Monthly Archives: May 2016

Successfully Rebranding Your Business

You may start your business with a winning strategy, but what happens when things change and your brand no longer reflects the message you want it to? Whether your business has suffered damage to its reputation or your target audience has changed, there are plenty of reasons why your business might be in need of rebranding. But a true rebrand means so much more than just a new logo, name and site redesign — it’s a complicated process.

Ready to change your business’s image? Here’s what experts had to say about rebranding the right way.

“Don’t spend too much time getting lost in the mythology of the story behind the brand assets. Branding experts can be great storytellers but remember that most people are never going to pay that close attention to the deeper meaning of a tiny element of your logo.”

“Remember that branding is as much about what you are not as [it is] about what you are. Too many businesses fail to exercise the discipline required to narrow in on what makes them special or unique. They try to include all of their customers or markets and wind up with a brand indistinguishable from other players in their market. A brand that means everything is a brand that means nothing.” – Robert Sprague, president and CEO,

“Get help. Especially for startups, but in larger companies as well, oftentimes you or your team members are too close to the brand to be objective. Whether you just hire a consultant for an hour or 3 months is up to you, but getting an experts unbiased opinion early on in the process will be invaluable moving forward.” – Alex Kelsey, brand marketing strategist, 

“Understand who your audience is and identify your consumer. What new audiences are you trying to reach and who already loves your brand? Are you looking to obtain new customers, play to a new crowd, or make your current fans excited again? When rebranding, you want to make you are gaining attention for your new look and feel while not losing the key customer that holds your bottom line intact.” – Jenna Zilincar, creative director and owner, 

“With so much weight on the actual rebrand, it’s easy to forget about the strategy for announcing it to the world. When developing the strategy, it’s crucial to remember people don’t care about names or logos — they care about how the rebrand is going to positively change their experience with your company. At the same time, most people fight change. Make sure you’re not leaving behind the things people love about your company. You must articulate why this is better — explain they’ll still get the parts they already love plus new, exciting benefits.” – Shannon Fitzgerald, brand strategist and founder,

“Make sure you have the right to use the name you chose. So many business owners make the mistake of choosing a name and then charging forward with branding efforts like signage, website, logo, etc., when they don’t even know who else may be using the same or similar name. Consulting with a trademark attorney to have a search report done on the name is the most essential step a business can take when it is rebranding.” – Sonia Lakhany, attorney and owner, 

“With clear rebranding objectives, work with an experienced branding company with experience in naming. Particularly with the advent of social media, you need to make sure that your new company name is a clear, available trademark, the domain is available, as are your priority social media addresses.” – Tammy Katz, chief executive officer, 

“Make sure you rebrand everything. Don’t leave traces of your old logo behind. It looks very unprofessional. When customers see your new logo in one place and your old logo in another, they’re thinking one thing — disorganized.” – Zach Alam, founder and manager, 

“Let your audience [and] customers know something big is coming. Post about it on social media and your newsletters, don’t catch them off guard with your rebrand. Start laying the groundwork that you have a special launch or exciting rebrand coming two weeks prior. This way if they visit your site, they don’t think they went to the wrong place. This is also a great way to engage with your customers [and] clients and get their feedback or thoughts and build a better relationship, which typically converts to more loyalty and sales in the future.”

“Communicating the brand’s new approach, vision and positioning to all internal employees is crucial. This doesnt mean sending out an email blast. This means educating all employees about the meaning of the rebrand, getting every employee on-board, and aligning them towards the common goal and purpose.”


Key to Effective Online Advertising

If you want to get the most out of your online ads, focus on simplicity, not cleverness, new research suggests.

In today’s hectic and cluttered online environment, advertisers have milliseconds to get viewers to see and comprehend their ad. That’s why basic and straightforward ads make a bigger impact than those that are clever and visually complex, according to a study recently accepted by the Journal of Marketing Research.

Complexity doesn’t pay off online: Eye-tracking research shows that people actively try to avoid ads, said Michel Wedel, one of the study’s authors and a professor at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.

“A lot of advertising is being tested over fairly long exposures — several seconds, or even 10 to 20 seconds,” Wedel said in a statement. “The problem is that ads that do well in that scenario may not do well in short exposures.”

For the study, researchers tested reactions to ads over periods as short as 100 milliseconds, which is less than a full glance. The authors divided the ads into three categories: upfront ads, which present a product in a straightforward, expected and typical way; mystery ads, whose visual complexity requires work on the part of the viewer to decipher; and “false front” ads, which use a clear image of one thing to sell something else.

The researchers tested the different ad types in experiments involving 1,360 test subjects and 50 advertisements. The experiments looked at the participants’ reactions at 100 milliseconds, 500 milliseconds, 2 seconds, 5 seconds and 30 seconds after they viewed the ad. A final experiment let the participants look at ads as long as they wanted.

The study’s authors found that upfront ads, such as a photo of a bottle of orange soda to sell orange soda, were understood and received positively by viewers in those 100 milliseconds. In addition, the participants continued to view these ads positively over 5, 10 and 30 seconds.

The mystery ads weren’t viewed as positively as upfront ads in the initial glimpse, but they gained in approval over time. An example of a mystery ad used in the research was one for apple juice. The ad showed a ninja severing a rope holding a refrigerator, which was about to crush apples to make the juice.

The false-front ads, such as one that used a headshot of a blond woman to sell wheat beer or ads that take the form of news articles, were initially received positively because they appeared logical. However, the longer the participants looked at these ads, the less favorably they viewed them, because viewers had enough time to reorient themselves to the correct interpretation.

“We find very little justification for false-front ads,” Wedel said. “People don’t like to be duped.”

The study also found that a viewer’s familiarity with the brand being advertised didn’t affect which type of ads they preferred.

The research isn’t trying to tell advertisers to stop being creative. Wedel said there are certain times, such as the Super Bowl, when advertisers can be sure their ads will get full attention.

“But for online banner ads, for example, advertisers should realize that they’ll have only a tenth of a second of a viewer’s attention, if that,” Wedel said. “And so they should stick to the basics: What’s the product? And what’s the brand?”


Grow Your E-Commerce Business

Traditionally, most business models were based on single transactions. You make a sale and the customer walks away. If you market to that customer, he or she may come back and make more purchases, but that may not happen — and if not, you’re left scrambling for new buyers.

In recent years, though, media-streaming services, software providers, box subscription companies and other businesses have discovered that there’s a more efficient and effective way to deliver products to consumers, one that significantly increases retention: a recurring revenue model.

“Many companies are looking to steadily grow their relationship with the customer and cater to their evolving needs,” said Fergus O’Reilly, vice president of solution management at SAP Hybris, an e-commerce software company. “Often, this means that companies are looking to go beyond one-time transactional purchases and instead move to becoming an ongoing service provider.”

As the name implies, recurring revenue models are good for businesses because of the steadier, more predictable income stream. But that’s not the only reason companies are making the switch. Guy Nirpaz, CEO of customer success platform Totango and author of “Farm Don’t Hunt” (Amazon Digital Services, 2016), said this model is gaining momentum because it clearly favors the consumer. 

“It’s an opportunity to try [a service] and cancel it at any time,” Nirpaz said. “It sends a signal to the customer that the vendor is not just trying to score [a sale] initially, but will deliver great service and value over time.”

The key advantage of an ongoing service relationship is the ability capture customer data over time, and provide personalized experiences through recommendations, O’Reilly said. Similarly, Matt Pufall, director of product for protection-plan services company Assurant Product Protection, noted that additional value-added transactions increase the utility and value of a customer’s primary purchases.

“That enhanced value can drive increased loyalty with a retailer’s customers, because the customer recognizes that the merchant understands how to make meaningful recommendations related to the customer’s lifestyle,” Pufall said.

Whether you add elements onto your existing e-commerce model or replace it entirely, here are a few basic ways to start generating recurring revenue for your business, as outlined in Robbie Kellman Baxter’s “The Membership Economy” (McGraw-Hill Education, 2015).

The subscription model, in which customers pay a fixed, recurring fee for a service, is one of the most common ways of creating recurring revenue. Some organizations have a single subscription price and offering, while others offer tiered pricing, with increased benefits and access at higher levels. Kellman Baxter wrote that the latter gives customers greater flexibility, and gives you the opportunity to market “upgrading” to lower-level members.

If you sell a product or service that customers don’t necessarily need on an ongoing basis, you might consider a pay-per-use or à-la-carte model. Kellman Baxter noted that customers may feel ripped off if they have to pay for an entire month or year up front when they plan to use your product or service only occasionally, so à la carte is a good alternative or addition to automatic subscription payments.

Ancillary products that enhance your primary offering can be a great way to give your revenue stream a boost. Kellman Baxter cited Skype headsets and Apple iPhoto books as examples, but you could also consider other services, like premium customer support or product-protection plans.

For a low-risk way to enter the “membership economy,” Kellman Baxter recommended a partnership with an organization that offers complementary products or services that your customers are likely to want. You can share revenues or commissions with the organization for referrals or cross-marketing efforts, without taking on the risk of developing and selling their products yourself. For example, hotels often have partnerships with rental-car companies in which the hotels receive money for guests who rent cars during their stays.

Regardless of which model you choose, any kind of shift toward recurring revenue will require a thorough understanding of how to scale your offerings quickly and efficiently, O’Reilly said.

“Companies may find themselves playing in different markets with quick-moving competitors,” he said. “It’s important to leverage analytics such as ‘what-if’ pricing simulations to learn from customers and adapt pricing models to quickly capture market opportunities.”

When you make a change to your business model, you’re going to have to change the way you manage relationships with your customers. In his book, Nirpaz describes the difference as a “farming” mentality over a “hunting” mentality.

“If you’re trying to profit from an orange grove, everything you do when the tree is young — all the nurturing — is what will determine the outcome,” Nirpaz told Business News Daily. “[The hunting] model is all profit up-front. You try to invest as much as you can to convince the customer to buy. Farming focuses on the delivery of value and profit over time. It’s a new way of thinking for people that are not used to recurring revenue models.”

To truly embrace the “farming” mentality required for recurring revenue to work, the timing and context of customer engagement must be your top priority. O’Reilly noted that customers have to be able to engage where, when and how they want to with your brand, and their experiences need to be personalized based on the information you learn throughout your relationships with those customers.

Pufall added that your engagement efforts should feel organic and not forced for the customer. It must feel like a natural, easy fit in order for customers to buy into it.

“Make it simple, not only from an integration and offer standpoint, but from a post-purchase support standpoint as well,” Pufall said. “Provide an offering that is best-in-class [and] delivers value as a long-term … experience.”


Smart Marketing Strategies for Handmade

If you regularly make handmade crafts, you have probably thought (or been told by friends) that you should start an Etsy shop. It’s not a bad idea, especially because it’s so simple to create a seller account on the popular site. But success as a handmade e-commerce business requires a lot more than signing up for a third-party marketplace.

“If [craft entrepreneurs] are new to the world of online selling, they may think that all they need to do is list their items, and then they will be found in a search or someone will seek them out to buy their product,” said Craig Weiss, CEO of marketplace platform ArtYah.

Like any other business owner, you’re going to have to invest some time and effort in marketing your brand to keep it growing. Here are a few things you can do to get your name out there and stand out from the crowd.

Selling your crafts on a marketplace site can be a quick and easy way to set up shop, but with so many other sellers out there, it can be difficult for you to compete. Jonathan Peacock, founder and CEO of Zibbet, said a seller’s individual brand can easily get diluted by the marketplace’s branding — for instance, most people will tell their friends they bought an item “on Etsy” as opposed to saying they bought it from a specific Etsy seller.

The other issue is that marketplaces are built for discovery, Peacock said. People who land at your shop page are encouraged to click around and discover what your competition is selling, which can ultimately end up losing you the sale. That’s why Peacock said it’s so important to have your own stand-alone website in addition to a marketplace shop.

“Marketplaces are great and you should use them for distribution, in order to get in front of as many eyeballs as possible,” Peacock told Business News Daily. “[But] use [your website] as your primary channel that you send your buyers to. That way, your brand will be the one they remember and you’ll completely own the traffic you send there.”

Peacock noted that Zibbet’s platform allows sellers to create their own customizable website in addition to listing their products in the site’s marketplace.

If you’ve already established your store on a particular marketplace platform, you may not think you need to look elsewhere for new customers, Weiss said. However, strategically choosing another avenue or selling tool could expose you to a wider audience and generate more interest, traffic, brand recognition — and ultimately — more sales.

On top of opening up a version of your shop on an additional marketplace, you can also look into social commerce tools on sites like Facebook and Pinterest to help you sell directly to your social media followers.

As Peacock noted above, third-party marketplace branding efforts can sometimes overshadow the individual brands of sellers. But this brand power can also work to your advantage. For example, in addition to its Editor’s Picks and Community Tastemakers roundups, Etsy hosts an annual Small Business Saturday trunk show to help its wholesale sellers get their products in front of retail customers.

Most third-party marketplaces also have a built-in community element, such as a seller forum. While this shouldn’t be your primary customer acquisition strategy, you should make a point to participate in these discussions to pick up new ideas and selling techniques from your peers, Peacock said.

“Use the forums to build connections with great, like-minded people [and] learn,” he said.

One of the biggest trends in modern marketing tactics is storytelling. This technique is especially effective for smaller businesses, and your handmade e-commerce shop can benefit from it, too.

Richard Stevenson, head of corporate communications for cloud-based e-commerce software provider advised using storytelling to communicate your mission and values.

“American shoppers love small retailers because it feels highly satisfying to buy goods that are a little special or niche,” Stevenson said. “Storytelling is the big differentiator in e-commerce. It’s the reason why buying from or supporting a small business can provide a more powerful experience than from a larger retailer.”

For handmade businesses, storytelling is also a highly effective way to build connections and trust with consumers in order to increase sales conversions, Stevenson said.

“Online consumers want to buy from experts, passionate and attentive, and will pay more for the experience,” he added. “Social selling and ethical shopping is not just fads — data shows they are growing in the retail landscape.”

There’s no single formula for success when it comes to marketing. Peacock reminded entrepreneurs that there are many different methods out there, but they need to find the ones that work best for their business.

“Everyone is selling different products [in] different parts of the world,” Peacock said. “This means the strategies and channels you’ll use may be different, too. You need to try a bunch of things, find what works and double down on that. Constantly tweak and optimize to get the best results.”