Recently a friend had been complaining about business and how much it had changed. He has run his business for over 20 years and never had any problem but now things are harder and he doesn’t understand why. I explained that times have changed and you have to be proactive in your marketing or you will be left behind. He looked at me and said ‘But Why?’ with a genuine concern and confusion about why all of a sudden it doesn’t work like it used to!
In this article I wanted to explain why the world has changed (from my marketing point of view) and how you can join the change to grow your business and indeed NOT be left behind.
Yes, it’s a new world. The Internet has changed business forever; it’s opened up online buying, online marketing and a community that is savvy about best buys, quality and trigger-happy. Being online is vital today for good business and having a website that allows customers to buy online will give you the edge over other competitors.
Why and who are your new world customers?
Your customers are well informed and like to Google their way through to research and shop (Google is an online search engine tool). Even though they can walk down and get their product in a store most of the time, a lot of people like the choice and feel in fact they are getting a bargain online. Some businesses charge less online and have taken their business out of front of store to operate purely online to save costs.
The other key reason the Internet has changed everything is because your customers like to engage with their brands. They want to know more about YOU and your business, they want to know that you are authentic and what your values are. Brands are the differentiating factor between each business today, so the question is what IS your brand saying?
Let’s start with what a ‘brand’ means? A brand is not a service, logo or product, it’s actually how the customer connects emotionally with YOU or YOUR business/service. So you have to know more than ever before what your business is about and what is it really offering a customer and what experience it is giving them.
A restaurant is not offering good food or décor, it’s actually offering romance for a women on Valentines Day, it’s offering a great business deal, solace from a friend when someone is down. A new kitchen is not offering a kitchen, it’s offering a new lifestyle, happy times with the family. A piece of clothing is offering confidence, a holiday is offering freedom and escape from the daily grind. What are you offering your customers?
As a small business and personal brand expert, I know that a lot of personal branding applies to small business because for most us we ARE the business. That means the key stakeholder’s values, beliefs, past experiences and goals generally form that personal or business brand.
So let’s look at what YOUR brand could be and ask yourself these questions to start forming your brand identity:
- What are your key values and do they reflect in your business/service or product?
- What do you believe to be true and do they reflect in your business/service or product?
- What are the practical services or offerings of the business?
- What are the colors you use and why?
- If you compared your business to a celebrity, who would they be?
- If your business had a voice what would it say?
- What is your tag line or motto?
- How do people feel about your business/service/products?
- What is unique about your business/service/products?
- What are your goals for the next 5 years?
Once you start getting clarity about your brand and understanding it’s true offering, that’s where social media is your new magical marketing tool, it gives you or your business a voice to EXPRESS your brand.
Once you establish your brand’s voice and image, you can then take that into the market place in a much easier and cheaper way than the previous traditional forms of media. Your biggest and fastest reach will always be TV advertising, but it’s extremely expensive. Print again is expensive and has a smaller reach compared to the Internet. So how do you market online? Firstly let’s look at PR or Advertising? What is the difference?
PR is taking a very clear brand into a news/current type media. For example TV and radio appearances to do with relevant current topics (not advertising), organizing live events to showcase the clients business/product or service.
Advertising agencies focus more on traditional forms of media such as TV and Radio Ads, print advertising and online. Advertising is generally more process driven with campaigns that have strategic planning incorporating brand development.
Social media is used in both PR and Advertising but in different ways, because PR is more about integrating brand with current events while advertising builds on a longer term strategy, it’s a different voice. However, having said that, the two are closing the gap more as social media and online marketing is proving to be more powerful by the minute. What social media has done is given everyone the ability to engage with each other and customers like to know they are being listened to and understood.
If you are keen to get into the new world, then investigate a company that understands your business type and talk to both a PR or Advertising agency with a set budget in mind. Speak with as many as you can to get an understanding of what your parameters are. Personality, trust and connection, as with any brand, are the key aspects to look for when searching for the right fit?