If you own a startup that secured venture capital in the hundreds of thousands or perhaps in the millions, then congratulations are in order. The truth is many startups and small businesses operate on a shoestring budget. As a consequence, key business strategies such as Digital Marketing are either placed on the wayside or allocated with barely enough resources to get it running effectively. According to data collected by Small Business Trends, 82% of startups are self-funded or secure capital from personal savings or family and friends.

With limited access to capital, the small business owner becomes limited to what he/she can do to support revenue generation strategies. In this day and age where 50% of the world’s population is online everyday, it becomes more imperative for businesses to embark on a Digital Marketing campaign.

But the cost of digital marketing has been rising. Adobe Digital’s 2017 Digital Advertising Report showed that the cost of digital marketing has been increasing at a rate that is five times faster than U.S. inflation and 71% faster than the cost of television ads.

And as competition in the digital landscape continues to get tighter, expect marketing costs to climb higher.

SEO practitioners have to frequently revise optimization strategies while writers have to produce relevant, engaging and usable content for their audience on a consistent basis.   

When digital marketing costs rise, so does the pressure of generating an ROI for your efforts.

Given the capital constraints on small business owners, is it still possible for them to set up a digital marketing campaign?

5 Tips on How to Develop a Low Budget but High Performing Digital Marketing Campaign

The answer is “Yes”! The key is to set up your Digital Marketing campaign on these five principles:

1. Learn What You Can About Digital Marketing

Like what we discussed in our article, “How People Get Ripped Off by Digital Marketing Agencies”, in order to reduce the risk of catastrophic digital marketing experience, you have to learn everything you can about it. You don’t have to be an expert.

You don’t have to get certified in SEO, SEM or Social Media Marketing. All you need is to have a firm understanding of the process and how all its component parts work together to create a successful digital marketing campaign.

2. Keep it Simple

A digital marketing strategy can consist of a combination of different tools and techniques. But you don’t have to use every Internet- based platform to ensure an effective digital marketing strategy.

If you have limited funds, it only makes sense to allocate your capital to a few processes so you can maximize the return. Another benefit of small scale digital marketing is that it is easier to track performance.

3. Manage Your Time Wisely

Accounting is an important function for every business. But it is not just money that you should keep track of. You should also account for how you budget your time.

The saying is true, “Time is money”. The more efficient you are with time, the more productive you can be. As a business owner, the bulk of your waking hours should be devoted to running the core functions of your business; the activities that translate to dollars and cents in your bank account.

Digital marketing is not a discipline you can learn from YouTube or self-help books. You need more than technical and fundamental competence. You need experience. Instead of doing digital marketing yourself, outsource it to experienced third party service providers.

A digital marketing agency has the advantage of having web designers, content writers, graphic designers and specialists in SEO, SEM and SMM. Many agencies also have flexible payment options so you can stretch out your budget.

4. Be Consistent

Even if you decided to outsource your digital marketing campaign to a third party service provider, be involved by staying consistent with the strategy.

In most, if not all cases, the success of a digital marketing campaign rests on your ability to deliver results or what has been promised in your content.

If you want your audience to know that your company consistently addresses all issues and concerns, then make sure your customer service channels are on the ball at all times.

If you want your end users to remain confident on the quality of your goods and services, take the necessary steps to ensure that there is no compromise on craftsmanship or detail from day one.

Before embarking on a digital marketing campaign make sure you are committed to meet the expectations of your target audience.

5. Track Your Performance

The knock on marketing before 2004 was that it was difficult to track performance. We are referring to traditional marketing methods.

All of that went out the window when the Internet became accessible to almost everyone on the planet in 2000 and broadband technology took off in 2004.

With digital marketing you can track the performance of your campaign through web analytics. Get real time data and find empirical bases for your decision-making.

Again, this is where contracting the services of a digital marketing agency is a big advantage.

They have web development experts who can analyze data from your website and give you an orientation on how the campaign has been playing out.

They can provide you with weekly or monthly reports that you can study and use as reference for any changes in strategy. In time and with consistency, you will also become proficient in web analytics.

Now that you have the foundation of your digital marketing strategy setup, it’s time to look at the processes and techniques you can use to run your simple but effective campaign:

1. Invest in a Mobile Responsive Website

It will be difficult; almost impossible to run a successful digital marketing campaign without a website.

Even if you came up with highly-visible social media pages on Facebook and Twitter, where will the engagements terminate?

Your website is the centerpiece in the digital marketing campaign because it represents your business on the Internet. The website is the terminating point for all the inbound traffic that we hope to create through digital marketing.

But it is not enough to just have a website. It must be mobile responsive or have the ability to accommodate devices with varying screen sizes. If you want to learn more about mobile responsive design, check out our article, “Why Your Website Needs Mobile Responsive Design”.

Keep in mind that 75% of all online traffic today originates from mobile devices. If your website cannot be accessed by a smartphone or a tablet, you will potentially lose business as well as industry credibility.

2. Focus on Organic SEO

Search Engine Optimization sounds so technical, most businesses think it is expensive. That may be true when it comes to paid search. But if you focus only on organic SEO, you can help your website move up the search rankings with only a few simple steps:

  • Open a Google Webmaster Account – All you need to do is register and verify your domain name. Google will point out what you need to do to boost your site’s rankings.
  • Use Keywords Judiciously and Strategically – Keywords are the words and phrases that are popularly used to launch a search query. Google prefers long tail keywords which are more descriptive. But don’t overstuff your content with keywords. The accepted ratio is 2% for every 1,000 words.
  • Write Long Form Blogs – Google rewards websites that feature long form blogs or those that average 1,500 to 2,400 words. The advantage of long form blogs is that as a longer read, your visitor would spend more time in your site. Second, if your content is informative and usable, it establishes your site as a valuable reference.

3. Build Up and Leverage Your Content

Content is the cornerstone of digital marketing. People will continue to consume more content in the coming years as they become more dependent on the Internet. Therefore you should likewise focus on building a content creation strategy.

Content isn’t just blogging or article writing. Videos are a big part of a content-based strategy.

As we wrote about in our article, “How to Use Video Content in Marketing”, the use of videos can significantly enhance your online marketing strategy. You can also leverage your content in a number of ways:

  • Share your blog on social media and link it back to your website.
  • Create an infographic or video that presents your content in a visual medium.
  • Create tiles or graphics filled with powerful quotes from your blog and share it on Pinterest.

4. Utilize the Power of Social Media

Of the 3.8 Million people on the Internet everyday, 3.03 Billion or 79% of them are on social media. While experience is necessary to be able to harness social media’s power, you can generate traction for your efforts by implementing a few simple strategies:

  • Choose no more than 2 to 3 social media platforms to start out with. These networks do not function or cater to the same audience. Focus on the platforms that are more appropriate for your business. For example, if you sell merchandise, a more visual platform like Instagram or Pinterest would offer more benefits for your business.
  • Use the analytics tool that come with the platform to track the performance of your social media efforts. Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter have built-in analytics.
  • Find key influencers and engage with them. Influencers have tons of followers in your industry. They present a great avenue to enhance your online presence as well as leverage your content. Share their content whenever you can and engage them as often as possible so you can establish a good relationship.

5. Engage Your Audience

When you publish content online, be prepared to receive a wide range of comments some of which may be unflattering. But in marketing, there in no such thing as negative publicity. You can still extract long term benefits from unfavourable comments through smart engagement strategies.

First, regardless of how the comment was phrased, remain professional at all times. Just tell yourself the commenter took the time to read through your content. The least you could do is be courteous and respectful.

Second, encourage the commenter to follow your page and remind him/her that all comments are welcome and appreciated. It is through engagement that you will be able to establish relationships and followers. From there you can build email lists and new social communities.

Conclusion

We only presented five strategies you can use for your low cost, high performance digital marketing campaign. The truth is there are other processes and techniques that you can use which won’t cost you much money. These include using PPC or Pay-Per-Click advertising, co-hosting an online event and investing in social networking ads.

But as we mentioned earlier, if you’re getting your feet wet in digital marketing, it is always better to start out small and keep things simple. Once you’ve added years of experience on your belt, you can branch out and incorporate other methods of digital marketing.

If you’re interested in getting your digital marketing campaign rolling, give us a call or drop us an email. We have very talented people onboard our digital marketing team: web designers, graphic artists, social media experts, content writers and professionals in the fields of SEO and SEM.

By having Mountaintop manage your digital marketing campaign, you can focus 100% of your time on your business. We will keep you in the loop by providing you with regular reports and schedule time to discuss the current performance of your campaign.

We will be more than happy to guide you through the process and answer other questions and concerns you might have about digital marketing.

If you’re planning to start a business, digital marketing should be included in your budget. It is the best way to promote your products and services to your target market. However, digital marketing costs money. If like most entrepreneurs, you have limited capital, don’t worry. In this article, we will show you how to launch a digital marketing campaign for $100!

According to reports compiled from Forrester and eMarketer by Web Strategies, in 2018 businesses will allocate around 11% of their budgets to marketing. 45% will be dedicated to online marketing strategies.

But what if all you can afford is $100? Can you still run a campaign and get 100% results?

The answer to the first part of the question is “Yes”.

One of the benefits of digital marketing is flexibility. As we will discuss later in this article, it has the advantage of having onsite analytics which you can use to track the performance of your campaign in real time.

Analytics allows you to see which strategies are generating good Return on Investment (ROI) and which ones are not.

As for the second part, even if your budget runs in the millions of dollars, there are no guarantees in marketing.

Success in digital marketing will depend on the effort you put in. With such a tight budget, your margins for error will be quite small. You will have to be more strategic and purposeful in your approach.

Always keep your budget in mind. Don’t get swayed by the latest email marketing software or pushed to purchase the most expensive keyword phrases. Digital marketing opens up a treasure chest of tools and techniques. Some of them won’t even cost you a cent.

Now let’s get started!

1. No Website? No Problem!

The website is an integral part of your digital marketing strategy. It is basically your office address on the Internet; the place where potential customers click on to learn more about your products and services.

We discussed the advantages of having a website in our article, “What Type of Website Does Your Business Need?”. Building a website will certainly entail an investment.

But even if you don’t have enough capital to fund a website at this point, you should still buy a domain. A domain is simply the name of your website. The costs of registering a domain name can vary. You can acquire one for as little as $10 per year.

Once your domain name has been registered, you can use it as your professional email address and have it indicated on your calling card. The domain can also forward to your social media accounts until such time that you have the resources to set up your website.

2. Promote Your Business Via Social Media

With more than 3 billion users per day, social media has become a very powerful driver of business. Social media marketing can help you generate leads, improve sales conversions and enhance your credibility in the industry.

There are a number of social media networks to choose from. The most popular platforms and their community sizes are as follows:

  • Facebook – 2.061 Billion
  • YouTube – 1.5 Billion
  • Instagram – 800 Million
  • Twitter – 330 Million
  • Reddit – 250 Million
  • Pinterest – 200 Million

Looking at the list, it may seem that the wise move would be to set up accounts with the largest networks. But when it comes to social media marketing, size does not always matter.

You should select the social media networks that have the features to support your marketing objectives and that match the platform used by your target audience.

For example:

  • Facebook, Twitter – If your goal is to build brand awareness and distribute content.
  • YouTube, Instagram – If you plan to integrate video and picture content in your marketing campaign.
  • Instagram, Pinterest – If your business deals with visual-heavy merchandise such as fashion apparel, jewelry and health supplements.
  • Facebook, LinkedIn – If you want to connect with influencers in your industry.

It will not cost you a cent to open a social media account. But you need to invest time and effort managing the accounts especially when it comes to creating content and engaging with followers.

3. Register Your Business In An Online Directory

When an Internet user wants to look for a specific product or service, the search will begin with an online query.

By registering your business in an online directory, its name could come up in the search engine’s “map pack”.

What is a map pack? This is the list of establishments or businesses that are included in the results page provided by the search engine.

For example, if an Internet user does a search for personal fitness trainers in Cardiff, Google would produce a map pack that looks like this:

(Image courtesy of https://www.totalcoaching.com/blog/seo-guide-personal-trainers)

As Google is the largest search engine on the Internet. It makes perfect sense to sign your business up with Google’s online directory.

This is very easy to do and signing up is for free. All you need is to register your business at GoogleMyBusiness.

When registering your business, make sure you are providing accurate and updated contact information:

  • Business Name
  • Business Address
  • Business Phone Number
  • Website Link
  • Email Address
  • Categories
  • Business Description

Google will send you a validation code via postal mail to confirm your business address.  

4. Identify Your Target Market

Content creation is a very important component of an effective digital marketing strategy. There are many types of content. You can produce blogs, videos and even podcasts.

But the first thing you need to do is identify the target market for your content. You have to create a buyer’s profile. This is the segment of your market with the highest probability of being converted from followers to paying customers.

Assuming you don’t have a website, here are 4 ways to pinpoint the buying characteristics of your target market:

  • Review your current level of content in your social media accounts. Determine which posts have generated the highest levels of engagement, likes and shares.
  • Check out the social media accounts of your most active followers and observe the types of content they post. Instagram and Facebook are great sources for identifying customer online behavioral patterns.
  • Visit the social media pages of your closest competitors. Take note of the topics they frequently post or blog about. Find out the types of content that generate the highest amount of engagement, likes and shares from their followers.
  • Conduct a survey within your community. Ask them about the topics they would want you to cover in your blogs and articles.

These strategies will not cost you anything because you can conduct them through social media or email.

5. Sharpen Your Writing Skills

Blogging is widely regarded as the cornerstone in the content marketing process. A well-crafted blog that is informative, relevant and usable to the audience will surely help enhance your reputation as an expert in your industry. Blogs are proven drivers of inbound traffic.

But many entrepreneurs are hesitant to blog because they don’t believe they have the writing skills. The truth is everyone has the ability to write a great blog. All you need is practice!

Writing is a learned skill. Like shooting a basketball, hitting a golf ball or hitting a backhand return in tennis, you simply have to keep practicing in order to get better. The more you write, the better you will get:

  • Set a specific time in the day for writing; 60 to 90 minutes a day of uninterrupted writing should suffice.
  • Choose a topic that you are familiar with and related to your business. It should be relevant to your buyer’s profile.
  • Establish a structure for writing. For example, create an outline first. Then research for reference links.
  • Learn to write for your audience; this means avoid using technical jargon. Remember, you should assume that you are the expert and your readers want to learn from you. Write in a language they can understand.
  • Review your work and watch out for grammatical and spelling errors.
  • Ask 2 to 3 of your most trusted friends or family to comment on your writing.

The other aspects of content writing such as the use of keywords can be learned at another time. For now, focus on developing basic writing skills.

Once you have become more confident with your writing skills, start a blogging schedule:

Blogging takes time and effort. You have to do accurate research to make sure you are sharing facts that are well supported by reliable evidence. You also have to focus on writing original content. This means avoiding the risk of copying another writer’s content.

If you don’t have a website yet, you can use the blogging platform provided by LinkedIn then share it to your other social media accounts.

6. Track Your Performance Using Analytics

As we mentioned earlier in this article, digital marketing has the advantage of web analytics to help you track the performance of your campaign.

Web analytics are programs used to collect valuable data from your website or social media accounts. The collected data will help you better understand how your website is performing by answering these questions:

  • Where is the bulk of my traffic coming from?
  • Which pages have the highest visits?
  • What types of content are being read more often?

Analytics can identify potential problems that are hindering the campaign’s progress. It will tell you which techniques are working and which ones aren’t. This way you have solid bases for realigning your digital marketing budget. You can put more resources on strategies that result in higher ROI.

Social media networks like Facebook and Twitter have built-in analytics. You can also download offsite analytics tools free of charge.

It may seem complicated at first but in time and with consistency, you will get better at evaluating analytics.

7. Expand Your Network

Networking is a proven way of building your business by connecting with key people in your industry. One of the most effective social networking sites is LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is the preferred social network of professionals. There are a number of ways you can build your business through this platform:

  • LinkedIn has a blogging feature which allows you to post blogs and share it with those in your community.
  • You can customize the parameters of your search so you can connect with community members who fit your buyer’s profile, target demographic or those who hold influential positions in the industry.
  • Sign up and engage regularly with community focus groups that are directly involved with your industry.
  • Post relevant content at least once a day in order to stay top-of-mind with your community.

Although signing up for LinkedIn is for free, its features for customizing search parameters will require a monthly subscription fee that ranges from $29.99 to $79.99.

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are other effective social media networks you can use to connect with key influencers and expand your community.

Conclusion

Digital marketing gives you the most efficient way of reaching your target market by capitalizing on the power of the Internet. Because digital marketing primarily uses Internet-based tools to run its campaigns, it will be easier on your budget as most of these processes are free.

Finally, the benefit of having web analytics allows you to identify weak points in your campaign so you can further streamline your budget.

The biggest investment you will make in running a digital marketing campaign is time. You will have to spend time to become a more proficient writer. As your campaign gains traction, you will have to double up on your efforts.

If you want to learn more about running an effective but low budget digital marketing program, please give us a call or drop us an email.

We will gladly take you through the process of planning a well-thought out and highly efficient digital marketing campaign.

If a simple car battery replacement becomes a full-blown mechanical problem that requires an expensive air-conditioning fix, it would be safe to assume you are getting ripped off by your auto mechanic. The same can be said for your General Contractor if a seemingly harmless leak in the ceiling has sprung into a rooftop replacement scenario. But how would you know that you are getting ripped off by a Digital Marketing agency?

As the Internet continues to grow in influence and accessibility and as technology evolves to give us the latest in digital innovations, it becomes more important for businesses to incorporate Digital Marketing into their brand development strategy.

Put simply, if you’re not part of the digital landscape, you will be left behind by competitors who have invested time and resources to enhance their online presence.

With Digital Marketing, you leverage the power of the Internet by using its different tools and processes to connect with your target audience. We discussed the various strategies and techniques that comprise a Digital Marketing campaign in our article “How to Drive Traffic to Your Website”.

Ways to Get Digital Marketing Done for Your Business

Entrepreneurs are risk takers by nature. They like to be in the driver’s seat; take charge of the wheel and be in control of all aspects of the journey toward entrepreneurial success. It is not uncommon to find entrepreneurs manage their businesses’ own Digital Marketing campaign.

But even if you have an extensive background and experience in Digital Marketing, it is not advisable to do it on your own. Digital Marketing is a process that takes time to manifest results. As the business owner, your available hours in the day are best dedicated to activities that directly contribute dollars and cents to your bottomline.

That leaves you with two other options for Digital Marketing: Hire a freelancer or contract the services of a Digital Marketing agency.

A freelancer is an individual contractor who specializes in Digital Marketing. He/she will be the cheaper option but keep in mind two things:

  1. The freelance Digital Marketer will need to hire other contracted talent;
  2. The freelance Digital Marketer will also have other clients to manage.

With these 2 factors to consider, it will be difficult for the freelance Digital Marketer to devote 100% full attention on your campaign because he/she cannot guarantee the schedule of the other contracted talent and available time might be constrained by deadlines to other clients.

Contracting the services of a Digital Marketing agency would be your best option as it provides you with the following advantages:

  1. A ready team of experts in every area of Digital Marketing.
  2. Experience and track record for providing excellent service.
  3. Availability of backup services; if your content writer is indisposed, another one can be recommended and assigned to your campaign.
  4. More professional approach; built-in workflows and processes for reporting, record-keeping and client collaboration.
  5. Centralized system of management makes it easier to organize and oversee progress and track performance.
  6. While generally more expensive than freelancers, agencies are open to negotiate their payment structures.

More companies are outsourcing their Digital Marketing needs to third party service providers/ agencies because it is not their core competence. They prefer to leave Digital Marketing to the experts.

Plus, as a contracted service, the company does not incur additional expenses for payroll, benefits, rent and other operations-related items as they would have if they had chosen to do Digital Marketing in-house.

Over the years, more agencies have entered the Digital Marketing industry which has resulted in the dilution of the quality of work rendered.

How to Avoid Getting Ripped Off by Digital Marketing Agencies

No doubt, some of you may have heard horror stories from well-meaning entrepreneurs who fell victim to the “Digital Marketing Agency from Hell”. Perhaps some of you have been victims themselves.

As with competitors within an industry; no two service providers are ever the same. One will always provide better service and performance than the other. In some cases, the quantity of substandard service providers may outnumber the good ones and the Digital Marketing industry is no exception.

There will always be principled proprietors of Digital Marketing and there will always be scammers out to stiff you of your hard earned money.

Here are our tips on how to avoid being ripped off by Digital Marketing agencies:

1. Learn All You Can about Digital Marketing

Digital Marketing is a dynamic approach; it is always in a state of evolution because markets never remain passive.

Through the Internet, consumers have greater access to information. Tastes and preferences are much more sensitive to change than ever before. Digital Marketing has developed different terminologies and jargon that agencies may use to impress or throw you off.

Arm yourself with knowledge; learn what you can about Digital Marketing and its various processes. You don’t have to be an expert but get your proficiency up to a level that you can make heads or tails of the conversation thread.

Another option is to bring a friend or an associate with experience in Digital Marketing during your meeting with the agency.

2. Look at The Agency’s Previous Work

Before you schedule the meeting, ask all prospective Digital Marketing agencies to provide you with client references or a link to a website that shows their body of work.

Take a look at the websites they have built and designed for clients. Do they all look the same with similar content and images? Are the websites functioning well? Are they mobile responsive?

How about the social media pages they set up for clients? Is the level of engagement impressive?

If they gave you a list of clients as references, make it a point to establish contact with them and find out all you can about their experience working with the agency.

3. They Push One-Size-Fits-All Campaigns

Be wary of Digital Marketing agencies that offer you set packages. Digital Marketing campaigns do not follow a blueprint because the goals and objectives of clients will vary.

Marketing strategies must be customized to fit the needs of the client. A big part of the process is market research. A reputable agency will conduct extensive research even at the preliminary stage to learn as much as it can about your business, the industry and your target audience.

Research will be the basis of the Creative Brief or the campaign strategy for your business.

And don’t get fooled by basement bottom pricing tactics! These agencies know pricing is an important consideration for businesses trying out Digital Marketing for the first time because you want to manage risk exposure.

They will get you hook, line and sinker with an attractively priced package. Once your account is in their grasp, they’ll slowly add on to the original contract price with more charges and “unforeseen” fees.

The best Digital Marketing agencies are willing to negotiate their fees or work with you on your budget.

4. Ask as Many Questions as Possible

You don’t want to become the client that sees hard earned dollars flushed down the toilet simply because the agency could not deliver results.

Some agencies will insist on using online marketing tools or specific software programs where the subscriptions could cost you thousands of dollars every year.

What they won’t tell you is that they are earning a commission from the supplier for the continued use of the program even though you are not seeing results.

It all sounds good at the start. You can be dazzled by an amazing PowerPoint presentation. But don’t let the bright colors, fine graphics and enticing numbers on the screen fool you.

Push, prod and probe as hard as you can. Don’t hesitate to ask as many questions as possible. Again it comes down to learning what you can about Digital Marketing.

Lastly, don’t commit to anything until you have given the proposal enough thought.

5. The Agency Guarantees Immediate Results

If an Agency guarantees you top billing on the first page of the Search Engine Results Page after a few months, head for the door and run away as fast as you can without looking back.

The Agency is getting ready to scam you of your hard earned money. The same goes for agencies that assure you of more than 1,000 followers every week or 100% guaranteed sales conversions. There are no guarantees in Digital Marketing.

You cannot establish a time-table and identify when results will be realized. It is a process that requires consistency, constant review and frequent upgrades. As markets change, so will your campaign specifics.

To get to the top section of the first page of the SERP requires consistent production of high quality and keyword-rich content, a strategic distribution schedule, high level engagement and a consistently high performing website.

This will not be an easy task and you will be competing with other websites that may be using similar strategies.

6. They Are Not Involved in the Process

Does the agency email you with charts that you can’t make heads or tails with? Is the explanation on the report vague and inundated with terms that read Greek to you?

Agencies that flood you with reports that don’t make sense want you to think they are doing their job. Another serious red flag is if the agency does not set meetings with you to discuss web analytics or to give you a more comprehensive idea on how your campaign is doing.

It should never be enough just to send reports. A respectable agency should take the time to sit down with you and explain how the campaign is performing. They expose themselves to being questioned and are fine with it.

7. They Don’t Respond Within an Appreciable Time Frame

In business, correspondence should merit a response within 24 hours. That is enough time for the recipient to formulate a well-thought out reply.

Agencies should conduct themselves as professionals and respond to all communication from you within an appreciable time frame.

It does not matter if the agency’s days are busier than usual. It will not take more than a few minutes to craft an email or to schedule a phone call.

Conclusion

Digital Marketing is a proven way to effectively promote your business on the Internet. But its growth as a process has opened up the industry to opportunistic agencies that overpromise and underdeliver results.

Always take the time to prepare before committing yourself to a venture. Conduct research on the industry, uncover its best practices and perform due diligence on all Digital Marketing service providers who want you to sign up with them.

Time spent on preparation will save you thousands of dollars on unfulfilled objectives and expectations.

If you want to learn more about Digital Marketing, give us a call or drop us an email. We would love to help you take your business to the next level!

The word “brand” gets thrown around a lot in marketing discussions. Marketers will advise you to build your brand even before you launch your business. Many entrepreneurs will probably assume they need to have a logo designed and marketing copy made. But is a brand merely a logo with a catchy tagline?

What Exactly Does Having a Brand Mean?

A brand is a promise; you know exactly what you are going to get. When you see the logo or hear the name, it triggers emotional cues in your subconscious. Coming across the famous Golden Arches of McDonald’s gives you the feeling of comfort; enjoying its burgers and French fries with  family or friends.

The iconic red and white logo of Coca Cola with the scripted font design makes you want to be refreshed even when you are not thirsty. It doesn’t matter that soft drinks contain refined sugars, high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavoring and coloring, “I want my Coke!”

The case for having a strong brand is best exemplified by Nike which was accused in 1991 for hiring child labor in its Asia-based factories.

The company did not deny the accusations of child labor. In fact in 1998, Nike CEO Phil Knight publicly admonished his own company, accepted full responsibility for the situation and immediately instituted measures to improve working conditions in their factories.

In his speech, Knight said, “I truly believe the American consumer does not want to buy products made under abusive conditions.”

However, It is interesting to note that Nike’s sales during these turbulent period from 1995 to 2005 remained solid. Annual sales revenue in 1995 was $4.76 Billion and hit $13.74 Billion in 2005; an increase of 189% over a 10 year period.

Nike survived years of economic and social turmoil because it had built a very strong brand.

It takes years to build a brand. Your initial blueprint will undergo revisions in logo, text format, color, marketing copy and personality as your company likewise goes through changes.

A good example is Apple.

From its initial convoluted design of Sir Isaac Newton sitting under an apple tree, the logo has gone through a number of changes. The iconic bitten apple design with rainbow colors by graphic designer Rob Janoff coincided with its introduction of the Apple II, the first PC with color display.

The company dropped the rainbow colors and went with a metallic look for the release of the iMac. As the company put out more products in the market, the logo assumed a glass themed design. Eventually, Apple founder Steve Jobs went with a monochromatic look explaining:

“Simple can be harder than complex; you have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.”

The late Jobs was also known for his monochromatic taste in fashion; always seen wearing a black sweater.

So what is a brand? It is everything about your business; what it represents, its purpose, values, principles and other attributes that define its personality. If a business is defined as a living, breathing entity then that personality is you.

Therefore your brand is you.

5 Benefits of Having a Strong Brand

Brand building is one of the most important, yet overlooked aspects of starting a business. Many fledgling entrepreneurs believe that you should only work on your brand when business starts gaining traction.

In other words, get the cash register ringing first before you worry about building a strong brand.

But here’s the reality of consumer behavior: People don’t patronize products. They patronize brands.

Your product or service is not a brand. It is just a commodity and in the absence of a good, effective branding strategy, it will be lost in the sea of commodities that flood the market.

Here are 5 benefits of having a strong brand:

1. Differentiates Your Product From Everyone Else’s

One of the biggest misconceptions about consumer behavior is that buyers only care about price. Of course, everyone wants to save money but as Steve Jobs once said:

“Pricing does not equate to value.”

Buying the most expensive brand does not mean acquiring the best product in the market as buying the cheapest does not translate to getting a good deal on the purchase.

According to Nobel Prize winning Psychiatrist Daniel Kahneman, consumers base their decisions to purchase on aligned purpose. They couldn’t care less about the price or the ingredients on the label. Instead they care about what your product represents.

This pertains to the “why” of your product; it’s purpose.

Look at Starbucks. It’s been widely criticized for selling expensive coffee but people still flock to their stores for their daily brew. Why? Because the company has been a staunch advocate of the Green Movement.

It donates a percentage of its profits to charitable causes and a number of foundations that work for a cleaner environment. So even if you spend a few more dollars on coffee you could brew at home, you know it is for a good cause.

2. Creates Consumer Recall

Effective branding is a successful marriage between science and psychology. Marketers conduct extensive studies before conceptualizing brand building strategies. They analyze data on your business and target market.

Brand building is not specific to a product or service. It’s purpose is to package your entire value proposition in the most effective way and create an indelible impact on a potential end user.

Keep this in mind: Brands outlive products and services.

Products have life cycles; brands don’t. Take a look at apparel. Companies like Levi’s have gone through flared bottoms, tapered pants, acid wash, engineered jeans, button-fly and slim fit. The brand remains unchanged.

You could overhaul your entire product line within a few years but if your brand remains firmly entrenched in the consumer’s consciousness, you will always have a market.

3. Acts as a Hedge Versus Risk

We discussed the case of Nike and how it survived and actually thrived during a turbulent period in the company’s history.

Another example is Pepsi and that woeful Kendall Jenner advertisement. It was “inspired” by the Black Lives Matter movement and tried to create social awareness. But it was so poorly conceptualized and executed that it turned Pepsi into a laughing stock and trivialized the significance of the movement.

Fortunately, it had built such a strong brand that it was able to shrug off advertising missteps. Pepsi continues to wage a close battle with Coca Cola for supremacy in the soft drinks industry.

A strong brand acts as a hedge versus risk because marketing is hit and miss. There are so many uncertainties and factors you cannot control when conceptualizing ideas.

Sometimes you’ll hit a homerun. Sometimes you’ll strike out on the plate. It will be easier for consumers to forgive if your brand has been associated with quality and good value for a long time.

 4. Establishes Trust

When you go to a grocery store, why do you find yourself reaching out for specific brands even though others would be cheaper?

When you are inside a mall, why do you patronize certain restaurants over others even ones that just opened and were heavily publicized?

The answer is because you trust them.

As we mentioned in our definition of a brand, you know what you are getting. The risk of not enjoying the experience is very small. In fact the only risk is the foregone opportunity of trying a new brand that could potentially be better.

Going back to Daniel Kahneman’s work on consumer behavior, he theorized that our decision making process is influenced by two distinct processes: the emotional side and the rational side.  

Kahneman believes consumers are emotional decision- makers. They patronize products that they share an alignment or emotional connection with. It is only after the purchase was made that the rational mind takes over and asks, “Why did you buy that diet beverage when it is loaded with unhealthy substances?”

You may validate your decision by stating, “This company has been successful for so many years, they would not put anything in their products that would cause me harm.”

You should invest in building a strong brand because it will help you establish  loyalty from your customers.

5. Enhances Your Marketing and Advertising Campaigns

Who doesn’t love Budweiser’s Superbowl commercials? The advertisements use animals like dogs and Clydesdale horses as the central characters. Beer drinking humans only play supporting roles.

In fact, you don’t even get to see the product in the ads. Perhaps you’ll see a box for a 6-pack but for the most part, only the company’s logo is featured. When you watch a Budweiser commercial, you get the “feels”, it is comforting and refreshing just like a tall, cool glass of beer.

Here’s a piece of trivia: Superbowl ads do not translate to brisk sales.

So why do companies like Budweiser spend millions of dollars for these ads? Other than the large audience the Superbowl brings, favorable recall carries over to the company’s long term marketing and advertising campaigns.

For Budweiser, it was the perfect platform to hold a stand against the onslaught of the growing craft beer market.

The payoff will be felt over the next few months or years as the company continues to build on its brand.

Conclusion: How to Build a Strong Brand

The popularity of the Internet has become a double- edged sword for marketers. On one side, it has given us different avenues to deliver content. Most businesses utilize up to five social media platforms to distribute content. And that is just via social media.

A typical digital marketing campaign would include other tools such as web design and development, SEO, SEM, content writing, link building and PPC or Pay-Per-Click advertising.

But on the flip side of things, having all of these tools and processes at our disposal can be confusing. If you don’t know what you’re doing, it would be like trying to hit a target 7 yards away with a shotgun. You’ll just splatter ammo all over the place.

Without strategy, thought and purpose your marketing efforts to build your brand will not pay out as expected. All the hard work you put in your content will just go under the radar.

If you want to build a strong brand, you must first determine its strength potential.

1. Run a Brand Audit

A brand audit seeks to uncover the factors that drive growth and determine how the product or service is viewed by the market.

You have to undertake an in-depth analysis of your competition:

  • Review and analyze their websites
  • Study their current online marketing programs
  • Pinpoint the advertising channels they are using
  • Assess the types of content they are publishing and distributing
  • Determine their market share in the industry

Cross reference the information with data on your own business and its current level of performance. This will give you a better idea of how to improve your brand building strategy.

2. Determine Your Brand Value Proposition

Your Brand Value Proposition (BVP) is your key business differentiator. It answers the question, “Why should you choose my brand over others?”

Please take note: BVP does not pertain to a specific product. Instead it encompasses everything you want your target market or audience to know about your business. Specifically, this refers to your purpose.

Determining your business purpose isn’t an empty exercise. You don’t just come up with a string of words that you believe will resonate with your end users. Trust us, customers will know because the BVP will seem contrived and will not resonate with them.

If you want to know your BVP, ask yourself this simple question:

“What 5 non-negotiable values do I adhere to?”

Your core values act as guidelines in how you make decisions. Everything that you do for your business will pass through these values without fail: How you recruit, who you hire, its pricing points, customer service, your product mix and promotions.

Non-negotiable means exactly that. You cannot under any circumstances compromise your core values when making decisions.

Adhering to your core values will shape how your target market perceives you and your business. In time and with consistency, your end users will come to understand and acknowledge who you are and what your brand represents.

Remember what we stated earlier in this article:

Your brand is you.

If you enjoyed reading this and would like to know more about the power of having a strong brand, please give us a call or drop an email.

We would be more than happy to help you through the process of establishing your brand in the market place.

Social media is not a fad. It is here to stay. And it will only get bigger and more influential over the next few years. If your business is not on social media, you are tremendously undercutting its growth potential by not having an active online presence.

The growth of social media coincided with the emergence of mobile technology as the dominant source of Internet traffic. Consumers literally have access to information in the palm of their hands.

Social media has also given consumers a voice on the Internet. Advances in smartphone technology have made it easier to share, post comments, opinions and images on various platforms.

Thus, social media has become the bridge for business and the consumer to reach out and interact with one another.

How fast is social media growing?

67% of Internet users are on social media every day. That is almost 30% of the world’s population. And every day the number of social media users increases by 1 Million.

If you want your business to be competitive, you must improve its visibility by building an online presence. Social media marketing is one of the best ways to do it.

Don’t think that you are too late in the game to start a social media campaign for your business. With social media, the popular saying “Better late than never” rings loud and clear.

6 Benefits of Social Media for Your Business

In its early days, social media was primarily used as a medium for connecting and sharing with friends and family. It was dismissed as a fad; a pastime or hobby for kids who were fascinated by this technology that allowed them to build communities and interact with them in real time regardless of location.

If the old adage was “sharing is caring”, with social media, “sharing is empowering”. Social media has shifted the balance of power to the consumer.

Hollywood movies like “The Hunger Games”, “Twilight”, “Monsters vs Aliens”, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” and “Toy Story 3” became blockbusters through smart and savvy social media marketing.

If you can harness the power and influence of social media, you can open up your business to a multitude of benefits:

1. Increase Brand Awareness

Your brand is how you want your market to perceive you. Social media is a great vehicle for delivering your message to your target audience. The more active you are in distributing content, the higher the probability of gaining more followers.

2. Learn More About Your Customers

Social media gives consumers a platform to engage with business in real time. You can gain valuable insights on how your customer thinks; the issues that matter to them the most and their immediate concerns.

You can do this simply by taking into account the content that generates the most likes and shares. Another way is to engage with them in comment threads.

3. Laser-Focused Target Advertising

Social media advertising is a highly efficient way to promote your products and services. They are quite inexpensive and your content is delivered directly to your target audience.

For example, if you want to post ads in LinkedIn, you can set the distribution parameters according to location, industry, job title and gender. At Facebook, you can choose the demographic qualities and specific online behaviors that may patronize your ad.

4. Improve Conversion Rates

We all know the value of “hands-on management”. Social media allows you to do just that by regularly engaging with your audience. By establishing a high touch approach, you build a level of trust and transparency with your customers. 75% of businesses that used social media increased sales within 12 months.

5. Humanize Your Brand

Relationship- building is a powerful force in business especially in this day and age of social media. Your relationship with the customer should not end once money has been exchanged for a product or service. On the contrary, you should take steps to nurture the relationship over the next few years.

Happy and satisfied customers can be a steady source of recurring income. And the cost of generating new revenue from old customers are lower in comparison to new customers. They can also be great ambassadors for your brand. Another way to view social media is “virtual word-of-mouth”.  

6. Take Your Customer Service to the Next Level

Businesses tend to focus most of their efforts on new market creation that they have overlooked the value of current market retention. You’ve already sold them to your brand. Your attention should now shift to the overall experience.

But take note of the following social media statistics on customer service:

  • 89% of social media messages to brands are ignored.
  • The average response time for a brand to reply to a user query is 10 hours. A user will only wait an average of 4 hours for a reply to his or her query.
  • 71% of end-users who had a great social media customer service experience with a brand will recommend it to others.

Customer service gives your end-user the means to establish a personal connection with your brand. This is where you build trust and reputation.

Take good care of your customers via social media and they will take care of you in the same way.

 6 of the Most Popular Social Media Networks

Social media platforms have mushroomed in the World Wide Web. Some have come and gone. Others have been acquired. Through it all, these six social media networks have remained the most popular because of their ability to consistently bring in results for your marketing and promotional campaigns:

  1. Facebook – Need we say more? Of the 2 Billion people on social media everyday, nearly 1.8 Billion are on Facebook. Easy to navigate with a host of options, Facebook is a wonderful starting point for your social media campaign.
  2. Twitter – With only 140 characters per tweet, Twitter is a great way to send multiple but short updates. It currently has 328 Million active users and is frequently ranked among the top 10 websites in the United States.
  3. LinkedIn –  If you want to connect with key figures or influencers in your industry, LinkedIn is the way to go. You can customize your search parameters and qualify your connections by age, position, gender, location and industry. 467 Million people have signed up with LinkedIn.
  4. Instagram – This social media platform is owned by Facebook and currently has 700 Million subscribers. It is a purely visual network but provides you with amazing photo and video editing features.
  5. Pinterest – Similar to Instagram, Pinterest emphasizes visual content. With Pinterest you can save, display and categorize content on a virtual bulletin board with the use of digital “pins”. There are 175 Million active users of Pinterest.
  6. YouTube – With over a billion monthly users, YouTube is a fantastic social media network to upload video content. It is now owned by Google which means you can use Google AdSense to make money on the number of views generated by your video.

There are other popular social media networks to consider such as Reddit, Google+ and Tumblr.

The big question is, “Which one is for you?”

Which Social Media Network is for Your Business?

You don’t have to open an account in every social media network. In fact when starting out a social media campaign, you should pick out only 2 to 3 platforms to begin with. There are two reasons for limiting the number of platforms:

  • You won’t spread out your campaign too thin; you can execute all activities with more focus and according to schedule.
  • Social media networks have their own advantages and disadvantages; not all platforms will generate the results you want.

So how do you know which social media network is right for your business?

1. Facebook

Facebook is unquestionably the largest social community on the Internet. But does popularity alone merit its consideration in your social media campaign?

As we mentioned earlier, if you’re starting out a campaign, Facebook is a great way to get your feet wet. You can set up a company page and customize your Facebook ads according to preferred demographics. The site is very user friendly and with its acquisition of Instagram, Facebook gives you another conduit for video content.

If you are targeting an older demographic; ages 25 to 54, Facebook will be an effective medium to deliver your marketing content. This age bracket composes 61% of Facebook’s users and 44% of them check their page frequently throughout the day.

2. Twitter

If Facebook appears to be losing its grip on younger users; only 9% still frequent the site, not so with Twitter. This is a great social platform to use if your business caters to a younger market, both men and women.

Its short messaging format appeals to those who frequently search for topic- based news or quick but timely insights.

The best way to optimize the power of Twitter is to engage frequently with your audience. Thus,  Twitter is a valuable tool at the early stages of your social media campaign when you are trying to acquire followers.

3. LinkedIn

LinkedIn offers a completely different vibe compared to other social media networks. You might say everyone who is on LinkedIn at any particular time is still on work mode.

This is a fantastic network for you to focus your campaign on if you are in the B2B industry. LinkedIn account users have their own blogging platform which allows you the medium to share your expertise and provide valuable insights to those in your community.

LinkedIn is particularly effective in helping you find clients or end users for your business. Stay active with your blogging, frequently engage your targeted audience and you will soon have professionals reaching out to you.

4. Instagram and Pinterest

We paired these two social networks because both Instagram and Pinterest are valuable for businesses with image or visual driven products. Visual content is a powerful vehicle for delivering your message.

According to a study, 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual and those images are processed 60,000 times faster than text. Using Instagram or Pinterest is important for building your brand.

But if you had to choose between the two?

Choose Pinterest if your business caters to women. 42% of the female online shopping segment use Pinterest. Women aged 18 to 49 account for 62% of Pinterest’s users.

5. YouTube

If you have the resources to produce great and compelling videos, sign up for your own YouTube channel. With videos, you can deliver your message within 3 minutes and viewers get the entire experience: sight, sound and feel. It has a more profound impact on your audience than text content.

You can also run your PPC ads in YouTube and be assured of a large and targeted audience. If you want to learn more about PPC ads, please refer to our article  “SEO vs PPC: Which One is Better for Your Business?

Conclusion

Social media marketing is a proven way of building your business and establishing your brand. But it is not an exercise that you should go in blindly. In the same way that it could help your business grow, it could also damage your reputation if the campaign is improperly handled.

Here are a few examples of botched social media marketing:

  • United Airlines – After security personnel forcibly dragged a passenger off his seat, CEO Oscar Muniz issued a statement in social media blaming the victim while simultaneously praising security. United Airlines lost billions in revenues over the next few weeks.
  • McDonald’s – The company Twitter page sent out a tweet calling President Donald J. Trump “a disgusting excuse of a President”. It turned out their account was hacked but the backlash showed how an ill-advised tweet can affect your brand.
  • Adidas – The company tweeted “Congratulations! You Survived the Boston Marathon” for those who completed the iconic race. It was an innocent but poor choice of words which triggered memories of the 2013 bombing that killed and injured several participants and bystanders.

If you want to avoid these mistakes, it would be best to outsource your social media marketing to an experienced third party.

We’ve managed a number of social media campaigns for clients and make it a point to review, research, test and double-check all content before distributing them online.

Are you thinking about running a social media marketing campaign? Give us a call or drop us an email. We can go into detail on how we can design, implement and track your social media campaign for the best results.