Category Archives: Brand strategy & positioning

How SEO Impacts Your Brand

8187640996_b299c26090_b-600x350As the economy continues to improve and with more and more consumers turning online before making purchases for both business and personal services, products and goods, companies are discovering the importance of having an online presence.

To be truly effective in today’s market, companies need to do more than simply appear online – they need to create and manage the SEO of their brands. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of affecting the visibility and overall performance of a website within unpaid search results.

While you probably don’t have much control over other companies in your market and how they perform in search rankings, you do have control over your company and brands. This is why creating a true SEO program is so important.

A defined SEO program will give your brand:

  • A consistent voice and message
  • Stronger content performance
  • Expanded market reach

Truly, everything a brand does online has an impact on your SEO. Download our infographic to see just how much of an impact SEO can have on your brand.

Social Media and SEO

Part of your SEO program will be a defined focus on social media specifically – what platforms you will be on, how often you will post, and what topics you will focus on.  Before making any of these decisions, though, you need to do your homework. A competitive analysis and thorough market research will provide the analytical details you need to pinpoint where your target market is online and what they are talking about.

Keep in mind that one of the best ways to be effective in social media is sharing. Content sharing determines your search rankings – when social media users share links to your content, search engines read this activity as a confirmation of quality content.  The more favorable your content, the higher your rankings.

So when creating social content, to increase your odds of sharing:

  • Create content that is engaging and covers topics your target audience is talking about
  • Create multiple formats – video, quizzes and photos allow for more interaction and are some of the most shared content online
  • Create consistency in your online engagement – don’t just create and post content here and there; post multiple times a week on a consistent basis

Need assistance navigating the social media and SEO world? Contact Haley BrandIntelligence and discover what we can do for your brand today!

Three Ways to Find Advocates for New Products or Markets

Going viralBy now we all understand the important role customer reviews, testimonials and recommendations play in growing your brand online. Now that you have those reviews in your arsenal, it’s time to take it to the next level by engaging your brand advocates.

Brand advocates provide positive feedback and an additional marketing lift to your brand.  They further extend your marketing reach and give your brand an extra oomph of credibility and stamina.

So how do you identify your brand advocates?

Pay Attention to What Your Consumers Are Saying

The good news is that your brand advocates aren’t hiding in the shadows or behind a tree somewhere; they are standing in full sight, already participating directly with your sales team, customer service or other consumers online.

Review your social media postings and customer service communications from the past three months. Locate users who are posting likes and favorites on your social sites, who are sharing your content, and who are commenting on your posts and providing feedback to customer service. These are your strongest candidates for brand advocates.

Analyze Your Findings

Now that you have a pool of potential brand advocate candidates, it’s time to narrow down your list. Look at all of your candidates and see who fits your consumer profile. Based on gender, age, buying habits and location, you can quickly narrow down your list and come up with your brand advocate target list.

Reach Out and Build Your Advocate Army

Once you have your target advocates, engage them. Send survey emails asking for feedback. Create promotions and special deals for those who engage with your brand online most frequently. Most importantly, publicly say thank you when one of your advocates comments or shares something positive about your brand, product or service on social media.

Developing a strong front line of brand advocates will not only give you instant credibility with potential new consumers, but it will also provide your marketing efforts with an extended reach and life.

2014 Marks the Age of the Brand Influencer

Corporate-influence-ImageSince the dawn of advertising, it’s been a fact that by and large there isn’t a single advertising medium that is trusted at a rate of more than 50 percent. This fact is why agencies have suggested marketing campaigns that combine multiple advertising mediums for optimal success.

After 50 years of leading the consumers through “we say so” messaging came the entry of online marketing and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. As social media has continued to garner supporters and gain momentum, a shift has subtly occurred in online marketing. Gone are the days of telling the consumer what to think; today’s online marketing success is fueled by creating and fostering the online brand influencer.

Content Remains King

While content marketing isn’t really new to online marketing, over the past year or so it has hit the radar of just about every marketer with a pulse. Recognizing that online content is far more trusted than most ads, brands are now looking for ways to transition away from lesser-performing vehicles like online ads toward greater-performing methods such as blogging, videos and infographics.

Creating content that is compelling, sharable, believable and drives search results is now the name of the game. And while the goals for each brand are different, the end goal for most is to drive positive sentiment online, and thus increase brand position and sales.

Driving Influence Through Content Communities

Content marketing and brand influencers are one area where bigger isn’t necessarily better.  Simply creating a large farm of blogs, online content and social blasts isn’t the way to gain followers and spark influencers to speak highly of your brand online.

In fact, 54 percent of consumers believe the message delivered in a small, highly engaged online community is more than that of a larger, less loyal community. So what does that mean for your brand? Simple – don’t spray your brand everywhere; instead, create a focused approach for your message and aim it at a targeted, focused online audience. With so many people being separated by only one or two degrees from others on social networks, your odds of connecting with and driving support from true influencers will greatly increase with a more targeted and consistent approach.

As only buyers become influenced at greater rates by people from within their own online networks, brands are going to need to figure out a streamlined message, focus on a targeted audience and deliver the message consistently in order to win the game of online content marketing in 2014 and beyond.

Five Ways to Make Your Website Work Better

does-your-website-work-for-your-businessIn today’s market, everyone needs a website, but how do you make your website stand out? Here are five solutions that will not only help your website stand out in search results but will also help do much of the legwork for you when it comes to capturing sales leads:

 

  • Create a Blog: A blog possesses the power to have huge impacts when it comes to gathering sales for a business. Having a blog that provides a steady stream of content, once or twice a week, helps to strengthen search results standings as well as establishes a company as a thought leader and fosters consumer confidence.
  • Create the Ability to Share: Once your blog is in place, create the ability for your message to reach more potential consumers by adding a share-to social bar to your blog template. This will give your readers the ability to share your blog with others via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or email with one simple click.
  • Create Tracking: Once your blog is in place and you’ve given your readers the ability to easily share your content, ensure you’re able to track where your content is shared and who is reading it. Set up Google Analytics and add your website and blog to the tracking. You’ll receive real-time reporting on who is reading your content. This information is priceless, as it will help you zero in on your target audience and cater your content and product offerings to them.
  • Create Landing Pages: Blogs are an excellent way to build your brand’s presence online and impact search results, but landing pages are the perfect way to spread the word on product launches and promotions. With the addition of a landing page to your website, you’ll be able to track performance and set up automatic email responses to consumers requesting additional information.
  • Create a Newsletter: A monthly newsletter provides an avenue for you to reconnect with consumers who might have missed product or promotional announcements.  When you provide links back to your blog, you also give your content a second life by giving it another opportunity to be shared. Make sure you show your newsletter or a link to your newsletter on your website so it can count as additional content and impact your search result rankings as well.

The Road to Sponsorship

Many companies are finding they need to expand and introduce new products and projects, but they aren’t sure how to pay for the more expensive efforts. The answer for more and more companies now faced with “how are we going to pay for this?” is turning out to be “through sponsorships.”

But how do sponsorships work and where do you start? Excellent question! There are so many options available today – such as blogs, ebooks, conferences, events, speaking engagements, special promotional websites, videos, etc. The sky is truly the limit when it comes to options.

So how do you position it for approval and what are the potential benefits? Here are a few options to get you started down the road of sponsorships:

  • Position it as a substitute for traditional marketing and create a proposal that will lay out the ROI on your sponsorship project. Determine how many potential consumers will see it and what the cost per person will be.
  • Maybe it’s all about the bragging rights. When this is the case, it’s more about “being there” and the campaign will focus more on what the sponsorship offers to others.  Think of it as a reversed endorsement. Instead of what is the cost per potential consumer, consider how many potential consumers will attend your event or speaking engagement or will watch a video sponsored by your company and share the experience?
  • Sponsoring is an excellent way to promote internal involvement and employee loyalty.  When employees see that your company has sponsored events and charities that are personal to them, they are more likely to be more loyal and perform better. Plus, happy employees are more likely to refer friends and colleagues who are not only great talent but are similar in personality and will fit the mold of your company.
  • Turn your company into thought leaders and create a new avenue for your brand advocates through sponsorships. Ebooks and videos are terrific ways to build your online presence, extend your online reach and provide your brand advocates with a platform on which to sing your praises. Also, the more information you put out there that shows your company as being innovative and leading the industry, the more likely consumers will be to consider your company to be industry thought leaders when the moment or purchase arises.

Three Ways to Create Brand Advocates

People Marching with BullhornsWhen it comes to finding customers, many companies spend a lot of time focusing on strategies for acquiring new customers but don’t put as much energy into retention strategies.

However, putting strategies and programs in place that allow you to not only foster but to also develop a long-term relationship with your customers is one of the best ways to impact your bottom line. Turning your one-time or annual customer into a brand advocate will both strengthen your sales and grow your brand’s online presence.

Here are three great ways to turn your average consumer into a brand advocate:

  • Give Them Exceptional Customer Service

In today’s market, delivering the basics on products and services is a requirement in order to retain any consumer. However, companies who excel, oftentimes the most forward-thinking ones, have figured out that by surpassing the status quo, they not only surpass consumer expectations, they create experiences worth sharing.

Consumers who have an exceptional experience share with other consumers. This sharing of an experience by one often leads to new customers – just as the sharing of a negative experience often turns potential new customers away.

But don’t just rely on word of mouth. Give your customers a platform in which they can share with others. Encourage testimonials online, send out follow-up emails after they’ve spoken with someone from your company, and ask questions on Facebook and LinkedIn about their experiences.

  • Provide Advocates With the Tools They Need

Study after study shows that customers who spend the most aren’t always the ones who generate the greatest value when it comes to referrals. For your lower-spending customers, make sure they have a reason to share your story and that they have the full story.

Create a blog, open a forum, and encourage customers to share online about your products and services. Develop a robust “About Us” on your website that tells the story of your company and create a section that shares the everyday life of your company with your consumers. Adding photos or videos to your website is a great way to personalize the experience and gives your brand advocates sharable information.

  • Invite Customers to Become Brand Advocates

Not every customer has what it takes to become a brand advocate. Want to know who to target? Look for customers that fill out your surveys, return email questionnaires, and provide feedback about your brand, service and products online on social platforms.  Once you’ve identified this group, invite them to provide a testimonial, online or video.  Also give your brand advocates a bit of additional love with promotions, early-release purchase opportunities and words of appreciation.

Prediction for B2B Social Media in 2014

8-ballSocial media has proven to be a useful tool for marketers in B2C, and this past year B2B began to discover that there is value for them as well. It is predicted that 2014 will be the year that B2B moves fully into the social media realm and begins to reap the same benefits previously garnered by its B2C counterparts.

So how is the B2B social media and online consumer engagement experience expected to change in the coming year? Here are just a few predictions:

Creation of Efficiency Cycles

Now that the B2B marketing realm understands the basics of social media, 2014 will be the year they take it out of a one-off initiative and incorporate it into their overall brand strategy.  In doing so, brands will look for ways to make social strategies more efficient, returning a higher ROI with less effort than before.

2014 will be the year that B2B marketers find more efficient processes for creating original content on current and new channels. Along with the standard content found in blogs, newsletters and social postings, marketers will incorporate more socialized ebooks, infographics and presentation-style content in order to supplement white papers, research reports and expanded articles.

Development of Platform-Specific Content

In the past, B2B marketers have handled content with a “one size fits all” when it comes to supplying content for various platforms. As the B2B market now has enough experience under their collective social media belts, many have discovered that what works on one platform doesn’t typically perform the same on other platforms.

It is estimated that 70 percent of brands now have a presence on Google+. Although Facebook is still considered to be a required staple of a brand’s marketing portfolio, Google+ has now become a stronger performer and more important for B2B brands.

In 2014, B2B brands will begin focusing their attention on the platforms that best suit their target audience, specifically LinkedIn and Google+, and will begin to design content that is specific to the user behavior and activity levels for each platform. While the end messages might be similar, the method in which the messages are delivered will vary and will be customized for optimal performance in each platform.

10 Inexpensive Ways to Reward Brand Advocates

Creating a strong line of brand advocates – consumers who will sing your praises and share the story of your product with others without the financial compensation required for standard advertising – is an absolute must in today’s world of marketing. However, paying for advocacy isn’t a smart move as it not only cheapens the message, but it can often be perceived as unethical and raise flags with FTC regulators.

Developing creative ways to say thank you to brand advocates is a critical element in the advocate/brand relationship. Here are 10 great ways to say thanks to your advocates while staying within the guidelines of federal regulations and your overall brand character:

  • Sneak Peeks: Give your loyal brand advocates a sneak peek at upcoming products or services. This will keep them in the know and give them a feeling of being included in the launch excitement.
  • Exclusive Offers: Don’t give brand advocates the same offers you give to all customers. Give them unique offers that show you recognize them as your true brand VIPs.
  • Seek Feedback: Brand advocates know your brand better than any other consumer, so ask their opinion on how a product is doing or seek feedback on enhancements and upgrades.
  • Pay It Forward: One of the best ways to reward brand advocates is to make cash and/or in-kind contributions to deserving nonprofit organizations on behalf of your advocates. This approach motivates advocates, boosts your corporate image and reputation, and serves a useful social purpose. Give them a list of nonprofit organizations to select from.
  • Acknowledge Advocates: Let them know their recommendations and continued support matter. Give them feedback on their opinions, reply to their comments on social media and let them know when a new customer has come from a recommendation by them.
  • Advocate-Only Events: Special in-person or online advocate-only events are a great way to say thank you to those who give your brand a positive extended reach all year long. During these events, offer exclusive pricing, giveaways and bonus gifts with purchase.
  • Early Access: Have a new product coming out? Let your brand advocates be your beta testers. Then, right before the product launches, give them first dibs on ordering.
  • Access to Company Leaders: Giving brand advocates the opportunity to have direct dialogue with senior leaders of your company can make them feel special. Provide a members-only hotline or send out an annual email from senior executives to say thank you and solicit feedback.
  • VIP Levels: Give your brand advocates a VIP-level status online by mentioning them in a VIP list, incorporate an icon or badge on their profile, or offer them a VIP-only phone line and email line to your customer support and sales teams.
  • Advocate Awards: Create an advocate of the month or week program where you publicly acknowledge their support and give them a special offer. Most will even brag about this award…extending your reach and brand message once again.

Top 5 Brand Trends for 2014

2014-Numbers-free-Happy-2014-New-Year-Image-WallpaperAs the year comes to a close, it’s time to start looking ahead and planning for 2014.  As with all things, several trends are emerging for how brands will interact with the market and grow in 2014.  Here are our top five forecasted trends for the upcoming year

Consumers Expect More

Over the past few years, consumer’s expectations and demands have increased by more than 20 percent.  In 2014, it will be crucial for brands to measure consumer’s expectations and not only rise to the occasion, but beat these expectations in order to keep current consumer and garner new consumers in the online marketplace.

It’s Time for Brands to Get Emotional

As the markets tighten, consumer decisions will become more emotionally-driven on both the B2B and B2C sides.  In more categories, these rational aspects are now the price-of-entry.  In order for a brand to be successful in this new emotionally charged world order, brands will need to identify what emotional values exist in the category and utilized them as a foundation for creating meaningful differentiation.

New Definition of Engagement Between Brand and Consumer

The term “engagement” has been associated with consumer online attention levels and non-direct interactions over the past 10 years (i.e. read an article, like on Facebook or leave a review).  In 2014, successful brand marketers will link this “engagement” further by monitoring how efforts increase how well the brand is perceived versus the category’s ideal interaction and activity levels.

This more detailed metric will identify new “brand advocates” by correlating the performance of loyalty programs, content sharing and reach, sales, profitability and lifetime value to determine the true brand advocate’s consumer engagement levels.

Digital Done Right

With digital diversification becoming more expansive and more channels appearing quarterly, brands are going to need to shift from a “should I be here” mentality to a “what should I do now that I am here” mentality in 2014.  Success will be linked not to outreach alone, but to how well a brand can differentiate itself and the levels of emotional engagement.

Not surprisingly, content will continue to be a key driver for any digital play.  Content and format will become more important when it comes to dealing with issues related to contextual relevance and strategically navigating brands in these newer digital spaces.

Micro Becomes Big Business

Micro videos will continue to rise in popularity and use in 2014.  Metrics tracked will move away from the number of views for a video and towards real brand engagement with a consumer via a video. Expectations for watching a :06 or :12 second video will become the new bar as these micro videos move mainstream in order to accommodate the different digital delivery platforms, increase sharing opportunities of the videos and the increasingly shorter consumer attention spans.

Online Brand Marketing Trends in the Horizon for 2014

The Internet has affected a paradigm shift in the world of marketing. For one, it has rendered obsolete many outbound marketing techniques, and marketers now prefer focusing on inbound marketing techniques and engage in two-way conversations with their target audience.

The future of online marketing is very promising. Here are a few of the major trends that are expected to define the industry in 2014:

Content Marketing Grows Into Greater Prominence  

Brand content marketing has grown in stature in recent years. In response to increase in content, consumers have become selective and often turn away from content viewed as being to self-promoting; consumers are always searching for “what’s in it for me” when reading brand content.

Educational content has become a major influencer for consumers. How-to articles, blogs, user feedback, and third-party reviews have become staples of any brand’s online marketing efforts. The standard type of content will undergo a sea of change in the coming year as user demand will see more brands creating compelling and powerful interactive content such as interactive images, infographics and videos.

Social Media Marketing to Become More Diverse

Marketers are already vouching for the effectiveness of social media marketing and the never-ending competition to establish their presence. However, with time, consolidation and a gradual but major churn is expected to set in. Marketers will become increasingly hard-pressed to quantify returns on their social media investments, something which has yet to be optimized and quantified by most brands.

Pininterest, Tumblr and Google+ already seem on course to challenge the dominance of Facebook and Twitter. While figuring out which channel will make the biggest splash and host “the next big thing” in the future is something that no one can predict, staying abreast of the latest trends and ensuring that your brand is active wherever your consumers are will still be a top priority of brand marketers in 2014.

A Mobile First Approach

More and more users now use mobile devices to access the Internet more often than their home computers or laptops. Forbes estimates that by 2017, 87 percent of all connected devices sales will be tablets and smartphones. Companies wanting to keep a jump on their competition are already focusing highly on creating mobile-friendly versions of their websites, apps and marketing collateral.

The Internet has leveled the technological playing field, and this has given rise to cutthroat competition. Marketers who analyze the trends and stay prepared to face the emerging challenges head on stand a better chance of success compared to others in 2014.