Archive for February, 2007

How to Create Your Brand Image on a Limited Budget

February 21, 2007
UPDATE 2009: We have launched 2 new handy services for brand establishing and monitoring: webidenterbuzzaround.us

A brand is a collection of images or ideas that embody your product, service, or business.  Things like name, logo, slogan, and design can contribute to your brand.  Creating a strong brand image around your product can help build customer loyalty and encourage your customers to evangelize your business to their friends and family.

A strong brand is a value-added aspect of products for many consumers.  Often times consumers will buy a product, even at a premium, simply because of the associated brand.  For example, consumers might pay extra for Tropicana orange juice rather than buy the generic OJ because of the strong brand associated with the Tropicana name.

So what is associated with a brand and how can you build yours on a budget?

Name and Slogan

Your company name is important.  Chances are if you’re reading this you’ve already settled on your company name.  Changing your name midstream is never a good idea, so we’ll work with what we have.  Memorable brands have short, easy to remember and easy to spell names.  If your company name is long, try to shorten it in your marketing by using an abbreviated form.  For example, if your company is called “O’Toole’s Neighborhood Pharmacy and General Store” get in the habit of always referring to it as simply “O’Toole’s,” because that is what your customers will likely say and it is easier to remember.

Slogans are an important part of a company’s brand, but have less permanence than the company name.  Often, companies will change their slogan in an effort to “re-brand” their company with a new image or create a new slogan for each marketing campaign they run.  To write an effective slogan make a list of the things your store embodies. Things like “friendly service,” “full selection,” “low prices,” etc.  Then write out as many short phrases that succinctly impart that image–keep it to no more than 5 words!  Run your favorite options by friends, family, and employees and pick the most popular one.

Image and Logo

Your logo and company image are perhaps the most important part of your brand.  A proper logo should be simple, easy to read, memorable, and easy to reproduce in a multitude of formats (i.e., on a sign, on your window, on flyers, menus, in ads, on business cards, bags, t-shirts).

Designing a logo can be expensive, but there are ways to do it cheaply thanks to the Internet.  One of the most popular methods for creating a logo on a budget is to use a design contest.  In a design contest, multiple designers submit mock-ups for you to evaluate, and you can generally get a quality logo designed for $150-300.  Popular design contest sites include GFXContests.com, DesignContest.net, SitePoint.

Another option for quality logo creation on the cheap is LogoMaker , which allows you to quickly and easily create your logo using an online application. LogoMaker also provides tools to put your logo onto promotional products like t-shirts and business cards.

Your logo should be prominently displayed across all of your marketing materials: ads, flyers, business cards, on your company car or van, bags, etc.  Also, remember to upload it to your ShowMeLocal.com business profile as your main image!

Further, develop a color scheme that matches your logo (a designer can help you to do this).  Use this color scheme consistently across your marketing.  Your business card, the paint job at your store, uniforms for employees, etc. should all match.  This will unify all the aspects of your brand image and make your brand more memorable to your customers.

Do Something Memorable

Do something to set your store apart from the competition; something simple and memorable and perhaps unusual that will keep your customers thinking about your store.  For example, always use purple bags for your merchandise (or whatever color you like—and is echoed in your logo!).  Or hold a special sale on your birthday every year that is well publicized.  Or name items on your menu after people or places in your town, city, or state.  Get creative!  Something memorable can quickly become part of your image and get people talking about your store.  It can also help build “brand loyalty” where your customers will subconsciously prefer to shop at your store because they are familiar with your quirk.  And, it will make something from your store instantly recognizable (i.e., when your customers see someone carrying that purple bag around town they’ll instantly think of your store–and the more your customers think of your store, the better!).

Pulling It All Together

In order to create a strong brand, you’ll want to start getting your name, slogan, logo, and trademark color scheme out there as much as possible.  Below are some places that will help you get your brand out in the world.

VistaPrint – Create business cards and hand them out customers and business associates. Your business card should have information about how to contact you, store hours (if applicable), location, and of course, your logo and slogan.  Remember to put your ShowMeLocal.com URL (website address) on your business card and all other promotional material (such as flyers, take-out menus, ads, etc.) so that your customers can find you online!

CafePress – Promotional products are a great way to get your logo out to customers on a regular basis.  If you have customers wearing t-shirts, using coffee mugs, calendars, etc. with your logo on it then they are not only seeing it and thinking about your business more often, they are also likely to be sharing it with others without knowing it.

Stamps.com– Custom stamps with your logo and business name will make all of your correspondence seem more official and give your business the feel of a major corporation for a low cost.

LogoMaker – Create a professional logo in just minutes.

Design A Shirt – An important part of branding is making your logo and name recognizable. A great way to do that is to get your customers to wear your advertising.  Design A Shirt lets you create t-shirts sporting your name, logo, and/or slogan.

iPrint and VistaPrint – Both iPrint and VistaPrintlet you put your logo on a number of professionally printed promotional products like flyers, business cards, door hangers, rubber stamps, posters, or stickers.  It is important to remember to keep all of your marketing and printed materials consistent across your business with the same logo and design. This will reinforce your brand image and build it into your customers’ minds.

Guerrilla Marketing: Secrets for Making Big Profits from Your Small Business (Guerrilla Marketing)– Guerilla Marketing is an excellent book full of creative and often low-cost marketing ideas that will help you get the word out about your business, build and establish your brand, and get customers into your store.

American Incorporators, LegalZoom– While not necessarily related to branding, it is important for businesses to incorporate for a number of other reasons.  Eventually most businesses will incorporate, and rather than changing all of your marketing and branding material later to include “Inc.” (or “LLC” or “Corp.”, etc.) it is a good idea to incorporate now with American Incorporators or LegalZoom and prepare your branding materials right the first time.

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Why You Need ShowMeLocal.com

February 20, 2007

ShowMeLocal.com offers a new type of Internet marketing that no other web site can offer.  SML has produced a unique opportunity for small business owners to recreate the feel of “Main Street” on the web by allowing businesses to connect not only with their customers, but also with each other.  The Business Networks feature at ShowMeLocal.com truly brings local business to the Internet.

Everyone knows that the Internet is a powerful marketing tool, but rarely do people know how to effectively use it for their business.  Many people assume that you either need a huge, million-dollar marketing budget to harness the power of the web, or that in order to use the Internet to drive customers to your business all you need to do is put up a website.  Neither assumption is correct!

Marketing online does not need to expensive, nor is it necessarily easy.  ShowMeLocal.com, however, gives you the tools to effectively utilize the Internet to bring traffic to your store.  You can rely on our expertise to help you get online and correctly use the web to your advantage.

5 Steps to Get Started on ShowMeLocal.com

February 9, 2007

Once you’ve signed up at ShowMeLocal.com there are a few things you should do right away in order to make your business profile start working for you.

STEP 1: Add Business Information
The very first thing you should do after signing up for your ShowMeLocal.com business profile is add your business information. Click on ‘All Settings’ in your Business Management Area; from there you can add important information about your business, such as your hours of operation, price/product/service lists, payment options, driving directions, and more.  
This information is vital to the success of your ShowMeLocal.com profile.  Your customers will appreciate the convenience of being able to get important information quickly and easily online, so you’ll want to make sure that you provide them with as much information about your business as you possibly can.
You may also edit the default blog post, which appears on the main page of your SML profile, to be more personalized to your particular business.

STEP 2: Upload Pictures
From the  Business Management Area you can also upload photos of your storefront, interior, and products.  This is especially helpful for business that deal in a service industry, such as restaurants or hotels, where how your business looks is an important aspect of getting customers to purchase your products or services.  But it can be helpful for any business.  Adding a photo of the outside of your store helps customers put context to your location, and allows new customers to more easily locate your business.
You can also get creative with your photos.  For example, you can put up pictures of your staff to emphasize the friendly nature of your business, or if you operate a real estate firm you can upload photos of properties you have for sale or rent.

STEP 3:  Create a Coupon or Special
It is no secret that consumers love a good deal.  Coupons or specials (sales, promotions, etc.) are a very effective way to get customers into your store and buying your products or services. ShowMeLocal.com  makes it easy to create and manage your coupons and specials by providing powerful creation and management tools.  In the Business Management Area you can manage your coupons and specials, and even automatically assign coupons to “thank you pages” as a token of appreciation, allowing you to thank your customers for their feedback by offering them a deal!
Creating a coupon is exceptionally simple.  You can choose from a list of pre-made coupons, or input your own terms, or you can even upload a coupon you already have.

STEP 4: Start or Join a Business Network
Business Networks are what makes ShowMeLocal.com unique.  By creating networks with other businesses in your local market, you can share customers with your peers and develop a “main street” feel online.  When you join a network, your business information will appear on the profiles of other businesses in the network, including your coupons, specials, and job postings.
This is an extremely powerful feature! You promote your business associates, and they promote you—without you having to lift a finger. Never before has an opportunity like this to get the attention of customers who frequent other businesses in your community existed. 
Creating and joining networks is easy.  You can even invite non-SML members to sign up at ShowMeLocal.com and join your network!  Invite all the businesses in your area!
 
STEP 5: Create a Flyer to Hand Out to Customers
Creating a promotional flyer helps you connect your online presence on ShowMeLocal.com to your brick and mortar store.  ShowMeLocal.com allows you to automatically create a flyer that you can hand out your customers and let them know about your ShowMeLocal.com listing.  By utilizing flyers you can turn your current customers into website visitors, which will help you then turn them into loyal customers who will continue to visit your business and evangelize your products and services to their friends.

One of the biggest mistakes people make when first using the Internet as a marketing tool is thinking that their website will promote itself. The truth is: it will not. As business owners, with brick and mortar stores, we have to realize that in order to enhance our online presence we must take one more extra step and inform our customers of how to find us online, just as we would inform customers how to find our store offline. If everyone in your network prints out flyers and gives them out to their customers your chances of getting new visitors will increase dramatically.

Creating flyers is automatic, and can be accessed from your Business Management Profile.

In coming blog posts we will show you other ways that you can enhance your listing and take even more advantage of your presence on ShowMeLocal.com!

What is ShowMeLocal.com?

February 9, 2007

ShowMeLocal Home PageShowMeLocal.com(SML) is a new kind of local business site. SML allows small business owners to quickly and easily get their business information onto the Internet and into the major search engines for free. But SML offers you more than just a static website. By using ShowMeLocal.com you can interact with your customers and form networks with other local businesses, adding true value to your business and building trust among your clientele.

SML has pages designed for each zip code, and your listing is automatically plugged into to appropriate community page. Potential customers can visit your profile directly from the SML home page once it has been set to their zip code! SML also is a local search engine. Your profile, coupons, specials and jobs are 100% searchable. You are connected to your local customers from day one!

ShowMeLocal Profile Page

SML offers the tools necessary to get your business information on the web. Along with a description of your business and contact information, SML automatically creates a map to your business based on your address. You can enhance your profile by adding nearly any type of information about your business, from menus to pricelists to job listings. You can also put coupons and specials on your SML profile, enticing customers both your web presence and to your storefront.

Learning what your customers think of your business has never been easier, because with ShowMeLocal.com, visitors are able to rate and review your business and send you instant feedback on anything. Further, by utilizing the blog feature of SML, you can truly interact with your customers on a new and exciting level. Taking advantage of these features of ShowMeLocal.com is a crucial aspect of creating repeat business.

But that’s not all. ShowMeLocal.com is specifically designed with the search engines in mind. Search engines such as Google and Yahoo! drive over 80% of all traffic on the Internet, meaning that you must have visibility in search engine in order to take full advantage of the web. By using ShowMeLocal.com, you can take reap the benefits of our experience in targeted local search to help people in your area find your business via the Internet. SML is designed to help you garner better search rankings and allow consumers to find your business online.

In coming posts on this blog you will learn how to specifically take advantage of ShowMeLocal.com’s numerous features to make your business standout and add value for your customers.

Welcome to the official blog

February 9, 2007

Welcome to the official ShowMeLocal.com blog.

ShowMeLocal.com (SML)is a unique online business website, aimed at bringing the experience of a local business community to the web.
This blog will be an invaluable source of information and tips on how to best use your ShowMeLocal.com listing to drive customers to your business. Having your business listed on SML is a start, but in order to convert visitors into paying customers, you must become actively involved creating a dynamic profile.  This blog will show you how best to utilize the tools available on ShowMeLocal.com to both drive your current customers to your SML profile and create repeat business, and to convert Internet visitors into paying customers.
At ShowMeLocal.com there exists a unique and exciting opportunity for small business owners to create an online presence that will enhance their business operations.

We will show you how to take advantage of the tools provided, so that your business reaps all the benefits that the Internet can offer.