Tag Archives: outsourcing

12 ways to start building authority, using your digital brand.

Digital Brands

“We want to create value for you by sharing marketing tips and timesavers” – O’C&K.

Why SME owners need to manage their personal digital brand.

Managing your digital brand is as much a part of building a competitive positioning for your business as anything else. You may have the best business on the planet, but if it is not online and differentiated somehow, from others in your niche, you will find it hard to attract new clients.

Our own company (O’C&K), is still in its infancy, being 18 months old, and quite often my business partner and I have long, meandering conversations about what defines it (us). Our conversations revolve around the fact that with our experience, in the area of marketing communications, we really can be all things to all people. More and more however, we are realising how important it is to position the type of business we are, carefully.

I mean, if you can’t describe your business then, why would you expect customers or prospects to engage with it? What we have learnt, in O’C&K’s relatively short existence however, is that whilst you do need to be definitive, so that your business will be understood, you also need some flexibility.

I suppose our tagline (if we had one) would be, your marketing outsourced in a smarter way. The ‘smarter way’ element allows us the flexibility needed to evolve with the demands and expectations of clients. So, I guess Aidan and myself have arrived at the conclusion that the art of brand positioning is a balancing act and one that does need to be re-visited from time to time.

What stands out will make you successful.

There are only two of us in O’C&K and we operate a hub and spoke business model. When required, we employ (from our community of contacts), the expertise needed to address client’s needs. Because of this we are conscious of managing our personal brands because, when you think about it, this is what can really set us apart from competitors. You might say that ‘we’ are the USP that makes us stand out in a sea of marketing sameness and we believe that what makes you stand out, will make you successful.

There are many benefits of personal branding in a small business like ours. We like to think that the main ones are:

a) competitors cannot duplicate the relationships we have built up over the years because they are personal and therefore unique,

b) whilst providing outsourced marketing services is not unique, our personal attributes, skills and experience are,

c) we can build on our reputation as we aspire to be thought leaders in our industry, and this makes O’C&K visible and relevant.

Build authority by knowing who you are and where you are going.

Fulfilling the aspiration of becoming a thought leader means building reputation and authority over time, across all touch points, including your digital brand, social media activity and offline channels. The rationale is that a thought leader is a trusted advisor who builds their credibility through authenticity and affinity. As they engage people either offline or online, those values accrue to the brand.

As alluded to above however, the first step is knowing who you are and where you are going. Questions like – why does your company matter or what your values are, need to be answered. Two initial questions we ask potential clients are, how are they unique and why should their customers care. Interestingly, the majority of requests we have received over the last number of months have been from businesses seeking to build an online presence / community.

For the rest of this post we are going to address how you might go about building your digital brand within an online community, by providing something of value. That way, you should attract the type of people that you are targeting. So I guess, asking yourself what type of community you want to build is the first question.

The answer may appear to be simple – to build a community people who are interested in what you are doing / saying / selling. The secret here is to remember that you want to build relationships with people that have something in common – it is not a numbers game.

Think about the groups who you, personally, like to connect with. Surely they comprise people who listen to each other and share information or at least provide entertainment i.e. real people. In our opinion, good communities are made up of people who want to be there not just a massive group of ‘followers’ that you have amassed by whatever means.

In O’C&K our values are Personable, Adaptive, Conscientious and Transparent. That’s our P.A.C.T (sorry – ed). Although we cannot hand pick our online community, we do follow people / brands that are aligned to these values. This overflows into part of our mission, which is to deliver a customer experience that creates a sense of community to our clients.

From an online point of view – we focus on quality rather than quantity as we strive to build a community that will help each other grow. For instance, we recently became a member of the Irish Business in Action Group’s (BAG) online community. We hope to grow with this community of small businesses that reflect who we are and what we believe in, as a company.

I am going to outline two important steps to follow when kickstarting your digital brand and then I will outline some tips on how you might go about building authority amongst that community.

The first step is not a repeat of what we mentioned above, although it is related. Have clear business goals. Yes, you should have goals for your digital activity but they should come from your overall business objectives. Too many small businesses think that social media is a strategy – it’s not, it is only one of many tools available. There are others that may be more appropriate for your business, such as, email marketing, PPC, SEO, content marketing or any mix of them. Whatever helps achieve the business goals, dictates what online community should be pursued.

So once you’ve agreed who you are, what you do and where you want to go – you can start on the second step which is identifying your community. If you are an existing business, with a client base, then you will know what type of community you should be involved with – more of the same. If you are working with a client, then here are some questions you could ask:

  • Who is their audience and target markets therein?
  • What is their specific niche and who are their competitors?
  • Are they already part of a community (Chambers, SFA, IBEC etc.)?
  • What existing influencers do they know (bloggers, social media, and offline networks)?

Answering these questions will give you a kick-start. For instance on Twitter, check out whom your competitors follow or include on lists – and you follow them. Join groups on LinkedIn and follow relevant brands on Facebook or Google plus.

Tips and Timesavers.

Earlier in this post we mentioned building your authority using a digital brand. Whether they are undertaken by you or a colleague, here are some practices that you can start immediately:

  1. Provide relevant written content. A blog, for instance, should give value to your audience that they might not get (or would have to pay for) elsewhere. Caveat – it must be constantly updated.
  2. Write blog content as a guest. Piggyback on an a respected blog in your industry.
  3. Host a webinar. Some people prefer to have the opportunity to talk through an issue with an expert.
  4. Join a conversation. Look for forums (Boards.ie), groups (e.g. LinkedIn) and communities (Google+).
  5. Research trends, news and issues. Share your thoughts and insights and answer questions (e.g. Quora).
  6. Write or co-author a book. Use it as a promotional tool rather than a revenue generator (e.g. eBooks).
  7. Create a podcast. Not everybody has time to read your excellent articles (e.g. free app Spreaker).
  8. Create a Slideshare or write a white paper. Offer insights and guidance to a specific audience relevant to your business (e.g slideshare).
  9. Public speaking. Present on a topic for local associations or be a keynote speaker e.g. conference.
  10. Conduct research. A simple way of sharing relevant knowledge with industry peers.
  11. Have a consistent profile. Use the same pic, the same bio and link everything to your website.
  12. Be a conduit. Be the liaison between suppliers and users within your niche / community.

Don’t forget to use offline activity in a way that reinforces what you are doing online. Use product launches, sponsorship, fundraisers and community workshops to convey your message also.

The essence of authenticity.

Most business owners will agree that there is absolutely no benefit in trying to be something online that you are not in the ‘offline world’. Not only is it a waste of time but it will not build a sustainable business either. Figure out who you are, what you do best, and be real. People like dealing with real people and real brands.

Be true to your own brand by having integrity. Find things to do and others to hang out with that ensure positivity, surrounds you. Don’t hide your flaws, nobody is perfect and are not expected to be. Live up to your (brand) promise and have fun while doing it – life’s too short.

Authentic people are exciting and refreshing and society nowadays is hungry for authenticity.

 If you have any other tips or timesavers please leave a reply below. If you’d like to receive similar content, just subscribe by clicking through the pink button, on this page.  Of course, if you want to get in touch, leave your details and perhaps we might meet for a chat, cheers.   Jim – O’C&K

Brand Loyalty vs Engaging Relationships.

engaging relationships

“We want to create value for you by sharing marketing tips and timesavers” – O’C&K.

There are warning signs that you may be complacent about your brand.

Better analytical tools are providing organisations with the capability of making smarter marketing decisions. As a result, the scientific element of marketing is growing in importance. In the midst of this science though, we should not lose sight of the fact that humans react to social connections (Matthew Lieberman) and relationships that engage them. It should not be a surprise to anyone that a customer wants to connect with brands that resonate with them.

I believe that often, this customer desire is perceived as brand loyalty. Organisations that use loyalty metrics on which to base their business decisions, must be careful not to fall into the trap of remaining in their marketing comfort zone. We will have a look later on about how organisations may become a little complacent in relation to their brand management and, in particular, their relationship building activity.

Perhaps another (jargon warning!) way of looking at how brand loyalty is not the same as engaging relationships is to observe how customers evaluate purchase decisions. The changing marketing paradigm means a move from relative evaluation (provided by traditional marketing messages e.g. ‘our washing powder washes whiter than yours’), to an absolute evaluation, where comparative information can be sourced from anywhere, by anybody. So customers are no longer buying from brand loyalty but are buying based on absolute information.

In such a scenario therefore, it is even more important to proactively engage with customers, online and offline, so as to retain them by providing the information they need. A good engagement marketing strategy is ideally placed to meet these challenges. It also offers guidelines for growing a business in collaboration with customers so knowledge of the ‘customer journey’ is a key to this strategy being successful.

Stop selling and start telling.

The foundation for any successful organisation has always been a founder’s long term vision of what she/he wants to achieve. In O’C&K we sometimes encounter small organisations, or start-ups, that don’t believe in the necessity for a vision statement. As I’ve alluded to above, customers are beginning to choose to deal with brands that give a damn about building engaging relationships.

Often it is the vision or the ‘brand story’ that resonates with them in the first place. Thereafter, they are more open to relationship building. In this digital age, with all its noise, it is important to know and communicate your vision so as to entice customers into being a part of it.

What I’m saying here is that organisations should stop selling and start telling. A story gives people a context for decision making. It allows your brand’s personality to shine through and gives relevance to what you do. Also, the tone of how you tell your story should be one that is like that of your existing or intended audience. The days of the boring old advertising campaign are over, in my opinion, because people can just switch it off, if you don’t resonate with them.

There is a plethora of new channels through which organisations can communicate. These channels allow for direct engagement with the customer and an interface at their level. As visuals are such an integral part of the online world, there is no excuse for campaigns not to be more interesting and engaging.

There is one BIG difference that organisations should take into account when developing an engagement strategy. That is the environment in which your audience engages with your brand. Smartphones, laptops, tablets, smart TVs etc. all deliver real time engagement, but in different contexts.

The user doesn’t care about how you got there, just that you are, and that you can help. Although you cannot control such environments, you can make an effort to create an experience that is relevant to the user. This is where an engagement strategy is paramount.

Tips and Timesavers.

There is a danger that when business is good, an organisation can get a little complacent about their brand and their marketing efforts. I wrote in a previous post, here, that some organisations can pick up bad marketing habits, but complacency must be one of the worst. The business landscape is changing fast, driven by customer expectations and their technology. You must keep up to speed or your competitors will whizz by you.

Here are some warning signs that you might be getting a little complacent about your brand.

  • Your existing customers are not spending as much with you as they were. – You probably have no engagement strategy in place. You may have lost touch with your customer base by being too busy to listen to them. You don’t know what they want or expect from you anymore.
  • Your lead conversions are down. – You might be basing your strategy on old research and your audience has changed. You are not using up-to-date sales tools that are available or you are not engaging with prospects in a way that they expect you to.
  • Your ‘look’ is a bit old fashioned. – Is your brand identity getting a little jaded? You can modernise your identity without affecting your vision and while you’re at it – check out your website. Even if it is only a few years old, SEO, usability, download speeds etc. can all affect your customer’s experience. By the way, how do you compare with your competitors at trade shows?
  • You still use dated photos for your marketing. – Changes in clothes, hairstyles, products, transport and even YOU, can all quickly date your image. You can upgrade sales proposals or presentations by using modern apps and plug-ins (often for free).
  • You do not use social media channels. – You might be on social media, because a ‘friend’ or a competitor compelled you to set one up. It is important that you devote the time and resources to use these tools to their full effect. 
  • You don’t have the time to attend to any of the above. –  Your existing marketing agency should be attending to these items or you can outsource projects to a small flexible company, such as ourselves.

Relationships are the new currency.

What organisations should realise is that nowadays, they must prepare to invest in engaging relationships. Everything they do, every piece of content they create from ads to emails should create a positive interaction so as to form a relationship. The interaction may be short lived, but it is still a first step. Thereafter, smarter marketing will build the relationship by using repeated engagement.

The only caveat I have for you here is to bear in mind that not everybody wants the same kind or relationship. The best kind of relationship is to provide your customer / prospect with the engagement they want, when and where they want it.

So, to summarise, don’t rely on presumed brand loyalty. Continuous relationship building is imperative, all of which should start with a positive interaction. Thereafter, repeated engagement how and when they want it, will form a ‘bond’. This bond is the difference that will stop your customer being tempted to move to a competitor. The ultimate achievement is that they would become your brand ambassador and we would love to help you with that objective.

If you have any other tips or timesavers please leave a reply below. If you’d like to receive similar content, just subscribe by clicking through the pink button, on this page.  Of course if you want to get in touch, leave your details and perhaps we might meet for a chat, cheers.   Jim – O’C&K



5 content marketing drivers that you must adhere to.

content marketing drivers

“We want to create value for you by sharing marketing tips and timesavers” – O’C&K.

“We tried content marketing already but it didn’t work”.

Have you ever heard a business owner say this? We have, but in saying that, being smart about any of your marketing activity means outthinking your competitors. Content marketing is just a way of pulling it together.

When Aidan and I started up O’C&K, one year ago, we planned our company’s online presence using a content marketing strategy. Our thought process was that content marketing is a way of thinking as much as an activity. So if we were to help businesses to be smarter about their marketing, we wanted to create or curate relevant content to share with them. Furthermore, by example, we wanted to encourage customers to use content marketing as a relatively inexpensive way to communicate in general. Then, when added to traditional methods of marketing, as a strategy it would serve to develop their brand and grow the business.

As we reflect on our first year, it seems that in general, more and more businesses are creating content. Some efforts are effective and some of it is, just drivel, and a complete waste of time. Perhaps now with a hint of an economic recovery in this Country, it is opportune for businesses to review their communication. This should be done because quite a few are not joining the dots when it comes to their marketing activity. Let’s face it, most businesses appreciate that the use of video, social and mobile is changing the business landscape. They also acknowledge that content matters in this new environment, but they just can’t seem to pull it all together.

Content can comprise many elements.

Let’s look at some of the main ones and their pitfalls. Then, we will look at what we consider to be good content drivers.

Social Media: It is great that more and more businesses use social media, but unfortunately some do so with a broadcast mentality. They are stuck in a traditional marketing mindset and what they do online and offline is disjointed. I have written about this previously, but it is worth repeating here. I believe that if you are not focused on nurturing relationships, both online (by sharing relevant and engaging content) and offline (by networking), your business will not survive, in the long term. It has never been easier for people to ignore you and your communication, and they will, unless you are useful to them somehow.

Blogs: It  is an excellent idea for businesses to own a blog. Unfortunately though, some use it as a sales tool, a product manual or perhaps worse still – don’t maintain it. To be successful a blog must be a relevant source that educates, inspires or entertains your customers, in the first instance.

Blogs and social media go hand-in-hand in building your relevancy so you should take advantage of that fact. Together they are ideal content marketing tools, but take care to ensure that you write them in a non technical, interesting and engaging manner.

Video: You knew that YouTube is the second largest search engine on the internet – right? Did you also know that it handles more than 20% of all traffic on the web? There is much research in existence that shows the internet is turning visual. I mean, just look at the popularity of Vine, Instagram and Pinterest, (here’s a great board to follow if you’re on Pinterest). Videos are becoming part of our personal daily online lives. It should be no surprise that businesses are learning that videos can be an integral part of their marketing activity. Video production isn’t the daunting and expensive option that it used to be, a twitter colleague of ours @thadykav is a good example of this.

We’ll be the first to admit that O’C&K don’t optimise the potential of our YouTube account much at the moment. This is because initially, we are concentrating on other channels to build a presence. It is our intention to embrace video, in the future. When we do it will fit in with our content marketing strategy and be creative, consistent and of quality.

Others: The danger of press releases and case studies is that irrelevant ones are ignored by everyone and thus, so can be a time-suck. Unless you are up to date on search engine and content optimisation, you can attract penalties from Google online. Many people don’t realise that websites should fit into the content marketing strategy rather than lead it. Free offers of white papers and e-books must be relevant to your target audience, because if not, they can just become an irritant.

As alluded to in a previous post, ( here ), the expectations of the general public, towards business, are changing. In relation to purchasing habits they want their needs satisfied in an easy, quick, transparent way. They definitely do not want to be sold to. So, providing your audience with something they want, will build an authentic and beneficial relationship with customers and prospects.

If a content marketing strategy is to work for you, your activities should reinforce how your business puts the customer first. If you can align the content of your marketing activity with your behaviour, you will be leveraging it in a profitable way for your business.

Tips and timesavers.

Whatever the number of elements you include, there are 5 content drivers that you must adhere to.

  • It should be relevant (for your customers, their context and your business).
  • It should be useful (after reading it your reader will do or think something in a different way).
  • It should not focus on your business (your brand must be part of your customer’s story).
  • It should be clear and consistent (the style of writing or presentation should not distract the reader).
  • It should be compact and renewable (nobody watches or reads long and / or stale content).

Nobody said this was easy, by the way. We know that some businesses get nervous just thinking about using social media, not to mention having a content marketing strategy. There is no need to panic. Outsourcing is a common and acceptable method of handing this element of branding over to people that can ‘ease your pain’. Just a word of warning though, shop around and agree what exactly they will do for you. The marketplace is swarming with gurus, scammers and poor performers.

If you decide to keep content marketing in-house, the worst thing that you could do is to give the  job to an already overworked assistant / HR person / marketing intern. Especially if they don’t have it in their job description. In such scenarios, you will end up using the inevitable excuse for dropping a pro-active marketing approach; “we tried that already, but it didn’t work”.

If you have any other tips or timesavers please leave a reply below. If you’d like to receive similar content, just subscribe by clicking through the pink button, on this page. Of course if you want to get in touch, leave your details and perhaps we might meet for a chat, cheers.   Jim – O’C&K