Branding 101: Implement Three Effective Strategies Today

Branding 101: Implement Three Effective Strategies Today

So many budding female entrepreneurs ask me, “Melissa, why our small business is not getting customers or leads? Our products are excellent. What is the issue with us?”

My only question to them is, “Do your customers really know your business?”

Increasing brand awareness is truly important to secure a competitive spot in the market. With a robust brand strategy in place, you’ll be able to showcase your brand’s unique message in a better way and, over time, establish customer loyalty.

In this blog post, I’ll share the best brand-building strategies for small businesses like yours – many of which I’ve used with our clients.

Stake your claim

Make sure you are clear about your brand promise.

Here are my three favorite branding questions: Who are you being? What are you committed to? What can people count on you for?

Some examples that will get you started in answering these three powerful questions:

  • Who I’m being is accessible.
  • My customers can count on us to get their order delivered in less than 24 hours.
  • I’m highly committed to giving my customers the time to do other things.

Given this example, you can create various customer service strategies, policies, and practices that bring your brand message to life.

Be a superhero for your customers

If you truly want to stand out in today’s hyper-competitive market, don’t just talk to the talk—you need to walk the walk, too.

The reputation you build—and what customers say behind your back—is the most crucial part of your branding.

That’s why if you want to succeed in the long term, you need to be a superhero for your customers—and make a living and breathing customer service your top priority.

Just think about it. What better to be popular than providing top-level customer service to your customers?

Giving a positive experience to your customers every time they interact with your brand will result in a higher customer retention rate—and they’re going to tell their friends, too.

Establish yourself as an SME with the right content

I firmly believe that every small business has experts, but few of them go on to become well-known and influential with their target client group.

You already have a billion-dollar idea and thinking out of the box to grow your business. So, why not be professionals, Visible Experts, and share your beautiful journey with the world?

By gradually developing one or more of these high-profile SMEs, your small business can dramatically increase the power of its brand.

In fact, in my research into these experts and purchasers of their services, 61.5% of respondents said that Subject Matter Expert strategy helps build their firms’ brands.

Still confused? Don’t worry.

Schedule a free consultation call with me, and let me help you build your brand!

I use powerful data to ensure my tactics are running how they’re supposed to. I believe in the power of repetition and know that the long-term strategy can include patience.

In fact, my 12-month marketing strategies are designed to be repeatable. The foundation of them stays consistent, but I constantly look for ways to improve them.

Don’t miss this opportunity. Let’s talk!

The Importance Of Proper Brand Guidelines For Your Business

The Importance Of Proper Brand Guidelines For Your Business

In my line of work as a business consultant, I’ve found that one of the hardest things for my clients to do is develop their branding.

Branding includes every way that you will market your business to the public, from logos, graphics, and color palettes to voice, tone, and messaging. It’s a lot and can be quite overwhelming – which is why, of course, they come to me to help take care of the complex parts for them.

Once we nail down their branding, however, we’re still not quite finished. There’s one more step that all business owners and entrepreneurs need to complete on their branding journey, one that’s going to help them maintain their brand identity for the long haul.

The step they need to take is to develop their brand guidelines.

What Are Brand Guidelines?

Brand guidelines are a set of rules and standards that you establish for your brand, to dictate how your brand presents itself at all times and across all mediums.

Let’s see how brand guidelines work using an example that everyone can relate to: Google.

When Google grants permission to other companies or entities to share any element of their branding, as for a product they’re working on together or an advertisement, they require those partners to stick to very specific brand guidelines.

For example, if they use the Google logo in any way, they must use the logo that Google has approved, with the colors that they specify. They also mustn’t add any additional elements to the logo.

These are just a few of the brand guidelines that Google has set up. They also created rules for the language their partners use to describe the relationship between them, their products, and Google, and instructed them not to use the same combination of colors in their branding as Google uses.

What Are The Benefits Of Having Brand Guidelines?

Brand guidelines may sound complicated, but it’s important to have them because they provide three important benefits.

1. They Create Branding Consistency

Consistency is a key element in branding. It makes your business look more professional and helps you communicate your message.

Brand guidelines help you create consistency on two levels.

On one level, they tell other companies who partner with you on a promotion or a product how they should represent your brand. This way, your branding remains the same, whether it’s you or someone else promoting it.

On the other, they keep all the members of your team on the same page. From graphic designers to marketers, everyone knows how your brand is supposed to look, sound, and feel to the public. That’s because you already set up rules for them to follow.

2. They Establish Rules For Your Marketing Team

Without brand guidelines, your marketing team will be like a ship lost at sea without a compass. They won’t know what logos to use, what color palette they have to work with, what kind of language they can use in their messaging. The result will be that no marketing gets done at all.

By developing brand guidelines before hiring on a marketer or a marketing team, you’ll eliminate a lot of unnecessary confusion and enable your marketers to churn out content much faster.

3. They Increase The Value Of Your Brand Content

Content that follows brand guidelines is always higher in value than content that’s just thrown together with no thought of consistency. It appears professional, well thought out, and cleaner.

In short, it’s more representative of your business, which is what you should always strive for with branding.

Conclusion

Are you ready to start building your brand guidelines? If you are, then Inspired Melissa is eager to help! Reach out to me here and let me guide you (no pun intended) through this process.

How To Out Market Your Competitors At Trade Shows

How To Out Market Your Competitors At Trade Shows

Several years ago, I managed the largest farmer’s market in my region. Each weekend we would have around 5000 attendees, over 300 booth applicants, and 165 booths. Now that I run a consulting business for women business owners and entrepreneurs, I take my clients to farmer’s markets, expos, and other types of trade shows to help them build up their businesses.

A trade show is the best place to network with fellow professionals, grow your customer base, and promote your brand, all in-person. It’s fun, too! That said, there is one other thing you’ll always find at trade shows: competition.

You and other business owners in your niche will be competing for customers’ precious time and attention. The bigger the trade show, the harder you will have to work to stand out amid all the other vendors. I’ve learned that the key to out-marketing your competitors is not to focus on what they are doing in their booths. Instead, you should make your booth as attractive and inviting to customers as possible.

This task will require all your creative skills. It will also take a lot of mental energy and physical stamina. But believe me, the it will be worth it. I’ve seen businesses go from making products to sell out of their garage to selling those products to national brands, just by having a booth and interacting with their customers in person at fairs, trade show and markets. With all my experience, I’ve been able to break out-marketing your competitors down into 7 basic strategies which will help you stand out at any trade show.

Top 7 Strategies To Stand Out From The Competition At Trade Shows

1. Find A Great Location For Your Booth

The location of your booth is crucial. This is especially true if you’re working at a large trade show. Chances are high that many customers won’t visit all the booths, as making an entire circuit could take hours out of their day.
If possible, try to snag a booth close to the front entrance. This way, your brand is one of the first ones that customers see, and they are more likely to stop by.

2. Charm Customers With Free Gifts

Everyone loves free gifts! In fact, that’s one of the main draws for attendees of a trade show, is all the goodies they can get for nothing.

When you plan your next trade show, set aside part of your budget for purchasing gifts which you can give out to customers. Order them online so you can customize them with your brand logo. You can also put them in little plastic bags with your business card so that if the customer decides to contact you after the trade show, they already have your information.

As far as what to give as gifts, the sky is the limit. I’ve seen brands give out everything from nail grooming kits to keychains to cookies!

3. Get Customers’ Contact Information With A Raffle

One of your goals for attending a trade show should be to get the personal contact information – name, phone number, and email address – of the people who visit your booth. With these crucial details (given to you with their permission, of course), you now have an avenue to follow up with them and convert more sales in the future.

A smart way of getting contact information is to raffle off a basket of goodies associated with your brand. You can even raffle off one of your products or services. Make sure it’s a wonderful prize! People won’t give out their contact information for just any old raffle. But make it enticing enough, and they will gladly fill out those small slips of paper for a chance to win it.

Pro Tip: Develop a follow-up strategy. When will you contact the people who filled out contact information slips at your booth? Which method will you use first: text, phone call, or email? What call to action message or offer will you send them? Do you want them to purchase a product, book a service, or just follow your business on social media?

Think about your answers to these questions and have a plan in place before you go to a trade show.

4. Hand Out Informational Brochures

In addition to gifts, you should give customers a brochure or another type of informational packet that educates them about your business. That’s how you stand out and engage customers: hit them with a one-two punch of gift and free information about your business.

As you’re designing your informational brochure or packet, make sure it matches your branding. Keep the information brief and easy to read, while also including any details that you anticipate your customers would want to know.

5. Decorate Your Booth

Nothing catches a customer’s eye like a beautiful and tastefully decorated booth! You’re sure to out-market your competitors if you make your booth look like you put thought and care into it.

Pro Tip: Decorate using colors and iconography that match your branding to create an atmosphere of cohesion. In addition, instead of buying disposable plastic tablecloths and Party City-style décor, use real fabric tablecloths, glass vases, and other higher quality, well-made items. You can usually find the latter in your own home or for low prices at local thrift stores.

6. Visit Other Vendors

Just because you’re competing with the other vendors doesn’t mean you should be rude or standoffish. Remember that trade shows are networking opportunities. Take some time out of your day to visit the other booths at the trade show, talk with the vendors, and exchange business cards. Later, you can contact or meet up with them, swap business strategies, and help one another grow in your own niches.

7. Take Care Of You

This last strategy is one of the most important that I have to share. The most essential ingredient you need to make your trade show booth a success, is you. Your positive energy and smiling face will attract visitors to your booth even more than beautiful decorations or an exciting giveaway. On the other side of the coin, nothing will repel attendees more than a crabby, complaining attitude.

It can be hard to stay cheerful all day long, especially if you’re tired and hungry. That’s why you need to follow this seventh strategy and take care of you. Below are a few ways to do that.

  • Start your day with a great breakfast and your favorite music to get you pumped up.
  • Pack snacks and a healthy lunch with you, as well as plenty of water.
  • I also recommend bringing a painkiller like Tylenol or Advil just in case you’re like me and develop a headache from all the trade show noise and activity.
  • Wear comfortable shoes because you’re going to stand up a lot!
  • If possible, ask a friend or friendly member to come relieve you on booth duty a few times during the day. Use this precious time to get away from the noise and collect yourself. Go outside, get some fresh air, and soak up some much-needed vitamin D.

Conclusion

The thought of trying to out-market your competitors at trade shows may seem daunting, especially to new business owners. You may think you need to be cut-throat and ruthless. But my experience has taught me that that’s not the case at all. All you need to do is use the above 7 strategies and remember that if you can put your unique vision and voice front and center at the trade show, then you’ve already succeeded.

What are you waiting for? Find a trade show in your region that caters to your target audience, make a budget, and start showing your community who you are!

Top 3 Tips For How To Say NO As A Female Entrepreneur

Top 3 Tips For How To Say NO As A Female Entrepreneur

When I first started my consulting service to help other female entrepreneurs, one of the hardest things to do was say, “NO” to business opportunities.

In the beginning of your business, you’re desperate for clients and publicity. When the clients start trickling in, you’re so eager to please and to make a respectable name for your company, that you may find yourself taking on projects that you don’t have time for.

You’ll also find that there are a lot of sinister people out there – would-be clients, promoters, and other business owners – who will try to manipulate you into doing work for free. They might justify their requests saying, “I’m doing you a favor by bringing you business, so you should be willing to perform this work for free.”

Female business owners know these types well. Unfortunately our talent and worth often get condescended to and overlooked, simply because of our sex.

This is the situation I found myself in years ago: burnt out, taken advantage of, and discouraged. I didn’t have enough time for my personal life, and I certainly didn’t have enough time to manage all these projects I took on my plate.

That’s when I learned that not only is it okay to say, “NO,” but it is absolutely essential.

3 Tips For How To Say NO

Below are the top 3 tips that have helped me to learn to say “NO” as a female entrepreneur and business owner.

1. Be Polite But Firm

Just because you’re saying “no” doesn’t mean you should be rude about it. You may want to work with this client later when you have the time and space, and you don’t want to ruin that by being brusque. Even if you don’t want to work with them, you have your integrity and dignity you need to uphold.

At the same time, though, you must be firm. Don’t say, “Maybe if I have a break in my schedule, I can take on this project.” If your answer is “no,” it’s “NO.” Period.

2. Keep It Short And Sweet

You don’t need to write a long paragraph about how you don’t have time to take on this project. “No” is a two-letter word for a reason. It’s quick and easy to type, read, and speak. A simple statement such as, “No thank you, I am not able to fit this project into my schedule at this time,” is all it takes to get your point across.

3. Stick To Your Decision

Sometimes after you tell a client, “NO,” they will come back and offer you more money. Or they will send you a passive-aggressive threat, such as, “I’ll have to seek out someone else to work with if you don’t take on this project.”

If a client doesn’t accept your answer, chances are they would not be easy or fun to work with. They don’t respect you now; what are the chances that they will continue to disrespect you throughout the project? In my experience, the chance is pretty high.

Always stick to your decision. Don’t let yourself be bullied or cajoled into changing your “NO” to a meek, “Well, okay.”

Saying “NO” as a female entrepreneur is not easy. But if you want to establish yourself as a force to be reckoned with in your chosen industry, as well as carve out your own personal time and space, learning this lesson is inevitable.

5 Best Branding Practices For Women Business Owners

5 Best Branding Practices For Women Business Owners

I’ve been helping other women business owners and female entrepreneurs develop their branding practices for years. When you’ve been around the block that many times, you learn a thing or two. But the most important thing I’ve learned is this: there is no one-size-fits-all branding strategy.

Some branding “experts” who will tell you, “If you follow my plan from start to finish, you’re guaranteed success! Just buy my e-book to get started.” They may start with the best of intentions, but in my opinion, they’re guiding their clients on the wrong path.

Your branding should be as unique and individual as you are. That’s why, instead of granting you a magical one-size-fits all Cinderella shoe that I allege will bring you instant fame and fortune, I am giving you a basic recipe that will form the solid foundation of your customized branding strategy.

The following 5 best branding practices are basic strategies that I find useful for every client I work with. I will always create a branding strategy with these 5 elements in mind, even as I mix and match them with other practices which I believe will serve each individual client best.

1. Research Your Audience

Researching you audience should always be your first step when developing your business’s branding strategy. Most branding is, believe it or not, audience research. You need to find out who your customers are and what their wants and needs are. What are their pain points and problems? What drives them and motivates them?

When you have the answers to these questions, then you can decide how you want to “talk” to your customers. In other words, you can determine what voice to use in your brand messaging.

2. Determine Your Brand Voice

Your brand voice is not just the tone, verbiage, and visual design that you use to communicate your customers. It’s also the strength and conviction of your message. Think of your brand voice not just as sound, but as a message reverberating across multiple types of digital and print media. When customers read an advertisement or a blog post you wrote, or watch one of your TikToks, or scroll through your website, they should never forget what your brand is about. If they never forget, that means you have a great brand voice.

3. Create A Plan Of Communication With Your Customers

Create a plan of ongoing communication with your customers. This plan may include sending them weekly emails, calling them periodically to check how they’re enjoying your service or product, and texting them about upcoming deals and events.

It’s worth noting the difference between communicating with new customers and communicating with your loyal customers. You have a huge opportunity to forge a deeper connection through your communication with your loyal customers. Don’t be afraid to treat your repeat customers extra generously, offering them more discounts and speaking to them in a more open, conversational tone.

4. Be Consistent

Once you’ve developed your brand voice and customer communication plan, be consistent. Don’t leave your customers to doubt whether you really mean what you say, or if you will go back on your word. If you do, your customers may not trust you. Instead, they may take their business to one of your competitors.

5. Be Flexible

I know I just told you to be consistent. But you must also be flexible.

These aren’t contradictory terms. When it comes to your core values and brand messaging, you should absolutely be consistent. But as the times and trends change, sometimes it’s advantageous to adapt certain elements of your branding to keep up.

The following image is an example of how Pepsi-Cola, which retains a consistent and specific brand voice, has also been flexible over the years. Every few years, they alter their logo to match the most popular and current advertising aesthetic.

Pepsi Logo History

Source: Pepsi.com

Are these 5 steps a recipe for instant success? Not on their own. But much like flour, butter, sugar, baking soda, and salt make up the foundation of a delicious cake, these best branding practices will start you on the path to building a better business.

5 Unique Challenges Female Entrepreneurs Face

5 Unique Challenges Female Entrepreneurs Face

When Susan reaches out to me for the first time and requests a consultation, I’m ecstatic to work with a female entrepreneur whom I can help break out onto the business scene.

But when I talk to her, instead of finding her full of confidence, I find she’s hesitant and full of doubt. None of these negative feelings are about me; that’s why she’s here. She believes I can help her business thrive. But she’s also hoping, perhaps, that I can help her. That I can validate her dreams, clear away the doubts she has about herself, and encourage her to push on toward the success that she’s denied herself so far.

This is the path of a female entrepreneur in 2022. Everyone faces hardships and struggles, but women have always had to struggle harder. Not just to succeed, but for the right to succeed.

If you’re a woman starting your own business, or you know one who is, you may see yourself in these 5 unique challenges female entrepreneurs face.

1. We Defy Societal Expectations

It never ceases to astound me that there exists a stereotype that women are supposed to take a backseat to men in the business world prevails. Even if no one expects us to stay home and keep house all day long anymore, they still don’t expect us to start businesses, lead a team of employees, and build our own wealth. These are the provinces of men. By becoming entrepreneurs, we are defying societal expectations.

2. No One Takes Us Seriously

When a man oversees a business, everyone accords him the respect that is due to someone in his lofty position. But put a woman in the exact same position, and no one wants to take her seriously. Even hugely successful women running enormous, million-dollar companies feel overlooked and undervalued, according to a recent study.

Regardless of how wealthy women are or which part of the professional hierarchy we occupy, we still have to fight for our voices to be heard and respected.

3. We Feel Guilty Owning Our Accomplishments

For women, guilt has no bounds. We even feel guilty for owning our own accomplishments, the things we’ve worked hard to make successful.

Why is that?

Part of it may be pressure from those societal stereotypes we talked about earlier in this article. Part of it may also be that women are typically taught not to be loud and proud of ourselves, to not brag or boast about the awesome things we’ve done.

Finally, we may be holding ourselves back for fear of making someone else close to us, such as a father or husband, feel less needed or less adequate if we are more successful in business than they are.

Guilt is a difficult hurdle to jump, but if we don’t jump, we’ll never reach our full potential.

4. We Have To Juggle Family And Work Life

Despite working as much as men, women are still expected to balance work life with family life and domestic chores.

A report from by Oxfam and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research from 2019 showed that women in the U.S. perform 2 more hours of housework than men every day. Even in 2022, we’re still expected to take the brunt of the burden of managing a household. This makes it even harder for us to pursue our professional dreams.

5. We Have To Cope With The Constant Fear Of Failure

With the odds seemingly stacked against us, women must cope with the constant fear of failure. If I fail, how many people will say to me, “I told you so”? Will my husband tell me that I should have stuck to being a housewife? Will my male peers laugh at me with derision behind my back?

It’s not easy to block out the doubts and negative voices in your head. Having gone through it myself – and still going through it today – I know how these challenges shatter your confidence and upset your dreams.

That’s why I started my coaching business. Because the only way to keep the negative voices and lift all female entrepreneurs up is to help women succeed where no one else will.

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