Branding is a very conceptual term. It can be hard to get your head around if you’re new to it.
It holds almost mystical power.
My definition of branding is
“To emotionally connect, to prospects and customers, through meaningful storytelling.”
Branding helps shape customer’s BELIEFS.
It helps shape how customers think about you. The meaning your brand holds for them. What they think you stand for. What they think your values are.
It determines if they feel they know like and trust you and whether they want to support you, by buying from you.
Think about why you buy the brands you buy.
What car do you drive?
What footwear do you wear?
What make of TV do you watch?
What coffee do you drink?
What washing powder do you wash your clothes with?
Where do you shop for groceries?
Which pub, cinema, restaurant do you frequent?
What search engine do you use?
Where do you spend most of your social media time?
What make of lipstick, if any, do you buy?
So you see, which brand you use is heavily influenced by the story the brand uses to emotionally connect with you. And the story you subsequently carry around with you.
If a brand doesn’t have a story to share, then it’s a commodity and whether you buy it, or from it, comes down to price, convenience, impulse, or just pure luck and circumstance.
Prospects and customers probably won’t give your brand a second thought. They probably won’t remember you very well when you’re not around.
They may enjoy some aspect of your value proposition. Your great service, your pleasant-natured sales assistant, your great value for money, a great solution to their problem. They may remember your warm smile, your witty banter, they may have liked your comfortable chairs, they may appreciate your attention to detail, or whatever you do to make them feel good and valued.
But what branding does is pull everything together into a coherent story, which makes remembering and identifying your brand easier, particularly when they are ready to buy again rather than going somewhere else.
Branding requires you to provide value through your value proposition. You are required to have a product or service that addresses your customer’s needs. Without this, no amount of branding is going to help you over the long term.
You must show up regularly through advertising or content creation.
Try to add value between sales. By building the perception of expertise, through things like tutorials and tricks and tips. Try to build a relationship with prospects and customers alike, so they get to know like and trust you.
Congruency is vital. Everything you do should support the story you want to communicate.
Consider how you look, via your website, social media channels, advertisements, signage, brochures, mail shots, vehicles, and in-store.
Also, what you do is vitally important. The extra value you add through your solution. Your customer service, even how you market your brand matters. All should be driven by beliefs and values that are important to your customer base.
And all this needs to fit together, to make sense, and support the story you’re telling.
Your brand should be distinctive, so that you’re noticeable, and clearly identifiable from the competition.
Make a good first “impression”. You only get one chance, so make it count.
Manage a “good Reputation”. Trust takes time to build up and seconds to destroy.
Be a good tribe leader, by taking a stand. Make sure you stand for something, don’t cop out by sitting on the fence. Focus on your customers and only them. It’s okay to say “we’re not for you” to everyone else.
Ultimately help your customers tell their story by allowing them to piggy-back on your story. Help them identify with your brand, bring it into their sense of self.
Branding is about creating a little bit of magic through story. It’s about inspiring them to imagine the possibilities of fulfilling their potential through your brand.
When it comes to building a brand, there are many considerations, but there are 3 that I would suggest should be at the forefront of your brand building activities.
Differentiated positioning involves your branding standing apart from the competition.
Your brand should represent unique meaning from the point of view of customers.
Think about some of your favourite brands, what simple meaning do they represent to you? Volvo represents safety to me, Apple represents innovation.
Positioning is also about where you position your brand in the marketing, are you a specialist, a generalist, are you a premium brand or a value driven brand?
No two brands can successfully hold the same market position, the first in that space will usually be the winner.
Look to disrupt and challenge the status quo, by shaking things up and approaching the market from a unique and refreshing direction. Think about how Netflix have changed the landscape of the video rental business into the streaming services we now see. What would look different in your space?
Play to your brands unique qualities and strengths. What has your brand got to offer that will allow you to stand apart from the competition?
Provide value to customers
The fundamental requirement of any brand is for it to provide value to its customers.
If there is no benefit for the customer in interacting with your brand, why are they going to bother? They just aren’t going to, life is too short to waste time on brands that don’t benefit anyone.
Provide a valuable solution that addresses customers wants and needs.
Make sure your solution fits your brands strengths, talents and skill-set.
Try to ensure your brand is focused on a specific part of the market. It’s often better to focus narrow and deep, rather than shallow and wide in terms of market coverage. Leave the mass market to the big boys who have a big enough budget to reach them.
Brands should attempt to connect emotionally with customers, because emotions and not reasoning or logic, are what connect people to people and people to brands.
To matter to customers your brand has to provide value on a regular basis, so that if you go away, they will miss you.
What do customers want or need that your brand can provide a valuable solution for?
Effective communication; perception control
Value offering and differentiation are no good if you aren’t able to communicate them effectively to customers or prospective customers.
Brand building orientated marketing is required to tell your story to customers so that they get what you’re brand is about. Speak to your target customers in a language only they will understand. It’s okay if your communication goes over the heads of non-targeted people.
Be inspiring to customers, provide them with hope; show them that whatever they are wanting to achieve, can be done, and they can do it with your help.
If possible connect to a bigger cause – be part of it, together. Play to customers aspirations. Romanticise a calling – “I’m a photographer” changes to “I help celebrate family – happy families make for happy communities.”
Ask yourself “What does the market think of us? Is this as intended?” If there is a disconnect between the two, revise your brand communications.
Branding is about owning a word in the mind of the customer.
Having a simple to understand and remember position, separate and distinct from all other competition.
It’s not about saying something short, dumbing down or using sound bites. It’s about prioritising the core message which should be both simple and profound. Proverbs are the ideal in doing this, like “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you; a one sentence statement so profound that you could spend a lifetime learning to follow it.
You can build on top of schemas to leverage existing knowledge, like describing Speed as Die Hard on a bus, or being the test crash dummy of online marketing, as with Pat Flynn.
A good core message helps customers understand and remember your brand, while also helping employees decision making. As with Southwest Airlines’s core message being THE low fair airline, customers know what southwest are all about, while employees know what intent should drive their decision-making when it comes to a choice of say, putting extra filling in the sandwiches or not.
Commander intent is used in much the same way by the Army, a simple, plainly-worded statement that summarises every military order, to ensure everyone understands the underlying tactic to be accomplished.
Journalists would describe it as making sure you’re not burying the lead, but instead putting it front and centre of communication, as if you might be cut off at any time.
Doing this prevents decision paralysis caused by overload, and uncertainty. It’s harder to remember 3 things than it is one. One clear message is easier to communicate, to get across and strengthen.
Use this core message as the centerpiece of your marketing, but branding is also about driving it into the customer experience at every touch point. This means making it part of your value promise and then delivering it, consistently over and over. If you don’t deliver on your promise, your message will be undermined and diluted.
Your Core message doesn’t have to have all the information built it. Treat it like breadcrumbs. The low cost airline, doesn’t advocate saving money on airline maintenance and is not as accurate as “improving shareholder value” but is more usable and memorable, and guides employee decisions by knowing the commanders intent when making individual decisions.
You’ve probably heard the term “content is king” countless times, and it’s ever more important in today’s internet-centric business environment.
The aim of content creation should be to allow your business to stand out from competitors, and help prospective customers get to know, like and trust you, so that they will, in time, consider doing business with you.
In other words content should be used to build your brand!
If you try to transact your prospects every time they interact with your brand, you will find you have to compete with all your competitors doing the same thing, and that can get expensive in terms of advertising costs.
Using advertising to first grab attention, then trying to convert prospects via a landing page or over the telephone is a big ask, and prospective customers are very guarded against slick sales messages. They will only consider you if you make the right first impression and are able to build trust quickly.
Consider an alternative solution, which is a longer term strategy but can prepare the ground by building trust and goodwill with people that are not quite ready to buy just yet, but who might be in the next 30, 60 or 90 days. This is called content creation.
When it comes to creating content you should be looking to give visitors something for nothing, to provide value to them without asking for something in return. You should try to help your prospective customers get to know more about your brand, to get to like how you do business and allow them to build up trust in you.
So, create content that prospects want from the page they arrive at. Make sure your adverts or links from adverts or social media posts are clear, and informative and accurately reflect what you’ve promised them. Don’t promise something that you fail to follow through on, just to get them onto your website. That is the surest way to ruin your reputation and destroy trust.
Once they are on your page you need to understand who the prospective customer is, what is their desire? What solution are they seeking? What possible questions are they asking and wanting answered?
To provide value for them, you need to answer these questions effectively, thoroughly and as uniquely as possible. Don’t just regurgitate the same old information, that everyone else is doing. Instead do it in your own voice.
Some content ideas…
1. To build awareness on social media use ENGAGEMENT POSTS – any format, to get comments or a reaction (clicks) – this pushes up in news feed and can include questions, funny memes, photos with a question
2. To grow authority – Encourage testimonials, case studies, speaking engagements, you in action doing what you’re trying to sell – honoured rather than boastful
3. To get clients – leads (email list sign up or phone) and clients attraction. Questions, graphics, videos, gifs
To provide value;
Be relevant – You must have content that interests your prospective customer, otherwise why would they be interested in what you have to say.
Be contextual – formatted for each channel specifically. Try to reformat your content to suit where you want to be found. Vertical video works better on Facebook than it does on Youtube.
Be transparent – builds trust,
Be authentic – be true to yourself,
Inspire interaction – build community,
Be current – so that you resonate with your audience today,
Aim for connection – It’s better to be narrow and deep than wide and shallow- 100 loyal fans better than 10,000 none engaged followers.
Content should be made up of:
There are only 3 types of content when you boil it down.
Escapism and entertainment
Escapism – being removed from our mundane real life situation for a short time, to forget.
interesting (aligned with audiences interests),
create a knowledge gap and fills it,
highlights a threat,
challenge plot, creative plot, connection plot.
Information and utility
Providing information that will help prospects in some way to improve their understanding, increase their knowledge or make life easier or better in some way.
Core information your customers need to know about your products and company before they’ll include you in their consideration set.
How – to’s,
Customer ratings and review.
Ancillary content – This is the supporting and additional content. Think of ancillary content like the bonus tracks on a DVD.
Take prospects behind-the-scenes,
Let prospects get personal with your employees,
Encourage customers to share photographs using your product.
Re-imagined content – Plan different versions of your content to ensure it’s contextually relevant to each specific platform. Again, this is best planned in advance to maximize resources and include it in your content creation contracts.
Provide Commentary – This is the related content and comments that your employees, customers and fans create in coordination or as a result of your core content.
Commentary works best when your audience creates it out their desire to share with their circle of friends and social connections such as Facebook and Instagram posts.
Internal content curation – This is where you maximize the value of your own previously published content by using it in the creation of new content and the re-promotion of old content, giving it new life. It has one or more of the following attributes.
Make content contextually relevance,
Extend content into a new format.
Some additional ideas..
Target a new audience for old content,
Provide access to a location, a person, an institution,
Curation of other peoples content,
Chart your own progress in some relevant endeavor,
Your journey to build your business – moving your business online,
Your progress in a new job,
Learning a new skill,
Put sales techniques into practice,
Sell something different every day testing your sales skills.
Current niche trends,
Software trends if relevant,
Explore the topic more freely and in-depth,
Cover local issues,
Real estate – local amenities, history of area – reasons why it’s good living here,
Local relevant events.
Connect people and community, to share ideas and stories.
Coming up with content ideas
Here are the 33 prompts that you can use to write just about ANYTHING… feel free to copy and paste them into notepad so you can use them every day when you sit down to write content.
Ask a question,
Reference current events,
Create your own terms,
Reveal news (new/introducing),
Tell the reader to do something,
Make a comparison,
Promise useful information,
Tell a (quick) story,
Make a recommendation,
Use a testimonial,
Promise to reveal a secret,
Target section of your audience,
Scarcity of savings/value,
Deliver good news,
Challenge the reader,
Highlight your guarantee,
State the price (as benefit),
Set up (seemingly),
Address reader objection/concern,
“As crazy as it sounds”,
Take them to the promised land,
Reason why headline,
Stress cost saving and value,
List / answer questions,
State / deliver on reader’s goals,
Highlight cost of mistakes.
Use this website for content ideas http://answerthepublic.com/ enter a keyword and it will suggest content ideas
Types of content
Lists of lists,
Did you know,
Covering fast changing situations,
From around the web,
Summing up events,
Q&A for interviews,
High level breakdown,
“Day in the life of” post,
Videos – screencasts, talking heads, illustrations, graphics, film roll,
User Generated Content,
Meme – Meme Generator and Quick Meme,
Social equity – introductions, access to contacts (interview, insight) – Leverage status (fame), membership (masons), contacts, relationships.
Guides – A guide is a detailed and fairly long piece of content. Think of it as an epic blog post. It goes beyond the length, style, and approach of an ordinary blog post.
Book reviews – A book review is a simple discussion of a book plus your take on it. You recommend good ones, critique not-so-good ones, and share the value that you glean from them. Book reviews are great because they help to position you as a thought leader.
Opinion post (rant) – This style of post is substantially different from your typical blog post, mostly due to its tone. You may be used to publishing a careful and researched discussion of a topic. The rant or opinion, by contrast, may be stronger and more expressive. The more vociferous your position, the more it’s going to get read and shared.
Product reviews – Like the book review, a product review can help establish authority and leadership in your industry. Every industry has its unique array of products, software, and services. When you engage key developers, manufacturers, or service providers, you gain recognition and respect. All you need to do is share your experience with the product and provide your recommendation.
How to.. The how-to is one of the most popular types of content, especially in my niche. On my blog, I write a lot of how-to guides. How-to articles have awesome long tail search potential due to these popular long tail query introductions: “How to…” and “How do I…?”
Lists – Lists have endless appeal. We’re wired to love them. Chance are you’re going to see or read an article today that involves some sort of a list — “5 Security Breaches You Need to Know about,” “17 Ways to Rank Higher in Google in One Month.” Hey, you’re already reading an article with the title “15 Types.”
Link pages – link page is simply a post that provides links to great resources around the web. The great thing about link posts is that they spread link love to other sites, provide your own site with authoritative SEO signals, and assert your thought leadership within your field.
Ebook – An ebook is long content packaged in a different format, usually as a PDF. Ebooks are often a downloadable product, available for free in exchange for joining a mailing list. Producing an ebook helps to strengthen your authority within a field, and it makes for a powerful method of sharing your knowledge with others.
Case study – A case study explains what your product or service is and how it helped a client. The case study basically says, “here’s what we do, how we do it, and the results we get.”
Podcast – Podcasts had their phase of popularity, and they’re still a great form of content. Plus, they’re not hard to create. Many people listen to podcasts during their commute or exercise. You have a chance to spread your message farther and better using this format than a lot of other formats.
Interview – Every field has its leaders. When you’re able to interview a leader, you can garner a lot of respect from others in the field, not to mention huge amounts of traffic. Interviews are unique. No one else has this information — only you.
Research and original data – Most of us work in data-intensive fields, where numbers and metrics hold a lot of value. Sharing your findings with others is a powerful way to drive traffic, build trust, and establish your authority. When you do the research, which is hard work, people respect that. What’s more, people share it.
Digesting info and regurgitating/repackaging and presenting it to your audience in a new package,
Content curation and Content aggregation, where you filter good quality content for your readers, this adds value for them and saves them having to troll through low quality content,
If you don’t have anything to say, DOCUMENT! – easier than having to create new content,
If you’re not an expert in your niche you can become a well informed commentator (share stories from niche – curate content made by others and add your own commentary).
Look after your readers
Always reply to comments or messages,
Use names and tag people,
Share things – if you come across something you like share it,
Be an investigator – Google Alerts – gives you news about a chosen keyword(s),
Check out the results, go to a page and leave a comment as a nice gesture,
Make navigation around the site easy,
Decrease page load times,
Get rid of annoyances on site such as pop-ups and distracting ads,
Surprise audience – give something for free,
Include transcript with podcasts or video,
Use high quality audio and video,
Skip the sales pitch – the best sales pitch is no sales pitch at all,
Reply with a video,
Invite participation – reader challenge, ask for opinion, calls to action – get people involved,
Get personal – infuse your personality and life to get deeper connection,
Provide unique content such as provide case studios, experiments, income reports etc
Proof read content before you post it,
Remember who you are and who your serving,
Always over deliver,
Write post which is potential vehicle for income. Good quality, unique, have affiliate links in sidebar so on every post and in text,
Create a visual representation of the information you are talking about to help you and your audience remember it,
Transformation – what’s the transformation you want your audience to go through. Another way of putting it is what’s the purpose of your article. What’s the goal,
Start with in this episode we are going to talk about x. by the end of this you will be able to Y using your Z,
Tell them what you’re going to tell them, Tell them, Tell them what you told them,
Reverse engineer the transformation. Work backwards. What supporting content do you need to include to achieve the transformation,
Write down all possible objections and include a reply to each of these in the supporting content,
Tell stories (more memorable) or Include case studies or Research and data. Always include the professors full name and qualifications include accurate data to the penny,
Subdivide the article so that it is easier to understand and follow. Subdivisions could be steps, tips,
Make the beginning and end memorable,
Ending should have a call to action, get audience involved, show how what you have talked about actually works, surprise audience in some way (must be relevant),
Beginning should have a video or high impact beginning,
Aim for Consistency,
Talk like a human being,
You shouldn’t be vanilla – take a point of view,
Don’t talk at your audience, talk with them. connection, interaction.
So as you can see there is a lot to consider with regards to your content. The best advice I can give is get stuff out there and see what works best for your audience.
Branding is a key function that will allow your business, product or service to stand out and mean more to the prospects you hope to turn into customers, as well as to your existing customers, so that they keep coming back to you, rather than the competition.
If you’re not a brand, you’re a commodity.
We love to use the acronym B.R.A.N.D. to remind us of the essential elements of a successful brand.
To stand out, above the competition, your brand has to be bold. Vanilla brands just aren’t going to cut through the noise from all your competitors messages.
Get off the fence and take a position. Have a strong message that resonates with your prospects and customers. It’s much easier to get into the customers mind if you have an emotional connection with them.
To make an emotional connection with prospects and customers, you’ve got to be relevant. If you and your message isn’t relevant, you’ll be ignored and overlooked.
The human mind is conditioned to pay attention to things that mean something to it and filter out everything else. People go about their daily routines in a trance-like state, and grabbing attention is only possible if your message is relevant enough to pull your prospects out of that state and give your message some consideration.
People are always looking to improve their sense-of-self, via some type of perceived increase. Increase of knowledge, increase of valuable connections, increase of property, increase of standing in the community. At their core people act to seek pleasure and avoid pain, it is the driving force of the human race, and most other species.
So your brand should act to help them do this through your brand promises. Mercedes helps customers tell the world how successful they are and that’s the promise their customers are willing to buy into and pay for.
Your brand has to do the same to be successful.
Your brand needs to be worthy of attention by being as close to remarkable as possible. This will help you stand out and be remembered more easily. Marketing guru Seth Godin will tell you to “Make things better by making better things.”
However it’s not enough to just be remarkable, the key is to make sure you tell your story in such a way that your prospects and customers buy into it.
Being different means positioning yourself uniquely within the market you operate in. Branding requires you to own a unique word or have a unique meaning in your customers mind.
To do this you have to position yourself away from competitors. No two brands can own the same word or meaning if they are going to be successful brands. Think about how you position Mercedes and Ford within the automotive market, or how you position Tesco from Aldi from Asda within the supermarket space. They all occupy unique brand positions.
Different isn’t a nice-to-have element in branding, it’s arguably the most important one.
Successful branding is about controlling the perception of your business/ brand in the mind of prospects and customers alike. It’s made up of …
The impression people have of your business is going to heavily influence whether they are going to consider buying from you or not.
Being perceived as credible, likable and trustworthy, is particularly important with regards to people who have had little or no previous experience of your business/ brand.
Perception is a dance between impression and reputation. As people get to know more about your brand/ business, reputation becomes more influential, but even then, people’s impressions can still be altered through ongoing interactions. In the same way you can go off people, you can certainly go off brands and businesses depending on new information. There is no such things unconditional love, with regards to branding. However people tend to be more forgiving of bad experiences, or bad publicity if they have previously built up positive history with you.
Your reputation is about what people say about you when you’re not there.
Always be looking to strengthen your reputation through all customer touch points for new and returning prospects, and customers. Reputation is spread through word of mouth and technology that performs in the same way as word of mouth. If you have a bad reputation, you need to take a serious look at what is going wrong, having a strong brand with a bad reputation is the worst place possible to be.
Remember this point; If you’re not strengthening your brand, you’re weakening it, there is no middle ground here, so ensure you’re strengthening it at every opportunity.
Throughout the customer journey, there are a number of touch points they are exposed to your business/ brand in some way. You should look very carefully at each of these points and consider how they impact your reputation, and influence impressions of your business/ brand.
Some possible touch points might include..
Social media channels
What are you posting about?
What value are you adding to prospects and customers?
Are you constantly trying to sell or are you adding value in other ways? Consider Gary Vaynerchuk’s jab, jab, jab, right hook principle, otherwise known as build brand, build brand, build brand, push offer.
Are you’re communications giving the impression you want them to give, through the imagery, copy and other media?
Are they driving your brand promise home?
Search engine listings & website
If your customers are searching on search engines for the solutions that you provide, you must make sure you can be found there, either through SEO, or PPC.
What pages are you being found through?
Are people finding your page, but not clicking on your link? If not clicking on your link, why not? Are you not giving them a reason to click?
Are you communicating the right messages on those pages, once they click through?
Are these pages helping to build your brand, through the copy, images and other media?
Are you demonstrating enough social proof through reviews and testimonials, case studies and the likes.
Premises and signage
Is your premises and signage giving the right impression of your business/ brand?
Is it all ON BRAND?
Your people and value delivery
Your people include your Customer service reps, Receptionists, Employees, Leaders, and sales people. Your brand promise is not just something you just say, it’s something you live from and in. All beliefs and values, and the subsequent behaviours that come from them, should be aligned to drive you brand promise forward. Branding starts within your business and is then communicated out through what and how you do the things you do to bring value to the market.
At the end of it all, you are trying to control the OPINIONS of your prospects and customers, and indeed, everyone else that comes across your business/ brand.
They have to KNOW, LIKE and TRUST your business/ brand.
To KNOW you
They can only know you, if they see you, so been visible. Share your story with them, let them see you in action with behind the scenes content or a 247 like backstory. Be as personable as possible, don’t hide behind a corporation persona, because people prefer to buy from people.
To LIKE you
Think about the people you like and why; generally people are attracted to people who are like them. People who they feel they are on the same side as, and have things in common with. We learn this through interaction, and sharing, so your business/ brand needs to do the same kinds of things, by sharing and caring.
To TRUST you
To build trust, you must be AUTHENTIC, TRANSPARENT, CONSISTENT and GENUINELY want to look out for best interests of your customers.
Without these, people will see through you and your intentions.
It’s vital you control the narrative and story around your business and brand. Make sure the reception of your message is as intended, during the transmission of it. Otherwise you might mistakenly misread what people think about your business /brand, so keep communication channels open both ways, to ensure you’ve got a good handle on the opinion of the people that matter; your prospects and customers.
Make sure your message is simple to understand and easy to remember, emotionally meaningful from the point of view of prospects and customers, and further strengthens your brand promise.
A teacher stands in front of his class of business executives and holds up a lottery ticket. He says to the audience,
“This ticket was an unsuccessful match for numbers two weeks ago. It cost me £2 for it. Will anyone give me £2 for it?”
None of the class responds.
“I’d happily take the best offer you’re willing to give for it, anyone?” asks the teacher.
Again, none of the class responds.
“I’d happily take 20 pence for it, last chance!”
There is a nervous shifting in chairs as the audience look at one another confused, but again none of them responds with an offer for the ticket.
“Okay”, says the teacher. “Well, if I tell you this ticket didn’t win anything two weeks ago, because I only actually purchased it for the lottery this coming weekend. What would you give me for it now?”
There is a number of humorous exchanges between audience members before one of them shouts out “I’ll give you a £1 for it.”
The teacher asks “Any better offers?”
Another audience member shouts out “I’ll give you £2!”
“Okay!” says the teacher, “I think I’ll keep hold of it in that case, because this ticket wasn’t purchased for this weekend’s lottery, it was purchased for last weekend, and it was a winning ticket for the £30 prize!”
Now the audience members responded with some laughter and a realisation they have been fooled.
The teacher asks “Now what will you give me for this ticket?”
One of the audience says jokingly “I’ll give you £2 for it!”, but then offers £20
Another says “£25!”
The teacher hands the ticket to the person who has offered £25 and says “It’s yours”, the person gives him the £25 after checking that the ticket is a genuinely winning ticket, he realises it has in fact won the £100 prize, not the £30 as stated by the teacher.
The teacher asks, “So this person has got herself a £100 prize which has cost her just £25! How silly do the rest of you feel now lol?”
The audience agrees they have missed out on a great opportunity, and congratulate the woman who had got herself a great deal.
Now this story is used to illustrate the perception of value and how it can be manipulated.
When the class are led to believe the ticket was a failed attempt from a couple of weeks ago, it is valued at zero. None of the audience perceived any value in it at all, and why should they?
When the ticket is described as actually a ticket purchased for the upcoming lottery draw, audience members value it more, in fact £2 is offered for it, which is the face value of the ticket anyway. Why has the audience member offered this? Well because that is the market value for a ticket in an upcoming draw, and the person may think they have a chance to win something with it, as they would if they purchase the ticket themselves. In fact they were going to buy a ticket anyway for this weekend’s draw and think the opportunity that has presented itself may be a lucky omen.
When it is revealed the ticket is in fact a winning ticket, the offer goes up to £25, which still provides a surplus of £5 for the winning offer, which of course is still a good deal.
When the audience discovers the prize is actually £100, much of them feel quite envious of the winning bid, because they have missed out on an even better deal.
The ticket is the same ticket throughout this whole scenario, the only thing that has changed throughout, is the story the teacher is telling the audience, about the value of the ticket and the subsequent perception from the audience.
The value of the ticket isn’t wrapped up in the material it’s made of, after all it’s just made of paper! It’s not wrapped up in its cost, the cost of the ticket is the same in all the proposed situations.
The value of the ticket is perceived to be in its winning potential, in its reward value.
If I told you I could guarantee you £2 for every £1 you spent with me, would you not spend as much money as you could get your hands on, if you trusted me to deliver on that promise?
Of course you would!
That’s what marketing is all about, the promise of a reward that outweighs the cost of that exchange. The rewards don’t have to be just monetary gains either, psychological gains are often even more important. Having more money is only valuable because of what having more money means to you; more money equals more freedom, more choice, better or bigger possessions etc.
If you can genuinely provide more value than you take in return (in the way of money), and make sure the audience perceive that value, you’ll be a successful marketer.
But remember great power comes with great responsibility. Use your marketing powers for good, and keep your promises!
I recently created this graphic to illustrate the main components of marketing, as I see it.
There are 3 components to it, these include
Winning or buying ATTENTION.
Selling – transacting
Let’s have a closer look at each of these.
Winning or buying ATTENTION
Winning attention requires being present, wherever your prospective customers are hanging out, and where they are more easily targeted.
Most people are online these days, in some capacity, so having an online strategy makes good business sense. This might be via social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram or Linkedin to name just a few. As I write this post, there are literally dozens of social channels to target.
To be able to effectively target your prospects, you must know and understand who they are, what they want, and how to best engage with them. Without this understanding you’re fumbling around in the dark.
Being in the right place is the first part of the equation, but then you have to stand out in some way, from your competitors, who are also trying to convert your prospects.
There are a number of strategies here, depending on where you’re actually marketing. If you’re able to use visuals (images and graphics), they should allow you to stand out from your competitors enough to draw attention, but not so much that they look out of place.
Your headlines should encourage prospects to stop and consider what you have to say. You can do this by inducing curiosity, or saying something that resonates with your prospects.
Test your approaches to see what works best on the various platforms, either by split-testing or just testing various approaches.
Once you have the attention of your prospects, you have two options, you can either try to sell to them straight away, or you can look to build brand.
Selling directly is okay for those actively searching for your solution at this very moment, but the difficulty you have is building confidence and trust enough for them to risk engaging with you or buying from you, without knowing much about you previously. Reviews and testimonials are good trust builders, because prospects can see how you have serviced previous customers. Case studies, name dropping well known past customers can also help out in this respect.
There will be a large number of prospects that are not looking to buy just now, but will in the next 30, 60 or 90 days. This provides an opportunity for you to build your brand with them, so that when they come to wanting to buy, you have already build up some goodwill.
To do this you have to provide some value up-front. This might be in the form of free advice, information, entertainment, insight or access. It needs to be value that is relevant to what you’re selling, otherwise it won’t make sense to the prospect and won’t be deemed relevant to what you’re actually selling and you won’t get that associative goodwill you require to get the sale.
Selling – transacting
Hopefully your brand building activities have built up some trust and liking in the minds of your prospects. This will make it easier to get the sale, because you’ve already proved yourself to be a trustworthy and generous supplier.
If you’ve not had the opportunity to build brand, you need to use reviews and testimonials and other 3rd party endorsements to help you build some trust, quickly.
You must look credible,even expert and able to deliver on your promise. How do you look credible or expert? Well maybe do some “How to ..” video tutorials, so that prospects can see you in action, doing what you do best.
You must look stable, by having a physical address, a shop is more credible than working from home in many prospect’s minds. In the same way a website looks more credible than just having a social media page.
If you’ve got a lot of follows on social media or a good ranking on Google search results, this demonstrates you’ve been around for a while and this will make the prospect more confident in you.
For prospects to buy they have to WANT or NEED some form of CHANGE. They have to have a REASON to move from the status quo, to being willing to part with their hard earned cash in exchange for what you are offering.
Most purchases are done emotionally, but justified rationally. So helping them to justify why buying is a good thing, is your job as a marketer. How will your solution solve their problem? How will your solution make their life better? What’s the benefit of what you are offering?
Lastly you MUST deliver on your promise. Don’t over promise and under deliver, because this will result in bad reviews. It is your job to manage expectations to avoid disappointment. It’s much better to under promise and over deliver over the long term.
Getting visitors to opt-in to your mailing list (via your website) provides a great way of directly communicating with them at a later time, in fact it should be one of your on-line marketing priorities. Imagine if you lost your Facebook page or Twitter account (and it can happen), how would you contact your audience?
Having a list of email subscribers keeps control in your own hands, rather than relying on a third party platform, and gives you a direct path to people that, by subscribing to your list, have qualified themselves as being interested in what you have to say. If they arrive on your site, read a little and leave you have nothing. As the old adage goes “the money is in the (email) list” and this is unlikely to change any time soon.
What you’ve first got to think about is that, from your visitors point of view, why would they want give you their email address? They usually won’t want to be contacted unless you have something interesting or useful to say or offer.
If you think you can simply add an opt-in form to your site and people will immediately fall over themselves to sign-up, then you’re sadly, misguided. Try it for yourself and see what happens. There needs to be something else in place to get that all important email address, and incentives are a great start.
So you’ve got to give visitors some incentive, provide some benefit to them in return for their email address. They have to want to get communication from you for some perceived advantage. Generally, people don’t like to be sold to, so you need to get over to them that you’re looking to help them to either solve a problem or achieve a goal rather than sell them something, and communicating the benefit of your offer is vital if you’re to succeed. Answer the question “What benefit is in it for them”.
Benefits can be short-lived, and particularly relevant to one piece of content (content upgrade) or could be more long term focused and offer ongoing value. If you capture an email because of a content upgrade you should look to keep them as a long term subscriber by having a strategy in place to provide ongoing value and support, otherwise they will simply opt-out straight away. Check out my in-depth list of opt-in incentive ideas.
Sell the benefits – Use wording within your opt-in form that sells the benefit of this incentive to your visitor. “Increase productivity with my 5 efficiency hacks” or “5 efficiency hacks that will increase productivity”, obviously make it relevant to your particular incentive, answer the question. “Why do my visitors need this incentive?”
Don’t promise something you can’t produce or provide and never ever try to mislead subscriber’s. Be honest, and reliable at all times. Once you break trust it is unlikely, unless you have history with them, that they will ever forgive you, and why should they? Check the section about credibility, capability and trustworthiness (below), for more information.
Offsetting the risk for subscribers
If I am the visitor on a new website I consider the risk reward balance of becoming a subscriber. Asking myself “If I give this person my email address can I opt-out if I change my mind?” So adding some text to your opt-in form saying that subscribers can opt-out easily at any time, and will not be pestered thereafter, will help to reduce this concern.
The main fear for many visitors, that prevents them from subscribing, is being swamped with spam emails that don’t offer any value to them and that become a pain to get rid of. Knowing they can click a button and never see your mail again is a big risk reducer. “One click to unsubscribe at any time – guaranteed!”.
Another concern is email addresses being sold onto third parties without the subscribers permission, and this should never happen, but sadly does. Make sure you state that there is no risk of this happening if they sign up with you. “We will never spam you” or “We will never share your email address with anyone else” or a combination of the two will help.
Adding extra value
When a visitor lands on your page they probably don’t know you, they don’t particularly care about you and your brand, or want to build a relationship with you, what they want is to get some benefit from you and your site. It’s your job to answer their question, “What’s in it for me?” The benefit should be so good they just can’t resist to sign up. The promise of insider information, better quality bonus information, discounts, rebates etc. and they’ll get that exclusively if they sign up.
This content can be hidden on your site, free from being indexed like your other content, on a page rather than that a post so it doesn’t appear in the blogroll. There are a number of WordPress plugins that will help you keep this content off your sitemap or navigation. Contact me for more information about this.
Other considerations for getting email opt-in’s are:
Getting people to see your page in the first place is of paramount importance, but the traffic volume alone is no good, you need traffic that is interested in your offer, so targeted traffic is what counts. Laser focus your marketing messages to speak to people who are interested in your niche and only them. Check this post for more information.
Once they arrive on your site, you need them to stay around long enough to see your opt-in box, so having content that will keep them engaged and on your site long enough to get the chance to opt-in is another big part of the jigsaw.
There needs to be some demonstration of value in your content that makes the visitor think, “I like this enough to sign up”. Think about it, if the content on a site you visit is not engaging or of high quality or relevance, are you going to sign up for their email newsletter?
You need to be thinking “I can get some value from this person” to even consider signing up. There’s got to be an interest from the visitor in the subject matter, and then they have got to like your take on that subject matter to want to stay around and hear more from you.
Placement of opt-in
You should consider placement of your opt-in form, do you put it in the sidebar, and if so at the top, middle or bottom? In the post itself, and again where is best? There is no definitive answer to this, the best advice is to test for yourself and see what works best for your audience. Some ideas for placement testing include:
Sidebar – top, middle, or bottom separately and altogether,
within the post itself – above the fold or bottom of post or both
It’s great to include an opt-in form on both the “homepage” and “about us” pages, and again test multiple locations and see what works for you.
Make it stand out
As well as considering the location, it’s important, wherever you place your opt-in form, to make sure it stands out and is noticed. Use the rule of contrast, and make your form the opposite colour to the rest of your website. Visitor’s must be drawn to your opt-in form and the human brain is hard-wired to notice things that don’t match the rest of the environment, that stand out.
Number of fields
Think about how many fields you’re asking the visitor to fill in – my testing shows the fewer fields the visitor has to complete the more subscribers you will get. On the flip side I have seen research that suggests converting subscribers to paying customers (further down the sales funnel) tends to be better from leads who originally opted-in via forms with more fields, so as always test variations and see what works for you.
Credible, capable and trustworthy
Credibility, although last to be discussed here, is without doubt the most important element you need to sell anything online. If you can prove you know what you’re talking about, you know your niche, your product or service, you’re three quarters of the way to achieving online success.
Credibility builds trust, and gives your audience confidence you can deliver the results they are looking for. Credibility comes in the form of customer testimonials and reviews, case studies, demonstrations, free samples, free trial periods, social media following and interaction, before and after photos, published income statements, in fact anything that shows you can do what you say you can do, and the better you can demonstrate this the easier selling will be. Think of why you shop at Amazon (for instance), is it because of their stunning website design, the colour of their sidebars or footers?
You buy from Amazon, because you trust them, you know they can deliver what they say they will, and when they say they will, you can check out product reviews, you can return it if you’re not happy with it when it arrives. If I didn’t say it before “Credibility is key”.
There needs to be so much more in place to get subscribers onto your email list than just having an opt-in form on your site. Without subscribers, selling online, while not impossible, is much more difficult for some type of businesses. This varies depending on the type of niche you are involved in of course, my photography studio business sells lots of experience vouchers online without needing to get subscribers (although I still collect the emails of visitors to send promotional offers to), but this seems to be very different for none physical businesses that sell things like digital products and solutions, where getting subscribers is much more important in the sales process.
Below is a list of elements you will need to get visitor’s email addresses.
You’ve got to get targeted traffic to your site in the first place,
Provide good relevant content to engage your visitors and keep them hanging around, also the more of this content there is and the longer you have been around helps in the perception of credibility
Have an opt-in form generator such as Thrive Leads to capture your visitor’s email address and an auto responder such as Mailchimp or Aweber to deliver the relevant incentive promised,
An opt-in incentive and the wording used to sell the incentive to your visitors. Also think about an ongoing strategy for offering continuing value that requires staying subscribed to get access to it. (list of ideas here)
Risk reducers – using reassurances such as:
We will never spam you
We will never share your email address
You can opt-out with one click at any time, but please give us a try
Positioning of the opt-in box:
On the home page
Within post above fold and end of post
On the “About us” page
In the sidebar
Don’t overdo it though, sometimes less is best.
Number of fields the visitor has to fill in – keep to a minimum.
Make sure your opt-in box stands out, use the rule of contrast when deciding what colour to use, which involves looking at the predominate colour of your website and picking the colour opposite on the colour wheel
Most importantly – being perceived as credible, capable and trustworthy – trust elements, money back guarantees, free trial periods, income reports, testimonials, review, case studies, list of major brands you have done work for, TV appearances etc. Without credibility, I doubt having all the other elements in place would lead to much success, it is the single most important ingredient of selling online, and off-line for that matter. If you were to consider what to spend most time on improving, it should be this. As I said earlier, I sell lots of photo experience vouchers online, and the main reason for this undoubtedly being seen as credible, capable and trustworthy.
Once you have all the elements, described in the preceding paragraphs, in place you have a fighting chance. Test all of the variables to see which is more effective with your audience, it’s an on-going process of testing, and re-testing. There is no magic bullet, and what works for one doesn’t guarantee will work for someone else. Don’t assume you know best either, use your hunch as a starting point and test against it.
Just a word of warning regarding testing. Don’t change more than one element at a time and make sure you are getting sufficient volume to make the results meaningful. This will be hard when starting off, because you will obviously not have the volume of visitors, but online success is not achieved overnight, and measuring performance from the start is what will give you an edge over other newcomers, and ensure you have taken a solid first step.
It’s all very well getting lots of traffic onto your website, but if it’s not targeted traffic, then you’re not going to earn much money from all those visitors. If you’re selling dog collars for instance and getting people to your website who are looking for holidays, then all that will happen is those visitors will bounce off your site and go elsewhere. So think laser focused targeting for all your marketing messages. Appeal to prospects that actually want what you have to offer. Find out who they are and where they hang out, and deliver your message to them and only them. To test the depth of knowledge you need to have a about your audience, can you answer these questions?
Who is your ideal reader/visitor
What do they look like, talk about, care about, hate, fear, desire
Who do they hang out with, talk to, argue with, ideolise, want to be
Where do they hang out online, in person, want to go, not want to go
What products, brands, personas, do they love and hate
How do they talk, formally, passionately, analytically
What lingo do they use (ie keywords)
Why are they coming to you?
Why should they listen to you instead of everyone else
What problems are they looking to solve
Where to find your audience
Does your audience frequent Facebook or Twitter. Do they love to spend time on Youtube surfing the “How to…” videos in your niche? Would it be more productive to target them via the major search engines such as Google and Bing? If so then you would need to consider Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), and getting your site up the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) rankings. If you want to get yourself in front of your audience fast, then Pay Per Click (PPC) might be the way to go. Think very carefully about your acquisition strategy because getting it wrong can cost time, effort and money. To summarise:
Optimise your site to make it search engine friendly,
Use PPC – make sure you know what you’re doing with this method,
Participate in forums,
Get active in Facebook groups,
Network on Facebook and Twitter,
Guest post on blogs in your niche (good for reputation, traffic and SEO),
Attend events and conferences – great off-line method,
Link out to other valuable resources/sites.
Getting yourself a home
Don’t rely on making your main internet home Facebook or Twitter, because although these are great platforms to engage with your audience, relying solely on these could wipe your business out overnight should these platforms decide to change the rules, as many software companies have found to their costs. For instance Shortstack started off providing engaging Facebook competitions until Facebook decided to cut them out and do it for themselves and although Shortstack have evolved away from Facebook to some degree, they recently wrote a blog post detailing their acknowledgement of the mistake of over-reliance on a third party to support their business.
I now use WordPress for all my sites, it’s free to use (except for the hosting of course if you’re using a self hosting option), comes with lots of plugins to add functionality to the site, is loved by Google and is ideal for SEO and has tons of free themes to make it look original. Most of the modern themes are also mobile responsive which is a must these days for both ranking and user experience.
Building relationships – Email Marketing
Provide Great Content
Once you get targeted audience to your website, you need to have something interesting, useful, unique and most of all, helpful for them to read, look at and engage with. Look to help them with some problem they have or to achieve something they want to achieve. Great content should:
Be valuable (don’t waste peoples time)
Be delivered in multiple formats if possible
Be as short as possible but no shorter
Solve problems by providing solutions
Attract an audience
Above all – be results oriented.
To do this you must understand their wants and needs. Use surveys, interact with them via email and find out their pain.
Tips about Content generation
Think about what someone in your niche is going to need to follow in your footsteps. Think about your progression and map this out for your audience if they are trying to replicate you.
Use easy to remember forwarding URLs for certain topics to make them easier for your audience to memorise, these can be purchased as domain names and pointed to any page on your site. Promote this easy to remember URL in your marketing messages.
Use the medium that best suites your site. Look what the competition are using and do it differently and better.
know the product – be a sales agent for it, if you haven’t used it and found it useful don’t try to sell it. Become a resource of information for using that product. Give your audience tips and tricks for getting the best from it. Show the product being used, “un-boxing the product” is a popular type of video content. Ask yourself “Can I trust the product to be good for my audience?”. Become a source of information for that product. “How to….” videos and articles, show you using it for your own purposes, helpful tips and advice, and reviews
know what you want your audience to achieve by using your website what is their goal, then design a road map to help them achieve that goal, show them how using your products will help them get to their goal.
Build deep relationships with your subscribers. The deeper the relationship the shorter the pitch required. Speed up the building of relationships by:
Be personable – easier to connect. Use video and podcasts,
Tell stories and entertain,
Random Acts Of Kindness – reply to comments, give them a special deal, put comments on their blog,
Build trust first:
Give lots away for free, add value without charging. If your seen as a giver people more likely to respond positively,
Get others to recommend you
If you don’t currently use the product yourself, get in contact with the owner of the product and ask some questions about the product and write a post about the conversation.
Get a special deal just for your audience, or give a rebate (using part of your affiliate earnings) back to the purchaser if they go through your affiliate link.
Create an epic post about the product. A ONE Stop shop resource,
Multiple Youtube videos about different aspect of using the product,
Hold a webinar for the product,
Publish a webinar replay – Be sure to record your live webinar so that you can embed it on your website as a replay for those who didn’t watch it live, and those who did watch it live but want to get the information again,
Use an indirect social push – link to a post or a resource that will engage people beforehand about the product or a video about it, not directly to an affiliate link
Keep track of your click through’s – use pretty links or crazy egg,
Indirect email list promotion – For me, I like to indirectly promote on my email list – like I do with social media – it’s all about giving people as much high-value content as possible, and on the email, it’s exactly the same. I don’t directly promote anything on my email list – and if there are any links in my emails they all point back to my blog,
Indirect promotion on other people’s sites,
Be honest and disclose that they are affiliate links,
Thank people in advance for going through your affiliate links,
Review and compare products of the same type,
Focus on how it will help your audience (benefits not features),
Believe in your recommendations,
If it doesn’t work try another offer,
Test, test and test again,
Make your own product instead,
Be patient. Trust is built over time,
Provide a resource page full of all your affiliate products and links,
Offer a bonus
Extra content (i.e. extra skins for a opt-in box)
Discount price, rebates,
Tips and tricks document included,
How to use document included.
Email Sign ups
Encourage visitors to opt-in to your email list so that you can keep in touch with them and continue to help. You need to have an opt-in box on your website to do this. I have them dotted around my site in the sidebar and footer of most of the posts. I encourage you to do the same. Only ever provide great content and assistance, don’t ever spam them with endless sales pitches. We all hate that, don’t we?
You can use what are known in the trade as opt-in bribes to encourage subscriptions. An opt-in bride is something of value that the visitor has to exchange their email address for. This could include:
Tips and tricks information
A white paper
A resource list
In fact anything that adds value, and is perceived as being valuable and relevant to your visitor. If they don’t want it, they won’t sign up. If they do sign up always make it really easy to unsubscribe from your list as a matter of courtesy.
Note: If you sign up for our newsletter, feel free to respond to any of the emails we send you asking for our “Lead Magnet List” which will give you more ideas for what to use as Lead Magnets.
Have something to sell
Ultimately we are looking to build a business from our online endeavours, so we need something to sell. Something that will help our audience, something that gives more in value than it asks for in payment. Think of saving your audience time, effort, money wherever possible. Look to help them make money or solve some problem or pain they want to remove from their lives.
You can look to sell your own products or be an Affiliate and sell other people’s products. There are literally thousands of such products available to sell from physical products, services to digital products and everything in between.
If you’re starting out in online marketing, it is probably wiser to sharpen your marketing skills before investing a great deal of your resources in developing your own products, and Affiliate Marketing is an ideal option. Products can be found via networks such as Clickbank, Commission Junction, Amazon and JVZoo to name but a few.
summary of where to find products to sell
Amazon affiliates / associates but look for high value products,
Odigger.com or offervault.com,
Commission junction you can be an affiliate or sell your product through them,
Think about what you use yourself,
Directly approach the company yourself, ask if they do affiliate program,
Forums and ask for ideas to the likes of web warrior forum and digital point forum,
If you cant find a product make one yourself.
Where to use affiliate links
Put affiliate links in an Ebook
Put affiliate links within content section and as many natural links as possible, without overdoing it. Not everyone will read the full article
Create own advertisements, use text widgets to rotate text links,
Affiliate links in your images.
Keep the conversion going
Keep providing help to your audience, otherwise they will move on and leave you behind. If you’re only looking to service a narrow band of people at a certain stage in their development and don’t intend to offer support for them later, than that’s fine as long as you know how to keep the flow of new recruits coming to your website. Have a plan and work the plan.
To be truly successful in Affiliate Marketing you need to build an audience that keeps coming back to you for more, I’ve heard it described as building a tribe or engaged community, even raving fans – whatever you want to label it, it’s about engaging on a regular basis and building a relationship with them. In order to achieve this you must provide great, unique, valuable, and actionable content that your audience needs and wants. This should be your major focus. Without an audience you can’t hope to build an affiliate business.
If you’re looking at doing it as a sideline, or full time business you will probably want or need to earn money from it by selling something. I prefer to use a method that adds value and genuinely helps people. I love to talk about Marketing and Business so write about it a lot. I have to make a living but have decided to only sell products that are relevant to my audience, I would be proud to have developed myself, and that are of genuine use. If I don’t like it I won’t try to sell it.
If you’re getting into affiliate marketing then pick a niche you are passionate to write about, otherwise you won’t enjoy it and will likely give up if the going is tough. Don’t do it just to make money, do it to help others. The side effect of adding more and more value is you tend to make more and more money.