Tag: Branding

Business

How Do I Brand Myself?

BRANDING 101: A Roadmap & Strategy Guide to Personal Branding

First of all, What is a Personal Brand?

A personal brand, or your personal brand is the culmination of your skills, knowledge, experiences and personality that come together to speak to the world about who you are. Your brand is what essentially attracts and retains customers.

Creating and developing yourself as a personal brand is similar to product branding. The overall goal with branding is to not only tell the world your story, but to differentiate yourself or your product in the market so you can reach your goals as a top influencer, brand, product or successful blogger.

Product or brand development is not always about creating something different, but about doing something differently.

To assist you in moving forward with your product or branding goals, I have created this roadmap that I like to follow.  (GET OUT A NOTEPAD AND PEN.  You’re going to need it).
I have used it often for my own brands as well as for clients’ branding purposes and it’s nearly foolproof if you follow it correctly.

This one is intended for new brands who are looking to launch fresh, but you can also use it if you want to wipe the slate clean and totally re-Brand.

This process I have created is going to require a lot of thought and some research on your part. But I promise, it will be worth it.  The more research and honesty you bring to the table, the better off you and your brand message will be.

The following questions will walk you through your thoughts, ideas, aspirations and images of your personal brand to assist you in clearly defining your brand and it’s personality.

A. PERSONAL BRANDING

  1. Define your goals. What are your personal and/or business aspirations?
    (Be specific. Clearly define your goals and objectives whether it’s becoming a famous singer, motivational speaker, CEO of a major company or fashion blogger)
  2. Who do you aspire to emulate?
    (i.e. Ariana Huffington, Oprah, SPANX, Zuckerberg, The Blonde Salad, etc.)
  3. What does your brand look like 1, 2 or 3 years from now?
    Take a moment to really visualize all of the aspects of your brand and company. (I am a firm believer in visualization. You can’t create it if you can’t imagine it.)
  4. What is your brand tagline, message or three key words that define your brand?
    (i.e. Fun, Colorful, Young; Informative, Smart, Tough; “Never Stop Creating”)

B. RESEARCH

Before you can clearly define your personal brand goals and strategy, it is important to conduct thorough research so you can answer your own brand identity questions. This is a paramount  step in creating your brand, and one that shouldn’t be skipped or skimmed over.
Research! Research! Research! Do your homework. 

  1. What do your aspirational brands look like?
  2. What are your aspirational brands doing?
  3. What have they done to get to where they are now? (read their bio, research history)
  4. Are you willing to put in the work to succeed and do what they have done. (This is a VERY important question)
  5. Who are your 3-5 biggest competitors?
  6. What are they doing to brand themselves?
  7. What can you learn from what they’ve done (positive or negative)


C. WHAT’S THE STORY?

  1. What is the overall message you want your brand to convey?
  2. List 3 brand attributes (adjectives) associated with your brand.
  3. Where is your Brand niche in the market? Define this as precisely as you can.
    (i.e. Yoga Wear in Women’s Plus Size Apparel, Writer of Motivational Books)
  4. Where is your Brand right now?  How does your audience or the general public currently perceive you?
  5. How far off are you right now from where you want to be (or be perceived)? (If you are not sure, compare your answers from #1-A to this question.)
  6. Based on your current assessment and goals of question #6, what can you change?

D. ‘GO TO’ BRANDING STRATEGY PLAN

Now that you have your image and goals hammered out, it’s time to start implementing your brand.

Make sure your brand image and message across all social media platforms is cohesive. This means your social media accounts will be consistent and look the same. Consistency is key. Do a deep social media audit and make sure you include all of your social media outlets, from YouTube to Twitter, Facebook Fan page to LinkedIn, from Goodreads to your Gravatar.  Using the same photo across all media platforms is vital in branding. Your face or your logo is what everyone sees.  The more times they consistently see that image, the more they will remember you and/or your brand. Make sure you delete any accounts that are duplicates and/or ones which you will not be needing.

Think about your personal branding attributes, what key aspect(s) will be memorable?Is your font or brand name easy to read? Is your logo good?  Is it memorable?  What about your personal style? It could include a signature piece of clothing, hair, makeup, a tagline, your public persona, etc.  If you are branding yourself, You are your Brand.  (Cocoa-Cola is always in red and white, Iris Apfel is always in big, round glasses, Donald Trump is always saying something shocking.) This is a key in strong branding strategies, and may or may not be one you employ.  But do give it some thought, and find something that is authentic and meaningful to you.

Using, Leveraging and Managing your brand. Now that you have created your brand image, message and have globally branded across all social media platforms, you will want to define which channels you will use and how. Perhaps you will use Twitter or LinkedIn to post your business articles or share links from your blog, or YouTube to post your latest travel review videos, or Pinterest for your recipes.  Whatever methods you choose, make sure to respect the platform and target your audience and place your content accordingly.  Constantly posting links on sites which are irrelevant can kill a brand and your image fast. I manage several very successful LinkedIn groups and I notice when a business or blogger is no only over posting, but over posting irrelevant content. It just looks bad and disrespectful. Target the appropriate platforms for your content or message. People may not always notice you, but they will notice if your messages look like SPAM.

[Here is where it might get overwhelming and tricky if you aren’t social media marketing savvy.  If you are not, refer to my previous post about social media marketing. It’s a long read, and one you should save in your Favorites for when you’re at that stage]

Secondly, reconsider the option of sending automatic Direct Messages (DM) on Twitter for new Followers.  This, in my opinion, is impersonal and may get you deleted as quickly as you were added. Oprah doesn’t send DMs and frankly neither should you.  If you find someone you want to connect with, politely send them (personally) a quick direct message if their email or website info is not listed on their Twitter profile. A great way to win brownie points for your brand: send a welcome tweet that says something like: Hi @AvaMarieC  Thank you so much for the Follow.  I’m looking forward to sharing Tweets!

Automated shout outs are OK and can be fun, or in line with your brand message. For Berry Jane, I like to have fun with my new Followers by sending shout out Tweets that say: @twitteruser Thanks for Following…you MUST be awesome! or  Shoutout to our new Followers: @XXAmandaxx @XXmclanexx You ROCK!!

Managing the Brand. Assuming you are now at this stage, you will want to manage all areas of your brand proactively and consistently.  Make sure all of your posts, reviews, communication styles and even photos are in sync with your brand image and message.  For example, seeing a posting of a funny cat video from a data management guru would seem confusing, wouldn’t it? Not that humor has a negative connotation in branding, but if your brand image goal and story is one of a resolute, data-driven professional with tons of knowledge in your field, posting a silly cat video on your brands’ Twitter account might not be in alignment with your goal.  If, however, your brand message is one of a very humorous and personable guy who shares more than just useful info, go ahead.  Whatever it is you do, make sure it is consistent. There is nothing wrong with connecting on a very personal level if that is who you are, and what you want to do.  Even Taylor Swift makes it a point to connect with her fans in very personal ways.

Personal-Branding-Infogrpahic


Most importantly:  Keep your image, message and goals cohesive and consistent. 

COHESIVE AND CONSISTENT.  Don’t create a Facebook page that doesn’t match your Twitter page. Don’t post negative comments if your brand is all about positivity and love. Ask yourself before you post or comment, “Is this in line with my brand message?”  If it is not, don’t post it. And last, but certainly not least: Make sure the brand you are creating is at the very least the most authentic version of who you are, or in line with what you value or enjoy most. Not only will it be easier to maintain, but it will feel a lot better to you.

How did this plan work for you?  I want to hear your story!  Leave a comment below or email me at: ava@avacarmichael.com 

Business

5 Reasons Why Your Customers Aren’t Responding

 

You have built your website and it’s awesome.  Your product photos are great, your prices are great, your services are great. You’re on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook. The Followers are trickling in. Heck, maybe you are getting decent traffic with minimal effort.

But nobody is really responding (i.e. buying, commenting, signing up, etc.).

What the heck is going on?

In a previous post,  we learned the importance of Social Media Marketing and how it is your most important advertising and marketing platform.

I was all over the Shopify forums yesterday, and ‘Why isn’t anyone buying?’ was the single most question asked by all of the shop owners. They post the link to their site and ask for constructive feedback from others. Many responders have good advice, but a lot of it was very much surface stuff.  

At the core of all successful marketing, I feel there has to be some kind of emotional connection established between brand and customer.

1. Are you providing anything worth sharing?

Overall, the products weren’t bad on the Shopify stores, and the websites looked fine. The one thing I did notice, however, was that most of these stores lacked sharable content (or a connection). Some of the products were cute, but it wasn’t enough for me to press the ‘share’ button. One woman had an awesome sauce product.  I mean, literally, she produces homemade sauces.  But there was no blog, no recipes, no customer feedback assuring me that her sauces were in fact, awesome.  There was also no Bio with a photo, no ‘About the Company’ and no story. The product photos were very pretty, but there wasn’t a compelling enough story for me to share that with my Pinterest audience, or to feel a connection to her (because I didn’t know who she was).  

Prepared foods can be a hard sell, unless we’re talking about cookies.  Cookies definitely sell online. Just ask this lady.

If you aren’t creating buzz, perhaps you can ask yourself if you can do something more to create that customer connection.

“Research by Ipsos suggests people shopping with online sellers also want a personal connection. The best engagement means connecting with the real person behind the storefront”. – Karl Wellman

2. Approach marketing from the Consumer point of view

When you find yourself at a new website you’ve never been to before, think about HOW you got there in the first place:

  1. Was it a referral from a trusted source: a Friend, relative, online influencer, website or celebrity
  2. Did you search for a specific item through Google search
  3. Was it a killer marketing ad you just had to click on (visuals matter)
  4. A catchy headline that hooked you in on Twitter, LinkedIn or Reddit
  5. A tantalizing photo on Pinterest of a decadent chocolate cake recipe
  6. Or, a photo of a chic outfit that’s amazing or cheap, and you either save it for later (Pinterest), or buy it right now if you go to their website. Case Studies:
Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 12.50.04 PM
This recipe was Pinned over 6,300 times
Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 1.03.25 PM
This cardigan received over 245,000 pins. I guess a lot of women on Pinterest like this style of clothing!

 

Do you understand the value of shareable content now?

 

People want to be a part of sharing helpful, interesting, funny, compelling or beautiful information. If you are not providing at least two of those things with your content or product, you probably won’t get the social media traction you’re seeking.

The first thing you should do as a business (or a blogger) is create rich content.  Show or tell the story of your product and how it benefits the world, speak to the world about what you know.  Your story can focus on beautiful photography,  humor, awesome recipes, information, or videos. Whatever your platform is, the point is to create tools that make it easy for an audience to be engaged, and then inspired enough to share whatever it is you do.

Good examples:  Song of Style, The Oatmeal, Kickstarter, The Chive, Refinery 29


3. Are You Thinking Like Your Customer?


In relation to HOW you arrived at a new website, think about your perception once you got there.  As creators, it’s hard to look at our own website through the eyes of a stranger in a new place.  Which is who your customer is when she lands on your .com.
If you aren’t sure, compare your site side-by-side to a website you shop at, or find a new one you’ve never been to before and ask yourself how you feel about it upon entering and what your initial thoughts are and WHY.  Write down your thoughts and comments.

Do a side-by-side comparison with a similar competitor’s website and ask yourself:

  • What are they doing
  • What do they have
    and/or
  • What do they offer (that adds value) – that I am not currently doing?  

Be honest with yourself, because your honesty will only help you get to where you’re wanting to go.

It could be something as much as a higher marketing budget or more effort on your part, a team to assist you; maybe you need more social media interaction, or something as simple as better photos, a more cohesive look, or even using a cleaner look or font on your website.

Are you trying to align your brand in a ShopJeen space or an Anthropologie space?  If it’s the latter, consider a thorough walk through of Anthropologie and see how you can take their visual queues and replicate it to what you’re doing.

In the case of CupShe, as mentioned above, it receives tons of Pin shares for it’s products. CupShe.com appears to be a Shopify site.  It’s overall look is clean and simple.  It’s prices are dirt cheap and it’s product selections are pretty cute.  The company is most likely a foreign-based website, which is easy to figure out considering the pricing, products (I have seen these same products from a lot of vendors overseas), and grammatical errors. But my overall first impression is a good one. I don’t know who this  company is but the website looks professional. I can see there are tons of good reviews so it must be OK. My brain ticks “trust” and so I browse a little.

With just that little bit of assurance, I am more inclined to buy from an unknown place. It also doesn’t hurt that the prices are cheap, so I am not risking too much. Trust is also a key factor for new businesses building a customer base. In order to build trust, you have to either gather testimonials or make sales.  It’s like that weird scenario of how credit builds credit, but when you don’t have credit, you can’t get credit, etc.

You might have to consider giving some things away at first to build credit, so to speak. This is where influencer/blogger outreach can come in handy.

4. Do you know who your (target) customer is?

Do you know who you your audience is?  If so, are you speaking their language?
Are you creating products that they want, in prices they understand and marketing on platforms with the visuals they see while speaking the language they understand?  It’s a lot to think about but if you give it enough thought, you can connect the dots and make sense of it.  For example, I worked for a company in 2011 who was still producing products for their 1990 customer, but hoping to target the Millennials.  Their products and marketing strategies were not only speaking another language, but they weren’t even in the same hang outs with who they wanted to reach. Their audience was the 1998 girls who grew up to be the 2011 moms. So as a result, their message was very unclear, and the collection was a convoluted mess.  If you don’t know who your audience is, how can you speak to them in their language?

Here are three great examples of brands who know who their customer is and know how to reach and engage them:

1. Wildfox.com  Wildfox is that SOCAL, vintage inspired laid back brand for 20-somethings.  Most of their marketing efforts are on Instagram.  Why? Because that’s where their audience is. Their Instagram fan feed on their website is awesome

2. Justin Bieber  Yep, the YouTube music sensation.  He got into the hearts and homes everywhere with his YouTube Music Channel (The original channel has since been changed and moved to VEVO).  It’s where all the kids hang out, and it’s #1 audience interest is Music, followed by Gaming and Sports. Justin was able to reach his audience on a very personal level here.

3. Apple Apple is the prime example of a company who knew how to connect with their customer on a very personal level.  It doesn’t get much more personal than creating the iPod or your iPhone, does it?  They didn’t just create products, though, they created a culture that everyone wanted to be a part of.

“Apple has a branding strategy that focuses on the emotions. The starting point is how an Apple product experience makes you feel. The Apple brand personality is about lifestyle; imagination; liberty regained; innovation; passion; hopes, dreams and aspirations; and power-to-the-people through technology”.
MarketingMinds.com.au

5. Are you keeping up, visually?

A last question to ask yourself is are you using strong visuals? Strong visuals get you noticed, but you probably already know that. You know what makes you click on, ‘Like’ or share something. It’s not something we always consider, but it’s a crucial element in getting attention on social media.  Like everything, visuals on social media moves in trends.  Keeping up with those changing trends will keep your content fresh and relevant.  

Last and certainly not least:

6. Have you done an honest evaluation on your prices?

Are you priced too high without much solid value reasoning in your pricing strategy? If you’ve priced yourself too high, perhaps your customers don’t want to pay your prices. The price of an item is only worth what the market is willing to pay. Consumers have info at their fingertips at any moment. And with our Amazon price model and globalization, competition has gotten fierce. Buyers can now shop around and find the best item from the best merchant (feedback is important) with the best service or convenience. What is it that you have that they can’t get elsewhere for less? If you’re pricing is too high to sustain your business, you need to think and act fast. No sales or business every day puts you in the RED. At the very least, you need to break even. Every day you aren’t making a sale you are losing money. Sticking to your guns on your pricing simply because you don’t want to sell for less is business suicide.

Last final note: Are you Following The Four P’s in Marketing which are Product, Packaging, Price and Placement? If not, you may want to go back to the drawing board.

More helpful Articles:
The Four Ps of Marketing
What is Blogger Outreach and How Do I Do it?

 

Business

Why You Need to Be Your Own Competition

I have been a fashion designer for the last 10 years. Within that time, I worked for a few successful start-ups and well-established companies, as well as created and launched a few independent labels for myself and other clients. What I discovered quickly, was that many had the resources set aside for creating the initial product, but they were missing a few vital elements in building and maintaining a solid brand. Few were open to deep market research, investing in solid branding and marketing, or changing the product to stay ahead of competition.

Everyone is fighting to be relevant, whether it’s from a personal branding, or a company/product standpoint. Now more than ever, the need to create a product with buzz factor is essential. Sometimes that means refreshing or even reinventing your product(s) more than you’d like. Yes, change can be really hard at times.  It’s not always cost efficient and it takes time to readjust. But if it’s necessary for growth, it must be done. Don’t let fear or your ego get in the way. If objectives haven’t been met or sales, traffic, etc. hasn’t improved after a year or two, stop saying, “I know what I’m doing, I don’t need to do it different”. Or, “I can’t” or “I’m afraid to change”.

Remember that scene in Superman III, where Good Superman and Bad Superman have a duel at the scrapyard?  Both had the same set of tools to fight with, but one was willing to fight a little dirtier than the other. You have to be willing to split into two parts and look at your company through the eyes of the bad Superman self and be willing to be your own enemy in order to be your best objective advice.

You have ask, “Is this product as awesome as it could be?
How can I make it different or better?” Is your product a compelling story, and does it fill a need in the market?

The beginning stages of product or company development involves an in-depth and honest evaluation. Before you even sit down to create or market Widget A, you have to determine if it has legs first. Do painstaking market research. Who is your competition, both directly and indirectly? What are they doing? What are their failures and successes? How can you do it better?  Treat your product as though it’s already launched and YOU are now the competition.  Approach your product and/or business model as an outsider with hyper-critical thinking and constructive criticism. Keep in mind that your current competitors may not always be your most “dangerous” competitors. The obvious competition is well, obvious. But pay attention to internal employees with innovative ideas that are shot down, the small team of young, disruptive innovators or even your own vendors.  Imagine my horror when I discovered that a factory I was using was not only trying to offer my product cheaper under their own label, but they were using my photos to sell my design knockoff product.

An unexpected competitor launches a product that is completely different to your (and your perceived competitors’) existing, established product, but which accomplishes the things your customers want better than your products can do. They are, of course, disruptive innovators. And, if you do not pay attention, you will not notice the threat they pose to your business until your customer base begins to evaporate and you have to go into damage control mode to save your business.
– Jeffrey Paul Baumgartner

Brand building and maintaining relevancy is as important as the product itself. It’s not enough to just create a great product initially and ride that train until the wheels fall off. Failing to change, even a little, along the way may mean you’ll be left too far behind to make even the slightest impact later.  It isn’t a ‘set it and forget it’ crock-pot. In order to stay relevant in business, you either have to create something that stands above all others the first time, or be open to constant change.

Think ahead in terms of what the natural progressive steps, if any, may be. Already BE there mentally.  Obviously, if something is steaming ahead out of the gate, it doesn’t need changing right away. But you should always keep some next-step, progressive ideas in your back pocket, ready to launch when the moment strikes.