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Branding: Going Beyond Your Logo

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

What is branding? A lot of folks mistakenly think that if you slap a logo on something, that you’ve branded yourself or your business. Throw up a website and dress in your company colors–BOOM! Branded! It couldn’t be further from the truth. 

Lunch at Swah-reyEvery day, right around noon, Leslie Ciccone owner of Swah-rey, St. Petersburg’s premier dessert bar, has lunch with her staff. She makes sure they sit down, even for a few minutes, to enjoy their meal. This small, inexpensive gesture has large impact, whether they’re aware of it or not.

Upon entering Swah-rey, you’re greeted by sweet smell, inviting seating, beautiful art and decor, dreamy lighting, and a warm smiling face behind the counter. Don’t get me started on the desserts and coffee (their actual claim to fame)… Leslie has donated her mini cupcakes countless times to local organizations, she attends events outside of her own shop, and graciously offers her space to those that need a community meeting place.

Okay, okay, she’s an angel… What does this have to do with branding? Your brand goes beyond you slapping your name on something. Your brand is your promise to your customers to go above and beyond your competitors. Your brand is your commitment to your employees–your BRAND ambassadors. Your brand is the look, feel, smell, and embrace you offer the public. It’s a full sensory experience.

You may have thought through your product, your price points, and your packaging, but what feeling are you offering? Swah-rey delivers a belly-warming experience from their cushy chairs, the first sip of caramel latte, the last bite of creme brulee, and finally to the no-pressure billing experience. Though customers order at the counter, Swah-rey staff will bring your food to your table and they don’t expect payment until you’ve finished dining. They check on you throughout your meal, as you would a guest in your own home.

Sure you can require your employees to do all of these things because it’s “their job,” but the fact that Leslie shows her staff the same hospitality she expects from them is priceless. She offers the same continuous attention to detail in her own community–beyond her front door. Culture can’t be forced, but it can be demonstrated from the top down. How do you live your brand?

2016 New Year’s Resolutions

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

marketingAt the beginning of every year we say to ourselves that we’re going to do better. We’re going to obtain more money, work on our health, and improve our relationships. In the business world, we usually only focus on the money part. Fortunately, these things are all connected in a personal and career sense. Below are our 2016 New Year’s Resolutions:

Lose Weight
Shed the bulk by reviewing print materials, website copy, and proposals. Is it information overload? Reduce and simplify to clearly communicate with your customers, staff, and prospects. In a world heavily concerned with SEO and online marketing, we tend to fluff fluff and fluff with keywords and phrases. However, you can lose your customer’s attention and purpose when overloading them with nonsense.

Get Organized
Create a marketing calendar for your social media posts, e-newsletters, expos and events. Canned responses can be a great time-saver to those frequently asked questions. Gmail has a lab under “settings” to create these messages. Some internal systems call them other names such as macros or auto-responses. Don’t forget to proofread before sending. Some canned messages need you to fill in client’s names and info. You don’t want to leave “Dear Mr. Client” in the intro.

Simplify
In the spirit of organization, cutting corners is sometimes encouraged. Make an effort to go paperless and to keep all documents organized on your computer. Use the mentality of “if I were to get hit by a bus tomorrow, who could jump in and do my job?” (Sounds morbid, we know, but this makes one think about training, organizing, and setting procedures.) Here at Webtivity, we use a couple of shortcuts like the Stanza date clipper for Google Calendar that takes information from a web page and lets you add it to your calendar with a couple clicks, rather than copying and pasting over. Another great app is called RoboForm that stores logins for frequently visited sites and personal info for those annoying registration and checkout fields.

Improve Communication
Respond to all emails. If you scan over an email with intent on replying to it later, be sure to mark it as “unread” or flag it as a  follow-up. Leaving coworkers or clients on hold for weeks is just plain rude. If you don’t have an answer, simply respond that you’ll work on one and keep them updated on the project. Personally, when I send an email or response, I feel like I’ve done my part. It’s beyond annoying having to babysit to make sure someone else has done theirs. At that point, I feel like I’m doing two jobs. Remember to be consistent and transparent. Eliminating questions builds trust and respect within your team and clientele.

Give Back
If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. While being part of several organizations, chambers, and boards, we see a lot of talking with little action from surrounding businesses. Inspire your company and community to get their hands dirty and chip in where needed. We’re talking about orchestrating community cleanup days, assisting local charities and nonprofits, offering free workshops, or starting an internship program. Check with your local chambers and business associations to find opportunities to make a difference in your district.

Build and Maintain Morale
Teamwork makes the dream work. No really. It does. If you have a staff that is gossiping or throwing one another under the bus, your company will never have anything but turnover. (Oh and hint, hint, the example is set from the top-down.) If you find yourself throwing fits, lacking patience, coming in late/leaving early, and being stingy, don’t expect much more from your employees. Work on team goal-setting and be sure to praise your co-workers for your triumphs.  Keep your team up-to-speed on your intentions and progress. An organization that works toward a common goal will take pride in their company inside and outside of working hours.

Put Your Best Face Forward
Most of us are guilty (I know I am!) of rolling out of bed last minute and throwing ourselves together. After adding the extra holiday pounds and entertaining the in-laws, dolling myself up for work is usually my last priority. However, it’s the first thing my clients and support staff notice. Do yourself a favor, and take that couple of minutes to primp and polish in the morning. It shows respect for yourself and your position. (You also won’t hate yourself in tagged company photos!)

Don’t Become a Workaholic
This sounds counter-intuitive to a list heavily geared toward business goals, but work needs to be turned off. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, eating properly, and enjoying yourself. If you’re in workmode 24/7, you burn yourself out and push away those you care about. Take time to meditate and have hobbies. This clear-headed thinking will rejuvenate your job and you’ll find 5 o’clock comes sooner than it used to.

Finish What You Started
Goal-setting doesn’t mean diddly if you don’t follow through. Set dates, mark your calendars, and have accountability partners. Display your goals visibly for everyone to see daily. This keeps you and your team honest with each other. It’s okay to ask for help and to offer it when you notice someone is behind. Celebrate your victories and recognize your milestones!