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The 7 things you are probably screwing up in your branding

(Marketing) Branding is an exact science, and we all have room for improvement, so what does this expert know that you might not? Read on to find out.

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No one is perfect

Whether you’re the CEO of a sizable brand or a single-person startup, you influence your company’s branding, and the truth is that no one is perfect. You may only be committing two of the seven sins outlined below, but you may be committing them all, so keep reading.

We refuse to regurgitate the same business advice you’ve already read everywhere else, so we’ve tapped the brain of brand builder and keynote speaker, Jeremy Miller, who is the well-known President of Sticky Branding, and he’s insanely good at helping companies stand out.

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Miller didn’t bat an eye at naming the common sins across all industries when it comes to branding, so in his own words below are not only the seven ways you’re probably screwing up, but ways to correct your errors:

1. Selling At All Costs

No one wants to be sold.

No one wants to deal with pushy sales reps and over-the-top marketing campaigns, but that’s what so many brands do. They push, push, push and talk, talk, talk.

Sticky Brands build relationships. They engage their customers upwards of three years before their products and services are needed. That way their customers know, like, and trust them, and they call them first when they have a need.

Take off your sales hat and focus on your customers, build lasting relationships with them.

2. An Out of Date Website

Branding is not an event, it’s a process

An outdated website is a sign of neglect. If you haven’t updated your website design in four years, I have to ask. Why don’t you like your brand? Was it mean to you?

Sticky Brands are constantly polishing and improving their brand collateral. The work is never done.

3. Bland, Boring, and Blue

A third of the top 100 global brands are blue. Brands like P&G, IBM, Facebook, GE, HP, Ford, and Samsung all use blue as the primary brand color.

Blue is a pretty good color. It connotes a company that is trustworthy, established, and secure. It’s the color of big, old, and professional.

As a result, a disproportionate number of small- and mid-sized companies default to using blue in their identities too. They assume blue is a better branding choice because it signals they are like the big, established brands.

That may be true, but blue is average. If everyone else is blue, pick another color. Make your brand visibly different!

4. Being “Good Enough”

We all work with plenty of companies that do a good job. They are efficient, effective, and deliver good value for the price. But good is not enough. Good is average, and average is not worth bragging about.

Find what makes your company unique or special, and bake that into everything you do. Be better than good — be the best in your business, and your brand will be hard to beat.

5. Ignoring your Values and Crashing your Brand

The pressure to perform is intense in companies, and sometimes you may look for a shortcut to hit a short term goal.

But short term gains can create long term pains.

If you ignore your values to achieve a short term goal or to overcome a crisis, you may crash your brand.

Your company’s values are the glue that holds it together. They form the bonds of your culture, attract the right people, and help you serve your clients.

What does your business believe? What are your morals? The more you know and understand your values, the better you can protect your brand.

6. Being too Focused on the Exit Strategy

Steve Jobs said, “I hate it when people call themselves ‘entrepreneurs’ when what they’re really trying to do is launch a startup and then sell or go public, so they can cash in and move on. They’re unwilling to do the work it takes to build a real company, which is the hardest work in business.”

Are you building a business to cash out, or are your building a brand? Brand building focuses on building a business that can transition through the generations.

7. Losing sight of what’s most important, your customers

To paraphrase James Carville, “It’s the customer, stupid.” Your customers are the only reason your business exists. The CEO might sign the paychecks, but it’s your customers that make that possible.

As companies scale and grow they risk “losing the plot.” This means thinking something that doesn’t matter one iota to your customers should be important. Or vice-versa.

Sticky Brands are built by putting their customers first. They innovate, challenge the status quo, and win, because they are intensely focused on serving and delighting their customers.

Read more of Millers’ insight in his new book, Sticky Branding: 12.5 Principles to Stand Out, Attract Customers and Grow an Incredible Brand.

Marti Trewe reports on business and technology news, chasing his passion for helping entrepreneurs and small businesses to stay well informed in the fast paced 140-character world. Marti rarely sleeps and thrives on reader news tips, especially about startups and big moves in leadership.

Business Marketing

A personalized daily digital marketing checklist

(MARKETING NEWS) For all businesses, it is not only essential to develop an digital marketing strategy, but also necessary to utilize it in order to gain customers, and ultimately make a larger profit. This app can help.

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clearpath digital marketing

There is no doubt that starting your own business can be overwhelming. Along with promoting your business at events, meetings and in person, digital marketing strategies play a key role in the success of a company. For all businesses, it is not only essential to develop an online presence, but also necessary to utilize it in order to gain customers, and ultimately make a larger profit.

Simply creating a website and Facebook page for your business is not enough. However, software tools can help simplify digital marketing. ClearPath is a tool that organizes and creates tasks to optimize your online marketing. By creating to-do lists for you based on your online marketing strategy, you can focus on the areas of marketing that improve your business, all the while receiving useful tips and advice.

Using ClearPath is pretty straightforward and only requires one prerequisite. Before beginning, you must have a website.

If you are already lost, don’t panic. ClearPath can help you develop an online presence. Once your website is linked up, you get to choose the marketing channels that you would like to focus on. These include Search Engine Optimization (SEO), email, social, content, analytics, local, pay-per-click (PPC) and Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). Again, if you are lost, ClearPath is there to help you strategize.

After ClearPath analyzes your site, they start sending you customized tasks based they believe can improve your online marketing.

As you finish each task, you can simply check it off and it will disappear. New tasks will appear each day, and some may even repeat as they need to be updated.

Whether you are well-versed in digital marketing or not, staying updated with the newest ways to optimize your business online is a constant struggle. Tools like ClearPath give people a place to start. Although I don’t think it can supplement an active and experienced digital marketer, it is a tool that can help small businesses that cannot afford to add to their team yet. At the end of the day, it aims to save you time. And since time is money, your business will hopefully be more profitable.

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Business Marketing

Simple logo creation tools perfect for any freelancer

(MARKETING) You already know that even if you’re a solo writer, or lone developer, you need a brand in today’s online world. If you’re on a budget, check out these logo creation tools!

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Freelancing is a major part of the landscape nowadays. In that capacity, you’re running your own one-person business. As such, you need to brand that business. You know that, but let’s discuss the actionables.

I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word “branding”, I immediately envision logos (which is super convenient because it brings me to my next point). You should absolutely have a logo as a freelancer, even if it’s simply just your name in a rad – but professional – font.

This will be useful on your website, social media, on invoices and beyond. You can even pop that bad boy into your email signature!

Ideally, you should hire a graphic designer that knows what they’re doing – you’ll get the best results. But if your budget is zero dollars, don’t you dare ask a professional for free work.

Instead, if you want to develop a logo for your personal freelancing brand on the cheap, check out five of our favorites below and see what works for you. The best part? These all have some free components.

  1. Picfont: Let me start with personal experience. My freelance logo (which is the cover photo of my Twitter), is literally just my name in a script-like font, and was made using Picfont. You can upload a blank background (or pick from fun royalty-free backgrounds) and choose from a variety of font options. Pick what you like, shape it out, download, and use. Easy
  2. Looka (formerly Logojoy) is also a great, easy-to-use online logo maker. You simply type in your company name/your name and go through a process of selecting colors and styles that you like. Looka then generates a selection of logos based on your choices. For an example, I created the logo for The Tidbit using Looka.
  3. Online Logo Maker: a wonderfully self-explanatory name. This logo maker is almost like a combination of Picfont and Logojoy. You can play around with different fonts, colors, and symbols to make a logo that fits you. This option also features high-quality Vector files.
  4. Canva is a great option because you can design a multitude of material (including flyers, presentations, graphs, etc.) If you’re planning to build a full-on portfolio with supplemental materials in addition to a logo, Canva may be your best bet as you can design everything to have a similar look – which is incredibly important for branding.
  5. DesignEvo: Their website describes it best, “DesignEvo is a free online logo maker with 8,000+ templates that anyone can use to bring to life a compelling, unique logo in minutes.” They have a drag and drop interface and hundreds of fonts.

Take some time to test drive these sites, play around with different logo types, and see which one gels best with you and your freelancing-self. Happy branding!

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Business Marketing

How to use offline marketing to your advantage in a digital world

(BUSINESS) We often become obsessed with new marketing strategies, favoring the internet over some traditional methods that continue to drive traffic timelessly.

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Everywhere you look, people want to talk about digital marketing. In fact, if you don’t have a digital marketing strategy in today’s business world, you’re not going to last long. But just because digital marketing is popular, don’t assume that offline marketing no longer yields value.

When used together, these strategies can produce significant returns.

“Some people will argue that traditional marketing is dead, but there are several benefits to including offline advertising in your overall marketing campaign,” sales expert Larry Myler admits. “Combining both offline and online campaigns can help boost your brand’s visibility, and help it stand out amongst competitors who may be busy flooding the digital space.”

How do you use offline marketing in a manner that’s both cost-effective and high in exposure? While your business will dictate how you should proceed, here are a few offline marketing methods that still return considerable value in today’s marketplace.

1. Yard signs

When most people think about yard signs, their minds immediately go to political signs that you see posted everywhere during campaign season. However, yard signs have a lot more utility and value beyond campaigning. They’re actually an extremely cost-effective form of offline advertising.

The great thing about yard signs is that you can print your own custom designs for just dollars and, when properly stored, they last for years. They’re also free to place, assuming you have access to property where it’s legal to advertise. This makes them a practical addition to a low-budget marketing campaign.

2. Billboards

The fact that you notice billboards when driving down an interstate or highway is a testament to the reality that other people are also being exposed to these valuable advertisements. If you’ve never considered implementing billboards into your marketing strategy, now’s a good time to think about it.

With billboard advertising, you have to be really careful with design, structure, and execution. “Considering we’re on the move when we read billboards, we don’t have a lot of time to take them in. Six seconds has been touted as the industry average for reading a billboard,” copywriter Paul Suggett explains. “So, around six words is all you should use to get the message across.”

3. Promotional giveaways

It’s the tangible nature of physical marketing that makes it so valuable. Yard signs and billboards are great, but make sure you’re also taking advantage of promotional giveaways as a way of getting something into the hands of your customers.

Promotional giveaways, no matter how simple, generally produce a healthy return on investment. They increase brand awareness and recall, while giving customers positive associations with your brand. (Who doesn’t love getting something for free?)

4. Local event sponsorships

One aspect of offline marketing businesses frequently forget about is local event sponsorships. These sponsorships are usually cost-effective and tend to offer great returns in terms of audience engagement.

Local event sponsorships can usually be found simply by checking the calendar of events in your city. Any time there’s a public event, farmer’s market, parade, sporting event, concert, or fundraiser, there’s an opportunity for you to get your name out there. Look for events where you feel like your target audience is most likely to attend.

Offline marketing is anything but dead.

If your goal is to stand out in a crowded marketplace where all your competitors are investing heavily in social media, SEO, PPC advertising, and blogging, then it’s certainly worth supplementing your existing digital strategy with traditional offline marketing methods that reach your audience at multiple touchpoints.

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