Package Your Brand Online (The Right Way)

This guest blog post, Package Your Brand Online (The Right Way), is from Dr. Marina Kostina CEO & Founder Wired@Heart. Marina is an expert at helping entrepreneur’s bring their businesses online. Marina is a co-author an Amazon Bestseller, “The Golden Climate in Distance Learning”, a winner of several prestigious awards. She  also helped build online training programs and products in over 40 countries.She was intstrumental in the creation of my own 8-part Brand School online Branding class. The following post is packed with useful advice and also mentions an invitation to a  FREE online training session: “Multiply Your Impact and Income Online,” which has now completed. If you would like more notice of future events and offers, please join the BrandTwist mailing list. 

Why go online?

You love your clients.

You love connecting and engaging with them.

And you’d love being able to make a difference on a larger scale.

But there is only one of you! And that means that no matter what, your impact (and income) will always be limited.

We live in a very exciting time, as there are literally billions of online businesses nowadays.

However, 95% of online businesses fail and they fail in a matter of months!

These statistics tell us two very important things:

1) Small business owners finally realize that the online environment has tremendous potential for impact, profitability, and building the lifestyle of their dreams.

2) Most online businesses fail, and fail super-fast because they do not know how to bring their brand online in an effective way.

Many “business gurus” promise that designing an info product will solve all your financial frustrations, magically attract lots of clients, and ultimately will help you build a lifestyle of your dreams. I strongly believe that most info products experts are missing the KEY ingredient: building connection and engagement in cyberspace.

How to make your brand shine online the right way:

After 10 years of working online and conducting research on online interactions for my doctorate dissertation, I know one thing for sure: connection and engagement is THE KEY to success in cyberspace! I believe that an engaged client is a happy client. It is a client who will keep on buying your products, develop a sense of identity with your brand, will produce great results that he will gladly share with others, and will become your biggest fan and an advocate for your business!

There are 5 types of connection that businesses need to foster while bringing their brand online:

Strategy # 1: Building Client-Client Connection

The client-client type of engagement is where clients engage with each other, creating an online community. Often, such communities are considered to be a “bonus” to an online product. I argue that developing such communities is a MUST. You can easily create a community of like-minded individuals even with self-paced, downloadable products by providing an opportunity to access an online forum, or maybe creating a private Facebook group where your clients can interact and share their experiences, questions, and success stories.

Strategy # 2: Building Client-Mentor Connection

The secret of engagement is this: you need to find a way of making your trainees feel that they are involved in a learning process that they own, one that they have helped to construct, and that they are working on a piece of work that is relevant to their lives and interests.  They are searching for information and finding in it what is of most interest and relevance for their piece of work, reporting the progress of their work to others, and benefiting from the feedback.  They are giving constructive input that can help fellow participants clarify concepts and arguments in their work, being producers of knowledge rather than consumers of it, and having a hand in their destiny and living creatively as they progress through the program.

Strategy # 3: Building Client-Content Connection

Client-content engagement refers to the client’s accessing the content of the course or a program. You have to consciously and continuously facilitate discussions, and guide your clients toward the program goals. Remember, this is not a mentorship approach in which you tell your clients where to go to find answers; rather, you encourage them to explore the parameters of an issue, raise questions, and go to the program content and other valid sources of information to find their own answers.

Strategy #4: Building Client-Platform Connection

A Learning Management System (LMS), an interactive video, or a downloadable PDF series- are all important in the learning process: it is a part of the learning community, as your clients must engage with the technical platform that delivers your product. As the mentor, your responsibility is to facilitate interaction between the platform and the client. In order to minimize early dropouts because of technology, you should help your clients with navigation tools by creating a short video or a detailed PDF cheat sheet that explains how to interact with the platform, download a product or post a comment in a discussion forum. You can also develop problem solving queries in which you can invite clients’ comments on the culture of online learning, its strengths and its limitations, and ask for suggestions on how their current learning experience might be improved.

Strategy #5: Building Client-Learning Process Connection

Clients need to feel that the learning process respects their needs and that they are trusted to have a say in what they learn and how: they need to feel that they have agency and that you are fostering their autonomy. Explain to the clients the basics of the online interactions, where each participant creates a new identity and information might be miscommunicated more easily than in face-to-face interactions. Delayed response and technology might create a sense of isolation. When the clients are aware of the challenges of the online environment and have the tools to deal with these challenges, they will less likely become frustrated with the program and will not lose their motivation.

In conclusion, if you want to multiply your impact and income, you MUST bring your brand online! Imagine not having to worry about attracting new clients. Imagine creating a referral powerhouse where your satisfied clients spread the word about you! (Remember, people would more likely buy a product recommended by their friends).

I know that the process might sound scary for many of you.

I created a FREE training session: “Multiply Your Impact and Income Online”. 

In this training you will discover 3 simple steps to:

  1. Big Idea: Finding your product’s main idea that will instantly connect with your clients
  2. Design: Weaving connection and engagement into the design of your product
  3. Delivery: Building connection and engagement during delivery of your product

Sound interesting? You will find more information here:

I cannot wait to see you!

 

Baby, You Can Drive My Brand

One of the classic symbols people associate with New York City is the yellow taxicab.  The streets are teeming with them. I’ve lived in the NYC area for over 25 years, and every time I go to Manhattan I delude myself by thinking it will be easy to hail a cab any time I need one. But the reality is that when I need one most, like when it’s raining, freezing or snowing, or it’s rush hour and I’m in a real hurry, I can never get one. This happens time and time again. Why? Because there was no other alternative – until there was UBER.

TAKE A ROUGH ROAD AND MAKE IT SMOOTHER

UBER is a brand that noticed how people struggled with a problem and then put themselves into the driver’s seat to solve their customer’s problem via their brand promise: to alleviate the insecurity and uncertainty in finding a ride by providing a reliable car service that’s available whenever we need it. The real need wasn’t for more cabs, the need was to make the process of getting one, better.

TWIST THE  PROBLEM, ACCELERATE THE BRAND

UBER’s taken an old-school service and reinvented it. UBER has created a hybrid car service by twisting together two traditional ideas: the call ahead private car service and the spontaneity of a yellow cab. But unlike cabs or other car services, they made the process of getting a ride easier by simply embracing today’s technology: You use a computer or mobile app to “call” for a car, right when you want one. No cash is necessary. Receipts are delivered to your cell phone or email and disputing a bill is easier with a record, which speaks volumes for their brand transparency. You know up front approximately what the fare will be and how long of a wait it will be before your ride arrives  With UBER you know what you’re getting, with no surprises and no waiting in the rain.

DRIVE THE LESSON HOME TO YOUR BRAND

Focus on one specific need that your target market has. Put yourself in your market’s shoes (… desperate for a ride in the rain) to discover a solution. You’ll find ideas that will give your service, product or brand the fresh twist it needs to be truly valued and noticed.

Sometimes you need a good road map and clear directions to chart a route.  The road to developing a strong brand can have many detours and steep climbs. Brand School, our highly effective, premier branding program, gives you the tools you need to keep your brand on the high road and use it to make your business hum. Receive more information about the next semester and free brand-building tools and tips when you join our mailing list.

This post is part of our Brands That Twist series celebrating innovative brands. Read about other breakthrough brands and more ways to grow your business and brand here

“Brand School had great examples of real companies. I was able to dig even deeper, think of things in a new way, and get new ideas for my brand.It was well worth the fee.”  – Brenda Dillion Cavette, Founder Fashionista Tea

Can Your Brand be Written as a Haiku?

Branding is often complicated.

But it doesn’t always need to be.

Sometimes the simpler the message, the more it breaks through.

I participated in an interesting Webinar recently. It was from The Writer, a brand consultancy that focuses on helping companies use words more powerfully.

They led the attendees through a really useful exercise, where you were asked to explain your brand as a Haiku.

You remember Haiku’s right? They are Japanese poems consisting of 17 syllables in the form of three lines (5-7-5 syllables per line respectively).

Here’s what I came up with for BrandTwist:

A seed of insight
Nurtured by twisting to thrive
A strong brand blossoms

I love this exercise because it forces you to take ideas and strip them down to their bare essentials. With only 17 syllables, you need to make every word count. Use it when you find yourself trying to describe something and you feel is just getting too complicated. For example, a job description, a product benefit, or why someone should choose your brand over another.

It’s funny, but the constraint of the Haiku can actually be quite liberating. If you can’t express your idea simply, you need to step back and rethink what you are trying to communicate. Because if you can’t strip it down, chances are your target audience will have trouble understanding as well.

That’s my point of view. What’s your twist?
Can you describe your brand in a Haiku?

Read the story of Arts2Thrive.com’s business owner, Lynn Stull’s, experience of doing this Haiku exercise to help build her brand HERE.

Our Brand School program will give you the insight and tools you need to keep your brand creative and innovative. Learn more about our next enrollment and a one-on-one Brand Health Check Strategy Session HERE.

“The value I received from my investment was incredible and I have no doubt that it will continue to pay dividends to me.”  – Lynn Stull, Owner Arts2Thrive

5 Ways a Strong Brand Can Ignite your Small Business

Over the 5 years I worked for Virgin in the U.S. development office, I met some amazing entrepreneurs and small business owners.

These folks, I’m convinced, have a different genetic code than the average business person. They have an amazing ability not just to identify gaps in the marketplace, and new ideas…but to act on them.

Being a successful entrepreneur is not easy. It takes a lot of blood, sweat and tears. And most of all it takes a kind of blind faith, to believe in yourself and your product or service and to get up every morning and keep it moving forward despite (many) obstacles and better resourced market incumbents.

But here’s one thing that I think a lot of start up ventures are missing…a smarter approach to branding.

For many new companies, “brand development” consists of thinking up a name and a logo and focusing on getting a website up and running.

While these are important elements, they miss the more fundamental role and purpose  of branding: to help connect with your consumers on a deeper level, build preference and loyalty and set you apart from your competition. If done right, a well-developed brand should influence every single business decision you make.

If you are a small business owner or entrepreneur and are interested in learning more practical ways to build your brand, you should consider attending the annual NYXPO at the Jacob Javits in NYC. I have spoken there before, and it’s a fantastic opportunity to network and receive great insight.  Click here to Register

In the meantime, Here are 5 thoughts on how a strong Brand can ignite your business:.

A Strong Brand Idea can help you:

1. Attract the Right Kind of Investor

2. Make Sure You Have a Well Defined Target Audience

3. Develop Products and Services Faster and with More Discipline

4. Create Brand Expressions that Cut Through (with less spending)

5. Stay On Course as the Company Grows
 Keep reading »

1. A strong Brand can help you attract the right kind of partners and investors. “Dumb money” can be fairly easy to find. But “Smart Money” is harder. But it’s better. Because it means you’ve found  backers who are on the same page and share the same philosophy. They are more likely to give you on-going advice and be supportive of your need to build a strong business and brand.  A well thought out and presented Brand can help you attract the right people on the right terms. It can also help cut through the 1,000’s of pitches that VC’s and another investor see on a regular basis. It can make your venture more memorable and interesting.

2. Developing a strong Brand forces you to make some tough calls about your target audience and to really make sure there is a well-defined and substantial market for your venture.  Too often we fall so in love with our own ideas that we don’t stop to question if there are other people (besides our mom and college roommate) who would also be a receptive , paying audience for our product or service. Brands don’t exist if there is no one out there willing to buy them. If they are not answering an unmet need or addressing a current need in a better way. Brand Idevelopment makes you go through the process of identifying your target audience, understanding what motivates them, and making sure your idea answers their needs in a way that is relevant and different from current options. You’d be surprised at home many people short change this step…with pretty disastrous results. “If we build it, they will come” may work for Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams, but it can be an arrogant and costly mistake for many entrepreneurs. 

3. A Strong Brand can help you develop your product and services faster and with more discipline.  One of the biggest challenges facing small businesses is to stay on track. It’s hard, to know which opportunities to pursue, and which ones to pass on. Particularly when you don’t have the structure and decision making processes of a large company. A well defined Brand should be used as a continual, actionable filter to review everything: products, partnerships, people for fit to your core values. If they don’t fit, even if they have merit, then pass.

4. Well defined Brand Ideas are the cornerstone of great brand expressions that cut through. So many entrepreneurs that I have met and/or worked with spend hours of wasted (precious) time going in circles about the name, logo and marketing materials of the company. But often the reason they can’t decide or seem to get what they are looking for isn’t that they are using the wrong creative resources. It’s that they haven’t defined the Idea behind the creative. They think they will know something good when they see it. But 10 years of running Naming and Consumer Branding at Interbrand has driven home how subjective the creative process can be. Having a strong Brand promise translates into tighter, better creative briefs which translates into better creative- with fewer (time, money and energy sapping) rounds of iteration and evaluation. And once you have this strong Brand expressions developed, chances are they will cut through in the marketplace and amplify the always too limited spending of entrepreneurial brands.

5. A Strong Brand will help you navigate the growing pains as your entrepreneurial venture expands from a two to twenty to two hundred employees.  Having a tacit understanding of what the Brand stands for and where it should and shouldn’t go is often ok when you can fit all of your brand stakeholders around your kitchen table. But what happens as you grow? How do you efficiently and effectively on-board more people quickly and make sure that they have the same understanding as the original 5 members? How do you make sure you expanding workforce of brand ambassadors is putting out a consistent message to the marketplace? We encountered this same issue at Virgin as the brand began to grow particularly in the United States. We finally decided it was time to take some of the “gut” knowledge and put it down in writing. With an articulated Brand Idea,  Brand Pillars and some training tools such as identity, tone of voice and launch documents. This didn’t mean we were turning “corporate”. It just meant we were getting smarter about sharing our Brand knowledge and DNA with new members of the family.

Fundamental Brand building, particularly paying attention to defining your target audience and your Brand Idea (not just what products you offer, but the emotional benefit of engaging with your brand) can be a powerful tool for any small business. And the difference between a Google, Starbucks, Virgin and all those other failed ventures that never quite made it.

That’s my point of view. What’s your twist?

How do you see branding as a challenge or advantage for small businesses?

Our Brand School program will give you actionable steps and strategies that you can use to grow a strong brand.  Receive more information about the next semester and receive free brand-building tools and tips when you join our mailing list.

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“Through Julie’s feedback I learned critical information about my demographic audience, what I was trying to say with my story, and what I stood for.” – Lynn Stull, Owner Arts2Thrive

 

Do Blondes Have More Fun? Starbucks Thinks So

I recently came across this new Blonde coffee variety from Starbucks and I think it’s a great example of a name that’s descriptive without being boring.

Starbucks could have gone with more traditional descriptors like “Light” for this new variety.

But by choosing the name “Blonde” they are both helping the consumer navigate the choice of the many varieties and imparting a bit of personality – part of the strategy of what has made this brand so strong. They understand that it’s about the experience – not just the functionality. And they have always known that the devil is in the details.

Too often brands think the have to make a choice between clear and clever.

Starbucks shows you can have your (coffee) cake and eat it too.

That’s my point of view. What’s your twist?

What other great descriptive names have you noticed?

Identifying your specific market niche and honing your brand’s verbal identity takes strategic thinking. Our Brand School program will give you actionable steps and strategies that you can use to grow a strong brand.  Receive more information about the next semester and receive free brand-building tools and tips when you join our mailing list.

Please also join us on Twitter and Facebook for more insight and discussion on branding.

“Brand School allowed me to get to the essence of my  brand. I was able to hone and tighten up my brand. Thank you, Julie, it’s a great program.” – Jonathan Flaks, President, Jonathan Flaks Coaching Associates