Branding is possibly the most important aspect of any business, large or small, retail or B2B. An effective brand gives you a major edge in increasingly competitive markets.
But what the hell does "branding" mean?
How does it affect a small/medium business like yours?
Quite simply your brand is how you're perceived by others. Not what you think your brand is, not what you want people to think your brand is, but what people actually think of your brand. It is what they say to their friends, how they feel when they interact with your business, it's everything that reminds them of your business.
It's their expectations of your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from your competitors'. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be but in the end is what people perceive you to be.
Are you the innovative maverick in your industry? Or the experienced, reliable one? Is your product the high-cost, high-quality option, or the low-cost, high-value option? You can't be be all things to all people. Who you are should be based to some extent on who your target customers want and need you to be. Become a problem solver for those people, offer them value and you'll be on the right path.
The foundation of your brand is your logo. Your website, packaging and promotional materials--all of which should integrate your logo--communicate your brand. Now a logo and the colour choices you make can draw on emotions and feelings deeply ingrained within people, ignoring that fact will limit the value of your logo.
Brand Strategy and other BSLet us look at Brand Strategy as the branding and marketing experts will want you to hear it.
Your brand strategy is how, what, where, when and to whom you plan on communicating and delivering on your brand messages. Where you advertise is part of your brand strategy. Your distribution channels are also part of your brand strategy. And what you communicate visually and verbally are part of your brand strategy, too apparently.
Consistent, strategic branding leads to a strong brand equity, which means the added value brought to your company's products or services that allows you to charge more for your brand than what identical, unbranded products command. The most obvious example of this is Coke vs. a generic soda. Because Coca-Cola has built a powerful brand equity, it can charge more for its product--and customers will pay that higher price. Bored yet? i know I'm falling asleep[p writing this nonsense.
Let me rip open BS Brand Strategy and tell you how it is. You need to know the following:
Simple. Find out who you're targeting (don't guess or skim over that part!!! It's key) Connect with them and find out what they need and want to make their life easier. Then find a way to deliver that service/product to them in a way that surpasses their expectations. Then you have created a solid brand. You're offering more than a product or service, you're offering a feeling and friendship.
We are all human, connect with people on a human level and they will appreciate that, drop all the fluff and get real with people, they'll love you for it. And when you stop pretending and start being yourself, you'll be happier too.
Defining Your Brand BSNow, let us look at Defining Your Brand as the branding and marketing experts will want you to hear it.
Defining your brand is like a journey of business self-discovery. It can be difficult, time-consuming and uncomfortable. It requires, at the very least, that you answer the questions below:
I think I just blacked out again. More waffle and keywords to confuse baffle and put it our of reach. Sod your companies mission, the companies mission is your mission. You have goals, desires and beliefs of your own, and that's what is driving your company. You are your brand, sod the companies mission it's YOUR mission, what do you want to do? Can that business achieve your goals? If not consider other options.
The benefits features of your products or services?! I'm not sure that's for you to decide. Your customers will decide the benefits of your products and services, not you. You can make all the claims you want, but if the customers don't feel the same way then you're flogging a dead horse my friend. Taylor your services and products around the customers you want. Adapt change and bastardise them until they fill the gap that you're trying to fill.
What do customers and prospects already think of your brand? Well that one I will give them. That's basically asking what is your brand at the moment? How will you know if you've not been connecting with them on a human level? You wont, so get yourself out there and engage them people like they're your best friends or loyalty will be nothing but a distant memory.
What qualities you want them to associate with your company is a bit of a hopeful approach if you ask me. It will help guide your initial dealings maybe, but surely the compass is your mission, that's the address you've tapped in to the Sat Nav, and like a Sat Nav, it don't always take you the way you want to go but you still have to embrace it. The customer will decide what qualities they associate to your company.
Let's take Red Bull for instance. They came out on the market to be an energy drink, something athletes would take and compete with the likes of Lucozosade. But when you say Red Bull people think Vodka, or at best extreme sports where lunatics try to kill themselves on motorbikes for a laugh. The second one is only because they use their huge revenue to sponsor these events, the first one is what it has become to most people.
Red Bull have used this and embraced what customers think of their brand rather than fight it off. After it doesn't prevent them from achieving their goals and arriving at their destination. Their mission reads:
Red Bull are dedicated to upholding Red Bull standards, while maintaining the leadership position in the energy drinks category when delivering superior customer service in a highly efficient and profitable manner.
So they simply want to maintain their position in the market while delivering superior customer service, be highly efficient and profitable. So by allowing the association with alcohol and making a large profit from this area, they have been able to pursue the extreme sports avenue and invest in becoming synonymus with it thanks to the profit made elsewhere.
Don't lose sight of the destination to get lost by the journey. Let your customers drive as long as you know where you're going.
Great place to start your branding journey:
If you’re just getting started with optimising your new website for search engines and are wondering how long it takes from start to finish to take your site to the top of search engine results, here’s the truth:
New SEO vs old SEO
You’ve probably already read loads of articles and advice on how to get your site ranking high in Google and other search engines. But here’s the thing: with everything in the search industry continually changing, with Google rolling out new algorithms and updating old ones, if you think SEO will get you quick results, think again. A while back, having more backlinks to your site than your competitors would have been enough for you to out-rank them, now it’s about much more than that. There are many more factors that influence rankings these days and it takes time to build a good SEO strategy that can increase your rankings over time. Creating unique, quality content that your audience is interested in takes effort. Plus, it’s no longer just about creating a page of content and optimising it with the right keywords. You now need to add to that some interlinking, backlinks, engagement and social interaction in order to make that page count for search engines and get it to rank higher.
Let’s explain. Years ago the key strategy was to cover the strongest keywords in your niche and to optimise the entire website using them. That was the old SEO. The new SEO focuses first on optimising a site for highly targeted keywords (also known as long-tail keywords) to help it build enough trust and authority so it can then compete for more generic keywords with a higher search volume. Individual pages on a site should cover a particular topic in-depth, so it can rank well for a variety of these long-tail keywords. So, if you’re a new business, forget about stuffing your content with generic keywords like “professional hairdresser” and instead go with more specific phrases and words that your potential customers will be searching for. Use variations of your main keyword, synonyms, related terms and long-tail keywords. You should also consider mentioning your location as competition will be lower for keywords that include a specific city or neighbourhood. For example, if you’re hairdresser in London, make sure to first target long-tail keywords like “London hairdresser” or “London wedding hairdresser” instead of just “hairdresser”. No one will search for “hairdresser” and expect relevant results, your users will most likely include details such as the location so they can find a nearby parlour they can get to, or the event they had in mind (such as a wedding) so they can find a hairdresser that does what they need. The more specific you are with your keywords, the better the chances of attracting the right audience who is actually interested in your content and your business. However, it’s important to ensure that any content your create for your website includes copy that is targeted at a potential customers needs, and not just stuff with keywords. Get in touch for a FREE SEO health check and advice.
Why small businesses should consider SEOBut why do you need to invest in SEO anyway? Is it really necessary if you’re a small business?
The answer is a resounding “yes”. SEO helps your audience to find you online and it also moves them through each stage of the buying cycle:
SEO delivers a better return than any other form of online marketingIf it doesn’t deliver, it may be because you or the SEO professional you’ve hired isn’t doing it right. When done correctly SEO can deliver nonstop organic traffic to your site. But don’t take our word for it. Here are some SEO statistics to prove it:
Your competitors are doing itEven if you put in the work and manage to get at the top of Google’s search engine results, don’t stop there because your competitors won’t either. They’ll continue to invest time and resources into improving their rankings, and so should you.
Your prospects are searching for your business online93% of all Internet traffic comes from a search engine. In other words, if you want prospects to find your business online, you need to show up in results so they know you exist. If you’re a small business, you can’t afford to be missing out on so many potential customers, can you?
How long does it actually take to start getting SEO results?SEO isn’t rocket science but it is a continuous process. While the basic principles of good SEO will remain the same, it’s important to also keep up with the latest algorithm changes and adapt your SEO strategy accordingly. Your competitors are on top of it, and you should be too if you want to stay ahead. Now, if you want to get good results, you need to invest in quality work. This means:
After you put in the initial work, while continuing to develop quality content and to improve your website, you can expect these results:
Wrapping upAlthough SEO is an ongoing process, if done right the results will outstand any updates, and organic will become a reliable and constant source of traffic and sales.
By Alexandra Gavril