Attracting Busy & Tired Customers: The Complete Guide for Small Businesses

Attracting Busy & Tired Consumers: The Complete Guide for Small Businesses

Finding new customers can be a challenge when you’re a new startup or a small business. Nobody knows your name, your budget is tight, and you’re competing with gigantic corporations that have well and truly sunk their claws into consumers and won’t be letting go any time soon. Not to mention that your ideal customers are likely busy, tired, and generally suffering from choice overload.

Essentially, you have a mountain to climb – and while it will be tough, it’s by no means impossible. Countless businesses make it – despite the odds – and so can you! You just need to work hard and make sure you’re on point with your marketing efforts and you’re driving engagement.

In this mini-guide, High Click Media offers tried-and-tested insight on how new businesses can reliably find, draw in, and engage with modern-day consumers on a limited budget.

Understanding the Modern-Day Consumer

Before you craft a new marketing strategy, you need to ask yourself how well you understand your ideal customers – or any customers, for that matter. In order for your marketing endeavors to gain any traction, you have to play to the audience – understand your customers’ mindset and then communicate your message to match.

As the Visual Capitalist notes, modern consumers – Millennials and Generation Z, in particular – are significantly different from their predecessors. Here’s how:

  • Less Discretionary Income:  Thanks to increasing education, food, healthcare, and housing prices, modern-day consumers have less money to spend. Extra work – and consequently, tiredness and burnout – is common.
  • Delayed Life Goals:  More and more, these younger generations  are delaying major life goals like marriage, purchasing a house, and having children. This tendency makes them less likely to take risks or indulge in whimsical purchases.  
  • Greater Diversity:  The racial makeup of consumers is changing considerably. You should expect to be doing business with a seriously diverse crowd.
  • Reeling from the Latest Disaster: Last but not least, everyone – small businesses, in particular – is still struggling with the impact of the pandemic.
  • More Choices: If Walmart doesn’t have it, Amazon will. Consumers need you less than you need them – and they know it. 

In short, modern consumers are, for the most part, a busy, harried lot. They have less money than they’d like, so convincing them to part with what they have will be tough. They also have fewer needs and higher expectations overall.

How to Attract and Engage with Customers

The picture isn’t pretty. But, like Benjamin Franklin said, out of adversity, comes opportunity. Business owners can turn these circumstances to their advantage by utilizing more targeted, savvier marketing.

Respect Their Time

When you’re busy – like, working two jobs – and stressed out, you don’t have time to listen to a marketing monologue. In fact, even being subjected to such a monologue can leave a bad taste in your mouth and likely turn you off to the brand. Keep this in mind when communicating with customers. Come up with a clear, to-the-point message and then try to refine it to 15 words or less – just like an elevator pitch. Practice it until you can get your message across meaningfully, clearly, and impactfully. 

Treat Them with Kindness

Kindness is a new business trend, and for good reason. Life can be challenging for modern-day consumers, and kindness is a soothing balm for the soul. Consumers remember businesses that treat them with genuine kindness, speak well of them, and keep coming back. Show kindness to your customers by offering meaningful advice, prioritizing customer service, resolving their problems, and keeping things simple.

Prioritize Convenience 

Customers’ time is at a premium. If you make it easy for customers to do business with you, they’re going to appreciate it. Some ways to make doing business with you more convenient for customers include posting regular updates on social media, offering digital services, accepting multiple payment options, and providing greater flexibility with your products and services.

Institute a Loyalty Program  

Loyalty programs are an effective way to both attract new customers and retain existing ones. If customers receive discounts and deals that few others are receiving, they’re going to feel recognized, special, and privileged – and this will make them want to keep coming back!

Speak Their Language 

The modern-day consumer has solid values and cares about authenticity, transparency, sustainability, and other ethical concerns. When you include these values in your marketing message, it’s more meaningful and attractive to customers.

Be Authentic  

It’s not enough to talk the talk – your brand will have to walk the talk, too. Ethics is incredibly important in modern-day marketing, according to Hubspot, and customers can tell when brands are faking it. If you manage to be authentic, however, you’ll have an easier time winning customers’ trust.

Remember to Personalize 

It’s flattering when someone remembers you, including your choices and preferences. When it’s a business doing the remembering, that’s even better! Build up a profile for each of your customers – it’s easy with technology – and personalize your products and services through recommendations, suggestions, and generally being welcoming.  

Ask for Feedback  

Gathering feedback collected from customers and using it to make improvements is what separates great businesses from good ones. Sometimes we don’t see our shortcomings – or our greatest potential, for that matter – until other people point them out. Feedback can not only take your business to new heights, but also has the added benefit of making your customers feel valued.

Get People to Vouch for You

Customers are more likely to trust their friends and family over the words they read in an advertisement. Get your customers to vouch for you, in any number of ways, to build on your brand in the market. Some ways to do this include starting a referral program, featuring customer testimonials on your site, and offering incentives for customers to review your business.

Be Memorable

Having solid branding is essential. It creates a bigger impression on customers and makes it easier for them to remember you. Getting a DBA (doing business as) name is an effective marketing strategy. DBAs allow you to sell your products under a different, more memorable moniker – or even branch out into a new niche. Furthermore, it’s handy when you want to market your services under a new domain but your desired domain isn’t available. 

Emphasize the Human Touch

Last but not least is the human touch. Names and branding are obviously important – but people remember other people and how they make them feel better than anything else. Some ways to emphasize the human touch are offering face-to-face meetings, training your sales team well, and making it easy for your customers to get in touch with a human being on the phone. 

Final Thoughts

Being successful in business, like everything else in life, revolves around your ability to build and maintain relationships with people. Prove yourself a worthwhile business partner and your customers will be happy, remain loyal, and keep coming back. 

If you’re in the early phases of your new startup or small business and you’d like some help getting started with digital marketing, give us a call today at 252.814.2150 or drop us a line at marketing@highclickmedia.com to see how we can help elevate your brand!

 

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About The Author:

Alyssa Strickland created millennial-parents.com for all the new parents on the block. She believes the old adage that it takes a village to raise a child, but also thinks it takes a village to raise a parent! Millennial-Parents is that village. Today’s parents can be more connected than ever, and Alyssa hopes her site will enrich those connections. On Millennial-Parents, she shares tips and advice she’s learned through experience and from other young parents in three key areas: Education, Relationships, and Community.

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Millennials Mean Business

Millennials Mean Business

I Have Never Met Someone Who Doesn’t Have an Opinion on Millennials.

We are condemned for our love of avocado toast (it really is good – you should try it!) and pinned as the self-absorbed generation.  But, on the flip side, we are known for being open-minded, collaborative, tech-savvy problem solvers. Making up a quarter of the U.S. population, it should come as no surprise that Millennials have a huge impact on brand marketing.

Who We Are:

According to the Pew Research Center, if you were born between 1981 and 1996, you are a Millennial. There are currently over 76 million Millennials in the United States, and this number just keeps growing. More diverse than other generations, nearly half of Millennials are people of color.

Having been raised in a damaged economy, we are drastically more socially and technologically connected than any other generation. It’s true; We are the generation of iPhones, social media, apps, and streaming.

To put it plainly, we have a different perspective than the generations before us. Millennials are all about transparency, culture, and moral responsibility.

Our Generation Stays Connected

A whopping 86% of Millennials stay updated on brands through social networks – 82% of us are active Facebook users, with Gen X not too far behind at 76%. Not only that, but we are 2.5x more likely to adapt to new technology earlier than members of older generations.

The Millennial Income

A minority of this generation is wealthy, but for the majority of young adults, this isn’t the case. The average Millennial today earns $10,000 less than young adults in 1989.

help me im poor

Millennials Are a Health-Oriented Generation

We tend to make healthier eating choices and develop stronger exercise habits than prior generations. Using fitness apps and the internet helps Millennials research the healthiest options – and we’re willing to spend more on compelling brands.

How Millennials Shop

We are more likely to search for a deal. Nearly half of us use our smartphones to search for a better deal on a product while in-store, and 92% have made a purchase on their phone. Approximately half of Millennials spend 1 to 3 hours researching their finance options before making a major purchase. More brand-loyal than Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, 69% of Millennials have chosen the same brand for a major purchase in the last year. When Millennials were asked if they would try a new brand when making a major purchase, only 17% said they would.

Millennials Perceive Your Brand Differently

We appreciate brands that are truthful, ethical, and unrestricted. Seeking products and services that improve their lives, Millennials enjoy interacting and engaging with brands on a personal level. Thirty-six percent of Millennials expect an interactive experience when looking for solutions.

All of this matters to your marketing.

Having such remarkably different characteristics, tastes, and expectations than prior generations, Millennials challenge stale marketing tactics, emotionless branding, and lackluster customer service. They want their voices heard, they want to trust your business and they are looking for a brand that will be an experience.

If your audience is young and you lack a creative strategy for marketing to this fresh generation, reach out to us to schedule a meeting with one of our marketing geniuses! Marketing to Millennials is one of our specialties!

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Give ‘Em Something to Talk About: A 4-Step Guide to Boosting Your Brand Reputation

Give ‘Em Something to Talk About: A 4-Step Guide to Boosting Your Brand Reputation

If you’re looking for a surefire way to win customers’ trust and grow your business, you need to pay special attention to your brand reputation. In today’s world, consumers have tons of options when it comes to online retailers. If you want to encourage more people to choose your website, it’s important to have a stellar reputation as a brand.

When people see your brand logo, you want them to instantly think of your business as one that’s dependable and passionate about helping customers. As you continue building your reputation, you’ll notice that more people are visiting your site, which significantly increases your chances that they’ll convert to customers.

Your brand reputation hinges on several factors, including established marketing channels such as social media and email. In this article, we’ll examine several things your business can do to make sure you’re establishing a favorable brand reputation.

I got a reputation! A following! My brand is on the rise!

Demonstrate Your Value

One of the best ways to bolster your brand reputation is to demonstrate your value. Many organizations like to talk about what they do that makes them great – and sometimes that approach is successful. But if you want your business to grow by leaps and bounds, you need to show visitors what you bring to the table.

There are many ways that you can highlight your brand’s value in a manner that your audience can better understand. A SaaS provider, for example, could present a full demo of the dynamic features their product offers. Instead of merely reading about how quickly someone can construct a form with your software, show them by providing a demonstration.

We would appreciate a good review.

Another great way to underscore your value is to showcase customer testimonials and reviews on your website. This method works particularly well because it’s someone else – not you – who is touting your company’s value. New visitors can see what actual customers think about your products or services, and that can be the determining factor when contemplating your value proposition.

Research proves that reviews and testimonials can help increase sales by building social proof – the idea that our behavior is influenced by the actions, attitudes, and beliefs of others, assuming it must be the correct behavior – which generates trust and a positive reputation. Adding these blurbs to your business website can improve your conversion rate by 270%!

Finally, someone's talking to me!

Engage with Your Audience

If you’re not purposefully engaging with your audience daily, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to build up your reputation. Consumers expect online brands to engage with them on social media, email, and their websites.

There are several ways that you can enhance engagement across all your marketing platforms.

On your business website, you can allow comments and reviews on your blog posts and product pages. Engaged visitors will take advantage of these channels to communicate with your brand. Make sure your team is available to address users’ concerns and thank them for their feedback.

You subscribed to my email list; prepare to buy!

Email marketing is another avenue where subscribers want to see more engagement. When you send out emails as part of a drip campaign, you can expect to get responses from users based on what you sent to them. By personalizing future emails in the campaign, you can offer specific answers to customers’ questions.

When you engage with users directly, they’re far more likely to regard your brand as trustworthy.

Social media is another pivotal platform for customer engagement. Whether you’re a small, independently owned business or a major corporation, social media engagement can generate substantial results for your business.

Who here is on social?

Reach out to consumers who comment on your posts and join relevant social media groups where you can interact with your target audience. Customers recount that when a brand engages with them on social media, they typically spend 20% to 40% more when they shop on that brand’s site.

The reason for this is simple: when companies deliver targeted, interactive experiences to consumers, they’re taking significant steps toward strengthening their brand reputation.

Is there something I can help you with?

Improve Your Customer Service

Your customer service and support teams are essential to furthering your brand reputation. Should a customer have questions or concerns, your customer service team can make the difference between a completed purchase and an abandoned cart.

Let’s say you’re visiting a particular website to make a purchase. After selecting the products you’re looking for, you realize you have a question about one of the items in your shopping cart. So, you begin searching for a way to contact customer support. Upon finding the appropriate link and typing out your query, you find out that the promised response time is 3 to 5 business days. Would you patiently wait for a response or abandon your cart and seek out a competitor with a team that’s ready, willing, and able to support you?

Hmmm...I think I'm gonna pass on that one.

In this age of instant gratification when consumer patience has dwindled to almost nil, most people would choose to find the items they need on another website.

Ideally, your website’s live chat options should include a combination of real customer service agents and chatbots. The chatbot is your first line of defense. This handy tool is typically located at the bottom corner of a site’s homepage, so customers can easily access the information they need when they have questions.

When I think of chatbots....

Chatbots should be able to accommodate essential operations such as password changes and blog references. If an issue is more complex, you can program your chatbot to transfer that customer to a live agent where they can get assistance immediately.

When your team can answer customer inquiries in minutes instead of days, you’ll be well on your way toward building a positive brand image. Customers will return to you time and time again when they perceive your business as hospitable and reputable.

Implement Social Listening

Implement Social Listening

Social listening involves monitoring and cultivating your business based on what consumers are saying about you and your competitors on social media. It’s also a powerful tool for improving your brand reputation.

Nearly half the population (49%) uses social media platforms to talk to friends, watch videos, and make purchases. Identifying how people think about your products or those of your competitors can help boost your brand reputation.

Big Reputation, Big Reputation...

Through social listening, you may notice that several people outside your primary social media group are discussing a feature your product is missing. Instead of viewing this feedback in a negative light, you can use it as an opportunity to show your commitment to customers. Implement the requested features whenever possible and work towards building an all-inclusive package for users.

Overall, social listening can help you pinpoint customers’ persistent or recurring problems, as well as identify potential areas for improvement in your products or services.

Final Thoughts

There are many ways to boost your business’s brand reputation. The tips covered here are broad in scope and applicable to a variety of different industries. Carefully consider where you might be missing out on critical opportunities to deeply connect with your audience, and make the necessary changes to rectify these problems.

Before you know it, you’ll enjoy a world-class reputation with both new and current customers. Bear in mind that reputation is much easier to lose than it is to gain. Build your audience’s trust, continue delivering on these standards, and you can expect to see exponential growth in the years to come.

If you’re looking to boost your brand reputation through digital marketing, HighClick Media is here to help! Give us a call today at 252.814.2150!

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How To Develop & Maintain a Consistent Brand Voice

How To Develop & Maintain a Consistent Brand Voice

When you think about branding, probably the first thing that comes to mind is a logo. A close second would likely be a specific color scheme that you closely identify with the brand. But any properly developed brand must also have a distinct style of writing and speaking. This is commonly referred to as its brand voice.

Having a strong, cohesive brand voice is one of the most important components in building a successful business. Research has shown that consumers prefer brands with unique personalities. When asked which factors help a brand stand out in the crowded social media space, 40% of consumers surveyed cited memorable content, 33% noted a distinct brand personality, and 32% stated that compelling storytelling was key. And what do memorable content, distinct personality, and compelling storytelling have in common? You guessed it: brand voice.

Every time you send an email, answer a customer support call, or speak to someone face-to-face, you’re exercising your brand voice – whether you realize it or not. With each of these interactions, people are building up an impression in their minds about your brand. If this impression is to be a true reflection of your brand to followers, readers, listeners, prospects, and customers, you must be intentional about how you use your brand voice.

Identifying your brand voice isn’t easy. It demands a great deal of introspection as well as an intimate understanding of who you are as a brand. In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into what brand voice is, why it’s important, and learn how to develop and refine your own brand voice.

Brand Voice vs. Brand Tone: What’s the Difference?

You may have heard of brand voice before, but what about brand tone? Sometimes the terms are used interchangeably, but there are a few distinct differences.

Brand voice is how you express the personality of your brand through your chosen communication channels and to your target audience. It helps potential customers recognize and relate to your brand, get a feel for your mission and core values, and ensure that your message cuts through the noise.

Your brand voice encompasses everything from the words and language you use to the image your marketing assets evoke. Simply put, it’s the overall impression you wish to leave on your audience at every point of interaction in the customer’s journey.

Brand tone is the emotional inflection you apply to your brand voice. Your tone may need to be adjusted depending on who you’re talking to, what you’re talking about, and the platform you’re using to communicate your message.

While a different tone may be called for in specific situations, your tone should always feel consistent with your brand voice. If your tone is off in some way, your audience may end up feeling insulted or angry. Whereas if your tone strikes the right chord, the audience may be convinced to stay and listen.

WHY IS BRAND VOICE IMPORTANT?

 

A Strong Brand Voice Creates a Favorable First Impression

According to Forbes, it only takes 7 seconds for your target audience to form an initial opinion about your brand. Whether this first impression is positive or negative relies heavily on your brand voice.

A consistent voice lets consumers absorb your brand quickly and easily, allowing you to capture their attention and keep them interested in your content as well as your company. 

If you can craft a brand voice that effectively communicates what your company stands for and “who” it is, you’ll have a much easier time converting web visitors into loyal customers.

A Consistent Brand Voice Enhances Brand Recognition

Time for a bit of self-analysis. If your company logo didn’t appear alongside your content, could your audience easily identify the content as coming from you? Would someone viewing your content on different channels be able to recognize that it all originated from the same brand? If the answer to either of those questions is “no,” you probably have some work to do when it comes to brand voice.

Frequent or dramatic shifts in brand voice may cause confusion about your brand identity. If you’re not careful, you’ll end up with a random assortment of voices and tones in the content you produce, which doesn’t provide potential customers with a consistent picture of who your brand is.

Maintaining a consistent voice across all your media channels delivers a cohesive feel to your brand. Brands with strong voices will “sound” the same on social media, in email communications, and blog posts – even if three different individuals or teams create content for these channels. Ultimately, potential customers should be able to subconsciously associate certain words, phrases, ideas, or emotions with your brand.

A Cohesive Brand Voice Helps Build Trust with Your Audience

People prefer to support brands that they trust. In fact, a recent survey found that more than 80% of consumers want to feel like they can trust a brand before they’ll consider buying from them.

A well-crafted brand voice offers a unique opportunity to humanize your brand and demonstrate to your customers that you’re sincere and trustworthy in each interaction you have with them. If consistently applied, your brand voice can help establish enduring relationships with your existing followers as well as attracting new prospects. 

Think of your brand’s voice as a character. Stay “in character” and your audience will come to view your brand as a friend or a trusted expert. “Break character” and you’ll confuse your audience and risk breaking their trust. By being transparent, personal, helpful, and knowing your products and services better than anybody else, you can not only build trust with your customers but maintain it for the long haul as well.

A Compelling Brand Voice Helps Increase Brand Loyalty

Consumers are becoming increasingly selective about which brands they prefer to regularly support and align themselves with. When people solidly connect to the way your brand communicates online, a relationship begins to form in their minds. In the event that these consumers need to purchase a product or service that you offer, they are much more likely to become your customers and remain loyal to your brand if they perceive this emotional connection.

When your brand voice changes constantly, you may be forfeiting the opportunity to demonstrate to consumers that they can trust your brand to understand their “pain points” and dependably deliver solutions. A consistent brand voice assures consumers that the brand is carrying out the company’s mission and fulfilling its promises to the customer.

A Powerful Brand Voice Positions Your Business As an Authority in the Field

Whether you sell a product, offer a service, or both, you have specific expertise that could be valuable both to customers as well as to other businesses. By communicating consistently in the brand voice you’ve created, you can help position yourself as an easily identified and authoritative source for your area of expertise.

One of the primary reasons that customers side with certain brands is not necessarily the quality of the products, but rather the quality of the content they produce. By providing useful tips on various topics related to your niche or products, you’re not only demonstrating your expertise but also increasing awareness for your brand.

When your business is regarded as an authority in the field, people will come to you to solve their problems. And that means business!

Distinctive Brand Voice Helps You Stand Out From The Crowd

A Distinctive Brand Voice Helps You Stand Out from the Crowd

In the digital age, brands are faced with growing competition for consumer attention, interaction, and loyalty. You can only stand out so much on the strength of your visual content, logo, or product features.

The most enduring companies have a strong personality and a clear sense of purpose. The distinct voice they’ve created is used to consistently convey their message everywhere the brand has a presence.

A unique brand voice can help attract new prospects before they even become aware of your products or services. If you can quickly and effectively prove to consumers that your brand is different than – and superior to – every other brand out there.

A Credible Brand Voice Helps Boost Sales

This is where the rubber meets the road. As we’ve seen thus far, a consistent brand voice can help you better relate to your customers, establish your company as a reliable solution provider, achieve your company’s mission by following through on promises, and build your audience’s trust in you. 

All of this ultimately adds up to more closed deals and higher revenue. In fact, research has proven that brands that invest in developing and exercising a cohesive brand voice will see their revenue increase by an average of 23%! Simply put, when consumers feel like your brand voice connects well with them, they’re much more likely to buy from your business.

Dwight Schrute in The Office ~

HOW TO DEVELOP YOUR OWN BRAND VOICE

Companies that have developed a strong brand voice haven’t approached the process lightly or haphazardly. They’ve taken active steps to define what and how they want to communicate their message and documented it in detail, so that every point of contact with their customers is positive, on-brand, and consistent.

This is extremely important, since the manner in which you deliver your message to customers and prospects truly matters. In fact, it’s one of the key factors that can make or break a deal.

Finding your brand voice can seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be a big ordeal. Your brand voice already exists – it’s up to you to recognize it, articulate it, and share it with the world. But how do you unearth your voice – and where do you start?

DEFINE YOUR BRAND

To really home in on and refine your brand voice, you need to come to a deep, intimate understanding of who your brand is and what you’re trying to achieve. This is the heart of who you are as a company – your brand is simply a tool to express it.

A good place to start in developing your brand voice is to take a hard look at your company’s purpose, vision, mission, and values.

Purpose

Who are you? Why do you exist? How do your clients benefit from what you have to offer?

Vision

What kind of future do you want to create? What goals do you want to achieve? Do you aim to make a difference in your community or the world at large? What sets your company apart from the competition?

Mission

What do you plan to do to create the future you’ve envisioned? What are you trying to accomplish as a company? What do  you want your audience to say and think about you?

Values

Define your company culture and the core principles that guide your business. What’s important to you? What does your company stand for?

If you’re still struggling to pin down the particulars of your brand identity, imagine your brand as a person and try to describe its personality. How do your brand’s personality traits differ from those of your competitors?

This is an exercise you can get creative and have some fun with. Determining what type of person your company would be if it were a human being can help you gather valuable insights into the people who are most likely to connect with your brand.

What does this “person” look like? What kind of language do they use? Are they energetic or more laid-back? What does their ideal day look like?

Oftentimes, in order to determine who you are as a brand, it helps to first figure out what you’re not. Knowing this will help you better define your voice.

That’s where completing a “We’re ______, but we’re not ______” exercise can come in handy. Fill in the blanks of the sentence and duplicate the process several times until you’ve settled upon three or four sentences that best describe your brand. Once you’ve determined what your brand is not, then you can begin outlining what your brand actually is and how to 

When you’ve gained a better understanding of your brand’s DNA, you can begin to consider how you will express it through your brand voice.

GET TO KNOW YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE

Understanding exactly who you want to appeal to with your messaging is a crucial step toward developing your brand’s voice. In order to do this, you’ll have to get to know your audience on a personal level.

Research your target audience’s characteristics, habits, and behavioral patterns. Collect as much info as you can about their demographics, age range, education, job title, income level, likes/dislikes, and buying motivation.

As most of your customer interactions will transpire online, the words you use will leave a lasting impression in the minds of your target audience. The more you can align your voice with the language your audience uses, the easier it will be for potential customers to identify with you.

In addition, it’s critical to determine your target audience’s preferred method of communication. Not all demographics communicate the same way – some may prefer to be contacted on social media, while others may prefer email. Knowing how your audience prefers to engage with brands allows you to home in on the most appropriate marketing channels in an effort to create your brand voice.

Questions To Ask Your Target Audience:

  • What are their interests?
  • What are their beliefs and values?
  • What will offend them?
  • What will hook them?
  • How do they speak? Does this change across different channels?
  • What kind of content do they usually engage in?
  • Who are they following on social media?
  • What are they buying?
  • What are their expectations when they engage with brands?
  • How do you want them to feel about your brand?
  • How can you provide value to them?
  • What might make them care about your company, product, or service?
  • Does what they care about align with what your brand stands for?

AUDIT YOUR CURRENT CONTENT

Every piece of content you publish makes a statement about your brand, whether you’re purposefully crafting a voice or not. If the voice your readers are already hearing from you isn’t in keeping with your brand’s values and purpose, you may need to make adjustments in order to align your content with your brand.

Your audience will be the ultimate measure of whether you’ve created a successful brand voice. If your voice doesn’t resonate with your audience, then it probably isn’t the right voice.

To gain greater insight on how your brand voice currently sounds, conduct an audit of your existing content across all marketing platforms, including webpages, blog posts, social media posts, videos, e-books, print collateral, in-store signage, etc.

Cast a critical eye on the content samples you’ve collected. Pay especially close attention to your best-performing pieces, as these are what your audience is currently connecting with.

Extrapolate the key characteristics of the voice used in these pieces. Take note of which aspects you feel can, and should, be reproduced across your brand as a whole.

Which of these examples could have originated from one of your competitors? Set those aside. Narrow down your examples to only those that embody the brand voice that you want to represent.

DECIDE ON YOUR BRAND’S TONE OF VOICE

Once you’ve decided what your voice is, it’s time to focus on the tone of your brand. Think about what your product or service does for people. How does it solve their problems or enhance their lives? Your tone of voice should reflect and reinforce that.

When people interact with your brand, how do you want them to feel? If you want to make your audience laugh, then your tone might be whimsical, engaging, and accessible. Whereas if you want to raise awareness for a specific issue, your tone might be more compassionate, inspirational, and heartfelt.

Knowing the answers to these big-picture questions can help you pinpoint the emotional brand experience you’re attempting to deliver. Cultivating your brand tone of voice is an effective way to accomplish this.

Remember, brand voice is what you say and brand tone is how you say it. As your tone may vary across different audiences or platforms, it’s a good idea to document in your brand style guide – which we’ll talk about shortly – how content creators should utilize certain tones in specific situations.

Copycat, Literally

DON’T COPY THE COMPETITION

Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery; but with regard to branding, it won’t do your business any favors. Sure, it’s worthwhile to analyze how your competitors craft a certain tone and engage with their customers, but you shouldn’t try to imitate their style.

Attempting to emulate your rivals’ success may attract people’s attention – but not in a good way. Branding decisions that too closely resemble those of your competitors will make you look like a wannabe or a blatant ripoff. 

Aspire for something different instead. This doesn’t require doing a total about-face from your competitors. Rather, seek out qualities and traits that their brand voice obviously lacks.

Conducting a competitive analysis can not only help you identify with whom you’re competing; it can also help you distinguish between your brand and theirs.

CREATE FORMAL BRAND VOICE GUIDELINES

When developing a brand, businesses often create a style guide which defines standards for copywriting, graphics, colors, fonts, images, and all other branding details. This guide serves as a framework for all members of the team to follow when developing content.

Much like your brand style guide, your brand voice also needs documentation. Creating a brand voice document will help keep your social media posts and marketing copy in check and consistent – especially if you have more than one content creator on your team.

By creating a brand voice chart, you can organize and further elaborate on the brand attributes you’ve defined so far. Try to come up with three to four words (typically adjectives) that best represent your brand and complete a chart consisting of four columns – “Characteristics,” “Description,” “Do’s,” and “Don’ts” – explaining how each trait should and shouldn’t be represented in your marketing.

Your brand voice chart is a great starting point for creating a larger brand voice document – a crucial reference guide that helps your content creators understand what does and doesn’t align with your defined brand voice.

Your formal brand voice document should begin with your company’s core values and mission statement; but it should also include other key components of your brand, such as personality traits, common vocabulary and phrases, as well as your desired tone of voice. Additionally, you should include examples of content that “hit the mark” as well as pieces that aren’t necessarily reflective of the brand voice you’ve defined.

Establishing well-defined brand voice guidelines helps make sure that brand standards are upheld, and that every customer-facing asset your company creates sounds like one cohesive brand – even if you have a number of different people creating content and writing copy.

 

REVIEW & REVISE YOUR BRAND VOICE REGULARLY

Developing a brand voice isn’t supposed to be a one-time, set-it-and-forget-it endeavor. As your brand messaging progresses over time or new competitors enter your market, it’s a good idea to revisit your brand voice guidelines and rejuvenate them with fresh examples.

Make it a point to meet with your key content creators and communicators at designated times – whether on a quarterly basis, during major brand makeovers, or during large-scale events that could significantly alter your company’s marketing strategy – to reevaluate your brand voice.

Identify any voice attributes that haven’t performed well or, for whatever reason, are better in theory than in practice. Without regular reviews of your brand voice, you risk sounding outdated or out of touch with current events.

You want to ensure that everyone who may have a hand in creating communications from your company is on the same wavelength about what both the brand’s voice and tone should sound like.

Use your voice. ~ Lillee Jean

FINAL THOUGHTS

Your brand voice is the first impression you leave with consumers, as well as the cornerstone of developing relationships with them as customers. It’s a critical step toward becoming a company with dedicated clients and a long-standing place in the  market.

Much like a writer develops a character, your brand voice also demands careful development. Successfully keeping your brand “in character” calls for meticulous attention to detail, but it will prove profitable for your business.

While brand voice consistency is essential, flexibility is equally important. Be prepared to modulate your brand voice as customer priorities – and the market – change over time.

How will you know when you’ve found the right voice? It’s pretty simple, actually. When you publish a piece of content or launch a new marketing campaign and a reader recognizes that it’s your company before they even click, you’ll know you’ve found your voice.

Now that you’re equipped with more information about brand voice, it’s time for you to go create your own! If you feel like you could still use a bit more guidance, HighClick Media is here to help with all your branding and digital marketing needs. Give us a call today at 252.814.2150 or drop us a line here to learn how we can help elevate your brand!

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Navigating the New Normal: How to Market Your Business in a Post-Pandemic World

Navigating the New Normal: How to Market Your Business In A Post-Pandemic World

In the span of a few short weeks, our whole world has changed. A deadly virus that very few saw coming has forced workers to stay at home for their own safety, businesses to shutter temporarily, and entire economies to be shut down. As a result, instead of developing long-term business strategies, working to achieve ambitious growth targets, and readying the launch of new products, small and large organizations alike have been prompted to hit a pause-and-reset button.

Even now, it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, as infection and death rates continue to rise. In the face of what’s sure to be a severe economic recession, businesses, in general – and marketers, in particular – are struggling to find a way forward. How long this recession might last and what shape it will take are open to speculation. Though a great degree of uncertainty remains, what’s clear is that the immediate future is going to look dramatically different than the one we’d planned for at the start of the year.

With lockdowns beginning to ease and the scale of the economic challenge coming into clearer focus, companies can start to measure the initial impact the global pandemic has had on their businesses. If profits are lagging – as they inevitably will be – business owners may seek to cut costs by scaling back their marketing efforts and curbing ad spend. However, as we will see, this is not the time to “ghost” our customers. Companies that do so, in times of crisis, often struggle mightily to regain market share once the economy eventually recovers.

As unemployment skyrockets, money will inevitably be tighter for consumers as well. We can expect that customers will behave differently than before, since their immediate needs and short-term priorities will have drastically changed in the past few months. In order to rebuild the trust in their company’s brand, products, and services, marketers must alter their approach to their customers. The message must be restructured to fit the tone of the moment, or else it may come off as tone-deaf at best, or offensive at worst.

Let’s be clear: there will be no “winners” from the COVID-19 pandemic. But it is possible for companies to come out of this crisis stronger than before by leveraging a combination of shrewd crisis management, sincere empathy, and a depth of understanding of the “new normal” we’re all facing.

8 Strategies for Marketing Your Business in a Post-Pandemic World:

 1)  Customer Insight

Knowing as much as possible about our customers and prospects has always been a hallmark of any successful marketing campaign. In a post-COVID world, insight will still be of vital importance, but we must closely monitor consumers’ current preferences, needs, and even their feelings, as these will change often and rapidly.

In the wake of this global crisis, a few trends have already emerged. Consumers seem to respond best to positive messages brimming with confidence, reassurance, signs of hope, and a clear path for recovery. Customers have also shown a greater desire for more sustainable products, as well as an increased intent to buy locally.

As marketers, we must be willing to dig deep to understand what consumers care about, what they don’t, and what they’re anxious about at any point in time. Using social media and data analytics to track behavior will help us understand what potential customers value most and what concerns them. A clear marketing strategy, now as before, successfully links what a brand has to offer to what potential customers want.

2)  Communication & Engagement

The need to engage with clients has never been more important as it is now. Failing to do so effectively risks damaging long-term relationships with customers. While it’s understandable that companies may be unsure of what to say, how to say it, and when to reach out to customers, it’s crucial that we keep the lines of communication open.

More than ever, people crave a human connection. Brands that can relate to customers at a human level, by initiating new and meaningful conversations, will not only see a boost in exposure but the increased potential for new clients as well. We, as marketers, should strive to provide consumers with relative, informative content when they need it most, being mindful of their short attention spans and the need for instant gratification. All communications should be carefully monitored and altered as necessary to meet the changing needs and interests of consumers.

3)  Empathy & Sensitivity

As marketers, we must get to know our audience well enough that we can credibly ask them to trust our solutions to provide for their needs. In order to do that, we have to be able to empathize with our customers. Empathy goes beyond merely thinking about customers’ needs and being sympathetic to the challenges they face. Genuine brand empathy requires marketers to forge a deep, emotion-driven understanding of what customers are going through during these troubling times. This isn’t something we can fake or pay lip service to with empty clichés like “We’re all in this together.”

Businesses must acknowledge customers’ anxiety, grief, and frustration and respond with compassionate, relevant content that’s in tune with where customers are in this moment. Customers should feel as though we have their best interests at heart. If we truly do, we must back up our words with actions and help provide tangible solutions.

Pretending like nothing extraordinary is happening is both tone-deaf and irresponsible. People will remember how brands handle their marketing during this time. Negative association with a brand can cause irreparable damage to a company’s reputation and its continuing business operations. We must be vigilant to ensure that the information we’re sending out is sensitive to both our customers’ needs and their recent experiences.

4)  Digital Transformation

Over the past several months, a global population in lockdown has flocked to the internet in droves. From online grocery shopping to video-conferencing to telehealth, digital media has been able to meet people’s most pressing needs like never before. The internet has also played host to a variety of entertainment options for the homebound, from gaming to social media to live TV and news. Ecommerce has grown exponentially in recent months as well. The digital landscape has been expanding and evolving for some time now, but the rate at which it has done so during the pandemic is staggering. The majority of these digital users, new and old alike, expect their reliance on digital media to increase or, at least, remain at the same level for the foreseeable future.

Some brands have spent the past couple of years investing in their online customer journeys – developing websites, applications, and implementing live-streaming, to name a few – are now reaping the benefits of these efforts. A multitude of retailers and other businesses have spent the last two months scrambling to set up an online presence, with mixed results.

Now more than ever, businesses are realizing they must turn to digital channels such as social media to maintain connections with customers, as well as sow seeds for future growth. Advertisers and marketers alike have taken advantage of digital media’s unique ability to reach customers in real time and adapt messaging quickly as needed. Everywhere an organization exists digitally is a potential customer service channel. As marketers, we must expand our efforts to find, engage, and serve customers everywhere online. Advanced targeting and personalization allow marketers to track customer sentiments more efficiently and adapt messaging to current moods and behaviors.

Going forward, companies would be wise to invest in creating positive digital experiences for their customers. Social media pages should be updated frequently. Websites should be responsive in design, optimized for mobile, and as user-friendly as possible. First impressions of a business aren’t just made in person anymore.

5)  Cultivate Trust & Brand Loyalty

Creating trust and cultivating brand loyalty are critical to remaining competitive in a post-pandemic world. Brands that build strong relationships with their customers in the short term will reap the long-term benefits of those connections.

As much as is possible, businesses should continue delivering on their promises, respond quickly and effectively to customers’ concerns, and maintain brand visibility. We, as marketers, must be able to demonstrate a deep awareness and understanding of the positive outcomes and experiences our audiences want to achieve, not simply focus on transactional behaviors that we want to drive.

Winning over new customers in the immediate aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis may be difficult. Our focus should be on re-targeting previous patrons. Keeping in touch with past customers via social media, email marketing, and targeted ads is key to maintaining close relationships with our customers.

6)  Creativity & Innovation

Our job, as marketers, is not only to keep our businesses moving in the right direction, but also to build and maintain truly meaningful partnerships with our customers. By creating content that engages in memorable, surprising, and personalized ways, we can inspire customers to take the next step in their journey. We should focus on producing content that’s more personally resonant, situationally relevant, and emotionally intelligent. Providing trusted information, some much-needed comic relief, or anything in between can help our clients get through this difficult time.

The pandemic offers a unique opportunity to rethink the way we’re presenting our products – the manner in which we talk about them, the topics in these conversations, and the context around our customers’ experiences. Too many advertisers and marketers are using the same tired strategies to reach out to their customers during this time. We are tasked with making sure our brand stands out while also appealing to what our customers want.

A valuable exercise for marketing teams to explore is brainstorming how we can create content for platforms we haven’t employed previously. By expanding their organic reach, brands can stay top of mind in a global audience that’s actively seeking new media.

7)  Agility

Throughout the pandemic, businesses small and large have shown the capability to pivot quickly to address the changing needs and priorities of their customers. Being prepared ahead of time to adapt to an ever-changing market is critical to future success.

Businesses must examine their goals and strategies and consider new approaches, services, and products they may not have considered previously. Marketers must continually reassess who their potential customers are, how they make their purchasing decisions, how likely different groups will respond to marketing, and how messaging and content should be modified for different audiences.

The way we do business has changed dramatically in a few short months, thanks in large part to the increasing number of remote workers. Organizations that were previously leery of allowing employees to work from home have quickly developed and implemented strategies to make remote working a functional reality. Businesses are realizing that this arrangement can be a cost-saver, as working from home reduces the need for office space and other infrastructure. As a result, this practice will likely gain greater acceptance going forward.

8)  Everything Is Marketing!

During these challenging times, companies can continue to build their brands by treating everything they do as marketing. From employees’ community service efforts and corporate social responsibility work to company communications on social media, everything an organization does shapes people’s opinions of our brands and influences their decisions about whether to do business with us, now and in the future.

We, as marketers, must ensure that every activity we engage in reinforces and interprets our brand’s positioning and personality. We have the ability to turn interactions with employees, business partners, communities, and customers into potent messages about our brand. By transforming everyday actions into extraordinary ones, we can improve brand perceptions and attract greater attention to our business.

The Forecast

In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses cannot simply dust off the old marketing playbook and pick up where they left off. Brand personas, methods, and messaging must evolve to confront the new realities. The effect on consumer behavior and values will almost certainly continue for years to come.

Marketing will play a key role in our recovery. Companies that have been able to prosper during lockdown – grocery delivery services, for example – may experience significant setbacks once consumers return to in-person shopping. Businesses that may have been forced to close temporarily will have to find ways to persuade customers that their products or services are safe once more. Still others will have to implement strategic plans to win back customers who may have adopted new daily habits while working from home. Throughout all this, information and communication will be vital. Marketers who make the most of these unique circumstances will be best positioned to help restore the economy.

It’s still too early to know what the “next normal” will look like, which behaviors will persist, what attitudes may shift permanently, and what technologies will have taken root in the lives of consumers. As marketers, now is the time to double down on what we do best. We need to make sure our brands are at the top of searches, our social media pages are constantly updated, and that we are constantly seeking new and innovative ways to connect with our audiences.

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Taking the Shame Out of Shameless Self-Promotion

Taking the Shame Out of Shameless Self-Promotion

They show up multiple times a day on social media. You see them in endless TV commercials. They’re loud, they’re annoying, and they’re everywhere! They are the shameless self-promoters of the business world.

When you examine the strategies and tactics of the most effective attention-getters in history, you’ll find an extensive list of notable individuals – P.T. Barnum, Richard Branson, and Donald Trump, to name a few – who are incredibly talented in the art of self-promotion. Regardless of how you feel about the people who have employed these techniques, it’s undeniable that their efforts have been remarkably successful.

Yet many business owners feel extraordinarily uncomfortable when it comes to self-promoting their ventures. Why is that? Where in our journey did we determine that self-promotion is bad? Why do we accept that as the truth? Why do we associate expressing joy, confidence, or pride about our work with something for which we feel shame?

This article will attempt to answer these questions, examine the specific tactics employed by shameless self-promoters, and provide action steps to help you, as a business owner, feel confident about promoting your enterprise to prospective clients.

Zara Larsson Self High-Five

WHY IS SELF-PROMOTION IMPORTANT, ANYWAY?

At its essence, self-promotion is getting your proverbial foot in the door with potential customers. No matter how outstanding your product or service is or what amazing value you can offer, if prospects don’t know you exist, you’re never going to have the opportunity to do business with them.

Selling yourself can feel awkward, arrogant, and agonizing. But if you want your business to prosper and you want your work to have a positive impact, you’ve got to learn how to master it. When you don’t actively promote your services or products, you are robbing people of the chance to do business with someone who truly has the customer’s best interests at heart.

If you aren’t willing to market your talents, expertise, and products, people will quickly overlook you. Business strategist Debbie Allen sums it up like this: “The world isn’t going to beat a path to your door unless you lead the way.”

SHAMELESS AND HEALTHY SELF-PROMOTION: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

Not all self-promotion is shameless. It all depends on your approach.

Understanding how to recognize shameless self-promotion allows you to distinguish it from the kind of healthy self-promotion that genuinely serves your business. If you can’t tell the difference between the two, you’ll never feel entirely confident in talking about what you do with potential clients.

Tooting your own horn is fine, just as long you keep it in moderation and know when to put the trombone away. Knowing where to focus your efforts and where to draw the line are important components to self-marketing success.

Healthy self-promotion is all about spreading ideas, knowledge, and a higher vision. When you promote ideas, you give people something to cheer for, a cause to support.

What makes self-promotion shameless is how often you do it, the intensity with which you approach it, and to whom you’re promoting yourself. It’s generally unwelcome, unlikable, and quite often insensitive.

Shameless self-promotion involves repeatedly mentioning your business, services, products, or accomplishments without any real concern for the people the business is purported to be helping.

In short, you’re a living, breathing, nonstop sales pitch – for yourself.

Ryan Serhant Sell It Shameless Self-Promotion

SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION TECHNIQUES TO AVOID

There are many positive, healthy ways to self-promote. Some methods, while they might seem harmless at first glance, can actually be detrimental to both you and your business.

Asking Friends and Family to Support Your Business

When you launch a new project and you’re excited about it, the first thing you want to do is tell your friends and family. Those closest to you may not personally have a need for your products or services, but they might know someone who does. They may not be able to patronize your business with a purchase, but they can still add their encouragement or share your posts.

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with asking family and friends to endorse your new enterprise, it’s important to understand that they’re under no obligation to do so. And if they don’t, you shouldn’t pester them about it.

Making Every Conversation About Your Projects

While it’s obviously okay to talk up your business, doing so all day, every day to every single person you encounter is not an ideal plan. In fact, it’s a very quick way to lose people’s attention and respect.

Starting a new business is a full-time job. As a budding entrepreneur, it’s likely all you’ll think about for a while. Because it’s easy to believe everyone else is as invested in the project as you are, you might be tempted to converse about it constantly. Even if you’re unaware that you’re doing it, it’s still fairly shameless – especially if you’re trying to solicit funds from people.

Spamming Your Contacts Via Email and Social Media

Using social media to garner interest in your business is perfectly acceptable. Where it becomes shameless is when you use these social networking platforms to spam your contacts with constant updates about your business and ask that they share them.

The same goes for email – if people start receiving too many messages from the same businesses promoting their products and services, they’re probably going to end up trashing them. If you only send the occasional email with enticing offers and shy away from being too salesy, it’s more likely to be read.

HOW TO APPROACH SELF-PROMOTION IN A POSITIVE WAY

Don’t promote yourself – promote what you believe in.

By promoting what you believe in instead of making conceited claims or rattling off a catalog of services, you can more clearly convey what kind of business you run, what you represent, and the true value of what you do. That’s why people will choose to do business with you.

Start circulating your ideas.

Create genuine value and interest by bringing something new, or at least a fresh perspective, to the table. Let people know what you stand for, particularly as it relates to issues that are relevant to your audience.

Make your vision as unambiguous and well-founded as possible. Brand yourself and your ideas as original and exclusive. Although few ideas are genuinely unique, your expression can be.

Engage with power brokers in your field of interest and advise them why they should promote you. If they won’t, create influencers from within. As Nathan Hangen succinctly states, “Build others up until they have the power to build you up.”

Not everyone will approve of your ideas or your approach, and that’s alright. Acknowledge your critics, but don’t hesitate to challenge them, either.

People Helping People. It's Powerful Stuff. Shameless Self-Promotion

Focus on helping and serving other people.

When done effectively, self-promotion is an art form. It comes from a place of service, from your passion and commitment to support others first. Effective self-promotion comes naturally when words and actions connect your head and heart.

Demonstrate that you truly care about solving people’s problems and making their lives better. Step outside business-related topics every once in a while to promote worthy causes. Good people want to do business with other good people who share their values.

When you start to look at self-promotion as a way to serve others, it becomes far less intimidating.

Let your passion for what you do shine through.

Passion is both inspirational and infectious. When you passionately believe in yourself, your ideas, your services, and your products, people will start to have faith in you as well and champion your business proudly. You won’t need to shamelessly self-promote; others will do it for you.

100% Real John Crist Shameless Self-Promotion

Be authentic in everything you say and do.

People can spot a fraud from far away, and nobody wants to do business with one. Pushing something you really don’t believe in is actually worse than shameless self-promotion.

When you say something about yourself, it’s a claim. When someone else says the same thing, it’s a fact. And that’s a heckuva lot more potent than shameless self-promotion.

Be confident.

People who have a difficult time selling and marketing seldom succeed. In order to move forward with your business, you must become absolutely sold on yourself, your abilities, your products, and your services – or no one else will be!

Muhammad Ali was one of the consummate self-promoters in history. He was well-liked not just because he truly was “the greatest,” but also for his integrity and the audacity of his ideas. Mike Tyson’s accomplishments were magnificent, but he never projected a greater vision that made us cheer.

Don't Let Your Dreams Be Dreams Just Do It Shia LaBeouf Shameless Self-Promotion

Learn to live by the “Three Rules of Shameless Success.”

Rule #1:  Have your own personal style. No one can compete with you when you’re comfortable enough being your own person – someone who shares their own ideas and their own mind.

Rule #2:  Never give up, even when other people don’t believe in you or your ideas, or tell you that you’re crazy. No matter how many roadblocks get in your way: move around them, over, through them, and keep going!

Rule #3:  Stand out and get noticed. Find a way to position yourself in front of the right people who will listen and pay attention, and ultimately support your success.

Final Thoughts

Some entrepreneurs and business owners view shameless self-promotion in a negative light, because they fear it will be misconstrued as a form of endless bragging. Unfortunately, as a byproduct of this fear, they often choose the opposite extreme – not talking about their business at all.

Don’t let this happen to you! Your ideas need you. If you have a vision, don’t let anyone get in the way of achieving your goals. Learn to talk about yourself and your vision in ways that are genuine, engaging, warm, and generous. Share your ideas in the form of anecdotes, stories, and conversations with other people – particularly people who may find that information valuable or relevant. Being generous means that you’re able to both relay your own news and welcome the news of others.

Perhaps entrepreneur Marie Forleo said it best: “It’s time for all of us to untangle these feelings of shame and self-consciousness from the act of expressing our gifts, and offering our services to the world. Instead of calling it shameless self-promotion, let’s take the shame out of it altogether!”

Keep in mind that while self-promotion is extraordinarily important, it’s only one aspect of running a successful business. Make sure you’re offering products and services that people want and providing them with an excellent experience. Those two things alone can be more beneficial than any amount of self-promotion when it comes to sustaining or growing your business.

If you need help getting started with promoting your business, especially online, HighClick Media can help! We can develop and implement a digital marketing strategy tailored to your specific business that will get results! Call us today at 252.814.2150!

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Why You Can’t Afford to NOT Practice Ethical Marketing

Why You Can't Afford to NOT Practice Ethical Marketing

As difficult as it might be to describe what ethics is in terms of marketing, it’s simple to describe what it isn’t.

For example, if a product pricing landing page conveys inaccurate information, or conceals the price entirely. Or when an enticing advertisement on social media alleges that a product will do X, Y, and Z – but when you order it, you realize it can only do Y.

These kinds of questionable, dishonest, and nefarious marketing techniques are perfect examples of what it means for a company to behave unethically.

While unethical marketing can potentially be successful in the short term, it’s not a viable long-term strategy. Eventually, customers will lose trust in your brand altogether, and you’ll discover that it’s hard to find brand advocates who are inclined to spread awareness about your products or services through word-of-mouth marketing.

In a nutshell, unethical marketing will make a marketer’s job much more difficult in the long run, not easier.

In order to ensure that you’re observing best practices to create ethical solutions to all your marketing challenges, it’s important to evaluate the crucial role that ethics plays in modern marketing – and leadership overall.

Ethics in Leadership

We should probably begin by defining what ethics truly means.

While it’s easy to characterize ethics as “the difference between right and wrong,” it actually goes a bit deeper than that.

The concept of “right” and “wrong” is generally a somewhat subjective one. What’s “right,” culturally speaking, in the United States might be strongly discouraged in Asia, and vice versa.

According to the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, the term “ethics” can be defined in two distinct ways: “Well-founded standards of right and wrong that prescribe what humans ought to do, usually in terms of rights, obligations, benefits to society, fairness, or specific values. Ethical standards also include those that [command] virtues of honesty, compassion, and loyalty.”

Additionally, “ethics refers to the study and development of one’s ethical standards. Feelings, laws, and social norms can deviate from what is ethical. So it is necessary to constantly examine one’s standards to ensure that they are reasonable and well-founded.”

In the framework of marketing, ethics relates to the practice of nurturing fairness, honesty, and empathy in all marketing pursuits.

One of the simplest ways to support ethics in a business sense is to make sure that it’s rooted in your company’s culture and values.

It’s not enough just to have a set of principles and a clearly defined mission statement. Genuinely ethical companies have an obligation to put these values into practice every day.

Joan Harrington, Director of Social Sector Ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, explains further: “The key to integrating ethics in organizations is leadership. The leadership must set the example by living the organizational values and incorporating them into all aspects of the business.

Having a code of ethics or a set of values in a handbook is not enough to shape an ethical culture. Employees need to be trained on, or at least exposed to, how to make ethical decisions. Ethics is not about what you think is right versus what I think is right. It is how we – in all of our different relationships – ought to behave.”

In a perfect scenario, Harrington proposes, an entire organization will undergo ethical decision-making training. But there are certain aspects of an organization that are higher-risk for ethical issues than others – for example, engineers occupied with projects involving artificial intelligence that could affect millions of people. For those higher-risk groups, these ethical decision-making training sessions should be compulsory, not voluntary.

“This is not to say that there may be more than one ethical response,” Harrington continues, “but it is not purely subjective. In training, people need to be exposed to real-life situations, relevant to their jobs, so they can really work through how to identify, approach, and decide ethical issues.”

To foster a sincerely ethical culture, it’s important that leaders embody ethical behaviors and values, build a strong community, and develop ethical systems in which all employees can prosper.

To do this, leaders must “use goals, mission, and values to make decisions about compensations and other rewards, like promotions,” says Ann Skeet, Senior Director of Leadership Ethics at the Markkula Center.

Fundamentally, ethical leadership needs to be integrated into the processes, not simply a side note. Thus, it isn’t just the responsibility of one person to speak up and say that something doesn’t seem fair. Rather, the foundation of the organization needs to be built upon ethical mainstays, including integrity and equity, so that each business decision is executed with these principles top of mind.

Ethics in Marketing

Ethical marketing involves a marketer’s obligation to make sure all marketing campaigns abide by core ethics principles, including integrity, humility, and honesty – both inside and outside the organization.

To further distinguish between internal and external marketing ethics, consider this example.

Suppose that your marketing team enlists the services of a design agency for a new marketing campaign. In the midst of the campaign, your team finds out that the agency doesn’t treat its employees fairly, and that it doesn’t square well with your ideals with regard to environmental and social responsibility.

Even if your customers are unaware of this association, it’s still in your best interests to sever your working relationship with the agency as quickly as possible, and realign yourself with agencies that support the same values you’ve established for your team internally.

Just as important, of course, is the public-facing element of ethical marketing. This includes making sure you don’t exaggerate or flat-out lie about your products or services – including pricing, performance, release date, current customers, etc. – in order to entice new customers.

In addition, ethical marketing involves treating workers equitably, using renewable resources, and supporting environmental or social causes deemed to be important to your brand.

Consider Toms, the notable footwear brand, which gives away $1 for every $3 it makes and has donated nearly 100 million pairs of shoes to people in need since 2006.

Harrington concludes: “Marketing has its own, built-in ethical issues. For nonprofits, do they do ‘storytelling’ about their clients in an ethical way when they are engaged in fundraising? How are they representing their clients? Have they included clients in deciding how to present them? Are they operating from stereotypes? For all organizations, to figure out whether marketing is ethical, you’ll want to ask whether marketers are operating transparently. Is the product accurately described? Is the marketing ahead of the actual product? And is there undue pressure on potential consumers?”

In 2020, ethical marketing is more crucial than ever.

Take into consideration, for example, that it costs five to twenty-five times more to gain a new customer than to retain an existing one. Brand loyalty is vital to the enduring success of your company.

Furthermore, consumers don’t trust businesses these days to the extent that they did previously. As a matter of fact, 81% of people report that they trust their friends and family’s opinions over advice from a business, 69% distrust advertisements, and 71% are skeptical of sponsored ads on social networks.

In essence, there’s only one long-term solution to the ever-increasing challenge of a cynical customer base: ethical marketing.

Indeed, it’s essential to bear in mind, ethical marketing should have an effect on every aspect of your marketing strategy, not just one or two areas. You must demonstrate honesty, transparency, and integrity in every instance – from the Facebook posts you publish, to the product presentations you give.

Who We Are

HighClick Media is a full-service digital marketing and web design agency providing comprehensive digital media and online marketing solutions for businesses of all sizes. Whether you’re looking for a fresh web design, brand development, or digital marketing solutions, our highly skilled web design and digital marketing team will help you boost your business success. Call us at 252.814.2150 today to find out more!

*** This article is greatly indebted to a recent article on HubSpot’s blog, both in its inspiration and content. ***

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10 Lessons Marketers Can Learn from Political Campaigns

10 Lessons Marketers Can Learn From Political Campaigns

 

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting pretty tired of seeing and hearing political ads. Whether you’re flipping through a newspaper, watching the morning news, listening to your favorite tunes, checking your mail or email, or even surfing the web, political ads are simply unavoidable. And that’s probably the point.

While traditional political advertising – print, television, radio, and “snail mail” – is far from “dead” from a marketing standpoint, it’s obvious that digital political ads are on the rise.

Case in point: I like to watch true crime shows on my phone – but the app that I use doesn’t have an ad-free option. So every ten minutes or so, I’m forced to not-so-patiently wade through two to three minutes of advertising before I can get back to my show. And what kind of marketing content is ID Go exposing me to? You guessed it: political ads.

In my downtime at home, I occasionally find myself playing games on my phone. One such game that I frequently play is called Flippy Knife. It’s a decently fun way to pass the time, but it’s simply riddled with advertising. Sure, I could pay $2.99 for the ad-free version, but I’m a bit of a cheapskate.

So, I endure the ads. And can you guess what kinds of ads Flippy Knife has been showing me lately? You got it: political ads! At least these are outside the norm, though.

One memorable ad I saw just yesterday simulates an ‘80s-era video game and depicts a highly pixelated version of a well-known political candidate stating his positions and urging me to vote for him this November 3rd.

Like I said, it’s unavoidable.

Marketing Lessons Political Campaigns

That being said, there’s a lot that marketers like myself can learn from these political campaigns, especially as they increasingly go digital.

Here are 10 takeaways that I’ve been able to…well, take away…from this frenzied election cycle:

Understand Your Target Audience

Marketing and political campaigns alike typically divide customers (or voters) into three major groups: their own pool, their competitor’s pool, and the undecideds.

Own Pool

These are the faithful customers (voters) who are already familiar with your brand (candidate) and are most likely to repurchase (vote for you). These are the people your campaign must diligently focus on to establish loyalty.

Competitor’s Pool

These customers (voters) are loyal to your competition (political opponent). Hence, your strategies toward them must be centered on why your brand (candidate) is superior to the competitor’s. To effect any changes in their way of thinking, you must emphasize your strengths as a brand/candidate as well as your opponent’s weaknesses.

Undecided

This pool of customers (voters) is still on the fence. Simply put, they’re looking for a reason to trust a particular brand (candidate) over another. Your aim, then, is to amplify your brand’s strengths and advantages in order to shift them in your favor.

Marketing Lessons Political Campaigns

Conduct Systematic Targeting

Seldom will you see a political ad targeting a neutral, general-audience message. They almost always have a partisan lean, at least to some degree. That’s because the people running these campaigns know that it can be exceptionally difficult, if not impossible, to attract and win over the general public as a whole.

If political campaigns excel at anything, it’s this: they know who their supporters are. Campaigns expend a tremendous amount of time and resources to identify candidate supporters, how passionately they feel about the candidate, and how likely they are to actually go out and vote.

Campaign officials are well aware of which demographics their candidate appeals to the most. They are continually monitoring the opinions, trends, and political demands of their supporters, shifting the campaign’s focus as necessary to deliver solutions to their audience’s most pressing concerns.

This logic-based approach to audience targeting allows campaigns to spend money and time on potential or likely supporters rather than squandering those resources on individuals who will never be swayed to vote for their candidate.

Likewise, in order for marketers to reach their ideal base, they must first have to identify who these people are. This is where the concept of buyer personas comes in. Personas are fictional characterizations of your perfect customer. In crafting these, you’ll be able to identify which pain points your business is best-equipped to meet and how to go about communicating your value to that specific type of persona.

Far too many marketers are concentrating their efforts on a group of people that will almost certainly never buy the product they’re selling. Whether actively or accidentally, they’re overlooking a multitude of prospective buyers who may even already be geared up to become customers.

Sometimes, it’s because they’re unaware that this customer base exists. Other times, they neglect to look beyond the customer base that they do know. They can’t even fathom a particular demographic buying their product.

In both marketing and political campaigns, it’s always best to direct your efforts toward leads that are the most likely to convert. Start with the low-hanging fruit. Go for the near-potentials. Skip the probably-nots.

Execute Strategic Planning

Here’s where political campaigns and digital marketing are exactly alike. Voters and consumers are continuously seeking candidates or brands that have a message or a mission to work towards.

In the same way that a political party takes the time to carefully craft its position on hot-button issues, so must marketers devote ample time and resources into planning what their brand stands for.

Create Data-Driven Content

In the political world, data is nothing new – after all, the first political opinion poll in the United States was conducted in 1824. However, the way this data is collected and analyzed today is certainly more advanced.

With the right data in hand, political campaigns can get answers to crucial questions, like:

  • Is their message resonating with voters?
  • How many people support your candidate?
  • How many support their opponent?
  • Who are these people, and what do they care about?

Thanks to the growth of digital marketing, it’s now easier for marketers to measure, analyze, and review a whopping amount of data in real time. The key is effectively converting this information into content as innovatively as possible in order to send clear, captivating messages.

These data-driven messages are used to address present conditions and outline how your brand can aid in improving these conditions. This helps build trust with customers and increase awareness for your brand.

Unfortunately, many small- to medium-sized businesses don’t concern themselves with data – like, at all. They exhaust their meager marketing resources haphazardly and can’t actually identify what’s working and what isn’t. But today’s technology is cheaper and more accessible than ever. With user-friendly tools like Facebook Insights and Google Analytics in existence, you’re likely collecting valuable data – even if you’re not examining it. Since your competitors are already wielding this data to their advantage, you need to be as well.

Marketing Lessons Political Campaigns

Tell Your Story

Speeches, campaign fliers, and other political marketing materials are teeming with stories – miniature narratives about a candidate’s hometown, their family and friendships, early-career adversities, and their “everyman” vision for the country. These stories help soften a candidate’s image, while still making them appear accomplished and trustworthy. They’re designed to resonate – and the best ones do just that.

Small- and medium-sized businesses often fail to remember that they can and should tell compelling stories. Sharing your story helps personalize the company – and today’s consumers are looking for that kind of personalization in the businesses they purchase from.

It’s important to recall that consumers don’t spend their money logically. Purchasing, not unlike voting, is an emotion-based action. People want to feel like they know where their money is going and in whom they’re investing.

Businesses that tell – and live out – engaging stories will attract and retain more customers and land more referrals. When establishing your brand and formulating your marketing strategies, make sure that you integrate a decent measure of storytelling into the process.

Marketing Lessons Political Campaigns

Everyone’s a Marketer

It’s difficult for a small marketing department to keep pace with companies that have more personnel, more capital, and more expertise. What’s the solution? Make marketing everyone’s job.

Political campaigns have entire marketing departments dedicated to drafting messages, producing commercials, sending out mailers, and the like. But have a chat with any campaign staffer – from the lowly intern to the campaign manager – and they’ll rattle on indefinitely about why their candidate is the best.

If you’re doing your job, the team you’ve hired and the people you’ve surrounded yourself with are “true believers.” They understand that every dollar matters, because they have a vested interest in the company’s success. These natural brand advocates are capable of recruiting their friends, posting about the business on social media, editing and writing blog posts, and so much more! Marketing doesn’t have to be in their job description – they just have to be given the go-ahead to do it.

Build a Community

Businesses make mention of referrals all the time – and it’s no surprise. After all, people are four times more likely to purchase something if it’s been referred to them by a friend or family member. With all the amazing technological advances in recent years, word of mouth is still one of the most indispensable tools in your marketing toolbox.

Political campaigns have always been very successful at this. Referrals, sharing on social media, personal outreach – these are the things that help develop new relationships and bolster existing ones. Campaigns understand that their success or failure relies on building and maintaining relationships – with constituents, supporters, volunteers, and donors. The most effective campaigns leverage the personal networks of each and every member of their team.

Customers can be great assets when it comes to recruiting new customers, helping you find new markets for your products and services, and sharing your brand story. The way to make this happen is to create a strong community around your brand.

Invest in Social Media

Since the 2008 U.S. presidential election, social media has become an integral part of every major political campaign. Not only can candidates put themselves and their stances front-and-center where the majority of the population already spends a lot of their free time, they can also engage with audiences through live video, boost fundraising efforts, recruit and manage volunteers, and ask/answer questions from potential supporters.

In the business world, it’s clear that if you don’t have some sort of presence on social media, you’ll be disregarded as old-fashioned and out of touch. Having a solid social media marketing strategy for your business can open the door to a much larger prospect pool than you may think. Social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter keep your brand consistent and up-to-date on market trends.

Not only can you keep an eye on what your audience finds appealing, you can also monitor what your competitors are up to. Be mindful of what you choose to share, though. As beneficial as social media can be, it can also go wrong pretty quickly. Careless typos and inaccurate info can put an unwelcome spotlight on your brand in front of the community and the world at large.

Engage with Your Audience

From local politicians canvassing constituents door-to-door to presidential contenders and their arena-sized rallies, political candidates are well aware that in order to gain the trust (and votes) of the populace, they need to connect and interact with them personally.

Similarly, your business’s marketing and sales teams should be acutely aware of how crucial it is to exercise personal engagement in an attempt to capture leads.

From consultative selling to SMS marketing, it’s essential to get up close and personal with your customers. The more you can make your business relationship feel like a partnership rather than a dispassionate exchange, the better.

Connect with Influencers

Influencer marketing has undoubtedly proven to significantly benefit both politics and digital marketing. Influencers bring authenticity and trustworthiness to a brand or candidate. This helps both with positive public relations and moving your influencer’s followers in your direction as well.

Marketing Lessons Political Campaigns

Have a Contingency Plan

No matter how much you prepare and perfect a project, mistakes are bound to happen. Sometimes things fall through the cracks. Fortunately, it’s not always the mistake that your audience will remember. It’s how you handle it after the fact. Political campaign managers understand this well.

There are lots of moving parts in a campaign – not unlike there are in a business – and the key players understand that they need to have backup plans for their backup plans. Damage control is part and parcel of politics. The same can be said of marketing.

Not every marketing initiative is destined to be a success. You can fall flat in your messaging or have the project come apart at the seams before it even goes live. That’s why it’s always a good idea to have a Plan B in place

Final Thoughts

It’s clear that – as annoying and repetitive as those ubiquitous ads may be – political campaigns have a lot to teach us about marketing.

As this election cycle winds down to its (undoubtedly) dramatic conclusion, organizations large and small would be wise to pay attention to the marketing strategies on display in the political realm. 

We may even be able to rip a page or two out of the  politicians’ playbooks that we can use for our own businesses!

If you need help developing a digital marketing strategy for your business, contact the friendly folks at HighClick Media! We’d be more than happy to help you #elevateyourbrand!

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Marketing to Millennials: Here’s What You Need to Know

Marketing To Millennials: Here’s What You Need To Know

Marketing professionals for small-to-medium-sized businesses should be aware that when creating messaging and content for the Millennial generation and younger, different rules apply. Marketing approaches that might have been effective in attracting the positive notice of older generations might miss the mark for Millennials – or even send the wrong message entirely. This means you may be failing to earn the interest and loyalty of the largest living generation, even if it’s not the generation that has the most buying power – yet.

Why Are Millennials Important as a Target Audience?

The short answer to this is that everyone is important. Good marketing is accessible marketing,  taking diverse needs into consideration and leaving no one out. Neglecting Millennials simply because they hold less wealth than Boomers or Gen X is problematic from several standpoints. However, from a purely pragmatic perspective, marketing that ignores Millennials is sabotaging itself.

This is partially because Millennials will come into greater buying power in the near future. It’s also because Millennials are more likely than other generations to be the primary consumers of marketing messaging since they are the most plugged in.

Here are some key considerations if you’re developing a marketing campaign with Millennials in mind:

1) Quality of Design Is Important

Older consumers may not notice if a website is poorly laid out or looks outdated. They may notice if a site is difficult to use, but they won’t necessarily be able to pinpoint why. Millennials, on the other hand – having grown up alongside a variety of developments in the digital world – are extremely savvy about what constitutes good design versus what looks cheap, tacky, or cheesy. If you’re not confident about your capacity to design for Millennials, consider enlisting the services of a professional website designer.

2) Craft Content That’s Social-Media-Worthy

Millennials and other younger consumers are probably going to come across your marketing on social media. So, you’ll want to craft content that works well across different platforms. Social-friendly content types to consider include videos (both video Stories and live streaming), testimonials, contests, and holiday-themed content. Also, make sure that your marketing content translates well to mobile devices.

3) Short-Form Content Is the Way to Go

Optimize your social media content to cater to the shorter attention spans of this generation. In many cases, Millennials simply don’t want to waste a lot of time trying to absorb marketing material, and they probably aren’t going to sit down and gaze at a lengthy video, either. Shorter snippets and brief stories are better than earnest but lengthy infomercials. Avoid using clickbait techniques in an attempt to lure Millennial consumers to go deeper into the content. These techniques are glaringly visible for what they are and are a major turn-off for this generation.

4) Make It About the Experience

Millennial consumers tend to value experiences over ownership. They’re more likely to splurge on an adventure or an excursion than on expensive material belongings. And, of course, they’re also likely to want to translate those experiences into Instagram shares. So, instead of focusing on what Millennial buyers might want to possess or purchase, emphasize how your products or services can enhance their life experiences.

5) Deliver Prompt Customer Service

Digital tools make it possible to communicate far more rapidly and effectively than we did even a decade ago, and Millennials are well-accustomed to using these tools. Consequently, they expect others to have mastered these so-called “instant gratification” tools as well. Delayed response times, particularly when it comes to customer requests or service, are likely to provoke a certain level of impatience.

6) Don’t Try to Fake Authenticity

This is a big one. A lot of the pitches that were popular in marketing campaigns directed at Gen X or Boomers come off, in the eyes of Millennials, as just that: sales pitches. This is a generation that has learned to distrust too much smoothness or fakeness and will view rehearsed sales scripts as smarmy rather than smart. In fact, Millennials are more likely than preceding generations to distrust the motives of the business itself. This is why it’s important that your marketing campaign is backed by real evidence with regard to company ethics and influence.

7) Appeal to Their Values

Millennials tend to take values and ethics seriously. Shopping, for them, is not just about satisfying individual needs or desires or getting the best deal. It’s also about making informed choices that can contribute to a better future. Unlike the “me generation,” these younger consumers are likely to think more about sustainability and the future and ask questions about the values and mission of a company.

8) Make Affordability a Selling Point

Here again, Millennials are probably going to look past the pitch and determine whether this product or service is actually a frugal choice. The generation that made thrift store shopping hip cares less about showcasing expensive brands and more about making their spending money go further. When Millennials do splurge, they’re often motivated less by the need to have what everyone else has, and more by the desire to have something unique that reflects their personal style and brand.

9) Where Millennial Audiences Hang Out

In order to reach Millennials on social media, you’ll want to make use of the major platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, as well as some of the newer ones like Snapchat and TikTok, where younger Millennials may be more active. Email marketing also is an effective way to reach your Millennial audience. Compared to Gen Z, Millennials tend to use a variety of platforms and don’t focus simply on those which are primarily video-oriented. Since you will need to diversify your digital marketing in order to capture broad Millennial interests, consider working with a local digital marketing agency like HighClick Media.

A good marketing strategist understands that while human nature remains relatively unchanged from one generation to the next, human trends, tastes, activities, and self-definition are very culturally relative. So, it’s important to understand the different tastes of diverse demographics, including Millennial consumers.

At HighClick Media, we’re ready, willing, and able to help with all of your digital marketing needs. Give us a call today at 252.814.2150 or drop us a line here.

About The Author:

Alyssa Strickland created millennial-parents.com for all the new parents on the block. She believes the old adage that it takes a village to raise a child, but also thinks it takes a village to raise a parent! Millennial-Parents is that village. Today’s parents can be more connected than ever, and Alyssa hopes her site will enrich those connections. On Millennial-Parents, she shares tips and advice she’s learned through experience and from other young parents in three key areas: Education, Relationships, and Community.

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