A Guide to Business Branding for Solopreneurs – Part Two

A Guide to Business Branding for Solopreneurs – Part Two

Read part one here.

How to build your brand and make it stand out

In order to make your business brand stand out, you should build expert credibility in your niche. Once your target market views you as an expert, they’ll be more likely to do business with you because they know that you know your stuff.

Researching your niche

Basically, your area of expertise is your niche. You’ll find that some niches are more profitable than others. When you decided to start your own business, you most likely researched your niche to make sure your business idea was feasible. While you’re building your brand and trying to make it stand out from competitors, you’ll need to do more research to find out what problems your target market may be facing. As you build your brand, your goal will be to show your target market how your product service can help solve those problems.

Market research

Market research is essential when you’re trying to build a strong brand. In order to provide the best services to your target market, you need to know who your top competitors are, their USP’s, how much they charge and what makes them stand out. You can find most of this information online by visiting their websites and reading reviews left by their customers/clients. Find out what the customers/clients loved and hated and use that information to make your products and services better.

In the next section, we’ll talk about the best ways to present your brand in your marketing materials.

One of the most important words in business marketing and branding is CONSISTENCY. It’s essential that you be consistent when it comes to appearance and wording in your marketing materials to build your brand effectively.

When most people hear the word “branding” they immediately think about a logo. Your logo is just one part of your brand. The message you are trying to convey to your target market is also essential in creating an effective brand.

There are several parts to your brand and these individual pieces should come together to create a certain expectation from your target market:

• The name
• Slogan
• Logo
• Color scheme
• Fonts
• Icon used (if any)
• Emotions conveyed
• Personality

Let’s discuss each piece in more detail:

The Name

The name you choose for your business should be something related to the type of products or services you provide or, as a solopreneur, you could simply use your name. You could also go with something catchy like ‘Axe’, which is a strange name for a men’s fragrance. But it is memorable and fun.

This is when you really need to think about what type of emotions you want your brand to elicit from your target market. Once you have decided on what image you want to convey, write it down, and start working on your logo. Get several different designs to choose from your designers. If you’re on a tight budget, try a site like Fiverr.com.  If you have some creative skills, you could try designing it yourself using a site like Intro Champ Logo Design.

Pay close attention to the colors and fonts but also check to make sure the logo conveys the image you want and elicits the kind of emotions you want. Do you think the logo inspires trust and credibility? Does it convey your personality? Since you’ll be using this logo on everything, you also need to make sure it’s clear and easy to read. Make sure the font they used will look good on your website, as well as, your social media profiles.

The Slogan and USP

A great slogan can give a business instant recognition and make your message stick in your customers or clients minds. It will remind your customers of your product or service over and over.

In part one I told you that some customers or clients will choose to try a business service or product based on their unique sales proposition (USP). Your USP is important because it’s the easiest way to make your business stand out from your competitors. What can you offer your clients and customers that none of your competitors are offering?

Over time, as your business matures, you will start to consolidate your gains and grow your brand in strategic directions. In the next section, we’ll talk about how to increase the reach of your brand.

Increasing the reach of your brand

Launching a new business brand can be fun and exciting. Within a short period of time lots of great things are happening and you’re anxious about what the future holds for your new business. This is the most important time to build brand awareness.

Once you’ve built a considerable amount of brand awareness, it’s time to start working on ways to increase the reach of your brand. This is when consistency really comes into play. Your target market should see your brand message repeatedly. There are several free ways you can make sure brand message stays in front of your target market:

• Social media profiles (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat. etc.)
Blogging
• Video marketing
• PowerPoint presentations
• Podcasting
Guest blog posts
• Press releases
• Interviews
Email marketing

Do a little bit every day and measure your success by testing and tracking the results of different techniques.

For example, if you’re target market is women between the ages of 30 and 45, Pinterest is probably the best place to test your graphics because women within that group make up near 85% of its users. If you’re looking to connect with more professionals, run your tests on Linkedin.

Though YouTube is known for having an audience consisting of mostly males, if you create your personalized channel and add the right keywords in the titles and descriptions of your videos, you could easily attract women who may be searching for great video content on topics that can help them be more productive or make their lives easier.

Any content you create should support your brand and clearly add to the overall image you want your brand to convey to your target market. Refer to the niche and market research you’ve done and create content and services that you know they are searching for. You can also use this info to create compelling sales pages and other written marketing materials.

Even though you are a solopreneur, you will eventually need some type of help managing your business. You may choose a freelance copywriter or a social media virtual assistant. Regardless of who you choose to hire, it’s crucial that they understand exactly what you want your brand to represent to your target market. The copywriter will use this information when writing copy for your website and the virtual assistant will keep this in mind when creating posts for your social media profiles.  You don’t want to make any sudden changes to your message or you could risk sabotaging your entire brand.

Create a story for your brand

I’m sure you’ve heard that every business owner needs an ‘elevator speech’ about their business. Your speech should tell what your business is and what you have to offer in 30 seconds or less. Practice it until it becomes like second nature to you.

Consider joining your local Chamber of Commerce and/or local networking groups. Offer to teach a short class on a topic that’s hot in your niche and you’ll get exposure for your business and possibly sales from attendees. This is a great option especially if you’ve decided to brand yourself rather than your business (part one). Once you’ve built up your reputation in your niche, you can write a book and publish it on Kindle and you will soon be viewed as an expert.

Your goal is to build your brand to point where you can walk into a room full of people in your same niche or industry and be instantly recognized.

A Guide to Business Branding for Solopreneurs – Part One

A Guide to Business Branding for Solopreneurs – Part One

Business branding is a very important aspect of a successful business. Anyone who owns a business, large or small, should strive to create an image for their business that is enticing and truly represents their business mission. Although branding is crucial to building a successful business, very few solopreneurs take the time to create an effective branding strategy.

Large companies, like Walmart and Burger King, have entire teams dedicated to creating and managing their business brand.

This guide will show you how to create a brand for your solopreneur business that is representative of your unique skills and what sets your business a part from your competitors.

In part one of this post, you’ll learn exactly what branding is and why it’s important to you as a solopreneur.

What is branding?

Simply put, branding is your business image. It’s crucial that you understand that your brand can make or break you in terms of business credibility.

When your target market tries your particular product or service for the first time, they immediately form an impression of your business based on several factors, including quality, price and convenience. How you brand your product or service will have a direct influence on that first impression.

Although pricing does have a major impact on their impression, it’s not the only factor. Some clients/customers will be influenced by unique selling propositions (USP), such as 24 hour service or an incredible “no questions asked” money back guarantees.

Most people like to try products or services they have heard of. They may assume that because the business is well known or popular, the product or service is better than its competitors.

Brand awareness is an important step to building your brand. Business owners need to make their target market aware that they exist. Studies have shown that it takes 7-10 exposures to a brand before the brand even starts to register to the customer/client.

Thanks to the Internet, it is easier than ever to create a brand that people will instantly recognize. Your brand reputation will take time to grow, so it’s important to protect it from negative publicity on social networks. Take the time monitor your online reputation regularly.

Now that you have a better idea of what branding is, let’s take a look at why branding is important for the solopreneur.

Why is branding important for the solopreneur?

Since you are a company of one as a solopreneur, you need to maximize efficiency in everything you do, especially marketing. Branding your business will help you with:

• Instant recognition for your product or service
• Building trust among your target market
Word of mouth marketing
Social media marketing
• Search engine optimization for free traffic
• Building an email list
• Gaining affiliates and joint venture partnerships

And more.

Brand is one of the core reasons why Amazon.com can achieve 15% conversion rates. There’s, practically no other retail website that comes close because none can match Amazon’s brand. The amazon brand was started online in 1997. As a result, many physical bookstores have closed their doors, such as Barnes and Noble, Borders, Hastings, and countless independent bookstores.

Amazon started out just selling books, but soon became a publishing house in both print and digital. In recent years, it has become the equivalent of an online department store. It is also an entertainment company, producing its own TV shows, and movies.

Why did Amazon become such a trusted and recognized brand in such a relatively short time? It was good customer service, value for the price, and weaving itself into the fabric of people’s daily lives.

You can see from this example that even a small startup can become a huge success if they have a great branding strategy in place. A solopreneur can accomplish the same level of branding success by learning more about effective branding strategies and putting it at the top of their to do list. Think about any major new initiative, product, or service in relation to your brand. What would it add? What impression would it create among your target market? Would it take away from the brand in any way, or cause people to feel it was moving away from its core values?

A strong brand can open doors and create endless opportunities. Having a great brand helps generate word of mouth traffic. People chat about products and services all the time. They share experiences, make recommendations, and complain about their bad experiences. In fact, statistics show that 1 happy client/customer will tell 1 other person about their great experience, but 1 unhappy client/customer will tell 7. Social media has made it super simple for clients/customers to voice their opinions on products and services, whether good or bad.

Building a strong, credible brand should be the #1 priority for any new solopreneur from the moment they launch their business. You’ll start receiving positive feedback from your clients/customers early on so even if someone does have a complaint about your brand, it will look like an isolated incident compared to the pattern of praise you will most likely receive for your products and services.

Popular and trusted brands will get lots of free traffic because happy clients/customers are more likely to link to them and will share their content on social networks. More links and shares means more brand awareness, and brand awareness can lead to purchases to see if they like it.

Your branding strategy is something you will need to work on a little every day from the moment you launch your business. There may be branding challenges that you, as a solopreneur, should keep in mind before you start.

Biggest branding challenge for solopreneurs

As a solopreneur, the biggest challenge you may face while building your brand will be deciding if you should brand yourself personally or brand your business.

There are pros and cons to each approach which we will discuss below.

Branding yourself personally

What do Bobby Flay and Oprah Winfrey have in common? They are their own brands.

If you decide to brand yourself personally, you are also the spokesperson for your brand. The biggest disadvantage of this approach is how much burden it places on you in reference to how much work you have to do and how visible you are. Oprah has plenty of people working for her, but SHE is the brand and front person and has to deal with negative feedback, the media and more. You will need to be very confident in your skills and abilities to deal with being the center of attention all the time.

Branding yourself is the best approach to take if you already have the skills and experience and are in a position within your niche that gets people’s attention every time you publish a new blog post or social media update.

Branding the business

If you decide to brand the business rather than yourself, you will be seen as the expert behind the great products and services being offered, but not the brand itself. In this position, you are under much less media scrutiny. If you ever need to sell your business, this approach to branding will make it easier for you to start a new business. Selling your business might not be something you’re considering now, when you’re just starting out, but the truth is that brands buy other brands all the time.

Now that you have decided which approach to take, it’s time to decide what it is you want your brand to convey to your target market. What makes YOU different from your competitors? Why should anyone do business with you? Your answer to those questions will be your unique selling proposition (USP).

Your mission statement

What is your mission? In other words, why are you in business? What do you hope to achieve (other than make money)?

Your business plan

As a solopreneur, you may not think you need a formal business plan. However, having a business plan prepared will be necessary if you plan to seek business funding or grants. It can also help you stay on track with your goals for your business.

Stay tuned for part two of this post on branding for solopreneurs, we’ll talk about how to make your brand stand out and how you should present your brand in your marketing materials for maximum effect.

READ PART TWO HERE

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How clean is your online reputation?

How clean is your online reputation?

Our online reputation is something that we should all be monitoring on a regular basis. If you have never checked yours or it’s been a awhile since you checked, the first thing you need to do is an assessment.

Sit down and take a minute to answer the questions below:

  • What do prospects see when they search for you online?
  • Is there information out there about you that could damage your reputation in any way? Are there any pictures on Facebook or Google+ that you wish you’d never agreed to taking?

These are the questions you want to regularly ask yourself to make sure you keep your reputation clean.

To find out exactly what others see when they search for you online, use the techniques below:

Use Google Alerts.

I’ve talked about Google Alerts before because you can use them for lots of reasons. Here you want to create an alert for your name, your company name, and even keywords specific to your business. Once you set up alerts you will receive an e-mail daily or weekly with results (if there are any). This is a great way to monitor if anyone is mentioning you or your business, as well as keep up-to-date with what’s happening in your niche. If you discover someone is talking about you or your company, you can be sure to comment.

Check more than one search engine.

Google may be the most popular search engine but you shouldn’t focus all of your attention in that area. Some people use Bing or Yahoo. Using the keywords you want to rank for, search each engine to find out what others are finding out about you. Do a search for your name and your company name.

Look past the first few pages.

Typically, when we do any type of search online and start reviewing the results, we don’t go past the first 3-4 pages. Search for your business name, product names, your brands, and usernames and dig deeper than you usually would to see what you find. This will give you a clearer picture of what others see when they search as well as let you see the things you’ve posted about yourself that you may want to update or delete. You may find a lot of times that we post about ourselves can be the most damaging to our reputation.

Don’t forget to check social media.

People search social media for information almost as much as search engines, like google. Here you also want to try searching for keywords, your name, company name, product name and more on each social media network. Searching social media on a regular basis is another effective way to keep up with what’s happening in your niche as well as find out if there is any chatter about you and your brand. We all know that social media has become very important when it comes to our reputations. Some employers are even beginning to check applicants social media profiles prior to offering employment. We want to monitor what others say about us, but we also need to be more cognizant of what we’re actually posting about ourselves.

Before consumers spend their cash, they will most likely research the product and company they are buying from (don’t you?). This means you need to make sure your reputation is clean. Delete, bury or update any potentially damaging results.

5 Types of Tools Every Solopreneur Should Master to be Successful

5 Types of Tools Every Solopreneur Should Master to be Successful

As a solopreneur, it’s important that we use our time as efficiently as possible. Times have changed and it’s important to recognize that technology plays a huge role in the success of any business; big or small.

Luckily, this new digital age we’re living in provides a multitude of options to help us simplify our lives as well as run our business smoothly and effectively.

As a result, small business owners are likely to find they have more time to work on projects they have been putting off because they didn’t think they had any more room on their plate.

Master the tools below and learn how today’s technology makes it super simple to share files, communicate and collaborate better with your clients, while also increasing productivity and organization.

Productivity Tools

Those of you who know me know that I really love Evernote. It’s one of my all-time favorite tools for a lot of reasons; one reason being how it works perfectly with other digital tools like IFTTT (stands for ‘if this, then that’) and Zapier (think of Zapier as the older, more sophisticated half-brother of IFTTT).

When you sign up for IFTTT or Zapier, you’ll have access to hundreds of “automation recipes” that you’ll be able to implement right away. This will immediately free up time to work on important projects you’ve been putting off or just give you free time to spend with family and friends.

Have you been trying to spend less time on social media sites like Facebook or Pinterest? Rescue Time may be just what you need. This tool attempts to understand your daily habits so that you can focus and be more productive. Once you download and install the tracker on your computer it will monitor almost everything you do and then provide detailed information based on websites you visited during any particular period of time. One feature I particularly like is the goal setting options for each day. Rescue time lets me know immediately when I reach my goal (example goal: spend a maximum of 2 hours on Facebook daily) or if I miss it. You also have the option to receive a weekly status report via email detailing online activities.

The free plan is packed with features but the pro-plan takes it a step further by offering the ability to block certain sites and the ability to track off-line activity by logging it manually.

One of the most important tools that a solopreneur can use to increase their productivity is an online calendar and appointment system. Most people use the calendars that come pre-installed on their computer systems or a calendar that is widely available such as Google Calendar or Outlook. When it comes to scheduling systems, there are several free or low cost options available for you to choose from. Google calendar use to offer a feature called “Appointments” that gave you the option of publishing your availability and allowing others to schedule time with you. To my knowledge, that feature is no longer available. The best scheduling system will be web based and integrate with your main calendar so that you can easily see your schedule at a glance on any of your devices (cell phone, tablet, etc.). The system should allow you to block out times of availability so that there is no back and forward when trying to schedule a meeting with a client whether online, in person or over the phone.  I chose Time Trade. I’ve been perfectly satisfied with the free plan which is fully automated and also includes a scheduling tab for your Facebook page. When someone requests an appointment, I receive an email with all the details and then I decide to accept or not. There is also a business plan that comes with a few more features.

A few other options include Appointy and Acuity Scheduling, both of which offer free and premium plans to choose from.

17Hats is another great tool I discovered a few months ago. At first, I had a hard time deciding which section to add this tool to, but the more I think about it, I think it’s definitely a productivity tool. Actually, it’s an “all-in-one” business system for entrepreneurs. 17Hats manages the entire client booking process, including sending quotes and invoices, scheduling appointments and managing projects.

Project Management Tools

Every solopreneur, should have a solid strategy in place to keep track of client projects, as well as, monitor your progress toward reaching your goals. For a long time, small-business owners had very few options when it came to project management software. Now that anything and everything can be saved to the cloud, small business owners have lots of great options to choose from. Project management tools will help you keep track of all your projects including client deliverables, important milestones, and documents, as well as keep track of your daily tasks.

Project management software like Basecamp and Teamwork offer extra ‘perks’ like discussion boards, detailed reports, tracking of file uploads and more. These tools make it easy to stay on point with deadlines and keep track of who does what with your project.

Screencasting is not something everyone is familiar with but lately I’ve discovered that it can be a very useful project management tool when used correctly. Basically, a screencast is the recording of your computer screen usually with voice narration. Record formal presentations, tutorials for your client or assistant, walk your client through an idea, or prepare a video status update on your project so that everybody is on the same page.

There are lots of options available to choose from. From the free, easy to use Screencast-o-matic to the fancy, well known Camtasia. Lots of great options in between. The all have their pros and cons, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish.

Social Media and Blogging Tools

There are several tools available to help you manage your blog as well as your social media profiles. This feature is especially useful to solopreneurs who don’t have a marketing department to back them and follow-up with leads.

If you have been reading my blog or you are/were a client of mine, you know I am a die-hard fan of automation tools. I don’t think everything needs to be automated, of course, but I do believe routine social media updates could be scheduled using tools like Buffer, HootSuite or Gremln which would free up more time for you to focus on other critical aspects of your business. You could also outsource this task to a virtual assistant (VA’s) who specializes in social media marketing.

Marketing automation is a type of technology used to automate and measure marketing tasks. Marketing automation is becoming more and more prevalent among email marketing services such as MailChimp or Convert Kit. Automated emails can deliver specific information to your subscriber right when they need it. One way solopreneurs can use this type of automation is when creating eCourses.

Automation can also help you with maintaining your blog. Install the free editorial calendar plug-in and once installed, using the ‘drag n drop’ feature you can easily schedule your blog posts any way you choose and forget about it. The plug-in takes care of the rest.

With the right tools, you can make sure your content always stays in front of your target audience. By installing the free, Revive Old Post plug-in you can create custom schedules for all of your posts. Your posts are continuously recycled so that your older posts stay in the spotlight just as much as your newer ones. Include a personalized hashtag on your posts to make it even easier to track. You have the option to choose time between posts, choose the max number of posts and more. The Pro version of this plug-in offers even more functionality.

In addition to the Revive Old Post plug-in, use your accounts at HootSuite, Gremln and at IFTTT to make it super easy to announce new posts on all your social media profiles simultaneously. If you haven’t signed up for your free IFTTT account, make that your next priority. IFTTT is an amazing tool that deserves its own post. Click here to read my post on using IFTTT. Then hurry on over to get your free account.

File Sharing and Communication Tools

You will need a reliable and secure way to easily share files with your assistant and/or your clients.

You have a few options to choose from, including Drop Box, One Drive, Box or Google Drive. Each of these tools are free and comes with at least 5 gigabytes of free storage “in the cloud”. If you have an Evernote account, you can also share one or more of your notebooks with your assistant, as well clients. Create individual notebooks for each client and easily share the content by sending a simple URL. This process for sharing is pretty similar for any other cloud storage you choose.

You also need a reliable way to communicate with your assistant and clients. There’s no shortage of chat plugins available – Skype, Google Hangouts, Slack, to name a few. I’ve tried several tools and they each have their pros and cons. If you choose to use Google Hangouts for your client meetings, or meetings with your assistant, you will have a few unique options like sharing your screen and interactive content along with a few more bells & whistles. You should experiment with each option to determine what works best for you and your clients.

Outsourcing Tools

I’m all for outsourcing. It’s no longer just for big corporations. Almost any business could probably benefit from outsourcing at one time or another. My advice is to clearly identify your goals and expectations before you decide on a candidate. It’s possible to hire an assistant for as low as $3/per hour. However, some virtual assistants charge as much as $100/per hour or higher. The more ‘specialized’ the duties you need help with, the more you’ll pay. Upwork is a popular site for finding virtual assistants. You can also check out the International Virtual Assistants Association (IVAA).

Look at it this way: if you need help with simple tasks like internet research or mass mailings – try using the overseas option (cheap). For the more complex tasks, like helping you launch a new product or service, you should definitely consider a VA with specialized experience in that area.

Sometimes a VA isn’t exactly what you need. Maybe you need someone local to handle personal tasks like picking up your dry cleaning from the cleaner or standing in line to get those Beyonce tickets.

There’s an app for that! If you have a smart phone or iPad or anything that connects to the Internet, you can hire someone who can get you what you need. Start off by trying TaskRabbit to find someone locally to handle your ‘chores’.

Some new business owners try to ‘wear all the hats’ in their business in an attempt to save money. Taking that route usually results in disappointment.

I’ve had a several clients who realized in the long run that hiring a VA to handle their email campaigns or a professional to create their website, may not have been a bad idea after all.

What do you think?

 

 

 

 

How to Sell Your Products and Services While You Sleep

How to Sell Your Products and Services While You Sleep

As a solopreneur, I’m sure there have been times when you wish you had the support of an entire sales and marketing team who would be able to communicate regularly with your prospects to guide them in making the decision to buy. Solopreneurs are often forced to wear several different “hats” just to keep their business running smoothly, especially when just starting out.  Luckily, there are systems and processes you can put into place to help keep your products and services fresh in your prospects minds. These systems could increase your profits greatly and allow you to do it all hands-free. It just takes a bit of planning on your part.

The most important tool for this task will be a good quality autoresponder. Your email marketing service (MailChimp, aWeber, etc.) can offer you auto responders and help you get them set up. The main function of the autoresponder is to engage your potential customers and clients and draw them into your sales funnel.

The average autoresponder series consists of a minimum of three messages. Add a subscriber box to all pages of your website for best results. Be sure to clearly identify what they will receive in exchange for their precious email address. It could be a subscription to your weekly newsletter or weekly tips on productivity or whatever your specialty is. In addition, you will have better luck obtaining subscribers if you also offer a special incentive for signing up. This could be a free e-book, an eCourse or a simple checklist. There are lots of options for incentives. Just make sure the incentive is something that will be relevant and useful to your subscribers. If you have taken the time to research your target market, you shouldn’t have any problem creating something. When they are added to your subscriber list, the autoresponder series you created will be triggered. Each of the email messages in the series should have a clearly identified call to action (CTA) that pushes them closer and closer to making a purchase from you.

You craft the autoresponder messages once and if done correctly, they could bring in continuous profits even when your business is closed. Both MailChimp and aWeber are well known email marketing providers and both offer reasonably priced autoresponder services with your pro package plans. If you need to outsource this task, you should have no problem finding VA’s who are familiar with either of these services and will be able to help you if needed.

Before you decide how many emails you’d like to include in your series, you need to clearly identify the goal of the series and decide exactly what content you plan to share. As I said above, you could create a 5 to 7 day eCourse by repurposing a few of your most popular blog posts. These posts will provide important information to your subscribers and should be an easy upsell to similar products and services you offer.

Another option that could be incredibly valuable to your subscribers is a compilation of questions you receive most often from visitors. Increase your credibility by identifying questions that are popping up within your social networks that you can respond to. This data could prove to be invaluable and help you tremendously in building a compelling autoresponder series that your subscribers will actually look forward to reading. If you have their attention consistently it may not be long before they’ll make a purchase.

If you use a more sophisticated email marketing platform such as Infusionsoft or Ontraport, for example, you have the option of easily moving subscribers between autoresponder series based on various actions they’ve taken after reading the messages. This way they always receive messages with offers they are truly interested in and nothing more. This feature helps to make email marketing easy and almost completely automated.

 

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