Category Archives: Web Content

Owning A Business – Part Five

Now that you know who your customers are, what they’re buying, and the value you offer them, it’s time to consider the message delivery channels. This is generally considered to be the area where you advertise your business, and it is one of the most challenging aspects of business ownership.

Get your message through

Choosing the right method to deliver your message is important.

Where do you spend your advertising dollars? You need to know what you want your ads to do:

  • Create exposure
  • Increase brand awareness
  • Get paying customers in the door
  • Generate a return on the investment
  • Build brand loyalty

Modern advertising theory holds that customers must first know you exist. They will then investigate and vet you to determine if you’re legit and how you’re different. Then they purchase. Age, gender, lifestyles, and other consumer demographics determine how best to deliver your message.

When you think about texts, most people respond almost immediately when they hear the text message alert. Whether it calls them to action on your behalf is another matter.

Consumers will vet your company by checking out your website or social media presence, so take care to ensure it achieves your goal and purpose of being relevant to the message.

TV commercials can build brand awareness and create a sense of urgency, but remember most consumers with a DVR (digital video recorder) fast forward through commercials.

Direct mail and other print channels can be effective if targeted to specific consumers and delivered with a definite call to action. Newspaper and magazine ads can work if the message resonates with the readers and are designed for maximum impact.

As the business owner, consider engaging a professional marketing firm to manage your advertising, but you must make the ultimate decision on how much to spend and where. If your ads fail to achieve your objectives, make the necessary changes.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand

Old School Advertising

Once upon a time, people looked for information about a business in the yellow pages of their local telephone directory.

Yellow PagesIf a business placed an advertisement in that directory, it was wise to be the first company listed under the desired category.  The “old school” method of naming your company, therefore, was to have a title such as All American Plumbing or AAA Heating & Cooling.  The idea was that the consumer would dial your number first because you were first in your category.

In a sense, they were following the #1 immutable law of marketing;  The Law of Leadership.

Fast forward to 2015 and the world of electronic communication.  Searching the phone directory for a business listing has been following the path of the dinosaurs for a number of years, with the end not too far away.  Today it is much faster and more efficient to look for a business using a web browser on a smart phone, laptop, tablet, or similar electronic device.

In many cases, the listing enables the online user to call the business directly from the listing, view the website, or discover the hours of operation among other choices.

So, although the old school theory of using the first letter of the alphabet to lead the way in a business listing is passe, the law of leadership still applies.

If a potential consumer does not know the specific name of your product, business, or company and chooses to search by a generic category such as “plumber” or “Italian restaurant,” it is critical that your business comes up on the first page of search results, preferably leading the way by being first on the page.  Search engines are intuitive enough to know your location, so searching for an Italian restaurant when you’re in Chicago is not likely to return a result for Poughkeepsie, New York.

The bottom line:  You want to be on the first page of search results!  Statistics have shown that 74% of users will not go beyond that first page.  If your business is not there, you are out of the picture, and will wonder why your website isn’t generating the results you expect.

How do you do it?  One way we recommend is to work with a consulting firm with a proven track record.  Just building a web presence is not enough in today’s competitive environment.  You need the right key words and strong page descriptions, but you also need to understand your market segments – not everyone needs what you offer – and provide relevant content that entices your ideal audience members to use your products and become loyal to your brand.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand


Online Advertising Pros and Cons

According to recent reports by Chartbeat and Google, only 0.1% or less of banner ads are actually clicked on.  One-tenth of one percent or less!  Couple that with statistics showing that 56.1% of all, repeat all, website ads are not seen and you come to the realization that business owners need to rethink their online marketing strategies.

Roger Yu of USA Today wrote an article recently about how “some notable names in the online publishing business (are) starting to rethink the way they present their content and sell their ads, focusing on the amount of time spent on their content by readers.”  The gist of Yu’s article is that online users want relevant and/or compelling content.

Let’s look at the cons of online advertising first.

Banner, pay-per-click, and similar ads are not likely to produce new clients for your business, despite the number of people viewing the sites where you may advertise.  When you think about it, which is something we encourage people to do, users don’t want to be sold, so the only way someone is going to click on an ad is if they’re tricked into doing so or are supremely interested in what the potential offer is all about.

The site owner will tout viewers and length of stay on the sites you may advertise on, but when you measure the return on your investment, you are likely to find it’s a waste of money.

What you have to do is weigh the new clients you gain against the cost to acquire them.  For example, if you’re spending $600 a month in online advertising and only acquire one new client, the cost of that acquisition is $600.  Is a client worth that to your business?

Technology is changing rapidly.  What that means is consumer buying habits are also changing rapidly.  What you need to increase the likelihood of a sale is the reader’s time and attention.  That’s where the value lies for both the consumer and your brand.

Yu’s article reported that in December 2014, “…Google issued a report that said 56% of ads it serves aren’t ‘viewable,’ a term that suggests ads are too far down on the site or that readers aren’t scrolling down far enough.”

On the plus side, having a web presence for your business that is mobile-enabled is essential in this era of smart phones.  If a consumer can view your website on their phone, touch and call your business with a couple of thumb or finger moves, you have developed an effective online approach to advertising your business.

If you know where your potential customers are likely to be, such as shopping on or searching with Google, and you can afford to advertise your products there, it may be worth the investment.  Try it short-term to see if it generates results.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand



Image Is Important

There was a time when you would see a shop owner sweeping the sidewalk in front of the store before opening for the day.  The reason was simple:  Image.

Customers care about the image of the businesses they patronize.  Why would they purchase the same jeans from a discount store when there’s a certain prestige in saying you got them at a higher end store?  Image.  The owners of a business should also care about their image for that same reason – because it’s important to their customers and prospective customers.  Think about it.

Would you eat at this restaurant if you saw how the kitchen looked?

Would you eat at this restaurant if you saw how the kitchen looked?

Would you patronize a fast food restaurant if wrappers, napkins, and straws littered the floor whenever you stopped in?  Would you be a regular at a grocery store where the produce section displayed rotten tomatoes or moldy fruit?  How about a machine shop where it looked like the floor hadn’t been swept in a month?

The inside appearance of a business is important for building brand loyalty.

Would you feel more confident if the kitchen looked like this one?

Would you feel more confident if the kitchen looked like this one?

The image your business conveys to the public on the outside, including in your brand identity, logo, and your advertising, is even more critical to the long-term success of your business and your brand.

If you have  a delivery or service vehicle with signage that advertises your business, how does it look?  Is the paint or decal faded?  Is the vehicle showing some rust or have a few dents?  What does that tell your customers?  Any lights out in your neon sign?  Are you flying a faded, tattered American flag?  Are veterans one of your market segments?

Do you showcase your location in your ads?  Are you proud of what your building looks like?  Take an objective look at your website.  Does it convey the kind of image you want people to have of your products and/or services?  Think about the last time it was updated.

Your website, like your place of business, should convey an image that gives your customers the confidence to send their family, friends, and referrals to you so they can become customers as well.

It’s often the little things that make a huge difference when it comes to the image your business conveys to the public and your customers.  What message does it convey to shoppers coming to your grocery store if there are no carts available because they’re scattered around the parking lot?  Yes, rounding up the carts and returning them to the corral is a menial task for some employee, especially if it’s raining, but those carts are usually the first contact those consumers have with your business.

If you’re not sure what the first impression is that people have of your business, try first to visit it impartially – as though you were a client yourself.  What’s the feeling you get?  Think about engaging a consulting firm such as Brand Irons to find that out.  First blush is one measure, but that impression may go much deeper and require talking to your customers about why they patronize your business.

Something as simple as sweeping the floors could enhance business.  Think about it.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand

A Global Perspective

Many business owners only think about their local clientele.  They want to make sure they take care of the customers coming in the door of their establishment.  That’s admirable, especially if your business is a restaurant or retail store.

A service business like a plumber or electrician may think more regionally and not have clients or prospects walk in the door, but any territory beyond that is rarely in their vocabulary.  That’s a fault with most businesses who may think globally, but act locally.  The reverse is what’s happening in the world’s economy today.


Thinking local but acting globally is the realm of the Internet, an essential location for any business to have a presence.  The old adage about the three most important keys to success in business holds true – location, location, location.

Think of it this way – Any consumer in the world can access your corporate web presence.  Anyone!  So what?  What if a corporate executive from Sri Lanka is relocating to your community and looking for a general contractor to build a new home for the family?  Does your website … as a general contractor … let the executive know you are a professional and can get the job done?  Is it relevant?  And does your web presence enable the potential customer to contact you easily?  What if the business person wants to build a new factory and employ 450 local workers?

Granted, the example may be a rare circumstance for a general contractor, but how do you know who’s viewing your web presence?  Have they gone there intentionally or discovered your site at random?  Did a social media post in LinkedIn trigger the investigation of your company’s capabilities?

Whether we like it or not, having a business presence on the Internet exposes our products and/or services to the global marketplace.  It opens the door to doing business with people from every nation – from South Africa to Germany and from China to Chile.  It also means you should be sensitive to requests from foreign countries and be amenable to providing your goods and services to residents of those nations if the opportunity presents itself.

You may not want to go global, but the global market is out there if you want to expand your business.  If you want to avoid thinking or acting globally, you still need a web presence for your business.  There’s no avoiding that in today’s business environment.

Make sure your website is mobile enabled so the younger generations can view it on their smart phones.  You need to make sure your content is also relevant to the market segments you want to reach.  Have a call to action, too.  The future is here, now.

Brand Your Work – Work  Your Brand


Product Presentation

One of the most important elements in marketing your business is how you present your company and your products and/or services.  Presentation sets up the perception customers and potential customers have of what it is you have to offer.  Poor presentation can develop a negative perception, and we all know a negative impression – especially if it’s the first impression – can be difficult to overcome.Presentation involves virtually every aspect of your business, from your web presence to packaging of your product, and from your corporate logo to your advertising impressions.  There are psychological reasons to pay attention to presentation.

The example pictured pertains to positioning of your product.  Most consumers are right-handed.  While that may seem insignificant, it does play a role in product placement.

Store shelves are arranged to take advantage of human nature.

Store shelves are arranged to take advantage of human nature.

Store shelves are arranged to take advantage of human nature.On a grocery store shelf, dish washing detergents are displayed with the most prominent brand at eye level, front and center.  The unwary consumer sees the top brand, notices the price, naturally grabs for a bottle, and continues on their trek through the store.  It is only when they get to check-out that they realize they’ve grabbed the store brand instead of the brand they thought they had intended to purchase.  Simple psychology applied to primarily right-handed people.

Look more closely and you realize the bottles are shaped and sized very much alike, and just as colorful so the perception is they’re all the same.  At check-out, the consumer is less likely to return the store brand in exchange for a higher-priced product so the store’s psychological ploy has worked.

Have you taken a look at your company’s website lately?  Does it present well to potential customers?  When you take the time to think through the process of a potential customer finding your business on the Internet, you understand that it usually starts with a search engine query.  If your website or other information fails to come up on the first page of search results, you only have a 25% chance of a user going further to find you.

If your website does land on the first page, it’s likely you’ve paid to promote your website, found the right key words to bring you to the forefront, and have a relevant page descriptor and relevant content that matches what the consumer was searching for.  Those are the first steps.

Your website must then pertain to what the potential consumer is trying to find, and quickly.  It should be easy to scan and locate the information they need to use your services or purchase your product.  How all that information is presented is also critical.  Make it easy for people to find what they’re looking for, and if you’re not sure what they’re looking for, ask them so you can enhance the presentation of your products and services.

You must get their attention, keep it, and get them to respond favorably to your call to action.

Presentation goes so much deeper:

  • Hand your product to a potential consumer with the label facing them.
  • Give someone your business card with the information easy to read.
  • Park vehicles with your company’s logo in conspicuous locations to maximize the advertising value, and make sure the vehicle is clean and attractive-looking.
  • Keep the entrance to your building neat and clean.

Remember, it’s hard to change a first impression.  How do your employees present themselves and your company?

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand

Protecting Your Image

Your brand is your image.  Your image is conveyed through the marketing or your brand.  That encompasses your logo, your social media, your advertising, your employees, and every other aspect of your business … all the way down to  your business cards and the way you answer the phone.

The first step is to brand your work.  Even if you are a sole proprietor, your brand involves the unique nature of your business.  What separates you from others in your field?  How do you answer the question it seems everyone asks nowadays:  What makes you different?  You need to know.

The second step is to craft a plan to protect your brand.  Your image, in large part, is what attracts consumers to your business.  Your business, therefore, is on the line.  Your reputation is at stake, so every effort should be taken to protect what you represent.

Set standards for the use of your corporate logo.  Make sure printers have the right colors (PMS standards usually apply) and place your logo in the proper location.  Register the copyright and consider obtaining either trademark (™) or registered (®) marks.  Prevent infringement of your logo by copycats or thieves as much as you possibly can.  In an earlier blog we covered the basics of protecting your brand.

The biggest concern for companies should be protecting the corporate reputation in social media.  You can probably find an article about the topic in virtually any business-related publication since it has come to the forefront lately.  One of the best methods for protecting the brand is an old technique – have an online and social media strategy that includes written policies and a corporate protocol manual.

Outline who is authorized to post.  Be careful who has administrative capabilities.  Clarify content to be posted.  Create response time guidelines.  Follow accepted protocols for each social media application.  The concept for your business using social media should also be clearly defined in order to protect your credibility.

Here’s an example of how your reputation can be damaged in social media:  If your goal is to increase sales and every post is a pitch to move a product or service, the strategy is likely to backfire and drive consumers away from you.  Once that happens, it will be difficult to get them back.  Share relevant information that is of interest to users, especially your target audience.  You want to be a thought leader, which means consumers look to you and your company for valuable information to help them make decisions.

In today’s economy, monitoring your social media platform and electronic footprint involves keeping your website current and watching E-mail correspondence, too.  These have become as important, if not more so, than keeping tabs on your other advertising strategies.  Today’s savvy consumer checks out your web presence right away.

Other concerns when it comes to protecting your image may seem minor, but they have an impact on consumers.  Two we’ll cover here are employee attire and visual images.

When they’re at your place of employment or representing your business in the community, your employees convey your corporate image.  Consider putting a dress code in place, along with methods for dealing with violations.  How would you feel about a sales representative appearing at a trade show for your company wearing a logo emblazoned dress shirt that wasn’t tucked in?  Or being drunk?  How about a customer service representative swearing and arguing with a customer in a room full of other customers?  Proper training can go a long way toward alleviating the potential for these mistakes, which may seem trivial but could have an impact on sales.

How does the outside of your building look to the public … your potential consumer base?  If you have a reader board, keep it current.  Sweep the sidewalks and shovel the snow.  Keep the lobby clean and smelling nice.  It’s often the little things that make a difference.

Do your corporate vehicles sport faded or outdated signs?  Monitor the quality of your vehicle graphics and replace them when they start – repeat “start” – to look shoddy.  You want existing customers to be excited to see one of your vehicles in their neighborhood or community, and you also want potential customers to be enticed by the image they see.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand


Does Social Media Work?

If you’ve wondered whether you should engage social media for your business, the April 17th edition of USA Today shared the results of a study you might find interesting.

Here are some of the key elements of the article by Oliver St. John for you to consider as a business owner:

The CEO of Manta, Pam Springer, is quoted as saying the negative impression business owners have about using social media is “…probably because they don’t know how to launch a successful social-media campaign…”  She recommends connecting with other business owners to get advice, but only 36% of businesses do this.

There are resources available for business owners to connect with other owners and discuss topics such as social media.  In Green Bay, there’s a networking group consisting of only business owners that meets the 1st Wednesday of every month at the Green Bay Yachting Club.  There are other networking organizations for business owners as well.

The CEO of Crackerjack Marketing, Stephanie Schwab, is cited in the article as saying many small businesses “…just don’t have a place in social media.”  She’s right in the sense you need not put your business in the social media environment because of peer or media pressure to be there.  What she adds is that you need to know what you’re trying to get out of a social media campaign.

That’s common sense when it comes to marketing your business.  Far too many business owners lack a strategy for marketing their products and services.  If the only reason you advertise on TV is because the sales representative talked you into buying the time, you will either stumble into success or endure costly failure.  You need to strategize and, as Schwab adds, use “…marketing techniques already proved to work, such as having a website.”

One of the business owners covered near the end of the article said social media hasn’t helped her business, which sells $5,000 to $40,000 pool jobs.  She added, however, that out of the 200-300 jobs she does every  year, three or four come from people online.  Even at the low ($5,000 level) end, that could be as much as $20,000!

She gets most of her customers through referrals.  That is the preferred way to get new business for most of us, and what business owners fail to realize is that they should have a strategy for that aspect of marketing their business as well.

I always find articles such as this one fascinating, especially when 61% of small businesses fail to see any return on their investment in social media.  A similar article in Advertising Age, a marketing trade publication, a few years ago cited a study that showed roughly the same percentage (62%) of advertisers were dissatisfied with their agencies.  What I’ve discovered and believe strongly in is that, as a business owner, you must take the time to think through what your business is all about; less about where you’ve been and more on where you want to be.

When that picture is clear, how you need to market your business also becomes clear.  The proprietary process used at Brand Irons can walk you through the process, save you money over the long run, and add to your bottom line if you’re willing to change the way you’ve always done things.

To answer the question posed in the headline:  Yes, if you have a strategy that is designed to reach your target demographic.


5 P’s of Business Success

Your definition of success is different than mine.  Is the wino who scores a cheap bottle every day less successful than the sales representative whose achieves the goal of 10 sales in a week?  It comes down to how you define success.

Success KeyWhen it comes to owning and operating a business, defining success is still a personal choice, although there are certain keys that can clarify the definition.  Here are five “P”s:

  1. Passion.  One of the first elements Brand Irons considers when taking on a new client is how passionate you are about your business.  The passion gets you up in the morning with eager anticipation for what you can accomplish during the day.  It motivates you to bring enthusiasm to every decision you make about the business.  It energizes your employees and that passion for your vision goes right through to your customers.  That passion for your enterprise sends you home at night encouraged by the results and excited about bringing it back tomorrow.
  2. Plan.  Various research projects have illustrated that people, especially business owners, who set goals and write down their plans are far more likely to succeed than those who feel goals and plans have little value.  Take some time to think for a few minutes:  Are you working in your business or are you taking the time to work on your business?  Working on your business means you do some research, study your competition, talk to your customers and personnel, and develop strategies to enhance your bottom line.  Try a different tactic and measure the results of how it worked.  Consult with professionals and others in your field who have been successful in their endeavors.  Think about things.
  3. Perform.  Your passion conveys a sense of urgency that follows the path you’ve laid out in your plan.  Another critical element is to execute the strategy, which means you and your people have to perform.  Your customers have expectations.  They believe in and trust you.  They know what to expect from your products and/or services.  It’s up to you and your team to make it happen and fulfill those customer expectations.  That’s why it is essential you stay in touch with your customers.  Get to know them and their needs.  What are they looking for, and is your company meeting those needs?  How can you enhance service?  Are there other products you could provide to help them solve their problems?  Do what is expected of you … and then do a little more than that.
  4. People.  Whatever your business, whatever you market, and whether you have employees or it’s only you, everything you do involves people.  Your customers are people; human beings with needs, wants, and wishes.  Your employees are people with a need to feel appreciated, who want to have value and make a contribution, and wish to be treatly fairly and honestly.  Your success in business is therefore wrapped up with people.  That means you need to establish and sustain relationships with these people, especially your customers.  Always remember that without customers – who are people – you have no business.
  5. Place.  The adage that it’s all about location is true, to a degree.  If you operate a restaurant or a retail establishment, your place in the community can be a critical element in your long-term success.  The same holds true if the primary place where your business is located is on the Internet.  If your web presence is old, stagnant, and hard to find, even the most elaborate website is a poor location.  Keep your place looking sharp.  Your parking lot should be as safe, clean, and comfortable as your place of business.  Your website should be up-to-date and your social media current and professional.  Remember, marketing is about perception.  If your customers think your place looks sloppy, that perception could reflect on your products and services as clearly as crystal.

Missing: Call to Action!

Far too often, advertisers neglect to include a call to action in their advertisements.  What is the purpose of an ad?  To get customers or prospective customers to buy your product and/or service!  Pure and simple.

Pen to Drop

Be specific.

Author Paul G. Thomas shared a powerful message about the importance of a call to action in his book, Psychofeedback.  Here’s an example he shared:  Hold a pen or pencil with two fingers and tell yourself “I can drop this pen” repeatedly until you drop the pen.

Why does the pen stay in your fingers?

The message, like the call to action in your advertising, needs to be more specific.  Try this phrase, “Drop it!”

Another friend, author Bob Nicoll –, shares a story that is specific to advertising.  A convenience store near where he lived had a sign that encouraged patrons to “Don’t forget the ice.”  Bob asked the owner how his sales of ice were.  “Abysmal” or something similar was the response.  When you tell people not to forget something, what do they do?  Forget.

Bob asked for a marker and some paper to make new signs.  His signs read, “Remember the Ice!” when he gave them to the owner.  When he returned, he asked the owner how his ice sales were, and the owner replied he was having a hard time keeping it in stock.

The lesson in these stories:  1)  Tell your customers and prospects what you want them to do.

Be specific.  Think about the end result you want from any advertising you spend hard-earned money to put out there.  Why would you spend good money and forget to ask for the sale?  There are three basic actions to call your audience to do:

  • Come in;
  • Visit your website; or
  • Call you.

Many advertisers use the attraction of a sale to draw potential customers in to their store.  Pick up a Sunday newspaper and browse through the ads to get a better idea of what I mean.  “Special 2-day sale now going on” or “50-60% off all men’s shoes” or “This week’s specials” are fairly common lures to draw customers in, and the more successful ones are the ads that send a message to act now.  “Buy a new Mercedes this Saturday and receive a FREE 60″ wide-screen TV,” is an example.

Ever wonder why retail stores include so many different products in their ad flyers or TV commercials?  They want to attract you to come in but they’re unsure of what you really want or need or might be thinking about buying.  That’s why they lump a bunch of products together to pull you in.

If you study those ads, though, the direct call to action may be too subliminal.

The call to action where an advertiser sends the consumer to the company’s website can be especially effective with the under 45 demographic.  It can work for any age group, but can also be extremely narrowly targeted as well.

Success with this call to action requires that the website have the information the users are looking for in an easy-to-find location.  Internet users have little patience.  Remember instant gratification?  If you’ve sent them to the web for a special offer, that coupon or banner must jump out at them once they land on the site you’ve given them.  If not, you’ve probably lost them for good.

The intent is to get them to your site and pique their curiosity enough to get them to do some browsing on your site and learn more about your company and its products and services.  The nice thing about this call to action as well is that it is easy to track the volume of traffic being generated by the site and correlate it to the placement of the message.  Tracking is beneficial.

The third call to action is to generate a phone call.  A professional hair salon or massage therapist, for example, may prefer that clients or potential customers call to schedule an appointment instead of walking in.  Some professionals may encourage walk-in traffic, but doctors, dentists, optometrists and other medical professionals, as well as lawyers, accountants, and marketing consultants prefer a scheduled appointment to allocate sufficient time for the customer.

As you craft your advertising messages, think about the desired outcome.  If you want the phone to ring, ask for it in a bold headline.  If you want people checking out your website, use social media with links and make sure the address is easy to find once they’re online.  If you want customers in the store, make sure they know how to find it and tell them to stop in.

Call Brand Irons at (920) 366-6334 for an appointment to clarify the call to action for your business and build your brand.