In the early days of a start-up, you have to wear pretty much every hat possible. You have to develop your products, sell and support them, keep your accounts and other legal documentation up to date, and never take your eyes off cash flow. All of which, plus managing a few people, takes up lots of time and energy.
Marketing is one of those things that are a bit ethereal. It’s not concrete. It doesn’t deliver immediate results. It’s so intangible that it’s easy to push it to another day. Isn’t it?
You may want to reconsider doing that. Ignoring your marketing could be the biggest risk to your company’s survival. There’s still time to get started though, if you keep a few of these tips in mind.
Establishing a professional website is important for every business even if you aren’t selling your products online. Your website is the biggest first impression you have for potential customers searching for your services, and it will either convert visitors into real customers or send them looking elsewhere. Make sure that your company has an updated and easy to navigate site that showcases your business in the best possible light. Here are four factors to consider when evaluating the kind of website you have.
Your website should be appealing.
Much like the traditional retail storefront, customers want an experience with a company website that is organized, easy to use and helpful, convenient, and uncluttered. All of the necessary information should be easy to find on your website. Once customers have reached your home page, they should be able to find what they are looking for in a reasonable amount of time. If your website is cluttered with too many ads and irrelevant material, they’re more likely to feel overwhelmed and go to another site instead.
This week we thought it’d be a good idea to look at one of the most important parts of a product’s branding, its trade dress. You are affected by trade dress every single day, whether you realize it or not. If we describe a white coffee cup with a green circle on it, you’ll know it’s from Starbucks. Or if we show you a bag with a red square and yellow arches, you’ll think McDonalds. Essentially, trade dress is the various characteristics that make up a product’s or package’s appearance. But how do you protect your own trade dress? And does building a brand mean marrying that packaging?
We bet you still know what company this is.
Why should you build trade dress recognition?
Because your company needs a way to immediately distinguish itself. Your brand embodies all of the goodwill and trust you’ve built into your company, and something as simple as a color, font, or even the shape of your product’s box can evoke all of those feelings within whatever customer is looking at your product. That’s why you want your trade dress to be consistent over all of your properties. Your logo, signage, site, and product packaging should all be built around some common element that inextricably ties your business with your product or service.
Some companies will stop at nothing to gain an edge on their competitors and this has led to some of the most outrageous marketing stunts the world has ever seen. The following highlights weird ways brands have marketed their businesses – sometimes successfully, others times not, and one horrible fail that will undoubtedly leave you shaking your head.
1. Winning Wiener: Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs
When he opened his hot dog stand at Coney Island in the 1920s, Nathan Handwerker struggled to find customers. Hot dogs were relatively new, and cheap meats were eyed with suspicion. Undercutting other vendors only made matters worse, as customers didn’t trust what Nathan was serving them. An idea he hatched was he would give hot dogs away to doctors and nurses (when there were none around, he would have bums dress up as doctors and nurses in exchange for hot dogs). Thus, the public would see what appeared to be medical professionals enjoying Nathan’s hot dogs, and Nathan instantly won their trust. The business prospered for decades.
2. Super Sonic Yoga
Successful businesses require risks and Sonic Yoga’s Jonathan Fields took a huge one in 2001 when he pitched a story about the scientific health benefits of yoga to Self Magazine. Fields recruited a college to conduct the study and he pitched the story to multiple editors. When interviewed for Self, he was told that it was too bad Sonic Yoga didn’t have a yoga video to sell. Without missing a beat, Fields informed the reporter that they indeed have a video in post-production, so Self was free to put that information in the article.
There was a time when big brands had a lot of control over how they were perceived and how they were portrayed in the media. Consumers had limited options when it came to communicating with brands, and the companies themselves had the power to create demand for products simply through being good at PR. Those days ended with the advent of widespread internet access and the rise of social media. Today, the power is in the hands of the consumer.
People now expect to be able to have two-way conversations with brands. Bad products are ridiculed, and news of poor customer service or unethical business practices spreads quickly. Good news travels fast too, and even small gestures can go viral and have a huge impact on your brand’s bottom line. There is also a new generation of influencers in the form of bloggers, YouTube users and internet celebrities – and any bad experiences they have with a brand will be shared with their followers and are sure to make a big impact there.
There was a time when word of mouth was the best way to spread the buzz surrounding a service or a product to potential customers. Now more than ever, word of mouth advertising has come back into vogue through social media. By harnessing the power of tweets via Twitter and status updates on Facebook, you can inspire your current customers to make peer recommendations to their friends and neighbors, which increases the bottom line of your brand for the long term.
If your company has little or no money available for advertising or marketing, social media represents a powerful tool to get the word out about your product or service. A customer referral from a satisfied patron to his or her friends can carry far more weight than even the most persuasive or expensive advertising. Best of all, you can launch and manage highly effective social media campaigns without blowing your company’s budget.
By encouraging your present customers to spread the word about the great products and services you have to offer, you can save money on advertising, while generating trust among potential customers. As a result, you can concentrate your time, effort and money into producing the best possible products and services. With the winning combination of excellent offerings and trusted peer referrals, your company has a better chance of enjoying a healthy profit margin now and in the future.
Not everybody is attracted by prospect of jobs with fat pay packages, especially if they have a desire to live life on own terms. There are numerous examples of people starting small sized ventures at home which blossomed into large companies in long run. PC giant HP’s founders started operating from a garage in Palo Alto and it grew into one of the world’s leading IT giants. If you have an entrepreneur’s spirit and teamwork and customer service skills, starting up your own business may be the best option.
However, you may want to try venturing into lesser known niche areas to make a mark for yourself and the company. Rather than joining an industry laden with cutthroat competition, changing taste of consumers and other hiccups, you may tread into uncharted territories and tap the potential.
Love him or hate him, you must admit that Vito Corleone, head of the fictional New York crime family in the film The Godfather, adeptly built a thriving “business.” Nefarious goals and bloody outcomes aside, what can we learn from him about effective business operations?
1. Branding is in the details. The Godfather without strong branding would have been nothing more than a petty criminal with an annoying voice. Instead, he built a rock solid brand, a reputation that was paramount to his success. No detail went unnoticed in establishing his powerful presence, from his dark attire, to the mood lighting in his office, to the theatrical application of that gravelly mumble. In today’s business environment, branding is the difference between being remembered and getting lost in the fray. A successful brand should be carefully crafted and bolstered with attention to detail similar to Corleone’s, including staff selection, wardrobe choices, even the font in your emails.
As the owner of a small business, you know what it’s like to have a lot on your plate. Some days, it may feel as if you need a small army in place just to keep up with the way you need to market and brand yourself – not to mention making a profit and paying attention to your customers! Well, I’ve got a secret to share with you: you don’t need an army. All you need is a thirst for knowledge. The trick is to stay on top of trends and when things move, move with them!
Working in the marketing industry, I’ve come to understand that it is never about one thing or the other, it is about how all of the pieces of the puzzle come together to form the big picture. Ten years ago, your business might have gotten by with some television commercials and perhaps an advertisement or two in your local newspaper, but times have changed – how can you compete and stay on top today?
In today’s marketplace, branding via company websites and social media pages is the name of the game. By engaging in conversations with real people online, you take control of your brand’s web image and make your customers feel confident that they can expect great service and individual attention from you both in the physical and digital worlds. However, when you start to interact with those real people, you’re also going to find out very quickly that some of them are a bit more… colorful in the way they express themselves.
This kind of thing didn’t matter when it happened in a one-on-one interaction in a store or over the phone with customer service, but the internet works differently. A profane or otherwise inappropriate comment is something that lives on your site or company page once someone has posted it there. Leaving it there for the world to see is a way of saying, “I’m okay with having my company seen like this.”
Depending on the goals of your business, that may be a big mistake. Here are several ways that profane user content can impact your brand.