marketing

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.

The Secret to Marketing Campaign Success: Plan, Plan & Plan Some More

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Failing to plan is planning to fail.

-Alan Lakein

Successful marketing campaigns don’t just happen; they take careful planning and a lot of time and effort. They’re focused, tactical initiatives designed to achieve specific marketing objectives. Successful marketing campaigns are thoroughly researched, focused on the details and executed perfectly. And, they must answer these seven questions:

  1. What are your goals and objectives?

The first thing you need to do is to clearly define your goals and objectives. Do you want to build or enhance your brand? Launch a new product? Introduce a new service? All of these goals and objectives are attainable with the right marketing campaign, and would vary depending on the needs of your business.

  1. Who is your target audience?

A marketing campaign is all about reaching customers, but who are they? Do market research to define your target audience, understand your customers, their preferences and why they come to you. Learn how your customers define your brand and how they compare you with your competition. Speak to your customers, use focus groups, surveys… You’ll understand what people will buy, why they’ll buy it and how to incite them to buy.

  1. Who is your competition?

Identifying your competition helps you understand more about your own business and how best to market yourself. Competitive analysis is your secret weapon. Who is your competition? How is your competition different than you? What are they doing that you’re not? How are they perceived in the marketplace? These are a few questions you should be asking yourself when analyzing your competitors.

  1. What differentiates you from your competition?

Now that you know who your competition is and have a better understanding of them, you can clearly define what differentiates you from your competition. What is your value proposition? Is your product offering more aligned with your customers’ preferences? Are your prices more competitive? The more information you know, the better you’ll be able to differentiate yourself from them.

  1. What’s your budget?

Before you begin planning how to reach your target audience, you must first establish your budget. On the basis of how much you have to spend, decisions can be made on which channels will deliver the best bang for your buck.

  1. How will you reach your audience?

There are many ways to reach an audience, many types of messaging and many avenues with which to deliver the message – social media, email, SEO/SEM, sponsored links, banners, newsletters, radio, television, newspapers, magazines, billboards, signage, sponsorships… The channel(s) ultimately chosen will be dictated by the goals and objectives of the marketing campaign, your target audience and your budget.

  1. Was your marketing campaign successful?

The key to measuring the success of your marketing campaign is monitoring and measuring. What were the sales numbers? Increases in revenue? Downloads? Subscriptions? Calls? Increased traffic to your website? Click throughs? Conversions?

Launching a marketing campaign is a long and complicated process that requires a professional touch. Each step along the way has to be carefully planned, executed and measured. CreativeWorks Marketing has over 20 years of experience designing, executing and measuring successful marketing campaigns. Take advantage of our knowledge and expertise. Give us a call and let’s discuss your next marketing campaign.

 

 

Research PART II: Competitive Analysis: Secret Weapon – The Mystery Shopper

In our last blog we discussed Market Research – Your Roadmap for Success. Today I’m going to delve into competitive analysis and more specifically, using mystery shopping to conduct competitive research. This blog will explain the importance of mystery shopping as a key approach to learning about how your business can be differentiated and why it’s equally important to hire a professional to conduct mystery shopping research.

Do you know your competition? How are they different from you? What are they doing that you’re not? How are they perceived in the marketplace? More than any other marketing approach, I have found that conducting a competitive analysis for our clients has proven time and time again to be so crucial to the success of a marketing strategy. Mystery shopping is a tried and true research method used to conduct competitive research.

What is mystery shopping?

Mystery shopping is a research methodology that uses trained, professional mystery shoppers (not your mother, your aunt or your junior marketing assistant) acting as prospective customers to ascertain particular aspects of your competitors’ businesses. While posing as customers, mystery shoppers perform a series of assigned tasks designed to elicit a particular type of behaviour or information. They observe, measure and report back on their findings.

Types of mystery shopping

Mystery shoppers may employ several techniques to achieve their goals.

  • Visit in person
  • Make phone calls
  • Send emails
  • Create custom ‘customer’ websites

How mystery shopping can benefit your company

In order to fully understand how to compete in the marketplace you must first understand your competitors:

  • What are they offering?
  • What are their prices?
  • What is their value proposition?
  • What is their brand experience like?
  • How is their online experience?
  • How effective is their customer service?

Once you understand your competitors you can make informed business decisions on how to differentiate your company. And you can use mystery shoppers to see how your company fares against the competition using the same set of criteria.

Use a professional agency to conduct mystery shopping research

It’s very important to use a professional agency when conducting mystery shopping research. There is a strategy to competitive research. Based on the information you’re trying to elicit, you pre-assign tasks to the mystery shoppers. They must be professional or they will be detected, wasting whatever time and money you’ve invested in the effort. The information they return needs to be analyzed and a marketing plan created on the basis of those results.

Podcasts – Digital Marketing’s New Best Friend

Although podcasts are not new, I’ve noticed a recent resurgence in their popularity that’s worth noting.

If you may recall, podcasts are digital media files that feature audio recordings, and originated in the early 2000’s, but it wasn’t until technology advanced and distribution methods expanded that podcasting exploded in popularity. In fact 2016 alone, there were an estimated 57 million monthly podcast listeners, a 75% increase since 2013.

Much like blogs, podcasts are used to deliver great content to your audience and have become a key tool in many company’s content marketing strategy. You may be thinking, “why use a podcast when I already have a blog?” Well, let me explain a few of the key advantages that podcasts offer:

Attract New Audiences: Some people prefer to consume their content through listening rather than reading text. By adding podcasts to your marketing mix, you are pulling in a new demographic and gaining more leads.

Multitasking Capabilities: One of the biggest advantages of podcasts is that they can be listened to on-the-go and while doing other tasks. This is great for your brand, as it means your message will reach your audience more frequently during the day.

Hidden Advertising: The casual, conversational nature of podcasts allows you to include a few “hidden” advertisements in the audio without it sounding too blatant. Advertising in your blog, on the other hand, tends to come across as too overtly promotional.

Brand Loyalty: Think about your favourite radio show you tune in to in the morning. Does it keep you hooked? Well, podcasts are very similar. When you offer engaging content, you’ll begin to create a following. And when you create a following, you’ll develop brand advocates for your business.

Stay tuned for my next blog, which will outline some tips you might want to consider when incorporating podcasts into your marketing mix.

The Missing “Link”

LinkedIn is one of my favourite social media platforms to use. Like many of you, I use it to conduct business development activities, discover potential new talent, and find out what some of my peers are working on. As a business owner and marketer, I also use it as a platform to target my potential clients and “tout” my expertise through the sharing of my company’s updates as well as industry-related articles.

LinkedIn has two distinct options: the LinkedIn profile page which most of us have to showcase our personal “resumes”, and the company page that is set up for your company.

While I know many business owners and marketers have an LI profile, many small businesses still do not have a company LI page. So what exactly is the difference between a profile page and a company page on LinkedIn? A LinkedIn profile is probably the most powerful tool you can use for business development as it allows you to highlight your professional experience, connect with your peers or potential clients, join industry-related groups, post your blogs or other articles, and share awards and updates.

I have seen many companies use the profile page as their company page, but LinkedIn has a distinct company page that provides your business with the opportunity to engage with followers with targeted and regular news and activities, share career opportunities, and expand your online brand presence.

If you are a business owner or marketer with a B2B business, an LI company page is a must! If you have a B2C business, it is still a good idea to have some presence on this platform, as this platform is great for SEO and for expanding your reach to influencers.

Here are some reasons I‘d recommend considering using an LI company page for your business:

1. Show How You are Unique

In the description on your company page, emphasize how you stand out from your competitors. You might want to include company news and share information about your company culture. This will help you reach potential customers and also new hires. Support the content with professional videos, or images to help you show how your company is different.

2. Improve SEO

We all hear about SEO, but did you know that Google and other search engines rank LinkedIn company pages and posts highly in the search engine results pages? Having the page and posting on it frequently will help you increase your SEO and increase site traffic.

3. Share Content

It makes sense that you need to write posts that your viewers want to see and share with others. The more you can engage your viewers, the more likely you are to expand your global reach and influence. You can also link your post back to your website for more information and to convert them into a warm business lead. It’s a good idea to create a media mix on this platform as well, so consider using different formats such as SlideShare business presentations, blog posts, infographics, webinars, podcasts and videos.

4. Measure Success

Like most social platforms, you can view analytical data about your company page to help you gain deeper insights into your page performance.

Having a LinkedIn company page will help you network and prospect to a targeted audience for quality sales leads, while establishing your business’ public image on a global scale as a reputable and trustworthy organization. In my opinion, it’s a no-brainer!

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?

Can’t Buy Me Followers

In December, Instagram announced Selena Gomez as the most followed celebrity on the platform with 103 million followers. As a small business owner, I could only imagine having a following that large on my business’s social platforms, and what it could mean for my brand awareness. Social media, as we have been led to believe, is a numbers game.

Recently, I was alerted to the fact that websites promising fake social media followers exist. I can see the appeal. Who doesn’t want to have more followers? Having more followers generally means you have a popular account, and in turn, a popular product or service. However, using a website to generate or purchase fake followers is a faux pas in the marketing world, and here’s why:

First and foremost using a third party source to gain followers is against the code of conduct of most social media websites, whether you pay for the service or not. For example, Twitter outlines in their rules and regulations that any accounts found to have used a third party source with the intention of gaining fake followers will be shut down. One particular problem associated with these websites that promise followers is that they have access to your account and therefore can easily compromise it at any time. These websites have the ability to spam your account and your followers, which just happens to be another practice that will get you suspended from a social media channel.

Rules against these websites have been around since these fake follower generators have been, and they’re becoming especially necessary today. With all the fake news going around, social media platforms are cracking down on the amount of fake content shared on their channels, and one way to do that is by eliminating accounts that appear to have purchased followers or spread spam-related content.

To that extent, it’ not difficult to find accounts with fake followers. “Ghost Accounts” are easy to spot because they have strange names, follow a lot of people with minimal followers themselves and only post spam-related content.

As a consumer, I follow a number of brands on their social media channels. Say I go on to check out my favourite retailer’s page and I look into their followers. If I find a bunch of empty spam accounts, I’ll know they’d have likely purchased or subscribed to fake followers, and my trust in this brand will have almost diminished. While every brand aspires to have a lot of followers or likes on social media, deceiving your audience into thinking you have more than you really do positions you as untrustworthy.

In a previous blog I discussed the importance of Google Analytics. If a large majority of your followers are coming from third party sources or unlawful social media practices, the metrics will be thrown off. As a marketer, I adjust marketing plans based on the data I see from analytics, so if the numbers aren’t accurate, it’s difficult to come up with effective marketing strategies. In order to see a return on investment with social media, you need to be able to get your message across to the right people and create authentic content that will engage them. It’s hard to get engagement when your audience is 90% spam bots.

One thing I suggest to my clients when they want to generate more engagement and followers in a short amount of time is to boost content. Most social media platforms offer businesses an option to reach wider, more targeted audiences at a cost. Boosting is an authentic way to encourage people to check out your brand.

I have been working in this industry long enough to have seen the tricks that can be used to try and engage audiences and attract followers, but as a professional marketer and business owner I always want to provide my clients with honest marketing services that follow best practices. As much as we all like to see high numbers of followers on our social sites, if the followers were generated by a spambot site, then what value do they really have to your business? In marketing as in business, honesty is always the best policy.