marketing

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!

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What We Should Learn from Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica Fiasco

facebook, social media, marketing, marketing agencyIf you have accessed social media or any news source recently, you are likely just as dismayed as I am to hear about Facebook’s recent data breach.

If you’re not in the loop, here’s a rundown of what happened.

Even if you don’t avidly use social media for your business (which you may still want to consider), there is much to learn from this scandal. Here are my takeaways from a marketing perspective:

Continue Collecting Data

Whether you collect data from surveys, social media, loyalty programs, or any other form of data collection, don’t let Facebook’s data breach deter you. Data collection is essential in marketing. With it you can send customized offers and gain valuable product feedback for future improvements. Marketing without client data is marketing while blind.

Be Honest

When conducting a survey or asking clients to register for your loyalty program, it’s obvious to them what data you are collecting. What isn’t as obvious is what you will use the data for. I suggest including a disclaimer at the bottom of the survey or loyalty program confirmation email that states your intentions. Is there a chance that you may provide their information to a third party? If so, say so. It’s better to be honest now and get one less survey response than to be hit with a lawsuit later.

Review Your Privacy Policies

Now that you know some best management practices for client data collection, ensure that your existing privacy policies meet your clients’ expectations. If they don’t, now is definitely the time to update them with a fine-toothed comb.

Many of your clients likely won’t mind sharing personal details in order to receive some discount or other benefit from your business, but they are entrusting that data to you and only you unless you state otherwise. The trust between you and your clients is essential for your continued success; don’t squander it.

If you would like to discuss how data breaches might affect your business, call CreativeWorks Marketing today!

Marketing Agency vs. Internal Hire: Which Should You Choose?

Screen Shot 2018-03-06 at 2.25.49 PMIt’s a question I hear often when meeting with small business owners: “Why should I hire a marketing agency over an internal resource?” Undoubtedly, it’s a fair question to ask, and one that I would encourage any small business owner to ask when seeking marketing expertise. The answer will be different for every business because each business has its own unique goals and challenges it faces.

With that said, here are some things to consider when deciding whether a marketing agency or internal resource will be the best asset for your business:

  1. A marketing agency is full-service and more cost-effective

Think about it – at a marketing agency, you’re given access to a full team of marketers and specialists, including project managers and strategists, web developers, graphic designers, and so on. When looking to hire an internal marketing coordinator, for example, it can be difficult to find someone who is proficient in all of these skills. By hiring a marketing agency, you’ll receive top-level quality work for less than what you’d typically pay a full-time coordinator.

  1. An internal resource will know the intricacies of your business

With a full-time internal hire, they’ll be exposed to your business for at least 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. As a result, they’ll know every little detail of your business, from service and product details to customer policies. An agency will only become aware of these intricacies if and when they are shared with the team. It’s important that internal resources share as much information as possible with their agency to get the best results from their marketing.

  1. A marketing agency will increase productivity of your internal team

As briefly mentioned in the first point, a marketing agency provides a full team of resourceful marketers waiting to be called upon for their knowledge and assistance. By hiring a marketing agency to support your internal team, you’ll provide them with more time to focus on their core tasks, while additional marketing-related tasks, whether strategic or tactical, can be assigned to the marketing agency to handle. By burdening your existing staff with an extensive list of actionable items, you may be contributing to a decline in productivity due to burnout or exhaustion.

So, what’s the verdict?

While it truly does depend on the needs of the business, I find that the best outcome for most businesses is often the result of a collaborative approach between internal resources and marketing agencies. Each party has value in its own right, and when internal resources are able to share business goals with their marketing agencies, that’s when you’ll see the most from your marketing efforts. Contact CreativeWorks Marketing to begin your collaborative marketing journey today!

Has Q1 Come and Gone with No Real Marketing?

Screen Shot 2018-02-20 at 2.40.10 PM.pngWe’re already two months into 2018, and if your company has been playing the guessing game when it comes to marketing, it’s time to take action! Even if marketing wasn’t a focal point of your annual strategic sessions, or if you don’t have the time or resources to make a robust annual plan, there’s one thing you can do, in particular, to ensure your marketing is as effective as possible: create a quarterly marketing plan.

Here are some reasons why I recommend creating a quarterly marketing strategy:

  • Quarterly results provide the motivation to continue. Although a quarterly marketing strategy is more detailed than a simple checklist, it is still a checklist of sorts. Once each part is completed, you earn a sense of accomplishment that urges you to continue.
  • Quarterly goals are less intimidating. With annual goals, it’s easy to delay tasks until the following week, month, or couple months down the road. Many of us are prone to bouts of procrastination if we allow them. Don’t allow them! Procrastination kills goals.
  • Quarterly goals give direction. If you don’t plan out where you want to go, how can you expect to get there? Going with the flow without a map could lead you to a dead end.

How to Start Your Quarterly Marketing Plan

  1. Identify your target audience. If you haven’t already done so, it’s important to define who is most likely to purchase and use your product or service. Market research is one of the most effective methods of figuring this out.
  2. Learn their behaviours. Is your audience online, or are they more prone to seeing your brand through traditional mediums such as print? You want your message to appear where your target audience is most likely to see it.
  3. Compile a list of key dates for the upcoming quarter. Do you have an upcoming tradeshow? Undoubtedly, you know you’ll need collateral for it. Running a webinar? With no promotion prior to the event, how else do you expect to drive attendance? By outlining upcoming initiatives or events, you can better plan what’s required to allow you more time to focus on attaining your goals.
  4. Set realistic goals. Marketing is intended to support the growth of your company. With that said, aligning business goals with marketing goals makes sense, and it ensures accountability for the entire company that does not rest solely on the marketing team.
  5. Make it a one-stop shop. Include all upcoming campaigns, ad buys, content posts, and other relevant promotions that provide both a macro and micro look at the quarter. This approach will help you allocate resources where need be, and will ensure you stay organized with all things marketing-related.

Remember, a quarterly marketing plan will be more beneficial than having no plan at all. Once you’ve hit your quarterly goals, don’t stop! Marketing isn’t a temporary, one-time solution. Stick to the plan you’ve made and make changes to it if necessary.

There’s no doubt in my mind that you will start to see better results from your marketing once you have a blueprint to follow. As always, if you need help with developing a quarterly marketing plan or anything else related to marketing, contact CreativeWorks Marketing today!

Marketing ROI: Is it Guaranteed?

Screen Shot 2018-02-06 at 12.06.14 PM.pngIf there’s one question I hear most often from business owners, it’s “how can you guarantee a ROI for marketing?” It’s a fair question, indeed, but one where the answer isn’t clear-cut. Undoubtedly, it’s good business sense to expect a return when you invest in something for your business; but when it comes to marketing, there are various factors business owners need to consider before axing a tactic that yields a low ROI.

Consider these factors when deciding if your marketing dollars are being spent wisely:

  1. What strategy or technique did you use?
    Marketing is a practice that incorporates many different tactics and techniques, and some strategies will have a direct ROI while others will not. For example, if you’re launching a lead generation campaign on Google AdWords, you can directly track the leads coming in from this source, while comparing the profit made from these leads against your budget. You’ll be able to clearly determine if the ROI is there or not. A similar approach can be used for trade shows. Did the revenue made from the show at least cover the cost of the booth and any other expenses it took to attend? Lead generation campaigns will be easier to track, but even still, some level of leniency should be applied when determining ROI. As I’ll explain, not all conversions are immediate, and this is something you definitely need to take into consideration.On the other hand, marketing practices such as branding or content marketing won’t necessarily yield a high ROI for your business. Does this mean these practices aren’t worth your time or investment? Absolutely not. These types of marketing tactics are important to keep your brand relevant and relatable for customers. No one likes a stale brand, and you should think of these tactics as a support to your lead generation campaigns.
  1. Is your pipeline robust?
    There’s value in building your pipeline. For every customer that converts into a lead, there are dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of other customers that come into contact with your brand and marketing messages. Some, if not many, of these other customers will result in future sales. That’s why consistent communication with both your current and potential customers is so important. Traditionally, it takes seven touches before someone notices and engages with your marketing message. It’s also why having a strategic marketing mix is vital to your marketing success, so customers are exposed to your brand through various mediums.Even if you have a transactional business, a well-defined brand experience will increase the chances of repeat business. And don’t forget: every customer is an influencer.

So to answer the question of whether marketing ROI is guaranteed: it depends. As business owners, it’s important we see the value in all facets of marketing that may not exactly yield a high ROI; however, I would highly recommend that past marketing initiatives be used for guidance when developing future marketing budgets. If you require assistance with developing a budget or marketing mix, contact CreativeWorks Marketing today!

Here’s Why You’ll Want to Introduce AI to Marketing in 2018

hand-2722107_640.jpgIf you’re looking to keep up with the competition in your market, there’s no doubt about it; artificial intelligence (AI) is where you need to be. But what exactly does it mean, and how can you introduce it to your marketing mix? Introducing something new to your business can be intimidating, especially if it’s technology related, but AI is surely one of those things you don’t want to miss out on.

What is AI?

Simply put, AI is any intelligence displayed by a machine that mimics the natural intelligence of humans. This might be displayed through any function that we typically associate with thinking, such as learning, problem solving or decision-making. Have you recently visited a website that had a chat box pop up from what appeared to be a real customer service rep? Were they helpful? Maybe. Were they real? Probably not. This example is simply one application of AI, but there are various other applications that can be used to optimize the marketing of your business.

So, why should you introduce AI to marketing your business this year?

  1. You’ll know your customers better

I often hear from business owners that they know exactly who their customers are. While I don’t doubt that they have a solid understanding of their average customer, they’re likely just scratching the surface when it comes to knowing their purchasing habits and other influential factors. With AI, you’re not only able to analyze more data, but different types of data too. What this means is that you’re able to learn more intricate details into the lives of your customers.

  1. You’ll communicate with personalized content, in real-time

Now that you know who your customers are, this means that you can curate highly personalized content to target them. According to a study by Demand Metric, 80% of marketers say personalized content is more effective than “unpersonalized” content. Gone are the days of annoying, irrelevant pop up ads, because now, online ads will be personalized to the interests of shoppers using data from several of their tech devices.

What’s more exciting is the ability to communicate with your customers in real-time. With certain applications of AI, stores are able to send real-time discount offers to customers. Instead of waiting to entice customers with a future promotional offer, businesses can capitalize on customers making a purchase the moment they search for a related item.

  1. You’ll save time and money

By introducing AI to your business, you’ll save countless hours on traditionally time-consuming tasks like data analysis and crunching numbers. Additionally, AI will allow you to respond to consumer requests quicker than ever before. Even large tech giants like Facebook have recognized the importance of this, and have recently introduced auto responses for inbound messages received through a company page. With AI, you’ll shorten the length of your sales cycle and convert more viable leads.

Although AI can help you better know and interact with your customers, it won’t be necessary in every aspect of your marketing strategy. Not everything needs to be automated—automation works best when the task being completed can be done so more efficiently by an AI than by a human. Designate simpler or more repetitive tasks to AI systems so that you are freeing up more time to dedicate to the really difficult challenges of your business strategy that require human input. Are you ready to jump on the AI bandwagon? Contact CreativeWorks Marketing today to discuss how AI can be introduced to your marketing strategy for 2018.

Does Your Brand Walk the Walk?

k-10-ice-3210-20370-lyj0923-02-brandingWhat happens when brands talk the talk but don’t walk the walk? Well, recently, employees from one of Canada’s largest and most-recognized telecommunications company have made claims that the company does not represent the values it stands for in one of its most successful campaigns.

If you follow my blog closely, you would have read by now the importance I stress on branding and having a brand that is true to what you and your company believe in. But if your brand lacks synergy with the reality of your operations, as is with the case mentioned above, there can be real and damaging consequences to your business.

In my 20 years as a marketing leader and expert, I’ve helped craft brand identities from tried and true methods but have also bared witness to countless brands that have failed to resonate with consumers due to various reasons.

So, what can a brand misalignment mean for your business?

  1. Upset Customers, Bitter Employees
    In today’s digital age, there’s no hiding from a disgruntled customer. Social media and review sites have paved the way for upset customers to air their bad experiences with the click of a button. According to AdWeek, 81% of customers conduct online research before making a purchase. A good brand will ensure that the sales experience is a pleasant one and is based on the entirety of a customer’s experience with your company; not just your logo.

    Additionally, employees have influence over your brand’s perception as well. With websites such as Glassdoor and Indeed, future hires and even customers can get an inside glimpse on what it’s like to work for a company – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

  1. Bad PR
    There’s the old saying that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. I would humbly disagree. Remember when the documentary Blackfish was released and SeaWorld’s stock dropped by half since 2013, even though they “protect animals and the wild wonders of our world”? Or how about when Target failed to secure their customers’ data from a breach resulting in a loss of at least $148 million and leading their customers to “expect more” from the company? For a small business, a drastic hit in revenue caused by bad PR would likely mean closing shop.

Luckily, even the most established of brands can revitalize themselves. Here’s how you can ensure you walk the walk when it comes to your brand:

  1. Be True to Who You Are
    A brand can make any claim they want, but they need to be able to back up their claims if and/or when they are questioned on them. If your company is known for its excellent customer service or award-winning products, use it to your advantage! Basing your brand on real, positive experiences of customers will give you an edge over the competition’s brand ambiguity.
  1. Brand Values Start From Within
    Your employees are an extension of your brand. Much like how you would turn to customer perception for assistance in developing your brand, your internal staff should also play a role. Ask them what they think the company stands for, and find a common theme that you can pull from to establish a relatable brand for all stakeholders. The more your employees feel included, the better they will represent the brand in their roles!

No matter the size of your company, a successful brand will ensure that its values are felt throughout the company. In the end, baseless or contradictory claims will only cause more harm than good. If you need help creating a cohesive brand identity, contact CreativeWorks Marketing today!