Do you own your website? It may sound like a counter-intuitive question. After all, the website is for your business and you paid for it. It follows that with an exchange of currency for services comes ownership. The rules of buy and sell are very much black and white when it comes to goods and services. However, the area of ownership gets grayer when it comes to website design.

Digital Trap: Why Website Ownership Is Very Important

It is a story we have heard narrated by clients who came to us for website design. They signed up with a freelance web designer, web development or digital marketing agency.

They are given a powerful presentation of how investing in a website and digital marketing can increase sales conversions by a hundred-fold. Encouraged and inspired, they issue payment and begin to hear an imaginary cash register ringing over and over again.

Then the unthinkable happens. Results aren’t coming in as expected. The agency starts billing you for add-on services that were not part of the original plan. The relationship starts to turn sour. The cash registers have not rung and have gathered virtual cobwebs. You want out but can’t.

In fact, you can’t even claim your website. Unless you continue to pay the monthly fees, you risk losing your website and all of its contents.  You try to negotiate for the release of your website but the agency hits you with a gigantic fee.

Your website has turned into a hostage situation.

Unfortunately for you, there is nothing you can do because you didn’t read through the fine print of your contract. Upon close review with your attorney, you realized you signed away your website for full control and ownership of the agency.

Has this happened to you? If so, don’t be discouraged. As we shared in our article, “What Type Of Website Does Your Business Need?”, having a website is crucial for business success in this day and age of the Internet and digital mobile technology.

We have helped dozens of clients get back on the digital path to business success by building websites they have full control over.

Trust and transparency are two very important business values for us at Mountaintop Web Design. This is why we are writing this article advising why you need to claim full ownership of your website.

Website Ownership: What You Need To Know

Paying for design services does not automatically give you full ownership of your website. The principle of buy and sell takes different turns when it comes to web design. In ways it is similar to buying a house.

Before the title is turned over, you have to make sure the property is clear of any liens and the contract does not have legal loopholes. There have been cases whereby a homeowner loses his house because as it turns out, someone else owns the property.

In our article, “How To Choose Your Web Host”, we discussed the process of web hosting. You need a web host to connect your website to the Internet. Essentially, a web host agreement allows you to rent space on their servers for your website. Your website files will be stored on these servers.

If your web host provides the leased premises, your domain name is your address which is given as an IP address. Therefore, technically, you don’t own your domain name. You pay the web host an annual fee so you can use it. If you stop paying, you lose exclusive rights to your domain name. It may not sound fair, but that is the reality of the situation.

What you do own are the content and materials that are posted or used on the website. These materials include text, image and video content. You also have ownership over its design and programming code.

However, you have to make sure these components are indicated in your contract and that you have full ownership and control over them.

Remember you are protected by the Copyright Law which states that the creator (you) of the website has full and complete ownership of its assets: the content, design and programming code.

If you are not happy with your current web host services provider, you can terminate the arrangement or simply choose not to renew your contract. Then you can transfer your website to a new location.

By getting your contracts squared out from the start, you get to bring all of your website assets with you to the new home.  

So let us recap:

What You Don’t Really Own:

  • Domain Name
  • Website Platform

What You Should Own:

  • All content – text, images and videos
  • Design – text and visuals
  • Source Code

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2 Risks Of Losing Website Ownership Rights

When you lose ownership of your website, starting all over again is not as simple as it seems. You don’t just pick up where you left off because there is nothing for you to pick up on.

1. SEO Rankings –

How much time and effort did you put into your search rankings? After so many years you may have finally made it to the first page of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP).

Unfortunately, your website has had technical issues. Visitors complain your website is hard to access or that its download speed is very slow. Then one morning you find out your website was hacked.

You contact customer support who advised you there was no automatic backup of files. Disappointed and frustrated, you decide to terminate the agreement.

The web host service provider refuses to release your content, code and domain name because it was not stated in your contract. What happens now?

You could file a case versus the web host services provider but the reality is, you’ve lost everything you’ve worked for. You have to start again from ground zero.

2. Loss of Analytics –  

Believe it or not, an agency may withhold your historical data from you even if this was not stated in the agreement. The agency will resort to these unscrupulous tactics to get you to stay.

There are agencies that may just decide to wipe out your data once they find out about your plan to terminate their services. It is nothing but harassment, plain and simple.

Losing your historical data will deal a huge blow to your efforts to start all over again.

3 Tips On How To Protect Your Website’s Assets

With all of these scenarios in mind, is it still worthwhile to build a website? Of course! If you want to capitalize on all the opportunities available on the Internet, your business must have a website.

It all comes down to making sure your assets: text, image and video content, the source code and domain name are adequately protected. The best way to secure your assets is to address the terms and condition of the agreement with the agency before any type of work is undertaken:

1. Clarify The Conditions Right Away –

During the preliminary meeting with the agency or website designer, ask them about ownership of the website.

Before signing any document, find out how ownership is determined and the status of your proprietary assets. The response of the web designer or agency representative should be one and the same.

If the representative gives a vague answer, end the meeting right away and look for another web design agency.

2. Get Details On The Hosting Arrangement –

Did you agree to have the hosting included? If you weren’t consulted and yet it was included, you might end up with your website hosted on the proprietary platform.

This means that when you decide to say “Goodbye”, you will not be able to bring your proprietary content and the source code with you.

3. Ask The Agency To Break Down The Cost Of Their Services –

You may not be aware of it, but you could be charged with various fees in addition to web hosting services.

Again, trust and transparency are the keys to business success. It is not uncommon for agencies to add other fees and charges to their services.

Conclusion

Every time you purchase products or engage services, the transaction has to be covered by a contract.

When you buy a physical good, the invoice details the conditions of the sale. For services, these are usually covered by a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) or a Service Level Agreement (SLA).

These contracts can appear tedious to read. You will have to go through a multitude of provisions which may contain correlations and/or addenda. Sometimes the fine print is as small as a size 8 font.

However, for your peace of mind, you have to go through the contract with a fine tooth comb. You can hire the services of an attorney. They have experience in reviewing contracts. An attorney can identify provisions which may appear onerous. You can hire the attorney to negotiate the contract on your behalf.

The bottom-line is don’t sign a contract unless you are 100% clear on what you are getting into. Once you affix your signature on a legal document, you are bound to honor it during its term.

Are you interested in setting up a website for your business? Give us a call or send us an email. We will take you through the entire process and we will uncover every stone to make sure you fully understand our web design agreement.

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Video content is essential for your business marketing strategy because it brings your brand to life. Unlike text-based content, video appeals to multiple senses: sight, sound, and feel. It is a great medium for delivering your branded value proposition. More businesses are allocating resources to video marketing. It is estimated that by 2019, 80% of online content will be done through the medium of video.

However, quality of content is not the only key to the success of your video marketing strategy. Where you upload your video likewise plays an important role in whether it will support your brand or compromise your marketing goals. As valuable as video content is, you should never host it on your website.

7 Reasons You Should Never Self-Host Videos

  1. Limited bandwidth will affect download speed.
  2. You will exceed available storage space given by web host.
  3. Slow loading video will give users poor experience with your site.
  4. You will need different versions of your video to fit various formats.
  5. It will affect the quality of the video.
  6. It will not generate the desired traffic for your video.
  7. Your video might get pirated by several websites.

Our preceding advice might sound counter-intuitive. In our article, “What Type of Website Does Your Business Need”, we summarized the many benefits of having a website for your businesses. If you want to capitalize on all the opportunities that are available on the Internet, you need a place to transact business.

We’ve described the website as your online business address. Think of it as your office on the Internet. If you are into e-commerce, selling fashion apparel, the website’s home page is like your store front window. People who click on your link would want to know what your business is all about and what your products and services are.

Therefore, given the advantages of video content that we discussed earlier, it should make sense to have a video placed on the home page.

That is correct. The videos that you find on the home page of a website are called explainer videos. The objective of the explainer video is to present the key selling points of your business in a condensed, video format; in short, a sales pitch.

According to a study by Internet Retailer, 85% of consumers purchase a product after watching an explainer video.

So yes, you should have video content positioned on your website home page. What you need to decide on is whether you should embed or self-host the video.

Embedded Videos vs. Self-Hosted Videos

There are two ways you can place a video on your website. The first approach is to embed a video which requires a two-step process:

  1. Find a Video Streaming Service – YouTube will probably come to mind right away. It is the Internet’s largest video streaming service and is the second biggest search engine after Google. You can upload videos to YouTube simply by opening a channel on the service.
  2. Copy and Paste – Find a place on your website where you want your YouTube video to appear. Copy the code from YouTube and paste it into the desired website location.

With an embedded video, you are using the streaming service’s servers instead of the server where your website is hosted.

In contrast, a self-hosted video means exactly that. You upload the video to your website the same way you would an image.

If you want to have a video appear on your website, we strongly recommend embedding the file through a third party streaming service provider rather than self-hosting or uploading it directly on your website.

7 Reasons Why You Should Never Host Your Own Videos On Your Website

You may have experienced some of the reasons we are about to discuss when you tried to play a video on a website. If you’re lucky, it may just take a while before it plays. In some case, the video will just keep buffering. For the rest, it may end up a frustrating experience as the video will not play at all.

Ask yourself how you felt when this happened to you. Were you frustrated? Disappointed? How did you feel about the website? What thoughts entered your head about the website?

Now switch roles and imagine it was your website which failed to play the video.

WordPress has features that allow you to upload videos to your website. However, just because you can does not mean you should.

An aluminum pan loaded with freshly-baked oatmeal cookies looks and smells good. It does not mean you should touch it right away because the pan itself could be scalding hot.

Self-hosting videos on your website is an easy process and seems like the best thing to do. After all, it is your video. It is only right that it should be uploaded to your website.

However, as we will explain, self-hosting videos will present problems that could be detrimental to your website and consequently, your business.

1. Limited Bandwidth

As we discussed in our article, “How To Choose Your Web Host”, there are five factors you need to consider before signing up with a web host service provider:

  • Type of security
  • Number of hosted email addresses
  • Type of data you will be storing and transmitting
  • Anticipated volume of traffic
  • Budget

These five factors will play a role in the amount of bandwidth the web host services provider will allocate for your website. Remember that a web host is like an apartment complex manager. You are just leasing space from him. And you are not the only one.

Videos are large files. Video files on HD format can easily check in at 100MB. What do you think will happen if different people click on your video at the same time?

Web host service providers have limited resources at their disposal. Other websites may also have self-hosted videos. Multiple requests for your video plus those of others on the server will stretch out those resources. Self-hosted videos will wreak havoc on the web host’s performance.

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2. Restrictions On File Size And Storage Space

Many web host service providers impose restrictions on the size of the file you can upload. Most will set the limit at 50MB per file. Right away, this restriction will prevent you from uploading a 100MB HD file or one of longer duration.

Your web host may also have included conditions in your agreement that keep you from uploading large video files. By attempting to upload videos that exceed the allowable file size, you may be in violation of the agreement’s provisions. As a result, you may find your website shut down.

If you frequently upload videos on your website that fall within the allowed file size, you will eventually exceed the amount of storage space allocated by your web host service provider.

Finally, the more self-hosted videos you have, the longer it will take to backup your website files.

3. Poor User Experience

As our scenarios played out, it can be a frustrating experience for users if the video they clicked on does not play right away or if at all.

On a single server, your website will only be given limited bandwidth by the web host. When someone clicks on your video, it will take some time for their PC or mobile device to download the file.

This will lead to unwanted pauses which come out as “buffering”. The issue will be made worse if the user has poor Internet connection.

User experience is a ranking factor in Google’s algorithm. If the search engine sees that people are clicking out of your website more frequently, it will penalize you in the search rankings.

4. Tedious Video File Conversion Process

People stream videos in different ways. There are those who prefer to stream videos from their PC or laptop because they want the complete experience: widescreen and HD.

Then there are those who watch videos on their smartphones. They are probably waiting for the bus or for an appointment and just looking to pass away the time.

You will have to convert your video into formats that can accommodate the streaming preferences of your audience. Not only will this be a tedious process but your site will have a difficult time knowing which user it will send a specific file to.

5. Compromise Video Quality

This is related to the previous section. If you decide to self-host videos on your website, you’ll have to convert the file so it can accommodate different formats.

There are a number of software apps you can use to convert the file for you. Unfortunately, when converting a video file to suit different formats, you will need to use more than one software app.

Each app will have its own video file-conversion process. This means the resolution of the video; its clarity and overall quality will come out different from one browser to another.

So while your video may look great in Google Chrome, it may come out grainy in Firefox.

6. Generating Traffic and Visibility Will be a Challenge

As we mentioned earlier in the article, YouTube is the largest video streaming service on the Internet. It is also the second largest search engine; right behind its owner, Google.

By posting a video on your YouTube channel and embedding the link on your website, you can capitalize on its popularity and massive following. If you are able to consistently produce high-quality, engaging, usable and relevant video content, more people will be subscribing to your channel. Eventually, many of them will find their way to your website.

Google also included YouTube as a ranking factor in its revised search algorithm. This is another enticing reason why you should just embed videos from your YouTube channel unto your website.

If you self-host videos on your website, you will be relying on your organic and paid marketing efforts to generate traffic and enhance its visibility on the Internet.

7. Risk of Video Getting Pirated

Unless your self-hosted video files are protected from being copied, they can be pirated and illegally re-distributed on various file-sharing websites. It will be fairly easy for anyone to just copy your video’s URL, download it to their PC, where it can be re-distributed according to the needs of the cyber-criminal.

You can probably find a software app that can prevent the source code from being copied. However, you will remain at risk if the app is not frequently updated.

Conclusion

The risk of video piracy also exists when you use a publicly- accessible, video-sharing platform such as YouTube. If piracy is a big concern, there are other third- party video streaming service providers with features that prevent your content from being pirated.

All told, the advantages of embedded videos far outweigh its disadvantages. For the seven reasons mentioned above, it is a better option than self-hosting videos on your website.

If you want to know more about embedding video content on your website, you can give us a call or send us an email inquiry. We have embedded videos for a good number of clients and we can certainly do the same for your website.

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Starting your business with digital marketing in place will put you on course to achieving your goals and objectives. Marketing is the last thing many startup entrepreneurs think about when launching their business. That is a mistake that could affect them in the long-term.

5 Reasons For Digital Marketing When Starting Your Business

  1. Brand building takes time.
  2. Digital marketing is a long-term process.
  3. Gain valuable insights into your target market.
  4. Provides opportunities to start earning revenue in the short-term.
  5. Analytics becomes a more reliable measure of your business’ performance.

The Advantages Of Starting Digital Marketing Early In Your Business

Like any new venture, getting started is the most difficult stage. A startup entrepreneur has his/her plate full thinking about financing, personnel, operating frameworks and the IT infrastructure needed to get the business started. Somehow, somewhere marketing gets lost in the planning process.

For many, marketing becomes an afterthought. The popular notion of marketing is that it should only start when the business is running smoothly.

They don’t want to actively market or promote their enterprise until they are 100% certain all aspects of the business – from goods and services to processes – are to their satisfaction.

First of all, nothing in business is 100% certain. It is unrealistic to think that your business model is perfect. Why? Because markets will always be in a constant state of change. Your business model will have to adapt to changes in your market.

A key benefit to having a digital marketing strategy in place is the ability to track these changes in your market.

Before broadband technology made the Internet accessible in 2004, the marketing process was largely considered hit and miss. Traditional marketing methods comprised strategy campaigns. These methods included press releases, advertorials, flyers, streamers and other POP’s or Point- of- Purchase materials.

Businesses had no credible way of tracking performance and ROI. Traditional marketing processes were expensive, inefficient and unsustainable. This is the main reason why businesses back then were hesitant to invest in a marketing program.

With digital marketing, there is no guesswork. You have access to real-time data which means you will have an accurate measure of ROI.

Digital marketing will give your startup all the advantages it needs to become successful by creating short and long-term streams of revenues, providing evidence-based data on how to streamline costs and most importantly, by establishing your brand value proposition to your target market.

5 Benefits Of Having A Digital Marketing Strategy When Starting Your Business

If you want your products and services found, you must invest in a digital marketing strategy. We discussed digital marketing at length in our articles, “How to Increase Your Website Traffic in 2018” and “How to Setup a Low Budget but Highly Effective Digital Marketing Campaign”. You can go back to those articles to have a refresher course on what digital marketing is all about.

Success in marketing relies on the successful delivery of the message. The message of your brand carries your value proposition or “Why my product or service is better than the competition”. The last thing you want is for your message to get lost in translation.

Digital marketing gives you several channels to get your message across effectively:

  • SEO or Search Engine Optimization – Optimize your website and content so that potential end-users of your product or service can easily find your business on the Internet.
  • Social Media Marketing – Distribute your optimized content through multiple social media platforms that appeal to your buyer’s persona and fit the needs of your business.
  • Content Marketing – Create fresh, unique, relevant, usable and engaging content to generate interest from your target market. Content can be created in text, image or video format for a more holistic distribution strategy.

The question most entrepreneurs want to find the answer to is, “When should I launch my digital marketing campaign?” The best answer is, “When you are starting your business.” And here are 5 benefits you can realize by starting your digital marketing strategy during the early stages of your business.

1. Builds Your Business Brand Effectively

When you start a business, consumers would want to know more about it from the get-go. Starting out a brand building campaign through digital channels even before the product or service is launched helps create interest and awareness.

You want to give people a good number of reasons to try your brand. The great thing about digital marketing is that you can be flexible in your brand- building approach.

For example, you plan to launch a brand of guilt-free donuts called “Fear Not Donuts”. You can use Facebook and Twitter to distribute content on what your products are all about and why people shouldn’t worry about eating them:

“Do Not fear the Donut! Fear Not Donuts are zero-sugar, low-carb donuts that are big on taste and not on your waist.”

Informational content that highlights the product’s strengths, differentiators and value to the customer is an effective way of building a good-sized following. At the pre-launch stage, try to build a follower base of 3,000 to 5,000 followers on Facebook and Twitter.

During this pre-launch stage, you should expect greater engagement from potential customers because you have piqued their interest and curiosity. They will ask you questions such as:

  • “How many calories per donut?”
  • “How much does a box of glazed cost?”
  • “How do you make your donuts?”

From there, you can use Twitter to do a promotional tie-in launch with another establishment that focuses on health and fitness:

“First 50 members from Zack’s Gym who can present this tweet at their nearest Fear Not Donuts outlet will get a FREE dozen guilt-free donuts of their choice!”

Customers will undoubtedly post their comments on your social media account as well as theirs. Even if the reviews are bad, it is no reason to press the panic button.

You can use the negative review as an opportunity to inform customers that you will continue to find ways to improve the product. Besides, the majority of feedback could be overwhelmingly positive.

2. Digital Marketing For Business Takes Time

Despite the advantages of digital technology and the Internet, don’t expect to get positive results from digital marketing overnight. This is especially true for unpaid or organic forms of digital marketing.

Organic means to generate results naturally, through unpaid channels such as advertisements. The examples of digital marketing channels that we listed earlier; SEO, social media marketing and content marketing, are among the best organic strategies you can use.

Optimizing your website through SEO techniques is not a one-time-deal. Search engines like Google routinely change the algorithm for their search rankings. If you want your website to be competitive in the search rankings, you must do your best to comply with those changes.

Social media is one of the most popular online activities. However, it takes time to build a following. You have to stay active on social media to get results. The frequency of activity would depend on the platform. How often should you post on social media per day? Buffer recommends the following schedule:

  • Facebook – Twice per day
  • Twitter – At least three times per day
  • Pinterest – five times per day
  • Instagram – Twice per day
  • LinkedIn – Once per day

Content marketing strategies likewise need time to produce the desired results. Let’s assume your first published blog was successful. It generated a good number of “likes”; it was shared multiple times and resulted in a few more followers. You should not think it was “Mission Accomplished”.

Now, your readers want to see if you can consistently produce great content. Your next blog post you should not go the way of most Hollywood sequels. It must be as good, if not, better than the first one.

As we discussed in our article, “How to Launch a $100 Digital Marketing Campaign”, digital marketing is a cost- effective strategy. The biggest investments you make are on time and energy. You need to be patient. As long as you are consistent, the desired outcome will follow.

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3. Stay On Top Of Your Business’ Buyer’s Persona

Research is one of the cornerstones of an effective digital marketing strategy. The strength of digital marketing is that it is a targeted approach to marketing. Research allows you to create a profile of your targeted buyer or your business buyer’s persona.

The Buyer’s Persona is an integral component of your content marketing strategy. When you create content for blogs and articles, it must resonate with the audience. Content must be able to address your audience’s needs, interests and concerns.

And your Buyer’s Persona does not remain static. It actively changes simply because tastes and preferences change. Your key demographic in two months might be different.

This is why you have to stay on top of your Buyer’s Persona. The research process required for digital marketing allows you to do that.

4. Generate Results Right Away

Digital marketing is not limited to organic or unpaid strategies. You have the option to use paid strategies such as advertising in order to get results right away. One of the most effective paid strategies is PPC or Pay-Per-Click advertising.

With PPC, you pay for your ad to be seen on search results pages that are relevant to your business. For example, if you sell smartphones, your paid ads will come out whenever someone launches a search query on smartphones.

Once a person clicks on your ad, he/she will be sent to your website’s landing page. If you have the right Calls-to- Action in place such as free newsletters or free e-books, you could get e-mail addresses or perhaps inquiries about the products or services you are selling.

PPC generates immediate results because it places your ad directly in front of your target market. Therefore, the chances of someone clicking on your ad are much higher.

5. Business Analytics Has More Reliable Historic Data

If you want to have an accurate recording of your business’ history, you have to start at the very beginning. You need a deep understanding of your history because it will reflect changes in your key demographics. Those changes could be as a result of the products, services and systems you had in place.

The biggest advantage of digital marketing is that it gives you access to business analytics. These are online tools that you can use to assess the performance of your website and your digital marketing campaign. With analytics, you have real-time, precise bases for developing, revising and implementing strategies.

You will know which ones worked and which ones fell short. In terms of budgeting, you will have empirical evidence to validate funding for specific digital marketing strategies. Starting your digital marketing campaign earlier will give you more reliable historic data for your decision-making.

As Confucius said, “Study the past to define your future.”

Conclusion

Digital marketing can produce results for different goals: brand building, lead generation, build followers, improve sales conversions or enhance online presence among others.

For the reason that it is not realistic to get everything right the first time, starting the digital marketing campaign early will allow you more opportunity to fine-tune your strategies when the business is still trying to get traction. It will be easier to track results and pinpoint the weak areas in the campaign.

It is never too late to start a digital marketing campaign. However, the best time to launch one is when you are starting your business.

Do you have a digital marketing campaign in place? If so, when did you start? It would be great if you could share your experiences with our readers. Kindly comment in the area below.

And if you’re interested in starting a digital marketing campaign for your business, please do not hesitate to give us a call or an e-mail. We can help you get started right away!

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Social proof is the phenomenon whereby consumers’ actions are influenced by the experiences, attitudes, and opinions of other consumers. Let’s assume you are on the market for a new smartphone. What would influence your decision more: reading marketing copy on a smartphone’s features or hearing the experiences and opinions of a few trusted friends?

Chances are you would put more weight on the testimonies of your friends. You trust their opinions more because you know they would not give you a bad recommendation. This is an example of how social proof works and why many businesses continue to use it to build trust and reputation for their website.

6 Ways To Use Social Proof For Your Website

  1. Publish content from users.
  2. Highlight customer testimonials on your website.
  3. Cite actual case studies that addressed specific customer pain points.
  4. Find reputable influences who can endorse your product or service.
  5. Invite customers to post reviews about your product or service.
  6. Substantiate key information with actual numbers.

One of the most popular quotations on social behavior goes like this: “When someone talks a lot about himself, it only means no one is talking about him.” The same message can be applied when using social proof for your website.

The purpose of web copy is to entice the visitor to explore the website further. As a rule, web copy content must be able to present the brand’s value proposition within a few seconds. Otherwise, the visitor might just click out of your website.

Given that challenge, it should be perfectly understandable why web copy content highlights the brand’s strongest, most sellable features. However, for the discerning or discriminating consumer, such web copy content can be seen as self-serving:

“Of course, you’ll say your brand is the best. You’re trying to sell your products to consumers like me.”

By contrast, if the same consumer comes across customers’ testimonies, product ratings, and reviews, the perception of your brand will change. Testimonies, product ratings, and reviews are examples of social proof techniques that you can use for your website. They have the ability to boost your claims because like your friends’ opinions, they have nothing to gain by giving you a bad recommendation.

How Social Proof Has Influenced Business

In this day and age where the Internet has made information more accessible, it should be safe to say most consumers think that way. The Internet has shifted the balance of power to the consumer.

Gone are the days when businesses could write anything about their product or service. It didn’t matter if the product delivered on the promise. Businesses could get away with “false claims” because consumers had the platform to air their views and grievances.

The Internet changed all that with the proliferation of social media networks, chat forums, and product review sites.

Today, the fortunes of a business can change overnight with a single post or image that goes viral. Businesses have learned to stay on their toes and be more accountable for their claims and the information they publish.

Here are some statistics that show how social proof has influenced business decision-making:

  • 70% of consumers in America search and read reliable product reviews before making a decision to purchase a product or service.
  • 63% of consumers will patronize a website that publishes both its product ratings and product reviews.

If your business website has not incorporated social proof as part of its content marketing strategy, now is the time to do so.

6 Ways To Use Social Proof To Build Trust And Reputation For Your Website

You’ve probably come across all of the social proof techniques that will be discussed in this section. They are used in E-Commerce sites, social media business pages, blogs and online forums to name a few. Social proof is important for consumers because it helps them make educated decisions.

As we mentioned earlier, the Internet has leveled the playing field between the consumer and business. With the Internet, consumers can do research before making a decision to buy a product or patronize a service. The reason is obvious: They want the best product or service for their hard-earned money.

When you have social proof available on your website, you make the research process easier for the consumer. That is why they prefer to visit websites that provide social proof.

1. Get Your Users Involved

The best endorsers for your products are the end users. Customers who are happy with the consistency and quality of your goods will become loyal to your brand. They will openly promote your brand because they are proud to be affiliated with it.

Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms on the Internet. People love to take and post pictures! As the old saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words”. Businesses have taken note of this.

Companies specifically search for User-Generated Content (UGC) on image-based sites like Instagram that feature their products. Once they come across UGC about their products, they can repost it from the Instagrammer’s account.

According to a survey, 76% of consumers trust UGC more than brand marketing copy.

If you come across UGC that is related to your business, whether it is an image or a post, reach out to the person who made it. Ask that person if you can repurpose or reformat the UGC on your website and social media pages.

2. Capitalize on Customer Testimonials

Testimonials are powerful influencers because these are seen as honest and sincere endorsements of your products or service. Business consultancy firms often feature testimonials from multiple clients on how the services have helped them generate record- setting revenues the previous year.

If you want to add more power to your testimonials, put them in video format. We’ve discussed how videos can boost your marketing strategy in our article, “How to Use Video Content in Marketing”.

Videos are effective because they appeal to multiple senses: sight, hearing and of course, it can create emotional connectivity. The use of video can deliver your message faster and more efficiently than text.

A good strategy would be to produce a video that includes several testimonies from clients and customers. Then we will embed it on your website’s home page.

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3. Pinpoint Pain Points with Case Studies

The use of case studies is an example of a great target marketing strategy. We define a case study as a more detailed testimony because it relates how a product or service addressed a specific concern of a customer.

For example, if your website is a retailer of Wi-Fi routers, you could include various case studies that show how your products solved the following Internet-connectivity related problems:

  • Homes with thick walls;
  • Homes with multiple floors;
  • Single floor homes that are located in open space such as a ranch;
  • Users that connect multiple devices;
  • Users that run multiple tasks at the same time.

The more case studies you can present, the more specific user concerns you can address. You can cast a wider net and target a larger market of potential customers for your products or services. Like testimonies, case studies are more effective when published in video format.

4. Connect with Influencers

Influencers are people who are widely recognized and respected in the industry. They are generally viewed as experts and their opinions are highly regarded by consumers. Influencers create a lot of pull for products and services they endorse because consumers see it as a “seal of approval”.

Influencers are not necessarily celebrities; although Oprah Winfrey often promotes products openly without remuneration. The advantages of connecting with influencers are that you can leverage your brand with their reputation and at the same time gain access to their followers.

5. Publish Customer Reviews

Customer reviews are commonly found in E-Commerce sites such as Amazon. As we discussed earlier, adding customer reviews on your website will make the research process easier for your visitors.

Studies show that 63% of consumers tend to purchase a product from a website that features customer reviews. Another study revealed that consumers trusted websites that have customer reviews 12 times more than sites that don’t.

A secondary benefit of publishing customer reviews is that it can give you a boost in Google’s search rankings for two reasons:

  • Improves User Experience (UX)
  • Frequently provides fresh and unique content

Lastly, don’t be afraid of getting negative reviews. Consumers know there is no such thing as a perfect product or service. A business that only publishes overwhelmingly positive reviews comes across as “hard sell”. Publishing negative reviews “humanizes” your brand and makes it more relatable to consumers.

6. Validate Your Claims with Numbers

In ways, creating marketing content is like applying for a job. The resume is your marketing tool and you need to impress the Hiring Manager enough to grant you a job interview. Hiring managers will not spend more than a few seconds on your resume.

One of the most effective ways to attract their interest is by citing your accomplishments. However, citing accomplishments without substantiating them with actual numbers is tantamount to committing hearsay.

Consumers want to see how your business has contributed to the success or well-being of its end users. A good example would be the job search website Elance; now known as UpWork, which proudly proclaimed it helped freelancers earn over US$1 Billion.

A good strategy would be to validate testimonies with actual numbers. Going back to our example with the business consultancy firm, a client could state that the service helped their business generate 400% more revenue over the last two years.

Conclusion

Social proof is a proven way of building trust and enhancing the reputation of your website. Today’s consumers are more discriminating. They will harness the power of the Internet to find information that will help them make educated decisions.

By incorporating social proof on your website, you make the research and decision-making process easier for your site visitors. You may be rewarded with a purchase but most certainly, social proof strategies such as product reviews, video testimonies, and case studies will result in higher rankings in Google.

You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by including social proof content on your website. Even negative reviews can have a positive effect on humanizing your brand.

Did you enjoy the article as much as we did writing it? If so, please don’t hesitate to share it with your family and friends. And if you have experiences, information or opinions that you want to share with our readers, please feel free to use the comment section below.

If you want to know more about the benefits of social proof and how to include them on your website, please give us a call or drop us an email.

We would love to hear from you!

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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!

Bill Gates was a true visionary when he wrote the essay, “Content is King” in 1996. Gates believed the Internet would provide consumers a low cost medium to publish and access information. He even foreshadowed the coming of video content as a key component for online marketing.

With more than half of the world’s population online everyday, the Internet has become the premiere battleground for businesses to vie for the consumer’s attention.

For businesses, the challenge is to come up with the most efficient way to reach their target audience and consistently deliver quantifiable results.

Does such a low cost, high reward marketing technique exist?

Yes and that is why you need to include video content in your marketing tool box.

5 Benefits of Video Content for Your Business

Video content or video marketing is simply the process or strategy of using videos to promote your brand, product or service.

Text content remains a powerful vehicle for delivering your branded value proposition but it will not match the efficiency of video content.

Put it this way, would you rather spend seven minutes reading a 2,400 word article on the 10 best smartphones in the market or 2 minutes watching a video on the same topic?

In 2015, Microsoft came up with a groundbreaking study that showed people have a shorter attention span than a goldfish. The marketing takeaway being if you don’t capture the attention or interest of the consumer within 6 seconds, you may lose him or her at that moment.

One of the best tips we give our clients at Mountaintop is to add an explainer video on their homepage.

An explainer video is a great way to hook a potential customer because everything they would need to know to convince them to explore your site further can be done in 1 or 2 minutes.

And studies show, videos extend the attention span of the consumer by another 10 to 20 seconds.

Here are 5 other benefits of video content for your business:

1. Video is an excellent medium for delivery.

Video engages with at least two of your senses: sight and sound plus the added bonus of empathy if it is a well-executed production. A study by HubSpot showed that 80% of consumers remember the content of a video they saw one month earlier.

2. Video content can significantly boost your website’s SEO.

In the same Hubspot study, it revealed that 65% of decision makers will visit a website after viewing its video content. Also, vendors of products report 39% of inquiries come from businesses that have seen their marketing videos.

3. Video content delivers on all devices.

Responsive design has become the norm in website development since 2014. Videos will perform well on mobile devices. Whether you are using a tablet or a smartphone, videos will continue to enhance and influence User Experience or UX.

4. Video content enhances your branding efforts.

As we mentioned earlier, video has the advantage of appealing to your senses of sight and hearing. The smart use of color, voice, music and imagery can strongly influence the perspectives and opinions of your viewers and enhance your branding efforts.

5. Video content has a higher probability of going viral.

Another interesting statistic from the HubSpot study is that 92% of mobile users who watch videos will share them with others. Another study by Single Grain showed that video is shared 1,200% more than links and text content combined.

Believe us when we say there are still more benefits of video content for your business. Adding video content as part of your Digital Marketing strategy is not just because “Everybody’s doing it”.

Below is a chart from HubSpot which shows the type of content Internet users most want to see from brands and businesses. You can clearly see the wide, significant gap video content has over other types of content:

If you want to reach out to your target audience in the fastest, most effective and cost efficient way, you should invest in video content marketing.

12 Types of Video Content to Consider for Your Business

Before you start filming, you should know what type of video content would be most beneficial for your business. There are 12 types to consider and each one will have its own set of advantages depending on your goals:

1. Demo Videos –

Show your audience how your product works. This will be effective for businesses that have products which need assembly or have several features. Examples would include kitchen appliances and smartphones.

2. Brand Videos –

The purpose of brand videos is to introduce yourself, the business, products and services to a target audience. This is a great way to build relationships with your target audience.  

3. Event Videos –

If your business is hosting an event, business forum, trade show or roundtable discussion an event video is the way to go. Take video snippets of the most important and relevant activities such as keynote speakers, product shots and audience turnout.

4. Expert Interviews –

One of the best ways to gain credibility and trust with your audience is to have a video interview with a respected and acknowledged expert in your industry.

5. How-to Videos –

This is a type of video that will help the audience find the answer to the question, “Why do you need my product or service?” For example, at Mountaintop we could produce a video on this article.

6. Explainer Videos –

We discussed this type of video in the previous section but we should also note that it can be done similar to a How-To video by simply shooting it from the perspective of the end user.

7. Animated Videos –

Do you want to show your audience how bitcoin miners calculate complex mathematical formulas in the blockchain? Animated videos can greatly simplify information that would otherwise be too complicated to explain.

8. Testimonial Videos –

Client testimonials are one of the most powerful ways to build trust for your product and service. This is often the final push to get your audience to patronize your business. A testimonial video is perceived as honest and sincere because it discloses actual results and the genuine response of an end user.

9. Live Videos –

Streaming live videos are a great way of getting your audience involved in your business. Show them what a day is like in the office. If you’re into product manufacturing, stream a live feed on how your merchandise is made. People in the fitness industry often stream live workouts to their followers.

10. 360 Degree and Virtual Reality Videos –

360 degree and VR videos give your audience a bird’s eye view of your business. These are particularly effective for hotels, resorts and restaurants. These types of videos are also entertaining for the audience because they allow them to control their own experience.

11. Augmented Reality Videos –

Augmented reality videos add another digital layer to your content. This is great for those in the interior design and architectural business.

For example, a viewer can point his or her camera phone to a chair and see how it would fit in your video layout.

12. Personalized Messages –

You can customize your content by producing a personal message in video format.

For example, if you are selling a fitness tracker, you can make a video message to a follower whom you have previously communicated and send him/her an update on the latest models.

Personalized message videos are effective in pushing a prospect further down the sales funnel.

How to Create Your First Video Content

When you finally decide to include video content as part of your marketing strategy, it doesn’t mean you should take out a loan from the bank and buy the latest and most advanced film equipment.

In the first place, your smartphone camera may be enough to film a high quality video. Smartphones like the iPhone 7 have amazing filmmaking features that are comparable with top-of-the line cameras.

Secondly, the video alone won’t cut it. You need a message to deliver to your audience. The content of your message will determine how your video will be shot.

If you haven’t done video content before or have but with little success, here are four simple steps on how to create one that will enhance your overall marketing campaign:

1. Revisit and Update Your Content Marketing Strategy.

Before producing your first video, review your current content marketing strategy. Whenever you introduce a new element to your campaign, its entire dynamic will change.

You may have to revise your content marketing strategy to open up a section that can be addressed more effectively through video content.

The marketing budget may have to be adjusted in case your revised strategy will require investing in production equipment, renting a studio, acquiring talent, scriptwriters or the assistance of film professionals.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • “Why did I decide to create video content?”
  • “What is the primary objective of my video content?”
  • “How would my audience benefit from my video?”
  • “How would I go about producing the video?”
  • “What would be my distribution strategy for the video?”

It will be difficult to maximize the effectiveness of video content unless you can get it to fit into your content marketing strategy.

2. Prepare a Profile of Your Audience.

If revisiting and reviewing your content marketing strategy provides the “Why” to your video content, then preparing a profile of your audience is the “Who”. Unless you develop a keen understanding of who your target audience is, then your video content may not be seen by the people expected to get the most value from it.

Where to begin?

Look back at your past content and analyze which ones generated the highest levels of “likes”, “shares” and levels of engagement.

Which distribution channel accounted for the largest viewership? Where do the bulk of your followers come from? What issues were commonly raised or commented on by your audience?

Once you’ve come up with a profile of your audience, you will be able to fine-tune the content of your video and identify the most effective channels for distribution.

3. Produce Videos According to Scale.

The advice “start out small” applies to producing your first video. Don’t pull out all the stops and come up with a Hollywood production number when you are testing the marketing waters for the first time with video content.

Again the best place to start would be your past content. Pick out high performing blog posts and create a short video which would further augment its content. For example, we at Mountaintop could produce a video for our blog post “Why Your Website Needs Responsive Design”.

You could also start out by producing an explainer video like one on your products and services and embed it on your Home Page or Services page.

If your video content generates higher returns, slowly scale up the production schedule. You may have to expand your budget but at least you will be more reassured of your investment.

4. Subject Your Videos to Frequent Testing.

Even if you’ve done your homework and followed your content marketing strategy to the letter, do not get complacent and allow yourself to believe your video content will deliver positive results.

Video content like all forms of content should be subjected to testing before getting published or distributed. Content seen through the eyes of another will give you filters you won’t have because of personal biases.

Take note of their comments and assess which ones should be considered as a basis for revising content.

And even once you’ve uploaded the videos, the evaluation should not stop.

Establish benchmarks to measure how your videos are performing and be prepared to introduce  improvements in content whenever necessary.

Conclusion

Numbers don’t lie. If you want your marketing campaign to meet or surpass its goals, you must invest in video content production.

It is a proven and time-tested approach to successfully delivering content to your audience. And demand for video content will only increase as mobile technology continues to evolve and the Internet becomes accessible to more people around the world.

It does not matter if you are a large-scale corporation or a small business owner. Video content will help your current marketing strategy gain more traction.

Are you interested in creating your first video content? Give us a call or send us an email and we will help you get started!

 

 

Cybercriminals are becoming increasingly aggressive. In the first 6 months of 2017, we’ve seen mounting evidence of state-sponsored ransomware, leaks of spy tools from U.S. intelligence agencies, campaign hacking and more daring attempts at stealing confidential information from private corporations and small businesses.

Google has mandated that websites (especially those engaged in ecommerce) should get SSL Certificates not only for security purposes but also to improve their SEO rankings. The search engine giant has included SSL as a factor in its search algorithm since 2014 but it has become more important with the updated version of Google Chrome.

But these cybercriminals will never stop because hacking has become a lucrative profession. They work round-the-clock to stay ahead of the latest security protocols including SSL Certificates.

Yes, cybercriminals have found ways to circumvent the filters provided by SSL Certificates. Still, SSL remains a vital component in your data protection and security checklist.

If your website procures confidential information or stores valuable data such as a subscriber or user base, you should get SSL certificates. But it is not enough to simply have the certificates. You must manage them responsibly.

SSL Encrypted Malicious Attacks are Rising in Frequency

Cybersecurity firm Zscaler reports that from January to August of 2017, it encountered 8.4 Million malicious attacks through SSL encrypted traffic. 7% of the malicious software or 600,000 were categorized by the company as “advanced threats”.

Zscaler also identified an average of 12,000 phishing attempts per day that bypassed the encrypted protocol. This number represents an alarming 400% increase from 2016.

According to Zscaler’s Senior Director of Security Research and Operations, Deepen Desai, hackers are using SSL as a way to conceal device infections, data exfiltration and to control communications.

SSL works to ensure the security of network traffic within an enterprise. It sits between the users and the Internet; inspecting every byte that traverses online traffic including those that have encryption. This way potential threats are intercepted before they can do damage to your network.

If you want to learn more about SSL Certificates, you can refer to our article “SSL: What It Is And Why Your Business Needs It”.

What has caused the increase in SSL- encrypted cyber crime? It is basically the natural process of adaptation.

SSL Certificates had become highly effective in stopping website infiltrations and malicious attacks. This means that the cybercriminals simply had to develop new technologies that would enable them to sidestep the security filters.

Another cyber security firm, Venafi reported that over the past year alone, 90% of IT firms in the United Kingdom saw a higher than 25% increase in the use of encryption solutions.

Venafi surveyed more than 500 companies that had employed at least 1,000 personnel. The survey covered companies located in the United Kingdom, Germany, France and the United States so Venafi could better understand the different ways encryption certificates are being used.

The interesting statistic uncovered by the study was that 90% of the CIO’s of the companies surveyed revealed that they were already attacked or at the very least under threat by malware concealed within the certificates.

Venafi concluded that the rise in malicious attacks through encryption had a direct relationship with the increase in the use of certificates. The reason?

Companies that acquired the SSL did not manage the keys and certificates responsibly.

Basically these companies lost track of how many certificates and keys they owned leaving many sites vulnerable. They unwittingly opened doors for hackers to sneak in and manipulate the certificates to suit their own selfish needs.

 The SSL Process

Let’s take a look at how the SSL process works in order to have a better understanding on why it is important to manage your SSL Certificates responsibly and make sure they are updated.

The SSL process involves authentication and data encryption. Given the volume of activity on the Internet, encryption is very important to ensure all data packets are protected during transmission.

The problem in the SSL process usually lies in authentication which covers the digital certificates.

What is a digital certificate?

It is essentially a data file which contains key information about the website’s certificate holder. The digital certificate is used to verify the authenticity of the website. Among the information indicated in the certificate are:

  • Web server’s host name
  • Issue and expire time
  • Public key for the web server

This is what a digital certificate looks like:

Image from https://www.techrepublic.com/blog/data-center/ssl-tls-certificates-what-you-need-to-know/

There are 2 types of certificates: trusted and untrusted.

Trusted certificates reside on the web browser and are signed by a recognized Certificate Authority (CA) which is an entity that is authorized to sell certificates. Untrusted certificates are self-signed and require manual installation on the web browser.

For purposes of this article, we will only focus on the process covering trusted certificates.

These are the steps involved during a web server/ web browser certificate exchange:

  1. Open your browser and type in a URL.
  2. The web server of the URL will receive the request for the website or web  page.
  3. The web server will respond by returning the certificates to your web browser.
  4. Your web browser will conduct a number of inspections such as expiration of the certificate and hostname on the certificate.
  5. Your web browser will notice the certificate from the website was signed with the CA’s private key.
  6. Your web browser will immediately check its certificate database if it has the CA’s certificate information.
  7. Once the certification information is found, your web browser will use the public key to validate the signature on the certificate sent by the website.
  8. If the certificate signature has been validated, your web browser will know the CA can be trusted. It will now also trust the web server of the website.

From this process summary, you can see why it is important to have your certificates updated. In step number 4, the expiration date on the certification will be checked and validated.

If your SSL Certificates are expired, your site is vulnerable to infiltration and other forms of malicious attacks.

As we mentioned in our previous article “SSL Basics: Why You Need It to Protect Your Website from Hackers”, the most common mode of attack is for hackers to upload a listening program on the web server. Once you type in your confidential information, the program will capture it and send it back to the hacker.

Getting SSL Certificates for your website is a definite step in the right direction. But acquiring protection is one thing; making sure it is implemented and running 24/7 is another.

If your website provides your bread and butter, you should do everything within your power to protect it from anyone with bad intentions. The Internet is rife with opportunities and opportunists. One act of carelessness or irresponsibility may be all it takes to destroy everything that you have worked hard for.

Would you spend a fortune on a home then disregard the value of a comprehensive insurance plan? Acquiring SSL Certificates is your insurance plan for your website. But it will have no value once it is expired.

What You Can Do

At this point; and after 3 articles, we hope we have made our position very clear:

If your website requires users to disclose confidential or personal information, you should secure it with SSL Certificates.

Then take the time to make sure these certificates are managed effectively.

Is there a way to ensure the integrity and effectiveness of the certificates? Yes by acquiring them from a reputable CA and have it managed by a third party service provider you can trust.

Mountaintop Web Design can offer you both! We are authorized to sell SSL Certificates and we can manage these for you so that you can dedicate all your time and energies squarely on your business.

We’ve installed and kept the certificates updated for our clients. Never lose sleep at night thinking cybercriminals are hatching diabolical plans to steal your data.

If you want to know more about the SSL Certificates we offer, please give us a call or drop an email. We will get back to you as soon as possible because we understand that every second your website remains exposed, the risk of long term and large scale damage becomes greater.

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.