Branding – Creating a Brand Strategy For Your Business

Branding is essential to the success of your business, but how do you go about creating a brand strategy that is going to achieve the objectives that you have set and bring success?

Define Your Brand

The first thing you will need to do when creating your brand strategy is to clearly define your brand. Think about what products or services you offer, the benefits of these, the values of your business, your target market and your unique selling proposal. What do you want your target market to think of your company and how do you want them to relate to your business? After answering these questions you should be able to write a summary that defines what you want your business to look like and be, almost as if it was a real person.

Why Are You Branding?

Once you know what your brand is the next step is to understand why you are branding – what are your branding objectives? Do you want to attract more customers? Win an award? Get a greater market share? Write down exactly what you want to achieve in your branding efforts.

Understand Your Target Market

In order to achieve success in your branding efforts you need to know who you are going to be targeting. How do you achieve your branding objectives with these people? If your objective is to get more customers then how do you improve your sales to your target market? What is your target market looking for?

Do a SWOT Analysis of Your Company

Certain factors may be influencing your ability to reach your branding objectives – the competition you face in the marketplace, the demand for your product, financing, the location of your business, etc. Do a careful analysis both of your business and of the environment in which you operate to see how these affect your brand strategy.

How Do You Package Your Brand Strategy?

Your brand is reflected in all aspects of your business – your website, emails, answering service, brochures, business cards, letterheads and marketing materials. It is important to ensure that you always put across a strong brand and that each piece of packaging adds to the brand strategy you want to create. Think about how each message is put across and what it says about your company.

Creating a brand strategy is important for achieving success in your business and you should always aim for a strong, unified message that relates to your target market and achieves the branding objectives that you have set.

Brand Positioning – Brand Image

That cross-trainer you’re wearing — one look at the distinctive swoosh on the side tells everyone who’s got you branded. That coffee travel mug you’re carrying — ah, you’re a Starbucks woman! Your T-shirt with the distinctive Champion “C” on the sleeve, the blue jeans with the prominent Levi’s rivets, the watch with the hey-this-certifies-I-made-it icon on the face, your fountain pen with the maker’s symbol crafted into the end …

You’re branded, branded, branded, branded.

It’s time for me — and you — to take a lesson from the big brands, a lesson that’s true for anyone who’s interested in what it takes to stand out and prosper in the new world of work.

Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.

It’s that simple — and that hard. And that inescapable.

Behemoth companies may take turns buying each other or acquiring every hot startup that catches their eye — mergers in 1996 set records. Hollywood may be interested in only blockbusters and book publishers may want to put out only guaranteed best-sellers. But don’t be fooled by all the frenzy at the humongous end of the size spectrum.

The real action is at the other end: the main chance is becoming a free agent in an economy of free agents, looking to have the best season you can imagine in your field, looking to do your best work and chalk up a remarkable track record, and looking to establish your own micro equivalent of the Nike swoosh. Because if you do, you’ll not only reach out toward every opportunity within arm’s (or laptop’s) length, you’ll not only make a noteworthy contribution to your team’s success — you’ll also put yourself in a great bargaining position for next season’s free-agency market.

The good news — and it is largely good news — is that everyone has a chance to stand out. Everyone has a chance to learn, improve, and build up their skills. Everyone has a chance to be a brand worthy of remark.

Who understands this fundamental principle? The big companies do. They’ve come a long way in a short time: it was just over four years ago, April 2, 1993 to be precise, when Philip Morris cut the price of Marlboro cigarettes by 40 cents a pack. That was on a Friday. On Monday, the stock market value of packaged goods companies fell by $25 billion. Everybody agreed: brands were doomed.

Today brands are everything, and all kinds of products and services — from accounting firms to sneaker makers to restaurants — are figuring out how to transcend the narrow boundaries of their categories and become a brand surrounded by a Tommy Hilfiger-like buzz.

Who else understands it? Every single Website sponsor. In fact, the Web makes the case for branding more directly than any packaged good or consumer product ever could. Here’s what the Web says: Anyone can have a Website. And today, because anyone can … anyone does! So how do you know which sites are worth visiting, which sites to bookmark, which sites are worth going to more than once? The answer: branding. The sites you go back to are the sites you trust. They’re the sites where the brand name tells you that the visit will be worth your time — again and again. The brand is a promise of the value you’ll receive.

The same holds true for that other killer app of the Net — email. When everybody has email and anybody can send you email, how do you decide whose messages you’re going to read and respond to first — and whose you’re going to send to the trash unread? The answer: personal branding. The name of the email sender is every bit as important a brand — is a brand — as the name of the Web site you visit. It’s a promise of the value you’ll receive for the time you spend reading the message.

Nobody understands branding better than professional services firms. Look at McKinsey for a model of the new rules of branding at the company and personal level. Almost every professional services firm works with the same business model. They have almost no hard assets — my guess is that most probably go so far as to rent or lease every tangible item they possibly can to keep from having to own anything. They have lots of soft assets — more conventionally known as people, preferably smart, motivated, talented people. And they have huge revenues — and astounding profits.

They also have a very clear culture of work and life. You’re hired, you report to work, you join a team — and you immediately start figuring out how to deliver value to the customer. Along the way, you learn stuff, develop your skills, hone your abilities, move from project to project. And if you’re really smart, you figure out how to distinguish yourself from all the other very smart people walking around with $1,500 suits, high-powered laptops, and well-polished resumes. Along the way, if you’re really smart, you figure out what it takes to create a distinctive role for yourself — you create a message and a strategy to promote the brand called You.

What makes You different?

Start right now: as of this moment you’re going to think of yourself differently! You’re not an “employee” of General Motors, you’re not a “staffer” at General Mills, you’re not a “worker” at General Electric or a “human resource” at General Dynamics (ooops, it’s gone!). Forget the Generals! You don’t “belong to” any company for life, and your chief affiliation isn’t to any particular “function.” You’re not defined by your job title and you’re not confined by your job description.

Starting today you are a brand.

You’re every bit as much a brand as Nike, Coke, Pepsi, or the Body Shop. To start thinking like your own favorite brand manager, ask yourself the same question the brand managers at Nike, Coke, Pepsi, or the Body Shop ask themselves: What is it that my product or service does that makes it different? Give yourself the traditional 15-words-or-less contest challenge. Take the time to write down your answer. And then take the time to read it. Several times.

If your answer wouldn’t light up the eyes of a prospective client or command a vote of confidence from a satisfied past client, or — worst of all — if it doesn’t grab you, then you’ve got a big problem. It’s time to give some serious thought and even more serious effort to imagining and developing yourself as a brand.

Start by identifying the qualities or characteristics that make you distinctive from your competitors — or your colleagues. What have you done lately — this week — to make yourself stand out? What would your colleagues or your customers say is your greatest and clearest strength? Your most noteworthy (as in, worthy of note) personal trait?

Go back to the comparison between brand You and brand X — the approach the corporate biggies take to creating a brand. The standard model they use is feature-benefit: every feature they offer in their product or service yields an identifiable and distinguishable benefit for their customer or client. A dominant feature of Nordstrom department stores is the personalized service it lavishes on each and every customer. The customer benefit: a feeling of being accorded individualized attention — along with all of the choice of a large department store.

So what is the “feature-benefit model” that the brand called You offers? Do you deliver your work on time, every time? Your internal or external customer gets dependable, reliable service that meets its strategic needs. Do you anticipate and solve problems before they become crises? Your client saves money and headaches just by having you on the team. Do you always complete your projects within the allotted budget? I can’t name a single client of a professional services firm who doesn’t go ballistic at cost overruns.

Your next step is to cast aside all the usual descriptors that employees and workers depend on to locate themselves in the company structure. Forget your job title. Ask yourself: What do I do that adds remarkable, measurable, distinguished, distinctive value? Forget your job description. Ask yourself: What do I do that I am most proud of? Most of all, forget about the standard rungs of progression you’ve climbed in your career up to now. Burn that damnable “ladder” and ask yourself: What have I accomplished that I can unabashedly brag about? If you’re going to be a brand, you’ve got to become relentlessly focused on what you do that adds value, that you’re proud of, and most important, that you can shamelessly take credit for.

When you’ve done that, sit down and ask yourself one more question to define your brand: What do I want to be famous for? That’s right — famous for!

What’s the pitch for You?

So it’s a cliché: don’t sell the steak, sell the sizzle. it’s also a principle that every corporate brand understands implicitly, from Omaha Steaks’s through-the-mail sales program to Wendy’s “we’re just regular folks” ad campaign. No matter how beefy your set of skills, no matter how tasty you’ve made that feature-benefit proposition, you still have to market the bejesus out of your brand — to customers, colleagues, and your virtual network of associates.

For most branding campaigns, the first step is visibility. If you’re General Motors, Ford, or Chrysler, that usually means a full flight of TV and print ads designed to get billions of “impressions” of your brand in front of the consuming public. If you’re brand You, you’ve got the same need for visibility — but no budget to buy it.

So how do you market brand You?

There’s literally no limit to the ways you can go about enhancing your profile. Try moonlighting! Sign up for an extra project inside your organization, just to introduce yourself to new colleagues and showcase your skills — or work on new ones. Or, if you can carve out the time, take on a freelance project that gets you in touch with a totally novel group of people. If you can get them singing your praises, they’ll help spread the word about what a remarkable contributor you are.

If those ideas don’t appeal, try teaching a class at a community college, in an adult education program, or in your own company. You get credit for being an expert, you increase your standing as a professional, and you increase the likelihood that people will come back to you with more requests and more opportunities to stand out from the crowd.

If you’re a better writer than you are a teacher, try contributing a column or an opinion piece to your local newspaper. And when I say local, I mean local. You don’t have to make the op-ed page of the New York Times to make the grade. Community newspapers, professional newsletters, even inhouse company publications have white space they need to fill. Once you get started, you’ve got a track record — and clips that you can use to snatch more chances.

And if you’re a better talker than you are teacher or writer, try to get yourself on a panel discussion at a conference or sign up to make a presentation at a workshop. Visibility has a funny way of multiplying; the hardest part is getting started. But a couple of good panel presentations can earn you a chance to give a “little” solo speech — and from there it’s just a few jumps to a major address at your industry’s annual convention.

The second important thing to remember about your personal visibility campaign is: it all matters. When you’re promoting brand You, everything you do — and everything you choose not to do — communicates the value and character of the brand. Everything from the way you handle phone conversations to the email messages you send to the way you conduct business in a meeting is part of the larger message you’re sending about your brand.

Partly it’s a matter of substance: what you have to say and how well you get it said. But it’s also a matter of style. On the Net, do your communications demonstrate a command of the technology? In meetings, do you keep your contributions short and to the point? It even gets down to the level of your brand You business card: Have you designed a cool-looking logo for your own card? Are you demonstrating an appreciation for design that shows you understand that packaging counts — a lot — in a crowded world?

The key to any personal branding campaign is “word-of-mouth marketing.” Your network of friends, colleagues, clients, and customers is the most important marketing vehicle you’ve got; what they say about you and your contributions is what the market will ultimately gauge as the value of your brand. So the big trick to building your brand is to find ways to nurture your network of colleagues — consciously.

What’s the real power of You?

If you want to grow your brand, you’ve got to come to terms with power — your own. The key lesson: power is not a dirty word!

In fact, power for the most part is a badly misunderstood term and a badly misused capability. I’m talking about a different kind of power than we usually refer to. It’s not ladder power, as in who’s best at climbing over the adjacent bods. It’s not who’s-got-the-biggest-office-by-six-square-inches power or who’s-got-the-fanciest-title power.

It’s influence power.

It’s being known for making the most significant contribution in your particular area. It’s reputational power. If you were a scholar, you’d measure it by the number of times your publications get cited by other people. If you were a consultant, you’d measure it by the number of CEOs who’ve got your business card in their Rolodexes. (And better yet, the number who know your beeper number by heart.)

Getting and using power — intelligently, responsibly, and yes, powerfully — are essential skills for growing your brand. One of the things that attracts us to certain brands is the power they project. As a consumer, you want to associate with brands whose powerful presence creates a halo effect that rubs off on you.

It’s the same in the workplace. There are power trips that are worth taking — and that you can take without appearing to be a self-absorbed, self-aggrandizing megalomaniacal jerk. You can do it in small, slow, and subtle ways. Is your team having a hard time organizing productive meetings? Volunteer to write the agenda for the next meeting. You’re contributing to the team, and you get to decide what’s on and off the agenda. When it’s time to write a post-project report, does everyone on your team head for the door? Beg for the chance to write the report — because the hand that holds the pen (or taps the keyboard) gets to write or at least shape the organization’s history.

Most important, remember that power is largely a matter of perception. If you want people to see you as a powerful brand, act like a credible leader. When you’re thinking like brand You, you don’t need org-chart authority to be a leader. The fact is you are a leader. You’re leading You!

One key to growing your power is to recognize the simple fact that we now live in a project world. Almost all work today is organized into bite-sized packets called projects. A project-based world is ideal for growing your brand: projects exist around deliverables, they create measurables, and they leave you with braggables. If you’re not spending at least 70% of your time working on projects, creating projects, or organizing your (apparently mundane) tasks into projects, you are sadly living in the past. Today you have to think, breathe, act, and work in projects.

Project World makes it easier for you to assess — and advertise — the strength of brand You. Once again, think like the giants do. Imagine yourself a brand manager at Procter & Gamble: When you look at your brand’s assets, what can you add to boost your power and felt presence? Would you be better off with a simple line extension — taking on a project that adds incrementally to your existing base of skills and accomplishments? Or would you be better off with a whole new product line? Is it time to move overseas for a couple of years, venturing outside your comfort zone (even taking a lateral move — damn the ladders), tackling something new and completely different?

Whatever you decide, you should look at your brand’s power as an exercise in new-look résumé; management — an exercise that you start by doing away once and for all with the word “résumé.” You don’t have an old-fashioned résumé anymore! You’ve got a marketing brochure for brand You. Instead of a static list of titles held and positions occupied, your marketing brochure brings to life the skills you’ve mastered, the projects you’ve delivered, the braggables you can take credit for. And like any good marketing brochure, yours needs constant updating to reflect the growth — breadth and depth — of brand You.

What’s loyalty to You?

Everyone is saying that loyalty is gone; loyalty is dead; loyalty is over. I think that’s a bunch of crap.

I think loyalty is much more important than it ever was in the past. A 40-year career with the same company once may have been called loyalty; from here it looks a lot like a work life with very few options, very few opportunities, and very little individual power. That’s what we used to call indentured servitude.

Today loyalty is the only thing that matters. But it isn’t blind loyalty to the company. It’s loyalty to your colleagues, loyalty to your team, loyalty to your project, loyalty to your customers, and loyalty to yourself. I see it as a much deeper sense of loyalty than mindless loyalty to the Company Z logo.

I know this may sound like selfishness. But being CEO of Me Inc. requires you to act selfishly — to grow yourself, to promote yourself, to get the market to reward yourself. Of course, the other side of the selfish coin is that any company you work for ought to applaud every single one of the efforts you make to develop yourself. After all, everything you do to grow Me Inc. is gravy for them: the projects you lead, the networks you develop, the customers you delight, the braggables you create generate credit for the firm. As long as you’re learning, growing, building relationships, and delivering great results, it’s good for you and it’s great for the company.

That win-win logic holds for as long as you happen to be at that particular company. Which is precisely where the age of free agency comes into play. If you’re treating your résumé as if it’s a marketing brochure, you’ve learned the first lesson of free agency. The second lesson is one that today’s professional athletes have all learned: you’ve got to check with the market on a regular basis to have a reliable read on your brand’s value. You don’t have to be looking for a job to go on a job interview. For that matter, you don’t even have to go on an actual job interview to get useful, important feedback.

The real question is: How is brand You doing? Put together your own “user’s group” — the personal brand You equivalent of a software review group. Ask for — insist on — honest, helpful feedback on your performance, your growth, your value. It’s the only way to know what you would be worth on the open market. It’s the only way to make sure that, when you declare your free agency, you’ll be in a strong bargaining position. It’s not disloyalty to “them”; it’s responsible brand management for brand You — which also generates credit for them.

It’s this simple: You are a brand. You are in charge of your brand. There is no single path to success. And there is no one right way to create the brand called You. Except this: Start today. Or else.

The 7 Wonders Of Social Media Marketing To A Brand

The universe of digital marketing is wide and varied, but the one factor that is dominating it is social media. Through online platforms, companies can reach a global pool of customers that are in billions. Any corporation that is not utilising this source is not only skipping on a fantastic growth window but a cash cow of profitability.

Be it mere PPC services or sharing content on social media, when a company utilises any platform, they spread awareness of their service or product. Furthermore, they indicate to search engines that the brand is reliable, valid and consistent. Let’s take a look at how else social media affects an establishment, positively.

  • Get the customer engaged.

Marketing is about winning the attention of a person and then conveying your message. Social media is the easiest and ideal way of interacting with customers. It is the one path that allows for two-way communication at lightning speed. Catering to the wishes or interest of the patron is fast paced with online platforms. When more consumers are engaging with your brand, there is a bigger probability of conversion.

  • Get more customers aware.

Facebook, Twitter or Instagram are not just avenues to converse with current customers. They are pathways to reaching an added audience in real time. Unlike most other marketing stratagems, social media is a hassle-free way to enhance the visibility of a brand. Just a few hours every seven days has shown, in more than 90% of companies, a greater awareness of product or service in customers.

The gist is to create all social media profiles, use them regularly and begin networking to generate a wide audience

  • Make customers more loyal.

Without a shadow of a doubt, the one benefit social media has for customers is the ease with which they can find brands. The convenience of connecting heightens user experience and benefits the company. How? A patron becomes loyal to a brand when they receive satisfaction. When a customer is able to communicate with the corporation within minutes of facing an issue or wanting to know more about a product through social presence, it ups satisfaction. This, in turn, leads to brand loyalty.

  • Gain understanding of the marketplace.

The reason social media is considered the MVP of digital marketing is not that it gives brands the freedom to introduce their products to a broader audience but because it offers a comprehension of the marketplace. When a company is able to talk with their patrons through online avenues directly, they get to know precisely what is needed.

Over and above, a brand can observe the online activities of consumer and get to know their opinions and interests. This would not be possible without pages and handles on social media. Think of social media as a research tool which can be employed to know the demographics when the brand following becomes large.

  • Be more economical.

Advertising, in the traditional sense, is not an inexpensive strategy. But promoting through social media marketing is hugely cost-effective.

  1. Creating an account on any platform is free.
  2. Developing a brand through your own handle costs zilch.
  3. Even paid advertising is dirt cheap on social media.

To top the cake with a cherry, a company can invest the smallest amount and get a high rate of return. Significantly raising conversion rates is not hard with social media adverts, you need a little capital and the right time.

  • Gain a brand voice.

Through an online platform, a brand can create a voice that speaks directly to patrons and generates a healthy brand image. When a customer receives a tailored reply to their query on social, instead of a cookie cutter reply, they appreciate it more. It shows that the company values the consumer enough to take the effort to write a personal response. A brand voice, therefore, allows for effective communication, networking and healthier satisfaction in clients.

  • Become an authority.

Every time a small or big business posts an original content on social media or each time, they resolve a question posed by a customer, they establish authority. As more and more original posts go up and resolutions occur, in the eyes of the patron, the brand becomes an expert on the subject or topic. Just like satisfaction and loyalty affect the bottom line of an organisation, authority touches it too. Why? Because it leaves an optimistic picture in the mind of the consumer. It makes them more probable of buying a product and talking about it to other potential customers.

A Succinct Layout

No marketing guru or entrepreneur can deny that media is a magic wand. It creates miracles for budding and established businesses. When you post consistently, the benefits the trade accrues are:

  1. better SEO
  2. increased traffic
  3. improved brand loyalty
  4. healthier customer satisfaction

Remember, chances are the competing businesses is already exploiting social marketing to reach probable patrons. Don’t miss out on the opportunity.

Three Keys to Developing a Personal Brand

The internet has sparked a trend called ‘Personal Branding’. Branding identifies and differentiates you, your business, and your products and services so you stand out from the crowd, get noticed – and get hired.

Personal Branding can be the most powerful tool for success in your self-marketing toolkit.It involves identifying your key strengths and expertise, identifying the real needs that you can meet for your ideal clients, and then communicating your message consistently in many different ways.

You can identify, package and market who you are to build a personal brand that leads to business growth, influence, and income.

Here are three key things you need to develop a strong personal brand:

1. A clear, unique strength, talent, or expertise.

Get clear on your personal strengths, talents, values, and core area of expertise. Understand how you connect best with people. Consider what your target audience needs and wants, and then identify the value and the experience that you can deliver to meet those needs and wants. Communicate in ways that reach into the hearts and minds of your target audience and connect with their core values and deepest desires.

2. An ability to clearly articulate that uniqueness.

The personal branding process is about having self-awareness of your strengths and talents, and then letting everyone know about your gifts, talents, and experience. It’s about giving a clear impression of who you are, what you value, what you’re committed to, and how you can be counted upon to act. It’s about having clear, key marketing messages to convey in all of your communications with prospects and clients.

Your branding statement must provide a clear, concise view of your unique set of strengths and tell why you can do it better than anyone else. You need to be able to state clearly and unequivocally why you are different than everyone else, and what services you offer that make you unique and set you ahead of your competition.

3. The persistence to communicate your brand consistently through many channels.

Consistency is one of the keys to building a strong personal brand. Be aware of being consistent in every interaction you have, both in what you say and how you respond.

Your brand is developed over time by all the associations made, the expectations met, the messages communicated, and the services delivered. A great way to deliver a consistent message is through an email newsletter that you send on a regular basis to clients and prospects. You can write articles in your area of expertise so that over time people come to know and trust you. They’ll know what you stand for, how knowledgeable you are, and how you work with clients.

Establishing a Professional Brand is absolutely critical to long term, sustainable business growth. In an overcrowded marketplace, if you’re not standing out, then you’re invisible. Branding your products and services will give you an edge over your competition and enhance your value to your target market.

Personal Branding will differentiate you, your business, and your products and services so that you stand out from the crowd, get noticed – and get hired.

The marketplace is waiting for you to make your mark on it. What are you waiting for?

Personal Branding is all about knowing what you have to offer to your marketplace and what makes you different from everyone else so that you can stand out and be recognized and remembered. It is having a reputation for delivering a product, program, or service that delivers extreme value to your target market.

Fill in your answers to the following to gain clarity on the unique aspects of your Professional Brand:

1. My top three personal strengths:

2. My top three talents:

3. My core area of expertise:

4. What my target audience needs and wants:

5. The value and the experience I can deliver to meet those needs and wants:

6. What I can do better than anyone else:

7. What services I offer that differentiate me and set me ahead of my competition:

Developing a brand identity is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. With some thought and creativity, all the pieces will eventually fit.

Choosing The Right Photos For Your Website & Online Brand

How smart companies use images to boost their online presence

You might think for an agency that does so much web design and blogging, we’re just writing and geeking out on code all day.

And that’s partly true – we do do a lot of writing and custom coding.

But part of being a good digital agency is understanding the role that visuals play, both in creating a website and fostering an online brand and presence.

Forget the old saying. Online, a picture is worth way more than a thousand words.

That’s why today we’re covering how to choose photos for your website and online marketing that will really pop and make potential clients remember you.

And don’t worry. Even if you don’t have the budget for a fancy photographer, there’s still plenty of ways to get great images for your website, which we’ll also cover below.

Using Images in Marketing

Humans are visual creatures, and that doesn’t magically change when we go online. That’s why using images for online brand marketing is critical.

Every image you share should invoke an emotion and represent your brand identity – whatever makes you, you. Sure, taglines and content are incredibly important (and critical if you want to rank on Google).

But images tap into and relay your uniqueness in an instant. In fact, neuroscientists at MIT have determined that it only takes 13 milliseconds to process an entire image.

So if you want to create a connection with your audience in an instant, then crisp, beautiful photos that represent your brand well are the way to go.

Today’s customers want to connect with authentic brands. The better you’re able to serve them stunning images that paint a picture, the more likely they are to become raving fans. And the more likely they are to become ambassadors for you.

In fact, a study from BuzzSumo found that articles using an image once every 75-100 words received double the social media shares as articles with fewer images.

Clearly, images matter, and can dramatically improve your website content.

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READ: Is Your Business Brand Identity Memorable Enough?

When thinking of your product or service what comes to mind? What do people envision? What characteristics do they attach to what you provide? And does it stand out from your competitors?

When building a memorable business brand, these are important questions to consider; otherwise, you risk losing valuable business because your brand isn’t differentiated enough from others who are going after the same target audience as you.

Your brand should invoke an identity, an emotion, characteristics and something that makes you, you. This is where that differentiation comes into play – tapping into and relaying your uniqueness.

Read more on our website

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Importance of Images in Web Design

Given the fact that at least 38% of users will stop engaging with an unattractive website design, using attractive images in your website is a no-brainer.

But images do so much more for your website.

First, images on your website can improve your SEO.

When Google scans your website, it looks at all your content, including your images. So good, optimized images can improve your Google rankings.

In fact, website content with images gets 94% more views than content without. So if you want more traffic, you need to use more photos on your website.

Using images properly can also keep people on your website longer.

And the stakes are even higher if you run an ecommere website. According to this Kissmetrics study , 93% of buyers consider visual appearance to be the most important factor when making a purchase!

And like we’ve covered, images also keep users more engaged.

Remember that people are busy, and they tend to scan through websites. Breaking your text up with shorter paragraphs, and interspersed with interesting photos and infographics, can help make your website more accessible and user friendly

Of course, this only works if you’re using images properly. This means using only relevant and attractive images, with small file sizes. It’s also best to use images of people as much as possible.

And remember, one of the most important elements of using images on your website or other online efforts is to ensure that you only use photos which you own or have the right to use, which we cover next.

How To Choose Photos For Your Website

So how to actually choose photos for your website?

First, think about the first impression you want to give. Create a brand guide that includes your brand colours and fonts, but also what look and feel you want your imagery to portray. And decide what types of images should and should not appear.

Ultimately, you want to be using high-quality images that deliver purpose and meaning. And it’s critical you have the right to use them.

If you have the budget to work with a photographer – great! Be sure to work with one who is willing to learn about your brand guide and work closely with you to create just the right images. This is one time where it really pays to be picky.

And if you don’t have the budget to work with a photographer – great! There are so many options for great stock photography available now, which can be much more affordable, or even free.

For paid stock photos, we recommend Depositphotos, which we’ve used for years without a hitch.

And if you’re just starting out and need to stick to free photos, check out Unsplash, which has a large amount of beautiful stock photos that are free to use, without attribution or permissions, for all commercial and non-commercial purposes.

When choosing stock photos, you need to be even more careful about choosing images that represent your brand well. Try to avoid stock photos where people are looking directly at the camera, which tend to be a bit cheesier and less authentic.

Finally, remember that visual clutter is actually a bad thing. Try to focus on using a few great images, smartly arranged. A good web developer can help ensure your website looks great and converts well, using just the right combination of beautiful images, captivating written content, and well-placed calls-to-action.

The better you’re able to use photos in your website and online marketing, the better you’ll be able to connect with your audience.

My team helps small businesses create just the right brand, along with website design, SEO and digital marketing. Talk with us to get started with an attractive brand that showcases your company perfectly.

To your business success,

Susan

39 Reasons Why I Left The Corporate World & Became A Personal Brand

1. I realized early on that I didn’t fit into the corporate world.

2. I didn’t like the corporate world and all its ‘fakeness’ or its desire to be ‘politically correct’ and ‘polite’. I wanted to call a spade – a spade.

3. It wasn’t me living a life – I was living a routine.

4. I realized I would be a slave forever to this system.

5. Whatever I did or contributed – all that effort wasn’t me.

6. Wanted to Break away from the 9 to 5 lifestyle.

7. Wanted to be an authority & expert.

8. I didn’t want to take someone else’s business card with my name typed on it with a dummy designation and introduce myself as a slave to that company.

9. I saw others earning per hour and enjoying a luxurious life and going for holidays whenever they wanted.

10. I realised there were many people living with Flexibility in Operation & Lifestyle. I wanted part of that.

11. I wanted to create a lifestyle where whatever work and contributions I made – I could take with me wherever I wanted. The problem with working for a company was that – the day I would leave the company – all the contributions I made to the company would be with the company. And if I joined a new company – I would have to start from zero and prove myself from zero all over again.

12. I wanted to earn as much as I like.

13. I wanted to wear – whatever I wanted to wear.

14. I wanted respect for being “ME” and not an “employee” of a respected company.

15. I hated Office Politics.

16. Working for someone was forever unpredictable

17. Success in the corporate world depended on the authority of someone above me. And if he didn’t like me – that was the end of my success phase.

18. I hated pleasing others – Clients, Customers, Boss, Colleagues, Vendors & Suppliers. I was fed up!

19. I didn’t want to dance to anyone’s tunes just because he had a dummy title. And even worse was respecting someone I didn’t want to respect.

20. I wanted to be in control of my own destiny, time and lifestyle.

21. I wanted to earn as much as I wanted & rest & switch off whenever I wanted to with having to get a sick-leave-certificate.

22. I have always been restless, creative, a rebel and loved to do my own thing.

23. Loved reinventing ways and means of working. Constantly trying and experimenting new things.

24. I didn’t believe in reporting to work on time.

25. I didn’t believe in calling anyone above me “Sir” or “Madam” just because he or she had more experience than me in ONLY that given job or because he or she was my customer or client.

26. I kept failing in whatever I was doing because it was at its best – boring! I wasn’t contributing to my own brand. It felt like a job!

27. I felt a greater sense of passion knowing that what I was working for – was my own baby and would be mine forever! I wanted to create my own brand!

28. Even if I put in 100%, the ROI wouldn’t be 100%. It would be less.

29. I didn’t like when my ideas were rejected and I also hated the fact that I had to convince the world for implementing my ideas.

30. The day I resigned from the company – it would be that person’s brand and not mine which would remain.

31. I wanted to be myself – which I could never do working for the corporate world.

32. Every time I changed a job – I had to start from scratch.

33. My progress was based on the whims and fancies of others.

34. Whatever I created or made – was finally – someone else’s. And to watch someone else take credit or get a bonus for it – I hated it.

35. No matter what position or salary or successful I was – End of the day I was recognized as an employee.

36. There would be a limit to how much I earned.

37. No great visionary or legend or artist or memorable brand was an Employee.

38. If I made a good deal or got a bonus I could take many weeks off without any work!

39. There was always the risk of Management Change or Unpredictable factors which I couldn’t control where my hard work could still go down the drain.

Brand Entertainment and Ticket Company Product Review

This product review is of the Seatgeek website and mobile app. Here is the product review.

The company is located in New York. I was able to navigate the website to find hundreds of events in my area and throughout the country. The search engine is called Columbus.

The app. can be easily downloaded from Google. Once you download the app, the SeatGeek search engine helps you find thousands of events, seating charts and tickets online. The app. is mobile compatible and ready, and tickets can easily be purchased online.

There are several different options when purchasing tickets and these options include:

1. Tickets can be purchased and delivered to a customer’s address.

2. E-tickets options are available and tickets can be delivered directly to a customers email. Please make sure you have a printer available to print your tickets.

3. An instant download option is available and tickets can be downloaded instantly via computer or mobile phone.

4. An option is available and tickets can be picked up at or near the venue.

Another great part about this website is the blog. The blog includes hundreds of amazing articles, pictures, and news about amazing artists, events and sports. The blog also includes exclusive links to purchase tickets to upcoming events. The blog is amazing and is worth reading everyday.

Here are my top ten of artists and events I recently found while using the search engine.

1. Tickets to the Macys Thanksgiving Day Parade.

2. Tickets to the Superbowl

3. Tickets to the Rose Bowl.

4. Tickets to the CMA Music Awards.

5. Tickets to see comedian Jerry Seinfeld.

6. Tickets to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.

7. Tickets to see singer Taylor Swift.

8. Tickets to see country music star Jason Aldean.

9. Tickets to the US Open Tennis Tournament.

10. Tickets to see any NFL team,NBA team, or MLB team play.

This search engine is easy to use and fun. The best part is the search engine is 100% free to try to find tickets to any event. The great part is you can purchase tickets instantly online using the website. This company is truly outstanding in the entertainment ticket business world.

The website has an easy to read terms of use and privacy policy as well. Here are five of the best features of the website:

1. Easy to read terms of use and privacy policy.

2. Access to event tickets and seating charts.

3. Vivid well-written blog.

4. Great newsletter sign up.

5. Great access to this companion social media websites such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Overall, I gave the website and blog 5 of 5 stars rating. I would suggest this website for those 18 years old and older with parental guidance suggested. As with any business product or service, read carefully before ordering and enjoy the shows.

In conclusion, this review provides a great overview of a great website. It is important to understand the purpose to search online for tickets and gain VIP access to ticket news. This company entertains!

How Pay-Per-Click Advertising Drives Profit and Brand Awareness

Plus, How PPC Helps You Reach Your Customers

Pay-per-click advertising plays a significant role in any marketing strategy. That can be a bold statement for some, especially since this advertising strategy intimidates many small- to mid-size business owners. And if you’re like many people, you can’t help but wonder, “Does pay-per-click work?”

You figure that if you pay Google even a small amount-say, $1.00 per click-your ad budget will be drained in short order considering all of the Google searches that occur daily.

Let’s explore why this assumption could be holding you back from growth and how pay-per-click advertising drives profit and brand awareness.

First, What Is Pay-per-click?

We’ve all seen the search engine results labeled ‘Ad’ at the top and bottom of a search engine results page (SERP). Pay-per-click (PPC) is a marketing strategy that allows advertisers to place ads online and pay the hosting platform (e.g., Google or Bing) when someone clicks on their ad. The marketer using the PPC strategy hopes the ad will lead a user to click through to the marketer’s app or website and purchase a product or service, or take some other valuable action. Search engines host PPC ads, displaying ads at the top and bottom of SERPs that are relevant to their users’ search queries. Pay-per-click with Google AdWords is one of the top choices. Bing is another, since many computers today come loaded with Bing as the default search engine.

Google AdWords – Paid Search

One of the most popular PPC advertising platforms by far is Google. What could be better than placing your ad in front of the very person searching for what you’re selling in real time? The moment they input their search query, Google pulls up a relevant paid search result to show them exactly where to buy that product or service.

How Paid Search Works

Every search engine results page (SERP) search query spot triggers an instantaneous auction for the keyword(s) the user input into the search bar. Advertisers bid for these keywords in advance when they set up their marketing campaigns through the advertising account. The search engine then determines the winning bid for that keyword based on a combination of factors, including bid amounts and the quality of the ads. The winner gets the top position, and others fall below them on either the top or bottom of page one, page two, etc.

Bid Adjustments

Not seeing any results? Advertisers can adjust their bids at any time, depending upon the best criteria for their campaign. For example, suppose a particular marketing campaign does well on mobile devices. In that case, the advertiser can increase their bid by a certain percentage to ensure their ad shows up more frequently on cell phones and tablets.

Conversion Tracking & Cost Per Click

Why is conversion tracking important? Because you need to know how much money you’re making (or losing) from an ad. It’s the only way to determine whether your cost per click (CPC) is eating into your profits.

Negative Keywords – Google

With so much emphasis on bidding for the best keywords, you might not think about adding keywords you don’t want to rank for. Yet keeping those words in mind can weed out unproductive clicks (clicks you pay for whether they convert to sales or not).

For example, if you’re a pizzeria targeting the keyword phrase, “Florida pizza,” you don’t want to attract people looking for jobs delivering pizza. So you may want to enter “pizza jobs” as a negative keyword in order to prevent your ad being shown for searches on the key phrase.

One real-world example we’ve encountered involves a company offering cold therapy to reduce “saddle bags” on hips and thighs. In advance of launching their PPC campaign, we entered “Harley Davidson” or “bike saddle bags” as negative keywords. This tactic prevents the client from being shown for those search results or pay for any inadvertent clicks.

Simply scroll down to the section where you can add negative keywords to your campaign, click the + sign and add a negative keyword phrase to make sure Google doesn’t show your ad to users who input an undesired key phrase into their search query.

Remarketing Pixels

With the dawn of user data collection, retargeting programmatic advertising has become one of the prime strategies to stay top of mind for someone who may be getting ready purchase your product or service. Remarketing pixels allow you to show targeted ads to specific individuals who have already interacted with your digital properties (e.g., website). You can embed these pixels on your website, in emails, and when setting up your pay-per-click ad on a search engine or social media platform.

HTML code that’s invisible to the user tracks the behavior of your email subscriber, website visitor, or social media follower from the moment they interact with the digital media you’ve embedded with the tracking pixel. The data these tracking devices collect provides insights regarding user behavior that could help you formulate your content strategy, including personalized email marketing sequences. If you use them in Google AdWords PPC ads, your ads could follow the user, popping up on other websites or social media platforms they visit after interacting with your remarketing pixel.

Video Remarketing

Video remarketing, also known as retargeting, is a form of PPC advertising that uses a tracking pixel to collect identifying information about users who have previously visited your website, watched a video, or engaged with your digital content. Video remarketing then serves video ads to that list of contacts. For instance, if you’re using YouTube, you can set up video ad campaigns that serve specific YouTube videos to users who have watched a specified video. They watch that video, then YouTube will serve up the video you want them to see next (e.g., a video you created to advertise your product or service).

Tending to Your Pay-per-click Marketing Strategy

Pay-per-click is not a marketing strategy you can set one time and forget about it. To get the maximum return on your investment, you need to tend to it-daily. From budgeting to analytics to bid adjustments, everything you do to stay on top of your PPC campaign will improve your gains. Click here for an easy-to-follow PPC checklist.

Social Media Advertising and Reach Ads

As an advertiser, you may also want to consider social media advertising as another way to reach more potential customers. Social media advertising consists of putting some money behind an already performing social post, then deciding your demographic (gender, age, location radius, even interests), and setting a budget and time frame for your promotion. Facebook is one of the top social media platforms for advertising, but there is a difference between social advertising and pay-per-click. On social media the advertiser pays for impressions, not clicks.

  • Facebook: boost a post or run an ad
  • Instagram: Sponsor a post
  • Twitter: Promote a tweet
  • LinkedIn: Promote a LinkedIn post
  • More Pay-per-click Tips
  • Design multiple ads in batches, and refresh ads quickly to prevent ad fatigue and banner blindness.
  • Look at your campaign numbers daily and tweak creatives, bids, and negative keywords as needed to improve results.
  • Use remarketing pixels to trigger your ad to show up on other sites your prospects visit.
  • Do a remarketing video explaining what it would be like to be a customer of your business and include a testimonial.
  • Use opposite messaging (e.g., if your funnel is emotional, your video should be logical and vice versa).
  • Remarket with a video ad showing what it’s like to buy your product or be one of your customers.
  • Use multiple headline variations, and A/B split test your ads.

Pay-per-click advertising can play a significant role in your marketing plan if you know how to maximize your results.

Building Your Brand Through Forums and Online Groups

Let’s talk about forums and online groups. People talk all the time about how difficult it is in forums and online groups. I don’t get it, I’ve gotten some of my best traffic in the world from Forums, and I’ve had clients that have done amazing well with Forums. Yes, it’s mindless work. Yes, it’s a matter of finding the right post to respond to. Yes, it’s a matter of becoming a trusted poster so that you can put a squeeze page in your signatures. No, that’s not easy. Yes, it takes 2 to 3 months to do. And if you’re not willing to invest 2, 3 months in building a source of great traffic, then Forums and Communities are not for you.

You’re posting great content with a few videos, and you’re posting in a forum or community. Now layer on interviews. Where do I get interviews? Here’s the thing, if you write enough articles, people will ask you to be interviewed. I get interview requests a lot. I turn most of them down, because I just don’t have the time anymore. In fact, I wish that I had found a way to do them all, I really do. But, if all I did was interviews, I couldn’t create trainings like this. I couldn’t do all the other things that I hope add value to the world. If when you’re starting out, you write a few hundred articles and put them on your website, and you write a few hundred more, and you get them posted here and there, and you start ranking in Lifehack, and you start ranking in the websites in your niche, and you start ranking in the forums… I can almost guarantee you’ll get interview requests.

You may say, how do I figure out if it’s a good interview or not? Do them all! Do them all until you’re overwhelmed! Then we’ll talk about when to cut back. And then you start noticing things, cut back. Here’s what you do, when somebody interviews you, you’re going to post that interview. The first thing you do when someone asks you to interview is, you ask, “can I have the right to record it as well, and use it in my marketing the same way you’re going to use it in yours?” They’ll almost always say yes, and if they say no, say no thank you. Unless it’s obviously somewhere you’re setting out to be interviewed by.

When they interview you, you record it as well, and you put it on your website as the interview by so and so. It creates instant credibility for you and you share it on Facebook, you share it on G+, and you get instant credibility. And when 50 different people over the next year interviewed you, and all of those are showing up on the front page of your website, and they’re starting to show up in Google, what’s going to happen? You’re going to have instant credibility.

Before we go any further, I’m going to touch on about three more things that I want to give you. Some of you are still asking, where’s the 1-2-3 formula? THERE ISN’T ONE!

Hopefully by now you’ve got this idea that you’ve got to know what your website is going to look like, you’ve got to know how you’re going to change the world, and you’ve got to start changing the world right there on your website, and then tell everybody that you know about it.

One thing I’ve talked about in the past is, you’ve got a list of 100 Facebook friends. And most of you probably have 100 Facebook friends. You should be able to post a post on your Facebook page that says, “hey, as you know I’ve been working on starting my own business, and I’ve started one. How to create a scrapbook is my new business, and I know you’re probably not interested in scrapbooks, but could you please tell everybody you know that might be interested in scrapbooks?” Here’s the thing, if anybody unfriends you, because you spammed them on Facebook, because you told your friends about your personal pet project. Do you REALLY want to be Facebook friends with that person?

If you’re scared to tell your friends about your business, maybe you need to create a business that your friends would like. Or maybe you need to reevaluate some of your friends. I’m serious! Your friends should be the #1 people that are supporting you. You say, “well, so and so doesn’t support me,” maybe you just need to unfriend them for 3 months. I don’t know what the answer is, I don’t know all the social etiquette rules, I don’t know if you unfriend somebody that your kid goes to school with and they won’t speak to you anymore, and your kids can’t play together. I don’t know how all that stuff works. You’re going to have to figure that out on your end, I’m not a relationship expert.

What I’m saying is, if somebody dislikes the business that you’re building so much that they want to unfriend you? I question their friendliness.

I believe you should be able to tell everybody. I believe that you should be able to go get a business card made up that all it has on it is your website name, and your logo.

And any time you meet people in the grocery store, and you’re talking, and you say “hey, what do you do,” and they tell you, and they ask you what you do, you pull out your card and you say, “I run this website.” Doesn’t make any difference if you started 3 days ago, you run that scrapbooking website, right? Great, “I run this website, and let me ask you this, do you know anybody that’s interested in scrapbooking? Here’s another card.” You may not want to be that aggressive, but I’m just trying to give you the point, you can do this offline as well. This should not be some secret project that you have online. Do you think that Dropbox was a secret project? Do you think that Taskrabbit was a secret project? Is Google a secret project? Is Facebook a secret project. Is Business Insider a secret project?

NO! They’re not secret projects, they’re social projects!

When you take your website and allow it to become a social project, you’ll find that amazing things are going to happen.

Creating An Original Brand Identity For Network Marketing And Direct Sales Industry Distributors

In the network marketing, MLM, and direct sales industries there is some conflicting information about how to go about establishing a personal brand in the industry.

Lets look at what a personal brand is. A personal brand is a way of attracting business to you by promoting yourself in addition to or in place of your product. In these industries people do business with individuals they like or feel they can relate to. They also do business with people who come across as having insider knowledge or leadership skills.

While I do not recommend portraying oneself in false terms to establish a powerful brand, it’s a good idea to play up your strengths. If you are just starting out, your brand should be based around the strengths you bring to your new business, not the fact that you are just starting out and haven’t made any money yet.

Portraying oneself as a strong leader does not necessarily mean posing with a sports car or even dressing up for a photograph. It means telling a story that will invite people to relate to you and be curious about your business.

The fact is – there are 100s of income opportunities on the internet these days. They are mostly marketed in very similar, and unoriginal ways. A very effective branding technique is to look at what other people are doing, and do something very different.

In this particular industry there are basically two general types of branding I see a lot.

  • The first is the “money and cars” type of brand which portrays success in the business as a pleasurable experience and encourages site visitors to imagine having nice things and a lot of money as a part of the home business experience.
  • The second is the “soft” brand. With this type of brand, often used with health and wellness MLM products, the financial rewards take a back seat to having a “feel good” product. While this type of branding is often instigated by MLM companies to build product loyalty, it often functions to conceal a weak compensation plan where few distributors make much money.

Neither of these types of branding are particularly original. I would suggest that on the internet it’s a good idea to build a brand that goes against the grain of these two types and establishes a more unique sort of image for the distributor.

This is a creative process. The secret to building a loyal following and attracting customers is building a deep brand on the internet. This sort of branding cannot be bought, it must be earned.

How is a deep brand established on the internet?

Through the written word. Distributors who wish to brand themselves but are unwilling to write web content on a regular basis will struggle to create a brand. Blogging is perhaps the most familiar form of content distribution, but getting traffic to a blog requires comprehension of how information is actually distributed on the internet – the sort of marketing knowledge that is never taught in most company-provided marketing training.

In fact, some companies in the industry actively discourage or even prohibit discussion or content marketing on the internet. My only advice is – avoid these companies like the plague.

Branding with content takes time and patience. Distributing the content effectively requires specialized knowledge of how the internet really works.

Who said building a brand is easy?



Building a brand does not have to be hard, but it does take time.

For this reason, brand-building should be piggy-backed with other marketing activity. It is unwise for an independent distributor to invest money in branding-only activity. Still, most promotional activity should be done with an eye to increasing visibility of the brand.

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