5 Self-Branding Tips for Small Business Owners

The Importance of Self-Branding for SMB Owners

Every business owner knows that the odds are stacked against them when starting out; more than 50 percent of startups fail in their first four years.

When businesses do end up failing, the entrepreneur behind them is equally destroyed; that is, unless they were busy building their personal brand as well.

The Importance of Self-Branding

SMB owners must understand that personal branding far exceeds the desire to accumulate more wealth and actually translates into a multitude of benefits that would be difficult to achieve otherwise.

Personal branding can help entrepreneurs become authorities in their field, separate from what their company offers. By becoming a public figure, business owners can develop new and fortuitous relationships and connections, recapture momentum if a business does fail, or even create entirely new businesses much faster.

People like Bill Gates and Tony Hsieh have created powerful personal brands that revolve around their personalities and values rather than their infamous corporate enterprises; this is part of what gives these men staying-power in the public eye.

As an entrepreneur, your best bet at establishing long-term career success is to shape and promote your own personal brand in tandem with your business’s identity.

If you are aching to become an authority in your niche, a thought leader, or otherwise notable individual, here five methods for bringing this dream to life.

Self-Branding Tips

Find Branding Master Mentors

One of the best ways to successfully achieve anything is by looking to those who have already achieved success; absorb their knowledge, learn their secrets, and apply it to your strategy.

One of the biggest misconceptions about mentors, however, is that these need to be people you have face-to-face interactions with and personally know.

While this certainly is ideal, mentors and mentor-mentee relationships come in many shapes and sizes. These people can be personal associates, but they can also be digital influencers, keynote speakers, or authors of books that you have reaped rewards from.

In a Huffington Post interview with Tai Lopez, one of today’s most prolific and sought-out investors, entrepreneurs, and digital business influencers, he candidly proclaims that his fervent book-reading is what allowed him to tap some of the world’s greatest minds and gain mentorship, knowledge, and direction. These valuable tools allowed him to attain his massive success and build a robust personal brand.

The key is finding mentors who have successfully built strong personal brands and who resonate deeply with you; this will allow you to really internalize much of their teachings.

Find Your Social Niche

It’s undeniable that social media is one of the most essential aspects of business and branding today – personal or otherwise.

Most entrepreneurs, however, rush into establishing a website, figuring out logos and branding elements, and making their mark as a thought leader.

Urgency is not your best friend when establishing your brand. Be intention, and focus on things like:

After you have accomplished these objectives, start cranking out valuable content that will help your audience and provide obvious value. If you are a cook, start posting images of dishes on Instagram with the recipe as the description. If you are aiming to be an influencer in the realm of psychology, start catering to your audience with Facebook Live. Want to make how-to carpentry videos? Then YouTube is where you need to be.

After you start building your audience through valuable and pragmatic information, then you can start creating the actual elements of your brand. But finding your voice and your audience is the most powerful first step.

Create a Personal Website

Now it’s time for your digital zip code. Websites are a necessity for anyone who is cultivating their personal brand. Without a website, the internet controls your brand reputation as there is no central source of info when someone Googles your name. Without a definitive destination, bad press might be the first search result; this will surely turn off most would-be visitors.

Don’t rely on social media to be your home; that’s leased real estate. You don’t own your image there, you are only borrowing that space to spread the word. Your website is your domain, literally; don’t do this process without creating a rock solid web presence.

Whenever possible, create a website with a URL that is consistent with your full name (firstandlastname.com) so that when people search for you, it will be the first result.

On your site, be sure to include professional photos of yourself, a bio framing yourself as an industry expert, links to your personal brand’s social channels, and a link back to your company website.

Additionally, if you have any external articles or blogs you’ve written, link to these as well. You should have more content on your site than just some external links, but we’ll get to that in a moment.

Since you’re just starting out, you don’t need to hire a development firm to build some A-1 destination; start by using a service like Wiseintro or Squarespace as they are quick, easy, affordable, and look amazing.

Provide Value through Content

In addition to the content you have been cranking out on social media, you are going to need to provide your website visitors with an abundance of valuable information as well.

This means that you need to implement a blog or vlog section to your site where you can build a portfolio of thought-leadership-type pieces that provides your audience with unique and pragmatic knowledge and tools. Be sure to share these materials across your social properties as well to drive additional traffic and engagement.

Additionally, to help give your audience something more substantial to chew on, implement a piece of specialized content like an eBook, premium checklist, or similar download. These can be given out for free in exchange for an email address. This way you can begin to build an email database of interested prospects for the next phase.

Remember, the ultimate goal of your site is to reinforce your personal brand while providing visitors with unparalleled value through content and other offerings.

Launch Your Product

To ensure that your personal brand does not just become an affiliate portal, develop your own products or services to sell to your audience.

The biggest thing that this will provide to your brand is credibility and credence; not money (though that is a nice perk).

For most personal brands, the best offerings to sell are knowledge. This could be books, speaking events, in-person or online courses, and similar ways of transmitting in-depth information.

As you begin to cultivate and refine your personal brand through content, recognition, and the natural evolutionary process, you will begin to develop new and exciting opportunities that unchain you from relying on the sole success of your company. Through this route, you can become a success in your own right, and find an entirely new career path that can lead to much more profitable and stimulating pursuits.

Self Branding Photo via Shutterstock

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This Tattoo Artist Has Found a VERY Specific Niche

Takeaways from This Niche Market Example

Chinese tattoo artist Shi Hailei has found a very specific niche for his business. He offers free tattoos to moms who want to cover up scars from C-sections.

Inspired by a Brazilian tattoo artist who offered free tattoos to cover up scars from domestic violence and abuse, Hailei wanted to use his talents to give back in some way. And since China has the highest rate of C-sections per birth in the world, he thought it would be fitting to offer tattoos to help those moms regain some of their self-esteem instead of turning to creams or other products to reduce the appearance of those scars.

Since the tattoos are free, it’s not like the offering itself is bringing in a ton of extra revenue for Hailei’s business. But if the women have a positive experience, they could be likely to return for other tattoos or even refer friends. And the positive attention he’s gotten for this initiative can’t hurt either.

Takeaways from This Niche Market Example

This story demonstrates a couple of important points for small businesses. First, Hailei found a niche that’s extremely relevant to his target audience. And secondly, his desire to give back and help people, even in a seemingly small way, is something that any business can potentially replicate and learn from.

Tattoo Artist Photo via Shutterstock

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What is Content Curation and How Can You Use it For Your Small Business?

What is Content Curation?

When it comes to marketing, the general consensus is content is king. Every business under the sun is facing increasing competition, and it’s getting harder and harder to stand out. However, by publishing and sharing added value content, companies are able to get a leg up on the competition and provide marketing leads with far more than a ham-fisted, hard sell.

But coming up with truly original and useful content that adds value can often be pretty tricky, and some business owners understandably struggle. That’s why more and more companies are now focusing their efforts on content curation rather than creation for their content marketing efforts.

What is Content Curation?

Simply put, content curation is the process of sifting through huge amounts of digital content, gathering all the best bits and repackaging them in an organized and significant way. For the record, “repackaging” does not mean attempting to claim the content of others. Full credit must always be given where it’s due.

Yet by cherry-picking select pieces of juicy, existing content and re-sharing it in a format that is compatible with your company’s unique marketing strategy, you’ll be able to capitalize off the expertise of others in order to provide your own business with credibility as an industry thought leader.

How Do You Use Content Curation?

Now that you know the answer to, “What is content curation?”, there are plenty of ways small business owners are able to fit it snugly into their marketing efforts. And once you’ve found the web’s top sources of dynamic, industry-specific content, you can set up RSS feeds and push notifications to ensure you’re always up-to-date on all the freshest material.

One of the most common emerging trends has been to publish daily or weekly company blog posts and collect and republish snippets of useful, industry-related resources from across the web. This is an incredibly simple method of content curation — but it’s also pretty effective. By creating a one-stop shop for would-be consumers, businesses are able to save web users loads of time and keep leads from bouncing off their websites.

This type of content curation is also used quite effectively in terms of email marketing. If your company has got a mailing list of leads, weekly or monthly newsletters are a great way to bring traffic to your site and establish your business as a thought leader without trying to make a hard sell. It doesn’t take a whole lot of effort to track down and repackage useful snippets from across the web, but it can pay big dividends in terms of getting users to click through to your site regularly.

This sort of content curation might be relatively new to you — but there’s a pretty good chance you’ve been unknowingly using content curation for years in the form of social media.

Social media sites are a fantastic way to showcase your product landing pages and spread the good word about your company’s services. But one of the best ways to build up a decent following is to share content from other accounts that will engage your followers and stimulate discussion. By sharing ideas and stories from established thought leaders and like-minded businesses, you can create your own online community that will inevitably build invaluable sales leads.

At the end of the day, content curation is generally a trial-and-error process. You’ve got to get a good feel for what your consumers or followers want or need in terms of content and tinker with how to offer them value. But if you’re willing to play around and stick with it, content curation is an incredibly simple process that has the potential to offer your business big results.

Curator Photo via Shutterstock

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Crocs Effort Shows How to Rehabilitate a Brand

Croc's Brand Repositioning Efforts

Crocs (NASDAQ:CROX) is fighting to save its brand. But it’s going to have to get past a lot of negative opinions first.

The company’s stock has been steadily declining for the past five years. And it hasn’t turned an annual profit since 2013. So now, the company is turning to some popular celebrities like John Cena in an effort to reposition its brand.

Crocs is also turning to social media to try and change its image with consumers.

But the repositioning effort isn’t likely to be easy. There are a lot of Crocs haters out there. In fact, there’s even a dedicated #crocshaters hashtag on Twitter. And changing minds that drastically can sometimes be an uphill battle.

Sometimes a Brand Repositioning is Needed

Where the Crocs brand ends up still remains to be seen. But it’s important for small businesses to note the effort here. When your business is struggling, sometimes it’s necessary to make some big changes to try and reposition your brand. You just have to monitor the pulse of consumer opinions when it comes to your product or service. And if you can make the necessary changes to appeal to those consumers, you may just be able to turn things around in a positive way.

Crocs Photo via Shutterstock

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How Do Your Email Marketing Automation Efforts Score?

How Do Your Email Marketing Automation Efforts Score?

Thanks to the rise of analytic dashboards, email marketing automation is easier to measure after the fact.

However, what if you want to measure your email marketing automation efforts from the bottom up? How do you know if you’re using the most effective techniques to capture leads and encourage conversions? You can read a hundred online articles to find out or, you can use the handy scorecard from the Email Marketing & Marketing Automation Excellence 2017 Report below:

Click to view a larger version…

Email Marketing Automation Scorecard
Source: Email Marketing & Marketing Automation Excellence 2017 Report

Breaking Down the Email Marketing Automation Scorecard

Moving from left to right, columns two through six indicate a maturation in both an business’ email marketing and marketing automation techniques. While it may not be necessary for your small business to move all the way to “Optimised”, moving as far as necessary will surely boost the results from your email marketing efforts.

Pray and Spray

Every small business has to begin somewhere and the red column is the one that most occupy at the start. This is the “dip your toe” stage of email marketing, the time when you take your first foray into using the channel and the period when you’re likely learning the most about the basic tools, actions, and techniques that you’ll build upon in the later columns.

Targeted Emailing

Most small businesses move to the yellow column when they begin to realize the value of email list segmentation. Once you begin to segment your list, you can incorporate different templates, multiple campaigns, and test different offers/value added benefits to see which works best with each segment.

Starting to Automate

The yellow column adds a lot of complexity to your email marketing efforts. That’s why many small businesses begin to look for ways to automate the process as they move into the blue column. This can get pretty powerful as email marketing automation enables you to set up triggers to automatically:

  • Send targeted emails for purposes such as abandoned cart recovery;
  • Vary the content sent within each email based on specific list member factors; and
  • Personalize the offer/value added benefit at the subscriber level.

Starting to Integrate

Some of the activity in the purple column focuses on the continuing the email marketing automation process including reactivation of past subscribers as well as the automation of the journey across their lifetime as your customer.

A good chunk of the rest of the purple column activities focuses on integration. Integrated marketing enables you to boost the effectiveness of your efforts by linking multiple channels, like social media and offline approaches, into one campaign.

Finally, the purple column introduces A/B testing, an automated methodology used to discover which email design and/or content is most effective at driving results. A/B testing tests one thing at a time so only one factor will be different between the emails your subscribers receive.

Integrated Lifecycle Targeting

The green column is the ultimate form of email marketing automation. Here, your small business has automated everything it can, integrated it as tightly as it can across channels, and continuously monitors customer interactions for opportunities.

The green column also marks a step up in your email marketing testing. Multivariate testing is similar to A/B testing except you test more than one variable at a time. For example, you might test variances in both the design and the content at the same time to see which version of your emails is more effective.

Measuring Up

While it may seem like the goal here is for every small business to reach the green column, nothing could be further from the truth.

The blue column is where many small businesses stop, and rightly so, in their email marketing automation journey. Moving forward to the final two columns is a big undertaking and frankly, the smaller the business, the less necessary they’re likely to be. Using your valuable time to move forward just isn’t worth it if the return does not equal the effort.

That said, if you have a large customer base, or want to try to see if it’s worth your time to move forward, there can be a lot of value in moving ahead.

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Hacking Mobile Advertising

2 Ideas for Getting Started with Mobile Advertising

Mobile advertising has long been considered a fringe issue in marketing strategies. However, as mobile devices are increasingly being used as primary sources of information, it’s time to rethink these strategies. Even small businesses should give more weight to mobile marketing due to the ever-increasing amount of activity on mobile devices.

The majority of Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook users check their respective social media accounts on their mobile devices. Further, services such as Snapchat only exist as an app on mobile devices and are not accessible on traditional desktop or laptop platforms. With more consumers using mobile devices to stay connected with friends on social networks, mobile usage altogether has risen. Marketers have taken notice of the uptick in mobile usage and are investing more advertising budgets on their mobile spend. Accordingly, current costs spent on mobile advertising are already rivaling those spent on traditional computers, and it’s estimated that by 2019, 72 percent of digital ad spending will go toward mobile advertising.

This is not to say, however, that anyone should blindly start advertising on mobile devices; mobile advertising can be disruptive and perceived by the end-user as spam if it is not implemented correctly.

2 Ideas for Getting Started with Mobile Advertising

Social Networks are Crowded, but Brands can Cut Through the Noise by Sharing Content that Provides Value to Audiences

Most of the time, when people check their mobile devices, they’re checking their social media. 91 percent of mobile users from ages 18 to 29 use social media on their phones. As such, it’s important to use social media as a direct method of reaching your future customers.

It’s also important to remember that merely being present on someone’s feed is not enough. To truly capitalize on mobile marketing on social media, you need to incentivize sharing. If you can get your content shared by even a few users, awareness of your company’s product could explode.

Promoting brand deals and coupons is not only an assured way of getting on the radar of consumers, because who doesn’t love a good deal? In fact, 96 percent of consumers use coupons, and 81 percent of consumers use them on a regular basis. This means that you won’t need to convince consumers to click on your ad to get a deal — they most likely will do that on their own. But sharing deals via social media, or — better yet — creating social-only promotions – can spark a massive chain reaction among existing fans and targeted social media users. By offering coupons in your mobile advertising plan, you can drive demand among your existing customers and attract new ones.

Targeting Local Consumers can, Quite Literally, Put Small Businesses on the Map

Often mobile users rely on their devices to find brand information on-the go, which means they’re looking for local relevancy. Location-based advertisements are a great tool for connecting with nearby consumers eager to locate a specific product or service. Geo-targeting through mobile advertising is an especially efficient strategy for small businesses, because it enables them to drive traffic through their store doors almost immediately. For example, Facebook and Twitter users are often served local business ads within a certain radius of their location; the targeted ads prompt users to visit the nearby location.

Additionally, some local businesses also leverage mobile beacon technology, which allows them to tap into Bluetooth signals send messages or promotions to devices in close proximity. When consumers are on-the-go and served a relevant and local brand offering, they are more inclined to capitalize on the promotion and engage with the business, even if it was not initially on their awareness radar.

Beacon marketing can also be used to reward frequent customers and deliver helpful content to consumers while they shop or wait for service. A perfect example of this concept is Shopkick. Shopkick notifies users of general promotions at nearby businesses, allows users to browse the app for sales while they shop, and sends a notification to users if they’ve liked items online that the nearby businesses have in stock. All of this serves to entice an otherwise indifferent potential customer to shop at your business.

Tracking the results of location strategies are integral to driving and maintaining campaign success. There are several different metrics you can use to figure out which strategies are working and which aren’t. You can use everything from social network analytics to functionalities like multi-touch attribution and comparison to marketing activities across different media sources. The important part is figuring out where to cut costs and which strategies to preserve.

Competition is growing fiercer by the day across verticals, and brands have to adapt mobile-first mentalities and strategies to stay relevant. It’s no longer enough to expect the same PR and brand storytelling techniques to cut through the noise; companies have to speak to consumers where they live: on their mobile devices. Often small businesses rely on loyal patrons and word-of-mouth to keep their revenues afloat. But the world is changing; customer loyalty is a rarity and word-of-mouth marketing has gone online. To tap into existing, new consumers and, even, the growing digitally nomadic workforce, organizations must monitor consumer location through geo-targeting in AdWords and beacon technology.

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12 Headline Tips to Draw Customers to Your Homepage — and Keep Them There

Homepage Headline Tips
The headline on your company’s homepage is the first thing site visitors will see, so it needs to be engaging to capture their interest and keep them on the page. From making visitors laugh with a funny title to emphasizing the value you have to offer, there are many tips and tricks you can employ to draw in potential customers. To find the best ones, we asked 12 entrepreneurs from Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) this question:

“What is your best tip for writing a homepage headline that catches the customer’s eye and makes them want to stay on the page?”

Homepage Headline Tips

Here’s what YEC community members had to say:

1. State the Customer’s End Goal

“Start with the customer’s end goal, then use the rest of the content on your homepage (especially the space below the fold) to introduce a narrative that supports your business’s ability to help your customers reach their goals. People visit your website with specific needs in mind; to capture their attention, you must clearly show that you can provide a solution.” ~ Firas KittanehAmerisleep

2. Hire an Experienced Copywriter

“If you want a well-written, attention-grabbing homepage, hire someone who is experienced at writing well-written web copy. Investing in a skilled copywriter is worth every penny: They will help you get your message across eloquently and effectively. If you want to keep your customers on your webpage for as long as possible, leave it in the hands of someone who knows how to do just that.” ~ Jared BrownHubstaff Talent

3. Avoid Generic and Subjective Descriptors

“Avoid generic and subjective descriptors like ‘best,’ ‘amazing,’ ‘service,’ ‘tool’ or ‘product.’ Put a stake in the ground and clearly describe your offering in a way that people can instantly connect to (or opt out entirely — this isn’t a bad thing!). People have actual pain points and want actual solutions, not some generic fix that may or may not work or be relevant to them.” ~ Roger LeeCaptain401

4. Use Humor

“I believe humor is a universal marketing tool that goes unused, but would do more to attract a customer than saying anything shocking or dramatic. With so much negativity, it’s good to have a homepage headline designed to make someone laugh and smile. They will want to read on to hopefully laugh again, and feel good about what they are reading and what you are offering.” ~ Murray NewlandsSighted

5. Tell Them Where They Are

“One of the golden rules of homepage headlines is answering three questions going on in the mind of the visitor: ‘Where am I?’ ‘What can I do here?’ and ‘Why shouldn’t I go somewhere else?’ We often make the mistake of thinking our customers know as much as we do, and fail to answer simple questions that can significantly increase your conversion rates. Don’t get fancy: Make it clear to them where they are.” ~ Diego OrjuelaCables & Sensors

6. Emphasize a Common Pain Point

“The best way to write a homepage headline that catches the customer’s eye and makes them want to stay on the page is to address the most common pain point shared by your customers. Conduct a customer survey and find out what obstacles, frustrations and pain points they are trying to solve by using your product or service. Analyze the feedback and extract the most common issue.” ~ Nick ChasinovTeknicks

7. Showcase the Value You Offer

“When a homepage loads, the first copy should show the value a company offers. Everybody provides features, but what really resonates is the value you provide to your customers, such as saving time or saving money.” ~ Shalyn DeverChatter Buzz

8. Make It Short, Memorable and Easily Relayed

“You need to come up with one sentence that says exactly what you want your customers to say when they tell their friends about you. The simplicity and clarity of this description is what drives word of mouth, so really think about what you want people to say about you. Make that your headline.” ~ Erik HubermanHawke Media

9. Test Headlines Before They Hit the Homepage

“Successful email subject lines and ad titles can double as catchy homepage headlines. Before writing a homepage headline, test relentlessly through A/B testing of email and Google AdWords campaigns. Measure which headlines have the highest click-through rates, open rates and conversions. Those are the headlines you want on a homepage.” ~ Brett FarmiloeMarkitors

10. If You Confuse, You Lose

“We know from research that our web visitors make a judgement call on our homepage within the first three seconds. That’s why your headline should clearly state what your company does and why that matters. If you answer the question ‘What does my audience need to know, understand and believe in order for me to sell to them?’ in the headline, then you have gone a long way toward engaging them.” ~ Nick FriedmanCollege Hunks Hauling Junk

11. Answer a Popular Question Related to Your Niche

“I’ve actually done this before. After noticing that there was a huge amount of traffic directed to my personal website from Google, I investigated to see what the common theme was. I found out that people wanted to know ‘what is’ or ‘how to,’ and my page was one of the top search results. Don’t wait to put this information in an FAQ page. Get (and keep) them on the homepage.” ~ Cody McLainSupportNinja

12. Promote Curiosity

“Many leading sites such as BuzzFeed have generated millions of visitors and interactions by creating enormous curiosity with their headlines. This works best when the reader knows at least a little bit about a topic and you use a headline that promotes curiosity. It leaves us feeling deprived if we don’t learn more, and that’s what gets people engaging, reading and clicking. Studies prove this!” ~ Alex MillerUpgraded Points
Reading Photo via Shutterstock

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Forty Ounce Wines Story Shows, When You Go Viral, Be Ready!

Be Prepared to Go Viral

Think going viral is all fun and games for a small business? Think again.

Having your brand or product suddenly go viral can actually be very challenging, as the creators of Forty Ounce Wines recently learned. After one of the founders posted a photo of the 40 oz. Rose product to his Instagram account, the product got picked up and featured by some big names like Time, Elle and Cosmopolitan. The founders said their website visits increased from about two per day to more than 2,000, seemingly overnight.

Since they were not prepared for such a huge response, they didn’t bottle a ton of the product right away. So when demand increased suddenly, they weren’t exactly prepared. And they were only able to offer limited availability to customers.

Be Prepared to Go Viral

Of course, it’s not always feasible for small businesses to be prepared to go viral. It wouldn’t make financial or logistical sense to have tons of extra stock and help in place just in case a product gets popular. But having a plan for what to do if business picks up suddenly could be a worth developing. If you can create a waiting list or quickly put processes into place to get products to customers quickly, then you can better take advantage of all that priceless buzz your business is receiving.

Image: Forty Ounce Wines

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