Month: October 2019

Branding – Why it is important

Traveling to an appointment this week, I passed a black truck towing a black trailer that on the back door stated, “Quality Lawn Care” with a phone number. This chance encounter started me thinking about branding and why it is so important for a business.

Branding itself is multi-faceted and should grow as your business grows and for a startup, branding is necessary. It shows that you, the owner, care about the appearance of your business. People are more likely to do business with someone who has taken the time to not only know their trade, but invest in in. These investments may be carrying insurance and being bonded or having quality equipment. Your branding is also an investment. This investment may include having quality business cards, having a professionally designed logo, a fully functioning website, and so much more.

Why is branding so important?

It all comes down to assumptions and expectations. When you take the time to invest in your branding, people are more likely to assume you provide quality goods or services. However, if you are running on a shoestring budget and it shows through your lack of branding, people are less likely to frequent your business. Your lack of branding may be giving the expectation that you will not be in business long term or you do not carry the proper coverage on your business should something unexpected happen.

Proper branding shows that you as the business owner have taken the time to care about how your business appears to the general public. It gives a sense of permanence to your specific brand. Depending on your specific business, you may need to employ different branding techniques but that does not mean you need to spend a small fortune doing so.

Here are a few tips to help you with your branding:

  • Have a high-quality business card printed from a professional print shop. While you can create and print business cards from home, they lack in paper quality, print quality, and the perforation marks show. Business cards do not need to be expensive. While many choose to purchase from online print shops, there are also local shops that can print high quality cards at a low cost. We highly recommend Occupational Services Inc. for printing needs.
  • Spend time on creating a website for your business. The days of passing cards and expecting a call are over. In today’s fast changing world, a business needs to be online for long term success. This is more than just reviews and recommendations. Individuals look online to see what you do and how you do it before making a decision. Websites should have different pages that showcase your business, what you do, who you are, and how to contact you. Other pages may include testimonials, shopping, and your list of services.
  • Create a logo for your business. A logo is a visual representation of your business. It does not need to be overly complex, but it shows a sense of permanence and should be on all of your branded materials.
  • Use social media networks that target your audience. Social media is huge and those who are not on a network of some sort are a very slim minority. Take the time to learn about your audience and then post on the network they are more likely to spend their time on. Start with one network and once you are receiving a return on your investment or you are feeling comfortable with posting on that network, move onto the next. You do not need to be on all of the networks, as there are a lot. Just focus on those that your target audience is on. If you need help with Facebook specifically, click here.

 

Taking time to invest in your branding gives people the opportunity to find you and when done well, helps your business grow. As for the truck I passed, I did not take a picture to remember the phone number or write it down as I was driving, but I did search online. I found a lot of landscapers in the area, and one with that specific name. If you were looking for a landscaper, who would you choose? The one without any reviews or website or the ones below it with reviews and a website? I know who I would contact first.

Making It In Business

Starting a business is scary and exciting at the same time. For me, I needed the push to start to dream. Now, coming up on my third birthday, I have had many come to me and tell me that I’ve made it. I did it. I really started my own business. But honestly, I did not feel I had “made it” yet.

In my mind, making it meant that I had reached more of my goals and I still felt so far away. I asked myself why? Why do these people think I’ve made it? I struggled with this feeling and some days, still struggle to understand. Days like this, I like to look back and reflect on my personal growth over the past two years. By seeing where I was then and where I am now is shocking to me. I will not say that time has not been without challenges. In fact, I have faced more challenges than I every anticipated, much less planned for. Through those challenges, I have found strength that I did not know I possessed, but more importantly, I found support and love.

One of the more difficult challenges I found was to be rather simple, but complex at the same time. Acknowledging that I needed and finding help. The acknowledgement was simple for me. I knew I was not the best at my bookkeeping and as workload grew, I would place more focus on work that needed to be done and not as much on making sure my books were in order, much less a budget in place. When I found Kim, who was knowledgeable with Quickbooks and was willing to assist me with my bookkeeping habits, I felt a weight lifted. I felt that I was finally going to get my things in order and take a headache off my plate.

Having the ability to spend more time on what I enjoy most, I continued to work on building the business, planning and setting goals. I found like minded business owners who were willing to be contracted as needed for different jobs that I needed help with that allowed me to expand services and include more of what business owners needed. This spring, I found Jenna who was interested in learning more about the business and took a chance on working with a very young small business that felt like it was just getting off the ground. She is such an integral part of the business now; I would not be where I am today without her. With her assistance, I have been able to expand our marketing and build our brand awareness. More importantly, her assistance has helped me grow as an individual.

As business owners, we tend not to discuss our personal growth, but it is deeply tied to running a business. We are continually learning, often on the fly but it can be purposeful as well, such as attending personal or professional development seminars. This growth comes not from setting and reaching goals, but from learning more about ourselves and what we value. Growth is the foundation of “making it” because others see the difference in you when you focus on yourself and improving your physical and mental health. Your physical health keeps your body performing the tasks of running your business and your mental health allows you to see what others see in you – an incredibly brave and courageous person. Even if you aren’t feeling brave and courageous, you are.

Anyone who chooses to go into business for themselves is incredibly brave and courageous. If you aren’t feeling it, take a look back at where you were six months ago, a year ago, how ever long you need to go back to see the growth you have achieved since starting your business because it’s there. That growth shows you are making it. I know, because I am making it too.

Using the Facebook Algorithm to Work For Your Business

When Facebook launched, its mission statement was “help you connect and share with the people in your life.” However, as time progressed, Facebook became much less of a place for friends (and family) to stay connected and more a place for businesses to try to sell you and your friends. In early 2018, Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook’s founder) mandated the social media giant to go back to its roots, moving away from passive consumption and placing focus on people – what they say and what they share. This what the Facebook algorithm is based on and why branding is more important than ever.

Branding encompasses a lot of things but as a whole, it tells others about your business. From little things like your business cards to how you want your customer to feel when they do business with you.  Branding on Facebook is daunting to many business owners. What to post, when to post, even how frequently to post, it’s a lot. Good news, it doesn’t have to be all consuming.

Assuming your page is completely set up meaning, you have a username (also known as a handle), your template is appropriate for the type of business, your goods and services are showcased, and your About tab is fully completed including “Our Story” if available with your template, you are ready to begin posting on your page.

This is the algorithm you are working with

Frequency of posting changes, however many business owners find a sweet spot with posting 2-3 times a week. Any more than that and there is a chance of diminishing return on your investment – your time! When posting, you will want to ensure that your audience will see your posts, so you will need to know your Insight numbers before scheduling out what and when to post. Checking your Insight tab monthly gives you an overview of how your page performed and what types of posts performed well. While there is a wealth of information there, the most applicable tabs are: Overview, Posts, and People.

Overview will give you figures for your page for the past 7, 14, 21, and 28 days and shows how your page performed overall. The key figures to take from this tab are your reach and engagement figures. These figures tell you about the people (reach) and what they say and share (engagement). This is the algorithm you are working with. Start with what you have and work on increasing those figures through your branding.

The Posts and People tabs tell you more about your audience. When they are online (be sure to adjust for time zone), what types of posts they interacted with, and your audience’s demographic data – age/sex/location. This information tells you when and how to interact with your audience to get them to engage with your page. With this, your posts will be more likely to reach your audience and give them the opportunity to engage with what you posted.

Branding should follow the 80/20 rule

It is tempting to post only about your business, but be cautious, it can become too much of a good thing and you will be only speaking to your specific audience, rather than growing your audience. Branding should follow the 80/20 rule, meaning you are giving 80% of the time and asking for something only 20%. The majority of your posts should be giving something to your audience such as: tips and tricks specific to your business, humorous memes or gifs that relate to what you do and sharing others successes or events. Sharing these types of posts show that you are a part of a community and that you care about that community. This also notifies the other business’s audience that you engaged with their post which in turn may lead to more page likes for you. The other 20%, which equals to once or twice a month, you should be asking for your audience to do something. This can be interacting with a contest that you’ve put together, a sale or event that you are asking people to attend, or some other form of action you are asking your audience to perform. No one likes to be sold all the time, but people do like a deal when it comes around.

The Facebook algorithm is not a terrible maze that must be navigated, rather a gentle reminder to business owners that the customer should be our top priority. By shifting to a branding first mentality, our clients have been able to see an increase not only in the quality of their audience, but also ongoing audience growth, and increased awareness and foot traffic to their businesses. It does take time for these changes to take effect, but the reward is what we’re all looking for.

Fear

My first year in business, I drew inspiration on my office window, literally with liquid chalk markers. I still have these drawings on my window today and continue to look at them for inspiration. One of the two is simple but I’m still amazed that I wrote it and how it continues to mean so much to me. It says simply, “Be unapologetically you.”

As many of you may have noticed, I went dark for a bit and had not posted anything in about a month. While dealing with some personal things, my head went into what I call, the bad place. Anxiety reared and depression followed. I know these feelings all too well. I lived with them side by side for so long, they were almost comforting friends. That is until the OCD tendencies started to seep in.

It’s funny how something that can give so much short-term comfort, such as cleaning the kitchen feeds and builds on my anxiety and depression. As I shifted my focus from how clean the kitchen was, I noticed other areas that needed attention as well. The empty box in the dining room for books I’d like to donate that haven’t made their way from the bookshelf yet. The hutch that hadn’t been dusted since June. The bits of destroyed dog toys littering the living room floor. The pleasure of a job well done was quickly squelched by shifting my focus. I could feel the old habits seeping in, the things I tell myself that I would never allow to pass by my lips if I were speaking to another.

During this time, I made it a point to go out and socialize. I went to every networking event, special occasion, and learning series that I could attend. Some of the people that I socialized with knew details of what I was going through but not all and it was what came up in discussions that I found particularly interesting. While out in social environments and not hiding my vulnerability, others were more likely to share theirs as well.

Listening to others share, I found that many decisions were made from fear: fear of the unknown, fear of others, fear of change. This made me look back on my own life and saw that many of my decisions were made from fear as well. Meaningless little decisions to decisions I am still feeling the repercussions of today. But the big ones, the decisions that mean more to me today than what they meant when I made them, those were made from a place of love. Love for others and love for myself.

In that moment of realization, I decided to make it a point to have more of my decisions based in love rather than fear. While I may not know the long-term results of having more decisions based on love than fear, I know where my fear gets me. Feeling lost, worthless, and overwhelmed. During this difficult time, I decided to do the opposite of what I would normally do and put myself first. Some days are easier than others, and that’s to be expected but what is important is that I am making decisions based in love rather than fear and through that, I am finding that I am able to be unapologetically myself.

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