Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Could Your Branding Take a Lesson from Alphabet?

There are brands, and there are BRANDS. Surely one of the most recognizable brands in the world is Google, which over the years has blossomed from search engine to search leader to ultimate judge of countless enterprises' online fates. So its decision to create an entire new brand called Alphabet doubtless caused some confusion and apprehension out there in cyberspace. Was Google reinventing itself? Will its mission change? Why redefine a brand that itself has helped define the nature of, and set the rules for, modern SEO as we know it?

Not to worry -- the Google brand remains alive and well, and it will continue to be the search engine we all defer to for the foreseeable future. Alphabet is a larger entity that encompasses not only Google's search engine and associated products (like YouTube), but also the company's ever-growing array of non-search products and services. The latter range from financial enterprises such as Capital and Venture to innovative efforts such as X Lab and the Calico life extension project.

Google has been acquiring more and more of these bold forays into areas that don't bear much relation to SEO -- and the more of them they add to the Google brand, the more watered-down that brand name is likely to get. By breaking the non-search initiatives off from the Google brand and putting everything under Alphabet's umbrella, the Google brand can stay pure. At the same time, Alphabet will give these new companies freedom to promote and reinforce their their individual brands instead of simply being absorbed into the Alphabet brand. Everybody wins.

This is a very large-scale illustration of a situation that I've encountered when writing for independent sales reps in various fields. For example, let's say that John Doe has been marketing himself as a seller of BigCo Home Insurance (all names have been changed to protect -- well, me) and finds the situation limiting. He might prefer to expand into other lines of insurance such as life or health, or he might wish he could make multiple brands of one kind of product available to his customers. What can he do? He can re-brand himself as John Doe Inc. Instead of letting his own identity get lost  in the shadow of the giant like BigCo (with however many thousands of independent reps it boasts), BigCo becomes a product line within the brand he really wants to push -- his own. Of course this means creating all the marketing content necessary to grow and sustain a new brand, including compelling website content, print marketing collateral, press releases to announce the new brand, sales letters to inform existing customers of the change, and social media content to raise awareness of the brand. But the great advantage is that John now has control over his brand identity. Let BigCo do its own marketing! 

What about you? Has your business diversified to the point that the brand could use some clarification? Do you need to re-brand yourself or your company, or even launch a new brand alongside your current one as Google has done? Think about it -- and then contact me for the written content to make that brand stand out!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

3 Tips for Steering Your Small Business Through a Summertime Slump

Small businesses typically see less activity during the summer months (and as a one-person shop, businesses don't come any smaller than mine, so I know whereof I speak). For one thing, it's hard to get vacationing decision makers on the phone or schedule one-to-one meetings with them. But it's not just you -- even Wall Street tends to take a nap at this time of year. So how do you keep afloat and productive during this annual lull? Here are three suggestions.

1. Offer Summer Specials

As soon as school is out and the mercury starts to rise, what do you see? Special offers everywhere, from holiday-themed sales to back-to-school discounts. You've probably responded to a few of these hot deals in your time -- and you can employ the same strategy to boost your own business during the summer doldrums. You don't have to sell swimming apparel or barbecue frills to benefit from this strategy, either. Anything that appeals to a B2C or B2B audience can move if it you give it the right kind of push. A back-to-school sale, for instance, can pay off hugely whether you're selling clothes, electronic gear, Internet bandwidth or just about anything else that you can tie back to the theme. People are always ready to take advantage of a great offer -- and summertime always provides a great excuse to make them one!

2. Keep Networking

I've written more than once about the power of networking to put you in front of prospective buyers, vendor partners and referral buddies. But at this time of year, I usually see a drop-off in the number of business owners and sales reps attending networking groups and events. Some of these people are on a well-deserved vacation; others are wrangling kids at home and can't make their usual breakfast or lunch meetings; still others are ducking the oppressive heat we get here in Central Texas. The scrawny attendance numbers only encourage others to skip as well. ("Ahh, nobody's gonna be there anyway....") Come September, of course, these folks realize that they have zero new business coming in. Oops!

Don't let all the great excuses for not networking keep you out of the mix this summer. By all means, enjoy your vacation and keep your kids out of trouble -- but whenever possible, go out of your way to make strategic appearances here and there. You want to remain visible, stay in the interactive groove, and have those lucrative business conversations with networking partners, if only to make sure you're actually laboring by Labor Day.

3. Spruce Up Your Marketing Content

One of the biggest obstacles for so many of us who are responsible for our own marketing is the sheer time and effort required to get our marketing content up to date and up to scratch. Blogging, for instance, requires a steady commitment, while permanent website content must reflect the business's current products, services, brand identity and overall mission. On top of that, there may be sales letters to create, press releases to write, and who knows what else.

If your summer is a bit on the sleepy side, why not use it to get caught up (or even ahead) on your marketing content? For instance, you can create a whole pile of blog articles on evergreen topics for later publication. You can rewrite or even redesign your entire website to make sure it's packing a stronger punch. Or you can sit down and devise that new long-range marketing plan you've really needed ever since you first opened your doors. Summertime can be a very productive marketing time, with or without professional assistance.

So don't let the dog days of summer drag your small business down. Fight back by making this time of year pay off big time. Have a great summer -- and a profitable year!