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Business & Success

Quick Guide to Creating the Right Brand for Your Business (Guest Blog by Gemma Reeves)

The following post comes to us from Gemma Reeves, a freelance writer and entrepreneur. Learn more about Gemma in her bio at the end of the article. Be sure to learn more about her business here.


Quick Guide to Creating the Right Brand for Your Business

gemma guest blog

Any entrepreneur will tell you that establishing and growing your own business is by no means an “easy” career path. Once you have taken the initial steps to build a business model, tasks seem to rain down endlessly in front of you and you may neglect a few important things that greatly matter for your business, like branding.

Whether yours is a small or large business, serving local or international markets, branding is equally important. Creative and effective branding can give your business that edge against your competitors, which is of huge value especially when you are just getting started. Many business owners understand that branding is an essential part of their businesses, but can’t really put into words why.

Before the boom of digital advertising, businesses didn’t have to put as much effort into refining and reinventing their brand as much as they do now. Years ago, branding was simpler. Brands used names, slogans, logo designs, and other symbols that were a fairly obvious reflection of the products and services of the company. Today, these elements are still the basics of branding; however, brands as a whole have become far more sophisticated and less literal. They’re discrete, playful, creative and innovative.

What’s required now for a brand to stand out is it must tell a story, make people feel something and be remembered even when competing against the onslaught of advertisements we’re exposed to every day. In many different ways, a business’s brand drives lasting public perception that can lift you up or cause you to come crashing down.

Spectacular Marketing founder Mark McColluch states that, “You have a brand whether you like it or not. It’s best to embrace that and find the best way to connect your brand with your target audience.” The way your company answers phone calls, addresses customer concerns on social media, and supports the community are all a reflection of your brand.

Having a strong and effective brand is no mistake and its never by chance. Businesses who do this well have a strategy and a team dedicated to implementing this strategy, continuously refining it. More than simply “looking pretty,” the most effective brands achieve the following objectives:

  1. Clearly and consistently communicate the problem your business aims to solve
  2. Reinforce the values and credibility of your business
  3. Elicit the desired emotions from your target audience
  4. Move your target audience to take action (i.e. purchase your products or services)
  5. Make loyal customers
  6. Remain top of mind

Sounds great right? But how do you actually go about accomplishing this? The detailed blueprint to answer that question is far more than what we can summarize in this blog post; however we can offer you some initial and ongoing steps you should take to get started in the right direction. Take a look!

Develop Your Brand Strategy

A consistent and lasting brand is the result of strategy. This may take several months, and ongoing tweaking to reach its stride, but with time and effort you can build a solid branding strategy for your business.

Your strategy should include clear objectives and specific tactics to reach these objectives. It should also include the adjectives and emotions you want to evoke with your brand. How do you want to make your customers feel? What do you want to be known for? These keywords and phrases should drive the focus of your strategy and ultimately the design of your brand.

Research Your Competition

Branding is not just about your company. It’s extremely smart to also study your competitors’ branding strategy. How is the target audience responding to their brand? How does their branding compare to yours? How can you differentiate to stand out? These questions and more should be answered in your research. Most importantly, remember to do everything with integrity and authenticity. Getting dirty with your competitors will foremost reflect poorly on your business.

Be Consistent

Brand consistency is what results in your brand legacy. All too often businesses work to develop a consistent brand in one area of their outreach efforts, but fail to carry it over throughout every area. For example, the branding of your website should match your business cards, email signature, social media, email templates, marketing materials, etc.

Brands that remain consistent throughout time are more likely to gain a stable place in the market and more efficiently use their marketing resources. They don’t waste energy reinventing the wheel every time they roll out a new product or promotion, rather they know to always begin with their existing brand for design inspiration.

The Bottom Line

Anything worth doing is worth doing well. This absolutely applies to the branding of your business. Especially for new and growing businesses that face much competition, your brand can make you memorable, move people to take action and build a loyal customer base. Without a strong and consistent brand, your business will be washed away with each new wave of competition. The most effective way to prevent this from happening is to prioritize creating and implementing a branding strategy right from the start. In doing so, this early investment in your business will reap huge dividends months and years down the road!

Does your business prioritize its branding? Why or why not? Share your thoughts and expertise by commenting below!

gemma reevesGemma Reeves is a seasoned writer who enjoys creating helpful articles and interesting stories. She has worked with several clients across different industries such as advertising, online marketing, technology, healthcare, family matters, and more. She is also an aspiring entrepreneur who is engaged in assisting other aspiring entrepreneurs in finding the best office space for their business. Check out her company here: FindMyWorkspace

Married to an Entrepreneur: 8 Tips to Survive and Thrive

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I’m married to an entrepreneur. For many of you who can relate, you would understand how that alone can add a layer of complexity to balancing work and marriage. However, my husband can also say that he’s married to an entrepreneur, too. Yes, as fate would have it two entrepreneurial spirits found one another, amidst their own life’s chaos and fell in love.

In fact, I met Scott just weeks before I took my entrepreneurial leap. He was only 5 years into running his own nonprofit organization, and knowing how risky and challenging this journey can be, still whole-heartedly welcomed me into the tumultuous seas of entrepreneurship. “Jump in the water’s fine!”

Fortunately, taking that leap remains the most important moment in my career that has led me to now entering my seventh year as owner of Bennis Public Relations. In these seven years, I didn’t just grow my business, we also grew our family by two sweet (and very energetic) boys. Scott also ventured into two more businesses (as entrepreneurs tend to do), both startups requiring what feels like 300% of his time.

If you’re doing the math, between us that’s four businesses, two young children….and a partridge and a pear tree.

But in all seriousness, yes our schedules are sometimes crazy, yes we sometimes have challenging moments and overwhelming workloads, yes we sometimes wear many hats and have many masters to serve. But we’ve also established, and worked hard to achieve a pretty enjoyable life flow. I want to share with you how we (sometimes) do it all: grow businesses, chase after children, find time for date nights and get enough sleep to survive…sometimes.

For anyone else who can say “I’m married to an entrepreneur,” here’s my advice to you:

 1. Determine whose “day” it’s going to be. With two busy schedules, and when children are involved, you have to communicate important obligations (i.e. travel, work meetings, events) early and often. This helps to manage expectations and prevent any “Who’s going to watch the kids?” moments.

2. Never give unsolicited business advice. When I ask Scott about his day, he often shares the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s tempting to weigh in with advice on what he should do or could have done differently. While this can be appreciated at times, sometimes he or I just want to lament and have someone listen – not provide commentary. Our own ground rule is to never give unsolicited business advice. Often we solicit, but when we don’t, we try to respect this boundary.

3. Get on the same page about how you want to use your free time. It may be hard to believe, but we have many evenings or weekends where our schedules are completely open. I’ve found it so important to communicate how we each desire to use this time. Before doing so, I would often have a vastly different game plan for this time. Sometimes Scott would want to take a family day trip while I preferred to catch up on things around the house and relax. Sometimes I’d be ready to hangout while Scott needed to catch up on a quick work project. The outcome was frustration and disappointment. Usually over breakfast one of us brings up the question, “So what are your plans for tonight?” It’s made all the difference!

4. Don’t use each other as your sole sounding board. Similar to not giving unsolicited business advice, this tip falls more on the spouse who is the one actively seeking business advice. I’ve found that we are both able to get the support and encouragement we need when we don’t look solely to one another to provide this 100% of the time. This means seeking out friends and fellow business owners to also be a sounding board. After all, second (and third) opinions are a good thing.

5. Sacrifice for both your family and business. As a business owner, you have to make many sacrifices for your business – putting in long hours, investing your own funds and picking up the slack to name a few. What I have found to be so important is to also sacrifice for your family. This might mean letting some work pile up over the weekend or silencing a phone call over dinner to maintain the peace and necessity of family time. Family (and especially spouses) can feel neglected when they see you sacrifice endlessly for your business, yet see you struggle to do the same for your family.

6. Frequently assess your “life” plan. Everyone has a bad day, stressful week or disappointing month. However, if you see this as a growing trend, it’s time to take action. I firmly believe that you need to assess your “life” plan every so often, just as you would a business plan. This is where you should also involve your spouse to gauge how they have been feeling lately about the balance between family and work.

7. If something’s not working, fix it. Once you’ve assessed your life plan and found major areas that need improvement – do something about it! Adjust schedules, reassign responsibilities, outsource work, ask for help and prioritize family time. I promise you, if you don’t do this, things will only get worse.

8. Make time to enjoy the fruits of your labor! Most importantly, learn how to enjoy what you’ve worked so hard to earn. Scott and I went far too long without taking a weekend getaway, much less a real vacation together. When we finally did, wow what an experience! For so long we were used to the daily hustle, pinching every penny and using every spare moment to grow our business. If we ever got to do something together, it was often work-related for one of us. A true, work-free vacation, at least annually, is something that has brought us so much closer together and also encourages us to keep up the grind!

Whether you are married to an entrepreneur, an entrepreneur yourself or both, there are some unique challenges we face when it comes to balancing work and family. What piece of advice did you find most helpful? Do you have different advice to share?

Join in the conversation by leaving a comment!

The Best UX and SEO Practices for Your Multimedia Content

The Best UX and SEO Practices for Your Multimedia Content

When maintaining a company website, you don’t want to push out content blindly. Your marketing budget is not best spent on maintaining an online presence just for the sake of it. Rather, you want to strategically select your content to drive engagement and ultimately conversion.

Remember, the goal of your website is to generate leads, engage those leads, turn them into customers and further the relationship by nurturing loyalty to your brand. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to achieve all those things if you haphazardly put together a website and fill it with random and inconsistent content.

The Quickest Way to Push Away Customers

If it’s not easy and intuitive to find and navigate your business’s website, you substantially diminish your ability elicit action. If a visitor experiences slow loading time or struggles to make heads or tails of your website’s confusing interface, you can bet that they’ll leave your site within seconds.

According to Forrester Research, a well-designed user interface can boost your site’s conversion rate by up to 200%. Additionally, only 25% of users venture into the 2nd page of search results. Thus, the importance of a smooth user experience and a fully optimized website is impossible to ignore.

When prospects come to your site, you have mere seconds to make a good impression. Those few seconds are integral to capturing your leads’ attention, communicating your story and moving them into your sales pipeline. Simply put, a stellar interface and an optimized website must be paired with an equally stellar content strategy.

First and foremost, be aware that there is a wide array of content, each serving a unique purpose, that should be carefully considered to be part of your content strategy. Aside from highly valuable blog articles, customer stories/testimonials and white papers, visual content, like infographics, is highly effectively at quickly communicating your message and reaching key demographics. Candidly, visual content is something I know I need to work to increase in my own content strategy!

The Power of Visual Content

It’s estimated that 81% of users only skim content, making how you organize and present this content increasingly important. Moreover, studies have found that posts with images increase engagement rates by a whopping 650% compared to text-only posts. It’s also worth noting that video content attracts 3x more engagement than text-only posts.

Whether it be blog articles, images, infographics, videos, tutorials and animations, white papers, or podcasts, every type of content you produce must be optimized for your users as well as search engines. It’s a delicate balance between the two, but the end result is a substantially higher reach for your content that maximizes your marketing/public relations dollars.

Appealing to Customers vs. Search Engines: A Delicate Balance

Admittedly, optimizing your web content can prove challenging and time consuming. It takes technical know-how and a ton of analytics to process and apply into practice. Often, this sort of time and technique is not something many business owners have to spare. For clients whose business requires a highly technical content strategy, I often recommend they enlist the help of a creative agency to tackle this workload with efficiency and expertise, leaving the business owner more time to do what they do best. In this relationship, I serve as the project manager and lead content developer, who focuses on producing relevant, high quality content, while the creative/SEO agency focuses on the optimizing the content for search engines.

As I mentioned above, it’s a delicate balance and I can’t stress that enough. Speaking from the public relations side, you can’t overly conform your content to “play” the SEO game otherwise you risk producing content that is loaded with keywords and awkward sentences to fit these keywords, but loses its “human” element. While this content engages search engines, it will not engage your customers!

I hope this brief intro into developing an effective digital content strategy for your business has sparked some new ideas, and possibly some critical questions for you to consider. If you find yourself hungry for more insight, I recommend taking a look at this infographic by Micro Creatives on the best user experience and SEO practices for your multimedia content. Not only is it filled with valuable, easy-to-consume information, it also demonstrates the effectiveness of incorporating visual content into your overall strategy!

The Best UX and SEO Practices for Your Multimedia Content.

What burning questions have I left unanswered (I anticipate many!)? Start a conversation by asking your top one or two below. If it’s outside my expertise, I’m happy to enlist my network of SEO experts to chime in!

When Should You Outsource a Task?

when to outsource

As a PR consultant, I am most often the one helping businesses outsource their PR and communication strategies to lessen their workload. For a lot of reasons, I love the concept of outsourcing and believe that in specific scenarios it works beautifully! Business owners have more time to devote on business development and operations, while they know that their PR efforts are being consistently and professionally executed, sometimes even as they sleep!

I acknowledge that there are some scenarios where outsourcing isn’t the best option and can cause a disconnection and dysfunction in a business. Often this is the result of a lack of communication and leadership. What I’ve discovered through my experience with outsourcing is that there are three simple questions I must ask myself to determine if I should complete a task in-house, or seek the help of a contractor to outsource the task.

The following three questions will help change your life – both personally and professionally. Think of some of the tasks you are procrastinating from accomplishing right now. How would you answer these three questions about those tasks?

  1. Does it bring me joy or fulfillment?

Does the act of accomplishing a certain task bring you joy or fulfillment? Don’t focus on the end result here. Usually we are all happy to knock a task off our to-do list. What this question is asking is do you enjoy the actual act or process that leads to the accomplishment?

For example, I love having a clean home, but the act of cleaning my house, especially those nitty gritty corners, does not bring me joy or fulfillment. I drudge through this task, often doing less than a stellar job just to get mediocre results. I know people who absolutely love cleaning, it’s like a religious experience for them. For this very reason, I acknowledge that cleaning is a task I may choose to outsource. And I’ll reinforce this further with my next point.

  1. Is it the best use of my time?

Expanding upon the house cleaning example, I choose to outsource this task to a phenomenal cleaning lady who comes once a month, works for 3-4 hours tackling every room in the house, and provides all her own cleaning products. Her flat rate equals one hour of my billable time. Plus I don’t have to buy virtually any cleaning supplies! For me, cleaning my home is not the best use of my time, especially because it doesn’t bring my joy or fulfillment.

You may be able to think of a variety of other examples in your own personal or professional life that would yield a similar answer. It has nothing to do with feeling you are “above” a certain task. Again, refer to question number 1. If a task doesn’t bring you fulfillment and you can earn more money in the same time it takes to outsource it, don’t guilt trip yourself. Now consider this final question carefully.

  1. Does it help others?

I strongly believe everyone should use some of their time, each and every day, to help others. This can and will look very different for each of us. For some, it’s volunteer work for a cause you care about, for others it’s offering free professional advice with no intention of trying to profit from it. For others still, it’s providing someone else with the opportunity to do better in life. This can be through charitable donations, but also by creating opportunities for people to earn a good living using their God-given skills.

To draw a final parallel to my house cleaning example, I could certainly make time to accomplish this task myself. But it would mean one less client for a fellow small business owner. Rather, I enjoy compensating someone else, a fair and competitive rate, for the skills they are using to earn a living.

Years ago, as I was working hard to incubate my business and save every penny I could, I didn’t dare dream of outsourcing anything. Even after the business was producing stable profits, I struggled to break free from this mindset. Instead, I spent years doing everything I could to keep low overhead, both personally and professionally. Only in recent years, have I learned to enjoy the fruits of my labor and create a life that is far more enjoyable with outsourcing certain tasks. I urge you to thoughtfully consider the same.

Your answers to these three questions may surprise you, and as you run the numbers, you will find that outsourcing things you do not enjoy, that are not the best use of your time and that could help someone else instead, is a viable and valuable opportunity to spend more time doing what you love!

What tasks do you outsource in your life? What are your standards to determine if you should outsource? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment below!

5 Important Decisions for Every Entrepreneur (Contribution from Jock Purtle)

The following post comes to us from internet entrepreneur, Jock Purtle, who is founder of Digital Exits, a company specializing in the buying/selling and appraisal of online businesses. This article is based upon his entrepreneurial experience.


5 Important Decisions for Every Entrepreneur

For many, the hardest decision you will make as an entrepreneur is the first one: the decision to go out on your own. In today’s fiercely competitive marketplace, the idea of running a business can be intimidating, to say the least. But once you get over this hurdle and realize fear and hesitation are the only things standing in the way of you accomplishing your goals, you’re well on your way to entrepreneurial success.

As you likely already know, though, it’s not that simple. Getting started with your own company is like riding a roller coaster in the dark. Each up and down is intense, and it’s hard to know what’s coming next.

To try and make things a little easier, we’ve come up with a list of five decisions that every entrepreneur needs to make early on in the life of their company. By highlighting these, we hope you’ll be able to focus in a little more on what you need to be doing to make your company work so that you can weather the storm as it comes your way, worry a bit less and take one more step towards success.

The decision making will never end, and it will soon turn into your most critical task, but here are some key choices you’ll need to make right off the bat to set your company up for a healthy future.

 1. Your ideal customers

You’d be surprised how many entrepreneurs don’t take the time to clearly define their target audience. Often times, entrepreneurs are so excited about their idea that they don’t stop to think who might want to spend money on it. A good idea is a good idea, and there is likely a business to be built around it, but without clearly defining your target audience, the initial stages of your business will be a real challenge.

The important thing to remember when going through this process is to be as specific as possible. It’s not enough to just say you are hoping to target urban Millennials. Instead, put yourself in the shoes of your ideal customer and ask yourself how your product or service might factor into their life. What need are you fulfilling? Or, how are you making their life better or more comfortable?

By answering these questions, you will have a more specific idea as to who you need to be going after and how you are going to reach them. For example, you may find that your audience is men between the ages of 20-35 who live in cities, earn above-average salaries and have an active lifestyle. This is vital information, as it will help determine your marketing and advertising strategies going forward.

Furthermore, once you make this decision, a lot of other decisions will become easier. All you need to do is ask yourself: Is this going to help me reach my target audience? If the answer is yes, proceed. If no, then keep working. Taking the time to be very clear about this part of the business right from the beginning is an essential step to ensuring the success of the company.

2. Management style and company culture

While you as the entrepreneur may be the brains behind the operation, you’re fooling yourself if you think you can pull this off on your own. You are going to need to bring in a good team to help you get off the ground, and then once you do, you are going to need a growth plan. What types of employees are you looking for? Which ones are you trying to avoid?

A big part of this is also your management style. Are you going to run things more top-down? Or do you plan to be more decentralized, delegating certain decisions to those more qualified to make them?

You’ll also want to take a look at yourself as a leader and manager and figure out how to improve. There are plenty of things we do without realizing that affect how employees view us and act towards us, and you really won’t see this until you are in a position of leadership.

Take some time to figure out what you want your company culture to be. You may think of culture as something that develops organically, and to a certain extent it is, but you can have a significant impact on the direction it goes. A lot of companies are adopting a more laid-back approach, offering their employees more and more benefits, such as unlimited vacation time and free coffee of the month subscriptions, as a way of trying to foster engagement and buy-in. This may or may not be the right approach for you, and this is something you’ll want to figure out as soon as possible.

All of these things should be figured out in the beginning because as you grow it will be harder and harder to make time for this type of planning. Spend some time as you are getting started and you’ll find yourself managing growth much better, setting your company up for success in the future.

 3. Exit strategy

When first starting out with a company, the idea of an exit strategy seems far away. But it’s actually very important to consider. Planning out your exit strategy means thinking long-term. It allows you to align resources so that you can move forward at the right time.

An exit strategy can come in the form of an initial public offering (IPO), a sale or a merger, but the thing to remember is that you don’t actually need to implement the strategy. If things are going well, you have every freedom to stay with the business. But plotting out from the beginning how you might exit gets you thinking big picture and this can only help your business.

Plus, having a clearly defined exit strategy plays very well with investors. They want to know how they are going to get their money, and demonstrating to them how this will happen increases your chances of securing the resources you need to get your company off the ground and heading towards prosperity.

 4. Marketing and branding

It’s never too early to start thinking about branding. In today’s competitive marketplace, having a strong brand is going to be what ultimately sets you apart. Much like the decisions you’ll make about company culture, choosing your branding strategy needs to be one of the first things you do.

Figure out what makes you unique, determine what you want to stand for and do some research to figure out the best way to communicate this to people. Social media is huge for building your brand, and if your target audience uses this medium, you may want to consider hiring an agency or consultant to help you.

In fact, this may be one of the best decisions you make as an entrepreneur. Successful marketing requires a full-time approach, and too many small companies try to do it on their own, only to end up wasting their precious resources without seeing results. It’s your job to do the high-level strategic thinking. Then, bring in some experts to help you execute your plan.

5. Cybersecurity

Here’s one not too many entrepreneurs think about, and it’s a real shame that they don’t. Cybercrime and hacking is the threat of the future, and small businesses are being increasingly targeted. They’re easier to get to, as they don’t always invest in the right protection, but they still possess valuable information. And the damage a hack causes to your reputation is often far too much for any small company to overcome.

Figure out how you’re at risk and what you need to do to protect yourself. Cybersecurity infrastructures can be expensive, and the last thing you want to do is to have to shut down your website or other services so that you can install new security measures. Don’t let cybersecurity become an afterthought. You’ll pay for it down the road.

Final thoughts

From the moment you decided to become an entrepreneur, you essentially converted yourself into a full-time decision maker. As the business grows, you will be faced with increasingly challenging choices, but with experience, you’ll learn what’s best for your business. However, until you reach this point, things can be a bit stressful. Consider these critical decisions every entrepreneur needs to make so that you can start your business heading in the right direction.

Join in the conversation! Among these five decisions an entrepreneur must make, which one do you feel is the most critical?

About the author: Founder of Digital Exits, Jock Purtle is an internet entrepreneur who specializes in the buying/selling and appraisal of online businesses. He began investing in websites as a hobby when he was a teenager, but it slowly turned into his full-time job. He works with other entrepreneurs frequently and enjoys sharing his knowledge to help others find similar success working for themselves.

How to Get More Positive Customer Reviews on Social Media

social media reviewWe live in a day and age when most people turn to technology to answer just about any question they have. Siri, Google and Alexa are usually within arm’s or ear’s reach to answer everything from “What’s the weather in Seattle on Wednesday” to “When was George Washington’s birthday?”

Not receiving immediate input on something drives us crazy! Think about the last time you couldn’t recall an artist or song title. You likely went straight to technology to provide an answer, rather than waiting for it to eventually come to you.

Let’s not forget about social media. We spend an increasing amount of time on social platforms where we absorb a wide variety of information from life’s most previous milestones to utterly useless, yet highly entertaining videos and articles. What’s important about social media to ecommerce businesses is its influence over people’s buying habits. And while sponsored posts and advertising campaigns will continue to be highly influential, people will still gravitate toward a business’s customer reviews on social media before they ultimately purchase a product.

According to this infographic created by 16Best.net on “Social Networks and their importance in Ecommerce Gateways,” positive social media reviews increase the conversion rate by 133% for mobile shoppers. Additionally, the more people that positively respond to reviews through comments and likes help to improve the brand perception for 71% of shoppers. Positive product reviews also bump up a product price by 9.5%.

how social reviews increase sales

It’s clear that positive customer reviews on social media pack a powerful punch for increasing brand value. But this begs one very important question…What can I do to get more positive customer reviews on social media?

  1. Foremost, focus on delivering exceptional service. Don’t fall into the trap of misplacing your focus on simply collecting as many customer reviews as possible. Your primary focus should be on delivering quality and satisfaction to your customers. As a result, these happy customers are going to be far more inclined to take the time to leave a review.
  2. Make your product review process easy and immediate for customers. Identify your most influential social media platform and direct your customers to leave reviews there. Customers don’t have the patience to leave reviews on 5 different sites, so be sure your call to action is clear and direct. Next, make sure you spell out the process for them in minimal steps. If you email them asking to leave a review, include links directly to the page to leave a review. Keep it short, make it easy and you will earn more customer reviews on a consistent basis!
  3. Give customers an incentive. We live in a “What’s in it for me?” culture. Applying this to customer reviews means to want to offer an incentive to leave a timely and helpful review of your product. Some business offer a discount or free sample as a thank you. Think about what’s feasible for your business and be sure to promote this incentive.
  4. Don’t expect it to happen organically. Very few customers take it upon themselves to offer a product review without any sort of ask or reminder to do so from the business. Furthermore, these unsolicited reviews tend to be polarizing – either very positive or very negative – because those extreme cases are when most people feel the need to provide a review. Don’t miss out on the “silent majority” by failing to directly solicit customer reviews as part of your marketing strategy.
  5. Monitor and respond to customer reviews. Make sure that someone in your business is assigned to monitoring customer reviews. For the positive ones, respond with a thank you or possibly follow-up with the customer to see if they have the potential to be a brand ambassador. For negative reviews, also be sure to follow-up quickly to address any issues and right the customer’s wrongs. In doing so, the customer may choose to leave a follow-up review that’s positive. If nothing else, other people browsing your reviews will see your commitment to customer service which will counteract the review’s negative impact.
  6. Show gratitude! Thank each and every customer for their review, either by commenting on the review or sending them a follow-up email. If you choose to implement an incentive program, this provides the perfect opportunity to touch base with the customers and offer thanks when you provide them with their discount or sample product.
  7. Integrate customer reviews into your marketing strategy. After investing your time, and possibly some free products to build up your customer reviews on social media, be sure to get the most out of them by integrating your reviews into your ongoing marketing strategy. You may choose to share some of the reviews on your website, in e-newsletters or feature them as part of your paid social media advertising campaigns. Given how influential customer reviews are to ecommerce, you want to put a spotlight on the great ones to increase the impact they have on new customers.

Are you struggling to engage your customers to consistently leave reviews on your social media pages? Share your hurdles or ask a question so we can help lend some advice!

How to Win Back a Client

how to win back a client

Clients will come and go. If you are a contractor or consultant, you know that it’s a way of life. Often this will be an obvious and amicable parting once a client no longer needs your services. However there will also be times when a client leaves you, possibly for another consultant or because they believe they can handle the services in house. This kind of parting can leave you a little sad and sore, as it feels unexpected or unnecessary.

But I want to share some good news.

Throughout my career as a public relations consultant, I’ve had many clients, who once paused services or parted ways, return for a variety of reasons. These returns are a wonderful surprise and for a long time I chalked it up to luck. However, it’s much more than luck. It’s the way you run your business that keeps a former client’s coals burning, awaiting to reignite the fire upon their return.

Today I share with you some steps you can take to win back a former client. The most important idea to keep in mind is that winning back a client isn’t merely what you say when you re-pitch them your services, it’s everything you do in the interim of your relationship leading up to this reengagement. Take a look!

Part on Good Terms

This first step is critical. To the extent it is realistically possible, you should try to part with each client on good terms. Be understanding, offer them access to any materials or information that is rightfully theirs and help with the transition process to a new employee or consultant who will be taking over your work, if asked to do so. If this isn’t feasible or they choose to completely shut you out, it’s a good indication this isn’t a client you’ll want to work with again in the future anyways.

Leave the Door Open

Once you part on good terms, you should also make sure they know your door is always open to them. Weeks, months or years later they may have a question for you. Remain accessible and attentive to their needs (so long as it doesn’t require more than a few minutes of your time). This demonstrates, professionalism and class. Knowing your door is open makes it easier to return without feeling like you will shame them for it.

Touch Base in a Non-Salesy Way

There may come a time when an article or piece of information emerges that reminds you of that client. Use this as an opportunity to touch base with them by offering something other than a sales pitch. Believe me, this is exceptionally refreshing! For example, maybe you find an article that offers helpful advice to a problem they frequently encountered or maybe it’s a piece of news announcing a new trend in their industry. Share this with a thoughtful note. Wish them well and leave it at that. This is a seed that I have seen blossom into a new working relationship time and time again.

Check in On Their Progress

If you find yourself thinking about that client, check in on them to see if they are maintaining the progress you used to help with. Have they kept a consistent presence on social media? When is the last time they published a blog? If you’re still on their email list, what’s the last communication you received? If all of these efforts have gone radio silent, you have a solid reason to move onto what about I’m about to suggest next.

Remind Them How You Can Help

Call or email that client with a direct offer. This time it is essentially a sales pitch. Be sure to complement any efforts they are maintaining or improving. Then call attention to the items you noticed were lacking. Remind them that you used to help them maintain these critical efforts and that you’d welcome the opportunity to talk with them about assisting them in a similar way again. You just might hit them at a time where they feel like they can’t get their head above water and you will be a welcome source of help. What’s the worst they can say? No?

Offer Advice, No Strings Attached

If a past client should ever reach out to you asking for a simple piece of advice (i.e. it should only take a few minutes of your time to answer), be open to sharing your expertise a time or two. For the couple of minutes it takes you to answer their questions, you could open up the door to a renewed client in the future. It’s extremely smart from a business development standpoint! If you find they have A LOT of questions for you, offer a meeting. In person you can make a case for the benefit of your expertise and how an ongoing relationship would again benefit you both.

Be Responsive

Finally and most importantly, be respectful and responsive, even if this person is no longer an active client. Demonstrating these qualities, regardless of whether you are receiving a paycheck, speaks highly to your reputation. It will also remind the client of how nice it is to work with someone who is competent and responsive. Many times I have clients return because they realize that responsiveness is not a quality every consultant possesses. Many skills can be trained, responsiveness/reliability really isn’t one of them.

Have you ever won back a client? What steps did you take? Share your experience by leaving a comment below!

 

How to Use Data to Improve Your Public Relations and Marketing Strategy

data

We have more data available to us now than we ever had before. While this sounds like it should enable us to create stunningly sophisticated public relations and marketing campaigns that are fine tuned to attract our target audience, I have found that rarely is the case.

Rather, I often meet clients when they are completely overwhelmed by the data available to them. Instead of doing anything with it, they spend hours reviewing each morsel until they’re simply paralyzed by the thought of making a meaningful assessment of it. The following phase is frustration. Where do I find my data? What data really matters? How do I analyze my data? And what do I do with my analysis?

These are all valid questions and ones I aim to answer in this blog. What I’m about to say might shock you and that is that data alone will not be what makes – or breaks – your public relations and marketing strategy. While data absolutely plays an important role, don’t let it overwhelm you to the point you feel you aren’t qualified to learn how to extract its most important information – quickly and easily. Let me show you how!

Where do I find my data?

As you might have already learned, and the reason you’re reading this blog, is that data is available to you just about everywhere these days. “Analytics” for your website, “insights” for your social media profiles, “statistics” for your blogs and then you can get into highly sophisticated and targeted data tracking like heat mapping for your website and much more.

My point is not to make you feel like you need to be monitoring all of this data each and every day, rather I simply want you to be aware that data is available virtually everywhere you have an online presence. By first learning how different platforms refer to and present their data to you, you will have taken the first major step toward taming the “data monster” and turning it into a powerful ally for your business.

What data really matters?

Who is you target audience and what do you want to know about their behaviors? The data that shows you this is the data you should pay the most attention to. Say I am a local plumbing business what a small service area that’s about a 60 mile radius. I look to Google analytics to tell me who is visiting my website and if they are people who reside within my service area. If I find that a large percentage of my pay-per-click (PPC) ads are pulling in people from 100+ miles away, this data matters to me a lot! Why? It means I need to refocus my PPC campaign to target only people in my service area. If I don’t, I’m throwing money away on clicks from people who I’ll reasonably never take on as customers.

It all ties back to your PR and marketing strategy. Knowing your ideal customer allows everything else to fall into place. If you’re looking to hit millennials, you’re going to place a higher value on your Instagram insights than your Linkedin business page. Know your audience and you will know the data that really matters.

How do I analyze my data?

First, you need to establish a baseline. What is “normal” traffic to your website or interactions on your social media? Spend a few months first tracking what takes place prior to implementing anything drastic. What do these results tell you? If you’re like most small businesses, these results are going to be pretty boring, even borderline depressing.

Now the fun begins! Based on your PR and marketing strategy (because everything, and I mean everything you do should align with this), you may start to roll out a social media advertising campaign, contest or promotion, or a Google AdWords campaign. Give it 30-60 days and compare your new data against your baseline. What changed? What didn’t? You’re likely to be surprised by the answers to both of these questions. This is when you need to take your data analysis and use it to refine your PR and marketing strategy. And this brings us to…

What do I do with my analysis?

So you’ve made it to the point of actually analyzing your data on a regularly basis. You’re on your way! You will likely have identified quite a number or trends, good and bad, that you want to adjust in some way or another. But what changes need to take place and how do they fit into your overall PR and marketing strategy? This is a critical question to answer!

Let’s look at an example. By tracking and analyzing your blog’s traffic over the last quarter, you see that two of your blog posts received substantially more views than the rest. You dive deeper into the data to find most of the traffic was because another website linked out to these posts from their own blog. Without looking at the data, you might not have known your blog got a back link! Seeing that this website gave your blog a new burst of traffic, you should reach out to the owner and start a conversation. Work to build a relationship with them where you can collaborate on future blogs and cross-promote them to your audiences. Though driven by data, ultimately it’s the human relationships that result from the data that are most valuable.

Here’s another example to consider. When analyzing your Facebook insights, you see that a recent photo you shared of your staff got a significantly higher engagement from your fans than other posts that shared things like links to other articles, quotes or a promotion. Take note! Your fans appreciate seeing the “human” side of your business and want more of it. Change up your social media content calendar to include more personal photos of you and your staff, biographies and the story of how your business started.

While these are two pretty brief examples, I hope they give you inspiration for how you might take the analysis of key data and turn it into beneficial change for your business. Though we would be foolish to ignore the data available to us, be careful you don’t lose focus – or common sense. Data is merely one of many tools we must learn to use appropriately. Consistency, quality and authenticity should always remain the backbone of your business’s PR and marketing strategy.

How do you incorporate the analysis of data into your public relations and marketing strategy? Share whether this is something you do – or don’t do well and why!

Facebook’s Latest Changes Favors Person-to-Person Contact – and You Should Too!

Facebook changes

In a video announcement released by Facebook earlier this month, Mark Hull, Director of Product Management, opens by saying “People come to Facebook to connect with the people who matter to them.” The video goes on to explain that over the next year Facebook intends to implement a series of changes to alter the way we receive and interact with the content that comes across our newsfeeds.

My first reaction was that this would be some new marketing strategy to enable businesses, and maybe even individuals, to promote their content in a highly targeted and intensive way. However, it’s quite the opposite!

Rather, it appears that Facebook has done their homework and came to the same, glaring conclusions as the rest of society (whether we choose to fully acknowledge it yet or not). And that is we have become, for the most part, addicted to social media in a serious and life-changing way. At minimum, scrolling through Facebook and taking in everyone else’s highlight reel causes us to feel negative about our own lives. From there, it can quickly progress to people who weigh their entire self-worth by their social media engagements and suffer severe depression and anxiety as a result.

Social media is the drug of choice for many, and Facebook has taken responsibility for helping us rehab from this. While I see these changes as having real potential for positive change, it’s important that we, the users, understand the method for how things show up in our newsfeed so that we can (somewhat) take control of what we’re exposed to.

In light of the changes Facebook plans to implement over the coming year, here are 5 things we must learn to do differently to attain the best (and by that I mean healthiest) user experience.

Prioritize your person-to-person contact.

Sometimes I login to Facebook with the intent of seeing how my friends and family have spent their weekend and all of a sudden I’ve spent an hour watching “Tasty” videos of instructions for how to make casseroles and cheesecakes. Can you relate? Facebook has identified that most of us get sucked into viral videos and articles that have nothing to do with our personal community. While this content is fun temporarily, their research has proven that it’s harmful long-term.

This next step is going to be hard, but when scrolling through your newsfeed try to pay the most attention to your connections personal shares of photos and posts – a family selfie, photo album from a recent vacation or a call for advice on a topic. By scrolling to, and spending more time looking at this content, you will help Facebook better curate a more personal and meaningful newsfeed for you. The next step builds upon this further…

Engage with the content – if you like it, show it!

When you come to personally shared content that you enjoy, take the minimal extra effort to click the “like” button. It’s silly how challenging or awkward that feels for most of us. For example, my Facebook connections have grown quite a bit over the years from just my closest friends who I’ve spent years of my life getting to know, to people that are maybe one or two degrees removed from a friend and quite likely I’ve met them once in person, if at all.

I enjoy growing my network, but I don’t feel close enough to all my contacts to engage with their content. This shouldn’t hold me back! I’ve seen relationships grow through mainly Facebook interaction where you do start to feel like you know the other person. So long as you’re not crossing any major “stalking” boundaries, people will appreciate your likes and comments. I know I love seeing how people engage with my content, and we could all do a better job of reciprocating.

Why this is important for Facebook’s new changes is that the more you engage with your contacts, the more you will see these contacts show up in your newsfeed, and vice versa. Again back to curating your own newsfeed, you can help customize what you want to see more of by showing Facebook what you enjoy.

Put effort into your communication.

Facebook is now telling us that engaging with content through likes is good, but commenting is great. It takes maybe one whole second to react to post and throw a thumbs up or heart up there. But by taking the time to write a couple sentences in the comment section shows Facebook this is a genuine connection, someone who you feel comfortable engaging with on this level.

As a result, these interactions will be ranked higher than a mere post like. What hopefully will result is that people will be inspired to start a dialogue with one another, even if it’s through private messenger. This is way better than everyone posting photos of their “highlight reel” which, whether intentionally or unintentionally, can make people feel pretty bad about the reality of their own lives.

Don’t be a passive scroller – it’s for your own good!

All of this being said, you “passive scrollers” out there won’t be doing yourselves any favors by standing in a corner. You’ll need to jump in and engage your contacts if you want to have some control over whose content you see most often in your newsfeed.

Some of my newer friends to Facebook, who haven’t felt comfortable reaching out to request contacts beyond their own family, often complain that their newsfeed is filled with just one or two people who post “all the time.” The reality is, if you only have 30 Facebook friends and 5 of them post once or more per day, you’re going to feel like they are bombarding your newsfeed. If you really want more variety in your newsfeed, you need to grow your Facebook connections. You should still be careful with how you do this, but if you open up a bit, you’ll realize that friending a co-worker is not the same as giving them keys to your house. Be authentic in real life and on social media and you will have nothing to hide.

Login with a purpose and a time limit.

Here’s a novel idea. Get serious about limiting your exposure to social media. This is easier said than done, I know. I would likely be appalled by the number of hours I spent on Facebook that I don’t even account for.

Here’s my challenge to you, if you really want to reduce the negativity and anxiety of being dependent upon social media for entertainment. Establish a purpose for surfing Facebook and set a time limit. Your purpose doesn’t have to be “marketing my business” (and that’s a pet peeve of mine that will have to be a whole other blog series). It can still be completely social, but at least login knowing your purpose. For example, maybe you want to catch up with a friend you haven’t reached out in a while. Don’t just stalk their profile, send them a message or comment on their latest post! Or maybe you need some parenting advice or a recommendation for an HVAC company. Though still social, these purposes lead your mindset and your engagement on social media and keep you from getting lost down a Buzzfeed rabbit hole.

Through these changes, Facebook actually anticipates the time their users spend on the platform to decrease! However, they feel the time users do spend on Facebook will result in a healthier, more positive experience.

How do you feel about these changes to how Facebook shares, and favors, content? Do you think it will be an enhancement to user experience, a setback to businesses or a little of both?

Jump in the conversation!

7 Public Relations Tactics You Need to Implement in 2018

7 Public Relations Tactics You Need to Implement in 2018If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the thought of all the new strategies you think you need to implement into your business plan in 2018, I urge you to step back, take a breath and find a clear focus on what’s going to really make a difference in your business.

You don’t have to do it all! In fact, you simply can’t. If you have a limited amount of time and resources to devote to your public relations strategy this year, you need to prioritize these seven tactics that will give you the biggest bang for your buck. Here’s what they are!

  1. Get serious about collecting customer contact information

All too often I meet with clients who are excited to finally implement an email marketing strategy to reach their customers. The glaring problem? They have failed to consistently collect this contact information over the years! Right now is absolutely the best time to develop your process for compiling customers’ names and emails. Even if you’re not quite ready to roll out regular emails to them, you will never regret having their contact information for future use!

  1. Position yourself as a thought-leader

Is one of your business goals for 2018 to rise above your competition as the go-to resource for information related to your industry? You know, do you want to be considered a “master of your craft?” If so, you need to have a strategy for positioning yourself as a thought-leader. You can achieve this through many different means, and in fact, it’s important that you approach it from all angles so that you’re reaching people in multiple ways.

Look to social media platforms like Linkedin where you can tailor your profile content and the articles you publish to achieving this goal. Speak like an expert! Regularly post content to your website and social media profiles that shares timely, insightful information on changes and trends taking place in your industry. Join group discussions where you can ask and answer questions. The more you put yourself out there and engage with other people, the more you will build a name for your personal and professional brand.

  1. Refresh your website content

Think of it like spring cleaning for your brand! If you haven’t reviewed and refreshed your website content in the last 12 months, it’s time to dust it off! Think of how you have grown since the time you wrote this content. You’ve likely gained new clients, added new services or hired new employees. Maybe you’ve restructured your business model entirely! All of these reasons, and many more, are why you need to refresh your website content in 2018. It doesn’t have to be a complete overhaul either. A few tweaks here and some updates there will quickly bring your content up to speed, increase your SEO and more accurately reflect the current state of your business.

  1. Have a strategy for self-promotion

To successfully use public relations strategies to benefit your business, you need to get comfortable with self-promotion. If you’re not promoting your accomplishments, successes and awards, I promise you that not one else will either. This year, commit to tastefully and tactfully enhancing your brand by calling attention to notable achievements. There are a variety of PR tactics to accomplish this, and it will mostly depend upon what you’re promoting and your target audience. You can send out press releases, host a press conference, make it part of your email newsletter, showcase it on your website, post it to social media and much more. What’s most important it that you keep an eye out for opportunities to promote yourself – and take them!

  1. Be prepared to handle a crisis

On any given day, you will see a new scandal or crisis come across the news cycle. Whether this has to do with the business as a whole, or one of the employees, not having a plan to respond to such a crisis can have devastating effects. This year, get serious about mapping out your crisis communication strategy, both internally and externally. It doesn’t have to be an extensive document, but it needs to answer key questions such as who will serve as the spokesperson, will you issue a press release, how will you communicate what’s going on internally, how will you communicate with the public that the problem is being appropriately handled. Anticipate the most common crises your particular business is at risk of experiencing and outline some key talking points in advance. You’ll be extremely grateful to have thought this through prior to a crisis occurring.

  1. Focus on the social media that matters

You can’t do it all and do it well. As the world of social media continues to expand at a rapid rate, you will need to get strategic about where you choose to devote your time. This year, narrow your focus to only the social media platforms that reach your target audience. Be realistic about the time you can devote to maintaining your social media presence. Do your research to understand the demographics each type of social media hits as well as the best practices for effectively engaging your audience. If it doesn’t align with your goals, don’t waste your time here!

  1. Get professional help

While the struggles and stresses of business ownership might make you feel like you need to see a therapist some days, this isn’t the kind of professional help I’m referring to here. Rather, this year I urge you to really assess the value of your time and how it is best spent. Hiring a professional PR consultant to help with strategy and implementation could be a very wise investment. Their years of experience and relationships in the PR field will yield far greater results than what you could achieve on your own. Moreover, your time is better spent focusing on business development and operations, so that when implemented, the PR tactics drive customers to a thriving business that is equipped to handle their requests.

Which of these seven public relations tactics do you plan to implement in your own business in 2018? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment below!