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Supporting Veteran Owned Small Businesses

This video shares examples of a few veteran owned small businesses. Feel free to comment and share your own examples with website link belo...

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Small Business Marketing

Small business marketing done correctly contributes to your small business success.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

How To Design Your Perfect Logo

If you need a logo, what would you do? Most people would say they'll find a logo designer to get the job done. But you know what? You can design a logo all by yourself. That's right! You can do it YOURSELF, no need for any professional logo designer! So how do you do it? Here are 3 simple steps that you need to take in order to make this happen.

1. Brainstorming

What you need to do first is to go onto the Internet and look for some ideas. You can check out some websites like Encyclopedia.com or Thesaurus.com or any websites that are relevant to your logo. The Internet is a vast place of information so this shouldn't be a problem. Once you've found all your ideas/words or even images, put them into a list.

If you're short of ideas, it's completely fine to look for some reference of other people's logos. Just remember not to copy them because you will want to differentiate yourself from your competitors and people will definitely know if you try to do so.

2. Sketching

If you have enough information, it's time for you to start to do some sketching. You can sketch out anything that you want, just let your imagination run wild. There's absolutely no limit when it comes to your creativity. However, whatever you're trying to sketch, you must remember to keep your design as simple as possible because you want your logo to communicate your message, not confuse people.

It might be worth knowing that large design companies usually have dozens of sketches of only ONE logo. So don't stop if you only have 2-3 designs. Even when you feel like you have found the right logo, you must keep going because who knows, you might come up with an even better logo design. So just keep sketching until you have at least 5 pages of logo concepts.

3. Choosing and finalizing your logo

After a lot of sketching, you'll need to pick out the logo that best suits your business. So how can you do it?

You must choose a logo design that

  • is unique and at the same time, simple.
  • is able to convey your message and represent your business
  • is scalable. By this, I mean it must look good whether it is small or really big.

When you're done choosing your most suitable logo, you can now begin to digitize it. You can either do this yourself using some graphic designing software like Adobe Illustrator or you can hire a professional to do it for you.

If you've successfully followed all the above steps then you're done! Congratulations! It's time for you to show off your logo - the logo that you've designed yourself. How fantastic is that? It is absolutely satisfying to see your final product printed in newspaper ads, on posters, on your website, etc.

If you don't know what tools you would need, then be sure to check out CoolLogoInfo.com for more cool logo information.

By Dominik Bui

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Designing Brand Identity - 5 Ways You Can Make Yours Stand Out!

Designing brand identity. How do you go about it and how do you make yours stand out?

And what's more, why should you care?

As a matter of fact, your brand MUST stand out or you will be lost in the crowd!

So how do you that and where do you start?

1) Make sure your branding is based on thorough analysis.

I see this mistake over and over again. A logo is chosen to represent a brand that has nothing to do with the company. It just looked good. Or perhaps it was cheap or just designed arbitrarily.

To make your logo and brand truly stand out, you need to do some research up front. This takes thorough analysis. You need to know what makes you unique from your competition, what your vision is for your company and brand, who your target market is and much, much more.

2) Make sure your brand image communicates a specific message.

After you have done thorough analysis, you need to synthesize what you want to communicate in one sentence. What is it that you want your audience to "get?" Will they understand your message in ten seconds or less? If not, you will not get the attention you need!

For instance, awhile back I designed a logo for my husband's new business that he is building. I had it imprinted onto a sweatshirt and one day he was wearing it in public. A person unfamiliar with Travis and his company looked at the logo and said, "Oh, you do... "

This is what you want your prospects to understand immediately. Exactly why your company exists and what you can do for them.

3) Make sure your brand is authentic.

You need to present yourself as an original. After all, there is only one of you! Like a snowflake, we are all unique individuals. Your brand needs to reflect this.

When the perception of your target market equals reality, then you will have an effective brand. Think through this exercise: what are the five words that I want my target market to perceive me as? Now be that perception and reflect it accurately in your brand image.

4) Use an appealing mix of fonts, color, and graphics.

You need to approach your brand image with a design concept. Don't just use Helvetica for the fonts for your business name! Make it different with the use of typography.

And remember that color sells. Use it to your advantage. Graphics will make the appealing difference that can make your logo image stand out!

But be careful. Remember that logo images are above all symbolic. It's easy to get carried away (don't I know it!), but above all you want your logo image to be readable and recognizable.

5) Be consistent on all mediums.

From the moment your prospect sees your business card, signage, catalog, website, or however they encounter your brand, you need to guide them through an experience that builds trust and credibility. For instance, when you give them a business card, it should stand out with your unique brand image, which should lead them to your website with the same brand image, which should lead them to the next step, and on and on.

You want them to feel comfortable with you, create name recognition, and build an unconscious awareness that indeed they are doing business with a person they like, know, and trust.

So there you have it. Five ways you can make your brand stand out. When you follow these steps, you will have a brand that sizzles and a future that dazzles!

To learn more about creating your own brand image and how you can make that brand more effective, download my FREE report, 10 Ways You Can Make Your Brand Sizzle at http://www.makeyourbrandsizzle.com

Dana Susan Beasley, owner of AngelArts and creator of an online study course called Brand Identity Quest, is passionate about helping families build dazzling futures for themselves by showing them how to create brands that sizzle!

By Dana Susan Beasley

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Marketing Your Brand At Events

Networking, lead generation, and brand awareness are the three main reasons to attend shows. According to a recent poll, 99% of marketers said they found unique value from trade shows that they did not get from other marketing mediums. People attend trade shows and other social networking events because they're a central location for face-to-face meetings with key players - clients, vendors and competitors alike - in the industry. This means every moment counts and brands should capitalize on ROI when attending and sponsoring such events.

Before the Show

Buzz about the show should start much sooner than the day of the event. Post blogs, have a website announcement, and send out newsletters and/or invitations to notify people about the event. If hosting, have a message forum where attendees, sponsors and potential attendees can interact and start a conversation.

This is also a great venue for boosting brand awareness, whether hosting the event or just sponsoring. People can discuss the show, talk about the company putting it on, find out who's attending, and schedule meetings. On social media sites, start hashtag trends, create contests with a make good at the show, and tease highlights of the event. No matter the platform, the goal should be to excite people and make them feel that attending will be worthwhile.

At the Event

The show itself is the most critical time to showcase a brand. 81% of trade show attendees have buying authority, meaning more than 4 out of 5 people walking the aisles are potential customers for exhibitors.

Avoid clich� imagery or giveaways. Most companies give out stickers, koozies, keychains and other common trinkets. These typically get thrown away and don't properly represent the uniqueness of a brand. For giveaways, think of something that will be of value to the recipient or create a lasting impression. Another idea is to have a presentation or some other draw at the booth or table that attracts a crowd and makes people remember the brand name.

Use subtle branding techniques. Placing a company logo on every surface isn't the best strategy to push brand awareness. Color schemes, decorations and other visuals can go a long way without being overkill. Design a booth, table, or event that reflects the brand without being overt. Most shows will allow custom furniture and decorations - use this as an opportunity to portray originality.

Don't step away from social media at the show. While people are at a show, they tend to put other obligations on hold. This should not include social media as it creates opportunities to establish a larger following. Have a designated person or someone off-site handling the live blogging/tweeting and on-site pictures and videos. People will be checking their mobile devices and something might catch their eye! Furthermore, those who don't attend will feel included in on the action.

Network with the intention of building a community. Make conversations two-sided. Ask attendees questions about their companies, seek advice, and show genuine interest in what they have to say. Scheduled meetings and casual greetings are an opportunity to not only introduce a brand, but to also consider if this person would make a suitable client or vendor.

Post-Show Follow Up

Don't let the show end too soon. Keep talking about it after the event, post more videos and images online or in blogs, and ask for attendee feedback. Analyze turnout and announce the next big show while the audience is captive. Now is the time to reach out to all of the new contacts and develop them into business relationships. It is also when buzz about the next show should start!

A company's presence at shows should be organic, not staged. If cost is a concern, choose just one show a year and focus on making it great. In 2011, B2B exhibitions were 39.2% of B2B marketing budgets and has continued to increase. Even with technological advances that allow for virtual conferences, companies realize that trade shows and other social events have an intrinsic value that cannot be matched.

To learn more, go to http://www.madrivo.com

By Collette McKenzie

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

10 Simple, Yet Effective, Strategies To Get Powerhouse Testimonials

It's likely you're looking for effective ways to increase your revenues. One of the simplest is with testimonials.

A testimonial is simply a third party endorsement of your products and services. Having someone put their stamp of approval on what you do is more powerful than you talking about how wonderful your products and services are.

Endorsements are actually quite simple to secure. Below are a few ideas on how to get lots of great testimonials.

1. Have a great product. It should go without saying, but this is top of the list. The more effective your product or service solves a problem, the more likely happy customers and clients will sing your praises.

2. When someone says how useful, good, great, etc., your product/service is ask them if you can use that as a testimonial.

3. Write a "wish list" of who you would love to get testimonials from.

4. Ask those on the wish list if they will review your product keeping in mind the more well known someone is the more likely it is that they are extremely busy and may not have the time to do so.

5. If you approach someone for an endorsement and they ask for the full product to review you should give it to them. After all, you approached them.

6. If someone approaches you and asks for the product to review in most cases you can ask them to purchase the product. After all, they approached you. You can't run a successful business by giving your product away to anyone who asks for it. But if it's someone you are eager to get a review from, this is the exception to this step.

7. Survey those who have used your products and simply ask for feedback with the stipulation you would like to use their comments in your promotions and on your website.

8. Rarely is you pre-writing a testimonial the way to go. You want testimonials in their words not yours.

9. Many times those who are just "regular folks" are great for testimonials. In many cases they are more believable to your potential end user and there is a connection to them as real people rather than every endorsement being from celebrities in your industry.

10. Endorsements are more believable when you have the full name, company, location and image of the person who gave you a testimonial. Always ask for permission to include this information with the endorsement.

As you can see, the process is quite simple. It's simply a matter of asking.

Discover success insights from experts around the globe who are out there making a difference and making a great living in the process. Kathleen Gage interviews the best of the best with Power Up for Profits Podcast. http://www.powerupforprofitspodcast.com

By Kathleen Gage

Saturday, March 7, 2015

5 Essential Elements of Brand Building Exercises

When a company is considering a brand building initiative, it is important to have numerous strategy sessions with the marketing, sales, and leadership teams. The project is a big one and takes time to properly handle all necessary steps. Each department in the company has input that is valuable for creating or developing a brand. Sometimes, it is best to utilize professional guidance, to have access to top-notch research capabilities and harness their industry and market knowledge. Whether it is done in-house or with third party help, stay focused on the project with a few essential elements of the necessary exercises to get the job done.

1. Do the research to find how the brand currently stands

The first step in the brand building quest is to perform the research to find where the current brand stands. Find how staff, current customers, and potential customers value the brand. That includes finding the perceptions about, loyalty and connection to the brand. You most likely already have an idea of the new ideas to promote, but with a little work, you can find exactly how that stacks up against where you are now.

2. Define what makes this particular brand unique

The point of a brand is to provide a compelling image to the public. They want to identify with something. Then need something to fix a problem they have. Hold a workshop with key staff to define what makes this particularly company best. Start with the simple question of why someone should use your product over another. Build bullet points of ways that the company shines, then put all of these ideas into a brand statement.

3. Compare this statement to three top competitors

During the brand building process, you also need to know how your brand stands up to the direct competitors. Do research on their brand loyalty, values, and mission. Compare them with your information. What are their strengths and weaknesses? There will likely be some crossover, but find the way that your company excels beyond what they can do and emphasize those things.

4. Fine tune a strategy and position in an exercise

Find the marketing opportunity niche and position the company to be the solution. The brand can't move forward without positioning and a strategy. This step can take time, and requires the use of the information about the competitors, as well as a solid understanding of the market, the ideal customer, and what they want.

5. Build a 2-3 year plan

The last stage of brand building is to build a future plan to roll out the brand and maintain a consistent and strong presence with it. Start the plan with the expected outcomes of the new brand. Develop a timeline for all of the strategies. Outline the resources and tactics that will be needed. It is also important to consider all of the points of contact with customers and how the new message will be delivered at each one. With a hard work on the vision and plan now, the brand can continue to get stronger and the company can achieve the projected goals.

If you would like to learn more about brand building in Austin, visit Screamer Co. http://screamerco.com/

By Angela Landrum

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

7 Easy Ways You Can Get Word of Mouth Referrals

1. Know your target audience

Do you know the people you're selling to? What boxes do they tick? Are they old or young, male or female, married or single? Make sure you know who will be more likely to buy your products. People who aren't interested in your business are less likely to talk about it, whereas people who are interested are likely to talk about it to others.

2. Talk to influential people

Talking to people you're aiming your business at is a good way of getting your message out there, but it can be more effective. Talk to someone with influence, someone who many people follow; go on social media sites and find people in your area who have lots of followers and post regularly. If someone with influence is speaking about your business, it's going to reach more people. Don't go bombarding people with in-your-face emails and calls. Treat people like people, not business clients. Learn about them and get a conversation going.

3. Build up an online community

If you can build up an online community of potential customers, it will be great for your business, because you've got your target audience right where you want them. Get yourself on social media sites and steadily build up a following of potential customers. This can take some time, but it can also work really well. The more people you've connected to online, the more people there are who can refer you to someone else.

4. Be consistent in your offerings

No matter how big or small your online community, make sure you keep their interest by posting regularly, whether it's about your business or about other things. People will lose interest in you and your business if you don't post anything. Keep your pages updated regularly and always make sure your posts are engaging and tie in with you and your business.

5. Ask people to refer you

There's no harm in simply asking people to talk about your business with others. Manners and patience are key, of course; tag it on to the end of a conversation, that way it doesn't feel forced. Be polite and say you'd really appreciate it if people could spread the word. Remember that people are only going to talk about your business if it's any good. If they've had bad customer service and have umpteen other things to complain about, they might spread the word, but it won't be good and bad word of mouth could hinder any efforts to help your business grow. The customer does always know best, so treat them respect and they'll hopefully spread the word, even if you have to ask politely.

6. Give them something for nothing

People don't expect to get anything for free these days, so it's always a nice surprise to get something for nothing. Give your customers and potential customers something for nothing, even if it's a little sample or a postcard with one of your paintings on or something like that. That something is a reminder of you and your business. People are more likely to remember you if they have something that jogs their memory.

7. Manners go a long way, and they're free

Always go that extra mile and be polite and friendly to people. If someone makes a purchase, thank them for it. Engage people in conversation. Let them engage you in conversation. Offer to help them. Always be polite and always put the customer and potential customer's interests before your own.

By Joanne Perkins

Joanne Perkins is a Berkshire-based artist with a BA (Hons) in Fine Art and specialises in painting Berkshire landscapes. She is happy to accept all queries and questions. For more information about Joanne, her work and her current projects visit: http://joannesberkshirescenes.com/default.aspx