Tag: branding

Presentation Is EVERYTHING (Part 2): It’s All About Convenience

Last week, I wrote on how we, as business owners, present ourselves and through that, our business in a positive light and what that may entail. It’s more than we expect and requires us to take a deep and personal look into our own behaviors. This week we will tackle how to present our business processes and through that, our digital and advertising efforts in a positive light and more importantly, why this matters.

As you will recall from last week, presentation is EVERYTHING because it sets not only our own expectations but also our clients and customers expectations for doing business with us. With so much of our lives being lived digitally – let’s be honest, most of us have a tiny computer in our pocket that we happen to call our phone which ironically, we rarely use for that purpose – the two, business production and digital presentation need to be tied together. But first, let’s discuss what I mean by business production and processes.

Business Production and Processes

Business production is focused on what you make. From handmade goods to services you provide, it all falls under what your business produces. For restaurants, this would be the food served, the type and presentation style tells people what to expect from eating at that restaurant. But there’s more to it because any restaurant owner will tell you that the atmosphere matters just as much as what is being served. You can be selling high end, farm to table meals but if your interior design looks to be that of a diner, then that is how you will be perceived.

This, then is your business processes. It is the support system in which you present your goods and services, or business production and tells people what to expect when working with you. Yes, the atmosphere you create, says a lot about your business. Let’s start with a big one that most of us consider in the creation of the business but may not have top priority as we grow.

When is your business open? Hours of operation are key to the success of any business and highly depend on the type of business you are in. Are your hours of operation clearly listed, digitally and physically if you have a physical location? Do you adhere to these hours of operation or do you make exceptions? And if you do make exceptions, are you clear in those or are you presenting that your hours of operation are merely suggestions?

Having clear and defined hours of operation for your business is not only important to maintain your own sanity, but also tells customers what to expect from your business. Certain types of businesses are expected to operate during specific hours, or “banking hours.” Whereas, others may have a very different set of expected operating hours. Having hours of operation that fit your specific business type may be rather straight forward. Say you operate a spa – your hours of operation tell customers a lot about what to expect from their experience with you. But it’s more than that. You are setting an expectation.

Setting Expectations

Let’s consider the expectations you set from your hours of operation. If you are in a situation where there are culturally accepted “normal” hours of operation, such as Symbiotic Marketing, our hours are already set by what is already accepted and expected. Businesses who work with other businesses typically operate under “banking hours,” Monday through Friday 8-5 or 9-5. This is why many networking events take place early morning, lunch time, and in the evenings. However, as many business owners will tell you, their hours of operation are very different!

While this may be because our personal “business” hours most definitely fall outside the “normal” hours of operation, because it does. But also, because not all businesses can operate successfully withing “banking hours.” For those, creating hours of operation and expectations for such are much more stringent but also flexible, which leads to another Catch-22 which is again, tied to frustrations.

Are You Setting Frustrations?

Any business owner will tell you that setting hours of operation can be a frustration. When you set that expectation, you are telling potential and current clients that you are working during those times. But then the kid gets sick. The car needs an unexpected repair. You have a doctor’s appointment. These things happen, and when they do, they interfere with your “working” hours. So, you make adjustments and work outside of your hours of operation to get things done. All the while, you are becoming more frustrated because honestly, how much longer can you keep this up? We’ve all been there.

What’s more important, is the customer’s perception and their possible frustrations that are being set by your hours of operation. This comes down to knowing your target audience, who you want to reach with your business. Who you are servicing with your business should be closely tied to your hours. Retail stores in a downtown environment have a very different set of expected hours than those in a strip mall. When you adjust your hours to be more restrictive or flexible than the expected hours of your location, it can make you appear to be difficult to work with. However, if you own a specialty service, you have the flexibility of creating more specific, non-traditional hours. And in doing so, sets the expectation that what you have to offer may be more of a luxury item.

In either case, you are setting expectations related to frustrations. People tend to do business with those that operate within the expected norms not only within the industry but also the location it serves. If you fall outside of those norms, you are presenting to your customers that you may be frustrating to work with or buy from or that an outside frustration can affect the continued use of your business.

Let’s return to the restaurant for a moment. I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t love a good meal and sometimes, that’s expensive. When our budgets allow, we are more likely to eat out and eat at nicer restaurants. However, when things are tight, we’re more likely to cook at home. It isn’t something we like to do, it’s something we feel we need to do. This not only affects the restaurants we eat at, but all other goods and services outside of what we see as our “real needs.” As budgets shrink, we tighten belts, and this is when items that are considered to be “luxury” are cut. We, at Symbiotic Marketing, have felt this as much as you. That’s when tough decisions are made. But here’s that Catch-22, as we become more frustrated, our “needs” either shrink or grow.

When Frustrations Grow

When our frustrations grow, we often look to convenience first. How can I make this frustration go away? There’s a reason why we can now buy a car online and pick it up from a vending machine and why we can now do all of our grocery shopping online and have it dropped off at our door or we can pick it up on our way home. We’re busy people! For our little frustrations, finding a quick and convenient way of addressing it, is key. Maybe it’s popping through the drive through for dinner because you just don’t want to cook. Or it’s having cat litter delivered to your home because lugging it from the store, to the car, and into the house is just too much work.

But what do we do when those frustrations are larger, because the need is larger? Or even worse, what do we do when we are frustrated, and we don’t even know why because it’s somehow all tied together? For a business owner, it is all tied together. Your budget is directly tied to your finances. Your marketing is directly tied to your budget. Your sales and client load is directly tied to your marketing. And the result of your sales and client load is your finances. It can be a vicious cycle.

So, how do you speak to the customers and clients who are in the cycle of frustration? Whether their frustration is one from convenience, such as not having the time to maintain a yard or from some other outside frustration, such as looking for assistance with financial concerns, you need to be where the people are – specifically, your target audience.

Be Where Your People Are

According to Pew Research, 96% of Americans own a cellphone of some kind, and 81% own a smartphone. No matter how much time is actually devoted to being online or playing a game, it is clear how quickly and easily technology has integrated our lives.

Having lived in and remember the time before the internet (weren’t those the days), I am fascinated by easily certain transitions from what could be considered analog to digital are accepted and then expected. What I mean is that we used to meet people face to face or over the phone. That was how we communicated directly with each other. Today, we are much less likely to speak to one another on the phone but rather through text and messenger platforms. And now we can respond to these texts by a watch we wear on our wrist.

This speaks to our convenience frustration. We want things to be at our fingertips and we want it now! But it is more than just communication we want – we also want all of the things. We go to the internet for advice, recommendations, quotes, and most of all, for information. At a time when you can literally look up anything from Andy Rooney videos to communities devoted to cats, people are there. And they are consuming all of it.

There’s a reason why major companies advertise online and on specific platforms. Ever wonder why there are ads that play before a YouTube video? Because that is where the people are. While it can be easier for a larger company to spend the money on a larger campaign to reach more people, smaller businesses do not have this luxury. We need to be more specific, more targeted in our approach because we are pulling on a much smaller audience.

Knowing Your Audience

Having a clear view of who your audience is, is only part of the picture. You also need to know where they are, physically and digitally from you to be able to reach them. Physically, the determination is rather simple – how far are you or your client willing to travel for your goods or service. Digitally, it gets a little murky – for many, it’s about as clear as mud.

Your digital presence says a lot about you as a company and sets expectations for what it may be like to work with you. While there are some clear expectations for businesses, such as it is acceptable when you are small to start off with a social media account and grow into a website. Which platforms and how to use the accounts effectively is where many small business owners start to become lost.

To add to this frustration, how to reach those audiences, which we all know are there! Our frustration grows, because we know this ties to other aspects of our business, and this is when decisions are made. Do we dismiss this audience because we don’t know how to reach them or, do we dig deeper? Come back next week, when I will discuss how to go deeper into digital, specifically social media and how you can work to find your target audience and present your business to them in a positive light.

Presentation Is EVERYTHING: Presenting Your Business In a Positive Light

In the art world, presentation is everything. From how a culinary delicacy is plated to the atmosphere in a museum, it matters because it is part of the experience. Even more than this, it sets your expectations. If you are presented with a crock of soup that is clean and topped with a puff pastry as opposed to a Styrofoam cup of the same soup, you will expect not only a different experience in eating this soup, but that same soup may also taste better because of how it is presented.

Or say, you want to stop and see a museum. You act differently in a museum that has a lot of white space and lighted art on the walls than you would in one that has a lot to see and may have more lighting spread throughout. Because your expectations of what the museum is offering – high end art or informative and educational pieces depends on proper presentation.

Presentation is EVERYTHING

Whether we like it or not, as business owners, we are a part of the art world. How we present ourselves, and through us, our business matters. It is everything and includes every aspect of our business. While the size of or age of your business may be reflected in your presentation, it is important to present yourself and your business in the way you envision it could be.

It does not matter if you are just starting out with a Facebook page with friends and family following and a few business cards in your pocket or if you have been in business for several years and are known for what you do. How you present yourself in public, from meeting with clients to networking, to how you present your business production – what you make, and how you present yourself digitally – website, social media, search engines – and in advertising matters.

How Are You Presenting Your Business?

Think a bit on how you present your business. It’s harder to do than you would think. Often, we rely on telling what we do and through that, what we are good at. While this is a part of the presentation, it is only a small part. Think about how you interact with your clients, how you answer the phone or respond to email. Do you state your business name when you answer a call? Do you have a signature in your email? These little things matter in your presentation. It shows that you are committed to your business. But let’s take it a step further. Did you know that a smile can be heard over the phone? It’s true. Emotions can show through on how we interact with and communicate with others. And often, the two most recognized emotions, are happiness and frustration. Both of which, small business owners have in spades.

As small business owners, we know that our highs can be fleeting, and our frustrations can be many. But is that how we want to present ourselves and our business? Absolutely not! Who wants to do business with someone who does not like what they are doing? But often, if we look at how we present ourselves, this is just what we are doing.

What Are You “Saying?”

When business owners gather, either in small groups or in a networking setting, we talk about our businesses. Sometimes these conversations are more directed toward the business aspects, what we do and how we do it. However, when we are in a more comfortable setting, with other business owners we know well, our conversations are deeper. We talk more about specifics of our business; from specials we are offering to frustrations we have or lessons we have learned along the way. We look for help and offer help, all which stem from our frustrations.

Many business owners are focused on how to have Uncle Sam take less from their hard-earned money. For many, the money saved over time through retirement funds or traditional savings techniques have funded the creation of our businesses, which has already been taxed for us to access it. Then, in paying ourselves for the work in our businesses, we are taxed again. This is a huge frustration! So we become creative in how we pay ourselves and operate our business and we share what has worked with other business owners.

Be Careful of the Catch-22

However, there is a Catch-22 in sharing our frustrations and it can be seen in how we present them. Let’s address the tax issue again, because it is directly related to a fundamental issue many business owners have, finances. Operating a business means that you have two budgets to focus on, your personal budget and your business’s budget. Both of which need to be operationally sound for you to live. You need to know that what you have coming into the business will be enough to support you, and your family if you have one. Additionally, you need to know that what you are paying yourself is not only enough for you to survive, but also enough left over for other expenses – such as those yearly taxes. It is not only frustrating; it can also be overwhelming.

In this state, and in a comfortable atmosphere, we are more likely to indulge ourselves and discuss these frustrations. But it is in the presentation that matters. In a comfortable setting with people you know, how do you respond when asked how your business is going? Do you say, “Living the dream…” or some equivalent? Or are you straighter to the point, “I don’t know how much longer I can do this.”? Because both present the same way, they show that you are frustrated and overwhelmed. They also show that you may not continue with this chosen path. This can have a ripple effect. Not only are you presenting this to other business owners, you are also presenting this to those who you do not know, those who may have been a referral to your business.

Other business owners are often the ones who are asked if they “know someone who…” because we are so in touch with other businesses. We not only know who is around, but also who is coming and who is leaving, or may be perceived as leaving. If you present yourself to other business owners in this light, they will be less likely to tell others about you.

Changing Your Presentation

This is not to say that business owners cannot discuss frustrations with other business owners. Because, often in this, we are asking for help. When asking, be as specific as possible such as, “My business is making more money this year than expected, and I am afraid I will have to owe at tax time and won’t have the funds to cover.” This says more, than “I’m worried about my finances” and gives others the opportunity to help. This also presents in a more positive light. This is an experience many business owners can relate to. They most likely have been through this themselves or know someone who has. Because this is familiar, it is often associated with the beginning of a successful business. And as we know, successful businesses are referred businesses, which is directly related to growth in business.

You can be incredibly good at what you do, and let’s be honest, we wouldn’t be in business if we weren’t. But if you present that you are struggling, struggling in personal matters or business matters and are not clear and concise on your needs, it will be reflected in your business.

Professional Growth and Personal Growth

Often business owners focus on professional growth, what they need to make their business successful, and less so on personal growth. Personal growth, whether we want it to or not, is continuously happening, and happens at a much faster rate once we decide to start a business. We need to become intimately acquainted with ourselves to be able to present our business well. This means we need to address not only the things we do well but the things we aren’t and finding solutions to those problems.

To do this, we need to look deeper, much like how our conversations in a comfortable setting go deeper, and we need to be concise in what we are looking for. If finances are an issue, consider looking at your budgets – both personal and business – and break them down. Where, why, and how was money spent? Really look at if it was necessary.

Often, we think things are necessities when in reality, we may be compensating for a frustration. In business, this may be a turning point when you decide that this frustration is holding you back and you delegate it to another. However, when addressing frustrations of a personal matter, there isn’t anyone you can delegate it to. You can seek help, but ultimately, you must be the one who takes action to make the change.

Presenting Publicly in a Positive Light

How you present yourself and through that, your business is key in public perception. It tells people what to expect when working with you. It also tells people what to expect from your business, not only what you do but the strength and longevity of your business through your personal interactions. Reflect on what you are saying and how you are saying it and ask yourself, is this how I want my business to be perceived? If you find that you have been presenting yourself and your business in a less than positive light in a public setting, only you can take action to change that. In addition to changing your interactions, you will also need to double down on the other aspects of your presentation – digital presentation and advertising in order to shift perception and continue to grow your awareness.

Check back next week for part two of Presenting Your Business In A Positive Light where we will go into detail of how to review and change your business’s perception in digital and advertising platforms. And for specific tips on things you can do now to build your brand and networking, check out our previous blogs: Branding – Why is it important?, and Networking and Your Business.

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.

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.

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