Three Steps to Honing Your Message

Developing powerful messaging can be one of the toughest challenges businesses face in marketing and branding. You do so much, and you know it all, but how do you convey your organization’s value to your audience? How do you tell them the 1,000 reasons to work with you in under 50 words?

Many businesses focus on the wrong things to try and connect with their audience, leaving them no closer to their goal and with a whole lot of wasted time and effort on their hands. Gone are the days of people caring how old your business is; gone are the days of long stuffy bios and dense, technical language.

Effective messaging doesn’t have to be a mystery. It simply takes the right approach to get to the message you’re looking for.

Where to start

When hiring someone outside your organization to help with marketing, a common tactic is to research your top three competitors and base your messaging on what they learned. They’re hoping to find out what you’re up against, what is successful for others in your industry niche, and where the bar is set.

But this strategy is deeply flawed. It starts on the premise that your competitors know what they’re doing, which very often they don’t. (They probably looked at competitors’ websites, too!)

The second problem with this approach is that it only reflects what has already been done and will only work to ensure your messaging becomes a copycat of theirs, undermining your unique perspective and value. Essentially, it puts another company’s words in your mouth—and your competitor’s at that!

So, instead of looking back at the lagging indicator created by what other organizations have done in the past, start by looking to the future. Your future. Ask yourself where your organization is now and envision where you want to go. Your message should reflect where you are now and project the future with you and your client in it.

Define your audience

Before you write anything, start by defining your audience. Identify who your ideal customer is and what brings them to you. What are their worries, challenges, and pain points, and why are you the organization to help them overcome those things?

Once you’ve identified the face of your audience and you’ve identified their challenges, envision their future. Envision how their future will be improved through what you can offer them. Create a message that allows them to see a better version of their future selves. Work to reflect their pain points back to them in the form of their aspirations, enabled by you.

Simplify

One of the quickest ways to lose someone’s attention is to overload them with information. Read through your message from the perspective of your ideal customer. Are you providing them with information they don’t need at the moment? Are you getting wordy about your excellent organization and all the fantastic things you do?

While it may make you feel good, it only makes it harder for your ideal customer to get what they need. People are busy. They have a lot to do and little time to do it, and they want the easiest, most transparent, most obvious solution. They shouldn’t have to expend effort to understand what you do or know the obvious next step. If they do, they’ll leave and probably never come back.

Your message should only give people precisely what they need at that moment. No more, no less.

Keep working at it

As your business develops and grows, so should your messaging. Consider it a living, breathing part of your organization that needs to be fed and allowed to evolve.

Don’t hold your messaging hostage to old, stuffy language just because that’s the way you’ve always done it. Keep coming back to it, evaluating its effectiveness, and giving it room to change. It takes serious effort, but with every inch of messaging effort you put in, your customers receive a mile in value.

 

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by gstockstudio

How to Get Online Reviews for Your Business

We all check reviews out, whether it’s for a restaurant, a new car purchase, or a medical professional. We know how valuable they are when we read them. But are you taking the time to cultivate that type of experience for your customers? Creating that advantage for your business?

More reviews mean better SEO, more social credibility, and more usable data for your company to source. But how do companies get reviews? Making a one-time push for reviews is common. Brick and mortar retail stores and restaurants solicit reviews after a grand opening or event. Online companies will get reviews after rolling out a new product or service.

Having current customer reviews makes a huge difference as most people consider reviews that are a few months old irrelevant. So, what are some ways your company can keep the reviews consistently rolling in?

Reach out

A great way to get customers to leave reviews is by directly asking them. The challenge here is doing so in the right way, at the right time. Here are some ideas.

  • Set up an automated email asking for a customer review. Schedule it to go out a week or so after a customer has made a purchase. Make sure you give them enough time to receive and use the product before scheduling the email to send.
  • Set up a short survey to send out right after you complete a webinar or event, asking people to share their experiences. Remember, when asking for a review, being prompt is key.
  • Send out a social media post asking for loyal customers to give back. This can be done in a friendly, personal tone that encourages people who care about your company to come forward and show their support. Be sure to express your gratitude and make it cheerful—you don’t want to appear desperate!
  • Asking one-to-one is also a great way to get reviews. Consider having a wrap-up meeting after completing a client project. Use this time to ask them about their experience, make sure they have everything they need, and request a review. This is a great practice when your business offers services that require in-person or video meetings. People respond well to being asked personally—happy customers want to give back!

Make it easy

Optimize the pathways your customers can take to leave reviews by creating multiple avenues for them to do so. The easier it is to leave a review, the more likely people will take the time to leave you one. You can do this by:

  • Creating easy, direct routes from your website to pages like Facebook, Yelp, and Google Review by adding badges to your menu bar and footer
  • Making sure you add a link asking for a review to your email signature
  • Adding a link for reviews to your product pages and confirmation emails

What to avoid

An important rule to getting reviews: Never pay anyone for a positive review. It is not only illegal but can be very obvious to anyone reading them. When customers come across fake reviews, they immediately lose trust in the company. If your company is getting fake positive reviews, it will backfire and undermine your social credibility and legitimacy.

Ready, set, go!

Make sure you keep your eyes out for new ways of engaging customers and bringing in reviews—the internet is a constantly changing platform and staying on top of current trends is critical to maintaining relevance. Any way you look at it, reviews will help your company get visibility, credibility, and informative, usable data.

Talk with your team, create a plan for asking for reviews, and then stick with it! Consistent reviews can give your business the social proof you need to boost both SEO and credibility. And unlike so many other activities, it doesn’t require a line in your budget!

 

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Three Books to Help You Jumpstart Your Brand

Creating a relevant, strong, and trusted brand is one of the most fundamental aspects of developing a successful company. Many entrepreneurs find that it’s one of the hardest things to accomplish. Not because it’s unattainable, but because it takes long-term planning, strategy, and self-education, all of which require quite a lot of time. (Oh, and the belief that it’s worth the time.)

One of the reasons creating a successful brand is so difficult is that it’s confusing. Messaging, platforms, brand development—it’s all been rapidly changing for the better part of the last two decades. Keeping up is hard work! But if you put aside the technology and the data and all the fancy new platforms, there are some strategies any business can tap into that are evergreen and will last the lifetime of your business.

Aside from hiring a marketing company to help you, there are an overwhelming amount of resources out there for business leaders to tap into to help them grow and develop their brand. To help, we’ve narrowed it down to three books that will help you cover all the most important bases.

The Truth About Creating Brands People Love

Authors: Brian D. Till and Donna Heckler

This book is excellent for busy leaders who don’t have more than a handful of minutes a day to spend reading. The book is broken up into 51 short chapters, each teaching one specific lesson about marketing. Take your highlighter and go chapter by chapter, allowing each truth to sink in throughout your day. From positioning to strategy, Till and Heckler do a stellar job breaking down common marketing misconceptions and righting the common marketing ‘wrongs’ companies make every day. This book will help you avoid common mistakes and enable you to develop a better understanding of what marketing is and isn’t.

Start With Why

Author: Simon Sinek

Since his famous TED Talk, Sinek has been a household name among business leaders for the last decade—and for good reason. Start with Why breaks down one of the most fundamentally impactful messaging strategies out there. Detailing the same method that skyrocketed Apple into one of the leading brands of the 21st century and enabled Martin Luther King Jr. to move an entire generation, every entrepreneur should read this book—not just people interested in marketing their business. It will help you frame your brand and your vision and enable you to authentically connect with your audience in a lasting and impactful way.

Building A Story Brand

Author: Donald Miller

This bestseller offers a handy toolset designed to help you position your brand in a way that connects with the dreams and goals of your audience. In today’s world, the customer has never been more important, and many brands struggle to understand how to position themselves to their audience. This book takes you chapter-by-chapter, step-by-step, through a series of exercises to help you clarify your message into something your customers will want to listen to. It may even help you better understand your organization. When developing your website, your marketing materials—even your sales pitches, this book turns the traditional advertising storyline on its head in a refreshingly clear and effective way.

Take matters into your own hands 

Don’t let the feeling of overwhelm stop you from attacking the problem of your brand. And don’t let fear of the unknown stop you from learning something new. You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on a marketing organization to develop a successful brand. In fact, doing the learning yourself will help you develop a greater understanding of your brand, empowering you to take it farther than any external organization has the power to do. The information is at your fingertips; all you have to do is open the book.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by sergeybogachuk

What Marketing Stats Can Teach Us About Human Behavior

Whether you’re in HR, marketing, sales, the C-Suite, or customer service, you rely on people. You need them to listen, to purchase, to follow, to keep coming back to you. And while your audience might be different, people are generally the same.

As the world of marketing has boomed over the past decade, so has its reliance on data and its ability to derive knowledge from it. Some data is too specific, but some data speaks on a grander scale, tying into modern human behavior and sentiment that we can use to inform just about any part of business.

Stat: After a bad experience, 88% of visitors won’t return to a website.

We live in a world of abundance. Customers have seemingly endless choices when it comes to where they spend their money and time. If they don’t like their experience with you, they can return to Google and click the next link in their search.

What can this teach us? That you have to prioritize your customer’s experience—even if your product is the best on the market.

If you work in HR, this correlates to an employee’s onboarding or offboarding experience. If they have a bad one, their entire perception of the organization can be tainted. If you’re in sales, think about the experience your prospects have with you. Are you calling them once and then forgetting about them? Or are you only focusing on trying to sell them the product of the highest value despite whether it’s right for them?

Ultimately, your audience’s experience as they are introduced to you, your website, your product, or your organization, sets the tone for your entire relationship. If you’re not making your best effort to give them a quality experience, they won’t be inclined to stay for long.

Stat: Nearly 100% of first impressions of a website are based on aesthetics and design.

While we’ve all heard the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover,” these days, that’s how people decide whether you care about them. If you haven’t updated your sales presentation since 2015, no one will take you seriously because they won’t feel taken seriously. If your employee handbook is ten pages of technical language without text breaks, no one will take the time to read it. If you show up to your job interview in an old t-shirt and ripped jeans, they aren’t going to give you a chance.

The way you present your information, value proposition, business, or company values is just as important as the information you’re trying to convey.

Stat: Every dollar invested in user experience results in an ROI of up to $100.

Investing your time, energy, and money into the experience of your audience pays off. While this may be common sense, it’s still one of the most impactful concepts you can learn. If your business sells products online, have you taken the time to walk in your customers’ shoes? Do you know what it’s like to purchase something from your own site?

If you’re preparing for a sales meeting, do you research your lead? Do you know what their pain points are, what their values are, what their goals are? Have you role-played your presentation?

As an HR leader, have you reviewed your employee benefits usage? Do you know what their experience is during open enrollment? Have you tried to seek out ways to improve it?

The success of your venture rests upon the ease of engagement for your audience. The easier it is for them to say yes, make the purchase, and understand what you’re telling them, the more often you’re going to succeed.

The underlying truth

Ultimately, each of these statistics tells us one fundamental truth: it’s not about you—it’s about your audience. Suppose your first concern is impressing your audience with your experience or making sure they buy the most profitable product or hit all the boxes on your compliance checklist. In that case, you’re setting yourself up for building low-quality relationships that won’t last.

If, however, you’re concerned with what they see when they first meet you, if you’re careful about how they receive the information you’re communicating, and if you’re bent on making it as easy as humanly possible to engage with you, then you’re setting yourself up for success. It’s that simple.

 

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by rawpixel

Five Easy Ways to Improve Your Website

These days, businesses have more options than ever when it comes to building their website. And while there are great DIY tools you can use to build a website at a low cost, if you’re not trained in design, you might be doing yourself more harm than good. Whether you like it or not, the design of your website will play a significant role in your visitors’ perception of your company and brand.

If you’re building your website yourself, pay attention to these five design concepts to keep your visitors engaged.

1. Make some room

One common mistake companies make is squeezing a ton of information into a small amount of space. While you may think that information is essential and useful to your customer, if it doesn’t have room to breathe on the page, no one will spend the time to read it. Designers refer to this useful little concept as “white space.”

White space is essentially the negative space surrounding anything on a page (or piece of content). It functions as a mental “break” for viewers, creating a visual pause between pieces of information. If you don’t leave enough white space on your page, the information you present will quickly become overwhelming and cumbersome to consume.

This goes for text, images, videos, or any combination of content. Be sure you’re leaving your viewers’ brains “room to breathe” on your site. Create this white space by breaking up your site into sections, or strips of content, using different solid color backgrounds to create visual separation between sections. For further explanation and examples, check out this beginner’s guide to understanding whitespace.

2. Cut. It. Out.

A challenge many companies have is identifying what information should be on the site. Business owners often love talking about their company and tend to feel the need to offer up way too much information than necessary for a website.

The content on your site should be:

  • Concise
  • Clear
  • To the point
  • High level (not in-depth and detailed)

You don’t want your site to tell your customers everything they might ever need to know about your business. You do want your website to intrigue your customers enough to want to start a conversation with you.

Do yourself a favor and keep your About Us page short, keep the subject of your messaging centered around your customer, and keep your explanation of your products and services as Simple. As. Possible.

3. Content, content, content

When it comes to grabbing and holding the attention of your visitors, it helps to do your research. Different types of content have different strengths and functions, so knowing how and where to offer varying types of content can be extremely helpful.

Integrating video content, visual graphics, and written content throughout your site will help visitors consume information and expand their understanding and connection to your brand and product/services. If you’ve got a particularly important piece of information you want to share, consider putting it into a short video to help it stand out from the rest of the information on your site.

4. Simplify the journey

An easy way to turn people away from your site is to overwhelm them with options. To simplify and clarify their journey through your site, avoid having multiple pop-ups on one page, or too many CTAs in one space. Two is fine, but offering three or more directions for a visitor to go may overwhelm and frustrate them.

Keep your message obvious. Think about what it is you want your readers to do and then stick to that. If a visitor has to exit out of multiple pop-ups, alerts, and chatbots to get to the information on your page, you’re only getting in your own way.

5. Optimize

Making sure your site works well on mobile devices should be a top priority. For the past few years, more than half of all web traffic happens on mobile devices – more than half of all your website visitors are viewing your website on their phones! If your site isn’t optimized to function properly on a mobile device, you’re setting yourself up for readers who won’t get the information you want to share and likely won’t come back.

Take your time, and do it right

75% of people will judge the credibility of your company based on your website’s design. It’s the first real interaction you’ll have with the majority of your customers. If you want that experience to be a good one, then take the time to build a site that represents the brand you love. It’s worth it.

 

Photo by goodluz

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners