Tag Archives: branding

How to Communicate Your Vision With A Designer

woman-791874_640I love being a graphic and web designer! It allows me to dwell at the intersection of art and business in a way I find deeply satisfying. I get to flex my creative muscles and provide a service that many small businesses are desperately in need of, all at the same time.

For most businesses, I know that time is money, and that arriving at a brand that “feels right” is essential to the future success of that brand. However, the businesses I work with don’t necessarily spend a lot of time with creative types. Sometimes, even if they have a clear vision of what they want, they have trouble communicating that vision to the designer, often simply because they don’t know the right kind of information to provide, or the right questions to ask. Occasionally, they know they need “something better,” but their vision of what that means specifically for them is murky.

That “feels right” quality I mentioned earlier is a highly subjective thing. Even if you are communicating clearly, it can take time to hone in on what’s best, as your designer adjusts what “feels right” to them in order to meet what “feels right” to you. And if you aren’t sure what you want, then finding the right feel is difficult at best.

The good news is, whether you know what you want yet or not, you can cut down on how many revisions are necessary in order to achieve your desired result by carefully considering what you are looking for in advance, providing appropriate info when you begin working with a designer and remaining open to the iterative process that the back-and-forth nature of design entails. Continue reading

7 Tips to Build Your Authority with Content

write-593333_1280As a small business owner, establishing yourself as an authority in your field means that you are setting yourself up to be seen as an expert, go-to resource, trusted advisor, and thought leader. Sharing your knowledge and expertise online with quality content in a strategic way enables search engines to position you in front of your prospects and customers so that you can become more easily found and recognized as a leader in our industry.

Developing and sharing content consistently that is meaningful and useful to your target audience serves the function of building trust. When your potential customers have already consumed your content prior to contacting you, they are already seriously considering working with you. They are primed and ready for your sales conversation and more likely to convert to a paying customer.

Here are 7 tips for using content to build your authority: Continue reading

Is Your Marketing Campaign True to Your Brand?

marketing-brandingWhen you prepare to launch a marketing campaign, can you confidently say that the campaign is true to your company’s brand?

The most powerful and persuasive branding is clear, cohesive, and consistent. Because your marketing should enhance your relationship with your audience and move customers to take action, effective marketing campaigns carefully align with your company’s brand.

Your brand is the emotional connection your customers have to your business. You have the opportunity to develop this relationship between your customers and your business through all of the ways they are exposed to your company — some examples of these points of contact include your logo, colors, messaging, voice, advertisements, customer service, and, of course, marketing campaigns.

Your brand creates meaning for your customers — it differentiates you from your competition — and this emotional connection becomes the reason they buy. Perhaps Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, put it most simply: “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” But Michael Eisner, former CEO of Disney, warns, “A brand is a living entity – and it is enriched or undermined cumulatively over time, the product of thousands of small gestures.”

So each marketing campaign you launch shapes the perception of your company in the minds of your customers and potential customers.

Marketing consists of the ways in which you communicate value to your customers. Your marketing is comprised of a set of actions that help you uncover and activate buyers. Marketing encourages your existing and potential customers to hire you or purchase what you’re selling.

A marketing campaign is a coordinated series of specific steps and activities enacted to promote your company, a product, or service. A campaign has a timeline, a particular purpose and set of goals.

Right now, we can all observe the holiday marketing campaigns that are targeting us. From television and social media advertisements to store displays and emails, we are seeing the coordinated marketing efforts of some of our favorite and most recognized brands. And we can easily detect that the big brands, who have the most brand equity or established value in their brand, are staying true to their brand.

If an LL Bean marketing campaign took on the voice of an Old Navy marketing campaign this holiday season, how would that make you feel?

If an iPhone campaign suddenly took on the look and feel of Samsung, what would you think?

These companies have strong brands, and we expect certain identifiable messaging from them. They have built these brands — and the emotional connections their customers feel — over time with activities, including marketing campaigns, that are “true” to their brand. This helps to establish trust, ease, and comfort. Their customers know what to expect and what they are going to get.

When you have a small business with far fewer resources and opportunities to connect with customers than a big brand, it is even more important that you carefully consider whether or not your marketing campaigns are true to your brand.

Why miss a precious opportunity to build familiarity and trust? Why not use each point of contact with your customers and potential customers to enhance your relationship and further establish the unique value you bring?

To ensure that your marketing campaign is true to your brand, consider the brand promise you are making in the campaign to determine that it is a promise you can keep. Consider the voice and messaging to ensure that it is authentic and faithful to your brand. And consider the look and feel to make certain it is consistent and recognizable.

Remember, that when you come out of left field with a marketing campaign that is not well aligned with your brand, you may be doing more damage than good. As you are establishing your brand and trying new ideas, it is okay to experiment, but do so in a way that keeps the relationship you have with your target audience intact.

If you need help making sure your next marketing campaign aligns with your brand, contact Solamar today.

Video Hosting for Small Business

filmHands down, your marketing should include video. According to SEJ, “people watch more than 500 years’ worth of YouTube videos on Facebook every day, and they share about 700 videos on Twitter each minute”.
If you’ve ever clicked on a video of a dog riding a skateboard, you understand what I am about to say — video promotes engagement and “likability” or share-ability of anything we want to market. That is why it is so essential that small businesses start to incorporate video into their marketing mix if they haven’t already. It’s just that simple. The only question you’ll have to ask yourself is: which video hosting site should you use?

YouTube and Vimeo are both the metaphorical “King of the Hill” when it comes to marketing and small business. But, they are very different animals. Let’s take a look at why, and how you can maximize your brand using one, or both.

YouTube

According to the YouTube Press Page, “more than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month, over 6 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube, and 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute”.

That’s kind of a big deal.

Not only is YouTube the second-largest search engine after Google, but it also has a massive reach across social networking sites. Clearly good for large audience numbers, it is no wonder that YouTube is the world’s most popular video sharing platform. But, there are many factors that attribute to YouTube’s recipe for success.

  • YouTube is free, both to upload and to watch videos. If you aren’t already on YouTube, SproutSocial created this guide to creating a YouTube account that walks you through the process step-by step.
  • It is very easy to share YouTube videos to social media sites and other outlets. This “sharability” just makes sense in the world we live in. What’s more, sharability is crucial to brand awareness.
  • YouTube is owned by Google – a relationship that, with a little help, many claim will boost Search Engine Optimization, or SEO. That’s a definite perk.
  • Easy-peasy advertising. In three short steps, YouTube walks you through how to place an ad. They also customize your options to allow you to target your audience based on gender, age, interest and location.

If you visit the YouTube Statistics page, you’ll learn even more impressive stats, but the bottom line is that YouTube clearly has the reach that business owners want at a price tag that can’t be beat.

So, if YouTube is so amazing, the question begs — why isn’t everyone using it? Let’s take a look at the popular video hosting site, Vimeo, to answer that.

Vimeo

While Vimeo gets considerably less viewer traffic than video giant YouTube, it has become incredibly popular with peeps looking to export quality video in a boutique environment. According to Sprout Social, “This idea is related to the notion that Vimeo has more quality content. Since the site is much more niche than YouTube, there is a good chance that only serious video creators and watchers are frequenting the site on a regular basis. People viewing and commenting on your videos are a lot more likely to give you constructive feedback.”

Here’s why:

  • No Video Advertisements. Vimeo doesn’t place advertisements on any videos that they host. This alone is most likely the biggest perk to choosing Vimeo over YouTube. When your audience tunes in — there is a much smaller chance of them sub sequentially tuning-out due to pop up banners and advertisements.
  • Quality Peers. Because Vimeo is more of a niche community, it is home to more professionally made and better-looking videos. Want to judge it for yourself? Vimeo offers a Staff Picks page that allows you to explore videos that they feel stand out in the crowd — and they are definitely worth a watch. This able community lends credibility to your video and really just helps your brand to look more professional and polished.
  • More Tight-Knit Community. If you are looking for a video hosting site that lends itself to constructive criticism, Vimeo may just be the place for you. On Vimeo, members comment on each others videos regularly. According to Sprout Social, “This site is more close knit than YouTube, so building a community of thought leaders should be one of your highest priorities. This also means you should make sure to respond to those who comment one your videos.”
  • YouTube restricts users to turn privacy either on or off. Meaning, it is completely private or available to the public. On Vimeo, users can customize their privacy. Vimeo allows you to hide your videos from folks browsing Vimeo, password protect them, or restrict your videos to be viewed/embedded on specific websites that you dictate. This gives you lots of flexibility to offer products for pay that are delivered in part by video.

At the end of the day, when you are choosing which platform best represents your brand, it is vital to consider the end-game of your marketing plan. Important items to weigh include:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • Are you looking for conversion or brand awareness?
  • What the types of videos do you produce — and how often?

Need help answering these questions before you decide? Give us a shout! Because we do that too.

Redoing Your Website Design is Refreshing!

new-solamar-homeNo matter how good looking your website is, if the design has stayed the same for a little while one of the best things you can do is give it a refresh. In fact, even if you have a brand new design, it is still important to track its performance and evaluate exactly how well it is performing. If any part of your site isn’t meeting expectations, than a refresh of that section could turn things around. One of the first things you need to do is make sure that you have decent analytics (such as the free Google Analytics) set up for your site, and that you view regular reports on traffic and other metrics. Remember that it can take 6-months to a year to gain enough data to have a good understanding of how you are performing, so give your self at least that much time in between redesigns. Performance will fluctuate, and it’s important to appraise it over time.

Once you have enough data in hand, you will be able to decide if refreshing your website will mean working on a complete re-branding, or just changing the layout of your home page or the language you use in your messaging. Either way, it can breathe new life into any existing site, simply by providing your visitors with something new and unexpected. Even a tiny adjustment to layout can increase engagement with even semi-regular visitors, as people will indulge their natural curiosity just to find out why things have changed.

And hey, we lead by example! The design team at Solamar has just finished a refresh of our own website, and we’re super stoked to show it off to the world. You should totally click through and check the whole thing out, but stay tuned here, I’m going to go through some of the changes, and why we made them. Weeeeeeee!

new-solamar-home

Adjusting to the Landscape

One of the things that you need to be constantly aware of when doing any online work is that the internet is a moving target. The moment you commit to a design, the technology and aesthetic of that design begin to become outmoded immediately. Here at Solamar, we pay attention to trends in design internationally, and we are always trying to make sure that our site (and our clients’ sites) are always on the forefront of what’s cool and what’s possible. We’ve taken inspiration from emerging trends all over the web and molded them together into a new vision for our site.

Our new homepage continues a movement toward the heavy use of big, attractive images, and we’ve embraced a longer style of page design that understands the fact that people are willing to scroll a lot more on their touch devices. To accommodate that choice, we’ve adjusted our design to more clearly delineate between different sections on an individual page. We start with a big ol’ team picture (I’m the silly one all the way on the right), followed by a quick description of what we do best. Following that, we’ve split our work showcase into two sections, and given them as much screen real-estate as possible, so we can really show off our work!

In addition to looking fabulous, this new “edge-to-edge” type of design makes it even easier to make the site responsive across all devices and screen-sizes, as well as making the design pop even more on really small screens.

new-solamar-home-section

The Team Behind the Screen

With any refresh, you also need to focus on making sure your personality, or the culture of your business, come through. At Solamar, we’re really proud of the work we do for our clients, and part of that work is the people that do it. Our personality infuses the design that we do, the way we interact with clients and each other and it is a fundamental part of Solamar and why we do things the way we do. Our team is distributed across the country, but that only means that it’s been even more important for us to build a group of people we all really trust and love. We work hard at keeping everybody tight-knight, and we want to show that off to the world.

To that end, we’ve redone our “What” and “Who” pages to bring even more light to them. On the “Who” page, we use the new “edge-to-edge” design aesthetic to make sure everyone’s smiling face gets as much space as possible, and we changed the portraits to color! Yay, color!!

Even on the “What” page, which is about the services we offer, we’ve included a bunch of photos, not just of some of our work, but of the team being all full of togetherness and kindheartedness and such. Oh yeah, and of course a picture of me being silly.

new-solamar-team

Sweat the Details

We’ve made a host of other small tweaks and adjustments throughout the site, too many to get to here, but you should be sure to poke into the corners of your site and make sure it hasn’t gotten too dusty, or broken down where you haven’t been looking. Do your research before you commit to any refresh. Make sure you have the data concerning it’s performance necessary to make informed decisions. Find inspiration out there in the internet wilderness. There are so many people doing so many cool things, and you won’t know about it until you search for it.

And as always, if you’d like a little help refreshing your site, give the team at Solamar a shout, it’s what we do, baby!

How to Get More “Likes” on your Facebook Business Page

keys-264595_1280What happens when you click “Like”?
“When you click Like on a Facebook page, in an advertisement, or on content off of Facebook, you are making a connection.” According to Facebook, “A story about your like will appear on your Timeline and may also appear in your News Feed. You may be displayed on the Page you connected to, in advertisements about that Page or in social plugins next to the content you like.”

As you can see, a simple “Like” goes on to have a life of its own. In just one click, you are sharing that you like a movie, sports team, or even an offer from a business. That click expresses who you are and helps your friends know you better.

Does that mean all “Likes” are good?
“Not just no, but HELL NO!!” says PostPlanner. “The problem is there are too many people recommending too many different ways to get more Likes and Fans—many of them not legit. Do a search on Google and you’ll find over 2 billion results offering you an answer! Yes, that’s billion with a B!”

So what should you do to get more Likes (good, qualified ones), without buying them from some not-so-legit site? (BTW, buying them will forever ruin your page, because those purchased Likes are not the engaged Fans you’re looking for.)

Instead, here are a few easy and effective tips to win more Likes: Continue reading

Why It’s Important to be “Trendy” — Staying Current In Your Marketing

eye-402532_640If you know anything about fashion, you know that style is timeless, fashion is ever-changing, and when something is “trendy” it’s all the rage today, but it may be completely old-hat and possibly even a little embarrassing tomorrow.

Before you dismiss fashion advice dished by someone who wears jeans, a t-shirt, and flip flops every day (if I can help it), stick with me here.

It’s important that your marketing has style. Style stands the test of time, it’s classic, and it always allows you to present yourself and your business in the best possible and most alluring way.

Style shines through authentically, and resonates with the right people. You know a person who has style as soon as she walks in the room. You can’t quite put your finger on it, but you can see it and sense it. You want your marketing to have that kind of style — that turns heads and attracts the right attention and respect.

You also want your marketing to be fashionable. In much the same way that clothing styles are constantly changing from season to season, marketing — now more than ever — is continuously evolving. Your business will benefit from knowing the latest marketing techniques, tools, and best practices. Remaining fashionable and even ahead of the trends will set you apart from the crowd. Continue reading