How We Create a Brand Strategy For Your Business

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from over a decade of helping brands tell their story, it’s that a successful business can’t survive if it doesn’t have a strong brand strategy. Without a unified identity, everything from your content, to your culture, to your core business can suffer. But there’s a reason why this problem is so pervasive: Building a strong brand strategy takes time, effort, and commitment. And that’s where many people (including ourselves) can get stuck.

We started doing brand strategy work a few years back after encountering various clients who came to us for content strategy work but couldn’t articulate who they were or what they were really trying to achieve. We soon realized they needed more than content help; they needed a total brand realignment. We were eager to help guide them, but we also had two big realizations:

1. Brand strategy work seems really complicated—and it shouldn’t be. Once we started learning more about brand strategy, we ran into so many schools of thought, conflicting perspectives, and outdated exercises. If we wanted to give our partners a simple framework, we’d have to create it ourselves.

2. We didn’t know our own brand as well as we thought we did. The more we explored our clients’ brand problems, the more we realized we were struggling with many of the same issues. If we wanted to confidently guide our clients through the brand strategy framework we created, we’d have to be the guinea pig and test it on ourselves first.

So we dug in, got dirty, and did the work. Thankfully, after an entire year of tweaking and testing (first on ourselves, then with a few brave clients), we emerged with a tried-and-true brand strategy process that was simple, intuitive, and adaptable for any brand of any size. Was it easy? Absolutely not. Was it worth it? Oh yeah.

We think it’ll be worth it for you, too. In this article, we’ve taken everything we’ve learned about brand strategy—the books, podcasts, articles, and personal experience—and distilled it down into a simple step-by-step process to create an effective, flexible brand strategy that will help you…

  • Understand who you truly are and use your beliefs and values to guide your decisions in ways that are better for your people, your business, and the future.
  • Communicate your brand consistently and effectively through every piece of content you make.
  • Attract the right customers to build a strong, lasting brand.
  • Position your brand in a way that helps you compete now—and tomorrow.

But let’s start with some basic education.

What Is a Brand?

There are a million definitions of a “brand.” Often, when people talk about a “brand,” they’re referring to the physical mark (or logo) imprinted on something to identify the business that manufactured it. But a brand is more than a physical mark. It’s an emotional mark—more specifically, an emotional experience, strengthened or weakened through every interaction with that business.

We define brand as what people think, feel, and say about your business. (This differs from marketing, which is what you say about your business.)

What Is a Brand Strategy?

As branding guru Marty Neumeier says, a brand strategy is “a plan for the systematic development of brand in alignment with a business strategy.”

A brand strategy helps you understand who you are and acts as a blueprint to help you communicate it.

Our brand strategy process is broken into three distinct parts. We guide you from your Brand Heart (the core of your brand), to the articulation of your Brand Messaging (how you talk about who you are), to your Visual Identity (the visual expression of your brand). By the end, you’ll have a full brand strategy, summed up in fresh brand guidelines to help you bring your brand to life.

Why Do You Need a Brand Strategy?

When you don’t know who you are, why you exist, what you believe in, or what you’re trying to achieve, your business suffers. From customer communication issues to employee retention, a lack of brand strategy causes problems at every level of an organization.

Having worked with hundreds of clients over the last decade, we’ve learned to spot the telltale signs of a brand in crisis, often caused by a lack of strategy. (Some of these issues might sound familiar to you. Before we documented our brand strategy, we suffered from them too.)

When you have no brand strategy…

  • You don’t understand your purpose, vision, mission, or values, so you make marketing and business decisions that don’t reflect them.
  • You don’t have a documented marketing plan, but you hope that whatever you’re doing will work.
  • Your team is fractured by disunity, confusion, and conflict, making it hard for employees to feel engaged and interested.
  • You don’t have cohesive brand messaging, so your content tends to be inconsistent at best, and contradictory at worst. As a result, it’s difficult to attract people who share your values (customers, employees, etc.).
  • You can’t clearly articulate your brand, and as a result, you can’t carve out a discernible place in the market.

In short, without a brand strategy, you lose.

What Team Do You Need To Build Your Brand Strategy?

You can’t build a brand strategy alone. You need a brand team to craft, revise, and bring it to life at every level of your organization. Without this designated team, the work you do here will likely get sidetracked or steamrolled.

Our brand strategy process is broken into three distinct parts. We guide you from your Brand Heart (the core of your brand), to the articulation of your Brand Messaging (how you talk about who you are), to your Visual Identity (the visual expression of your brand). By the end, you’ll have a full brand strategy, summed up in fresh brand guidelines to help you bring your brand to life.

Luckily, you don’t have to hire a ton of people to form your brand team. You can even have a two-person team, so long as both people can cover these essential roles.

January 23rd, 2020|

Why you should be using social media for your business

One of the biggest mistakes by small businesses is not utilizing the tools they have.

One of the biggest tools people often miss is social media. Here are a few reasons why, if you aren’t using social media for your business, you are losing out to your competitors;

– A strong branding presence: if I search a product and there is no website, no Facebook group or page or any other social media, then I’m not going to remember your item and product.
– Get great cost per click: While a lot of you may have used Google Adwords (and often I hear people complaining that they spent tonnes of money without any results), Facebook can be a great tool. Facebook’s cost per click is 10% of the Google Adwords price.
– Insights: It gives you a clear insight into what products your customers love. The like and share buttons are very visible to your customers, and they can easily use it to show yo what they like – and you can post more of this content.

Now, doing pay per click via Facebook isn’t as straightforward as just adding the URL to your website and hoping people buy your product, there’s lots more to it. To learn more, send me an e-mail at

January 9th, 2020|

How To Be More Effective On Social Media In 4 Simple Steps

No matter how amazing your product and business model are, they won’t lead you down a path to success if your target audience isn’t aware you exist or doesn’t know what all you have to offer.

Today, consumers turn to the Internet when they have questions, searching through various channels to find the information they need to make informed choices.

As a small business owner, the challenge of allocating your limited marketing resources (or personal time) to the right medium can be overwhelming.

Digital marketing offers countless opportunities to promote your company and engage with potential customers and social media is emerging as a sustainable venue.

Why Do Businesses Use Social Media?
Ten years ago, social media marketing was considered a fad that would never have a credible place in business.
Today, most business owners know that social media is a powerful word-of-mouth marketing tactic, and an integral business communication tool. But they’re frustrated by the lack of traction.
Small business owners tend to be attracted to social media for the following reasons:
1. It leverages their existing social and business networks.
2. It’s easier to update and offers more interactive immediacy than a traditional website.
3. It keeps them engaged in their communities, whether local or online.
Unfortunately, like most business owners, you’re probably struggling to find opportunities to really build your brand and drive awareness in a meaningful way.

How Can You Effectively Use Social Media Marketing To Help Your Business?
Here are a few tips on how you can use social media to achieve and maintain effective word-of-mouth.

Reach Your Target Audience On Social Media
1. Maximize an advertising budget with better organic social strategies
2. Focus on quality social media followers instead of the masses
3. Stay original to keep your audience engaged
4. Augment social media content with visuals
Now let’s discuss each of these steps:

1. Don’t Pay for Advertising, Yet
Paid advertising certainly serves a purpose, but it does not provide the only way to advertise to your target audience on social.

If you employ effective social media marketing strategies, you shouldn’t need to invest as much of your budget in paid ads as you might think. By utilizing social media in a useful and organic way, you can reach your intended demographic without exhausting your resources.

Ways to Extend Your Organic Reach on Social: use hashtags, run contests, and create partnerships with other related businesses.

The key is in providing content that matters to your followers and keeps them engaged. If you do this, they’ll spread the word by mentioning or tagging friends and family who might be interested.

Of course, social media advertising has its place within a marketing strategy. But master the basics first, so you know which free tactics will expand your reach and what kind of exposure is worth paying for.

2. Focus On Attracting Quality Followers
We live in a world that often seems to place a premium on the “more is better” philosophy. But this does not necessarily apply when building a fan base online.

Your business could have a million followers on social media, but that fact won’t hold much value if very few of those followers actually buy what you’re selling.

Instead of trying to appeal to as broad an audience as possible (a classic mistake that many of us may be tempted to make), focus on reaching those who will give you a return on your social media investment.

Quality followers can sustain your business.

While this may seem initially counter intuitive, you may increase your overall appeal if you market your business to a niche following on social media.

3. Be Original And Creative To Get Noticed
You probably know as well as I do that as consumers, we are bombarded with images of products and descriptions of services everywhere we look.

In order to be memorable and make a real impact on prospective customers, your social media marketing strategy must be creative.

If you’re just mimicking the tactics that others have implemented, social media users will quickly grow bored with your campaign.

Infuse your distinct voice and throw-out predictable templates.

Don’t focus daily posts on your business, but instead, conversations and issues related to your industry. By joining the conversation, you might be able to show a unique perspective or solution that only your business can provide.

Being distinct in your approach helps you find the best customers suited to what your business does better than anyone else. It makes the sales process that much easier!

4. Use Mobile-Friendly Visual Content
In 2017, 95% of Facebook users accessed their accounts via a mobile device. You can safely assume that such individuals may not have the time to read lengthy blog posts when they’re on the go.

Visual content provides you with a unique way of capturing the attention of mobile users in a fast and powerful way.

By augmenting your posts with video, infographics, and other types of visual content, you can deliver what matters quickly.

Parting Advice
Take a step back and evaluate where you currently are with your social media platforms.

Don’t try to be everything to everyone.

Know where you stand and provide real value to your audience. Working smarter, not harder, is how you’ll see your social media marketing efforts pay off, plus, you might even enjoy it!

January 8th, 2020|

This year, 75% of U.S. businesses will use Instagram for marketing.

Top 10 Instagram Stats for 2020

Are you looking to put more emphasis on Instagram in 2020?

Now reaching over a billion active users, and with more and more business and eCommerce related tools on the way, it makes sense that all social media managers should be considering whether there’s a fit on Instagram for their business, and how they might be able to utilize the various platform tools and options to connect with their audience.

If you are considering your Instagram approach, then this infographic from the team at Hootsuite might help. The below listing highlights some key usage and engagement stats to help in your planning, which could help you decide where and how to improve your focus in the app.

You can check out more Instagram data in Hootsuite’s full report, or take a look at the graphic below.

#Instagram #socialmedia2020 #socialmediamarketing #socialmediatrends

January 6th, 2020|

Tune Up Your Digital Marketing for the Holidays

It’s the most wonderful time of the year but also the most competitive for any local business–retail or service–to try to reach out to customers.

Before the holiday rush starts, put your marketing machine on the lift, and inspect it for these checkpoints:

Email Marketing
As email inboxes get more crowded with marketing messages during the holidays, email users get choosier about which ones they’ll open. Start by sending to small segments of your list. Unless you send a lot of email marketing messages regularly, a sudden increase in mail volume can make you look like a spammer to email service providers. Schedule carefully. According to a study by email vendor Yesmail, of the thousands of holiday email messages, Thanksgiving-themed messages got more response early in November than closer to the holiday. On the other hand, Black Friday-themed offers did best when sent last minute. For Christmas themes, a good strategy is to send in the 10 days leading up to the holiday, emphasizing a countdown to the 25th. Make your subject lines stand out from the crowd. Don’t just say “announcing our holiday sale!” Give specifics about products or services on sale or special offers.

Search Engines
Same cautions as with email: Mind the timing and messaging of your paid search ads to compete. Keep up with new search terms. Sure, you have tried and true holiday offers and a set of keywords that have worked in the past. But enter the old standbys into Google Trends, the search engine’s research site, to see if new related search terms pop up. Also, if your site features a search box, check your Google Analytics records to see what search terms your customers have entered – more clues for keywords there. Finally, check the AdWords Keyword Planner for suggestions. Watch your budget. Don’t run through your budget too fast in this peak season. Carefully watch your burn rate–dollars spent against your budget–and be prepared to recalibrate by focusing on your high performing campaigns or lowering your bids.

Social Media
Social media never pauses – but you and your staff do for the holidays.
Create a schedule for posting. Good advice for any time of year, but especially this season. Create a list of types of posts—sale announcements, interesting visuals, etc.—and schedule them out on a calendar. Write what you can in advance. If you haven’t tried one of the many social media scheduling tools on the market, now’s the time. They automate the whole process of planning and posting to multiple social networks.
Avoid posts that ask for responses from your audience. You and staff may alternately be crazy-busy or on vacation, so don’t invite interaction you can’t handle. Assign staff to monitor social media. Nothing says “nobody minding the store” like unanswered complaints, questions or even compliments. So someone needs to be on duty during throughout the holidays, at least to handle the customer service aspect of social media and at best to post on up-to-the-minute topics.

You want your site to not only function flawlessly during the holiday rush, but show your visitors quickly where you want them to go. Check your points of contact. Update phone numbers. Make sure “Contact Us” forms work. If you use a live chat function, make sure staff is scheduled to answer questions throughout this period. Create/update pages. Don’t use your search ads, social media posts or email campaigns just to drive customers to your home page. Create special landing pages for the holidays that promote your latest offers, and match up with your latest ad keywords. But do also update your homepage and other key pages with holiday-specific terms and images. Check to make sure coupons offered on your site are up to date. Get a bit more aggressive with site visitors. You’ve seen the ads that pop up on websites just as you’re about to leave: “exit intent overlays” can present an enticing offer to a site visitor that may need some extra persuading. You can chase departed site visitors with “remarketing” search ads, through Google and other search ad vendors; your ex-visitors will see an offer enticing them to return to your site.

December 11th, 2019|

How to level up from a Google My Business apprentice to a Google My Business master.

How often should you review and update your Google My Business (GMB) page? GMB pages can require a lot of time and effort to monitor – just like your brick-and-mortar storefront, website, Facebook page and any other place where people interact with your business online and offline. And with Google the first place most customers now see any information about your business, you should review and update your GMB page frequently.

4 reasons you need to update your GMB page
To everyday users, a GMB page is a destination for learning more about a business, finding directions, posting opinions about the business and contributing content such as photos of an establishment. For the business itself, the GMB page is a dynamic asset. In recent days, we’ve been reminded of this reality. For example, as reported in Search Engine Land, Google has made it possible for hotels to add services and amenities to their GMB pages, which people can view from Google search and Google Maps.

Like any asset, though, your GMB page requires close attention and care. Businesses that monitor and update their GMB pages have a distinct advantage over those that do not. Here are some reasons why.

You want to be found on your GMB page
We’ve said it before, but the data bears repeating: your GMB page is the single-most important factor influencing how findable a location is when people do searches, according to Moz. Being found, though, does not happen by accident. To be found, businesses need to ensure that their content is optimized for search, that their location data is accurate, and that they post strong visual content, among other actions.

You want to be evaluated on your GMB page
Your GMB page is an increasingly influential source for customer ratings/reviews, as a recent Social Media Today article reports. Customer ratings/reviews affect your reputation as well as your search rankings. It’s important that businesses monitor reviews and respond to them. Unfortunately, spammy, off-topic, and fake reviews occur on GMB pages, which is all the more reason why anyone with a GMB page must be vigilant about monitoring their pages to address that kind of unwelcome content.

You need to stay up to date on your GMB page
The new feature for hotels that I cited above is only one example of how Google often updates GMB. Google constantly tweaks GMB in other ways, too. For instance, businesses that use the GMB messaging feature can now get analytics such as your average response time to messages, thus giving you a way to do a quality control check on yourself. In addition, businesses that use messenger also get access to a more visible and potentially useful call-to-action button on their pages. These features, of course, benefit only the locations that pay attention to them and capitalize on them (such as activating messenger). Also, major updates affect not only your GMB page but every digital location on Google where people find you, including Google Maps.

You need to convert customers on your GMB page
As I discussed in January, businesses need to capitalize on the ability to update their GMB listings with dynamic content such as sales and special events. Your GMB page acts (or at least it should act) as a billboard announcing new sales and offers designed to attract customers. Want to boost traffic for your Labor Day sale? Make sure you let your customers know on your GMB page.

So how often should you review and update your page, then?

Here’s how often you should update your GMB page…
Ideally, you should keep on top of your page daily. To help you stay on top of things, I suggest you keep a checklist of essential assets to review. The checklist should cover essential, basic data and content such as:

Your basic location information (even this data changes, such as when you keep special holiday hours).
Attributes, which is information that may set you apart from competitors, such as whether your location caters to children or whether your employees speak multiple languages. Are they up to date?
Ratings and reviews. Are you responding to them and addressing spammy reviews?
Q&A. Are you providing quality owner verified answers before users respond with less than ideal ones?
Visual content. Has your location rolled out new merchandise or a new menu item you want to highlight, for instance?

Offers. As noted, are you updating your content to announce sales and special events?
The above list is just scratching the surface of course.

And here is a rough guide for how often you should keep your GMB page up to date.

To be clear: you will not grow your business on GMB by being a Google apprentice. Only by being a Google master will you capitalize on the value of GMB to be found and chosen by customers.

December 7th, 2019|