SEO Ranking Factors

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Branding Steps for Start Ups

For start ups, branding can be particularly challenging, and not just because of limited or no budget, but because information out there is mostly geared towards existing businesses, businesses with a few years and customers under their belt. Some articles actually conflict with one another. A good example is on the subject of logos, some saying that you must have a logo while others claiming you don’t need one to get started, and both sides of this argument insisting that a business must have a professional, polished, and consistent look in order to succeed.

The conflict is not surprising since the term “brand” can have varying definitions. According to the American Marketing Association, a brand is a “name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers.” To a vast group of marketers however, a brand is the value of the product or service offered to consumers; it’s the relationship a business has with its customers or clients.

In order to avoid confusion, let’s make sure we are on the same page with the terms brand and branding as used in this article:

A brand (noun) is the personality of a business as it is viewed by consumers; it is what people believe about your company and its product or services.
Branding (verb) is all the stuff you do to promote your brand and more importantly what you or your business does to establish and continue a relationship with your clients or customers. It is the process of discovering and then communicating the desired brand image to potential customers.
Since a brand is built on what others believe, the task for business start ups is to create a desirable personality for their business by having a unique promise of quality and delivering on that promise. In addition, creating a good impression is critical for start ups; it can mean the difference between success and failure.

The following 7 steps are meant to get you started in the direction of creating a brand for your business.

1. Get to Know Your Target Market

Actually, make sure there is a market before starting any business. Why? What’s the point if there is no one there to buy what you are offering? You cannot create a market; there must be a need for your product or service.

Hopefully, you have already done this step; if not, take the time and define your target market by creating customer profiles. Identify specific characteristics of your most promising potential customers (or businesses if you will be a B2B) who are most likely to purchase your product or service. Be as specific as you can.

Depending on your type of business and the product or service you’re offering, there are three options for getting to know your target market: surveys and questionnaires, interviews, and focus groups.

2. Define Your Promise.

It starts with having a clear, precise and attainable brand promise. Being precise helps making you stand out among the competition in your field. Being attainable helps you deliver on that promise.

To help you define your promise, ask yourself what unique value your services or product offers and how potential customers will benefit from them. What do you solve? What does your brand satisfy? What is your brand’s position? What does it stand for?

3. Check out the Competition

Believe it or not, competition is a good thing…it is an indicator that there is a market. It can also help to define your business and the value that you are offering and what make you different. What can or do you do that is better? What is unique about you and your business? How you are different or what makes you stand out from the rest in your field or industry.

Another thing you want to note is how they are delivering their promise, message and brand. Although it may not be possible to gauge how successful they are with their print advertising, it may be easier to see how their online campaigns are doing (for example, do they have a Fan Page on Facebook and/or Twitter and how many followers they have?) to decide if these venues are worth pursuing in your particular field.

4. Name your Business

The purpose of a business name is more than setting you apart from your competition. It should convey the business qualities you want to impart. It should be recognizable and easy to spell. Start by deciding what you want your name to communicate. Some of the work done in defining your promise will help to pinpoint these elements. Make a list of adjectives that call such qualities to mind and see how you can incorporate one or two in the name.

5. Define your main Call to Action

You would think this is a most obvious step, yet you won’t believe how many existing business neglect to define a specific Call to Action. After all it’s what this is all about. What do you want your customers to do? Call you? Click on the link? Sign up for a newsletter? Purchase a product?

Yes, you may have several goals that you want to accomplish. But it’s imperative for start ups to choose one main goal in the beginning. With many businesses this can be tricky as, for example, we want our leads to have options on how to contact us (phone and email). If you do end up with a few Call to Actions, then prioritize which one is your top preferred one, the second preferred choice, etc.

By clearly defining your main call to action, you will be better able to make a better choice when deciding what medium will be best to deliver it and greatly aid when it comes to designing these mediums.

6. Choose Which Deliverable Mediums to Use at the Start

A good strategy uses both online and offline mediums to get your message to your target market. But in the very beginning, when the budget is thin, deciding which medium brings the most return of investment becomes crucial. You will want “It”, whether it is a business card or landing page on the web, to be professional looking, which may means in this area you may have to invest some money to get those results.

Choose and invest in mediums whether print or web, that will deliver your main Call to Action to your target market now. Not every business needs a business card or full color brochure, likewise not every business type benefits from having a website. As your business starts to pull in clients and your budget increases, you can expand to other mediums.

The newest kid on the block, social networking, has proven quite successful for businesses to get their brand message out there. Although it may not be critical in the very beginning for most, it is a trend in branding that has gained steam and is rocketing forward with no signs of stopping. It may be worth devoting some time and looking into developing a social network marketing strategy as part of your marketing plan. Nowadays there are many avenues to get your brand out there for very little, almost no money, but they take time and planning on your part.

7. Brand Identity

Finally, the one step most people assume would be the first on this list. Why is it the last? Because your “physical” identity should develop from the steps outlined above (in fact, the information gleaned from the above steps will be critical to creating your brand identity).

Logo: The “face” of your business. This is where most start ups decide to cut costs and do it themselves. If you don’t know what vector graphics, jpg, pdf, png are, know or have Photoshop, Illustrator or other vector drawing programs, do yourself a huge favor; hire a professional designer. Freelance graphic designers will work with your ideas and your budget, and will advise and deliver accordingly.

Sharing steps 1 through 6 will help tremendously in the creative “sketch and brainstorm” sessions, so that the designer can create a logo that truly reflects for your business. You may also want to choose which colors you want as part of your brand and discuss these with your designer, which can give you more insight and feedback on your choices.

If you just don’t have any money at all, then go with a nice type (font) that reflects your business as an alternative until you can afford to have a logo professionally designed. Make sure the font is legible. DO NOT just simply open up Microsoft Word and try to create your logo with it! It will not save in a format suitable for printed mediums which need high resolution, normally 300px. Also many printers will ask for.pdf file in order to print. Use a vector drawing program, even if it’s just to create a type logo. For a free alternative to expensive vector programs, check out Inkscape. There are also thousands of free fonts online.

Tagline and/or slogan: A slogan and a tagline are not one in the same. A slogan is associated with a particular product, service or marketing campaign, whereas a tagline is a word or phrase closely allied with a business name and brand. It is not unusual to have several slogans to go with different products and varying services. However, a business will have only one tagline.

The tagline is a word or phrase that clearly identifies what you do or what you sell. It should capture three essential elements: 1)The business mission, 2)Your brand promise, and 3)Your brand as a whole. The tagline often appears in close proximity with the company name and logo, forming a single visual unit. Therefore, you may want to limit your tagline to 6 words or less.

Colors: Colors are an important part of any brand identity. Colors influence our emotions in a variety of ways. And color associations will vary from one culture to another. So if you’re brand will be playing in the global arena, it is crucial that you make sure the colors will have the impact desired. Once you’ve determined what it is that your target customer is looking for, you can best decide on the color to help them find it (now you see why knowing your target market should be Step #1 in the brand development plan).

Voice: If your business could talk, how would it sound? How you speak with your customers, your voice and tone, is just as important as what you say (or write in some cases). Voice refers to a combination of use of syntax, diction, punctuation, dialogue, point of view. Once developed, the voice of your business should remain constant. The tone of your voice, however, can be adapted according to audience and platform

Business Video Production: Selecting a Video Production Company Part 1: Planning Information

In this first article on the process of selecting a video production company, we are going to explain some of the information you should have when making the call to a company because you’re thinking of doing a business video production. In subsequent parts, we’ll get into information you should know when; planning a presentation recording, training video, trade show video, and several other types of video for business projects. We’ll also cover what you need to know and ask about the video production company you are contacting.

We’ve found that often when a company calls or looks to meet with us about video production, a lot of times they’ve never been involved with the actual production process and aren’t quite sure what to ask or how to go about getting the answers they need. More often than not they haven’t really thought out what they want the video to do for them and/or what should be in it. We try to help people like this by leading them through a series of questions and giving information designed to crystallize their thoughts. We try to make the process as easy to understand and stress free as possible.

Hopefully information we are providing in this article will help.

With all the videos people see on YouTube some think that the way it works is that you show up, shoot, and a video is magically created. This can happen for some types of video projects, but for business video to be successful it requires a lot of planning both before and continuously throughout the process.

The three phases of video production are; pre-production, production, and post-production. They can and will differ depending on the type of project that you want.

Any legitimate and experienced video production company you call will want to ask you questions about your project. If they just say, “OK, we’ll show up and shoot your job”, that should raise a big red flag.

The same warning signal applies if the company can give you a price without knowing the details of your needs. Invariably, when this happens they won’t be able to do the job or there will be more charges later.

Doing a business video project is like doing any other business project in that you need to first decide what you want to do and then gather information and plan how to accomplish your goal. A video production company should start by asking potential clients questions to learn about what is needed.

Questions We Ask

A video production company should start by asking a client;

Why do they want a video?

Hopefully, this will uncover a reason where the video will satisfy some need. It could be that they need to show viewers why their product or service is better than the competition, publicize what they do, or train on something where they want the best practices taught in a correct, repeatable message. More often than not, today it is because a company needs to use video to explain something for marketing purposes on their website. They recognize that video gives them tremendous return with SEO (Search Engine Optimization) value and can get their message to millions of people.

Sometimes it is to satisfy a requirement that is mandated on them. An example of this is that in certain states, when operating equipment is installed in buildings, the equipment manufacturer/installer must provide a training video as part of the bid.

Knowing the reason will shape the direction the video will take. So using the above state requirement example, whatever video is done must conform to the structure and directives that state gives, and anything else is a waste of time and money. If we didn’t know the reason it would be easy to go down the wrong path.

How do they want the video delivered to viewers?

A video made for a TV Commercial which is limited to less than 30 seconds and has to deal with broadcast specifications is different than a video which is designed to be on a website, where the exact length isn’t as critical.

Who is the audience?

Different demographics require different treatments. If the target is a Spanish speaking segment, then a video in English wouldn’t make much sense. If it is a certain category of workers, then the video needs to target what is important and use the jargon familiar to convey to that category. If it is to appeal to a customer base, it usually needs to be structured to give them either an appeal or reason to buy, or information they need to use.

What do you want the viewer to do after watching?

This is extremely important because the entire video has to be directed at this goal. If it is a sales video, we need to make the appeal to buy not only attractive, but that it is something they feel will really solve a need they have. If it is for training, we need to be certain it is designed to train and that we insert training theory such as repetition and summary throughout.

What collateral material do you have?

If a company has a particular image with graphics branding, that would usually need to be maintained. If they have successful marketing material that they feel can be used, we want to try to use it. If it is for training and they have practices they want us to develop into a script, we need that. If they have other videos they want to match in style, we need to know that. If they have an outline or rough script, we can start with that. If they have a PowerPoint presentation, that is often a start. Sometimes there will be specific company people, customer testimonials, company locations, or subject matter experts that need to be worked in. Going back to our state requirement example, we might need blueprints of the site, or operation and maintenance manuals to develop a script.

Often in this questioning vein, the company should ask the caller;

What makes you different from your competition?

Why do your customers say they like your company or product?

These questions must be asked in hopes to uncover what their competitive advantage really is. If they don’t know the answer, we’ll ask them to ask their customers. All this material and ideas gives a sense of the direction and what the video can be.

What is your budget range?

After the necessary information described above is covered, we can determine if the budget range the client wants is reasonable and discuss what can and maybe shouldn’t be done regarding their budget. We can work with any budget large or small, and what we ultimately design will be dictated by the budget.

I can’t tell you the number of calls we’ve gotten where people who really don’t know all that is involved with video production want months worth of work by multiple people and the use of hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment, and they expect it for a few hundred dollars. In their defense, they’ve never been involved before and have no familiarity with the process so we try to help them understand. A video production project is variable, like choosing a car with the many brands and options available. Depending on what goes into it, the cost will vary. A web commercial can require a half day of shooting by a 2 person crew and a portion of a day editing, and ultimately may only be around $1000. Or, the same web commercial could require; a month of scripting, multiple locations, multiple shooting days, a 3 member video crew, a full 3 member lighting crew with a truck of equipment, a teleprompter and operator, a makeup technician, multiple cameras, a green screen studio, etc. Of course with all these added resources, the latter project will cost more.