Social Media Outlets: If you have them- use them.

Social Media

Being visible online is crucial nowadays. That isn’t a secret. Online presence outside of your website adds to your SEO, your reputation (PR), your legitimacy and channeled outreach to your followers. At the end of the day- your competition is out there and you should be too.

Not everyone can afford to have an outside team/person manage their social media. Heck, they don’t call it ‘SMALL business’ for nothing, right? So you do it yourself. Or you try to…

Rule number one: You need to stay on top of your accounts. You need to post regularly! One post a day on fast platforms such as twitter and at least once every few days on slower more ad saturated sites such as facebook. There is nothing worse that visiting a company’s social media page and seeing that they haven’t updated in a month. Why even have the pages if you aren’t going to use them? Just to say you have it? Social media is about people, relationships and conversations that bring value- not just a button under your email signature.

When I see a lack of activity on a page I think:

a)      They are lazy

b)      Maybe they closed down?

c)       They have no interest communicating

d)      They have nothing interesting to communicate

I can’t help it. I want to think “Oh, Joe, he must be really busy! He just didn’t get around to sharing…” but I don’t think that. I think a, b, c & d.

BUSINESS SOCIAL MEDIA MUSTHAVES

The top five are:

1)      Facebook

2)      Twitter

3)      Google+

4)      Linkedin (at least set up a company page)

5)      Instagram (This may or may not work for your business- it’s just a popular outlet if you can make it work)

If you want to be in the social media game? At least TRY to make 1 to 4 work. There are TONS of other outlets to choose from that may work better for your company! Pinterest and YouTube almost made my list…If I was going to do a top ten.  If you feel overwhelmed you can sign up for social media management dashboards to help you manage everything. I personally recommend HootSuite for its ease of use but there are a few to choose from.

Here is a link to a blog on dashburst.com that gives a great top 10 list of social media management tools:

http://dashburst.com/best-social-media-management-tools/

Remember that you do not have to be on them all! Find the best site(s) for your business and focus on it/them. Quality over quantity.

COHESIVENESS

Please. Make sure that your brand is carried through everything you do- but especially your online presence. If you switch your website? Switch all your social media sites. No excuses. They should be consistent. Consider your social media outlets branches of your website- because they are.

Social media is a personalized platform for you to connect with your customers. It helps build a trustworthy relationship and allows for low cost advertising and networking opportunities. Your posted information is an invitation for your followers to share with their followers with the click of a button!

‘Share the link’ is the new ‘word of mouth’ so make sure the information you’re sharing is linkable…Or likeable… how about linkable AND likeable (say that three times fast!).

Crystal Lengua

QR CODES: Friend or Foe?

QR CODE

I have a love/hate relationship with QR Codes- If used properly? They are smart! Unfortunately, they are getting a bad rap because some people took the tactic and transformed it into an oversaturated and now unnoticed gimmick- popping up everywhere, on everything- just because they can. I believe QR codes have a chance to redeem themselves- people just need some direction.

First thing is first- people need to stop adding them to business cards. You don’t need to reiterate a website link on a card that states your URL AND even if it made sense to put a QR Code on a business card? They are usually too small to scan anyway.  They shouldn’t be used on websites, they should ALWAYS work (check your links) and they should serve a purpose- outline a call to action or send you to a page that answers a question on a site that may take a while to navigate (i.e. government sites).

I had a twitter discussion last week about QR Codes and after a back and forth conversation on the topic, I reached out to London graphic designer, Andi Best (www.andib.co.uk) and asked him if he wouldn’t mind sharing his take on QR Codes as a guest blogger. Here is his reply;

“Entering a conventional web address into a mobile browser can be a fairly cumbersome process on the go, which is why most users tend not to bother, hoping instead to recall the URL (or at least some search criteria for it) when they are next at a desktop. QR codes offer a convenient solution to this problem. They circumvent the requirement of typing a flawless sequence of keys with a much simpler single scan of a device camera.
Sadly, convenience tends to be the extent of their implementation despite their great innovative potential. More often than not, when you see a QR code on a poster or billboard, it will be an afterthought ushered in by a half-hearted project manager, insisting it sits beside the full URL, the Facebook icon and URL, the Twitter icon and URL, the various app store badges and every other digital bumf they can think of that does not translate gracefully in print. Treating QR codes as merit badges rather than communication channels actually causes them to get ignored as audiences quickly grow blind to things they see too often in places they expect to see them. Marketers and designers are accountable here for paying little consideration towards the aesthetics of the QR code and simply dumping the awkward black and white mosaic anonymously on an otherwise well-thought-out layout.

From a design point of view, I’ve seen plenty of careless presentations of QR codes. I’ve seen codes printed far too small, or at too low a resolution on product packaging at the mercy of online code-generating apps, resulting in key data getting lost amongst the blurry output that inevitably causes the scan to fail.
I’ve seen ads bearing QR codes scaled proportionately to the rest of the content, but then positioned on billboards which are too high or far away for most device cameras to draw a decent focus on, again rendering them useless.
I’ve seen QR codes tainted by graphics embedded in their markings, tainted by graphics overlaid on the markings and tainted by a number of other visual gimmicks (as if scanning a poster with your phone wasn’t gimmick enough) which potentially skew their usability device-by-device.

From an implementation point of view, a number of ads largely overlook the basic logic of the QR code and its greatest available asset; its ability to offer real-time communication between user, content and location. Where the user is physically standing at the moment they encounter a QR code should be at the forefront of its inclusion in an ad and should also be championed by the supporting design. To give a user digital content that’s topical to the things and places he/she is currently interacting with in the real world breaks so many boundaries of communication that it’s staggering to see how infrequently this is properly utilised.
I’ve seen ads that have wasted valuable real-estate with a scan that simply links to a brand’s homepage, which a user could have easily Googled in the time it took to fire up the scanning app.
I’ve seen codes that scan through to web pages that aren’t optimised for mobile display.
I’ve seen QR codes on ads positioned in underground or enclosed locations where signal reception simply doesn’t exist.
Worst of all, I’ve even seen QR codes in the footers of the websites they point at…Tattooo QR Code

So why isn’t serious use of this technology mainstream? A key argument is that not many handsets come armed with QR scanning technology out of the box, so their reliance on an app makes them feel superfluous. As the audience is pretty slim, investment in clever (and typically pricey) marketing just isn’t happening, allowing a glut of uninspired QR Frankenstein’s to rise up and take over instead.
Marketers and designers are the ones who need to address this, as until they begin presenting QR codes in more innovative ways and with more relevant, engaging user experiences that capitalise on the user’s environment, there is no incentive for the public to regard them as anything other than a fad, and there will be no high demand for handsets to come equipped to embrace them.

Here are a couple of examples of QR codes that have really been put to work:”

http://www.adweek.com/adfreak/tattoo-studios-brilliant-help-wanted-ad-makes-applicants-carefully-fill-qr-code-147693

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2198127/Quick-Response-QR-Beyond-grave-A-funeral-director-launches-revolutionary-way-loved-ones-memory-alive-interactive-headstones.html

http://www.boredpanda.org/26-creative-ways-to-use-qr-codes/?image_id=creative-qr-codes-guiness-beer.jpg

You can find Andi Best on facebook and twitter via the links below:

https://twitter.com/AndiBDesign

https://www.facebook.com/AndiBDesign

I personally love the tattoo shops help wanted ad!

How do you feel about QR Codes? What is the best/worst ways you’ve seen them implemented?

Crystal Lengua

Business Inspiration: 20 Quotes to Motivate you

20 inspiring quotes

I appreciate great advice.

Especially the sought after guidance you receive through collections of quotes from successful and motivational strangers. The kind of advice you can ponder at your own leisure and apply it to the area of your life/business that you feel it fits best…

That being said; here is a collection of some of my favorite motivational quotes to help boost your business morale:

 

“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”- Albert Einstein

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”- Aristotle

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” –Nelson Mandela

“Everyone has an invisible sign hanging from their neck saying, ‘make me feel important.’ Never forget this message when working with people.” –Mary Kay Ash

“How you climb a mountain is more important than reaching the top.” Yvon Chouinard

“Embrace bad news to learn where you need the most improvement.”- Bill Gates

“Bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.’ –Abraham Lincoln

“Nothing will work unless you do.” -Maya Angelou

“In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure.” –Bill Cosby

“I’ve always worked very, very hard, and the harder I worked, the luckier I got.” – Alan Bond

“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.” Nike

“Make your product easier to buy than your competition, or you will find your customers buying from them, not you.” -Mark Cuban

“The only true wisdom is knowing that you know nothing.” -Socrates

“Expect the best. Prepare for the worst. Capitalize on what comes.” –Zig Ziglar

“Believe that you will succeed — and you will.” –Dale Carnegie

“It’s not about how to get started; it’s about how to get noticed.” – Steve Case

“Never look back unless you are planning to go that way.”- Henry David Thoreau

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” –Winston Churchill

“Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t so you can spend the rest of your life like most people cant.” – Warren G

“Choose a job that you like, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” – Confucius

 
Not every day is the same in the wild world of business and that’s ok! You need to bad days to recognize the good days and the good days to push you to be great.

What are some of your favorite business inspired quotes?

—-

Crystal Lengua

SWOT Analysis: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats

When was the last time you sat down and wrote a S.W.O.T Analysis for your company?

A year? Two years? Never? Don’t think it’s necessary?

BROCCOLI Consulting- Swot Analysis Template
BROCCOLI Consulting- Swot Analysis Template

I beg to differ.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with S.W.O.T, it is an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. It is a brainstorming tool that allows you to evaluate your company’s current standing both internally and externally. It’s important to review your company’s S.W.O.T on a regular basis because things change. The economy, your product/service, customers, trends and competition… nothing is guaranteed and you really need to be aware of where you stand amongst it all.

Some questions you should take into consideration when completing the analysis are:

  1. What are we doing well?
  2. What can we improve on?
  3. Can we expand?
  4. What is our competitor doing better/ next?
  5. What is our next step?
  6. How is our workforce?
  7. How are our facilities?
  8. How is our product/service compared to our competitors?
  9. What is our reputation like?
  10. Are we affected my emerging technology?
  11. How is our web presence? SEO?
  12. How is the economy right now? How will it be in a year?
  13. What current trends could harm you/ help you?

Ask yourself the above and categorize your answers under strength, weakness, opportunity or threat on a S.W.O.T diagram. For your convenience- please feel free to download a free, blank S.W.O.T .PDF sheet below.

Click Here to Download a Free S.W.O.T Analysis Template

Put some time aside in the near future to complete the assessment and use your findings to improve and develop your business strategies moving forward. You may be surprised with the results- sometimes the simplest alteration to your current disposition will send positive ripples throughout your organization!

Have fun!

Crystal Lengua

Email Etiquette 101- Writing for Business

How to write a professional email.

Not everyone can articulate themselves well through written work- I know this mainly because of email communication. I’ve read some emails that led me to believe that the person behind the computer was either extremely upset (when they weren’t), uninterested in our conversation or that their account had been hacked by a five year old playing a mean joke on me… Yes, they were that difficult to read.

Email communication is a conversation through writing. When used for business it should be polite, easy to understand and to the point. There are certain rules to obey to avoid your email being sent unprofessionally and received in the wrong way.

Here are my top email etiquette ‘rules’:

1.  Include a formal salutation in the initial email

Hello, hi, or even just the recipient’s name will do. Sending an email without saying hello to the person you are sending it to may come across as lazy and/or indifferent. The following emails in the conversation thread don’t have to have a salutation (I always include one but it isn’t a must). You wouldn’t just walk up to someone without them seeing you coming and start talking without saying hi, would you? Maybe you would… but try not to in email.

2.  Include an appropriate subject line

This will help the recipient prioritize their incoming emails and also help them search for your email thread in the future.

3.  Don’t type in all caps

This is read as though you are YELLING. No one likes to be yelled at so your message won’t be received well.

4.  Keep your email short and to the point

This is to benefit both the sender and receiver. The sender isn’t stuck writing for an hour and the reader isn’t stuck reading for an hour. If you feel that your email is getting lengthy- take that as a sign that you should set up a meeting or conference call.

5.  Font

Please use an easy to read font in a dark colour and please don’t use a size 8 or 20. Reading a bright red email in Chopin Script sized 18 is not the way anyone wants to start their day.

6.  Remember your audience

 Write your emails for the person receiving them. Maybe you write “ur” instead of your or use abbreviations such as “LOL” or “BRB” when you write with friends but keep your emails as professional as you can when you’re representing your business. I would even avoid the famous smiley face emoticon until you have established a relationship with the receiver and you are on friendly terms. 🙂

7.  Say please and thank you

Pretty basic stuff, but it can be lost in verbal to written translation.

8.  Proofread your email

I have a trick when it comes to writing emails. I write them in Word and then I copy and paste it into an email. I do this for a couple reasons:

  • My spelling is correct (note that your grammar still may not be so proofread anyway)
  • If I am upset or irritated this allows me to re-read and re-word the email without accidentally pressing send and throwing all of my email etiquette rules out the window

Email communication is an important part of your daily business interactions- treat it as such and your impression on the receiver should be a pleasant one.

Do you have an email pet peeve? Please share it in the comment section below!

Thanks,

Crystal Lengua

How Well Do You Know Your Target Market?

“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”

Bill Cosby

Every product/service has its ideal target market. If you try and please everybody? You may end up pleasing nobody. Target markets are important because they shape the way we do our business, influence the way we create our product/service, what language we use to describe our product/service, how we market/advertise, where we reach out, our price point and possibly our hours of operation! Target markets really influence the way we do business which is why it’s important to know them as well as you possibly can. That being said; the group you are targeting may change from time to time, season to season, campaign to campaign-and that’s fine- the important thing is that you know who you are talking to at all times or your efforts may fall flat.

MARKET RESEARCH

This is a really fun activity for me- it’s a ‘target market brainstorm bubble’. You may or may not have done one before, maybe you call it by another name- I am going to show you how I break down my target market initially to get to know them superficially. This is just a quick example- the bubbles could go on & on depending how in depth you want to go.

For this example, pretend I have shoe insoles tailored to benefit senior citizens so I want to get a better grasp of their day-to-day.

Click the diagram below to enlarge it.

So that’s how I get the initial stereotypical information. Now to take it one step further, you reach out to get the facts. It helps if you have a budget (or employees to help) but it isn’t necessary, it just takes time.

  1. Online: Search Engines, census bureaus, analytics, social media insights- all of this information can help guide you in the right direction.
  2. Surveys: You can send out online surveys to your potential market (I will cover how to create a successful survey on another blog- it needs its own day) using free sites such as ‘survey monkey’ or if you already have an email marketing package you can add on surveys with your provider. If you want to research for the future- you can include a website link on your invoices/receipts and offer something in return for their participation in your survey.
  3. Cold Calling: If you don’t know what this is, it’s when you pick up the phone book or filter an area online and conduct a survey over the phone. You will probably get hung up on… a lot… but you never know!
  4. Face-to-Face: You can approach people on the street and ask them for their opinions. Old school guerilla style. (You will notice throughout my blog that I am a big fan of guerilla marketing for small businesses). Perhaps you can have a company coupon or giveaway in exchange for their time. You have to have a thick skin for this one.
  5. Mail Outs: This is where a budget really comes in- rather than cold calling, online or in person- you MAIL your survey with a paid return to your audience in hopes that they will complete it and return it. I am not a huge fan of this tactic- I think it’s a long shot.
  6. Publications: You may be able to find information which may track demographics, sales information, trends and other customer information.

What can you add? As always I urge you to participate in the comments section below!

-Crystal Lengua-

Creating a Cohesive Brand Identity

 

 

You’ve started your small business; you have your perfect logo, your website, you chose your social media outlets, produced your marketing material and have a plan… great!

What could be missing? Flow.

Remember that everything should work together. Let’s say you pile every piece of material representing your brand on top of a table- it should all ‘flow’- it should harmonize and it should be unified. You should be consistent in all aspects of your communication both internally and externally to avoid coming across as amateur or unorganized.

That being said; here are my top five areas of improvement to help you relay a cohesive brand identity:

1) Internal Branding

I believe that a brand starts from within your company’s walls. If you and the people representing you aren’t on the same page then why should a customer be?  For example: Why is John’s email signature written in neon green with no logo but Jane’s in written on a clip-art floral stationary in pink with the company logo. It seems insignificant but as an outsider looking in who may be communicating with multiple persons from your company- it looks unorganized. Get everyone on the same page with everything from email signatures to uniforms (if you have them) to the letterhead used.

Do you have a mission statement? Does everyone know it? It doesn’t hurt to have a go-to company handbook that can sum up who you are as a whole. It should be easy to understand and can include your mission statement, core values, elevator speech, company introduction, company history, the three words you would use to sum up your business and your five & ten year goals.

2) Your Colour Pallet

You picked your corporate colours for a reason, use them!

Every colour has a code (HEX, RGB, CMYK) Know your colour codes and use them throughout your material. You may not have a graphic designer so you may be printing your own material using ‘do it yourself’ sites. Every site will give you the option when designing to change the colours to a custom shade and that’s where your codes come in. Business cards, postcards, brochures, handouts- everything should be tailored to the pallet you chose. Keep the HEX, RGB, and CMYK codes on file because some programs/sites use specific codes.

3) Your Typeface.

Yep. Your font.

Am I getting a bit too finicky? Ok- let me clarify…I am not saying you peep over the shoulder of every employee and ensure they use Calibri size 12 but make sure that your marketing material sticks to a handful of typography choices to avoid a mish-mash of visual insanity. Less is more.

4) Create a Brand Guideline.

This outlines your brand permissions. How others can use your logo, slogan, tagline. What colours they can use. What your links to social media are- what your social do’s and don’ts are. Pretty much allows you to make the rules when it comes to others relaying your company information. An integral part of brand cohesiveness because it’s difficult to filter the way others perceive you/your company if you don’t give them instructions. (Unless you work with mind readers… they are the exception)

Now I am going to pick on those of you who have decided they needed a re-brand. A facelift, an update- a fresh start!

5) RE-BRAND: If you aren’t in it 100%, don’t do it.

So you updated your logo, changed your website but still use old invoices, order forms and uniforms. You decided you wanted a change but you have stock in the old style business cards so you are waiting for them to run out. Ahhhh but you bought 25,000 of them… yikes.

If you aren’t willing to follow through completely- please- just hold off until you are ready. Throw a proper re-launch and really get your new brands energy flowing! What is the point of half-heartedly starting anyway?

I will write more about the “Re-Brand” later on. I just wanted to graze the area- it fits into my top five brand identity issues.

Please feel free to add on to my list in the comments section below! I look forward to hearing what you think and getting your take on brand cohesiveness.

-Crystal Lengua-

BROCCOLI- is good for you.

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We are in our last phase before the final plunge into business. All the education, hard work, planning and dreaming is coming together to form what I, Crystal Lengua, have been envisioning all along. A company that helps businesses. That ACTUALLY helps businesses by not only telling them what they need to do to succeed- but showing them, educating them and ensuring that they understand so that they can walk away with the confidence they need to truly prosper.

I have a soft spot for small businesses. Why small businesses?

I want to help small businesses because I understand how important they are to our community. Over the years I’ve watched “the big guys” move in and take over. I’ve seen them “bully” the little guy if you will and I don’t think it’s fair. I also don’t think that just because they are bigger and they have more money in their budget for marketing, advertising and PR that they are better. That old saying “good things come in small packages” still holds true- I believe that.

My background consists of 10+ years of field experience paired with certifications in Marketing Management, Event Management, Corporate Communications/ Public Relations and Social Media Marketing. This blog will share some of my tips, tricks, advice and articles from industry professionals.

I will cut this ‘introduction’ short to avoid leading you to believe this blog falls under the “shameless promotion” category. I just want you to know that I am perfecting my internal brand so that I can focus with everything I have externally come January 2014. I am thrilled to be embarking on this journey and look forward to everything this venture has in store!

Crystal Lengua