What is True Brand Recognition?

What is True Brand Recognition?

If you’ve ever wondered how true brand recognition works, think about how many times you’ve said, “I need a Kleenex” or “Do you have a Bandaid?”

Sure, you need a tissue or adhesive bandage, but your go-to lingo is asking for a brand. Never thought about it that way, huh?

Well – that, my friends, is brand recognition: When a company or product line is so ubiquitous that you can identify it from a logo, tagline or packaging—and in certain cases, you conflate the item with a brand, per the above examples. It’s subliminal and it’s genius marketing.

Every entrepreneur wants his or her company to be a household name, and building brand recognition is key to achieving that goal. But it’s not always easy or apparent how to go about doing it. So let us help you!

Here are five simple ways to grow your brand recognition:

First thing’s first: Master the logo. A logo is the first visual representation the public will associate with your company or product, so you want it to be compelling and memorable. McDonald’s has the golden arches, Twitter has the bluebird, Starbucks has the mermaid. What do you have?   

Partner up. A fantastic way to spread word-of-mouth recognition is to partner with other brands. For example Uniqlo, a Japanese clothing brand, sponsors free Friday evenings at the Museum of Modern Art and likewise sponsors athletes. This helps get the brand in front of audiences it might otherwise not reach.

Use the interwebs to your advantage. Seriously, invest in good Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Integrating SEO into your online content will help elevate your company’s search engine rankings, which can translate into more eyeballs on your brand (and dollars!). A 2016 study found that search drives ten times more traffic to websites than social media sites. Let that sink in: Ten. Times. More.

Tell a story. Great brands tell great stories; they understand that creating a moving experience or emotional connection with their audience gives them staying power—and a leg up on their competition.

Blog up a storm. A very cost-effective and easy way to build brand recognition is to contribute high-quality guest blogs for sites that are proverbial watering holes for your target audience. It’s an excellent way to engage the public while showcasing your industry expertise. Just ask Buffer; guest blogging helped this company grow from 0 to 100,000 customers.

Of course, engaging a reputable agency with branding experience (*cough, cough*—oh, hey there) will help you navigate not only your overarching brand strategy, but the most effective ways to build the recognition you deserve.  Want to chat about how we can help with your company’s branding? Drop us a line!

 

 

The Ins And Outs of Website Development

The Ins And Outs of Website Development

As a business owner, you need a compelling website that clearly delineates your mission and helps set you apart from the competition. All you have to do is hire developer and watch the magic unfold. Easy peasy lemon squeezy, right?!

Wrong.

Building and maintaining a website requires much more than a developer. The fact is, most developers think in code, boxes, speed and numbers.

So what does this mean for you? Well, most developers (unless they are using a drag and drop platform, which well… we won’t get into the horridness of that here) will need you to provide—design, copy, images, SEO, etc.— basically everything except the code.

Unfortunately, many startups and small businesses make the mistake of thinking a developer is all they need and that’s whom they immediately hire.

Realistically, building a robust website isn’t unlike building a house; you don’t hire a construction crew right out of the gate. Before construction even begins, you first have to hire an architect, a project manager, a contractor, and so forth. And once the foundation and framing is all set, you’re still not finished. There’s electrical work, plumbing, interior design and landscaping.

You would never expect construction workers to satisfy all of those needs. I mean – it makes sense to hire Joanna with Chip, wouldn’t you say?

You likewise shouldn’t expect a developer to be a one-stop shop. Instead, here’s what you should consider when building a website:

A strategist. You’ll need someone who understands your business objectives, key messaging and target audience to build a flow for user engagement.

Designer(s). A front-end designer will provide the key elements to make your site visually appealing for optimal engagement and a graphic designer will produce customized imaging to meet your brands goals and guidelines.

Content developer. Because a website can’t just be pretty images! A content developer will provide written copy and, in some instances, work with the graphic designer to provide support in layout.

Developer. Ah yes, finally! The developer! S/he will code the website with programming languages ( HTML, CSS, Javascript) in order to “tell” the site how to function in a user-friendly way—typically using the .psd (photoshop) files the designer created and you, the client, approved. Development times are usually cut in half because these files are already sized accordingly for desktop and mobile websites.

SEO specialist. SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, elevates your company’s search engine rankings and is largely responsible for driving traffic to your website. A specialist will maximize site traffic by analyzing, reviewing and implementing changes to your site to ensure it is optimized for search engines. In addition, the SEO specialist will work closely with the content developer to ensure targeted keywords are being utilized correctly throughout the website in a “non-spam” like way.

Project manager. With so many cooks in the proverbial kitchen, you need someone to oversee the process, as well as testing and pre-launch checks. The project manager is your single-point-of contact. You should be able to call them at anytime and they should be able to provide an accurate update on the progress of your project. This person can also be responsible for periodic site maintenance—an important element that you can’t forget to include in your budget!

Learn more about how 36MKTG can support your digital needs.

Branding and Digital and Full-service, OH MY! Agencies, A to Z

Branding and Digital and Full-service, OH MY! Agencies, A to Z

By now, you’re an expert on the differences between marketing, advertising and public relations. But what about the various kinds of marketing agencies? There are branding agencies, SEO agencies, digital and social media marketing agencies, full service agencies and more. It can be confusing and overwhelming to know which one(s) are best suited to meet your needs.

So let us help you! Here’s a run down of what you can expect from each type and why you should be cautious to hire someone to “do it all” if they clearly only specialize in one specific area:

Branding agency. Branding agencies’ primary focus is to help develop and maintain your company’s brand, or identity, in an effort to differentiate your product or service in the marketplace, and convince people to emotionally invest in it. They do this in a number of ways, including brand positioning, naming, visual design and packaging, and strategy.

SEO agency. An SEO (which stands for search engine optimization, or the process of increasing a web page’s search rankings in order to increase online visibility) agency works to improve search engine rankings. Why does this matter? Because most people turn to the internet for answers, and you want your company’s site to be among the first returned search results. Site traffic can translate into sales.

Digital agency. A digital agency uses non-traditional means—like email, social media, innovative web design, mobile apps and more—to reach your audience. In today’s rapidly evolving digital world, these agencies leverage the ubiquitous Internet to help market your brand creatively.

Social media marketing agency. A more specialized branch of digital marketing, social media marketing uses—you guessed it!—social media to promote your company. An agency with this expertise will create and publish content across platforms, engage with your digital community, and aggregate and analyze data to determine your most effective, popular channels of communication.

Market research agency. Market research is often the first step in developing any marketing strategy. Agencies that provide this service use qualitative and quantitative methods—including focus groups, interviews, direct mail surveys, online surveys and telephone surveys—to determine information about your target market audience and its attitudes towards your product or service. This data is then used to inform your market strategy.

Full service agency. AKA, the big kahuna! Full service (or “integrated”) agencies, in theory, deliver all of the above services. But (there’s always a “but,” am I right?), beware those that claim to be full service. While there are certainly legit, professional full service firms out there, many will say they are when, in reality, they’re not. We see it all the time: agencies market themselves to potential clients as full service, only to specialize in one or two areas and attempt to “figure out the rest” later. These situations can spell disaster for your company if you’re not careful.

Want to know more about what services we provide? Drop us a note and let’s chat! Need some guidance on selecting the right agency for your needs? Our coaches can help with that, too!

How Much Should a Marketing Consultant or Agency Cost?

How Much Should a Marketing Consultant or Agency Cost?

Your business is your baby; you pour your soul into growing it. But—much like raising a literal, human baby—you can’t do it alone. It takes a village.

There’s no question that marketing is an essential part of that village; the right partner will nurture your brand and help realize its full potential. But how much is your marketing worth?

In other words, what can you reasonably expect to pay for quality marketing?

Well, quite honestly, that depends. The size of your business, your industry, what type of marketing support you need (i.e., branding, digital, creative content or a combination of services) and your growth stage will dictate your specific budget. At the same time, you may be looking for someone specific to execute a marketing strategy or provide creative work, like website development, content, social media and designing branded collateral. This is when many businesses reach out to marketing consultants or an agency that can provide full-service marketing. Just like your accounting, it’s smart to keep your marketing in one spot.

Generally speaking, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, many businesses allocate a percentage of actual or projected gross revenues—usually between 2-3 percent for run-rate marketing and up to 3-5 percent for start-up marketing. I know, as a start-up or small business that sounds like a lot, but it’s necessary.

But no matter where your business lies in relation to these factors, one thing is certain: You have a much greater likelihood of demonstrating a return on investment if marketing is integrated with your daily strategic initiatives—and not treated as an “add on” service.

This is why you should always partner with experienced marketers who understand business operations; marketing your brand is no less consequential than financial management or ensuring product quality, and should be an integral part of your business plan from day one. Beware agencies that lack this foundational knowledge; they will waste your hard-earned money.

OK, now let’s talk specifics.

Marketing consultants typically structure billing in one of two ways: hourly rates or a set project fee. Project fees are calculated by multiplying the anticipated number of hours for a project by the consultant’s hourly rate. Typical hourly rates can range anywhere from $100-250 per hour, depending on the consultant’s expertise, the geographical market and state of the economy.

That might sound like a lot of money, but keep in mind you’re only paying your marketer when you need them and not to just sit and do nothing.

Besides, paying a marketing consultant by the hour—even if they spend 20 hours on one project—is much less expensive than hiring an in-house employee, who will require a salary and benefits.

If you’re balking at the idea of paying $100+ per hour and think you can find a cheaper alternative for, say, $30 per hour on a freelance website, ask yourself this: What is the quality of work you’re getting for that price? How much guidance will they need? How much project management will you have to provide? Where is the ROI?

Full disclosure, we are a branding and consulting agency, so of course, we think that you should pay top dollar.

OK, small joke (comedy is our backup plan) – but this is where we like to really drive home that you truly do get what you pay for.  And at the end of the day, you are paying for experience.

You want a marketing agency staffed with seasoned professionals who approach your business like it’s their baby, too. Agencies that tout experience over flashy bells and whistles are your best bet; skillful marketers work more efficiently (which, when dealing with hourly billing, can save you money in the long run), and are more apt to understand the “big picture.”

Trust us, we know what we’re talking about! Everyone on our team is senior level with over 15 years of experience; we’ve seen it all and can assure you experience matters more than anything.

So when you’re contemplating where you’ll get the most bang for your marketing buck, go with the pros who have a comprehensive, integrated view of marketing and business operations. You won’t regret it.

Marketing and Online Dating Go Hand-in-Hand. A lot of Options, Yet A lot of Swipe Left. Here’s What You Should Look For!

Marketing and Online Dating Go Hand-in-Hand. A lot of Options, Yet A lot of Swipe Left. Here’s What You Should Look For:

Online dating revolutionized our love lives; from the comfort of our keyboards, we could search for our perfect mate, weeding out lackluster matches with the click of a mouse. And guess what? Finding the right marketing agency is a lot like online dating. You can set your unique search parameters, discard the obvious mismatches and identify potential suitors.

But unlike your relationship preferences, which only take your needs and wants into consideration, finding the right marketing agency involves envisaging and balancing the interests of your colleagues, customers and company’s budget. It can feel overwhelming. So, let us help you understand what you should look for in a perfect marketing partner:

Experience. This sounds like a no-brainer, but a marketing agency should be bursting at the seams with experience. That’s not to say the only good options are long-established agencies; plenty of start-ups (ahem!) are stacked with experienced professionals. Research not just an agency’s collective experience—i.e., clientele, campaigns, reputation—but that of its employees and leadership as well.

Creativity. Your business is unique; a boilerplate approach to meeting your marketing needs simply isn’t good enough. The right agency will demonstrate creativity in how it strategizes and executes a campaign.

Transparency. You should know from the get-go what an agency’s capabilities are, who your team is, and what, exactly, you’ll be billed for. There’s no two ways about it: honest, forthright communication is the foundation of any trustworthy partnership. Settle for nothing less.

Relationship oriented. The best marketing agencies value more than billable hours; they invest in and value relationships, both in-house and with clients. You want a team with good synergy—one that respects its members and works well together—who likewise recognizes your worth beyond being a source of revenue.

A deep bench. Beware the agencies who claim to be full service, but really only specialize in one or two aspects of marketing (like SEO or copywriting). Look for an agency with a deep bench of experts who can support all of your marketing needs, from brand strategy to coaching, content development, editorial support, digital and website, social media strategy, and everything in between.

Thought leadership. Beyond demonstrating an ability to execute marketing campaigns, the best agencies will also (or at least should to some extent) exude thought leadership in the form of blogs, published bylined articles, podcasts and more. After all, if an agency doesn’t do a good job of positioning itself as an industry leader and marketing its own expertise, how will it do it for your business?

Culture. In addition to looking good on paper, your agency should feel right. Consider whether an agency’s culture—its personalities, mission, communication habits, management practices, etc.—is a good fit for your business. After all, just because there is a cool, trendy office in pictures doesn’t mean it’s the best match in real life.

Just as you (hopefully) wouldn’t settle for an imperfect romantic match, you should insist on a marketing agency that meets high standards. Dedicating the time to consider characteristics like those mentioned above will serve you in the long-run. Trust us. You won’t regret it.

No… Seriously! What is Marketing?

No… Seriously! What is Marketing?

Since you’re reading this, you are obviously interested in learning more about marketing and/or engaging an agency for your company’s marketing needs.

But—serious question—could you explain to your colleagues or friends what, exactly, marketing is?

If your answer is “ummmm” or “not exactly,” don’t worry. You’re not alone! The truth is, marketing is widely interpreted. Let us break it down for you.

At its core, marketing is the strategic promotion and selling of products or services, and can include branding, creative and content development, external communications and digital support. Think of it as a form of storytelling: marketing employs (some or all of) these services to create stories that grow your business or brand.

Even with a topline understanding of what marketing means, the term is often used loosely and interchangeably to describe public relations (PR), advertising and even sales. Yes, these all share one common goal—to get a product or service to consumers and/or customers—but there are important distinctions between them.

Marketing prepares a product or service for the marketplace. Through targeted market research, branding, content (think editorial support like blogging and copywriting) and collateral (like brochures and packaging), marketing sets the narrative of why a particular business or product is the best in its field. It’s a story tailored to a specific target audience, and it lays the foundation for advertising and public relations efforts.

Advertising, on the other hand, literally communicates the existence of a product or service, and aims to influence buying behavior. It largely relies on paid media placements—on television, online and in magazines—to drive awareness of and interest in a brand, with the end goal of driving sales. (If you’re still unclear, just watch a few episodes of Mad Men).

Like advertising, PR aims to get the word out about a business, product or idea. But it does so in very different ways. For starters, good PR does not involve paid media placements. Rather, it’s all about managing the communication channels between a company or brand and its stakeholders, and driving a positive reputation (versus driving sales). This is achieved through executive visibility campaigns (i.e. getting your client in front of the right people at the right time via speaking opportunities, bylined article placements and more), working with the press to secure media interviews and coverage, as well as crisis management.

This is all to say: Marketing tells a story, advertising sells the story to the public, and PR makes sure everyone is familiar with your story and agrees it’s the best one out there. Got it?!

Hopefully we cleared this up for you, but if not, feel free to drop us a line

PS – stay tuned:  In the next few weeks our leadership team will dive a little deeper on the podcast about this topic!