Posts tagged with ‘branding’

Finding and Perfecting Your Inner Storyteller

Anyone who has been engaged with us for very long at all knows how passionate we are about telling stories. To our way of thinking, a good story has the power to make a brand, but even more importantly, it can connect us as human beings and perhaps even change the world.

So when I watched this video over at TED.com, I knew I had to share it with you.

If you are tasked with telling stories about your brand, or if you want to brand the world with an idea you have, you owe it to yourself to watch this video.

Is your Content Telling your Story Part III

The Newbie

You’re just starting out your business – congratulations! This is a wonderfully exciting time where you get to figure out exactly what it is you want to say. So…what do you say? If you’re like most start-ups you likely don’t have a definitive voice connecting you to an audience or clarifying your presence.

One of the biggest mistakes I see new companies make is the error of fallacy.  Companies without a lot of experience often falsify their professional history, or sound bigger than they are in order to impress their audience. Don’t do that! While you don’t need to hang a, “I don’t know what I’m doing,” flag outside your door, you certainly don’t need to pretend you have a full staff when you and your business partner are conducting business in local coffee shops. (Editors note: there is nothing wrong with using coffee shops as your office.) After all, if you’re not starting out your business on a totally honest foot, aren’t you missing the point?

Fear not, newb. Your brand and identity are in there, waiting to be discovered. Consult your content professionals to discover the best way to display your expertise and business model, without overcompensating due to lack of experience. Together, you can exhibit your business in a way that’s both interesting, and appropriate.

The best way to reach your target is by being you.

When SEO Doesn’t Make Sense

I recently had a conversation with a doctor about search engine optimization.  He was excited to talk about the idea that he wanted his name, and to a slightly lesser extent the name of his practice, to pop up all over the front page of Google.  He was disappointed when he googled himself, not to see his name popping up at the top.  He wanted to know how much it would cost to get that kind of result.  I told him it wouldn’t be expensive at all.  He got excited.

I then told him that it would be money down the drain, with no real return on investment to speak of.  He looked puzzled, so I went on to demonstrate my point by pulling up a keyword tool on my iphone, and showing him the volume of people searching for his name. Zilch.  Or so few that the keyword tool wouldn’t embarrass him further by showing him just how few there really were, after you subtracted his own vanity searches.  His doctor-ego had just taken a hit, so I decided I’d better channel his energy in a positive direction.

Next, I asked him if he had any idea how many people searched for the name of the primary disease with which his particular specialty dealt.  We did the numbers (the name of the disease plus the name of the city in which he practiced), and he was astounded to see how many monthly searches there were.  Then I asked him if he would like for his name to appear all over the front page of Google for THAT phrase. To his credit, the light bulb sparked to life without much delay.  He asked me how much this strategy would cost, and I just smiled at him.

Rule # 1 of Search Optimization: There is a direct correlation between the number of searches a term gets, and the amount of money, effort, and time it will require to move the needle.

Rule # 2 of Search Optimization: There is a direct correlation between the number of searches a term gets and the potential returns to be had in going after the front page of the SERPs.

The work of SEO must always consider these rules when forming and deploying a meaningful strategy.

So what kinds of scenarios don’t make sense for a comprehensive SEO strategy?  I asked our SEO team to answer that, and this was their list:

  1. The market-busting product. If it’s so new and revolutionary that no one in the market even knows that they need it yet, then SEO is not going to help at all.  The real expense of marketing this kind of category-defiant product or service is in directly educating existing customers and potential customers about what your product is and does, and why it’s needed.  If no one knows what term or phrase to enter into a search engine to find you, they won’t be searching that way for you yet. (One exception is the revolutionary product that fits well into an existing, clearly defined market need, such as a new vacuum cleaner technology, or an amazing new spatula.
  2. The invisible Brand Name. Branding is a necessary function of marketing, but not necessarily the first priority of SEO. It’s not the low-hanging fruit.  Again, this comes back to knowing what keywords people use to find your product or service.  Getting the sale is the first priority, and if your brand name alone does not yet have the cache to move the market, stick to optimizing the keywords that describe your product or service until your other concentrated branding efforts catch up.
  3. The tangential product, or Red-Headed Stepchild. Many companies have a core competency they are known for, but there’s still this great little product or service on the side that seems to get far less attention.  SEO the heck out of it, right?  Well, maybe, maybe not.  If there is not a clear connection between the core offering and the sidebar deal, there may not be a smart way of leveraging the strength of the one to infuse the other with deserved attention.  Remember, Google doesn’t care that your company is branching out. It only cares about returning relevant search results to its visitors (and arguably making Gazillions in the process).  If your New Thing isn’t the same thing as your Tried and True Thing, the amount of effort necessary to get noticeable results begins to look a lot like an entirely separate SEO strategy, complete with its own budget and structure.  Diluting the strength of your tested and profitable web pages with large doses of The New Thing is not going to help anyone get rich(er).
  4. The low-profit per sale deals. We’ve had to talk some clients out of SEO, simply because the price point (and more importantly, the profit margin) on their typical sales didn’t justify the expense.  Quite simply, if the research shows that you can expect to pay the same price or more than you’ll net on a sale to acquire that sale through organic or paid search optimization activities, then either raise your prices, or find a different, more cost-effective method of marketing your goods or services.  We love to see clients who fundamentally understand the expected net value over time of a new customer relationship, because these are the clients we can truly have rational discussions about ROI expectations.  Don’t spend too much to acquire too little.
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Blog Income Strategy 101

Dave Winer claims he has earned over $2M from his blog, and not an ad in sight. Ever. Wow.

Dave clearly gets what the value of his blog is to his business: It proves his expertise to his market with every post.

I have talked before about how online content models are notoriously poor performers if the goal is to make money directly from the content via advertising or selling premium content. There are exceptions, sure, but on the whole, unless your blog is grabbing 2,000 sets of eyeballs a day or better (fraction of % of all blog sites on the web, by the way), advertising really isn’t going to make you rich.

But if you blog to prove your expertise, to provide value to your intended audience, to extend your brand and increase your visibility, then even a modest few hundred monthly visitors can turn into a valuable increase in your business.

Content proves expertise. Use your blog to engage your market and demonstrate what you know, and you’ll stay flush with paid work.

(NOTE: I was asked by a friend how I could afford to give away so much knowledge on my blog for free, if I hoped that people would pay me for my expertise? My answer is simple: General expertise is free. Applied expertise isn’t.)

9 Low Cost Opportunities in 2009

Happy New Year! Some of you no doubt would like to put last year far behind, but if there was one word to sum up what this new year holds for all of us, in my opinion, it would be: OPPORTUNITY.

As a small business person, opportunity has always been found in the places where there is real need. In our case, those needs have centered on companies who are branding and creating marketing messages in various digital forms. We are so proud to have worked with such a great client roster during the past year, and hopefully met some pressing needs in web design, print design motion graphics design and video production. Thank you all for making last year such a fun one for us!

As a feeble thank you, here are 9 Low Cost Opportunities for Your Business in 2009.

  1. Determine the stress points of your customers, and develop legitimate marketing that positions your product or service as the immediate relief they seek. Acute economic stress can become a great motivator to solve a nagging problem.  Do you know what your product or service addresses in today’s buying climate?
  2. Down time during the first quarter? There is no better time to revisit your web site strategy and make sure it is really working for you. Some of our clients saw exponential growth occur in their business, simply by optimizing a few pages of text for search engines, or adding intelligent, descriptive video!
  3. Take advantage of the holes in your market left by competitors who couldn’t weather the recession. Many competitors are thankful when a business offers to step up and take over a client roster, to support their orphans instead of leaving them in a lurch.
  4. Position yourself as an expert in your market. Write articles. Take speaking engagements. BLOG! Much of the “getting to know and trust you” phase of new client development can be taken care of in this way.
  5. Twitter. Share valuable links to solid, relevant information aimed at people in your marketplace.
  6. Organize a small social event for people  in your client list who need to know each other.  Ask them to invite some of their best customers as well.
  7. Revamp your business card. It’s an inexpensive move that can have a transformative effect on your first impressions.
  8. Start a podcast to cover industry news, or tips and tricks, Q & A, how-to.  Offer the audio in a player on your site as well as a downloadable, and get your feed listed in a dozen or more podcast directories where people often look for information related to your area of expertise.
  9. Has the economic news spooked your customers and made them overly price sensitive?  Find ways to redefine your value in terms that make sense to them in this light.  An example: KFC started a video commercial campaign that more or less dared people to try to cook a 7 piece dinner with two sides for less than could be had in their stores.  No one was paying attention to the fact that it used to be an 8 peice deal for the same price, because the focus became the value of the deal they were offering, compared to the time and expense of making it yourself.

Well, from the team at Harkins Creative, we sincerely wish you a prosperous New Year full of ripe opportunities! Let us know how we can help.

Is Podcasting Dead?

Chris Brogan, another respected Social Media guru and consultant, mused recently about the current state of Podcasting. He makes some good points, which prompted me to begin thinking about what is working and what isn’t with regard to the way businesses can effectively use podcasting, as ascertained from our own client consultations.

I disputed a college professor once, who said that broadcast media is all about distributing content. It never has been. It has always been about advertising, and the content exists just to get enough eyeballs or eardrums assembled together to justify the high ad rates.

In the broadcast industry there has always been a distinction and separation between content and advertising, between content producers and advertisers. Podcasting, at least insofar as a valid business model goes, is quite different. Podcasting has been able to successfully fuse the two. Content creators are now their own advertisers.

Professionals and brands are regularly creating valuable content aimed specifically at their target markets, and using that content as the “bait” to introduce them to their product or service. The content-as-advertising model is not new, and certainly has existed in broadcast media as well over the years. But podcasting represents the first time that smaller businesses and individuals have been able to access a wide distribution platform to deliver their targeted messaging.

What’s working:

  • Tutorials that highlight specific needs and introduce specific solutions
  • Interviews with highly regarded industry leaders
  • Q&A shows based on frequently asked questions from existing customers
  • Idea Casts – Practical inspirations aimed at your customer’s most urgent and felt needs
  • Shows that build a like-minded community through a blog or forum
  • Shows that link to good information regularly


What’s not working:

  • Sponsored shows – Using revenue sharing ad platforms or ad insertion services
  • Shows that are too broadly focused, such as news coverage of multiple industries
  • Unprofessional production values AND commercially over-produced shows
  • Blatant Podcast-as-Commercial tactics
  • Shows with little relevant or valuable information
  • Shows with little organizational thought or direction


The Most Important Part

If you are thinking about beginning a podcast to promote your product or service, be sure you are able to commit the time to generating regular content. Blogging takes time. Podcasting takes MORE time, even with the help of a creative services or production company.

If you have a lot to say, have a friendly manner, a pleasant voice and aren’t afraid to speak or be recorded, then podcasting represents an excellent way to reach people with your expertise and provide value to them on a regular basis.

Most of the time, having a show that delivers solid information from your area of expertise, coupled with a well-designed and directed blog and/or forum, all linked back to your business site and web presence, is all that is required to benefit from using podcasting as a way to build your brand, qualify better prospects, and cement your place among the experts in your market.

Motion Graphics Help With Branding

Turn on the tv, and you will see no end of fancy spinning logos, scene transitions and lower thirds titles. You probably don’t notice them much they’re so common, but imagine a newscast without them, or an infomercial with nothing but a stationary camera, and you’ll soon see that modern visual production can’ t happen without motion graphics, and a lot of them.

When the job of video is to create effective branding, motion graphics use comes fully into its own. Tying together the corporate message and the brand conceptuals in a coherent and meaningful way is what motion graphics artists thrive on.

The advances in the software tools used to produce animated artwork and imagery has brought the cost of motion graphics work down to the point of being affordable for even the smallest businesses.

If you are considering using video as part of your brand messaging, whether online or in broadcast or DVD, plan on motion graphics design to factor heavily in the final professional product.