Friday, March 19, 2010

Watch the Face

Many SME proprietors are recognized experts in their field. As such, their name and image can be a powerful marketing tool. Other proprietors might want to convey a personal, direct approach to their customers and using an image of themselves is a good way to do so.

Regardless of the reason, you should carefully consider the implications and consequences before deciding to use your image as part of your marketing and advertising.

Fortunately, it has nothing to do with your looks (well…., no, nothing!) On the contrary, customers perceive merely human, un-photoshopped images as authentic and that reflects on your brand.

The Problem is Control. When Colonel Sanders made the decision to be the face of Kentucky Fried Chicken, he had total control over his image. His customers saw only what he decided they would see. Never a frown, never a cocktail in hand; always in control.

Would the Colonel have the same control over his image today? Not a chance. Aside from the paparazzi that would plague his fame, the omnipresence of digital cameras, cell phones and instant messaging would make it far more difficult, if not impossible, for the Colonel to control his image as before.

Fortunately or not, most of us don’t have to deal with the fame issue, but, if you want to use your image to help promote your business, you must exercise as much control as possible over that image. And that's not as easy as it used to be.

You don’t want your brand showing up on FaceBook with its pants down!

By Stephen Da Cambra

Monday, January 25, 2010

Whatever You Do, Remember Your Brand

SMEs can’t be blamed for being a little confused about the proliferation of digital media, the doomsday predictions for traditional media and the noise of advice on what to do about it all – (with the exception of this helpful blog of course!)

Questions abound: should you continue your print advertising? Is internet marketing going to pay off? Should you make time for social networking?

You know the answers already. If something works for you, go with it – and it doesn’t take as long as you think to discover what works. Getting value from any marketing channel is a great way to determine whether to use it.

However, it’s important to stay ahead of the curve. Don’t wait until the last newspaper rolls off the press to start scanning the horizon for other valuable marketing channels. It doesn’t hurt to develop marketing channels before you actually need them.

This doesn’t mean you have to start spending half your day writing blog posts or finding something clever to tweet. Poke around, scan information, check out anything that looks interesting. Nothing wrong with a little old fashioned networking - find out what your colleagues and suppliers think. Of course, talk to your customers. In other words, don’t be afraid to test the water because you don’t know when you might need to jump in.

Whatever you do, wherever your media search takes you, support your brand. The familiarity of your brand will help you and your customers transition across marketing channels. Reinforcing your brand also gives you a direction for content on new channels.

Your brand is everything you do - in everything you do, every tweet, connection or link, remember your brand.

By Stephen Da Cambra

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Marriage of Design and Copy

We are gathered here today to join together … your web copy and web site design. The pairing really is like a marriage. They must spend their lives together, endure unforeseen changes in each other, for better or worse, and they must work together to make the marriage successful.

But how do you know if the marriage will work? Like any marriage, you don’t, but you trust that, with a little effort, it will. That effort means something more than just pluncking down hastily written copy on a web page template and posting it to your site.

Your web design should enhance your copy and your copy should enhance your design. Design improves copy when it highlights the copy and makes it easier to consume. Copy improves design when it gives meaning to design elements that are otherwise just decoration.

To make the marriage work, your designer and copywriter must work together; both understanding your key messages, the purpose of the site and your target audience(s).

If one must flow from the other, write your copy first. In the end, it’s your copy that compels action, at least most often, and its tone and direction will be the cue for your design. (Yes, I am a copywriter.)

However it happens, it is important for your business that the union of design and copy is a happy one. Happy design/copy marriages are fruitful and produce lots of little clicks on your call-to-action.

Bad marriages? No clicks.

By Stephen Da Cambra

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Careful, You May Have More Social Media Influence Than You Think

If you’ve just started out on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or another social media site as part of your internet marketing, you’re probably comparing yourself to your more established connections. You have 4 connections – but they have 681!! Wow – will you ever get to 681?!

It’s natural to compare yourself to others. Don’t fret; you can achieve as well as anyone else on social media has achieved. They did it, why can’t you?

But don’t assume that, because you have only a relatively small number of followers right now, no one’s listening. Unless you choose the privacy settings for your social media site, anyone can see everything you say or do.

Still, with so few “followers”, who would be interested?

Maybe a customer. Or supplier; or your Uncle Rex. Without getting into the consequences of anyone viewing your social media content unknown to you, a good practice is to never do or say anything on a social media site that you wouldn’t mind a customer, or Uncle Rex, seeing.

By Stephen Da Cambra

Monday, December 14, 2009

Should You Tweet, Link or Connect?

Short Answer: It doesn’t really matter. If you’re getting into social media, it isn’ t too important whether you choose Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or any one of the hundreds of other social media channels. It’s better to pick one, any one, and start participating, than to be overwhelmed by trying to take in the whole daunting social media scene at once.

Perhaps the biggest secret to getting successfully engaged in social media is time management. Take an hour one evening and poke around some sites. If one looks appealing, take an hour in the next day or two to get more in-depth, open an account, maybe even contribute. There’s no hurry.

If you still can’t manage to find focus, talk to friends, family or, even better, your customers and suppliers. Don’t be discouraged if you hear stories similar to yours. But look for something in common. Check the Google Alerts we mentioned in our last post. Find a reason to pick a channel.

Why is it not important which channel you pick? They are increasingly connected to each other. For example, your tweets can automatically appear on LinkedIn. In other words, if you open an account on LinkedIn and Twitter, one tweet gives you content on both channels.

As you become more familiar with your chosen channel, the others don’t seem as daunting and joining them is easier. But don’t forget the (perhaps) biggest secret about engaging in social media. You will find more and less value from channel to channel – choose the ones from which you get the most value.

By Stephen Da Cambra

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Secret to Choosing the Right Web Site Images

Yeah, yeah, “a picture is worth a thousand words”, yadda, yadda. The problem is, if an image isn’t right, your web site could have a thousand words against it before it even starts.

You need the right image. The one that gives you the most bang for your thousand words.

The first rule is: there are no rules. Unless you are a rock star designer, it’s difficult to say whether your snazzy shot of grapes will properly convey your toxic chemical manufacturing company’s green initiative.

For most of us, it’s best to choose an image that complements the web copy. If yours is a residential roofing company, a beauty shot of a home with a nice roof is a good, safe choice.

If you want to get creative, go ahead, but make sure the creativity enhances the connection to the content. For the roofing company, maybe a shot of a few homes in the rain, but one of them is glowingly dry (I don’t know – you get the idea).

Here’s the (not so) Secret Bit: Your copy should be about your customers; providing answers to what they seek on the internet. If your image is supposed to relate to your copy, and your copy should be about your customers, then… BINGO – make the image about your customers too.

What about a shot of a couple happily entertaining friends in the backyard of their stunningly roofed home?

By Stephen Da Cambra

Friday, October 30, 2009

Web Copy Migration - Expensive Cost Cutting

Eye candy is seductive. Web visitors who stumble upon a site with innovative design will stop to take in the eye-catching treat. That they have a creative design is a unique selling feature of many sites.

It’s the reason many small businesses put a strong emphasis on having a creative, “leading edge” design. There is nothing wrong with emphasising design creativity when it fits with the goals of your web site.

Problems arise when you sacrifice other important elements of your site for the sake of an off-the-chart design. Your web site’s copy and structure are just as important to your overall web design as colour, layout and effects (easy on the effects – remember the goal of your site).

As it is an important design element, you should create copy specifically for your web design, just as you do with other elements. Migrated web copy, copy taken from your brochures, sell-sheets or old web site, doesn’t fit. Not only will it make your web copy less effective, it could ruin your snazzy design and chase away your web visitors. Saving money by migrating copy can be very expensive.  

Happy Halloween, and go easy on the candy!

By Stephen Da Cambra
with thanks to New Thinking