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Running a successful business is about more than having high conversion rates, or closing lots of leads. It’s about more than just your business ethics and practices, and how great of an experience you can provide your customers.
A successful business has one thing that most unsuccessful businesses don’t:
I’ll use my own SEO and online marketing company Rush Ventures as an example. When I started out, my main concern was amassing as many clients as possible and increasing conversion rates. I toiled endlessly, personally closing every single lead, and providing the stellar customer service my company became known for, all on my own. At this point, my time and expenses were growing fast, but my business wasn’t growing as fast as I would have liked.
It was around this time that I began working with my new partner, and we decided to shift our approach to focus on something other than conversions: Our brand identity.
Sure, we already had a logo, and a website, and even a slogan. But none of those things matter unless you’re making a conscious effort to improve and grow your brand. That’s just the way it is.
The moment we changed our strategy, our business started growing like crazy. We hired a ton of new employees, started giving guest speaking sessions and seminars, spun off into a second company for different levels of SEO, and saw a drastic increase in our number of social media followers.
This may all sound like one of those television ads, where the guy goes from weighing 300 pounds to being a lean machine, all attributed to some flimsy ab machine. But don’t you worry. This isn’t some miracle cure I’m trying to sell you. We just rolled out some reliable branding basics, and a lot of it worked.
I’ll tell you all about how we improved our brand here, but first let’s discuss why having a brand matters so much.
Why a Brand Matters
Think about your own buying practices. Who are you more likely to purchase from? The friendly salesman at the small electronics shop, or the large department store where the employees are barely engaged and you only deal with a cashier? Sure, some might say the department store. They might argue that it has a more established, larger brand than the small shop, thus making it more reliable.
Where are you more likely to buy from?
I’m here to tell you that reliability is relative, and that the size of someone’s business does not speak to the credibility of their brand. Consumers want to do business with people more than anything else, and the goal of a brand is to show a company’s personality. Think of any large department store. Does their brand speak to you as a person? Does it suggest to you that there are real people standing behind this brand?
Unfortunately, the answer for most large department store chains is no. Although many are making efforts to personalize their brands, their general disregard for customer satisfaction prevents this from really resonating. Instead they succeed mostly through sheer economies of scale and reach.
But the more personality your business has, the more consumers feel that they can trust you. Trust is an essential part of success, because it will drive customers back to your doors time and time again. Your brand shows consumers that you stand behind your business, and gives them something to respect you for. When it comes down to it, for most businesses, brand reputation is what really drives conversion rates.
Building your Brand
Brand awareness, brand reputation, or brand recognition. There are different ways of saying it, but they all come back to the same idea. Consumers should be able to remember your brand regardless of where they see it. They should think of your brand when they look at products or services similar to what you offer. When asked the question, “Which are your top 10 brands?” your business should be on their list.
So how do you achieve this? There are three main components. Let’s take a look:
Create a Unique Blog:
A blog is a delivery system for content, but that doesn’t mean that’s all it should be. Your blog is kind of a like a “frontman” for your business. Consumers who see your blog will make assumptions about your business based on its merits.
For starters, your blog should be well designed; interesting and creative, but still clear and easy to navigate. Your blog should have strong visual aspects that relate back to your business. The consumer will associate these with your brand.
Also, make an effort to ensure that your blog stands out from the rest. Play around with the layout and the design. Think of your audience; would they want a clean, minimalist look? Perhaps something more old-timey would be a better fit.
Design a Logo:
Whether you do this yourself, or hire an outside agency, your logo should have maximum personal input. It should be something that symbolizes your brand, contains your company name, and is memorable to consumers.
Walk out on the street and ask someone to name you a brand. We’re willing to bet that a lot of them will give the same one: Apple. Why? In part, it’s because their logo is clean, simple, and immediately evokes the brand’s name. Their marketing strategies are also so powerful that nearly everyone knows this brand.
It’s a great idea for your logo to be somehow themed around your business. For example, if you’re in the housing business, consider implementing the shape of a house somewhere in your logo. Remember, creativity with logo design is always rewarded, so take your time and really put some thought into it!
Think of a Catchphrase:
Think back to any single Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. What does he do every time he’s about to defeat a villain or perform some cool stunt (most of which he did himself)?
He says some cheesy yet memorable catchphrase!
Lucky for you, you’re not in the business of taking down small armies and alien predators. You can cut out the cheese, and stick with the memorable catchphrase.
Your catchphrase, or “tagline,” should let consumers know exactly what your business is all about the moment they read it. For example, the tagline for Rush Ventures is “Your Digital Marketing, in the Right Hands.” It’s short and sweet, sounds catchy and memorable, and explains to the consumer exactly what we’re about. Our company handles digital marketing, and we do it well. Pretty simple, but that’s all the consumer needs to know at first. Once they’re captivated by your tagline, they can find out more by looking through your website.
So now you have a logo, a catchphrase, and a unique blog. You might be thinking, heck, I’m ready to become the next Steve Jobs! Well hold your horses, because there’s still quite a bit left to do. Consider, what did Jobs have that made him so appealing to consumers? Sure, towards the end of his life his image changed, and his popularity dwindled, but at first he was so extremely likable!
A lot of the appeal came simply from the way he talked about the company and its products. If you take a look at Jobs’ use of language, he speaks a lot to the needs and wants of the consumer, attributing nearly every business decision that he would make to some benefit to the customers.
If a consumer genuinely believes that you’re working for their benefit, they connect with you on a personal level. And despite the massive size of Apple, consumers believed and continue to believe that the company is working in their favor. Now that’s how you create brand likability!
Here’s how to do the same for your brand.
Make it Personal:
Everyone basically wants to make a real human connection, so why not give it to them? Your website should have a dedicated “About Me” or “About Us” page. Include a picture of yourself and your team, so consumers can see that there are real people standing behind the business. Let them get to know you by talking about your life, your work experience, and even your hobbies. The more your humanity comes through, the more customers will connect with you.
This is a great page to include an email opt-in! As the consumer is forming a personal bond with your business, they’ll be more likely to subscribe to your communications.
Add Social Media Links:
Consumers don’t just use email anymore, and it’s your job to be accessible to them on their preferred social networks. The prominent ones should definitely be there, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Google Plus. By including a link to your profile on these websites, you significantly increase the chances of a consumer subscribing to your communications.
Furthermore, these social networks offer a great way to promote your brand. The more networks that your brand is shown on, the higher your visibility! Naturally, all these social network should link back to your blog, so there’s a steady stream of back and forth connections.
Show Your Humanity:
We mention social media not only because it’s a great way to increase brand visibility, but also because in this day and age, it’s weird not to be on social media. Everyone has at least one or two networks that they follow, whether it’s Facebook, Snapchat, Vine, or even something like YikYak. If your business doesn’t maintain a profile on at least one or two social networks, it gives off a very impersonal impression, and can even appear sketchy to consumers.
And it’s not enough to just have a page on a social network. You need to be actively involved on it, engaging with consumers, crafting new posts, or even sharing other user’s posts. Creativity is encouraged, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with getting personal on social media.
Taking a day trip with the team? Post a photo on Twitter! Someone has a birthday? Share a Facebook post! Your consumers will appreciate the personal input, and will be more likely to share and like your posts, just like they would their friends. If they see you practically as a friend, they’ll be more likely to bring you their business.
Another great way to showcase personality is through the use of videos, podcasts, and live streams. Consumers engage online in a variety of new and interesting ways, and one that’s really taken off recently is live streaming. A live stream does what a regular video cannot do; it shows you the user in the flesh, at that exact moment in time. It’s like reality TV, but actually real! YouTube videos are still a great way to distribute content, and should be posted as often as you can produce them. But the occasional live stream will only increase your popularity.
With one jump, Red Bull sparked the live streaming craze
So you have the design, and you even have the popularity to back it up. People are talking about you online, but they’re still not buying from you?
This is where a lot of business owners get stuck. They think maybe their logo isn’t good enough, or they don’t have a strong enough presence on social media. They then go back to step one, and try everything out from the start.
Here’s the problem. They forgot to establish credibility for their brand, and without credibility, even your biggest fan won’t buy from you.
But how do you build this trust?
It’s All in the Content:
Your website content plays a huge factor in your brand’s credibility, for one simple reason. Consumers ascribe credibility to anyone who provides solutions to their problems, or helps them with their needs.
By creating vibrant content that is helpful beyond what your product offers, consumers will be driven to you purely because they’ll come to appreciate, or even need, your expertise. Strive to only produce quality content so powerful that it can actually impact the mindsets of your consumers.
Position yourself as an expert in the field. Consumers should value your opinion to the point where the voice of your brand is the only one that matters to them.
Free is Always Better:
When we say free, we don’t mean mailing out little trinkets or gift packages to your customers. What’s important to understand with online marketing, is that information can be just as valuable as material objects. In some instances, it’s even more valuable.
Let’s say that you’re running a business that sells water filtration products. Your products are all quality made, placing them at a higher price point. You obviously can’t send out a free water filtration system to all your customers, because that wouldn’t be cost effective. You could choose to invest in a large number of lower quality products, and maybe this wouldn’t be financially burdening. However, it could be damaging to your reputation, and it’s better to stick with only quality products.
So what do you offer? What could consumers want more than your actual products?
The most cost-effective, brand building item you can offer is information.
Instead of sending out some trinket that they’ll lose within a few weeks, for the free opt-in offer, provide the consumer with information on how to filter their water on their own, without a huge investment. By doing so, you give them the opportunity to save money and to learn something new. They’ll then associate these traits with your business brand. They’ll also be more likely to stay signed up for your communications, in hopes of receiving more valuable information.
The information you give away should never be something crucial to your business, but it shouldn’t be irrelevant either. The best way to gauge this is to provide the consumer with something that you would regularly price at several hundred dollars.
If we’re talking water filtration, perhaps you would charge two to three hundred dollars to install a part in the consumer’s water dispenser. This charge is for the parts and service. Your free information could inform them where to purchase this part, as well as how to install it. So you’re providing them with value, with minimal loss to your revenue, and you’re acquiring their email in the process!
Always be Yourself:
This is one that always needs to be said. Parents all tell their kids, “always be yourself.” And in business, that’s twice as true. Consumers want personality behind the business they shop at. They want to see the person who created the business, and that’s what you should give them! Find your personality, and stand behind it.
Outreach and Mentors:
Everyone needs a little help at some point in their lives. Maybe you’ve made a mistake, or you’re just not sure how to move forward. Maybe you have too much on your plate right now, and need someone’s advice on how to unload. This is where a mentor comes in.
A mentor is more than a friend. It’s someone who’s been through the same things that you’re going through, and can offer you their professional advice on the matter. They’re willing to listen, because they’re also nurturing their professional skills by assisting you. And the advice that they offer will be based off of real life experiences, meaning that they’ve overcome it and have learned from the experience.
Most importantly, a mentor is there to provide a new perspective. No one can ever give you an answer for your business except for you, because they just don’t understand where you want to move it forward. But by offering you their perspective, a mentor leads you to finding the right answer and applying it.
Most importantly, your mentor has years of experience in your field, meaning that they’ve had the time to build up powerful connections that can aid you in publicizing your brand.
Reaching out to press sources and news stations should be a cornerstone of your marketing strategy. Much like social media involvement, it can help build brand visibility and credibility. A mentor can help connect you to press sources.
If you don’t have a mentor, make your own efforts to reach out. Contact influencers in your field, local newspapers and television stations, reach out to blogs and websites, and participate in seminars and webinars. These are all time-consuming tasks, and may provide few results for the time that you need to invest. But even being featured by one newspaper or influencer is enough to make a big difference.
It might just get people talking about your brand!
We’re going to finish up by mentioning one of the most important things you should be doing. This is something that business owners and consumers alike often forget to do, costing them money and time where it shouldn’t. Once we tell you, it’ll seem obvious, but oddly it’s the number one thing that people forget…
No matter what strategy you’ve put into place, how much you’re spending, or how well your business is doing, you always need to be measuring your success. If you aren’t measuring it, there’s no way to know how well the strategy is working, and whether you should be spending more or less on it.
In fact, if you don’t measure your success, you never really know if you’re hitting your goals. Sure, it may seem like it, because people are sharing your brand on social media. But what if those shares aren’t generating any leads? What if consumers aren’t opting in for your free offer?
Weekly, or even daily measurement, is an essential part of running a successful business.
If you want to know how far you’re going to get, you need to know how far you’ve gone.
Let us know in the comments how you’re building your brand, and whether our tips worked for you!