A Picture May Be Worth 1,000 Words, But In Marketing It’s Stories That Sell

Small Business marketing strategy rule number one

Un_Standard presents small business marketing strategy rule number one. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but in marketing it’s stories that sell. How many times have you had to endure the trauma of sitting through a presentation of dull PowerPoint slides filled with data dumps or spreadsheets spreadsheets that make your eyes hurt.
If you’re like me, after ten minutes of putting on the front that you are actually paying attention, your mind starts to wander to all of the tasks at hand that need to be accomplished, how many tiles are on the ceiling, or any other distraction to ease the pain of boredom? People react to emotion, compelling stories to form an emotional connection between the presenter and the audience. After all, consumers are motivated by emotion and the best way to connect is by putting the message into context so that the audience grasps the message. Once upon a time…

When we trudge through dry factual arguments, we have our defenses up. When we are absorbed in a story, we drop that front and allow our emotions to take hold. And emotions are what connects us and drives us as consumers.

People relate to honest stories

Every business has an inspiration, and a story behind the way that the business came in to being. Essentia Mattresses is a company that was founded because a family member of the founder and CEO had cancer. The doctors said that the cancer could have likely come about from exposure to everyday toxins from household items…like mattresses. And with that experience, Essentia Mattresses was born. A heart-wrenching story and the motivating story behind the creation of their organic mattresses. Instead of using the small business marketing strategy to position themselves as the first company to offer a natural memory foam mattress, Essentia made the conscious decision to incorporate the story into their brand and marketing efforts. And in a short space of time, they went from being a small online business to generating millions in revenue and eventually opening brick-and-mortar stores with plans for expansion.

Even if you think you don’t have a compelling story to tell in your small business marketing strategy, chances are you have a story that will relate with the ones you’re trying to reach. A good story must be relatable, no matter how mundane it may seem at first. You probably aren’t the first person to have an idea. And you aren’t the last. We all have competition. And those people who will be purchasing your products or services want experiences. Experiences are made through connections, and told through stories. Be sure to use those stories as the foundation of your small business marketing strategy.

And they all lived happily ever after. The end.

Time For A Marketing Makeover

There comes a point in any marketing campaign when it is time for a marketing makeover. It keeps things fresh and gets the attention of those that you want to (when done properly). One of the easiest places to start with your marketing makeover is with your online presence. If you need to spruce up your marketing, then creating a compelling web presence is a good place to start.

When refreshing your online presence, it is important to carefully think about your content. Plan ahead and make sure that your presence is cohesive. Create content that is relevant to your small business. Choose about ten topics that you think will be relevant to your readers (and customers) and create content around those topics. Set up a calendar so that you update your content on a regular basis. And stick to it (believe me, we can be guilty of not sticking to our editorial calendar).

WordPress is a fantastic way to manage your small business presence online. It’s intuitive, it’s popular and there are millions of options for how you can customize it. And better yet, WordPress is pretty SEO friendly. There are a host of plugins for WordPress that can help boost your SEO.

WordPress SEO

WordPress SEO – this is a really handy resource when it comes to reminding you to include all of the things that you need for better SEO when you write your articles. Having this plugin really helps you be smarter with SEO on your site.

Contextual Related Posts

Contextual Related Posts – this is another handy plugin that adds links to related posts that you have written at the end of your articles. This gives readers the opportunity to click through your website instead of going off somewhere else.

Also, when you’re creating content, it’s important to listen to what is going on around you in order to stay relevant. When you listen, you’ll find out what is going on and you’ll be able to keep up with the paces of your industry. There are some great resources online where you can gather this intelligence. Twitter is a great place to start. Create lists to see what is going on in your industry and to keep tabs on your competition. Google Alerts are another great place to gather intelligence. Create alerts relevant for your industry for writers who frequently write about your category.

Some other great resources to use are Alltop, which compiles the content of some of the most influential people within your industry. Quora is another great place to hang out to gather intelligence. Here you can understand what sorts of questions are being asked within your industry. This might shed some light on an opportunity to take advantage of with your name on it.

Fear of Risk and Business: The Scary World of Creativity

Businesses and their love/hate relationship with creativity

Business seems to have a love/hate relationship with creativity, innovation and fear of risk. They love the idea, but the whole process of bringing a new idea to market carries an element of risk. That’s the part that doesn’t go over so well. Business seems to be comfortable with processes and expected outcome, which is at odds with the whole creative process. I’ve seen companies try and embrace creativity, but only to fail by stifling the process.
If business knows where the innovation will end up, then the whole creative process becomes an implementation project, innovation. Implementation is part of the process however, but the whole creative process involves an element of mess, conflict, emotion, and even a few casualties along the way. When those elements of experimentation are removed from the process, then we aren’t really innovating. If you don’t have a few failures along the way, then you’re not stepping outside of your comfort zone. And that’s where true innovation lies.

Inaction equates a fear of risk

Fear of risk often equates to standing still or adapting at a very slow pace. Opportunities seem to pass by, and this is a truly bad position to be in as a business. If you’re competition is innovating, how will you continue to compete in the future? Time does not stand still, and we must constantly look to the future for ways to innovate and create in order to remain relevant in the near future and beyond. The truth is that the best scientists, the greatest entrepreneurs, designers, politicians and CEOs are all creative. We as human beings like to think that they can be creative. It’s time to tap into that creativity and start coming up with true innovation, for small businesses, large, and for society. Eliminating fear of risk can open up a world of potential for businesses.

 

 

The importance of visual identity in branding for small businesses

Branding for small businesses tips rule number one

Often times a company’s brand is mistaken for its visual identity when developing branding for small businesses. A brand is much more than just a company logo. But that’s not to say that the visual identity of a company is not important. The visual identity is what communicates the brand to the consumer. No one has doubted the power of imagery.
Cave dwellers figured out that they could communicate through symbols by drawing on cave walls. And us humans have been using symbols as a method of communication ever since.

Of course, the logo is one part of the visual identity in branding for small businesses. It is important that there is consistency in the application of that logo, along with the appropriate typefaces, colors and language, as to firmly implant the vision, mission and values of a brand in the mind of consumers. Inconsistent messages are confusing. And when we are bombarded with thousands of messages in any given day, it is critical that potential consumers aren’t confused by the messages are sending out. Customers have an overabundance of choice in today’s world and can easily take their business to a competitor. Lost customers equals loss of revenue. Not good.

A visual identity forms the foundation for customer relations

A well-designed and consistent visual identity forms the foundation for building relationships with your customers. It gives your staff a clear understanding of what the business stands for and works as a way to build allegiance to your company rather than pursuing individual goals. It acts as a way to attract a higher quality candidate in the recruitment process. Professionals want to join a company with clearly communicated values that reflect their own personal values.

Is your visual identity accurately reflecting the true essence of your organization? Often times in branding for small businesses, it is important to go through a brand refresh in order to update existing brand to reflect an evolved business strategy. Just like that wallpaper that seemed like a good idea at the time twenty years ago, a brand needs to be evaluated periodically in order to remain competitive in the market.
So don’t be afraid of the visual identity. Make sure that it properly reflects the true essence of your company, and the cost that comes with establishing the identity will pay for itself exponentially in the long run.

Un_Standard can help you plan a branding for small businesses strategy and create a robust visual identity to match your robust business idea. Contact us today for a free initial consultation with no obligation.

Unleash the rebels in your small business

In case you haven’t figured it out by now, Un_Standard is all about individuality. Our motto is to stand out by not blending in. And it takes a certain amount of rebelliousness in order to fully live by this manifesto. It’s good to shake things up from time to time. Those who disagree with the status quo can often see the future more clearly. And innovation is something that we are passionate about. After all, if there weren’t anyone around to challenge the status quo, we’d still be living in caves.

There are rebels among us in the small business world. And they are truly an asset to have. I’m not talking about the rebels without a cause or the ones that are willing to cross the line into being unproductive or doing anything illegal. But ones that can challenge the existing structure and propose a new and improved way to do things are the ones that we are talking about, and the ones to actively seek out for your small business.

Companies that fail to nurture creative opposition can find themselves behind the curve when it comes to innovation and remaining competitive. Rebels can serve as a catalyst for innovation. So when it comes time to make sone hires for your small business, be sure to be on the lookout for those agents of change. Those ones that are able to be creative and visionary enough to be able to shatter outdated policies and practices. Some larger organizations have even hired what they refer to as internal disruption units that can drive innovation. Just be sure to steer clear of management consultants that don’t fit the bill.

So what can you do as a small business to nurture this sort of rebel? There are a few things that you can do to make sure you give those rebels room to work their magic. Unleash the rebels in your small business to unlock their innovation and make your small business more competitive.

Create the right attitude for the organization

We’re not talking about forming committees or anything like that. We’re talking about tolerating those who might push against the status quo and let them feel as if there won’t be any fear of retaliation or discrimination. Factor in room for opposing voices when trying to launch new initiatives. Listen, and then learn.

Keep the opposition consistent

Many small business owners might read a book on inclusiveness and think that the best way to tackle resistance is to encourage participation. But opposition is ongoing, and should be welcomed and not tried to be silenced. Alignment is a moving target.

Creative opposition can raise the accountability of every employee within your organization. And your employees are your greatest asset. Make sure that your rebels have space to operate, feel like they are close and are immensely creative.

Set Your Small Business Up On A Fast Track For Success

Nobody said that starting your own business was going to be easy. You’re forced to face your limitations and accept that sometimes what looked great on paper can be not so great in real life. But establishing successes early on in the course of your startup can lead to even more success. It can be a huge morale boost, add credibility to what you are doing and encourage potential customers to check you out. But how do you set your small business up on a fast track for success?

It’s not difficult to get your small business on the fast track for success. With the right mind set and realistic expectations, your startup can flourish. Here’s a few ways to start the fast track for success for your small business.

Aim low

We all know that an entrepreneur is passionate about what they do. Otherwise, they’d do something else. Their little fledgling startup is going to change the course of humankind. And there is a possibility that it might just do that. And Oprah might just be calling you up to see if you’re free for lunch. But if your ambitions are lofty once out of the starting gate, even moderate successes won’t seem up to snuff. It’s best to take a pragmatic approach and set those goals at a realistic level so that you are able to recognize and appreciate the good in your startup.

Start small

Chances are that your startup won’t have offices in every corner of the earth. It would be nice, but it’s going to take a lot of startup capital. And if Warren Buffet isn’t your uncle, then it’s a good idea to scale those ambitions back and concentrate on your local market. Startup costs will be lower, operations costs will be lower, and you’ll have the chance to test your ideas out before taking them to a wider audience. If there’s a chance that things need to be tweaked, then you’ll have the chance to make those revisions. And that saves time and money in the long run.

Go for the easy targets

Sometimes, it’s best to go for those opportunities on our doorsteps. When planning for your startup, you would have already identified the easy targets. The ‘low hanging fruit’. Concentrate on getting results from the easy target, and that will give you the confidence to go after the progressively more elusive (but still relevant) targets.

Make friends

We here at Un_Standard are huge advocates of partnering up with other businesses. After all, two heads are better than one. See if there are any businesses out there that seem to be a natural fit and complimentary to your startup, and see if this new partnership can go after new clients/customers. If the fit is right, then everyone benefits. Time to dust off the Rolodex!

Small Business Website Design Tips: Avoid The Deadly Sins

As a small business, it is critical to make a good first impression. And your website is often times the first place where your customers and potential customers will go for information about you and your company. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. It’s critical that when customers arrive on the frontpage of your website, that they instantly understand who you are and what your business does. And if you neglect your frontpage, then you’re potentially losing customers.
Here are a few basic small business website design tips that every small business needs to double check against. Is your small business website committing any of these deadly sins?

Small Business website design tips number one: make sure that all of your links are working correctly

Have you ever been on a website and clicked on a link only to be taken to the dreaded 404 error page? If a company can’t be bothered to check to see if their website is functioning properly, then it’s probable that they pay the same sort of attention to their customer service, products or user experience. At least, these are the signals that broken links are sending out to potential customers, sending them off to more reputable businesses (i.e. your competition).

Small Business website design tips number two: make sure your contact information is clearly accessible on the home page

A recent survey indicated that over 75% of small businesses don’t have an email link on their homepage. And nearly three-fifths don’t have a telephone number. Customers like having options on how to contact particular companies, so make sure that this information is easy to access. If you’re asking your customers to dig around for ways to get in touch with you, then they’re going to give up and take their business elsewhere.

Small Business website design tips number three: make sure that the images on your home page actually represent what your business does

If you are in the business of paper products, then it’s probably not a good idea to have images of butterflies or family portraits on your home page. As basic as this seems, you’d be surprised how many small businesses elect to put up irrelevant images on their websites. Confused customers can immediately think that this website isn’t what they were looking for and head to the next search entry, immediately taking their potential sale with them.

And also, think twice before you make the images on your homepage do things like shake or spin or play music. They may grab someones attention, but they have a tendency to annoy and irritate, sending those customers away just a quickly as they came.

Small business website design tips number four: be sure to include social media links

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past ten years, you would know that social media can be an extremely powerful way to promote your business. So make sure that you include links to your social media sites on your home page, as well as with your blog articles. It’s a great way to get your name out there, regardless of what you do.

Discover new music by listening to the radio

America turns to the radio as a way to discover new music

Nielsen released their Music 360 report, which found that radio is still the place where the majority of people go to discover new music as opposed to YouTube (48% for radio and 7% for YouTube). Well, those people must be tuning in to other radio stations than I’ve come across that seem to have only twenty songs in their playlist. Or perhaps, Americans are discovering the same twenty songs over and over again.
Anyway, Nielsen discovered that once Americans have discovered that new song, the majority of teens then listen to it on YouTube. iTunes is another hot destination for playing music, running a close third (behind YouTube and the old-fashioned radio). Around half in the survey still listen to their music on CD (remember those?). But interestingly, only 36% bought a physical CD in the previous year compared to 51% who purchased a digital download.

The moral of the story is that people still seem to listen to the radio according to market trends and demographics. And they still seem to discover new music. The results of the survey can be found on the Nielsen website.

First impressions count

Like It Or Not, First Impressions Count

Short attention span…

Like it or not, first impressions count

As a society, our attention span is getting shorter and shorter. Mastering Twitter is an art form, because you need to be able to convey a complete thought in 140 characters or less. Google Adwords is even shorter.  You need to be able to clearly communicate an offer, give an inventive to click through and pay it off in an even shorter space. So take this in to consideration when you deal with your customers. First impressions count.

Our brains are accustomed to filling in the blanks at record speed. We try and complete as much of a profile as possible when we meet new people and when we experience new brands. Take for example Facebook. Scour through a random selection of listings. It’s probably very easy to categorize people by the image that they’ve selected as their profile image. It’s pretty easy to figure out who is an aspiring photographer, a drunken sports fan, or just a flat out lush.

We make decisions about brands all the time. In fact, that’s what a well-crafted brand is supposed to do. It might be easy to gloss over the details thinking that they’re inconsequential. But just like those Facebook profiles, customers are “filling in the blanks” about the kind of company that you are.

So needless to say, it’s important to give a damn about the details. Websites are often the first experience that a potential customer has with a brand. Nobody will care about your website unless you do. That means that it is crucial to think long and hard about how you want to be perceived as a company. It’s important to get it right from the get go.

As a business, it is important to really understand why you started that business in the first place. You probably needed to convince your loved ones about the rational thought behind quitting your perfectly stable job to venture out into the unknown. And this explanation is going to come in handy to give to your customers. Why are you in business, and what’s in it for me? The companies that truly excel are the ones that understand what they’re doing and why they’re doing it.

Get this right from the start, get it ingrained into every facet of the company, and clearly communicate the reason for your existence on your website (and every other piece of communications that your company has), and you’ll have an advantage over countless other companies out there that haven’t figured out the details.

Studies Prove Uncluttered Websites Perform Better

New research from SAY Media and IPG have shown that an ad placed on uncluttered websites without overloading the senses of the user are more useful, trusted and effective. This bit of research also indicates that if multiple adverts are placed on simple, uncluttered websites, they also perform better. Shocking revelation, isn’t it? We’ve been taught time and time again that in order to get your message across, the message must be simple, clear and concise. When decorating, we’ve been taught to simplify the amount of objects in a room so that the eye can focus upon said objects rather than darting about in a confused state. So it comes as no surprise that a simple, clean website with an advert allows the viewer to actually notice the advert, and quite possibly react.

We live in a “short attention span” world, where we are constantly bombarded with messages and want to find the information that we are seeking in as quick and easily a manner as possible. According to comScore, the average time spent on a web page is steadily decreasing, with the average user spending just 40 seconds on a single page.  By using a combination of eye-tracking technology and survey research, the study found that viewers spend twice as long with ads on clean pages that feature ads from just one brand. Uncluttered websites also have higher ad recall.

Ads on uncluttered websites have higher performance rates

Some findings from the research are that uncluttered websites and clean pages enhance site perception as well as ad perception. Those sites that were clean and easy to navigate were perceived as being more useful and trustworthy than similar cluttered sites. Ads that appear on clean sites are also always seen, according to eye-tracking data. Less clutter also means higher recall.

So let this be a lesson to all of you webmasters and advertisers out there. Don’t try to cram too many adverts/messages/objects/etc. into your layouts. Less really does seem to be more.