Branding Your Business in 2016: Quarter 4 Highlights

Branding has increasingly become more mobile-friendly, focusing on stronger online presence, increasingly more visual marketing and straight-on communication. With detail intuition being the closest thing to making an impact in your industry, the question is how to brand your business better and more efficiently?

Discussion points:

1.       Branding Yourself – the Highlights

1.1. Why You Should Create a Brand

2.       Tangible Brand Fundamentals

2.1. Visual Branding – Detail Intuition

2.2. Visual Identity through Design and Graphics

3. Marketing Highlights

1.     Branding Yourself – the Highlights

What is Branding to You?

Don’t panic if you don’t know the answer – that is why you are here. For a business, branding means adding personality to the "needle in the hay", and making it stand out. Simply put: you pick a name for your business and want people to recognize it locally, nationally and/or internationally.

1.1. Why You Should Create a Brand

There are at least 3 major reasons:

a)      You want to become visible and stand out from the rest

b)      You want to share your message with the world

c)       You want to sell: B2B, B2C, B2D* (*business-to-distribution channel), H2H* (human-to-human); because there is either a gap in the industry or competition isn’t delivering enough quality.

d)      Bonus: There is room for everyone. Or you just simply can!

2.       Tangible Branding Fundamentals

First off, a brand is a long-term commitment and like every commitment, it relies on "doability" (the ability to make and build), which does not happen overnight. Tangible elements refer to the actions we take to build a certain brand identity. These include:

  • Brand architecture
  • Brand voice and tone
  • Brand logo and visual vocabulary
  • Brand security

2.1. Visual Branding – Detail Intuition

A few words on each. 

Brand architecture means mission and vision: what you promise to your customers, clients and fans and how will it serve them. 

Brand voice and tone is related to how you translate the brand to your brand consumers and potential consumers and in what way you wish to communicate your mission and vision to them (friendly, formal, business jargon, close communication, or a combination of all). 

Brand logo and visual vocabulary refers to the Typography used (i.e. Arial, Georgia, Times New Roman) in CAPS or Non-CAPS, the Fonts (Regular, Bold, Italic, mixture of two or more), the colors to define the visual identity (primary brand colors and brand accent colors), the Logo that allows the design to "breathe", the road from Mark to Trademark. Let’s not forget how details make the difference and include here the Minimum size display and the Clearness grid.

Notable enough, every brand should have a human face to display near an email signature.

Brand security and protection refers to domain name market registration and management solutions, as well as digital measures to ensure that your brand’s digital assets and identity are safe from harm (i.e. online theft).

Detail intuition combines all the resources and allows you to determine details in future trends. This enables companies to gain a real advantage in the way they position the brand, services and how they address potential customer needs.

2.2. Visual Identity through Design and Graphics

This is the focus part of building an online brand. Visual identity principles are closely related to the way we define the look and feel of a brand.

First off, every brand should have a "most recognizable" mark that represents the company: a typed drawing, a specific figure, an element in a deliberate font and color displayed in a series of renditions (each appropriate for every context). A rendition can contain just a logo or the trademark (when the case), additional words and phrasings such as "powered by", along with a tagline, in different sizes and patterns.

Contrast plays another role in how the visual identity stands out. Dark bold backgrounds can be the "make it or break it" point, and it all depends on the amount of good contrast and clear legibility between background color and the mark. A color-based or black version of a logo should only be used against light or white backgrounds, whereas a white or light color-based logo versions should only be used with dark or color-stroked backgrounds.

The Graphics also play a vital role, think of every social media profile, every picture on your blog, every banner, every infographic or graphic material your team produces – each contributes to how the audience perceives you.

3. Online Marketing Highlights

Online marketing is on the brink of change as well, on a clear and simple premise: people’s trust cannot be won with pushy sales strategies. Inbound marketing is the only way to go, combined with social listening and brand sentiment.

Core principles of inbound marketing include a consumer-oriented approach, where the mission is to live where your audience lives, and attract new potential customers, as opposed to hard selling techniques. The content you create circles the idea of providing real solutions and addressing customer needs, instead of blatant advertising of your services. A brand will win customers over by answering their questions, solve cases, involve and promote the audience, and start a long-term relationship with them.

Trending Ideas to Boost Your Marketing

Here are a few creative ideas to use in your marketing strategy:

  • Create heat maps with local resources to answer your customers’ local needs
  • Compile a resource page based on customer data
  • Optimize your newsletters as a weekly issue where trending information and creative solutions are listed, instead of just your product or service updates
  • Organize regular video/audio webinars for live interaction with your customers
  • If customers use some of the social media platforms as CRM channels, then structure your social media content as an addition to customer support
  • Do short surveys to better understand your audience
  • Keep it simple, keep it personal – this is the human-to-human principle
  • Embrace the new: Instagram stories, the new Facebook pages format, Snapchat videos
  • If possible, meet your customers face to face, take pictures with them, and use this as fresh content
  • Invite your customers to add and create content of their own. This will enhance the voice of your community.

These are our recommendations in terms of taking your branding to a higher level in quarter 4. The year is far from over, and in many industries, autumn means a new business season. So take the lead, and do not lose to competition.

We love suggestions, so should you have any on how to make this article even more useful to our readers and friends, do not keep them to yourself. Sharing is fun!

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How Competitor Research Improves Your Content Marketing

A wealth of information lurks in the success (or failures) of the Other Guy.

Here are some ways you can improve your own content marketing results using competitor research tools and tips:

See What’s Popular

Your competitors are working in the same industry as you are, or so I assume. So they have the same audience that you do. This gives you an immediate view on what your audience is looking to read about, watch, view, or listen to.

It doesn’t take a lot to figure out what’s popular with your target demographic. Peek at what is trending on their site(s) and social media profile(s). Make a list of content that has gotten a lot of traffic, views, social media shares, and comments.

From there, you can develop a content strategy that follows the same general idea.  Take a note of:

Discover Where Competitors Are Lacking

In addition to seeing what they are doing right, you can see what they are doing wrong. I distinctly remember this competing podcast of a client I was working for. They released this video series connected to their show, but not really a part of it. The first couple got a decent number of hits, but then they got next to no views.

Wondering what the issue was, I did a quick viewing of all of their videos (which they continued to release in spite of the lack of interest from their user base). They were cheesy, badly written, and not close enough to their podcast format to brand it properly. It was a trainwreck, basically.

In addition to this travesty of video, the podcasts were suffering because too much effort was being put into a new form of content that didn’t work.

Guess what the client did? Avoided videos, stuck with the podcast, upped their promotion, and ended up poaching a lot of listeners.

Track Mentions

We all know that reputation management is an important part of overall branding. But tracking mentions of your competitors really work wonders, as well. You can keep track of announcements both major and minor, and also see what people are saying about the competition.

I worked for a startup once that setup mention tracking for three other platforms in the same industry, with a similar pat structure to their own. When the founder discovered a blog doing a review for a competitor, they asked them to do one for their own.

In the end, the review compared them to the last review and the startup I worked for came out on top.

Tools For Competitive Research

I mentioned before that you will have better tools at your disposal than asking Rebecca’s teenage sister the secret to her cookie selling success. These are some of those tools, though there is an endless supply of competitor research apps and dashboards out there to choose from.

  1. Google Alerts – The free option, and my personal favorite. You can create alerts that monitor any mention of your competitors across the web. It includes both social and web page results. I use it to monitor my competitors, my brand, and my industry. You can set your alerts to give you a digest of daily results, or to immediately let you know
  2. Spyfu – Don’t just monitor your competitors, flat out spy on them! Spyfu is a fun and informative dashboard that uses keyword research, mentions and more to keep track of your competitors. It is a combination of SEO and PPC research, so it applies to content and advertising.
  3. Compete – I don’t always recommend this tool because it is pretty pricey. But if you are a business with a decent budget, you can seriously improve results using this tool. You will learn a strategy to compete with competition on every level, including your social marketing. It is a very in depth tool full of data, and acts almost like a consulting service with a self service bent. It is an investment, but worth it if you have the cash on hand. Some businesses have reported a conversion improvement of 42% or more… seriously.

Do you have a tip for competitor research to improve content marketing? Know a tool that belongs on the list? Let us know in the comments!

4 Of the Most Destructive (And Common) Blogging Tips You’ve Ever Heard

Did you know that the majority of blogs become inactive within 100 days after creation?

I believe this is because the owners don’t realize what makes a blog successful. In fact, I had a client who believed it would be easy to make money on the Internet, and all she needed to do, was to quickly whip up a website. After four years of throwing money to freelancers to help her, she finally admitted defeat.

I’m not sure what happened to her, but I know of many people like her. I’ve also analyzed the content of a stack of small business websites, and the following fatal blogging tips are rampant.

Description: b2b-content-marketing-statistics-2015-10.png
Blogging is not easy, contrary to a common misconception.
Here you can see what most bloggers struggle with.
Image Credit: SocialMediaB2B

Don’t be amongst those blogs who close shop 100 days after starting because they didn’t know what blogging entailed. And please never listen to the "experts" who advise you to do these four things to get more blog traffic:

#1: Just add lots of content, often

When I first started dabbling in online marketing several years ago, I was told that in order to get traffic to my website, I would need to add content. Often.

Which is what I did.

But to my shame, the content was of no real value. I don’t know what I was thinking! Somehow, whoever it was who dispensed the "just add content" recipe to me, neglected to mention that it needed to add some kind of value for my readers.

It’s no wonder it never got shared or commented on, and my website’s bounce rate was high.

I see the same trend today, specifically with small businesses who go online. They add content – any content – to try get more traffic, not realizing that not only is their brand at stake, but so are their search rankings, because search engines look for quality, value-add content to match to user’s searches.

And trust me, search engines have algorithms in place to determine whether content is crap or not.

Brian Dean from Backlinko, expert blogger, says that, "Blogging today is 110% about quality…not quantity."

Just adding content – any content – will not get your blog more traffic, or result in more business.

#2: Stuff in keywords wherever you can

In days gone by, when search engines were still collecting themselves, website owners cottoned on to stuffing keywords in wherever they could. And then search engines got clever and wiped those websites far into the abyss of no return.

Yes, your blog needs keywords to rank higher in search engines and therefore get more traffic, but keywords need to be included in content in a natural way, making it easy for people to read.

My suggestion would be to use SEOChat’s free related keywords tool and then go on over to Google Keyword Planner to find the best keywords that have low competition, but high search volume.

Add a keyword naturally into:

  • The title of your post
  • The URL of the post
  • H1 header tags
  • In the first 100 words of your content
  • Sprinkled throughout your content, every 150 or so words
  • In the category of the post
  • In links to other authority sites
  • In image descriptions

When you stuff keywords in content, search engines will not promote your blog. And visitors will click away pronto.

#3: Hire cheap writers to churn out more content, fast

There is great demand on freelance writing websites like Upwork, but you get what you pay for, and since getting more blog traffic is not about churning out content just for the sake of content, when you hire cheap writers for your blog, you’re going to get not only badly written content, but it won’t be SEO optimized, or provide value to your readers.

All the top websites understand this, and pay about $266 or more for one blog post. When you consider that writers on sites like Upwork, charge from about $10 for a blog post, you can start to understand why the quality would be so poor.

So. Perhaps you pay $10 for someone to write you a blog post. But that post can actually damage your search engine ranking because of bounce rate (people come to your site, see crap content, and immediately leave). It will also damage your reputation, and most users will not convert. And so I ask you: why are you wasting money on bad writing? What is it benefiting you?

If you’re not a good writer, for goodness sake, hire a decent one who understands your target audience and optimizes the content, or just stop blogging.

And read Neil Patel’s step by step guide to creating a money-making blog. His advice is sound, and since he is the master of online marketing, he knows a thing or two on this subject.

By the way, while we’re on the subject of Neil Patel, when you check out his post, have a look at the quality of it, and how it’s all laid out. It’s popular because he only writes content that is helpful to his audience. Do your best to emulate the style he uses, but adapt it for your niche.

#4: Add stock photos to attract attention

Somewhere, you heard that images in blog posts attract attention. That would be right.

But. And it’s a very big "but": stock photos just don’t cut it anymore. They’re boring, fake and your readers can’t relate to them. It’s a psychological thing.

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A cheesy, fake and ineffective stock image…what business people do you know who do this?!
Image Credit: WebMeUp

To do justice to your blog by attracting attention and leading to higher conversions, images need to:

  • Be of high quality.
  • If your blog centers around an online store, make sure your product images are clear and show enough detail and offer as many views as possible.
  • Images must be relevant to the content. They should support the text and not simply be added for the sake of adding an image.
  • Add image descriptions that titillate, because people’s eyes draw to images first. If the description creates curiosity, they are more likely to keep reading, and this is good for SEO, and conversions.
  • Be sure to compress images so that they don’t slow down your site.

Fatal advice summed up

If you’re going to blog, you may as well do it right. Unfortunately, doing it right means it’s going to take time.

But if you don’t do it right, you’ll lose business and opportunities.

To sum up, let’s reverse the four most common and destructive blogging tips:

  1. Add blogging content that rocks. Help people want to share it because it resonates with them.
  2. Use keywords naturally, and strategically.
  3. Hire writers who may charge more, but will get your blog better results.
  4. Add images that are relevant and support the point you’re trying to get across in your content.