CREATIVITY WITH INTENTION
Why a sense of purpose is vital for brands, and how brands can find their own way?
In the fast moving and exceedingly competitive business world of today, knowing what you stand for and what your purpose is as a company is vital if you want to succeed. Standing out from the crowd is a key part of what makes a successful brand, but how do you do it?
Consumers today are more discerning than they have ever been before, and want more than just quality products or services. They want brands that can tell a story, that have a narrative of their own, and that know ‘why’ they are doing what they are doing. Finding, prioritizing and conveying your purpose as a brand is one of the best ways of engaging with your audience, and therefore one of the most important elements of marketing your business.
Tell a story
The narrative behind your company and your products is almost as important as what you are doing or selling. ‘Why’ you do what you do, or the purpose of your brand, has a huge impact on the perception you give to current and potential clients, and at the end of the day forms the basis for the success of your brand.
Defining your purpose is important for how your business runs, too. Your ‘why’ should be your driving force, your vision, and should sync up with what your company stands for, and who you are as a brand. When you define your purpose it becomes easier to connect with customers, as you are able to sell a narrative that they can buy into, and you can target your ideal audience more simply and effectively. Having a well defined purpose, therefore, is a key lynchpin of building a better brand.
What is a brand purpose?
At its heart, your brand purpose should be simple. It is the reason you got into business in the first place, the thing that drives you to do what you do, and the vision and values that define your company. Your brand purpose, or your ‘why’ should be the guiding light behind your business strategy, and have a direct and continuous impact on how you do business.
However, it isn’t always that easy. As time goes by and your business grows and changes, your purpose can get muddled, confused and vague. So it is always important to keep going back to your fundamentals, to check in with your core values, and to refresh them on a regular basis if necessary.
Your brand purpose should guide what and how you serve your clients, how you speak to them, and how you work within your wide community. It should provide a roadmap for how your company presents itself, and how it creates value for others. A solid, simple and engaging ‘why’ is a great way of showing how everyone benefits from your services.
Prioritize your purpose and thrive
At the end of the day, your branding and marketing is designed to speak to actual human beings with real wants, needs and demands. To speak to real people you need to engage with their hearts and minds, not just trot out tired marketing jargon. Standing out from the crowd means that your brand should have a personality for itself, and a strong narrative, to help your audience identify with your vision.
A strong purpose makes your customers feel part of your brand’s story. It will draw people in, and make them feel like they are part of something more significant than ‘just a transaction’. You can show that your brand is more than just the products or services that it sells, that you are thinking about more than just your next marketing push, and that you are aiming to make a difference as well as a profit.
In an age where consumers are looking for more than just a product, brands need to sell themselves as well as their goods and services. Brands need to stand for something, to inspire, and to look to have an impact on the world, or at least on their community. If you prioritize and perfect your ‘why’ you’ll be able to develop a stronger, sustainable connection with your audience, and build lasting and rewarding relationships with your clientele.
IS IT TIME TO MAKEOVER YOUR BRAND?
IS IT TIME TO MAKEOVER YOUR BRAND?
5 signs that you might need a change
It has happened to us all. We’ve reached into our closet and picked out that t-shirt that we absolutely loved a couple of years ago, only to find that the colours have faded and there are moth holes on the sleeves. Things change, styles move on, and what we once thought was trendy and cutting edge now seems dated.
What is true for your personal style goes double for your brand. As customer tastes change, brands have to move with the times, and there comes a time when growing brands find their original style just doesn’t suit their needs anymore.
But how do you know when it is time to refresh or rebrand? Are there any warning lights, red flags or subtle signs? If you aren’t sure whether your business needs a makeover, check out these top five signs that it’s time to mix things up!
- You keep making excuses for your business cards and website
‘Oh, ignore the front page, it’s an old website’. ‘Take my card…actually don’t worry, here’s my number and you’ve already got my email, right?’.
Too often this sort of thing comes up when you are doing vital networking. You want to connect with the right people, but your materials and online assets just look old fashioned and out of date, and you feel the need to apologise or make excuses for them. If, deep down, you don’t feel confident that the first impression your brand is making is fresh and impactful, then you almost certainly need to refresh your look. Reach out to a design agency and discuss options with them. When your branding has a modern, exciting look and feel to it, you’ll feel more confident in pitches, and it will attract more customers and clients. So pay attention to that little voice that is telling you it’s time for a change.
- You look the same as your competitors
Being able to differentiate, to stand out from the crowd, is a vital part of running a successful business. Brands that haven’t changed their look for a while run the risk of fading into the background, and looking the same as everyone else. If you get the feeling that the things that made you stand out at the beginning have now been adopted by every other business in your market, then it might be time to change things up. Repositioning your brand and allowing its unique selling points to shine will help you differentiate yourself from the herd.
- Your brand is difficult to explain
Does your branding quickly and simply convey what your business is all about? Is your messaging easy to understand? Or do people struggle to work out just what it is that you excel at when they land on your website? As businesses grow and change it is natural that messaging, vision and objectives get more complex, and if you don’t update your branding regularly old messages can get in the way of your simple core offer. If your business is a bit of a jumble, and your fundamental story doesn’t come through clearly, then you might well need to refocus and simplify. Brands that can’t be summed up succinctly are usually less successful and finding and retaining customers, and your branding should be able to tell your story easily from the very first impression.
- Your name feels old
When you founded your company your name might have been just what was needed at the time. It might have been very personal, or incredibly apt, or just summed up what you do really well. But now, maybe your business has grown and changed, or maybe times have moved on, but your company name just doesn’t seem to fit, and it certainly doesn’t reflect and represent your company’s objectives. If this feels familiar, then don’t be afraid to completely rebrand!
- Your strategy has changed
This might be the biggest and most important reason to start working with a branding and design agency. Your business’s brand is an incredibly important part of your overall strategy, and essentially is the front line of your company’s customer relations. Your branding should always be a reflection of your core strategy…so if this has changed, why wouldn’t you change your branding too? New innovations, emerging markets, external factors – there are many reasons why your overarching strategy might have pivoted and shifted over the years. But when your aims, objectives and way of doing business changes, your need to change your branding as well!
When your brand is in need of a new look, there are always signs and ways to tell. If you are unsure about your look and feel, or considering whether a rebrand is in order, take a look at the list above and see if any of these ring any bells. A brand refresh can be the start of a new period of success, so don’t hesitate to change things up if a makeover is in order!
HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR COMPANY NAME?
HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR COMPANY NAME?
A good business name has to portray the main reason for its existence, be easy to understand and be attractive to potential customers. You only get one chance to create your business name and if you get it right it will give you the best chance to make your marketing efforts more effective and create the right impression with your prospective customers.
Customers will make instant judgements on where they want to invest their money and successful companies do not just have good names, they develop a strong brand identity. In modern competitive markets, you must stand out from your competition and be taken seriously.
THE SIX THINGS YOU SHOULD CONSIDER WHEN CREATING YOUR BUSINESS NAME
- Start with the vision for your business – be specific about what your business does and its unique selling point. In the world of short attention spans and quick scanning, your prospective customers need to understand you very quickly. Cheap & Quality Tyres – is very clear about what it does. However, if your vision is to expand beyond tyres then this business name would not suit you. Consider if you are serving local people. You could make a greater impact and appear more relevant to local customers by using your location in your business (brand) name. Make sure the name isn’t too generic, as blending into the background is not your ambition.
- Make sure you like saying the name out loud! People need to be able to say and spell your business name as well as read it, and if it rolls off the tongue it becomes more memorable. Being memorable is essential in the marketing mix.
- When choosing your business name also consider the type of logo you want to create, as visually attractive logos not only stand out from the crowd, but also reflect quality and what you stand for.
- Consider the length of the business name – one to three words is perfect – and helps when space is at a premium (especially on social networks). Beware of using initials – does this maximise the opportunity of portraying your business unique selling point? Not if it’s a bunch of letters.
- Once you have a name check that it’s available, or if the business already exists. Several sites do this, including Companies House, but you can use this simple site: http://www.start.biz/ and then check domain registries, such as GoDaddy or 123reg and secure your URL. If you wish to trademark your business (you must be very confident in your growth potential!) then I suggest you read this: https://www.gov.uk/how-to-register-a-trade-mark/register-a-trade-mark. If you find it’s already taken, but you want something similar, you can check your proposed business name on Google AdWords: https://www.google.co.uk and it will list similar names as suggestions.
- Avoid the personal touch. It is tempting to incorporate your own name into your business’ moniker, however Dave’s Cabs or Hutchinson Landscape Gardening hardly screams originality. Avoid personalising your business as it’s unlikely that the name will sway any customers without an established brand attached to it. If you are hoping to grow your brand too it is important for your business to stand on its own feet independent of you.
DO YOU NEED TO FAIL IN ORDER TO SUCCEED?
DO YOU NEED TO FAIL IN ORDER TO SUCCEED?
How to grow your idea into something bigger?
From an early age, we are conditioned to see failure as a disaster. Societal pressure gets in our heads, and we see failing as something to be ashamed of, and to be avoided at all costs.
But in reality, while failure can be embarrassing in the short-term, it is actually one of the best ways to grow towards long-term, sustained success. When it comes to business, far from being something to avoid, failure can be the spark that leads people to succeed.
So what IS wrong with failure?
In reality, there is nothing wrong with failure by itself. Everyone fails at things now and again, and not being immediately successful can be an important part of a learning process.
However, how people respond to failure is where negative impacts can occur. Everyone sees the world through the filter of their own experiences, based on the information and data they have in front of them. The experiences you get from failing can be extremely valuable, as long as your response and reaction to it is positive.
Part of the problem, however, is the societal pressure, and shame, that comes attached to failing. Because we are conditioned to see failure as shameful, and be embarrassed about it, people often react poorly, fail to analyse their experiences properly, and don’t learn the valuable lessons that failure can teach them. People often emphasise failure (in themselves and in others) while minimising success, which again can lead to a poor attitude towards achievement.
How does society’s view of failure impact us?
Because failure is seen as such a problem, people tend to overemphasise the need to avoid it at all costs. People become obsessed, not with succeeding, but rather with avoiding failure. This can lead to some hugely toxic and unhelpful behaviour (examples like helicopter parenting and micromanagement), and a lot of emotional baggage. Moving past this, and being able to put failure into perspective, can be a hugely rewarding experience. Being terrified of failure leads to an extremely risk-averse approach, which is not at all conducive to business success.
What are the positives that can come from failing?
Learning from mistakes is the best way to avoid making similar mistakes in the future. Failing builds character, and coming back from a failure stronger is incredibly helpful towards building confidence. Persevering through adversity will help to make businesses stronger, as they need to develop the appropriate tools to overcome the barriers and roadblocks that they encounter. This will make them more robust, long-term.
Does failure help you succeed more quickly?
Absolutely. People who never fail tend to drift into complacency, and find it hard to get out of their comfort zone. Businesses can easily stagnate if they never have to overcome adverse conditions, and growth can become impossible. Instead of doing everything they can to avoid failure, organisations should take risks, and embrace it when it comes. Failing can help you to discover vulnerabilities or weak spots in your arsenal, and allow you to fix the roof while the sun is shining. The faster you fail early on, the more robust the foundations on which you build your eventual success on will be.
So take risks, embrace failure, and learn from your mistakes. Your business will be stronger and more successful as a result, and you may find some personal growth as well!
HOW TO WRITE THE PERFECT BUSINESS PLAN?
HOW TO WRITE THE PERFECT BUSINESS PLAN?
When starting a business, plenty of people dive straight into the branding and marketing side of things, as you might expect. What you business looks like, and how you are going to show it off to the world, is a pretty important part of any new venture, and it is also an exciting thing to work on. Designing the perfect logo and coming up with your mottos and key messages is genuinely inspiring stuff, so it is no surprise that this is where new businesses often start.
Starting with branding and marketing is not always the best idea, and is usually jumping the gun a bit. While it might be the most interesting aspect of your new project, you also need to have a concrete strategy about how you are going to turn your brilliant idea into reality, and for that, you need a solid, realistic business plan.
Your business plan informs everything you do in setting up your new business, INCLUDING your branding, design and marketing. You need to know who your competitors are, what your target audience is and how you intend to speak to them before you get started on creating the marketing materials, and all this should be part of a good business plan.
Take a look below at the best model for putting together a killer business plan, as well as some thoughts and advice based on my experiences setting up my own business as well as working on other people’s concepts.
How to grow your idea into something bigger?
When you start to build your business plan, the first step is to note down what it is you actually do. This helps keep you laser-focused on your primary goals and objectives, and helps you design around a central pillar and fill out the other building blocks of your plan.
With your main aim and purpose set out, you can build on your goals, and gradually work out how it can be achieved by adding details about your activities, your resources, and your strengths and opportunities.
Start with a blank canvas, and gradually add notes with keywords to each building block of the plan. As a process, I find sticky notes work really well for this, as you can brainstorm, then move ideas around your plan as you fill out each section. I also found colour-coding elements relating to a specific client segment immensely helpful, as it allowed me to keep things separated, clear and on track.
It is vital, however, not to fall in love with your first idea. You should always be questioning your ideas and decisions, and looking to sketch out alternative business models for the same product, service, or technology. This allows you to take a comprehensive, holistic view of how your new business is going to work, and decide what the best way forward is for you. You could even practice and learn new ways of doing things by mapping out new/innovative business models that you admire or come across.
Who will help you?
Identify your key partners and suppliers. Work out what they can bring to the table, what you can offer them, and how you intend to work together. What are the most important motivations for the partnerships? How can you make these partnerships work most effectively?
How do you do it?
Here you need to look at what key activities are required to make your value proposition a reality, and achieve the goals you have set out. Look at your distribution channels, customer relationships and revenue streams, and explore and analyse what activities are going to be most important for making these work.
What do you do?
Identify your value proposition. Be specific, and state what core value you deliver to your audience. Which needs are you satisfying? What is your USP? Why do your audience choose you over your competitors?
How do you interact?
Explore the relationship that your target audience expects you to establish. You’ll want a range of audiences here, from customers to stakeholders to opinion formers, segmented properly, and you’ll want to explore each relationship in a slightly different way. You’ll also need to work out how to integrate these activities into your work in terms of cost and format.
Who do you help?
Identify your target audiences, and which groups you are creating value for. Who is your most important audience? Why? What are you offering them?
What do you need?
Your business will need certain things to get started and then sustain itself in the short, medium and long term. What key resources does your value proposition require? What resources do you need to carry out your activities, and achieve your objectives?
How do you reach them?
Through which channel does your audience want to be reached? Which channels work best? How much do they cost? How can they be integrated into your and your audience’s daily routines?
What will it cost?
What are the most important costs in your work? Which key resources/ activities are most expensive?
How much will you make?
For what value are your audiences willing to pay? What and how do they recently pay? How would they prefer to pay? How much does every revenue stream contribute to the overall revenues?
A business plan does not guarantee success. Your idea still needs to be viable, and you’ll still need to work hard to promote and deliver your services. But while having a business plan might not guarantee success, NOT having one guarantees failure. Putting together a great business plan does take time and effort, but having something rock-solid and convincing to fall back on is the first step to creating a viable and inspirational business. Ultimately, while you might use your business plan most to guide your initial steps and then show to investors and partners, the most important thing is that it convinces you that your idea makes sense. A great business plan is the finishing touch on an inspirational idea, and the process for beginning to make it a reality.
11 MARKETING TIPS TO HELP SUPERCHARGE YOUR SMALL BUSINESS
11 MARKETING TIPS TO HELP SUPERCHARGE YOUR SMALL BUSINESS
For small businesses, good marketing can be a gamechanger. It can be the difference between spending hours and hours pitching and making cold calls, and having a crowd of potential clients beating down your door.
Marketing for small businesses is not just about selling your product. Of course, a successful marketing presence makes you more visible to potential customers, make valuable contacts with clients and other organisations in your sector, and attract new business. But it also helps you to shape your own brand, to define exactly what you want to be, and to understand how others perceive and interact with your business. Good marketing engages with your audience, and helps you to develop a relationship with them, adding value and entertaining as well as selling and attracting.
For some people, good marketing can seem out of reach. Some small business owners look at the marketing campaigns run by large companies and feel like there is no way to compete, and no way that anything they do can be effective as a result. However, and luckily for all of us who run our own small businesses, this is absolutely not the case!
These days there are a bunch of simple and inexpensive things that small businesses can do to supercharge their marketing efforts, particularly when it comes to having a strong digital presence. I’ve pulled together some of the best hints, tips and advice that I’ve found, and hopefully sharing this will be useful for anyone else out there trying to shine a bit more light on their brand!
Everything you do to promote your business and engage with your chosen audience can be considered marketing. There are loads of different approaches, methods and tools, and it’s usually a good idea to take a pick ‘n’ mix approach, to maximise your reach and get the best bang for your buck!
For small businesses it is particularly important to use a good blend of digital and offline marketing. Digital marketing techniques tend to dominate these days, particularly when it comes to the cheaper end of the spectrum, but getting the balance right is vital, as more traditional, offline marketing methods can be more effective when it comes to actually engaging with people, and showing a personal touch.
One of the most important things in marketing in general is knowing who your audience is, and speaking directly to them, rather than just throwing your message out there and hoping for the best!
For small businesses with limited budgets and even more focused target markets, this is particularly important. When it comes to social media, you want to make sure that you aren’t wasting your efforts speaking to an uninterested or unengaged audience.
So do your research, and make sure that your main social media platforms are the ones where the people you want to speak to are, and make sure your messages are targeted appropriately. Social media done correctly is an area where you can build great relationships, shape your brand, and entertain, so making sure you are entertaining the right people is vital!
People online tend to be busy, move fast, and have short attention spans. Visual content is the most attractive and effective way of grabbing their attention, while still pushing your message.
Best of all, producing good visual content is quick, simple, and free! Put some thought into how you want to curate your feeds, with a good mix of inspiring images and more traditional promotional messages, and always aim to be as engaging as possible.
Online marketing and social media in particular allows you to connect directly to your audience and potential customers, and to develop a real ‘personality’ for your brand. It is a wonderful opportunity to show the ‘human’ side of your business, and to build strong links between you and your customers.
Things like Instagram Stories and Twitter Polls are great tools for this. They allow you to show a more relaxed, casual, even playful side to your business, and to speak to and engage directly with you audience. Carrying out Q&As or offering sneak peaks, teasers or behind-the-scenes glimpses are usually very successful methods.
One of the most important about your online marketing is to keep up a steady flow of content. Not only does this give you plenty of opportunities to advertise your brand or services, and keep your business in the thoughts of your customers, but it is vital for SEO and your Google ranking, which makes you easier to find online.
When it comes to SEO, although visual content is more engaging, written content is just as important. Try and keep your website updated with regular written content, whether it is news, interesting information, or just an ongoing blog.
Email marketing remains a great way to talk to people directly, particularly if you’ve got a good mailing list (although do make sure you are up to speed on your GDPR compliance!). When sending out emails to previous and potential customers however, it is really important to add value to their inbox. Make sure you are offering a great read, with interesting tidbits and even exclusive access or promotions. You want people to be excited to see your email drop, and ensure great open rates whenever you get in contact.
If you are lucky enough to have a large mailing list, then being targeted with what you send out becomes super important. Sending the same stuff to everyone can be a real turn-off, and can lose you subscribers very quickly. Segmenting your list, and sending bespoke mails that are targeted at people’s specific interests, is the best way to engage your audience and ensure they pay attention to what you have to say.
Small business owners thrive on making connections in their local area, and taking advantage of the ability to place themselves at the heart of their community and use pre-existing networks to broaden their reach. Team up with other local businesses and take advantage of each other’s referral networks and customer relationships. A shared community helps grow everyone’s business.
Don’t forget about print
Now that digital marketing is such a big deal, many small businesses forget about print entirely…but this is a mistake! Print marketing still has a huge role to play, particularly on a local level, and can often feel far more personal and bespoke. It is also far more long-lasting than digital tools, and leaves a longer and stronger impression. Flyers, postcards, business cards, and even print ads in local newspapers are a great way to build your profile in your local area.
Or more specifically, build useful relationships with local press and stakeholders. News coverage gives you authenticity, and is great at raising awareness in your community. If you’ve built relationships and got to know the right people, then sending out a press release for a launch or a newsworthy event is far more likely to get traction. A good contact list of journalists and local writers and bloggers can get your business and your brand out there, through trusted, reliable broadcast channels.
Shoot for the moon
Another great idea is to try out for an award or a certification. There are a whole host of small awards that recognise things like customer service, design, innovation etc, and being recognized, even just on the shortlist, can be a real boost for your public profile, as well as increasing confidence and morale internally! A certification or an award win also looks great on marketing materials, and never fails to impress new customers.
Creative marketing approaches can be both free of charge and incredibly engaging. Guerilla marketing, ie inserting your brand into an unusual public space in a creative and exciting way, will really get people talking. Chalking messages on the pavement, or putting up custom stickers in surprising locations is an easy and cheap way of raising awareness of your brand. Just make sure you research local byelaws and ensure you stay on the right side of the law!
Marketing your small business doesn’t have to be hard, complicated or expensive. With a little creativity you can carry out loads of great, simple and effective marketing tactics that will ensure your public profile is high, and your business is being spoken about in all the right places.
THE TOP 10 BRANDING MISTAKES TO AVOID
THE TOP 10 BRANDING MISTAKES TO AVOID
Companies will spend a lot of time and money on creating an effective branding strategy. But mistakes can, and often do happen during this crucial phase. Here’s our guide on the worst things you can do to kill your brand and how to avoid them. Now these might seem like nothing new, but it doesn’t hurt to have a refresher.
1- Using Poor Quality Visuals
Or worse – no visuals at all. Pictures are more memorable than words, and humans tend to think in pictures. Attention spans are getting smaller and smaller, so make sure to invest in something that connects with the visual thinker.
2- Inconsistent Branding
Your company needs to use the same name, logo, and tagline across multiple mediums and channels, both inside and outside the business. The name on your sign for your brick-and-mortar location? It has to be the same as what’s on your business cards and website. Keep it consistent, invest in brand guidelines.
3- No Employee Training
Your employees are walking, talking advertisements for your company. Train them well on how to be effective ambassadors for your company. Implement a Brand 101 course with monthly courses to ensure your message is being properly conveyed.
4- Not Tracking Marketing Efforts
Each time a new customer contacts your company, it’s a good idea to have your employees ask them how they found out about your brand. Keep a master list of these answers to inform where you should focus your future marketing efforts.
5- Not Leveraging Word-of-Mouth Advertising
Your previous clients and customers are your greatest marketing assets. Use their testimonials and quote them in your ads and brochures. A real, authentic voice might be just the validation someone needs to click the buy button.
6- Using Old Marketing Materials
Many small businesses will make this mistake. They invest heavily in a brochure or sales letter, order thousands of copies, and then use the material for many years until it’s all gone. The marketing quickly goes stale. Instead, order smaller increments of marketing materials, and refresh them frequently with new content and mediums.
7- Confusing Consumers with Too Many Choices
We get it; you’re a jack of all trades. But that doesn’t mean you need to advertise as such. Instead, focus on a core offering and build your branding strategy around it. You don’t want to make the mistake of confusing the public and overwhelming them with too many choices. Analysis paralysis is real.
8- Unbelievable Taglines
Trust is critical for fostering a relationship with your customers. Don’t use an unrealistic tagline like “We Do it All.” Do you really do it all? Play it safe here and use a believable tagline your customers can trust, and that’s memorable.
9- Jumping on Trends
Here’s the thing about trends – they come and go. But you want your brand to stick around for the long haul. Avoid trends and cliches when building your brand.
10- Not Welcoming New Customers
Brands need to think logically and convey a warm, welcoming tone. You may have a local market you’re targeting, but we live in a global economy. Brands should try to welcome customers from diverse backgrounds by being culturally sensitive, inclusive, investing in translation software, and using language the average person can understand and appreciate.