Category: Marketing Best Practices

What Is A Brand?

Brand. It’s a term we hear tossed around all the time. We say “the CocaCola” brand or the “Nike” brand. Loads of books have been written about the value of a brand and the effect it has on bottom line profits.

Since I’m not one for long definitions, I am going to make it easy. Brand is what people think of a product. Brand is the set of product concepts and beliefs that someone carries with them. It’s how people respond when you ask them “What do you think about ….?”.

Take this test. Do bananas have a brand? Sound ridiculous? Well, how would you answer the question “What do you think about bananas?”

What comes into your head if I were to ask what you thought about Nike… or about Apple or about Starbucks? The answer to each of these questions is “brand”.

Every product or service that you have been exposed to has a “space” in your brain. In that space is a set of concepts about that product. Those concepts are based on the experiences that you have collected about that product or service. Have a miserable experience with a rep at your local bank? That gets deposited in the brand space. Just experienced outstanding food and atmosphere at your local restaurant? Into your brand “brain space” it goes.

Once that information in in your head, it governs how you make decisions. That’s because the information in your brain gets categorized (good food, bad food) and rated against other concepts (Joe’s is a better restaurant than Blues). Eventually it is used to make buying decisions. That’s why brand is important to a company.

Once a brand is in your head it’s real hard work to change what occupies that space. First you first have to undo what you previously thought and then you have to re-form it into another (hopefully more positive) set of thoughts.

We are used to brands being associated with products but people have brands too (so… what do you think of Joe?) and in fact, you also have a brand (what do others think of you?)

Shaping or building a brand (shaping what people think about a product or about you) is a difficult and long process. Every touch point you have with a person effects how they think about you and what occupies that bit of brain-space they dedicate to you. This is why so much time and money is spent on branding and defending your brand from misconceptions.

Brand development should involve a reality check (is what I want the consumer to believe even possible), branding should start with an understanding of what people think about you now (or do they even have a perception) and branding should also influence each communication you have with your customer (is what I am communicating consistent with what they already think about me or is it going to cause a disconnect from previous experiences?) Brands influence communication plans, brands help govern what type of packaging you select, what the home page of your web site looks like and hopefully how your employees interact with customers.

In short… brand is everywhere and everything to a company. Branding is something worth spending time on. It’s not something that you can ignore and certainly it’s not just for the big-boys like Coke and Nike.



Nine Ways to Effectively Use Google Analytics

Google Analytics is one of the most valuable tools you can use to determine if your website or e-commerce store is meeting its goals. Although GA is a complex application, you can get started knowing the ins and  outs of how people are using your website by following these 9 steps.

1. I Work with all the parties who have a stake in the success of your web site. Your task is to specifically define what you mean by “a successful web site”. Is it number of visitors, pages viewed or total revenue generated by the site? Perhaps it is a specific number of sign-ups to receive your package of information, downloads of a file or people requesting a quote. Whatever you decide, the goal of this process is to define a set of goals that formed the core of how you will configure Google Analytics. It also provides an outline to review how your site is meeting your expectations.

2. After the primary goals are defined, define a set of secondary goals. In and of themselves, secondary goals are not the “endgame” you are looking for. However, they are goals that must be met in order for you to succeed at meeting the primary goals. These secondary goals may include including total unique visitors, total pages viewed, total time on site, incoming traffic sources, entry pages and exit pages. Each of these goals will allow you to evaluate where to spend advertising dollars and will help you determine how effective the site is in delivering information.

3. Use the Goal section of Google Analysis to configure GA so that it can measure  and report on your goals. Add these goals to the site analytics dashboard and custom reports to be distributed as a summary of the site performance. This dashboard scenario also enables the use of “early warning flags” to indicate areas where changes to the site may not have been effective as planned. In addition to this, you should  set up custom alerts (using the Intelligence section) to watch specific important measurements (e.g. conversion rates, traffic etc.) to keep you informed when certain parameters go “out of bounds”.

4. If you are purchasing advertising keywords, use Google Analytics to measure the effectiveness of keyword campaigns. Keyword effectiveness is measured by segmenting users in those that arrive to the site via a keyword and those that do not. If goals are set correctly, you can report on the ROI of keyword expenditures (i.e. are keywords increasing the number of site conversions?)

5. Set up custom segments to measure the effectiveness of traffic generating campaigns such as e-mails. This involves defining the segments and making sure that the URLs in the emails contained the necessary parameters to track segments (e.g. business from emails) and micro segments (business from a specific email). These are typically combined with tracking metrics that should be made available by the email vendor (e.g. Constant Contact) so that ROI of emails can be measured. Custom segments are a great tool to determine if people driven to your site via e-mail purchase more or less than other groups.

6. Site Search – Set up measurements of our internal site search to measure how people find information on the site and to measure if proper keywords are part of the content. If frequent searches for a specific term are returning few results, then this indicated that content was not written correctly.

7. Action Funnels — Set up funnels to measure the effectiveness of the conversion process. On E-commerce sites, the first funnel that you set up should be the a funnel to measure the effectiveness of your checkout process. On other types of sites, set up funnels that measure conversions such as your request for quote processes or request for information process. These funnels measure if the conversion process (e.g. checkout or registration) presented to the user are understandable or if they are asking for too much information.

8. Navigation: — Use Entrance Paths and Exit page measurement to consistently evaluate how well your navigation scheme is working. Using this method, you can evaluate if slow selling departments (or links) should be moved or if they should be eliminated or combined with other departments or links. Measuring the navigation allows you to maximize the effectiveness of the limited space available for top and side navigation and maximize the effectiveness of the space used for the product information pages and content.

9. Site Comments — whenever a major change is made to the site, add comments to the measurements using the GA comments features. This allows you to pair changes to the site with changes in measurements and determine if site changes are having their intended effect.

Avoid the Tradeshow Sinkhole

I’ve seen a lot of money quickly flushed away in tradeshows over the years. It’s easy to do… perhaps too easy.

A lot of us have grand visions when we decide that a tradeshow is a good way to show your product or gather contact information (sales leads) for follow-up. We decide that a booth, with a couple of fancy signs or banners, two tables tables and some demonstration products will attract enough people so that the fees we pay to be at the show end up being offset by the sales we make from participating in the show.

The problem is that very often we fall victim to “Great Idea — Bad Execution”. In other words, if we totaled up the cost of doing the tradeshow and the profit we make from it we discover, flat out, that it was a lousy investment.

When I work with a client who feels that a tradeshow is exactly what they need, I offer them the following rules to consider:

Rule 1: Know Why Are We Here

Decide why you are going to spend money participating in the show. Set up very specific goals and understand what information you are going to gather. Make sure you can measure these goals. Goals need to be specific like “gather 300 names and addresses of qualified persons who we can call sometime after the show to demonstrate our product”.

Rule 2: Know Who You Are Talking To

Everything you do at a tradeshow requires a deep understanding of who is attending, what their needs are and what “jargon” they are speaking. Figure this out and shape your message (your handouts, your demonstrations and your booth signs) so that you are speaking directly to the people who are at the show.

Rule 3: You Have Two Seconds to Tell People What You Do

It goes like this… People who are walking down the aisle will spend about two seconds trying to figure out what you do and if it has any benefit for them. If they can’t figure this out in two seconds, they will turn and walk away. Next time you are at a show, walk around the floor and give the “two second test” to a couple of other participants. To be able to communicate what you do and it’s benefits requires your signs and every part of your display to be clear, concise and short.

Rule 4: Don’t Ever Fence Them In

Sometimes, your instinct says you should set up your tables at the front of the booth, near the aisle. Here’s my advice — ignore your instinct. It is a well proven fact that people don’t come around a table or something that is blocking their exit because they don’t like the anticipation of being trapped.

Make the booth space (as small as it is going to be), open, inviting and comfortable. People have to feel that they are there of their own choice and can leave anytime they want to.

Rule 5: You Are Not A Prospect For Your Product or Service

All the sinage, handouts, text, images etc that you are going to use need to link to how your audience sees the world. For every element of your booth, ask yourself:

  • does it speak their language in a way that they understand
  • is it visually appealing to them. Do these items relate to the people, images and colors that are part of your booth.

Test your assumptions about what you are saying, giving away or showing with someone who might attend the show. Remember, what you say about your product is most likely shaped by things that you know about it and how you might use it. The problem is that you are not the one who is attending the show!

For certain markets, companies and products, trade shows are an ideal, efficient way of getting your name out into the world, gathering prospects and most importantly weeding out those who are not interested in what you are doing or saying.

Just remember to look at tradeshows exactly like you would any other advertising venture by asking yourself one simple question. “Is the money I spend, an investment that will return me a profit”.