, and not only survived the crisis – they actually thrived. Fueled by a strong marketing presence, these companies pushed forward with bolder strategies, and thereby gained a competitive advantage.

The reason that marketing is so important to businesses is that marketing is your main lifeline to customers and sales. Without it, you can’t be sure that customers know who you are, and what you are selling.

I’d like to share with you a few tips to consider, if you are ever in a situation where you are contemplating stopping or “pausing” your marketing activities:

  • Sync your business operations to be in line with your marketing strategy, so that if you have a “weak” month, you can pick up sales leads and revenues via another avenue.   For example, if you know that August is traditionally a bad “cash flow” month for your business, plan to combat that with a campaign running in July and August. Your marketing strategy plays a key role in your success.
  • Stop the marketing activities that are using non-measurable tactics, and replace them with other more measurable marketing practices.
  • Focus your advertising campaigns on lead generation instead of simply brand recognition.
  • Leverage social media strategies to increase engagement, audience and potential leads.
  • Find more ways to connect with your customers, so that you will be “top of mind” when they are making a buying decision.

I understand why, when faced with a crisis or dip in revenues, companies look to cut marketing budgets. But, simply stated, as “marketing” encompasses everything you do to place your product or service in the hands of potential customers, your marketing really needs to be continuous.

With markets becoming more competitive, it is more important that you get ahead of your competitors – by any means necessary.  That should start with a great marketing strategy, and continue with “smart”, measurable tactics that attract customers to your business.

Have you ever contemplated stopping your marketing?  What impact did this have on your business?  Please share your experiences on the importance of continuous marketing in the comments below.