5 Tips for a Better Branded Website

04.29.2014 Better Marketing
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Spring is here! Well, mostly. If your corner of the world is warming up nicely, it’s time to throw open your windows, brush off the dust, and get started on spring cleaning…spring cleaning your website, that is. If the winter blues kept you from getting a fresh start for 2014, then there’s no time like the present to finally ramp up your website—and ramp up your brand in the process!

1. Skip the Overselling

Your website is a great place to showcase what you do. A great website with a consistent look and feel will either entice people to buy right away—or at minimum, create a lasting impression that will bring that customer (and their friends) back to your website for more. The trick here: Don’t oversell, especially on your homepage. Don’t get me wrong; you should definitely make it easy for your customers to inquire about and purchase your products and/or services. However, today’s educated consumer wants to learn more before they buy and to feel in control regarding their purchasing decisions. Above all, you want to be memorable: a memorable brand keeps leads and customers coming back for more.

2. Be Present

If your website hasn’t been updated since the Hamster Dance was the most popular thing on the Internet, you’re going to want to invest in something new…now. Yes, we’re exaggerating—but it’s true: if your website is out-of-date or obviously hasn’t been updated in a year or more, it’s time to refresh your brand and your website. When you’re happy with your website’s modern new look, then it’s time to ramp up your online visibility. Add new branded content every week (like a blog post or an eBook) to entice your target market base, engage potential customers, and nudge them toward the sale. Being present is about communicating your message, but it’s also about building a relationship of trust between your company and your target market.

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Product Packaging: For Your SERVICE-Based Business

04.08.2014 Better Marketing
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When you’re marching down the supermarket aisle, there are plenty of products that really stand out because of their brand-centric packaging. It’s almost automatic: you know to grab the orange-red Tide® bottle, your white Lean Cuisine® boxes with the orange font, the flaming-red rooster bottle of Sriracha hot sauce. You know your favorite brands by sight—so well that shopping for them is almost automatic.

Did you know you can induce this sort of brand loyalty by creating brand-centric packaging for your service-based business?

Here’s how it works…

Go with the Flo

We all know Flo from the Progressive® Insurance commercials, with her signature white outfit, red lipstick and blue headband. Flo is a personification of the Progressive brand—but she’s just one brand tactic the Progressive marketing team uses to get their (insurance-with-a-personalized-touch) message across. Here’s one of our favorite Progressive commercials, Let’s Get Ready to Bundle.

As you can see, Progressive takes their service-based business a step further by creating television commercials set in a physical, supermarket-type atmosphere. Each pick-your-price insurance package is rendered as a physical cardboard box in line with the company’s branding. Furthermore, these physical products can combined to produce a bundle.

We think this is ultra-clever. Consumers watch these commercials and see these insurance services as a consumable product—one we can scan at the counter and take home with us, just like it’s in our local grocery store.

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Company Culture vs. Brand Personality—Does Your Company Measure Up?

03.25.2014 Brand Presence
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Your brand is the whole package. Or is it? We talk a lot about brand alignment on The Branding Spot blog. A great brand must be consistent across the board to be unique, memorable, and thus: effective. This means your website, your marketing collateral, your logo, your brand colors—everything that says HEY! This is my company! needs to be uniform to get the full effect. Heck, at Spot-On Branding, we even offer our popular Brand Alignment Package to help business owners create a consistent look, feel and flow to their brand online and off.

But what about your company culture? Does your company culture actively represent your brand personality, inside and out? Not sure? Here are some areas to focus on:

Your Team Members

Aside from providing excellent customer service (which can truly make or break a brand), is your team actively representing your brand every day, in everything they say and do?

If your business strives for a professional by-the-numbers appearance (let’s say you’re an accounting firm) and your logo, colors, look and feel illustrate these themes, be sure that attitude extends into your each of your team member’s attitudes. Each of your employees should have a standard, professional phone greeting and voicemail, and a standard, professional email signature. When it comes to their company’s financial future, your client is going to want that consistent reassurance that their money is in good hands.

Whatever your industry, your company handbook should outline how your team members are expected to interact with your customers. This might include always mentioning signature services under their full trademarked name, or, for example, always listing three amenities when a potential customer calls to book a stay at your hotel.

Your Office or Store

When a client, customer, or potential customer enters your office or brick-and-mortar shop, are they greeted with an atmosphere in line with your branding? Let’s say you run a surf shop. You want to be sure your brand extends to your store, creating a fun-in-the-sun feeling with every customer, even if they’re just browsing. If your shop prides itself on custom-made surfboards, be sure your shop environment offers potential buyers every opportunity to ask for more information about your sweet custom boards.

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Value Your Brand? Educate Your Audience

03.18.2014 Better Business
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The world is always changing, and nowadays it’s changing faster than ever. The good news is, since the advent of a more accessible Internet, today’s educated and curious consumers are regularly hitting the Web to research and discover the benefits of continuously emerging products and services. This is a huge opportunity to market your business and your brand—but there are quite a few tricks of the trade you need to know to best cash in on this opportunity and build your brand in process.

Ask yourself the following questions and you’ll be on your way to educating your target audience, building your brand identity, and seeing more sales in the long run.

Where’s My Untapped Niche?

Chobani tapped into the yogurt market by advertising their new product as not just another yogurt, but instead, a Greek-style yogurt. While most people had never heard of Greek yogurt before, they were immediately interested in exploring this “new” yogurt style that offers less sugar and more protein than traditional yogurt. The Chobani brand was launched in 2007 and in a few short years Chobani became the top-selling yogurt in the United States. (Read: they don’t just top the Greek yogurt charts—they’re THE top-selling yogurt in the entire country, and they became a billion dollar business during a period of economic downturn to boot!)

The Lesson: To educate your audience, first identify your niche.

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6 Super-Expensive Products…and How To Knock Your Biz Up a Notch with Perceived Value

03.11.2014 Better Branding

While most of us aren’t billionaires, many of us have spent more than the average price on a product or service because we believed the investment (or indulgence) was well worth the cost.

But how much would YOU really pay for the following super-expensive products?

1. Domain Name

In 2007, VacationRentals.com was purchased for $35 million. Next up on the list? Insure.com at $16 million and (of COURSE) Sex.com comes in third at $14 million.

2. Dessert

Serendipity 3 Restaurants offer a $25,000 sundae, the Frrozen Haute Chocolate, made with the world’s finest chocolates and served in a baccarat Harcourt crystal goblet, complete with an 18 carat gold and white diamond bracelet, plus a $14,000 jewel encrusted spoon. Too pricey for your tastes? Try the Golden Opulence instead—a steal at $1,000.

3. Beer

Back in the mid-1990s, a Cambridge archeological team helped recreate just 1,000 bottles of Queen Nefertiti’s 3,250 year old recipe, dubbed Tutankhamun Ale. The brew originally sold for $7,686 a bottle, but the price eventually dropped to $75. Soon after, King Tut’s curse struck again and the brewery closed its doors.

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Brand Trust is a Must: Brand Relationships are HUMAN Relationships

02.25.2014 Better Branding

“Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.” –Shakespeare

When was the last time someone broke your trust? When was the last time you broke someone else’s trust? I’m willing to bet it was a pretty big deal. Maybe your relationship recovered. Maybe it didn’t. Maybe you’re on the fence about the person now, unsure whether or not you can trust him or her again.

It’s happened to everyone; relationships (whether romantic, friendly, or otherwise) aren’t always easy. But all great relationships have one thing in common: TRUST.

Same goes for any relationship between a consumer and a brand. Trust is a must! Brand loyalty is built on trust. When your customers trust your brand, they trust your business, your products and services, and your ability to meet their unique needs. Brand trust is what gives consumers the confidence they need to advocate for your brand.

What is your brand doing to cultivate trust among your potential and current customers? Are you guilty of any of these Brand Trust Fails? How can you regain that precious customer trust and brand confidence once it has faltered?

Brand Trust Fail # 1: Bad Customer Service

“Friendship—my definition—is built on two things. Respect and trust. Both elements have to be there. And it has to be mutual. You can have respect for someone, but if you don’t have trust, the friendship will crumble.” –Stieg Larsson

Just like You Are Your Brand, every person your customer touches, from your creative team members to your in-house employees is a brand representative and a brand advocate. If your team constantly fails to put on a smile and treat each customer with respect, they’re stifling your business and damaging your brand with each interaction.

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Stressed and It Shows? 3 Serious Stress Busters!

02.19.2014 Brand Presence
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This time of year can be really draining, especially with this crazy cold winter we’ve been experiencing! We’re longing for warmth, we’re too cooped up, we need more sunlight, we’re overtired, and it seems like everyone is sick.

But don’t get too down now—spring is on the way! Longer days and sunny skies are just around the corner. So let’s take a minute to talk about stress and how to deal with it. We like to say “You Are Your Brand”—so if you’re stressed and it shows, you could be negatively affecting your brand and your business.

Stress is No Joke

The top 3 causes of stress in the United States are: 1.) Job Pressure (Co-Worker Tension, Bosses, Work Overload), 2.) Money (Loss of Job, Reduced Retirement, Medical Expenses), and 3.) Health (Health Crisis, Terminal or Chronic Illness). While most people experience these types of stressors on a regular basis, I’m betting that all you entrepreneurs and business owners out there are nodding in agreement. Yes, it sounds familiar—I know.

You run a tight and tough ship every day—and, hey, sometimes the stress gets to all of us. Just because you’re running the show doesn’t mean getting stressed out from time to time is a sign of weakness. Stress is serious! Too much stress can negatively affect how you perform at your job and how you interact with your friends and family. When your working and personal relationships suffer, your brand also suffers.

It’s time to look beyond these winter blues and start developing some great habits to boost your positivity and productivity, even if that groundhog’s shadow keeps standing in the way of spring.

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What are YOU Afraid Of? Public Speaking, Perhaps?

02.11.2014 Brand Presence
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There are a lot of things in life to be afraid of, some real, some imagined. In fact, 6.3 million Americans have a diagnosed phobia. While your phobias may go undiagnosed, we all have our weak points: spiders, heights, flying—you name it! Usually, these everyday fears don’t affect your life much—but what happens when your fears get in the way of how you run your business?

The fear of public speaking is a super common fear, even among successful business owners. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 75% of people have a fear of public speaking. So all those enviable successful business owners standing up to speak at conferences and conventions? Most of them are likely just as terrified of public speaking as you may be!

Scared of the Crowd? I Feel Ya.

Last week, I gave a talk to creatives at the University of Houston. Just like any other time, I got jittery before my talk, but unlike any I have done before, I arrived late (due to flights cancelled and delayed). I had to, on the fly, take a 50 minute speech and shave it down to a 20 minute speech. But like always once I got going, the momentum of my speech and of the audience swept me away. I overcame the terrifying obstacle, the talk went well and I was pleased by the feedback I received. (Much thanks to the Theater Department, I had a wonderful time.)

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Your Confidence is Showing: Developing Your Brand Snapshot

02.04.2014 You Are Your Brand
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When introducing yourself and your services (either in person or online), are you showing your stuff or do you sound unprofessional?

For those of you still struggling to define your business and your brand, you might feel like you’re looking up from the bottom of a 1,000-step ladder. Don’t worry: as you grow your business and come into your own, you’ll naturally become more confident in not only what you do, but in the value you provide others through your products and services.

Your Confidence Matters

While your ability to communicate your value will most definitely improve over time, RIGHT NOW you need to be able to convey exactly what you do at a moment’s notice. Sounds simple, right? You might be surprised how often people slip up completely, especially when put on the spot.

Here’s the thing: You Are Your Brand. So every time you present yourself unprofessionally and/or without firm confidence, you’re directly damaging your brand. The roots of great branding start with an in-the-know, confident business owner and team dedicated to creating positive brand interactions between your company and your customers.

Your Brand Snapshot

We call it your Brand Snapshot: it’s a quick pic of your business as a whole. Here are some basic questions you need to have mastered BEFORE you speak to anyone about your business and your products and/or services:

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New Year, New…Brand? Launch Your New Brand in 2014

01.28.2014 Better Branding
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With the Super Bowl coming up this weekend, you may be inspired to reconsider or better establish your company brand. After all, football season means stadiums packed to the brim with team colors—everything from official team apparel right down to each player’s mouth guard is colored to signify allegiance to the team.

Plus, with advertising priced at an incredible $4 million for 30 seconds of ad time, you’d better believe the best brands are going to be out and about strutting their stuff!

When you brand or rebrand your business, you’re either breathing life into a new business or you’re breathing new life into your current business. Maybe you’re starting from scratch, or maybe you’re ready for a change. Either way, sometimes it’s hard to know where to even begin. Keep in mind, brand improvements are an ongoing process–so if you think it’s time for a change, you’re probably right, so it’s time to get ready!

Before You Brand

Before you get down and dirty, ready to update, establish or perfect your brand, you should work through the following exercises for best results (if you haven’t already):

  • Define or redefine your company goals for the year.
  • Complete your market research. Think about WHO will most benefit from your products and/or services and define your target audience. Has this target audience changed over the last year?
  • Define or redefine your positioning. Ask yourself: What makes my company unique? Why would my target audience choose my company over others?
  • Do your research to be sure your new business name is available and not already a registered trademark http://ndrichardson.com/blog/2012/09/18/protect-your-brands-value-trademark/. Good to go? Secure your new domain name and social media accounts.
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