target market

The Basics of Branding

fierce-brandingBranding is one of the most important aspects of any business, no matter what type of organization you run. Having an effective brand strategy can give you an upper hand in today’s competitive market. You may be asking, “What exactly does branding mean?” “What is a brand strategy?” and “How do these two things help my business grow?”

Put simply, your brand is a promise you make to your customer. Your brand tells customers who you are, who you want to be, and what they can expect from your products and/or service.

Are your services expensive and serve a niche market? Ask yourself, is your service high quality at a high-cost, or, low-cost but high-value? You’re going to have to choose, because you can’t be both. Who you are should be based on what your target market wants, and who they need you to be.

What is a Brand Strategy?
A brand strategy is the what, where, when, how, and to whom you communicate your brand messages with. A good brand strategy differentiates your offering from your competitors’. In thinking about your brand, try answering the following:

  • What is your company’s mission?
  • What are the benefits and features of your products or services?
  • What do your customers and prospects already think of your company?
  • What qualities do you want them to associate with your company?

Learn the needs, habits and desires of your current and prospective customers. And don’t rely on what you think they think. Know what they think.

Brand Equity
Having a solid and consistent brand leads to strong brand equity (the intangible added value brought to your company’s products and/or services that makes it acceptable for your company to charge more for your products and/or services than what seemingly identical unbranded products charge).

Christian-Louboutins-red--007A great example of brand equity is high-end footwear designer Christian Louboutin. Louboutin launched his line of luxury, red-bottomed women’s shoes in France in 1991. The red-lacquered soles have differentiated Louboutin from other luxury shoe brands, and have influenced women all over the world into buying and wearing high-end shoes. People will pay more for the promise of luxury, quality, and the red-bottomed recognition that comes with wearing Louboutins.

Bottom line: the more recognized your brand is, the more real estate you take up in your consumers’ minds, and the more power you have to persuade your target market to buy your brand.

Defining Your Brand
Trying to define your brand is like a journey of corporate self-discovery. It can be time-consuming, difficult and at times uncomfortable – but in the end, it’s worth it!

Is your brand defined? Do you have a strong brand strategy in place? Do you understand the needs, habits and desires of your current and prospective customers? Do you rely on what you THINK they know rather than KNOWING what they know? Comment and share your branding successes and failures with me. If you are looking to define your brand and/or develop a brand strategy, please feel free to contact me at 416-653-3053, or info@creativeworksmarketing.ca.

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Marketing Resolutions To Keep for 2015!

HNYWith the New Year upon us, most of us are taking the time to reflect on the past year and look towards the next. Everyone will soon be talking about how 2015 will be the best year yet – without it actually having happened yet! But it doesn’t have to be all talk. Here are four resolutions to keep in your marketing plan for the coming year:

  1. Check out the competition: See where your competition is spending their money, you could learn something! Are they focusing on branding themselves? What keywords do they use on their website? Knowing this information will inform your marketing strategy and will help find ways to help you stick out from your competition.
  2. Explore your social platforms: Find what platform works best for you and engages your target audience the most. If your subject matter is image heavy, don’t be disappointed if you’re struggling with success on Twitter – it may not be where your best audience is. Try Instagram instead!
  3. Invest in measurement: Whether you’re looking to launch a national campaign, book an ad in a magazine, or start a blog, make sure that wherever you choose to spend your marketing dollars on has the best ROI.
  4. Increase your curiosity: Never stop trying and testing new campaigns or messaging! You will not only keep your content fresh, but over time you will refine messages to your current target markets, and find new ones. Digital advertising is one of the most flexible mediums for messaging and testing new content. Get out there!

2014 wouldn’t have been the kind of year it was for CreativeWorks without my incredible clients! Thank you. Your businesses inspire me and I look forward to working with you in 2015.

To those of you following this blog or engaging in my discussions on LinkedIn who are not my clients, thank you for your interest and engagement. In 2015, I will continue to bring you hands-on, thought-provoking insights and case studies based on my personal experiences as the owner of a Canadian marketing agency.

On behalf of all of us at CreativeWorks Marketing, I wish you and your family the very best for the holidays and New Year!

Are there any topics you’d like me to write about in 2015? Please share your questions and comments below.

Holidays, Giving, and Brand Building

philanthropy-charity-donate

Much like celebrities, your business is in the public eye, even if it’s a B2B business, so you probably receive requests for donations, and solicitations for sponsorships all the time.

How do you make the decision whether or not to respond to all of them? Do you cherry pick a few organizations to help, or go with your personal bias and choose a charity close to your heart, or do you choose based on what is right for your brand / business? Depending on your answer, you approach could cause you to miss out on opportunities to strengthen your brand through charitable efforts.

Compared to yesterday’s customer, today’s customer is much savvier and expects more from your company. Today, they have greater access to company information, so it’s pretty transparent when a business does a few good things to boost their reputation, versus a business that has put all their charitable efforts and resources into making a real impact on society.

As a business owner myself, I recommend shifting your business’s approach from obligation (something you feel your company should do) to opportunity (something your company might want to do).

To decide whether or not you should make that donation on behalf of your company, think about the following things first:

  1. Does this organization have relevance in your industry?

Support issues and platforms relevant to your industry. If you are part of the food industry, try getting involved with a charity that promotes healthy eating habits, provides meals… etc.

  1. Does this organization have community relevance?

Your customers are your community. Ask yourself, would your customers be on board with your charity of choice?

  1. Is this organization relevant to your target market?

By supporting causes your target market cares about, you gain their attention, respect and trust (something businesses can spend years and big money building). Align yourself with what appeals to your target.

  1. Does this organization have brand relevance?

By having your charitable efforts feed into your brand identity and positioning you will reinforce your brand message, and differentiate yourself.

To support an organization is a strategic decision, and if selected carefully, it won’t dilute your brand’s core values. If anything, selecting an appropriate charity communicates your goals and ideals more clearly to your target customers and partners.

Also, don’t forget – as much as donating to or sponsoring a charity is beneficial to your brand, it also just feels good to give.

Is your business involved with a charity? If so, why did you pick that charity? What was your approach, and what do you hope to gain (if anything) by involving yourself with that organization? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section!

The Mystique of SEO

SEO-mystiqueIt seems like SEO is big business these days – it’s the “buzzword” de jour! With more and more SEO consultants, online SEO experts, SEO packages, SEO promises, and SEO professionals popping up every day, I find myself and many of my clients bombarded with the pointed message: “Your business will die without proper SEO” (I am paraphrasing of course).

With many web companies, online providers and marketing companies all providing SEO, how are you to know which one is offering the right SEO for you? Should you buy that SEO package online or use the consultant from that SEO Company everyone is talking about? I certainly understand all the SEO confusion that exists in the marketplace.

SEO by its shear nature is continuously evolving which is why there seems to be a mystery around what it is exactly. Let’s demystify it: SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, plays an important role in your customer’s research and buying cycle. It attracts potential buyers to your website through critical and relevant keywords and phrases ranked high in search engines where searchers are already looking for information about them. SEO is about being where your customers are, and directing them towards solutions you offer them.

SEO is so important, in fact I would say it is absolutely essential to helping you grow your online business, but like other marketing tactics, SEO needs to be part of your marketing strategy.

A good marketing strategy will provide an indication of which marketing tactics should specifically target your audience. The tactics will complement SEO and in combination, strengthen and reinforce each element to grow your business exponentially. To be clear, SEO alone (i.e. without brand awareness, and a strategy) cannot help you reach your highest marketing potential.

How much you should invest in SEO, what type, and who implements, are great questions for a discussion to have with your trusted marketing agency or advisor. Although they may not be SEO experts, they should be able to help you understand why you need it, what type of investment you might be looking at, and point you in the direction of a professional SEO specialist.

Does your marketing agency provide you with SEO services? What type of successes have you had with your SEO? How long did it take for you to see results? What investment have you made? I look forward to your comments below.

The Advertising Essentials for SMBs

Winner

More so than with a larger enterprise,  when you are a small-to-medium sized business, every customer counts. Business-owners often hear about the next “cool” thing in advertising and marketing, and immediately want to try it to see if it will bring customers through their door, with little thought to cost and overall fit within their marketing strategy.

I decided to highlight a previous blog post, compiling a list of best practices when it comes to choosing the advertising that best fits with your budget and your business’ overall goals.

As a SMB owner, once you’ve decided you want to advertise the challenge is making a choice about which type of advertising is best for your business. From online adverting to print ads, flyers, banner ads, radio and TV spots, the amount of selection seems endless.

We all know that to gain customers for your product or service you’ll have to invest in some advertising. One of the most important things for a product/company is to be seen and recognized by its target audience.  Advertising is the main avenue marketers use to attract customers to your specific brand, but it can also be the most expensive, so choosing the right type of advertising will be key to your success.

Here are a few tips to I’d like you to consider before investing in your advertising this year.

  1. As advertising can be costly, consult your marketing strategy to align your advertising goals with your overall marketing strategy.
  2. Consider your audience before choosing the type of advertising. E.g. if you are a tattoo service targeting a younger audience, then an ad in the newspaper (which older people are more likely to read) would not be a good investment of your advertising dollars.
  3. Keep the goal in mind.  In consultation with your strategy, be clear on what you want to achieve with this advertising.  Some may advertise to increase brand recognition or to actually drive sales.  Be as specific as possible about what you hope to achieve through advertising. E.g. increase sales by 10% in product “x”.
  4. Timing. Decide the frequency and duration.  Advertising is won and lost based on how many times it is seen or heard by your audience, so think about how often you will run an ad and, if it’s a radio ad, how long will the spot be.
  5. Use a mix of different methods.  Unless you know your audience is using a certain type of media 100% of the time, versification is also important. Think of a radio ad you may have heard and then read that ad in the newspaper or trade publication, and then possibly seen the exact same ad in a local bus shelter.  Increasing your audience’s exposure to your brand directly correlates to their buying decisions.
  6. Make sure you have measurement in place to track your advertising. You’ll need to track it so you can determine what the ROI is and if it met your goals.

If you want to grow your customer base you have to advertise, but before you spend one dime, be sure you choose advertising that helps you to effectively reach your target market and attract new customers.

Have you considered advertising your company? Have you included advertising in your marketing strategy?  What kind of success have you had with your advertising? I look forward to hearing from you in the comments below.

Facebook Strategy Tips for SMBs

With 700 billion minutes spent each month by people using Facebook, it’s clear there is an audience there. However, you’ll need to decide if YOUR audience is there, and if they are, what and how Facebook can help your business to achieve its marketing goals.

If you are a SMB owner who is thinking about whether Facebook is the right platform for you, or you’ve already created a site with little to no success, then I’d like to share with you a few tips on creating a Facebook strategy, to help you achieve your marketing goals.

1. Decide Why You Have a Facebook Page

You want to interact with your customers on Facebook in a way that adds value to their experience and maximizes returns for your business.  To do that, you need to clearly understand why you are doing the marketing in the first place. You’ll need to decide what type of Facebook Page you want. Do you want to have a customer service, content or news source or will this be an e-commerce type vehicle for your business?

2. Develop a Strategy

Now that you know why you want a Facebook Page, define your marketing goals, and develop a corresponding strategy.  This does not need to be a 10-page document – just outline what you hope to achieve on this site, with which audience, doing what. E.g. We want to target women, aged 25-35 who are interested in buying health products for babies using ongoing incentives on an e-commerce platform.  To achieve this, we will have 12 incentives per year, and advertise using several integrated platforms.

With most online platforms, it’s worthwhile to think long term. As such, plan out a strategy for at least a year. Rome was not built in a day. By the same token, Facebook Pages and audiences take some time to build, so be patient – they will come.

3. Success Metrics

Whether it serves as an e-commerce tool, or only shares news content, your Facebook Page needs to have success metrics. These could be as defined as wanting to increase your brand awareness with a goal of 1000 “Likes” within a year, wanting to increase traffic to your website by 10%, or wanting to increase sales of a particular product by 5%.   The key is to be as specific as you want, as well as making sure to tie the metrics into your audience and tactic in order to nail down what amounts to a “success” for your business.

4. Create a Tactical Plan

Once you have the strategy with measured outcomes outlined, you can develop a tactical plan or critical path that outlines the details of what (as well as who, when, how) is going to happen on your site. The plan should include as much detail as you can, allowing for some flexibility as your online audience may dictate changes. E.g. You created a content-only site to build awareness, but customer discussions on your site are asking for products. In this case, you might want to start a campaign offering these products online.

5. Commit to a Posting Schedule

Facebook is all about sharing and interacting with others, so you’ll need to stick to some type of posting schedule. This schedule needs to be defined in your plan, and followed diligently. Depending on your business and audience, this could mean posting once a day, three times a week or even once a week. Just as with any marketing for your business, if you are going to do it, then do it well.  By ignoring your Facebook Page, you are sending the wrong message to your audience, by making it seem as if youdo not care.

6. Be Consistent

From your website, Facebook Page, other online media to your business cards and other marketing collateral – the look, feel, and messaging need to be consistent.  Your audience has to know that your company is professional, and one way to do this is to make sure your branding is consistent. When deciding on the Facebook Page name, make sure it is consistent with your brand name.

The potential for marketing opportunity on Facebook is tremendous for many businesses, so I encourage SMB owners to consider using Facebook as one vehicle to better reach your audience.  I hope my tips will help you to align your Facebook strategy to better achieve and measure your goals.

In next week’s blog, I’ll discuss in more detail what types of campaigns and activities you might want to consider including on your Facebook Page.

Do you have a Facebook strategy? If so, feel free to share how it has helped to shape your marketing experiences on Facebook. If not, will you now consider having one? Let me know in the comments below.