Thu, 25 February 2016
WSS #0175: Warfare Plugins: Saving The World One Share At A Time. A Chat With Dustin Stout And Nick Cardot
Almost Saint Patrick’s Day!
And that means we’ve got the perfect tea for you to try. It’s Simpson & Vail’s Irish Blend – a combination of Indian teas with a dash of Earl Grey and a hint of floral notes. It’s the perfect accompaniment to… well, anything, really. It’s delicious, so visit svtea.com and treat yourself to a tin.
It’s Time For Social Warfare
Our guests today include Dustin Stout, Nicholas Cardot and the Jason Wiser-bot who are the fabulous trio behind Social Warfare Plugins.
Wait… did you ask, “What’s the Social Warfare plugin?” If you did, then you should know that it’s THE social sharing plugin to dominate all social sharing plugins. In fact, for us (and our clients) it’s the ONLY social sharing plugin. It’s beautiful. It works on mobile. It lets you perfectly customize your text and images for different social networks. And it comes with a “frame buster” option, which if you heard our episode on Snip.ly is a thing unto itself.
This isn’t actually a commercial or a pitch. We just love the plugin and have been dying to talk to the guys behind it. We’ve known them online for a while and are glad to finally have them on the show to talk about their entrepreneurial journey.
In The Beginning…
We want to know: how do three guys decide to build a social sharing plugin?
Interestingly enough, they met on Google Plus (win for social media) and hit it off. Dustin shared his frustrations with Nick about how terrible the available social sharing plugins were at the time then mocked up a drawing of what he wanted a social sharing plugin to look like on his site. He brought that drawing to Nick and asked if it could be developed.
At the same time this was happening, Jason asked Nick about a similar problem he was having with social sharing plugins on his own site. Jason shared a few ideas for a better plugin with Nick, who took both Dustin’s and Jason’s ideas and combined them into one – dare we say it – perfect plugin.
Business Roles And Responsibilities
So far this sounds fun. A couple of guys. A social network. A bunch of great ideas and a need in the marketplace. Time to start developing!
Except the thing about starting a business is that sometimes it’s just about the business. You know, that boring sort of business-y stuff that few people like (and those who do are beloved by the rest of us) like shareholder agreements, equity distribution and responsibilities.
Nick says that the shareholder agreement has always been a work in progress and is constantly being revised to fit their needs. For that, you need things like attorneys. And capital. At some point everyone has to contribute to the expense fund, whether it’s for attorneys fees, developers (in their case, Nick was the developer so they didn’t have to hire another), accountants and other costs. There has to be a bank account. There has to be bookkeeping.
Then there’s the matter of “who’s going to do what?”
Unless that’s clearly defined, you could get yourself into some sticky business situations. These boys were smart and made it clear who was responsible for what, right in their shareholder agreement.
Their First Fight
After a while, listening to these guys talk about their great ideas and smart business decisions makes us want to poke the hornet’s nest a little (because you know that’s how we roll.)
So we ask: when did they have their first big fight?
Dustin gives us a nice answer about how they avoid fights by making sure that whenever there is a disagreement or “tie vote” on something, they always defer to the person who has the authority and responsibility in the area they’re discussing.
Still sounds pretty smart to us, and not like much of a fight. So we rephrase the question: what was your most challenging moment?
Dustin comes up with something they disagreed about early on and it turns out to be both relatable and hilariously minor.
As they were building their website and coming up with the benefit points, Dustin wanted to list them as “beautifully responsive” and “lightning fast”… etc.
But Jason and Nick wanted to list them as “lightning fast” and “beautifully responsive.”
The debate over which of the two was more important and should be listed first on the website turned into a heated discussion, followed by market research, followed by a poll on Google Plus, followed by more heated discussion. All over the order of two bullet points.
And yes, we can relate. Sometimes it’s the littlest things that make you dig your heels in on a point.
You Are Not Your Product
One of the challenges we all face is dealing with people who don’t like us, don’t like our product, or experience a problem with our product or service and take it out on us in loud, raging fashion.
The guys have gotten support requests that come across as angry or insulting and they remind themselves that people are not insulting them personally even though it may feel like it. They also take an empathetic approach and understand that the person submitting the support request is, in fact, a person. So they make sure to treat people well – even the angry and insulting ones.
We add that “being a person” goes both ways. Whether you’re submitting a support request or answering one, you’re still talking to a human being on the other end. The internet can make us feel detached but it pays to remind ourselves that the internet is still people.
The Domain Name Challenge
In our last episode we talked about some of the challenges of naming our podcast product, including the fact that even when we came up with a good name, the domain was already taken. So we ask the guys if they had a similar experience because their domain is warfareplugins.com but their plugin is called Social Warfare.
The answer is yes – domains they wanted were taken – but they had an ingenious solution. They named the site and overall company Warfare Plugins (hence, the domain) and plan to use that as the umbrella for the Social Warfare plugin and other, future plugins they have planned. This way they can use one site as their content and marketing hub.
Brilliant! And we can’t wait to see what they’ve got coming next.
A Side Note: We Hate Popups
But they work. Yes, you’ve heard it before but we ask Dustin about the one he uses on his site and what results he’s had. Turns out he hates popups. And don’t we all say that? But apparently we love to hate them because Dustin says his signup rate went up and there was no negative impact on the open rate of his emails. We found similar results when we tried a popup years ago, but we got rid of it because generally speaking people always say they hate them.
Time to rethink that?
Your Action Item
From Nick: learn something new every day. Something REAL that adds to your skillset. Keep improving yourself so you can get better at what you do.
From Dustin: engage your audience with visuals. Don’t worry about not being “creative.” Just go out and create something. Even if it sucks. You’ll get better at it!
Links & Resources
Direct download: 0175-warfare-plugins-saving-the-world-one-share-at-a-time.mp3
Category:business -- posted at: 12:00am EST
Tue, 23 February 2016
Naming A Product IS HARD.
We’ve been hinting recently about a podcast tool that we’re developing and one of the first things we set out to do was name it. Four of the partners got together – Mike Brooks, Michael Campasano, Carol Lynn and me – and started brainstorming.
Four months later, here we still are, and our product is still nameless. It’s been a challenging process for lots of reasons and that’s what we’re talking about today because if you’re starting a business or launching a product, you’re going to go through the same thing. We hope our experience can help you.
One of the challenges we faced was having four partners involved in the naming, each with a unique perspective. Mike, who is in charge of sales and marketing, wants something with a hook that he can speak from a stage or throw out at a trade show and have it be instantly memorable. Something you can type into a browser and find online even without being told how.
Michael, who is in charge of branding and visual identity, is coming at the naming from a completely different perspective. He sees things in color and imagery and can see how certain words and combinations of words can create compelling visuals.
Carol Lynn wants a good story, something she can tell in the marketing copy, on social media, in interviews and on blogs. Much like Carol Lynn, I want something with a good story behind it, something that is uniquely meaningful.
Somehow we have to get everyone on the same page, and while we’re definitely in the same book, even in the same chapter, we still haven’t agreed on a direction for the name. So in one sense, it’s been challenging. In another, it’s been nice to have the differing perspectives. We have no doubt that when we hit on something, we’re all going to love it.
A Working Title Leads To A Host Of Other Challenges
Early on as we were talking about what the tool would do, Mike compared it to a showrunner. So for a while, that was our working title – Showrunner. It was a fairly literal interpretation, easy to say, easy to remember. But nobody was really convinced.
We also toyed with the idea of naming it after Fred (our audience) and decided that might be too much of an “inside joke.” At first Mike didn’t like that idea. Then he did. At first we loved the idea. Then we didn’t.
On the less literal side, we came up with the name Epodsodic – a play on the word Episode and Podcast. Michael, Carol Lynn and I loved it. We practically had the marketing and logo designed in our heads. Mike brought us back to reality by reminding us of how difficult the spelling would be to explain, and how people were more likely to go to episodic.com, which would clearly not be us.
Remember the part about this being hard?
At the moment we’re still tinkering with the idea of incorporating Fred into the name. We also still like the idea of Showrunner but then the worst challenge of all cropped up…
Domain Squatters Must Die
We definitely haven’t been short on ideas. In fact, we’ve had some pretty great ideas. But where we inevitably hit a brick wall is in finding a matching domain name. We all agree on one thing: we want a domain that matches the product name. And that was one reason we ended up dismissing Showrunner. We thought about DigitalShowrunner.com or ShowrunnerApp.com but ultimately neither of those pleased us.
The problem isn’t that products or businesses already exist under most of these domain names, the problem is domain squatters. These are people who buy up combinations of words and then sit there and wait for people like us who want the domain and are willing to cough up thousands and thousands, or tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Mike calls them a pestilence and even though there’s nothing wrong or illegal about buying as many domain names as you want, there is definitely something that feels unethical about buying a domain you have no intention of using and then waiting for someone who does want to start a business to pay a ton of money for it.
In any case, we (much like most startups) don’t have a ton of money and we’re not going to cough up any thousands of dollars for a domain, so we’ve been back to the drawing board many times just because someone is squatting on the domain.
Your Seriously Social Moment
Ian Anderson Gray says that some automation on social media is good, but you still need to display your humanity. Today he’s got some homework for you, so get busy!
Over the next week, every single day, he wants you to do the following on whatever social network you choose:
You may be surprised by the results!
How To Name A Product (Advice From Non-Experts)
We’re not naming experts but we’re engrossed in the process and we used a few tricks to help us get clarity and come up with ideas. Here are a couple of things we tried.
First, brainstorm! We’re lucky to have five people involved but even if you’re solo, you can still have a great brainstorming session. Invite a friend! Then get a piece of paper and divide it into 3 columns. In the last column, write down what you do. For example, when Mike was naming his company he wrote down “marketing” in the last column.
Then in the first two columns, write words that describe what you do – adjectives, nouns, verbs – whatever says something about that last word. In Mike’s case, he eventually came up with “deliciously explosive” which ultimately became “Nuclear Chowder” – a little bit of ridiculous plus a little bit of interest and a whole lot of visual.
Mike also gave us a homework exercise which was essentially a “fill in the blank” worksheet that required us to write down what our product does – not its features, but its benefits. We had to think about who it is for, what it does and what problem it solves. He calls this our “hook.”
We’ve started the process and we’re currently working on refining that hook. Turns out this naming thing really is hard. And the elevator pitch isn’t any easier! But we’ve been having fun (and mojitos) and we know we’ll end up with something that works.
Introducing… The Podcast Tool
In the absence of a name, we haven’t been able to market our product. We haven’t been talking much about it or building excitement. We haven’t been inviting beta testers or building an email list.
We don’t want to name in haste, nor do we want to miss opportunities to talk about the tool, so we came up with an interim solution. For now, we’re calling it… drumroll… The Podcast Tool. Perhaps most shocking of all, the domain thepodcasttool.com was available! So we snatched that up and now if you want to be a beta tester, you can go there and sign up.
And if you have any ideas, we’d love to hear them. Just don’t squat on the domain!
Direct download: 0174-the-challenges-of-naming-a-new-product-or-business.mp3
Category:business -- posted at: 12:00am EST
Wed, 17 February 2016
How Can A Niche Business Survive?
That’s the question we tackle with Kate Ahl today, a Pinterest expert who has built a business around working with bloggers on their Pinterest strategy.
And while we enjoy Kate and find her to be a smart and savvy business person, we can’t help but ask, “Does the world really need another Pinterest expert??”
More on that in a minute.
What We Don’t Talk About Today: Pinterest
We’ve done that and so have a billion people before. How to pin, when to pin, why to pin. Promoted pins, boards, repins, graphics. Snooze!
You can swing a rubber chicken and hit Pinterest advice. But what you can’t do is get the inside scoop on starting a business from nothing, taking it from two clients to 45 in less than a year and doing it all without knowing anything about the business you’re about to be in.
That’s Kate’s story and it’s fascinating, with a lot of insight along the way.
It Started With A Frugal Blog
Kate’s husband was out of work. Her three kids were little and needed things like “shoes” and “lunch.” Kate’s family of five was surviving on a thousand bucks a month. Their unemployment benefits had just run out, they were on food stamps and there didn’t seem to be anywhere to turn.
At the time, Kate was helping a friend with her frugal blog (a blog designed around couponing, deals and living on a super tight budget), doing posts and some Facebook promotion. Unfortunately, her friend didn’t have the budget to pay Kate more, but she did make a suggestion that would turn Kate into a business woman…
From Frugal Blog To Brilliant Niche
Just as things were looking pretty dire, Kate recognized a growing trend. Facebook reach had been steadily dropping and bloggers were becoming frustrated with their ability to reach their audiences.
Her friend Angela of the frugal blog suggested working with these frustrated bloggers to help them find alternative ways to promote themselves, specifically by using Pinterest.
Kate thought the idea was crazy. She wasn’t convinced that Pinterest could be used for business. In fact, she didn’t particularly like or understand Pinterest!
But she was in "do or die" mode so she dove in and threw herself wholeheartedly into learning everything she could about how to use Pinterest to drive traffic. At first she was skeptical, but she kept learning and she asked a few people to come along for the ride so she could practice and learn some more.
She started with two clients, who were so happy with the results that they’re still Kate’s clients today.
Even A New Business Needs To Make Money
One of the mistakes we so commonly hear is when new business owners work for free because they’re “building a portfolio” or because they don’t have the confidence in themselves to charge for their services.
The good news is that Kate didn’t fall into that trap. She charged for her services right out of the gate, even while she was still learning. She was completely up front with her first clients about what she could do and how much she needed to be paid for it. And while she wasn’t charging as much as she can now that she’s a real pro, she was smart enough to figure out ahead of time how long certain tasks would take and what kind of money she needed to make so the endeavor would be worth her time.
Oh, and she was also smart enough to track her time to be sure that she was spending a proportionate amount of time for the money she was making. Go Kate!
So How DO You Make A Niche Business Succeed?
Know your audience. It’s just that simple. Kate understood the bloggers’ world. She knew their frustrations. She knew their challenges and problems. She could relate to them and what they wanted to do and she was able to offer them something that made their lives easier and gave them exactly what they needed.
And then she did it very well. So well, in fact, that even though she was still learning, she was starting to get inquiries from other bloggers asking if she would work with them, too. And she was starting to get referrals from happy clients who were telling other people how well Kate understood and helped them.
Kate didn’t invent a product and try to sell it. She didn’t decide on a path and then look for a niche for her services. She crafted everything she did around a niche that already existed, with a service that solved their precise problem.
That’s about as close to a magic formula as you can get.
And then? She raised her rates!
Recognize Your Own Pro Status
Even though we all continue learning and honing our craft, no matter our industry, there comes a point when we’re no longer apprentices and are pretty darn good at what we do. Sadly, we’ve witnessed far too many people undervalue themselves and charge too little for what their time and effort are worth. It’s tough to go from “I’m new at this” to “Pay me lots of money because I’m good at this.”
But if you want to succeed in business then that’s exactly what you have to do at some point. After the learning curve, once the referrals started coming in, Kate had that “ah-ha” moment where everything seemed to click into place. And though it was still a nerve wracking experience, she raised her rates.
And she also said something very interesting. She said, “I wanted to move from being a VA to being an expert. I knew that the amount I charged was going to change how people saw me.”
To that we say… exactly!
Hindsight Is 20/20
Considering how thoughtful Kate was about starting and running her business, we couldn’t help but ask whether she made any mistakes or had a moment of “wishing she knew then what she knows now.”
One of the things she says that she didn’t have was a good system for onboarding and managing clients. Without a good system, she was actually making more work for herself and doing a lot of the same tasks over and over.
Sounds familiar. We’re no strangers to starting a business by the seat of our pants and learning some things the harder way. Kate was smart enough (again!) to recognize her limitations and hire a business coach to help her. It just goes to underscore the fact that you don’t have to go it alone. And sometimes you can’t. Sometimes, even when the money isn’t exactly rolling in, it would still be worth your while to get professional help.
But Does The World Really Need ANOTHER Pinterest Expert?
It’s not like Kate is the only Pinterest person on the planet, expert or otherwise. Heck, we’ve had at least three on this show alone, including Alisa Meredith (who was kind enough to introduce us to Kate in the first place!) Jeff Sieh and Cynthia Sanchez.
And Pinterest is pretty niche. So really, when it boils down to it, why would we need another Pinterest person, and how did Kate manage to build a loyal following in a space that already has plenty of experts?
For starters, Kate says, it goes back to understanding the bloggers’ world. She isn’t just “a Pinterest expert.” She’s “a Pinterest expert for bloggers.” That’s pretty niche.
Being that person, the one who understands bloggers, the one who knows how to get results for bloggers, has helped her build a loyal customer base.
She is also the voice of reason in their world. She doesn’t make crazy big promises about making six figure incomes or doubling their traffic in a month. She’s realistic. She guides them individually in a way that helps them grow their businesses and doesn’t sell them formulas. She communicates clearly and prides herself on helping people succeed.
We finally conclude that the world does not, in fact, need another Pinterest person.
But the world does need Kate Ahl.
Your Action Item
From Kate: In your Pinterest profile, make sure you include a link to your opt-in or freebie. It’s one extra way that you can get people to join your email list. While you’re at it, add that link to you Facebook and Twitter profile, too!
Links & Resources
Tue, 16 February 2016
How Many F-Words Does It Take To Get To The Center Of A Bad Customer Experience?
We were going to talk about the challenges of naming our new software tool but about half an hour before we were set to record, an interesting thing happened and it incited a bit of a rant. But it’s a rant with a purpose and a good lesson on the dangers of marketing automation.
Grab a cup of your favorite Simpson & Vail tea (we’re loving the Valentine’s Day blend) and get ready.
Rick Carlson Sends An Email
Somehow Ralph got onto an email list for a product called SharpSpring. He didn’t sign up but for whatever reason they’ve been hammering him with marketing email after marketing email, signed from the founder Rick Carlson.
A few days ago Ralph got yet another email that began with an apology – the variety that basically says, “Hey, sorry for bombarding you with emails but here’s another one anyway.”
Ralph finally decided to see what the heck this software was about so he went to the website and 18 minutes later he got another email – with another apology, this time for being “creepy” – letting him know that they knew he’d been to the website, along with a screen shot of his activity.
Yes, it sounds creepy but hey, we know we’re being stalked online, by everyone from Facebook to Google to “random business down the block.” As marketers we like the idea of being able to de-anonymize our website visitors and put a name to the people who may be interested in our services. So we’re not opposed to what the software does.
What we’re opposed to is the way Rick Carlson has chosen to solicit us with it.
Rick Carlson Declines Our Invitation To Market His Own Product
After that last stalker email, Ralph decided to personally reach out to Rick Carlson and invite him onto our podcast to talk about his product. Rick declined, in a rather perfunctory way, followed by eight more paragraphs of pitching his product.
It was that email that finally sparked the conversation we had today.
For starters, we’re not bothered that he declined the invitation. We’ve been turned down before! But we were bothered by the fact that he did it with nary a “but hey, thanks for the offer.” And we were bothered by the continued solicitations that seemed completely oblivious to the fact that we are, in fact, actual humans with whom one might want to have an actual conversation if one wishes to sell their product.
But Rick was too busy with his automated software doing automated things and showed no interest in the humans at the other end. As a result, we have no interest in him or his product and perhaps more importantly, we are interested in telling everyone what a crummy experience we had with him and his company.
Automation Doesn’t Give Someone Permission To Be A Robot
Rick Carlson didn’t actually send any of those emails except one. The only one he sent was the one declining the podcast invitation. The rest were just automated. And that’s ok, but the minute Ralph tried to engage beyond automation, he was met with… more automation.
The net result for Rick Carlson-bot is that he will never make a sale to us. Not only that but we have close relationships with other agencies that we influence, none of which are likely to buy from Rick Carlson-bot.
Perhaps worst of all, Rick Carlson-bot is trying to sell a product in a pretty crowded niche that’s dominated by some big players like Infusionsoft who do know how to do automation – both from the software side and the human side.
A Better Automation Experience
We were solicited in the past by Infusionsoft, another marketing automation software. The difference was that when the folks over at Infusionsoft engaged with us, they spent some time getting to know us. They asked to speak with us so they could learn more about our business. They spent time making it about us – not about the solicitation.
In the end we didn’t sign up for Infusionsoft but what we did do was refer a colleague who signed up. Then we referred our business partner who signed up. And we’d gladly refer anyone who’s looking for that type of software.
Ultimately it’s only partly about the software. In larger part it's about the experience. Anyone can build decent software. Not everyone can treat their customers as human beings that matter.
The Apology Trend
Have you seen this in your inbox lately? There seems to be some new internet marketing “Do This One Thing If You Want Success" course circulating because everyone is suddenly sooooo sorry to bother me and sooooo sorry to send me (yet another) marketing email.
It’s a disingenuous apology, a gimmick, a hollow marketing ploy. Gimmicks plus automation plus lack of human interaction plus aggressiveness equals failed marketing.
Are you doing mea culpas or doing marketing? How about not being sorry. How about doing better marketing that you don’t need to apologize for, even in a fake, gimmicky way.
Your Seriously Social Moment
Ian Anderson Gray is back today to ask: How do you choose the best tools for your business? Last he checked (and if you know Ian, you know he DOES check), he found over 800 (800!) tools for marketing, social and SEO. There are so many it seems impossible to choose! In a prior Moment, Ian suggested that you start by making a list of tasks you need help with. He says there are 5 common things that people want help with when it comes to tools.
Ian says that before you invest in a new shiny tool, do your research because it’s the only way you’ll know how well something performs the tasks you need done. And if you need help, he’s pretty much THE tool guy and you can get in touch and schedule some consulting time with him for help.
Even More Lame Automated Marketing
I got my own dumb marketing email just before we started recording this, from someone whose list I didn’t sign up for either. (Just wondering if anyone is still doing permission based marketing these days, huh people??)
Two things struck me as stupid right in the first sentence. The first thing is that the sender said he “noticed that Rahvalor sends out marketing emails regularly.”
Strangely enough, “Rahvalor” hasn’t sent out a marketing email in years. And if you’re wondering “What the heck is Rahvalor?” then that just proves my point. Rahvalor is our company name. It’s how we incorporated in 1999 and who the checks get written to. But for years we’ve done business as Web.Search.Social and almost never mention Rahvalor.
Let’s assume that somehow this random person soliciting me made the connection between Rahvalor and Web.Search.Social. The hilarious thing about that, is just that morning, Ralph and I had a fight… I mean a discussion because we never fight… about the fact that we haven’t, in fact, sent out a marketing email in a long time to our Web.Search.Social list.
The fight… er, conversation… went something like this:
Ralph: Did you send out that marketing email to our list?
Me: No, I was busy.
Or at least that’s how I interpreted it and since I’m writing the show notes, I get to tell the story. The amusing part is how five minutes later I got an email from someone telling me how often I send out marketing emails.
That, of course, was followed by the trite apology… “sorry to bug you but…”
How about this: Don’t be sorry for bugging me, just don’t bug me.
You Can Do Automation If You Remember You’re Still Selling To People
Automation can be an incredible tool. It can save you a ton of time, it can help you stay top-of-mind with minimal effort, it can keep people moving through your sales funnel while you run your business and manage your clients.
It can help you effectively find, vet and target people who may be ideal customers.
But it can’t magically replace you. It can’t engage people on a human level. To win customers, to get people to become your fans and advocates, you will always need to be a person.
Oh, and stop being so darn sorry. Don’t be sorry for marketing. Be confident and proud of your marketing. And if you’re doing something you think you need to apologize for, then stop doing it!
Links & Resources
Direct download: 0172-how-marketing-automation-fails-when-it-feels-like-automation.mp3
Category:business, marketing -- posted at: 9:13am EST
Thu, 4 February 2016
A Content Tease
Our guest today is Craig McBreen and the first thing we want to know is: why do we have to wait a week after signing up for his email list before we get our first branding lesson??
He says it’s all about the anticipation but we’re just not buying it because we can’t wait!
Branding: More Than Just Your Logo
Our conversation today wraps around branding – what it is, why you need it and how to think about doing it for your business. Most people typically think of their logo when they think of branding.
Some people just want a really nice website design.
But branding starts long before anything visual happens. So what is branding, exactly?
Craig says that branding is the intersection of passion and knowledge. You take what you love, and what you know, and you create your message and content around that. It’s thinking about who you serve and how you do that. It’s about the language you use and the personality you bring.
Sometimes you talk to other people (like clients, business partners and colleagues) about what your company is and what you do.
Knowing the “what” and the “why” are key to effective branding.
Personal Vs. Business Branding
We pose this challenge to Craig: is personal branding a thing? Isn’t a brand just a brand? “Personal branding” seems to be a buzzword that marketers use to sell just another service to people.
Craig says that while you do have a personal brand, it’s still part of your big-picture brand and you’re not a separate entity. But people often know and use the term so he also uses it to help engage and guide someone through the branding process. But ultimately, it’s about your message, your what and your why.
Good Brand Vs. Bad Brand
Just because you know the why and what doesn’t mean you have built a good brand. You can know all that and still get it wrong. So we want to know what differentiates the good from the bad.
Craig says a good brand has a direct and consistent message that speaks to your core audience. Your language, personality, message and even graphics and colors are consistent across all your content, from your Twitter cover image to your website to your emails and business cards and everything between.
Conversely, a “bad” brand is the opposite. Your message doesn’t speak to your prospective customers. It’s all you, all the time – what you do, your awards, how great you are, instead of about the people you serve. Your Twitter page and Facebook page and website don’t quite mesh or look consistent. You use different language in different places and it’s likely confusing to people.
Bad Branding? Start Here.
If your branding is inconsistent, off-target or non-existent, get help! Find a professional, collect some clients and colleagues, just get people who can help you tell your story properly. Ask them what’s great – and not so great – about working with you. Ask people what they think you do and match that against what you actually do. Notice the language people use, the consistencies and the misconceptions.
Make copious notes. You’ll need to refer to them to help craft a cohesive, consistent and clear message – one that speaks to the right people.
Then from your message, your graphics, logo and other visuals will follow.
As long as we’ve got him, we decide to extract some free consulting out of Craig for our own business.
We have a lot going on. A number of different businesses, with different partners and different branding for each. So we want to know how someone like us manages these different entities and avoids a branding nightmare.
The bottom line is that we (and people in our boat) need a concise message that speaks to the ideal client for each brand. Then we need to be sure to design consistently across the board, from colors to words.
In Craig’s case, he has two companies – one that caters to larger clients and one that caters to smaller clients and solopreneurs. His message is specific to each but he’s done a great job creating some overlap so that when people find him they aren’t confused.
Branding Needs To Be Maintained
Your copy is written. Your logo is designed. You’re officially branded! And now you’re done.
But hold your horses – there’s more to it.
If you’ve done branding right in the first place, you’ve got a bunch of notes from all those conversations you had with colleagues, partners and clients and you have a strong message. But over time, your business evolves. And as you add or remove a service, add a new social network, change a bit of your website, it’s very easy for things to get out of synch. A tiny change in tone here, a different color there, and next thing you know you’re looking at branding death by a thousand cuts.
So over time, check back in with your brand, from the language and message to the colors and graphics, and make the tiny tweaks that will keep it sharp instead of sliding into disaster.
More Free Consulting!
We’ve been considering doing a bit of rebranding ourselves. Our focus has shifted a bit and we feel like maybe it’s time for a change. But every time we present the idea to our listeners and fans, there’s a little bit of freaking out. People don’t want us to change, even though we think it might be time.
So we ask Craig: how do you make that change without pissing people off? Just think of the fit people had when Gap changed their logo, the utter outrage. People get very attached to their brands. Is change worth it?
Craig says that he doesn’t think we’ve shifted so much that we need to start from scratch. With a little tweak, maybe a different tagline or adjustment to our messaging, we could bring our brand in alignment without a scary overhaul.
He suggests maintaining our existing branding elements, like colors and even music, but just being mindful of the messaging. And since we’re still us, our language and personality will still be the same.
Who Is Craig McBreen?
We talked a lot about branding, but Craig is still a guy who runs a business and has a family. So how does he make it all happen?
Craig is right in our wheelhouse when it comes to work and life. He’s learned to work on a consistent schedule (even though like many of us he was used to working until all hours of the night), he meditates each day, he focuses on the tasks that need to be done during the day and then he quits and makes sure he has time to live his life, take time for his family and get in some much-needed down time.
He also has a trick up his sleeve, and that’s planning out his daily tasks the night before. That way he doesn’t have to spend time figuring them out first thing each day. He already knows and can get right to them and get them done.
One Last Question. (Or Two.)
All of the branding talk has been fun, but there’s another issue at hand, which is that a brand is nice, but it does you no good unless you get it out into the world. It hardly matters how great your message is unless you get it heard. How does that happen? Especially when there are so many ways to get your message out? Sometimes having so many options, from web to search to social to email and even snail mail, is paralyzing.
Craig says that you don’t, in fact, need to be everywhere. You only need to be where it works for you. If you’re making connections on Facebook, then don’t worry that you’re not on Twitter. If Facebook isn’t happening, then skip it and try LinkedIn. Don’t worry about where you’re not – just focus on where you are and what’s working.
Ok, but what about all the new social networks and marketing channels that keep popping up? Periscope. Blab. Snapchat. Do you sometimes feel compelled to jump on the latest trend before you miss out?
Craig says that he doesn’t have time to jump on every new thing. For him, LinkedIn works. He’s too busy making those connections and running his business to worry about the new shiny object. Take this advice to heart: you don’t need to be trendy either. If you’ve got time and want to try something, or expand into a new market, go ahead. But don’t feel guilty if you ignore the next live streaming service or opt out of the hottest new social network.
Stay focused and you’ll reap the rewards of your efforts.
Your Action Item
From Craig: Stop reading business books. When you quit work for the evening, don’t pick up the latest business book, don’t browse blog posts or inspirational books. The problem is that your brain will start spinning with ideas and you won’t actually relax or sleep well. Your brain needs time to stop. So use your down time to leave work behind and you’ll do wonders for your health and creativity.
Links & Resources
Direct download: 0171-your-brand-is-more-than-your-logo-on-messaging-consistency-and-your-why.mp3
Category:business -- posted at: 12:00am EST
Tue, 2 February 2016
Welcome To The Web.Search.Social Episodic Content Show!
More on that in a minute.
How Much Should A Website Cost?
We’ve written about this a couple of times and just recently someone wrote to us who had read one of the articles we wrote a few years ago and asked us how those prices compare to today.
The person who wrote in had gotten a quote for $15,000, which she said included a logo, branding, collateral and website. The cost, she said, was twice what she expected so she asked us for our opinion.
Unfortunately we can’t make any kind of educated assessment based on that information because there’s no telling what is included – or not included – in the project.
But we can say that a LOT of things can affect pricing. For example, will someone be doing the copywriting for you, or are you expected to bring your own? What about photography? What type of functionality will you require? A basic contact form? A photo gallery? A membership portal? There are a lot of options and quite a lot of services that can go into building a website.
The job of the person who asked us the question – and yours, if you’re evaluating a proposal from someone to build your website – is to ask a lot of questions so you understand what you’re getting, from the content to the search optimization to the extent of the design services.
Get all the details but be careful not to get TOO many details. Sometimes a proposal can be too specific and box you into a corner. For example, knowing someone will build you a contact form is sufficient. You don’t want someone to specify that it will be a contact form with three fields, because what if you realize you need four?
What’s The Minimum Threshold?
Building a website requires a lot of time and understanding how all the pieces work together. A website is more than a WordPress installation, which just about anyone can do at the click of a button.
You can get a website for $500 if all you want is someone to click the button. But that doesn’t make it a good business website. At a minimum, you’ll be investing several thousand dollars for someone to sit with you to discuss your business needs and goals and to put in the time, strategy and planning required to create a good marketing tool that will help you generate leads and sales.
It’s not really the building that’s as important as all the stuff that comes before. A college student can build a website. It doesn’t take much to put together HTML or install a WordPress theme and a couple of plugins. But it does take quite a lot of expertise and time to figure out how a website will help you reach your business goals, how it will fit into the bigger marketing picture, how it will reach your target customers, help you lead people through your sales process and ultimately serve as the marketing engine it should be.
We go to far as to say that building a website is the easy part.
How Do You Know If You’re Getting A Fair Deal?
First of all, know what you’re getting. Ask a lot of questions so that you understand what’s included in the cost. Make sure it’s in writing!
Secondly, understand how the process works. Will your developer expect you to show up with everything you need, including directives, so he can build what you tell him to? Or will he be the one asking the questions and guiding the process?
Finally, make sure the services you’re getting are services you need. Paying $5 for a service you don’t need is too expensive. Paying $15,000 for services you do – perfectly reasonable!
And if you’re still not sure, we’ll make it really easy on you. If you have a proposal that you're considering, send it to us and we'll let you know whether it sounds fair or gives you enough information to make a good decision. You can email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Your Seriously Social Moment
Do you schedule your social media posts? Lots of people don’t like to schedule because they don’t think their content should be going out without them. They want to “be there” to send it. But Ian Anderson Gray has five reasons why scheduling is a good idea.
Remember, scheduling is not engagement. It will save you time and help you be more effective, just remember not to be a robot. Take time to engage, too.
Video Is Powerful. True Or False?
Yep! It can be. It can also be dangerous, maybe even lethal. There are a couple of popular video genres that have sprung up, including prank videos, reaction videos and response videos.
The problem is that people can take them too far. In one series of prank videos, some men walk up to strangers on the street and pick a fight. Then when the person on the street reacts, the pranksters strips down to a thong.
In one of these videos, the person being pranked pulled a gun out, thinking rightfully that they were being threatened and harassed. While we’re not fans of “blame the victim” mentality, we think maybe these guys are asking for trouble and if something bad happens it’s going to be their own fault.
It’s a bit like screaming, “Fire!” in a crowded movie theater.
Let this be a caution to anyone with kids or teenagers. These videos seem to be rather popular and they’re being emulated in many ways.
Licensing Fees For "Reacting?"
In reaction videos, someone shows a video to another person and then records that person's reaction to the video. While this is all on the up-and-up, an interesting thing happened recently. A company called Fine Brothers Entertainment told other would-be videographers that they’d license the “reaction format” for a fee. So anyone who creates one of these types of videos owes the Fine Brothers a licensing fee.
Predictably enough, the internet was outraged. We wonder how someone can insist on a licensing fee for something they didn’t invent and that anyone can do.
It’s a bit like the patent trolls we talked about a while ago who want a licensing fee from anyone who delivers "episodic digital content". Theoretically, anyone who podcasts would be subject to this licensing fee. We'd have to pay up just to be able to put our content online. We wonder how Netflix or HBO or Hulu feel about paying Random Patent Troll for the "right" to post episodes of their content.
So we over here at Web.Search.Social decided that anyone who uses the word podcast owes us a fee. Makes perfect sense, no?
Content Is Getting Boring
The final video genre we touch on is the response video, where someone creates a video talking about someone else’s video.
The whole conversation is a bit baffling and we wonder if we’re entering a brave new world of content creation where there is really nothing much original, where everyone is just piggybacking and pilfering.
So yes, video can be powerful, but we think – especially when it comes to business – that people who create original content will be the ones who stand out.
Links & Resources