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Maintaining Your Brand Identity in a Digital World

April, 2016 · By Deborah Fiorentino

Modern consumers are literally bombarded with advertising messages all day long. From advertisements on the subway to commercials sandwiched between hit shows, the sheer amount of promotional material courting the attention of the masses has a numbing effect on your audience. Connecting with the crowd is challenging enough, but failure to maintain a consistent brand identity will send your business tanking. If you have any hope of making an impact in a busy world, you need to focus on keeping your message consistent.

What is Brand Identity?

Your brand identity is the representation of the values and defining characteristics of your business. The Brand Identity Prism, created by corporate branding specialist Jean-Noel Kapferer, identifies the following aspects as key components of brand identity:

● Physique – Visual representation of the brand (logo, color scheme, etc.)
● Personality – Tone and character expressed through communication
● Relationship – Connection brand symbolizes for consumers
● Culture – Defining principles of the brand
● Reflection – The target audience
● Self Image – Consumer’s ideal version of himself

All of these factors contribute to the overall idea of brand identity.

Translating Brand Identity Online

With a clear idea of what brand identity actually is, it’s important to pay close attention to how you communicate digitally. As you establish a presence on social media platforms and create a website, you need to think about the tone of your content and the overall appearance of your profiles. Strive to reformat the same logos for each platform, and use the same color scheme for maximum consistency.

Of course, one of the biggest benefits of social media for marketers is the ability to build relationships with followers. As you interact with others online, aim to always strike the same tone. Don’t fluctuate between really informal replies and professional, corporate language. Pick your desired voice and stick with it. This further cements your brand identity in the customer’s mind.

Provide Relevant Content

Content marketing continues to grow for one simple reason: it works. To harness the full power of content marketing, you need to focus on creating content that works in harmony with your overall brand message. Remember, the key to maintaining your brand’s identity is to ensure all of the components of your branding make sense, both individually and as part of a bigger puzzle.

If you’re feeling stuck, a digital marketing agency can be a great resource to utilize. Many small businesses choose to work with a marketing team who can provide invaluable consumer insight. This is also a failproof way to ensure you don’t take the wrong step, sending your marketing efforts careening off the cliff.

Keeping your brand’s identity consistent online must remain a priority, lest you confuse your audience. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the number of different social platforms and tools available to you, consider toning your marketing endeavors down to a more manageable level. It’s always preferable to use one or two marketing channels really well, as opposed to stretching yourself too thin and losing your identity along the way.

 

To Blog or Not to Blog: Should My Small Business Bother?

February, 2016 · By Deborah Fiorentino

Digital marketers love to extol the benefits of business blogging: from increasing sales figures to boosting foot traffic, blogs supposedly represent nearly limitless potential for real-world businesses. And yet, many restaurants, breweries, and other hospitality businesses have found their blogs generate little interest and no tangible results. What gives?

Whether you’re plagued with an under performing blog or you’re considering launching one for the first time, use the following keys to supercharge your blogging prowess.

1. Start a Compelling Conversation

Many business owners try to use their blog as nothing more than a promotional vehicle, and surprisingly enough, very few customers want to read long-winded sales pitches. Instead of using your blog as a sales vehicle, use it to build authority in your industry. Many restaurants use their blog to cover food trends across the nation, while hoteliers cover topics like travel, vacation, and local attractions. Your goal is to spark a conversation that relates to your overall brand message.

Struggling to come up with ideas? Moz recommends blog owners ask questions about their product or business to come up with interesting subjects to cover. You may also want to use customer feedback, upcoming community events, or trending topics in pop culture to spark your readers’ interest.

2. Turn to Twitter & Facebook

From craft breweries to neighborhood diners, plenty of businesses have lackluster social media feeds. Instead of thinking of your social accounts as separate entities, use your blog to feed your profiles with interesting content. Not only will this result in more traffic for your site, but it will also help you grow your clout by amassing new likes and social connections.

3. Focus on Consistency

Some of the web’s most popular websites churn out new content multiple times every day, leaving business owners feeling overwhelmed at the idea of creating a blog. In reality, you may find it difficult to make blogging once a week a priority. Fortunately, you don’t need to write a new post every hour on the hour to stay relevant.

Instead, simply create a posting pattern that feels consistent for your site visitors. Focus on a few times a month initially and become more prolific as time goes on. If you struggle to generate enough content on your own, consider outsourcing your blogging needs to a ghostwriter or marketing agency. This can help you keep your blog alive with content, all without neglecting your other responsibilities.

It’s important to remember that blogging for your business is just like any other marketing effort. It takes time to generate impressive results. You didn’t have thousands of customers pounding on your doors within minutes of your opening, and you won’t have an endless stream of readers immediately reading the posts you publish. By building a schedule, sticking with it, and nurturing your blog bit by bit, you’ll be able to generate long lasting results and equip your business with another tool for snaring the interest of your target audience.

 

Newsletters: How Can Restaurants Build Digital Marketing Campaigns?

February, 2016 · By Deborah Fiorentino

Of all of the marketing tools available to restaurant owners, newsletters are often overlooked in favor of social media and traditional print advertising. Many restaurant owners simply aren’t aware of just how powerful newsletters often prove. From building loyalty among existing customers to boosting overall sales figures, digital newsletters can make an impressive impact for restaurants of all sizes. If you’re considering launching a newsletter for your own eatery, learn more about the hidden potential email campaigns represent.

Examining Case Studies

Newsletters have consistently generated tangible results for restaurants across the nation, as evidenced by countless case studies observing their usefulness. In one study conducted by Fishbowl, a small restaurant owner in Bethesda, Maryland managed to grow his customer base by 1,000 new clients, while boosting the average spend of his diners—all in just six months. Another restaurant in Pelham, New York used email marketing to promote musical acts performing for customers, resulting in a 15% uptick in sales.

Creating an Effective Newsletter

The evidence may speak for itself, but many business owners don’t know where to start building their own restaurant email marketing campaigns. A few simple keys should help any restaurant get started on the right track:

1. Use the Right Tools

Don’t be tempted to mass email your clients using a standard email account. Instead, build your newsletter using one of the countless products made for this purpose. Software you may wish to consider includes Mailchimp and Aweber. The aforementioned Fishbowl also offers industry-specific marketing tools for restaurant owners.

2. Develop a Consistent Strategy

There are no two ways about it: creating compelling newsletter content takes hard work.
Don’t allow yourself to fall behind and stop sending newsletters for months at a time. Instead, consider building an editorial calendar well in advance. Brainstorm potential subject matter to include in your newsletters, and create publication deadlines to help you stick with the program.

By creating your newsletter with an established software tool, you’ll also be able to better automate the process of publication. You can cue up your newsletter days or weeks in advance, and have the software automatically distribute your marketing materials at set intervals.

3. Establish Achievable Goals

Much like any other marketing initiative, it’s important to set clearly outlined goals for
your newsletter, which will help maximize the success of your efforts. Whether you’re striving to improve low sales, attract more visitors, or simply grow your mailing list, setting these goals will help you to create content that actually converts. Furthermore, as you see results achieved, you’ll remain motivated to continue investing in your company’s newsletter.

Newsletters have proven effective across myriad industries, which makes this growth avenue an exciting prospect for hospitality businesses. Best of all, exploring email marketing initiatives for your restaurant represents a relatively small upfront investment. Remember, a one size fits all approach is not the best approach for most restaurants. Instead, think consciously about the needs of your business and try to use your newsletter to meet those needs in an innovative fashion. With plenty of hard work and a bit of good luck, you should find this approach incredibly useful.

Why Should My Business Invest in Content Marketing?

January, 2016 · By Deborah Fiorentino

Seemingly every business in the world has been told how important it is to invest in content marketing, with billions of dollars spent on this promotional strategy each year. And yet, 40% of small business owners feel it’s difficult to measure the impact of content marketing. If you’re wondering whether your content marketing dollars would be better spent elsewhere, it’s important to learn why generating content online is essential for your business.

Generating Traffic Online

Most small business owners think of content marketing as a tool for growing social media connections and increasing user engagement, but they fail to see how content contributes to organic traffic patterns. Search engine optimization (SEO) has long been a buzzword for content creators on the web, but the correlation between strong content and organic traffic is simply undeniable. Without great content on your website, your visitor count will fall flat.

Delving into the technical specifics of SEO is a significant undertaking, but understand this: investing in content boosts your site’s value in the eyes of the search engines. This result may not be perceptible to the naked eye, but consistently blogging and generating interesting content has a marked impact on your website’s incoming traffic trends. For a more detailed look at the link between SEO and content marketing, take a look at this comprehensive overview from industry leader Kissmetrics.

Building Brand Awareness

Generating content online to build brand awareness is frankly a no-brainer. Spreading the word about your company can feel incredibly difficult as a small business owner, especially if you’re competing with larger chains that have seemingly unlimited marketing budgets. Content marketing is a cost-effective tool for getting your name out there. Best of all, unlike traditional advertising that only delivers results while your campaign remains active, content lives on indefinitely, bringing you business for years to come.

Establishing Authority

Consumers look to industry experts when it comes to making buying decisions. What wine should I pair with red meat? What’s the perfect local spot for date night with my wife? What shoes should I wear with a little black dress?

Content marketing gives you the opportunity to answer questions your target audience has about the products and services you know best. By addressing points of interest for potential customers, you’re building a reputation within your niche. When it comes time to make a purchase, you’re the company these buyers will turn to for reputable products.

Perhaps the single greatest key for content marketing success is patience. Building a following online and generating sales for your business won’t simply happen overnight. As you generate more and more content, the snowball effect will become apparent. As content drives more consumers to your website, your social media following increases and your industry position soars.

If you continue to show your marketing efforts the attention they deserve, you’ll also see your bottom line grow. Take a deep breath and roll the dice. Content marketing isn’t a quick fix for your sales woes, but it is a viable investment for the future of your business.

Every Business is an Online Business!

January, 2016 · By Deborah Fiorentino

Small business owners often overlook the need for a dynamic business website. According to research conducted for GoDaddy this past summer, 59% of small businesses still don’t have a dedicated website. Survey respondents provided a number of different reasons for this trend, with 35% of participants citing their small size for their lack of a web presence. Unfortunately, these businesses are missing out on a myriad of benefits, while simultaneously jeopardizing their financial health.

Why Do I Need a Website?

In 2016, every business is an online business. The internet is not only a tool for retailers who provide services to clients via the web. Instead, it’s a vitally important resource for connecting real-world businesses with customers. If you’re still on the fence about building a web presence, consider the following invaluable benefits an effective business website provides:

1. Your Website is a 24/7 Salesman

Think of your website as the best salesperson on your team. Unlike human staffers, websites never take a break or clock off for the day. A professional website allows consumers to learn more about your business and the services and products you offer. Best of all, this advertising is incredibly affordable. Unlike traditional ad campaigns, you won’t fork over thousands of dollars to keep your website performing optimally.

2. Websites Increase Your Visibility

How many customers are you losing to competitors who market themselves effectively online? According to a Google study, a full 50% of consumers conducting mobile local searches visit a business in person within 24 hours. Buying habits have shifted in the 21st century, with customers turning to the internet to make informed decisions about which local businesses to patronize.

3. A Professional Site Boosts Customer Engagement

Any business owner can recognize the importance of fostering customer loyalty. Your best customers will repeatedly visit your business and recommend you to others. Building a web presence is a powerful tool for customer engagement, as it allows you to foster relationships with your existing customer base outside of physical interactions.

Whether you choose to build a targeted email list, promote new products or sales, or simply keep your customers abreast of changes in your business, your website allows you to make a powerful impact. Generating interesting content also gives your loyal buyers something they can share with others via social media, further contributing to your online clout.

If you’re eager to invest in the future of your business, stop thinking about in terms of “online” and “offline.” 84% of Americans use the internet, while a further 65% use a smartphone. The internet is a ubiquitous resource that nearly all consumers are already using to make buying decisions. By refusing to embrace the power of the web for your small business, you’re only driving would-be customers away and endangering your livelihood.

Help, I Don’t Have Time to Blog!

January, 2016 · By Deborah Fiorentino

The benefits of generating interesting content for your business blog are undeniable: from driving traffic to your site to establishing authority in your industry, a great blog can make a long term impact on the health of your business. Unfortunately, many small business owners ultimately neglect their blogs, simply because they can’t find the time to write new posts. If you find yourself in similar shoes, learn why it’s important to establish a gameplan for keeping your blog performing optimally.

Avoiding a ‘Dead’ Blog

Many business owners attack the blogging challenge with gusto initially, only to lose steam as the challenges of keeping their company afloat overshadow the need for new posts. Neglecting your blog for a few months can have serious repercussions, however. Your customers will stop visiting your site, and potential leads may look to competitors when they find your blog is stagnant. You’re essentially flushing sales away, one by one.

How Do I Fix the Problem?

First, be realistic about your blogging capabilities. If you know that you can’t commit to producing three full-fledged posts every week for the foreseeable future, don’t start now. Set reasonable goals that won’t loom over you as an intimidating chore down the road. If you know you cannot or will not make the time to generate content, don’t play the ostrich with your head in the sand. Instead, come up with a strategy for filling your site with relevant content from other contributors.

How to Hire Blog Writers

There is no shame in working with a professional writer to ensure your blog stays populated with the informative posts—in fact, some business owners would be better off working with a blog writer from the start. A marketing expert can help you craft blogs that convey your message in an effective manner, making your brand truly shine. A professional may also be better suited for helping you navigate the waters of search engine optimization (SEO).

There are a number of different ways to find contributors for your blog.For long term solutions, partner with a marketing agency who can help you generate ideas for your blog and deliver well-written posts that will keep your audience intrigued. Many business owners find this approach delivers better results for their brand, while eliminating the stress of keeping up with an ambitious editorial calendar solo.

When it comes to blogging, don’t be tempted to throw in the towel because you don’t have the time in your schedule. Instead, take a pragmatic approach: commit to writing a small number of posts or outsource your work to a capable partner. Regardless of which approach you take, keeping your blog alive with great content will boost your visibility on the web and help ensure the future success of your brand.

Adding Content Value: Stop Wasting Your Time with Fluff

January, 2016 · By Deborah Fiorentino

When it comes to keeping your website populated with new content, it’s easy to feel somewhat overwhelmed. Many small businesses try to keep visitors interested by churning out new posts every week, but unless you’re delivering something of value, you’re wasting your time. Instead of focusing solely on the frequency of your posts, you need to hone in on the value proposition for your site. This will supercharge your marketing efforts and help your business stay healthy.

Why Does Content Matter?

Much of the confusion about quality content is derived from a fundamental misunderstanding of content’s purpose. Keeping your blog populated with fresh information isn’t simply a show of force—content creation is one of the most powerful tools available for connecting with your customers. Effective content marketing should also expand your brand’s digital reach.

High-value content provides the following benefits for your brand:

● Generates organic inbound search traffic
● Engages your existing audience
● Builds further credibility and authority in your industry
● Converts visitors into new leads/customers
● Solidifies your brand message

Don’t be tempted to stay on a surface level, but keep your attention on content that will perform optimally for your business.

Defining “Value”

So, you understand the importance of creating unique content, but what qualifies as valuable? First and foremost, content should be relevant to your brand message. Your should blog shouldn’t be filled with fluff that doesn’t have any ties to the product you sell.

Valuable content is also useful and unique. Don’t re-purpose the same message your competitors are selling and hope for the best. You need to spend time crafting a brand message that your customers aren’t going to find elsewhere. Furthermore, don’t get stingy and only update your site every once in a blue moon. Moz cautions business bloggers to avoid providing low value content, because it can be as dangerous as poor quality posts.

Identifying Pain Points

Too many entrepreneurs view business blogging as the strange beast that bucks the trends in marketing, but website content should connect with your customers in the same way as traditional marketing campaigns. Before you write a blog post, ask yourself, “What are my customers pain points?” Spend some time prospecting and speaking to your existing clients about what they’re looking for. Developing a deeper understanding of how your customer thinks will equip you with the right tools to create valuable content. It’s Marketing 101, folks.

If you’re tired of making a tiny splash when you’re looking for a big wave, stop blogging without any purpose. Either spend some time generating content that will cement your position as an authority in your industry, or farm your content out to a marketing team who can help you make the right impact. If you continue to use the same tired content techniques and hope for the best, you’ll discover with time that you’re only wasting money and not generating any real growth for your business.

5 Steps for a More Effective Social Media Marketing Plan for 2016

January, 2016 · By Deborah Fiorentino

Social media has radically redefined how modern brands think about marketing to consumers, but many small businesses struggle to hit the right note with their customers. Without the proper direction, your social media efforts will likely fall flat. If you’re tired of lackluster results from your social marketing endeavors, use these five simple steps to develop a more effective marketing plan for the new year.

1. Consistency: Sticking to Your Commitment

Many businesses join networks like Twitter and Facebook with the best of intentions, only to flake on their marketing efforts a few months later. Think of your social campaigns like a snowball rolling down the hill. The snowball starts small, but it can only grow if you keep pushing it. Use this simple guide to understand how frequently you need to post to maximize engagement.

You also need to ensure that your status updates feel cohesive. The Content Marketing Institute recommends considering the imagery, tone, and subject matter of your updates. Don’t confuse your followers with a disjointed message.

2. Engaging: Remember, Social Networking is a Conversation.

Plenty of small businesses treat their social networking efforts as little more than a promotional vehicle. Instead of stepping on your soapbox and yelling about your upcoming sale, use your social platforms to engage with your customers. Respond to their messages, and don’t be afraid to inject a bit of personality into your conversations. Effective social marketers foster better relationships through consistently interactions.

3. Relevance: Does Your Content Matter?

The world’s most successful social marketers understand the importance of sharing content that is relevant to a brand’s message. Unlike blog posts or newsletter copy, social shares are often brief and to the point. This doesn’t mean relevancy should fly out the window, however. Focus on crafting updates that make sense as part of the bigger picture. This will help you grow your following organically, while converting casual followers into fervent brand devotees.

4. Sharing: Forget the “One & Done” Approach

Most marketers use their social accounts as a way of sharing content from their website, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with this technique. It’s important to remember, however, that only a small fraction of your followers see each individual update. Kissmetrics advises sharing your content multiple times, in order to connect with the largest audience possible.

5. Images: Boost the Impact of Your Updates

It’s always easiest to share a small written message with your followers, but images have consistently been proven to increase engagement on social networks. For example, including an image can increase your retweets on Twitter by 150%. If you’re feeling ambitious, you might also want to consider using video to further captivate your digital audience.

Much like any other marketing tool, social networking takes plenty of hard work. By building a thoughtful marketing strategy as you head into the new year, you’ll ensure your social efforts don’t go unnoticed. Make updating your accounts part of your daily routine, and with a bit of luck, you should see your engagement increasing as time moves forward.

Connecting with Your Target Audience Online

November, 2015 · By Deborah Fiorentino

Spending thousands of dollars on thoughtful advertising and promotional tools could prove fruitless for your business if you don’t target the right audience. Unfortunately, many small companies take an overly simplistic approach to their digital marketing efforts. “If you build it, they will come” is a nice movie quote, but it has next to no relevance for online marketers. Instead of spinning your metaphorical wheels trying to gain traction on the web with no results, use the following keys to effectively reach your target audience.

Meet Consumers Where They Gather

Before spending countless hours building a thoughtful social presence for your business, take the time to research consumer trends online. For example, are you aware that 53% of adults aged 18-29 use Instagram? On the other hand, Pinterest is overwhelmingly dominated by female users.

Just like different social groups find their own meeting spots in the real world, digital users congregate in a wide assortment of destinations. Spend some time learning where your target audience interacts on the web, and join the conversation to maximize your marketing efforts.

Spark the Right Discussion

Engaging with users is a buzzword for marketing experts because it represents one of the most powerful tools available for modern businesses. Consumers who interact with brands online are more likely to make a purchase, but it’s important to start the right discussion. Blogging and content creation is one accessible means of sparking a conversation with your audience members, but you need to think thoughtfully about what your audience wants to read.

If you’re feeling stumped, use a tool like Google Keyword Planner to find relevant keywords. You can also search the web for the most influential blogs in your niche. If possible, consider building partnerships with these entities, who can send traffic and readers your direction. Organize a giveaway, cross promote, or author a guest blog to reach those elusive readers.

Choose Targeted Ads

If you’re ready to take your marketing prowess to the next level, consider using targeted digital ads to increase your footprint on the web. Most web-based advertising publishers allow you to carefully outline which consumers you want to target. Google is perhaps the best-known advertising channel on the internet, with its trailblazing AdWords product, but don’t overlook smaller networks. You can also consider advertising on social platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

Connecting with the right audience is no simple feat, but don’t be discouraged by a lack of progress. Just like building a social circle takes time when you move to a new city, you’ll need to spend some time cultivating your business following on the web. With diligent, continual effort on your part, you should manage to reach your target audience and grow your business over time.

Setting Up Google Alerts to Monitor Your Competition

November, 2015 · By Deborah Fiorentino

Maintaining a watchful eye on the competition is a longstanding tradition for small business owners, but keeping tabs in the digital age can often prove tricky. Rather than making a habit of constantly visiting the websites of your competitors or discreetly following their social media accounts, why not instead use Google Alerts to streamline the process for you? In just a few simple steps, you can establish alerts that will notify you as soon as your competition makes a move.

How Google Alerts Work

By creating a Google Alert, you’re essentially automating a web search based on keywords you specify. To establish alerts, simply navigate to google.com/alerts and create a new alert using a keyword relevant to your brand or competitor. Choose how often you’d like to receive updates, and voila—you’ve created an alert. Google will email you when changes are discovered.

To ensure Google only sends you relevant information, hone in on specific sources or regions as necessary. Google will allow you to specifically target blogs or news sites, and you can filter results based on your location.

Why Monitor Your Competition?

Paying close attention to activity within your industry is an important step for any marketer. This process gives you the information you can use to improve your business strategy. Using Google Alerts for competitive analysis, you can easily:

● Identify Competitive Advantages: What are your competitors doing correctly? Why are customers choosing these brands over your own?
● Review Promotional Campaigns: Are you competitors running sales or special discounts to snare new buyers? You may want to consider price matching or going a step further with a better deal.
● Discover Potential Weaknesses: What areas is your competitor neglecting that you could exploit to gain customers?

Additional Tools for Competitive Analysis

Google Alerts is a great tool for getting started monitoring your competitors online, but there are plenty of additional resources available to get a better view of the big picture. Social Mention is one such tool, a free platform that allows you to peruse social platforms for brand references. Google Keyword Planner is also a valuable resource for learning more about your competitors’ page ranks and traffic for various keywords.

Eager to dig even deeper into the data mine? Kissmetrics has compiled a comprehensive overview of 25 different tools you can use to make monitoring your competition easier than ever.

When developing your marketing strategy, strive to highlight the best attributes of your products and brand identity. Obsessing about your competitors isn’t a healthy means of driving your business forward, but it will allow you to ensure you’re keeping up with the pack. By embracing tools like Google Alerts, you can streamline the analysis process and instead focus your energy on fostering new ideas for growth and customer retention.