4 Ways to Refresh Your Brand

Is your brand as dull and passé as 2017? The start to a new year is a good time to refresh your branding, and we’ve got four easy and cost-effective tips to getting started.

For many of us, the start of 2018 brings an air of excitement and opportunities. Optimism for growth and success abounds as new goals for the year start being executed.  A brand new year creates an opportunity to look at your company’s branding as well. Unfortunately, many small businesses don’t regularly evaluate their branding, which can lead to a stale and outdated look and feel.  

A business does not have to go through a complete rebrand to stay modern and interesting. Every business can see value in making simple updates to better connect your brand with the continually evolving perceptions and values of customers.   

Here are four easy and cost-effective tips to freshening up your branding:

Tip No. 1: Update your messaging

One of the most important components of a brand is messaging. These are the statements that articulate what the company stands for and what value you bring to the market. You don’t need to completely change messaging, but it is important to look at your tagline, value statements and communications to the market and identify if small adjustments can be made to better represent your brand.

Tip No. 2: Update your online visuals

Review your existing social media and website images and leverage new images that better represent your business today. You may want to highlight new services, new team members or showcase examples of your recent work. In addition, consider incorporating a new video in creative ways across your social and digital platforms.

Tip No. 3: Simplify and clean up your collateral

If collateral such as digital flyers, printed brochures and other materials are a key component of your marketing efforts, make sure to take stock of what you currently use and get rid of items that are outdated. Perhaps consider a slight design adjustment such as color accents, new images and updated design elements. Finally, make sure that your collateral pieces are consistent and align well with the visual images across physical and digital platforms.

Tip No. 4: Leverage new tactics to promote your brand

If you are not currently using social media, build an approach to promotion through social. If you do have a social presence already, consider giving other forms of social media a try in 2018. If you aren’t using video or email marketing, explore those avenues. If you haven’t thought about promotional items or print marketing, investigate creative ideas in these areas. The bottom line here is to do something different, but make sure it still aligns with your growth strategy.

By changing messaging, updating visuals (both digital and physical), creating consistent marketing pieces and utilizing new ways to promote your brand, you can establish a fresh look for your customers and prospects.

Nevin Bansal is the president and CEO of Outreach Promotional Solutions.

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  • Next up: 5 Ways Podcasting Can Ramp Up Your Content Marketing Strategy

    5 Ways Podcasting Can Ramp Up Your Content Marketing Strategy

    If you don't know about podcasts or podcasting—or don't get why everyone seems to be talking about them—odds are you soon will. In this mid & post-COVID business environment we find ourselves in, podcasting can help businesses maintain the crucial top-of-mind visibility needed to remain viable and competitive.

    Audio content is taking the marketing world by storm. Consumers in larger numbers every year are listening to podcasts. Consider for example these podcasting metrics from Convince and Convert:

    • More than half of Americans over the age of 12 (about 144 million) have listened to a podcast, 32% listen at least once a month—and about 25% listen to a podcast every week
    • The number of Americans who listen to at least 1 podcast every week is four times the number who watched the final season premiere of Game of Thrones
    • The most avid podcast fans listen to at least 7 podcasts a week
    • Consumers who listen to podcasts are generally higher income (most make in excess of $75,000 a year)
    • More than half of listeners say they're more likely to buy the products they hear advertised on a podcast (and almost 20% say they're "much more likely")

    These statistics were all curated before the world turned upside down amidst the COVID lockdowns. With people restricted more and more to their homes, podcasting is only growing in demand and popularity.

    WHAT EXACTLY IS PODCASTING?

    Well, to begin, "podcast" is a portmanteau of two words—iPod and broadcast, but it's much more than that if you want to understand its appeal. In one recent survey of podcast enthusiasts, for example, the four words people used most frequently to describe podcasts were:

    1. Free;
    2. On-demand;
    3. Niche; and
    4. Talk radio.

    But the whole of what podcasts are is a good deal more the sum of its constituent appeals. Perhaps the best definition of what podcasting is all about comes from Podcast Insights, as follows:

    "It's all of your favorite blogs, shows, and topics (some you didn't even know you'd enjoy!) wrapped up in a huge hub of recordings (Apple Podcasts, etc) that you can explore, download and listen to on your own time. In the car, at work, at home, working out, anywhere. If you can Google it, there's probably a Podcast about it!"

    HOW CAN PODCASTING HELP YOUR BUSINESS?

    A wide variety of organizations push out podcasts—everything from large enterprise companies to small, local businesses as well as individuals, radio and television networks, churches and podcast-only networks (like Gimlet). That's because the format is both extremely versatile and extremely appealing to diverse audiences.

    And that means local businesses like yours are also getting onto the podcasting bandwagon. Specifically, podcasts can do the following 5 things for your small, local business:

    1.  THEY CAN PROMOTE YOUR EXPERTISE

    Done right, podcasting can establish you as an authority in your business. If you're a local landscaper, you can talk about how to prepare your listeners' plants and shrubs for the winter. If you're a contractor, you can talk about the cost-saving value of proper insulation. By showing how well you know your business, a podcast can make you the person your listeners call when they have questions and problems.

    2.  THEY CAN HUMANIZE YOU

    Your voice on audio, perhaps answering an interviewer's questions, will convey the nuances of your messaging in a way text alone simply can't (how, for example, do you effectively convey humor or caring in a blog?). Effective inbound marketing is all about building trust—about creating an indelible connection between you and prospective customers. A podcast that addresses issues they care about in a personal and human manner is one of the best ways to create that connection and build that trust.

    3.  THEY CAN NURTURE YOUR LEADS

    Many podcasts are offered in a series format, with a set of pieces all on a single subject pushed out over time (or pushed out all at once to accommodate binge podcast listeners). Say, for example, yours is a car repair business. You could create a podcast series on the most common car repair problems consumers encounter and how to fix them. This will give you the opportunity to talk about the repair services your business offers. As you do so, you'll be moving leads unobtrusively and naturally through the buyer's journey, from window shoppers to loyal customers.

    RELATED: Read more by Nachum Langsner.

    4.  THEY CAN POLISH YOUR BRAND

    A well-designed podcast is one of the best ways to reinforce and extend the reach of your brand. From articulating your value proposition to capturing your tone of voice, a podcast can bring your brand down to earth, making it tangible, approachable, and real. If you take the time to do your podcast right, it can make your brand a "household name" in a way other types of content can't do nearly so well.

    5.  THEY CAN BOOST YOUR SEO STRATEGY

    An effective search engine optimization (SEO) strategy is all about creating valuable, consumer-friendly content. You can do that with things like blogs and how-to videos—but you can also use smart SEO strategies that will increase the ranking of your podcasts in iTunes and Google Play to drive more traffic to your website. Among the most effective podcast SEO strategies are:

    • creating a podcast headline that includes your most important keywords, matches your podcast content and makes clear what your podcast is about;
    • optimizing your RSS feed (this will syndicate your podcast on the major podcast platforms);
    • encouraging external links to your website (based on the authority of your podcast); and
    • recycling content from your best podcasts as blogs, articles, videos, slide presentations and infographics.

    HOW HARD ARE PODCASTS TO SET UP?

    Many local marketers understand how a good podcast can help them hit their key marketing targets but, because they're not familiar with them, assume podcasts must be difficult to set up. In fact, podcasting is relatively simple and easy. All you really need is a computer with a voice recorder (a high-quality microphone is a good idea). For best results, you should also get some strong audio editing software. Once your podcast is produced, you'll want to maximize your number of listeners by distributing it on iTunes and top podcast directories.

    One of the great things about inbound marketing is that it effectively levels the playing field, making it easier for small, local businesses like yours to compete with the big guys on the block. A key to inbound marketing success is a smart content marketing strategy—and in this mid to post-COVID world, podcasting can be a critical component of that strategy. Of course, some of the nuances of inbound marketing can be a bit complicated—one of the reasons your best bet is to partner with a forward-leaning digital marketing agency who can give you the guidance you need to succeed.


    Nachum Langsner is the Co-Founder and CMO of LocalBizGuru. He has over 10+ years of experience in the SEO industry and is a frequent presenter and instructor of SEO seminars for entrepreneurs and small business owners in the Greater Cleveland area for organizations such as Jumpstart, the Better Business Bureau, COSE, Score and the Ohio SBDC at CSU.

    Learn more about LocalBizGuru's local search, content marketing, site audit and repair, listings optimization, and review generation services—and see how they can help you generate more leads, boost conversions, increase profitability and grow. 

     

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  • Next up: Mid & Post-COVID Digital Marketing Strategies for Local Businesses

    Mid & Post-COVID Digital Marketing Strategies for Local Businesses

    The recent lockdown isn’t the end of local patronage, it just means less foot traffic. By connecting and communicating with your audience online and providing many safe, remote resources for no-contact service, you can rebuild your customer base and your local business can thrive in the new-normal.

    Over the last four months, the entire planet has undergone a life-changing crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic swept through nearly every country and major population hub. The illness, the travel restrictions, and the stay-at-home lockdowns impacted many businesses financially and have changed digital marketing strategies and the global community in ways that are likely to be permanent.

    Now, in the summer of 2020, we have hit something of a mid-point. The new normal is rolling around and if we perfect virus-containment methods now, there might even be a post-COVID ahead.

    But what does all this mean for local businesses? This is the question we ask ourselves for every major event, and COVID is an especially important issue to broach.

    Local businesses have been among the hardest hit, largely due to a reliance on in-person patronage. However, local businesses are also in the perfect position to adapt and reopen using new digital marketing strategies and no-contact methods. Your customers are still nearby, and, in fact, they need local businesses to help them stay indoors and safe.

    Let's explore three key questions on the minds of local business owners and strategists about how to use digital marketing strategies to rebuild your local customer-base and revenue.


    1. What digital marketing strategies can our business use to encourage locals to shop with us again?

    The first pressing concern we’d like to address is what your local business can do as part of your digital marketing strategies to attract local customers again. Across the nation, people have stopped going to stores and restaurants and have stopped calling for in-home services to minimize contact. Now that we understand the new-normal and how to stay safe, it’s time to bring them back in.

    Locally Optimized Website

    The first thing to do is build a website if you don’t already have one. Your website is the foundation of everything you do online.

    Ensure that this website is the face of your company now and a portal to client services and resources moving forward. Make sure the website is locally optimized for both users and search engines, as it’s imperative that potential clients are able to find you when they do a local search. Then add vital tools to the website such as e-com functionality including BOPUS (buy online, pickup in store) and chat.

    From there, what marketing steps can you take? The top three are blogging, social media, and email; all approachable and affordable for any small or medium local business.

    Inbound Blogging

    Blogging creates web pages that will win search results from local clients. Write what you know and what your customers want to read about. We suggest writing at least one blog about each type of service you offer, also mentioning your city, region, or service area neighborhoods for local SEO value. Write high-quality blogs that provide useful information and/or entertaining stories relating to your industry, business, and local community.

    Social Media Campaign

    Social media is another form of inbound marketing with a different algorithm of exposure. Create a social media account for the brand and begin posting regular uplifting thoughts relating to the industry.

    Share funny pictures, inspire discussions, or just share interesting news about how your local business is preparing to reopen with new-normal policies and customer safety at the forefront. While organic reach on social media has been severely curtailed, engagement is the name of the game. So, create social media content that will encourage engagement. One such way is creating video content. Even if it is ‘raw’ and unpolished, people love and engage with video more than any other content form.

    Email Outreach

    Email your customers. Email is essential when rebuilding a customer base after an interruption like the recent lockdown. Let each of your customers know that your doors are open, and your team is back in business after a brief lull. Make sure to inform them of updated safety protocols designed to ensure both theirs and your staff’s safety.

    Do not over-saturate, but make sure you touch base with anyone on an email list with something uplifting, informative, and encouraging of returned patronage.


    2. Which steps of a digital marketing strategy are important to take first?

    In all your options, there are some steps that should be taken first as the foundation of all digital marketing strategies. These digital methods are essential not only to regaining the attention of your local audience, but also converting that attention into new business. With all the following strategies, remember the central theme here – communication is vital and key to your rebounding successfully.

    SEO Optimized Website

    As we mention above your website is the foundation of your presence online. Make sure your website is locally optimized, and, considering the COVID concerns, includes the following features:

    Homepage COVID Policy Banner

    On the homepage of your website, add a banner announcing that your company has adapted to the new COVID safety requirements and that every service will be done with these precautions in mind. Essentially, this banner lets local online visitors know that your company is awake and ready to serve, unlike other brands that may have gone dark or failed to adapt their strategy. Have that banner link to a dedicated COVID FAQ or protocols page on your website detailing all your updated procedures as it relates to the new normal.

    Online Ordering

    It is essential that your website make it possible for customers to order online. Whether you provide in-home services or delivery goods, customers won’t come into the store and peruse like they used to, but they will shop and make orders through your website. So, transition your merchandise to an e-commerce directory, provide an interactive takeout menu, or add a service scheduling tool to your website and feature it front-and-center.

    One method that has grown popular and has proven successful is Buy Online, Pick Up in-Store or BOPUS / Curbside Pickup. Make sure to inform customers of this option should you chose to provide it, both on your website and important business listings

    Google-My-Business

    Put yourself on the map; the only map that matters. Make sure your business is marked in Google using the GMB (Google My Business) platform. Take control of and optimize this free location and business listing if you haven’t already. 

    Fill out every data form and optimize your entry so that it is ready to convert. List your current hours so that Google recommends your business when you are open. If customers can schedule appointments or services, integrate the booking widget. If you serve food, connect Google to your online menu and delivery services. Load up your best images.

    Google will help local customers find your business when they search for services using the search engine or Google Maps exclusively. The more integrated, the better.

    Claim & Update Vital Business Listings

    Aside from Google My Business, there are additional business listing sites that should be updated with your new COVID policies and procedures. Core listings include, Facebook, Bing, Yahoo, Apple Maps, Yelp and any industry specific sites as well.

    In-House or Outsourced Delivery

    Customers may be unable to come to you, but you can go to them. If you don’t have the staff or resources to provide delivery in-house, then partner with one of the gig-economy teams like DoorDash or Postmates to deliver for you. Being on the platforms for delivery services can also win you some extra business, at the cost of commission.


    3. What can a service area business (SAB) do online to provide safe on-site services?

    Service-area businesses that provide services for clients in homes and on-site are facing unique challenges for new-normal safety. In many cases, the business model changes very little to ask technicians to wear masks and gloves while working on-site, but clients need to be informed and assured that their services will be safe. You can help make these services safe and reassure your clients through a few select digital marketing strategies.

    Develop & Publish New No-Contact Service Policies

    Put together a new concrete service safety plan. Define when your team members will wear gloves and masks, and when those gloves and masks are changed. Define how PPE will be provided and the protocols for keeping both employees and customers safe during on-site services.

    When the policy is complete, publish it and link to it in your homepage COVID banner so that customers can see how you will be protecting them.

    Schedule Online

    Provide for online service scheduling. Add a scheduling tool to your website hooked up to your company’s calendar so that clients can schedule their own services without an in-person talk. We also advise adding a live-chat feature so that clients can talk to someone and build a schedule in this way.

    Provide Remote Consultations

    Consultations for on-site services often happen in person, but they don’t always have to. Hold video meetings with clients and even visually inspect a situation before arriving in person to limit the in-person contact between employees and clients.

    Outline What a New Safe Service Looks Like

    Write a detailed day-in-the-life style example of how a new COVID-safe service is performed. Give your clients a play-by-play so they know what to expect.

    Share Pre-Service Safety Tips with Clients

    If there is any way that your clients can prepare the house, site, or themselves to be safe during a service, let them know. Share an information page on your website and/or send an email to clients when they schedule a service. Advise them on wearing personal protection, cleaning up before the service arrives, and keeping the family in a separate part of the house to minimize contact.

    Accept Digital Signatures & Payments

    Lastly, enable your customers to sign paperwork and make payments through digital means. This allows for remote conclusion of your business and no need for contact through clipboards and pens.

    The recent lockdown isn’t the end of local patronage, it just means less foot traffic. By connecting and communicating with your audience online and providing many safe, remote resources for no-contact service, you can rebuild your customer base and your local business can thrive in the new-normal. 

    LocalBizGuru specializes in helping local businesses build awareness, traffic, and revenue with your surrounding community. Contact us today for more insights and tips on digital marketing strategies that help you thrive both online and off in any business environment we face.

    Remember, we’re all in this together, and we’re here to help in any way we can.


    Nachum Langsner is the Co-Founder and CMO of LocalBizGuru. He has over 10+ years of experience in the SEO industry and is a frequent presenter and instructor of SEO seminars for entrepreneurs and small business owners in the Greater Cleveland area for organizations such as Jumpstart, the Better Business Bureau, COSE, Score and the Ohio SBDC at CSU.

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  • Next up: 5 Guidelines for Strong Business Partnerships

    5 Guidelines for Strong Business Partnerships

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  • Next up: 5 Marketing Hacks to Generate New Customers

    5 Marketing Hacks to Generate New Customers

    Here are five easy hacks you can start implementing today to bring more customers to your business.

    In today’s saturated market, small- and medium-size businesses need to focus on re-vamping their online marketing strategies to compete and attract new customers. No matter the industry, or size of your organization, your online presence is key to making the big bucks and business longevity. Fortunately, you don’t need expensive or intricate marketing campaigns or big budgets to successfully reach new customers. All you need is a little motivation and creativity to make a large impact.

    Here are five of our most successful marketing hacks that will help your organization generate new customers and new revenue.

    Website

    Whether you use your website for ecommerce or strictly informational purposes, it is one of your most important marketing tools. Most customers have already made their mind up about what they are interested in purchasing before they even contact you. Because of this, it is crucial to have a responsive website with updated content. There are tools such as Google Analytics and Webmaster that help website managers pull useful informational data. You can leverage this to learn how many visitors are coming to the website, what pages they are browsing and for how long. You can also see what keywords or key phrases people are using to find your company online. We use this data to help gauge effectiveness of campaigns and generate new content.

    SEO

    If you want to be searchable online, you have to pay attention to SEO (search engine optimization). SEO is the process of affecting the visibility of your website in web search engines (Google, Bing, etc.) unpaid results, also known as “organic” traffic. For example, our organization is a Managed IT Services Provider headquartered in Pittsburgh. If I Google “Pittsburgh Managed IT Services” does our organization pop up? If your organization doesn’t land on the first page of Google, there is some work that needs to be done.

    The first step is keyword research. Use tools such as Keyword Planner, AdWords, and Google to create a list of 50 to 60 words that your organization would like to rank for. Localize some of the keywords by adding the city location into the phrase (e.g. Pittsburgh Managed IT Services Provider). Once you have a solid list of words and key phrases, start to implement these into content on your website. Once these pages crawl, your web content will start to rank and you can increase visibility.

    Insider tip: You won’t see an immediate improvement in rankings when working with SEO. It can take three to six months before you see any changes. I use a free tool called SERPLAB. This tool will help you track progress of your keyword changes and webpage rankings.

    Blog

    Content is king. A frequently updated blog is a great way to get fresh, keyword-optimized, content out on the web. Create a blog content schedule and stick to it. This is an easy way to get more exposure and educate your customers on the benefits of your products and services. Google suggests that the best optimized content is between 500 to 700 words with a healthy mix of keywords. I know we all want each page or blog post to rank for our keywords, but beware of overstuffing! Overstuffing is the practice of stuffing your content with keywords because you think it will make your page rank for that word. It won’t. Google will not approve and won’t allow for ranking! A good practice is to place one keyword in the title and in the first paragraph. Next, place one to three keywords or key phrases in the body of the blog (varying on length). Lastly, put one keyword in the last paragraph.

    Insider Tip: Write your blogs in advance. The day before you plan on posting, reread to check for grammatical errors. The day of posting, give it one more check. This will limit errors significantly.

    Marketing automation

    Marketing automation is the future of marketing. Marketing tasks can be repetitive and time consuming. The goal of marketing automation software is to automate these actions and create more visibility into the effectiveness of social media, emails, and website actions. With this software, you can gain the ability to track users’ actions throughout the campaign process. Such actions like, how many clicks or opens on an email or a certain link, their travel path through the email and website, and email bounces. While you can see some of this on normal email services, with marketing automation you can automate follow up processes. Once you set these up and place a certain list in that campaign you can sit back and watch new leads and business effectively generate.

    Social media

    Social selling can be effective for most organizations. Use popular social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit, etc. to interact with your prospects. You can use these platforms to answer questions about your products or services, supply useful content, and keep your prospects updated with company news. Tracking vanity metrics (shares, likes, retweets, etc.) can be useful to know which content users find the most intriguing, but one of the most important metrics to pay attention to is link clicks. Use a free service such as Bitly to create shortened, trackable links. Not only will these shortened links make your social postings look cleaner, but you can track how much traffic that link is getting and where it is coming from.

    As part of the small business community, we have dabbled in all of these marketing initiatives ourselves—successfully and unsuccessfully. The truth is you have to take the time to test, analyze, and revaluate your initiatives until you find the right marketing equation for your organization. There is no one-size-fits-all marketing plan and you have to remember that there is no finite answer to marketing. Evaluate your plan often and make changes accordingly to market trends and personal business change.

    NetServe365 delivers a complete range of managed IT services, security services, hosting options and consulting services 24/7/365 from our headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We never stop evolving our technologies and operational efficiencies so we can deliver a customer experience and network results far superior to our competitors’. We strive to deliver on every promise, every time because we know who we work for--the partners and customers who put their trust in us. Learn more about NetServe365 here. 

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  • Next up: 5 Reasons Why Video Should be a Part of Your Marketing Plan in 2018

    5 Reasons Why Video Should be a Part of Your Marketing Plan in 2018

    From helping boost sales to engaging those tough-to-engage customers, here are five reasons why your business needs to incorporate more video marketing in 2018.

    When social media made its first appearance many years ago, content formats were limited.  People oohed and ahhhed over beautiful photography and perfectly written words.  Today, those channels have evolved to feature content beyond still shots and words.  Social media has become the platform for all things video and it’s important that your business invests in video in order to best utilize each social media platform.

    So why is video important? Here are five reasons why.

    Reason No. 1: Video engages the laziest of customers

    In today’s world, customers have become lazy.  They want everything at the touch of a button.  Video allows them to receive your message in a clear, simple format that doesn’t disrupt their busy social media surfing too much.

    Reason No. 2: Facebook says it’s important

    Facebook has invested in a variety of video features, such as Facebook Live and measuring video engagement, and is the second social media platform with the most videos right behind YouTube. Facebook has become a top place for marketers to reach their audiences so if they say video is king than video is king.

    Reason No. 3: Video can boost sales

    It’s easier to tell your business’ story through video than a lengthy, wordy message. You’re able to visually show your product and services and have voiceover. You can also segment your videos to specifically target different audiences. A video is much more memorable than an everyday post.

    Reason No. 4: Videos can be leveraged across your other platforms

    Videos can be embedded into emails and onto your website, not just your social media. They can also be used in seminars or for in-store demonstrations. When you incorporate video into your marketing plan, you are investing in a content format that can be used in a variety of ways.

    Reason No. 5: The future is video

    As digital marketing expands, video will begin to become the norm. If you invest now, you'll be ahead of the game.

    Making videos for your business does not have to be expensive. In fact, there are many different video programs out there that can be leveraged to help make videos affordable for your business. If you decide to make any changes to your marketing plan this year, my suggestion would be to increase your video budget!

    Annie Pryatel is the owner of AMP Brand Studios. Learn more about how AMP is helping small businesses succeed by clicking here. 

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