I’ve written literally thousands of blog posts and articles throughout my career—but this one is special, because I really believe it has the power to change the trajectory of any business, including yours.
After working with hundreds of business owners and corporate leaders across many different industries over the years, in my mind what separates the ones who run successful businesses from the ones who struggle to generate revenue and grow it all comes down to the ability to answer the following three questions clearly and accurately, because the answers form the basis of any effective business strategy and business development effort.
So here are the three questions below. See if you can answer them in detail without hesitation or if you feel any uncertainty or ambiguity when you try—and if you are having trouble with the questions or the answer to the third question isn’t a resounding yes, then we need to talk!
You can use this strategy sheet to write them down or record them on your favorite device—but do write the answers out because that’s how you’ll get the intended clarity about how to boost your business growth.
1. Whose problems does your product or service solve? Be specific here…the most successful businesses are niche-focused and meet the needs of particular segments of a population, not the general population. You might have more than one type of customer that you solve problems for—that’s great! Write them all down.
2. How does your product and service solve their problems the most effectively? Here’s your chance to clarify why what your business offers is the best choice for the person who has the particular problem you identified above. So go on, brag on what you provide—or make not of any improvements you think you should make to be an even better solution!
3. Are all of the people whose problems you solve aware that you provide the best solution? So here’s the real kicker question for so many businesses…they have an awesome solution to a problem, but the people who need it don’t know about it and that is why their business is not growing like it could—or should be—this is the problem we help businesses solve at The Bona Fide Business Guide .
The right marketing strategy and plan can eliminate this problem for your business by allowing you to:
a) Know exactly what will motivate your specific audience to buy your product or service. Once you are clear on who you are specifically solving a problem for, you also need to understand how that problem impacts them emotionally, physically and in terms of the pain they experience, avoiding this pain is what gives them the motivation to buy your product or service.
b) Deliver the right message at the right time to the right people so they have the information they need to solve their problem with the best solution—which is the one your business provides.
c) Keep them engaged with your business so that when they (or someone they refer to you) need to solve their problem again—or a related problem that you can solve—you are their go-to provider.
These three steps are the most effective solution to the problem of not having the kind of business growth you need. We’ve helped hundreds of businesses solve this problem with more effective growth and marketing strategies, we can help you, too. Let us know if you need this kind of help by scheduling a strategy session to talk through solutions.
BONUS QUESTION: Do the people whose problems you solve agree you provide the best solution? Please note—the question is not, “Do you think that you do a good job serving your customers?” It’s whether they think you are the best solution they can find. If you don’t have any objective idea (in the form of survey responses, testimonials, verbal or written feedback, and reviews) then it’s time to find out by asking them!
So how did you do? Are you crystal clear about whose problems you are solving, why your business provides the best solution to their problem, and whether the people whose problem you can solve are aware that you have the solution they need? If so, your business should be humming along the way you want it to If it is, congratulations!
If you couldn’t write down specific answers or the answers gave you pause for thought about your strategy or how your product or service is performing, now’s the time to take action by scheduling a complimentary strategy session with me. I’d love to learn more about your specific challenges and help you create a plan to solve them.
Simply schedule a complimentary strategy session here and we’ll work through an action plan for growing your business.
If you think that creating content to sustain your content marketing strategy is already challenging, consider this: in the age of “glanceable content” (a phrase coined by best-selling author, Rohit Bhargava) you have about two seconds to capture the attention of your intended audience and move them to action as they scroll through search results on the web or their social newsfeeds. Two seconds—if you’re lucky. So how do you avoid this potential barrier to engagement and conversions? Add the Two-second Test to your content development checklist. That is, write your headlines and titles then test them with your content reviewers to see if they can be comprehended in two seconds or less. Keep this test in mind when you create your visual content, too—any social graphics or infographics should also be easily “glanceable.”
How to: writing headlines and titles that pass the Two-second Test
So how do you make the headlines and titles that you write for blogs, social posts, emails and other digital communications engaging enough to draw in your audience within two seconds while clearly communicating what the reader can expect if they do invest their time and attention in reading your stuff? Marketing software vendors Hubspot and Outbrain recently released a study of their 2013-2014 content marketing data which provides some research-based insights into how to structure your headlines for maximum inbound marketing impact, here are some of the highlights:
- Headlines that included the word “who” generated a 22% higher CTR (click-through-rate) than headlines without the word “who.” “Why,” on the other hand, decreased CTR by 37%. When it comes to intriguing readers with your headlines, focus on who not why.
- Headlines featuring the word “photo(s)” performed 37% better than headlines without this word.
- Headlines with bracketed clarifications performed 38% better than headlines without clarifications, suggesting readers are more likely to click when they have a clear picture of what lies behind the headline.
A few other tips:
- To rank higher in search, a good rule-of-thumb is to keep your headlines under 65 characters so that they don’t get shortened in search engine results. If you can’t get your headlines under 65 characters, make sure you include the most vital information early on in your headline.
- To optimize your headlines and titles for both social and search be sure to use the keywords you know your audience is searching for. Keywords work best when they’re at the front of the headline.
- Make sure your headlines are tweetable: you need them to be under 140 characters, but shorter is even better, so that they can be retweeted without truncation.
Given the massive amounts of information that most of us are bombarded with on a daily basis, creating glanceable and engaging content means that headlines and titles play an increasingly critical role in content marketing success. Keep the Two-second test and the research above in mind as you are writing, and, of course always measure your results so you can learn what style or format generates the best results for your business.
Need help formulating engaging headlines and lead-generating content? Contact us.
For many entrepreneurs, one of the most fun parts of launching their business is creating a brand identity. When you see that final version of your company’s logo for the first time, there’s a sense of satisfaction of finally having a “real” business.
Once your business starts growing and your attention is diverted to other things (like making payroll, for example), however, it can be easy to let your visual brand assets slide. Fortunately, it’s not hard to get back on track, it just takes some discipline and some good advice, in the form of these tips from one of my favorite graphic designers, Sarah Symington of Symmetry Design:
1. Conquer with consistency. One of the greatest brand killers is having different “looks” for your business across all different platforms. While you may like variety, it’s confusing to consumers and it’s also wasting the time and effort you put into your brand. One logo.* One color palette. One set of typefaces. It will add up to one strong brand.
2. Keep it simple. The most effective logos and brand schemes are often the simplest ones because they are easy for consumers to remember and understand. Having a cluttered logo and too many colors, fonts and other elements in your marketing materials makes focal points difficult to create and it can also make your company look less professional.
3. Create a brand guide and stick to it. Once you have the singular focus of your visual brand as outlined above, you need to document it so that anyone working with your brand can keep it consistent and so you can refresh your memory. A brand guide doesn’t have to be fancy, a simple electronic document detailing the following will do:
- Logos and variation of logos* (by variation we mean black and white, color, horizontal, vertical, with/without tagline not a bunch of different logos!)
- Fonts/typography (specific names, sizes, usage for brand names, etc.)
- Brand colors (specific colors for web, print and other media)
- Imagery and graphics (samples of the icons and types of photography your brand uses)
4. Keep your marketing assets up to date. Once your company has had a website, social media accounts, print materials and other marketing collateral for three months or more, it’s time to revisit them and make necessary updates to keep pace with your evolving business. Doing so allows you to keep everything consistent and to make any needed changes in light of your operational direction. Plus, distributing outdated materials to potential customers is not the kind of first impression you want to make!
5. Ditch the DIY design. Yes, it costs money to hire a graphic designer, but not doing so can have a much higher cost for your business in terms of reducing the impact of the image you convey to prospects and customers. Well-constructed, consistent brands can command a premium in the market. That’s why investing in a professional designer is key. Start with your logo and color schema and then as your business grows, you can have your designer create other pieces as your needs and budget allow.
Most businesses should conduct a brand audit every quarter to ensure that their visual brand is being adequately maintained and keeping pace with their business. Keep Sarah’s five tips handy as a reference point and you’ll be well on your way to creating a strong and effective brand.
Email marketing still ranks as one of the most effective ways to reach prospects and customers and build profitable relationships with them.
In fact, email delivers a higher conversion rate than social and search marketing combined! This is why setting your email up for success is so important. Put these tips to work in your next email campaign.
- Spend time on your subject line. Taking time to craft a compelling subject line can have a huge impact on the open rates of your emails. Watch your own inbox for email subject lines that catch your attention, or read our blog on the "Two Second" headline test for inspiration.
- Make your email useful. Remember, your email campaign is not about you...it's about showing your clients and/or prospects how you can help them. It's fine to include information about your services or products, but try to include related information that will show the recipient that you understand their needs.
- Know when to send. In general, Monday, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the best time to send. Mondays tend to generate the best response. Looking at the time is important, too. 6 am, 7 am, and 11 am local time generally delivers the best response. BUT...the best way to know how your email recipients respond is by checking out your reports after the campaign!
- Review reports and plan next steps. Getting familiar with your email reports will save time and money, because you’ll know which marketing activities are working and which ones may not be worth your time. It will also give you the ability to spot key trends, see who is responding to your messages (and who isn’t), plus you'll get inspiration for your future marketing ideas.
If you have questions about email marketing let us know
. We can help you get your campaign running with Bona Fide results!
Over the past few weeks, I've been watching my inbox and social media feeds filling up with COVID-19 communications. From CEOs updating me about their strategies to combat the coronavirus on a company level to retailers sending seemingly oblivious emails and messages, likely created and scheduled before the whole world shifted to respond to a global pandemic. I am sure many of you can relate. So what is a business to do in these tenuous times when it comes to communicating with customers and implementing marketing initiatives to keep sales afloat (as much as is possible) given the current situation?
I am advocating to my clients that a less frequent, but more meaningful approach to marketing and communications is what is needed—at least for the foreseeable future. To be clear, this doesn’t mean that businesses should stop communicating with customers and prospects, quite the opposite. It’s vital to keep connected to your customers and prospects during this time. However, it’s equally important to communicate with the intention of serving your market rather than solely serving your business needs. By keeping this top of mind, you will have a better chance of cutting through the crush of coronavirus information with a message your customers and prospects will actively engage with.
Here are some tactical tips to help you craft your marketing strategy over the next several weeks:
Let people know how you can help. In these uncertain times, consumers are looking for sources of trusted information, comfort and connection. Let your customers and prospects know that you can relate to what they are going through by specifically explaining how what you offer can help them solve their immediate problems or build a better future.
Be honest about your own situation. If your company is not going to be able to provide its standard services or products, or you need to change the way things are usually done at your business, let your customers know as soon as possible and what your contingency plans are to make sure they can get what they need or find alternatives.
Focus on being relevant. To say that consumers have other things on their minds than what your company is doing right now is an obvious understatement . This is why any marketing you do should, especially in this unique period, should be focused on connecting with customers and prospects where they are in their lives. You can (and should) clearly differentiate your business and move your audience to take a specific action, but don’t reach out to your clients just to tell them things they already know about your company.
Be sensitive to the frequency of your communications. Now is not the time to email bomb your customers and prospects because your sales pipeline has slowed down. If you do, you run the risk of shrinking your email list due to a spike in unsubscribed contacts. On the other hand, if you always send out an email newsletter on Fridays, keeping your communications schedule consistent, but retooling your messages to be relevant, can provide a sense of stability and maintain your connection with your client base.
A good rule of thumb: aim to touch base at least once a month with prospects and up to once a week with your customers via email. Text messages and social media are better options if you want to provide more frequent updates, but again, monitor engagement to see if the return on your investment is really worth the time spent developing content for these channels.
Monitor what’s working and what isn’t. Now more than ever it is essential to keep track of which marketing activities are effective using tracking tools such as Google Analytics, social media metrics, customer feedback, reviews, surveys and of course, incoming leads and sales data. Don’t be afraid to drop what isn’t making an impact for your business and experiment with something new like videos, podcasts or collaborating with complementary service providers.
The coronavirus is impacting every aspect of society and creating challenging conditions for business owners and marketers who need and want to reach out to prospects and customers. Cutting through the crush of COVID-19 communications requires focusing on conveying the unique value you provide while using each customer and prospective client touch point as an opportunity to strengthen relationships within the context of our new pandemic-produced cultural paradigm.
Brandwatch recently released the results of a global COVID-19 consumer insights study which measured the impact of the coronavirus on consumer behavior and sentiment in general and on social media in Asia, North America, and Europe. The study was conducted during March using consumer surveys and online monitoring of social media, blogs, review sites and other platforms.
Here are the key takeaways for businesses that want to understand how the coronavirus is influencing the mindset of consumers and current market trends:
Brands extending empathy win brownie points
- Brands that provided complimentary or discounted services to consumers in response to the COVID-19 virus won kudos. Whether this increase in positive brand sentiment will continue post-pandemic is a metric to monitor.
- In particular, financial service insitutions offerring grace periods and payment deferrals were highly praised on social media.
- Technology and software providers offering incentives or reduced fees were also deemed as good corporate citizens across the globe.
Consumers adapt behavior to cope with COVID-19
- Individuals watched content on the coronavirus and pandemics on Netflix for information.
- Curated playlists for background noise at home were popular.
- Digital libraries and other free online media sources were important topics of conversation on social media.
- Mobile phones were the device of choice for consumers to connect with family, friends and workplaces.
- Working out and exercising at home were popular activities reported by survey respondents.
- Consumers in the 18-34 year-old age group were more likely to report trying a new hobby to keep themselves entertained.
- 25% of those surveyed reported eating more during their time at home.
COVID-19 takes a toll on consumers’ emotional and psychological health
- Worry about health and the investment market were, not surprisingly, key topics of conversation on social media during the latter part of March.
- Fear, anger and sadness were pervasive themes of social media conversations and content following the implementation of social distancing and rise in coronavirus cases around the globe.
- Fear and sadness were mentioned in 70% of social media conversations about mental health.
- One-third of survey respondents feared losing their jobs.
Physical health and entertainment ideas were popular social media conversation topics
- At home fitness and workouts.
- Diet and fitness in general.
- Social distancing
- Feeling isolated
- How to refrain from being bored
- How to shop safely
- Working from home/remote working
- How to manage spending increased time at home
Gender-specific insights: men are gaming, women are reading
- Overall, male respondents reported that they were more likely to play video games in the coming month (30% of men surveyed said they planned to play video games).
- Women said they planned on reading more.
- Women (48%) were more likely than men (40%) to report having trouble feeling motivated and being entertained.
- Mothers working at home expressed the highest level of concern about working from home.
Employees affected by the COVID-19 pandemic elicited concern from consumers
- While nearly one-third of U.S. consumers reported avoiding takeout from restaurants due to COVID-19 fears, there was a high level of concern over the long-term health of the restaurant industry.
- Across the globe, consumers also expressed anger and concern about the working conditions and health of healthcare workers on social media.
Key takeaways for businesses
The results of this study clearly show brands that communicate in an empathetic way, deliver relevant resources and focus on building relationships with consumers will be able to drive greater affinity and engagement online. Marketers should focus on developing product messages and content to show customers how they can help fulfill their immediate need for comfort, self-care and the practical information they need to protect their physical, emotional and financial health.
There’s a common fallacy about websites that continues to live on in the collective consciousness of small business owners. It is the perception that if you build “it” (the website) “they” (meaning customers) will come and this will drive more inquiries and sales. Unfortunately, this is simply not true, unless several other conditions are met such as having great content, implementing a solid SEO plan and investing in targeted promotions to get visitors to your site.
From my experience working with clients, an even greater myth about websites is that if you can just get more traffic to your site (using the methods described above) the people who visit it will take the actions that you need them to in order for your business to make more money. It just doesn’t work that way—unless you design your website to make it so.
How a UX website design saves you money and increases ROI
Instead of designing a website from your company’s perspective it is vital to design it based on how a real, live user of your website (also known as a human being) will use it. Why? According to user experience (UX) designer, Rebecca Sweeton, who owns Out of Sight Designs, a website and user experience development company located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the reason is two-fold:
“Having a website design that focuses on the user’s experience saves money in the long run because you won’t have to keep tweaking your design because things aren’t working for visitors. It will also increase the return on investment in building your site by guiding website visitors through the series of steps necessary to indicate interest in and/or purchase your products and services.”
The missing link for more online leads and sales
In short, the art and science of user-experience design (also called UX design) is often the missing link between a website that works as a lead and sales generating hub and one that does not. There’s more emphasis than ever on UX website design these days by big companies constructing large web sites, but it is something every business needs to consider to truly maximize the value of their website.
“An excellent and cost-effective first step toward understanding how effective your website is from a user experience perspective is to conduct a UX audit,” said Rebecca. “A UX audit is especially valuable if it is done before you start building a new website—or before you decide to rework an existing site.”
Essentially, user experience audit, or UX audit, is a way to identify problem areas of an existing digital product or service, revealing which parts of a website or application are causing issues for users and blocking conversions.
Rebecca likens a UX audit to a financial audit: “A UX audit uses empirical methods to expand an existing situation, and offer heuristics-based recommendations for improvements, in this case, user-centric enhancements. Ultimately, a UX audit should let you know how to boost conversions by making it easier for users to achieve their goals on your website or application.”
You may be thinking that you did user testing when you built your website—but a UX audit is different. “The direction of the flow of information is the distinguishing and key difference,” explained Rebecca. “An audit assumes problems from a set of pre-established standards or goals. In contrast, user testing figures out problems from observing user actions. A UX audit may include user testing in addition to other methods of data collection over and measure them up against heuristics, industry standards, and business goals.”
Is a UX audit something your company should consider?
Rebecca identified the following questions that can help you determine if a UX audit is something your business should think about doing:
- Are users getting stuck on your site? Is there a specific step or action that they can’t move past?
- Where are visitors leaving your site? A specific page? A specific step?
- Why are visitors leaving? Confusion? Distrust?
- What do they not understand? Text is confusing? Steps are unclear?
These questions are really just the beginning—in general, if your website is not helping to grow your business, you should determine why that is. Otherwise, you are missing out on maximizing a critical element of your company’s marketing and sales infrastructure. This is a situation no business can afford to be in—especially given the imperative to strengthen your website to capture more online customers driven by the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Discover the benefits of a UX audit for your business
“The greatest benefit of conducting a UX audit is that in the end, you end up with a list of actionable recommendations that are based on data for your specific product or service,” said Rebecca. “You can then use those recommendations to better understand your users, implement a redesign (not necessarily of the entire product or service), and reach your business goals. The report generated from a UX audit usually includes a summary of research findings, wireframes for you’re an improved website design, and UX-driven recommendations for everything from general usability to accessibility and content for your site.”
Although a UX audit may sound like something only meant for bigger businesses, nothing could be further from the truth. A UX audit is in fact a critical element in connecting and engaging with your current and prospective customers. It’s really a roadmap that you can use to increase leads, educate website visitors about your products and services as well as drive more sales—which are extremely valuable to any business.
Do you have questions about UX website design or a UX audit for your business? Contact Rebecca at Out of Site Designs for a consultation.