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Chamber Marketing 101: Be Local. Get Connected. Stay Awesome.

You’re a business owner who has an endless array of daily tasks to attend to. Your day-to-day operations depend on your attention to detail and oversight and knowing how to market your business — including chamber marketing — is just one thing of many on your plate. In other words, your time is valuable.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed and it’s important to be protective of your schedule, dropping any activities that aren’t productive. One thing you should never skip, however, is an opportunity to network and connect with other local business owners. Joining your local Chamber of Commerce and participating in meetings and other events is an investment in your business. But, this is one investment that you can see an almost immediate return on.

What Is the Chamber?

The Chamber, short for the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, is an organization that helps businesses connect with one another. It’s a platform by which business owners can help influence public policies that benefit themselves, their fellow business owners and the community. It is the largest business association in the country. From 450 local chapters across Canada, they support and represent the interests of over 200,000 businesses. Those local Chambers are an incredibly rich source of valuable resources.

Why Join a Local Chamber?

Membership in a local chamber of commerce has a multitude of benefits for business owners. From networking opportunities to education and business information to advocacy and marketing opportunities, the chamber supports businesses on an individual basis. The most important benefit, however, is being connected to other business leaders within the community who seek opportunities to grow, learn, and do business together.

Networking Opportunities

Communication these days is often accomplished in the digital realm. That doesn’t mean that face-to-face meetings aren’t important. In fact, they’re more important than ever. Monthly chamber events, meetings, roundtable discussions, and other chamber activities are a great way for business leaders to meet and form beneficial relationships. In turn, they can work together to ensure the marketplace remains competitive and that no company has an unfair advantage.

Relationship Building

Local business owners have more in common with one another than profits, they’re also interesting individuals. Building relationships, at the business and personal level, is important for a person’s health and well-being. Taking part in local Chamber activities, like the Bonnyville Chamber of Commerce’s trip to India, is a fun way to make new friends, and build strong business relationships at the same time.

Regularly Scheduled Events

Every local chamber maintains a calendar of events for the coming month, making it easy to plan ahead. While attendance at all the events isn’t mandatory, they provide ample opportunity to learn and grow. For example, the St. Paul & District Chamber is offering several events in January. These events offer help for small businesses, including tax advice, customer service related information and many other business topics.

Chamber Marketing Opportunities

A fantastic way for a business owner to connect with other like-minded individuals is to attend a Chamber Connect event. There’s one held on the 2nd Wednesday of every month at the Lloydminster Chamber of Commerce. It’s a meet-and-greet type event where people exchange business cards, discuss important matters, and create valuable partnerships. It’s an especially potent marketing tool for B2B businesses since the members are all business owners themselves.

There are also a number of other ways you can market through your local chamber, including:

  • Placing an ad in chamber email fanouts that go to members
  • Sponsoring an event
  • Advertising on their websites
  • Being listed in their business directory

Policy Input

Business owners are among the most influential people in our communities. They drive economic growth and have a major impact on policies that affect the affect the entire community.

Joining a chamber, like the Alberta LGBT¬†Chamber of Commerce, gives business leaders the opportunity to impact policies and influence the chamber’s advocacy agenda. Whether it’s by participating in a committee, submitting policy change resolutions, or simply speaking out, members are a key element of the chamber’s decision-making process.

Access to Information

Keeping pace with federal legislation, new rules and regulations, and local business initiatives is a challenge, to say the least. Members of the chamber have unlimited access to information about these important topics as well as expert advice from policy experts. Whether it’s a question about local licensing requirements or a federally mandated regulation, business owners can quickly find an answer to avoid complications later. They can also share their experiences and knowledge with other members.

Tools and Resources

Business leaders have access to a wide variety of tools and other resources through their local chamber aimed at helping them to serve the community and their customers better. Small business tools, webinars, videos, podcasts, workshops, and other information is all just a click away. Chamber events and conferences not only provide valuable information but also facilitate networking between members. In addition, many chamber members are also experts in finance, marketing, and other business topics and offer advice and assistance.

Chamber Benefit Programs

Chamber membership can also help save a business money through one of the value-added benefits programs available. Programs vary from discounts on professional services and products to access to free business tools. These additional benefits can be a real benefit to new business on a limited budget as well as established companies looking for ways to maximize their profit margins by decreasing costs.

Improved Public Image

Joining the local chamber and becoming a participating member has benefits that are difficult to measure. One of those benefits has to do with public perception. When a prospect or customer sees that you’re affiliated with the chamber, they’re more likely to perceive you as a trustworthy, community-minded business. In other words, membership is like a badge of honour that sets your business apart from non-chamber members.

Conclusion

Your business needs a presence, both in real-life and digitally, and marketing is an absolute necessity in today’s world. If you’re not connecting with local business owners and leaders, you’re missing a very important part of the equation.

If you operate a B2B business, local chamber members are all prospective customers. They’re also allies who will work with you to influence policies that affect you all. In short, joining the local chamber is one of the smartest things a Canadian business owner could do.

Contact us to learn more about the benefits of chamber marketing and how we can help you with your digital marketing strategies!

The Top 6 Benefits of Digital Marketing

The benefits of digital marketing are more apparent than ever in 2018. Digital marketing can help increase your brand exposure as a business.

In fact, more than 1.1 million small businesses have taken off in the past four years.

If you want to thrive in this economy, it’s important to grow your digital marketing strategies right now.

1. Digital Marketing is Cost-Effective

There is no doubt that marketing your company takes money. You need to fuel your business with real dollars in order to see real results. Digital marketing has slowly become the new norm in terms of how to market your company in the real world.

Digital marketing is a cost-effective alternative to other forms of marketing. When you include targeted digital marketing campaigns, you can save money. Once you determine who your target audience is you can tailor your campaigns and advertisements to be seen by a select few.

For example, a small business can utilize the power of social media in minutes. You can easily run an ad on Instagram where your targeted audience will see your ad show up on their feed based on advanced targeting measures you determine.

This can cost a small business anywhere from $5-$500. The engagement with the ad will be much higher than even the results created from expensive television and radio ads. You will be able to target your ideal buyers in no time.

2. Digital Marketing Hones in on Customer Loyalty

Another strength to note with the benefits of digital marketing includes the development of customer loyalty.

One customer purchasing clothing from your online retail website is the first step in the right direction. Sales are obviously important to you as a small business owner who needs to make revenue to keep the business going.

However, it’s also crucial to hone in on the value with customer loyalty. You want that same customer to return again and again and even spread the word about why she loves shopping on your site in comparison to your competition, right?

Customer loyalty is another aspect of digital marketing that you can work on growing. The digital marketing strategies used by small businesses to grasp the concept of customer loyalty continue to show impressive results.

Turning one customer into a loyal customer is possible with digital marketing. How do you accomplish this? Create a reputation for having great customer service. If you have a huge following on Instagram or even Facebook, be sure to constantly check your direct messages to respond to your customers that way!

Speaking of social media messages, always respond to comments on your posts and engage with your audience!

3. Create a Global Outreach

Digital marketing gives you the opportunity to reach even more customers than you could ever dream of if you focused solely on your local and traditional marketing channels.

Give digital marketing a chance because you can increase your customer base by implementing the right techniques to boost your following across the globe.

People living around the world could see your efforts as the Internet continues to be a means of communication to find new markets and explore larger audiences.

Social media marketing will give you the freedom to potentially expand your small business into these new global territories, too.

4. Your Customers are Waiting for You on Social Media

Don’t be afraid of social media! Even if you have an old company, you need to start creating an online presence to tap into the market you are missing out on right now.

With so many millions of people using their phones to purchase on a daily basis, you need to create a space to increase your sales online because over 2.4 billion people use social media platforms on a regular basis.

Encourage your customers to interact with you on social media, too. Offer them incentives to follow your social accounts. Giveaways are a huge way to gain new followers and grow your audience in an organic nature.

Social media has the potential to help you conquer your digital marketing goals once and for all. Of course, with the help of experts at Octopus Creative, you can achieve your goals in less time than you would on your own!

5. SEO Optimizes Your Content

There is no point in spending hours of your time and hundreds of dollars producing content if nobody sees it.

SEO, search engine optimization, is another excellent example of a digital marketing tool to assist you in your journey to grow your client base.

Here is how SEO works:

When a potential customer uses Google to make a search for “fall boots” the top results are shown. You need to incorporate keywords into your content found on your website to boost your ranking according to Google.

Once you channel some important SEO rules into your posts, you will see your ranking improve over time.

It’s difficult to make your retail store show up on the first page without implementing any of the powerful and effective SEO techniques necessary to improve your local SEO rank.

Talk to the professionals at Octopus Creative Inc. for more guidance with SEO related strategies.

6. The Benefits of Digital Marketing Drive Sales

The proof is in the sales. It’s seen within your revenue streams. It’s also proven with the obvious signs of higher growth expectancy in your business.

You’re going to see much higher conversion rates once you begin practising the art of digital marketing. Digital marketing influences conversions as soon as you determine a targeted audience to attract.

These trackable results are set up to show you exactly how much money you have earned through digital marketing strategies put into action. You can see how much money one digital campaign has earned for you through your website analytics.

Tracking your web analytics, using Google analytics, for example, will show you real-time data that can guide you to understand what tactics work and what needs to be changed about your current campaigns for better outcomes in the end.

Why Not Take Advantage of the Benefits of Digital Marketing?

The benefits of digital marketing show you how important it is to consider adding these online strategies to your small or corporate business.

All six of these reasons are meant to prove the power behind creating social media platforms and utilize them to your advantage to draw in new targeted customers over time.

Interested in learning more about digital marketing? Submit a Marketing Discovery Form on our website to get in touch with us today.

8 Creative Marketing Strategy Examples That Will Inspire You

For marketers, creating a campaign can sometimes feel like searching for a needle in a haystack. How do you stand out when a single individual sees up to 5,000 ads a day?

Across the world, this concern has led to some innovative and creative marketing strategy examples.

Feeling lost? A bit underwhelmed about your campaign? Take a look at these eight creative marketing strategies for inspiration.

Creative Marketing Strategy Examples

Whether it’s in Canada or across the pond, marketing agencies have created some unusual and unique ideas to gain attention.

1. Google’s Pop-Up Donut Shops

Last year across the US, citizens began noticing some strange shops popping up in their cities.

With the creation of the Google Home Mini, a smart speaker about the size of a donut, Google created donut shops around the US. Visitors entered, rang a bell, asked the Google Home Mini a question, and received a box from a conveyor belt.

Inside the box, they would be given either a free donut or a Google Home Mini. The action caught worldwide attention and was splashed across the international news.

2. Anthon Berg’s Generous Store

In a similar manner, another pop-up store gained national attention back in 2012. In Copenhagen, Anthon Berg’s Generous Store opened for a single day. During that day, customers could purchase chocolate for good deeds.

Users would select a good deed for their chocolate, then post the deed on social media as “payment” at a later date.

The campaign reiterated core company values and reconnected their brand with the idea of generosity.

3. Verizon’s Augmented Reality Treasure Hunt

Who doesn’t love a treasure hunt?

Although technology has been used many times in the past to bolster a campaign, Verizon took marketing a step further with this promotion.

Utilizing the same method that made Pokemon Go so popular, Verizon reached out to thousands of customers through cells. Customers in participating cities in America could scan a code that would provide a series of clues. The clues would lead to the ultimate “treasure”: an iPhone 8.

Or at least the sweepstakes for one…

4. Coca-Cola’s Small World Machines

Across the globe, Coca-Cola impressed us again with its marketing prowess, this time in a new use of vending machines.

Relations between India and Pakistan have never been overly positive, but in keeping with one of its core messages, Coca-Cola managed to bring citizens from these two nations together to share in small bits of happiness. Vending machines equipped with state of the art webcams were integrated into malls in each nation.

In order to get a free drink, users had to connect with participants from the other country. A Pakistani citizen would approach the machine and see whoever was on the “other side” in India. The machine would ask them to join hands, trace together or complete other tasks.

The reward was a fresh drink.

For years, Coca-Cola has been famous for its efforts at joining communities, which sometimes resulted in campaigns that reached across nations and ethnicities. In holding true to that company value — and their brand of happiness — they continue to gain attention through their marketing endeavours.

5. Game of Thrones’ Dragon Shadow

Consistency is the key to successful branding and marketing. It fosters brand recognition and illustrates stability, a promise that the company is maintaining its efforts on what it has demonstrated before. Humans learn to associate images with specific emotions, and you want yours to be positive.

Utilizing this idea to their advantage, the marketing specialists for Game of Thrones decided to spread their image in a place where many would see it: The New York Times newspaper. When readers opened up their typical morning paper in February of 2013, they were met with a sprawling dragon shadow that tinted parts of their articles a light grey.

A few days later, the silhouette appeared again, this time on the side of a building. Within days, you could find images of the silhouette all across the internet.

Not only did the marketing team maintain a consistent image throughout this campaign, but they also utilized integrated marketing communications to its fullest extent, reaching large audiences across different channels and letting them spread the word further.

6. Octopus Creative Inc.’s Co-Op

How do you persuade owners in two Co-ops to vote for an amalgamation with the other? By creating a slamming slogan that’s simple, effective and–as the folks at Octopus Creative put it–sexy. The campaign slogan was dubbed “Better Together.”

Using simplicity and positive connotations, the slogan was effective. And with interactive advertising that reached a trading area of more than 280 kilometres, it was ultimately successful. Both Co-ops had over 90% of voting owners agreeing to the amalgamation.

Talk about success!

7. Poo Pourri

It’s exactly what it sounds like, and the Poo Pourri marketing campaign is an excellent example of video and humour used correctly. Without the restrictions of television-based advertising, this marketing campaign was free to run wild on YouTube and social media, and the crass, all-too-true humour it utilized about feces and its associated smell went viral.

This promotion also had a specific target audience (young women who “don’t poop”), but it appealed to a cultural norm known throughout the world. Further, it offered a solution for an issue everyone experiences. As a result, people were all too happy to share the videos and product with others.

Talk about bringing something refreshingly new to the table – or, perhaps, the toilet.

8. Half.com, Oregon

One of the most unique twists on marketing we’ve ever seen comes from Half.com. Half.com put itself on the map – literally. In 1999, Halfway, Oregon announced it would be changing its town name to Half.com, Oregon.

With an effort to make itself heard, the startup company offered a package deal to the town to foster its economy. In return, Half.com became the first ever dot.com city in US history.

Bringing Creativity to the Forefront

From viral videos about poop to pop-up stores everywhere, creative marketing strategy examples that work aren’t difficult to find.

Are you inspired yet? You should be. After all, each one of these campaigns began with someone who was ready to be bold and innovative, someone just like you.

If you’re ready to take a dip into otherworldy marketing, read our article about interactive content. You’ve gotten the inspiration; now, it’s time to spark your ambition to create a marketing campaign the world will never forget.

The Blog Slog: 5 Key Benefits of Content Marketing for Your Business

 

Believe it or not, nearly half of all small and medium-sized businesses don’t have a website. Even those that do build a site, get it up and running, never to look at it ever again. If they never explore the benefits of content marketing, they’ll never know what kind of brand presence they could be missing out on.

Here are 5 of the biggest benefits to content marketing.

1. More Content for Your Site

While it seems pretty obvious, having more content on your site brings a boatload of benefits. One of the biggest ones has to do with how long you keep customers around.

When you’ve got one article that links to three other related articles, you give your visitors an opportunity to learn more from you. As you build the amount of on-site content you can offer, you keep them around. If each article also aims to make visitors familiar with your brand, the longer visitors stay on your site, the more excited they’ll be about your products.

If you offer great content, your users will be excited to share links to your writing with friends. Your blog could be a pretty powerful tool in your promotional belt if you use it wisely.

2. Improved SEO

If you’re still new to SEO, you need to get hip to how it works. Search engines use a variety of criteria in their algorithm to decide what makes one website a better match for your search over another. Search Engine Optimization is the name for the variety of choices you make to position yourself toward the top of the list.

SEO can help to increase profit by bringing higher quality traffic to your site. If your blog uses important SEO elements, like keywords, location identifiers, and lots of reputable links, you’ll rank highly on search engines.

Search engines also privilege domains that update their site often. If you add lots of content based on frequently asked questions and issues your users might have with your competitors’ products, you could see a traffic spike. The more often you talk about the subjects that are most important to your clients, the more often you’ll appear in search results.

Multiple search result rankings give you an added boost in perception.

The higher quality your content is, the higher your domain authority will be. When you use those reputable external sources and get links from other reputable sites, the people who click your links will come with initial respect for you. They will know that you’re in the same league as the other sites they know and trust.

3. A Better Social Media Presence

One of the most important ways to reach out and connect with your audience now is through social media. People using social media like to see that the brands and companies that they know and trust have real people working for them. Some brands are taking this to the extreme and building unique voices around their company on social media.

When you write quality content on your blog, you create opportunities for people to share your writing. The more often people see links to your site on their feed, the more they’ll begin to trust your brand. They’ll start following you on social media, giving you more opportunities to connect with them.

Add social media buttons and links to previous posts throughout your blog and you’ll find that your circle of followers will grow. Your new followers will share your articles and continue to spread news and information about your products while you focus on other aspects of marketing.

4. More Conversions

Getting users to your site and to your blog is only the first step in the sales process. This is where they enter your sales funnel and open up the opportunity to pitch your products. If you deliver the goods on your blog, you’ll eliminate the time it takes to turn a curious visitor into the regular client.

Your blog can inform and help your readers with common problems they have. To generate content, you should make a list of the 20 most common questions you get asked about products and services in your industry. Likely, these will be the questions potential clients will type into search engines.

When you answer their questions, giving your products and services as a solution, you can pitch while you inform. Your blog will be tactfully selling your clients on your latest products and services without hitting them over the head. When you provide quality information to go along with your sales pitches, you’ll win trust from people across your industry.

Building a reputation is difficult but if you’re giving helpful and informative material, you’ll be offering value before you even ask your clients to open their wallets. People will think highly of any brand willing to offer a lot beyond their own personal gain.

5. Build Connections With Other Brands

Every company is looking to build a network of other businesses and owners to connect their products to. If you’re in the health and wellness industry, for example, there are surely lots of other brands you’re not in competition with at all. A yoga studio and a natural skin care brand can work together without stepping on each others’ toes.

If you’re willing to broaden the amount of information that your blog has to offer, you can ask to trade guest posts with other brands. Otherwise, you can talk about your experience with their products and ask that they talk about their experience with yours.

Guest posting gives you the opportunity to write sincere promotional material about products and services that your customers would also enjoy.

The Benefits of Content Marketing Go On

Beyond these 5, you’ll find that the benefits of content marketing will pop up over time. You’ll see more people coming to you based on something they read, more people linking to you, and more traffic that turns into sales.

If you’re looking to get those newly converted customers to write reviews, check out our guide for more info.

How to Get Reviews: Why Businesses Should Avoid Fake Reviews

Building an online reputation is not merely registering your business on Google and Yelp. If you’re just starting out, you need online business reviews.

Reviews are how consumers check the quality of your business. People often look to those independent reviews more than they do personal recommendations.

Getting reviews is challenging. Readers assume reviews are independent and not solicited in any way. To add to the challenge, consumers often don’t take the time to leave online feedback unless they are dissatisfied.

Many companies give in and outsource fake reviews to improve their ratings. This may seem like an effective strategy. But that eventually backfires and leaves a negative mark or your business rather than a positive one.

This article focuses less on how to get reviews and more on how not to solicit fake reviews.

Fake Reviews Online Destroys Trust

Many companies make money by selling fake reviews online. Review writing is outsourced overseas, where labourers work for low wages. They generate thousands of reviews daily.

Fake Reviews Lack Quality

Given that rapid production, you can imagine the lack of quality in the review. Also, many labourers have only rudimentary English.

And, none of this passes muster with potential customers, who can spot fake reviews right away. People will lose trust without ever becoming customers.

Special Risks for SEO Companies

Companies that provide Search Engine Optimization (SEO) services that support this practice are taking extra risks with their reputation. Their services revolve around building an online presence for clients.

If they are caught faking their online reputation, customers will rightfully question their ability to deliver results for them.

Google Can Cause Your Local Search Traffic to Drop

Google bases its business on data. They track and predict trends with amazing proficiency. They will penalize you if they discover fake reviews on Google.

Once Google realized you’re getting online reviews for your business that are not legitimate, they will not rank your site for relevant local search terms.

The consequence is reduced traffic to your website. You’ll likely experience a sharp drop in revenue as a result. If you don’t know how to get reviews, take some time to learn instead of turning to fake reviews.

You’ll Make your Company Look Too Good to Be True

Even if your reviews manage to stay under Google’s radar, you still run the risk of looking phoney. If all you have are sparkling, over-the-top reviews, you’ll appear too good to be true. And rightfully so.

Any business will have some negative comments somewhere. Between the law of averages and the rules of human behaviour, no product line will have spotless reviews.

Special Risks for Small Business Owners

Small business owners who publish false reviews can expect a backlash in the form of negative reviews. These come in the form of a different kind of false review: the negative one.

Companies who do this could find themselves barraged with their own negative reviews. The text of those reviews calls out the company for intentionally posting fake reviews.

Such an onslaught floods their product sites with negative feedback. It can erode consumer trust completely. This can be catastrophic for a small business.

Legal Repercussions of Fake Reviews

So far, we have discussed how using fake reviews can backfire. You could end up with more negative reviews than positive. You’ll erode consumer trust rather than build it. There are financial and legal ramifications as well.

Regulators Can Fine You for Fake Reviews Online

Regulators used to ignore fake reviews online. With the rise of digital marketing, though, consumers trust these reviews more. As a result, regulators now pay closer attention, acting as fake review checker.

They have the authority to fine you for unethical or deceptive marketing actions. That includes fake reviews.

In Canada, the Competition Bureau identifies fake reviews as “misleading advertising and labelling.” The Bureau handles this under Section 74.02 of the Competition Act.

Under this law, a person can pay a penalty of up to $750,000 for the first occurrence. A corporation can pay up to $10,000,000 for the same offence.

For subsequent violations, the penalties increase. An individual can be fined up to $1,000,000, A corporation can be fined up $15,000,000.

You Could Face a Lawsuit

Lawsuits are yet another repercussion of fake reviews. Local governments as well as the Competition Bureau, can fine you. That is painful enough. But your competitors may file a lawsuit.

Attorneys may see this violation of consumer protection guidelines and solicit a lawsuit based on deceptive trade practices.

How to Get Reviews the Right Way

Each country has its own set of directory sites that feature local businesses. Canadian business owners who want better Google rankings, as well as more local customers, should ask existing customers to write reviews.

Not everyone in your customer base will respond. That means you want the reviews you get to count. Ask customers to review on websites that are part of your local network and that feed to other sites in your country.

Facebook, Yelp and weblocal.ca are the largest.

What If You’re Not the One Posting the Fake Reviews?

What if you discover fake reviews popping up on your Facebook or Google My Business Page? The unfortunate truth is that malicious, fake reviews are becoming more common — we know because it has happened to us too! Here is something to keep in mind.

Every site that hosts reviews has Terms of Service (TOS). You can usually find a link to the TOS at the bottom of the website homepage. The TOS lists the type of content that users are allowed to post in their reviews.

Any reputable site will stipulate they can remove any reviews that that are personal attacks on an employee. They can also remove any derogatory remarks about a person based on race, religion, disability, or ethnicity.

If you see such a review about your business or one of your employees, contact the site owner or follow the process outlined to flag or report an inappropriate review. Usually, the company will remove the post without issue, even if it does take some time.

Alternately, you can reply to the negative review online. In your reply state that you are concerned that this may have been a wrongful review as they are not identified as a customer of yours and request to have it removed directly from the reviewer.

If reporting the fake review isn’t enough, you can decide whether you want to take formal legal action.

Take the High Road

Getting reviews for business isn’t always easy. You may have a great product or service. Though, without the reviews as testimony, growing your business will take more time.

Despite the temptation, it’s best to avoid the easy way of generating fake reviews to get the ball rolling.

If you have any questions about how to get reviews for your business, make sure to contact us.

The Future of Social Media Marketing: 7 Trends You Need to Know

Studies show that 57% of Canadians engage on social media. In fact, social media is quickly becoming a central component of personal and professional lives. For this reason, it is an essential channel for engaging with consumers.

Nonetheless, many business owners speculate about the future of social media marketing.

As consumers’ preferences shift and new platforms appear, social media’s role in business advertising is likely to continue to fluctuate.

In this post, we look closely at social media marketing’s future, analyzing the key trends that give a sense of what to expect.

Read on for insight!

1. In-App Messaging Marketing is On the Rise

Most social media platforms enable in-application messaging, including Instagram. In-app messaging gives business owners an effective means of engaging with current and prospective customers in real time.

Marketers can now also purchase digital ads that appear in users’ message inboxes.

In the past, messaging feeds were restricted to private social conversations. Now businesses can become a part of those conversations.

Given the fact that consumers continually place a premium on authentic engagement with the brands they love, in-app messaging marketing is on the rise.

If businesses are keen to engage with customers on their terms, they will enable users to reach out to them via social media messaging systems.

2. Social Media is Becoming More Mobile

Studies show that 94% of Facebook users access the platform via mobile devices. Instagram itself is mobile-centric given the nature of the content it produces.

Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn also have highly mobile audiences. As such, social media itself is becoming more mobile-focused.

When it comes to the future of social media marketing, the coming years will continue to emphasize mobile users. It will make the most of in-app messaging ads.

It will also emphasize mobile-friendly content, and sizing images and videos with mobile screens in mind is key.

3. Chatbots Are Key

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is becoming an integral and exciting part of websites and other marketing channels. But, it is also emerging as an influencer of social media, largely in the form of chatbot technology.

Social media enables most business account owners to incorporate and customize their own chatbots and automated messages.

Chatbots take in-app messaging a step further by giving social media users and followers a chance to learn more about a business or address customer service issues.

Many marketers will make use of in-app messaging and customized chatbots to address customer concerns and provide immediate answers — when a client or business budget allows, of course!

4. Social Media Leverages SEO

Social media platforms go hand-in-hand with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) campaigns. The future of social media marketing will place even greater emphasis on this close-knit relationship.

Google has yet to formally declare that it considers social signals in its ranking decisions. However, given the role social media plays in the commercial realm, it very well may do so in the future.

Businesses with robust social media profiles can optimize content they share and post thinking of specific keywords. Consumers can also use social media platforms to find products and services based on those keywords.

Social media will also continue to cultivate brand awareness. Users familiar with a company’s social media activity will be more likely to click on that company’s page in Google search results.

5. Social Media Is a Window to Your Customers

Social networks are more than marketing channels. They also provide businesses with insight into their customers’ minds.

This has always been the case. But the future of social media marketing lies in a business’s ability to use these platforms to gather customer feedback and data.

Many consumers, for example, leave reviews for businesses on Facebook. Others may reference a business, product or service in their statuses.

Successful social media marketers are the ones who can perform rich analysis of this feedback to better inform future advertising efforts.

6. Facebook Leads the Pack

Facebook is still primary amongst the social media giants, although it is losing ground to Instagram with every passing year… but really, it’s OK because Facebook owns Instagram.

The future of social media marketing lies in marketers’ abilities to stay with this social media leader and meet users’ increasing demands for engagement and rich content.

Facebook is also the only social media platform that (so far) enables business reviews. This is essential for businesses looking for easy means of bolstering their online reputations.

7. Video Content is Key

We have already mentioned social media users’ interest in engaging, relevant content. At the top of this list is video content.

Video content is always intriguing, and it will continue to be marketers’ most powerful means of engaging with users on social media. The good news is that social media platforms make it easy to upload and generate video content.

In fact, Facebook Live is taking the video world by storm, enabling business owners to engage with users in real time. Not to mention, Instagram stories are also popular.

The future of social media marketing lies in the powerful and strategic use of video content across platforms.

Wrapping Up the Future of Social Media Marketing

So what is the future of social media marketing? Given the trends that we have discussed in this post, we can confidently state that social media is not going to leave the marketing stage any time soon.

While social media platforms themselves are shifting in popularity, social media still plays a significant role in consumer lives, both personal and professional.

If business owners are seeking to capitalize on global (or local) social media use, they will have to step up their content game. Social media users now place a premium on video content and material that is user-driven. Social media is also becoming a valuable source of consumer data, giving businesses a chance to hear customer feedback about products and services.

A viable social media marketing campaign for 2018 will include high-value content designed to give organizations the data they need to keep evolving in the right direction. It will also emphasize mobile-friendly content, video content, and chatbots.

At Octopus Creative, Inc., we believe in the future of social media marketing, and what it can do for you. Start a conversation today to learn more about what we can do to transform your digital marketing game!

Branding Strategy 101: How to Effectively Brand Anything

According to a recent survey, 8 out of 10 Canadians belong to a brand’s loyalty program. A proper branding strategy is one of the most important assets to have — from a non-profit to products, to businesses, to people. It can literally make or break your success.

Branding is not your website, logo, product, or service. It is what people say about you when you are not around. Your brand is your the feeling or perception that you create with your target market.

The problem is that it can be hard as a small business, you have to start unknown and compete against large recognizable brands that have huge budgets and dedicated followers.

You need to know clearly how to build a brand and execute a proper branding strategy in order for people to trust you and your brand, no matter what it is that you are branding.

Look no further, because we have all the information here on how to brand anything effectively, build trust and achieve your goals. Read on!

What Is a Branding Strategy?

A brand strategy is a detailed, strategic plan that incorporates long-term goals that are achieved as your brand evolves. Whether it is branding an idea, business, yourself or a charity, you need a well thought out branding strategy!

This includes and affects all aspects of your idea, and connects with the audience’s wants, needs, emotions, and environment. If you are branding a charity, for example, you need to connect with people who have similar emotions towards your cause.

As said above, your brand is not your logo, nor your website, your products, causes, services, or even name. Your brand is the feeling that other people get before, during, and after their interaction with your brand.

Your brand is not a to-do list, it is what people are saying about you when you are not around!

Identify The Three Core Components

These three core components will become the blueprint of your brand building and help you stay focused as your ideas evolve.

Consistency

Without this, your brand will have a hard time surviving. Avoid talking about anything or posting anything that does not have to do with your ultimate branding vision.

When posting anything to the public, first think to yourself these important questions:

  • Does this align with my message?
  • What does this mean for my company/charity/cause/idea?
  • Wil this confuse anyone, or discourage them from interacting with my brand?

Making sure that your message is consistent with all your branded communications will ignite loyalty within your audience and will begin relationships.

Purpose

Every brand makes a promise, but it is the purpose that your brand declares that will really grasp the attention and loyalty of your prospective audiences.

Knowing your “why” is so much more meaningful to the audience. This is a message from your heart to others about what gets you out of bed to share this idea and this passion with the world.

When your audience knows and relates to your purpose, they will feel an instant connection to you and your brand.

Your brand will be observed in a few different dimensions, and understanding these will help you really express the core of your brand in a way that customers recognize.

Intentional: relates success to your ability to do good for the world and the money you get from that intention is a by-product. This can set your brand apart from others in the same industry.

This is a big focus for those who are branding their charity or cause.

Functional: relates success to how much money or attention your brand is making, focused on a financial objective in mind.

If you are branding a travel destination, think of how many new tourists you want to attract each year, what revenue that tourism will generate each year, and all other aspects of tracking tourism results.

If you need inspiration, do some competitor research and check out the other brands that you admire.

Emotional Impact

Emotion breeds connection, and creating a brand strategy will help you nurture that emotion. When you draw in emotion, you can effectively brand anything.

In order to do that, you need to know exactly who your target audience is. Some examples would be:

  • Single mom’s ages 25-35 who work from home.
  • College students working and studying overseas.
  • 50-year-old men, going through a midlife crisis.
  • Seniors who want to travel more, but are too afraid.
  • People suffering from arthritis, as your product makes it easier to open jars and do daily tasks without pain.

The objective is to understand their behaviours, lifestyles, and needs. This will help to create an emotional with your audience.

People have an innate desire to be understood and belong to something greater than themselves. This is what leads to making irrational, emotionally-based decisions, such as someone selling everything they own and co-running an animal sanctuary on the other side of the world, or starting up a charity providing dental work for less privileged people in their community.

Incorporating the psychological need to feel connected and belong, which is on Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, establishes a connection with others so strong that nothing will break their loyalty.

Appreciate Loyalty

You now understand the importance of developing loyal customers, but the most important part to understand is that you have to show your appreciation for that loyalty.

Some people will go out of their way and become self-made brand ambassadors for you. Think of a brand you absolutely love. How do you talk about that brand to others? Do you find yourself convincing other people to switch to that brand as well?

We want nothing more than to feel appreciated, so do something to express your appreciation for a customer’s loyalty. A handwritten thank-you note, a swag bag, and a shout out on social media are all ways to show your gratitude.

Competitor Awareness

Do you know who your competition is? Since you share a similar target market, you need to have a good awareness of who you are up against. Have a good, hard look at your competition, and notice what they are doing right, as well as what they are doing wrong.

Implement their successful traits into your own brand, and learn from their mistakes. This is also a great chance to learn what makes you different than your competitors, the more unique you are, the more you stand out from the crowd.

Be Flexible

After you finish branding your idea, charity, product or business, understand that this is not set in stone! In brand building, you will encounter times where you need to tweak your brand. Understand this, and accept those times where you need to make adjustments.

Learn More About Branding Your Ideas Today!

If this article struck a chord with you, realizing that you need to adjust your branding strategy, do not worry!

Re-branding is very common, and we are here to help! Feel free to contact us at any time, and we would be happy to assist you with your branding strategy to help your brand make a splash in your market!

Digital Marketing for Startups: 5 Tips for Success

Are you a new business owner? If you are, digital marketing should be on your mind. Marketing is essential to the success of your business, and with so many digital options at your fingertips, you’ve got plenty of places to start.

That large range of choices can be overwhelming though. That’s why we’re here to help. Digital marketing may seem like a giant squid to tackle, but really it’s a great opportunity to get your name out and let your customers get to know you.

Most of the world uses some digital format for interaction these days, and you’ve got to use that to your advantage. Digital marketing for startups is no different than marketing for existing companies. As long as you know the digital world, you can own it like you’ve been around forever.

Keep reading for five tips that will get you started on your way to marketing success.

1. Use Email Marketing

Email provides a great avenue for marketing, so don’t be afraid to use it. While we all get tons of emails we don’t want, we’ve all probably ended up clicking on some of them.

Email campaigns are a great way to get the word out, whether it’s through an email blast to potential customers, or an email sent to users who’ve signed up to receive your communications.

Newsletters and updates are great ways to stay in contact with your customers. Regular interaction reminds your customers of your company and services, keeping them in their mind.

Boring emails won’t leave a good impression, though. You want to send content that is high-quality and memorable. Start with a subject line that engages your customer. Make it catchy and interesting.

Do you have a sale coming up? Or is there an event that customers should know about Maybe you have a new product coming and want to create some excitement? Email marketing is great for all of these things.

Use persuasion throughout your email and make it easy to read. Bullet lists and headings are great for this. Small paragraphs help too. Let your email readers dive in and then point out the benefits of what you’re offering — don’t forget to optimize your emails for mobile viewing and make sure you’re using an email marketing platform so you don’t seem spammy!

If you’ve created a brand image (and you should have), emails are a great place to get this image out and on the minds of customers.

Lastly, you have to think about CASL (Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation) and make sure that you are compliant with this legislation.

2. Host a Giveaway or Contest

Giveaways and contests are great ways to engage customers in a way that they will remember. Events like this are highly interactive, unlike many forms of traditional marketing.

Due to the level of interaction and fun, this is a great startup marketing strategy. You’ll leave a great impression on people who are getting to know your company. You can even make it strategic by giving away your actual services so that you end up gaining entries from interested parties — which can then become leads!

Freebies go a long way, especially if your free items also happen to include your brand. Show your customers you are generous and fun and that you love to interact with them.

Digital platforms are great for giveaways and contests. They’ll bring traffic to your site and encourage sharing on social media. Have fun with these events, and make them unique to you. Services, coupons, freebies, items, and more can be given out to customers. And you know what? They’ll love it, whatever you give them.

People like to reflect on fun events, so give them a positive memory that they’ll immediately associate with your brand.

3. Use Social Media

If you aren’t using social media to market your business, you’re missing out on a lot of exposure. Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn all provide great platforms for digital marketing. These sites get people talking and sharing content from your site — especially when using authentic videos and images.

Social media sites are great for communicating with your customers. Reach out, and when they reply, make sure you keep up the conversation! Many customers will appreciate this one-on-one attention.

Social can be particularly helpful for local marketing since they can be used to get the word out about in-person events and sales.

4. Invest in Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is vital to the success of your company online. Without it, you might as well ditch your plans for a website. With thousands of other websites vying for the top spots in Google’s search results, you’ve got to know how to compete.

The internet is powerful and you’ve got to know how to play its game. Knowing what people will search for is a huge part of that. SEO uses specific keywords to make sure you show up in searches when and where you want to. Do your research and make sure you’re implementing this strategy or you may find your website lost in the never-looked-at pages of search results.

5. Learn From Competitors

Competitors’ websites and social media channels are great places to learn about what’s working and not working when it comes to marketing. Whether you provide services, goods, or content, sites that produce the same thing can tell you a lot.

As you research your competitors, look at what works as well as what doesn’t work. Check out their products, prices, and quality. Are people happy with them? Do customers interact with them? If so, why? What makes them want to ask questions or communicate with the company?

Looking at how business-customer interactions occur is highly relevant as well. Consider every aspect of what you see on a competitor’s site, then apply what you’ve found out in your own marketing.

Digital Marketing for Startups: A Review

We’ve listed several examples of digital marketing strategies that you should find helpful as you get your business up and running.

Marketing for mature companies may seem different than digital marketing for startups, but it really doesn’t have to be. Take these ideas and hit the ground running, and nobody will suspect you’ve just come on the scene.

Whichever way you decide to start your marketing, go about it like you mean it. Half-hearted marketing won’t get you anywhere, but purposeful marketing will.

Utilize fun events, social media, email, and other outlets to gain brand awareness and interact with customers — you’ll be seeing success sooner than you might think.

For additional information on marketing in the digital age, dive in and contact us today.

Personal Branding vs. Corporate Branding: What’s The Difference?

Chances are if you’re reading this article you already understand the importance of branding. Branding is an integral part of marketing. It works alongside your other marketing efforts to create a vision of what your company’s values embody.

Corporate branding and personal branding do however have some rather critical differences.

It can be easy to mix the two up and blurring the lines can sometimes leave you, and your company in a sticky mess.

Many worry about their company image becoming too personal and don’t ever attempt to incorporate any personal branding. For others, the thought of using corporate branding scares them. Some just have no clue about the difference between the two.

Luckily, this article will clear up some myths and take you through the difference between corporate branding and personal branding for you.

Let’s get started.

First, a Quick Overview of Branding

When you are considering branding first, you have to understand what that actually means.

When it comes to the dictionary definition, Branding is the marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products.

Here’s the simplest way we here at Octopus Creative define brand: Branding is about the promise of a memorable experience. It’s about creating an expectation and delivering it consistently every time anyone comes into contact with your brand, whether it’s the way you answer the phone, how your website functions, your social media presence, your brand voice or how your product/service performs. It’s how you make your customers feel when they are interacting with your brand.

In essence, branding is taking something as simple as water, which is clear, transparent and seemingly obvious and creating a perception and belief in the brand created.

For example:

  • Perrier’s water branding makes it seem refreshing, bubbly and high-end
  • Evian’s brand makes you feel young
  • Fiji Water’s brand embodies health, purity, and nature

But all are just clear translucent water; it’s how they created the brand image that made them stand apart.

So why bother branding? Because the main benefit of branding and the reason to employ branding is to boost profits.

What’s the Difference Between Corporate Branding and Personal Branding?

When it comes to the difference between corporate branding and personal branding, it’s important to look at both the pro’s and con’s of both types of branding and when it’s most effective.

When a Personal Brand Works

It’s never been easier to create a personal brand for yourself. The tools that are available today allow you to create a website and social media for yourself as a brand that can run alongside your business.

Deciding which type of brand you want to create for your person is a challenging subject, so let’s go through some benefits and negatives.

Pro’s of a Personal Brand

Personal brands can be flexible. This is an important point to remember, as your business grows, sometimes so do the services that you offer.

If you’ve created your brand completely around one service or product offering, suddenly changing that could be a problem for your corporate branding. Developing a personal brand is something you build around your name and you as an individual, therefore it’s easy to change what your focus is.

If you want to develop a speaking career, a personal brand is a great way to begin as it can help to associate your name with your area of expertise.

Personal brands also tie really well into one-man-band industries. If you are an author, artist, professional speaker, or Youtuber, having a strong personal brand will help to boost your business and attract new and interesting customers, viewers, bookers, or whomever your target audience is.

Con’s of a Personal Brand

When you invest heavily in a personal brand, you will need to associate your brand with what you do. You can do this with something like a tagline that you use regularly with everything you do. You can also associate with what you offer by pairing your name with interviews, articles, creating social media posts and booking speaking engagements around your area of expertise.

This can be risky though. If something were to ever happen to you–whether a medical issue or a PR issue–you may not have the framework in place to have your business run without you in the spotlight, and you may not be able to effectively separate yourself from the business, which is you.

It can also be hard to sell a business that has been built on a personal brand, and even when starting out it can be an important factor to consider. You may have no plans of selling your business now, but if in the future there’s even a chance of this happening, it’s an important thing to consider.

When a Corporate Brand Works

When you are looking to create a corporate brand, it’s going to take a lot more upfront work. Why? Because rather than using your name you’ve built years of credibility behind, you’re going to be making a new one, out of thin air.

This can mean a lot of hard work as you craft meaningful words out of nothing but the effort could be well worth it in the end.

Let’s run through some of the reasons you may or may not decide to choose corporate branding for your business.

Pro’s of a Corporate Brand

When you focus on corporate branding, you force yourself to consider the plans for your business–your business is now a real, legal person if you’ve formed a corporation. When it comes to selecting your businesses name, you have to think about a variety of different things like:

  • Who your ideal customer is
  • What your business will offer
  • What people will know your business for
  • How you want to stand out in a crowded market

Going through this process helps you to create a vision in your head for what you want people to know your business for and where you see it going. This vision goes above and beyond the name and tagline of your business.

Corporate branding also allows you to position the company exactly where you want to be from the get-go. You can use all the words you like, so make sure to find a few that adequately express what your business is offering.

This helps you to get your customer to understand exactly what you are all about from just hearing your name.

Corporate brands are also a lot easier to sell than personal brands. If you can create a recognizable brand that’s an asset, then other people may be happy to pay for.

Con’s of a Corporate Brand

Unlike personal brands, corporate branding is much more labour intensive. You’ll create a picture of what your company is all about, while you are still building it from the ground up and you may have to do it with multiple people that need to try to come to a consensus.

You’ll also find that corporate brands aren’t as flexible to change as a personal brand. If you decide to change course and offer something completely different you may force yourself to start a second business.

What Branding Is Right for You?

With both choices presenting different advantages, it’s time to consider which brand option is the best for you and your business.

For more help coming up with a spot-on brand strategy for your business, contact us today.

What to Consider When Hiring a SEM Agency

The real experts know they aren’t an expert in everything. That’s why over 62% of brands are leaving their online marketing in the hands of the real experts.

A knowledgeable SEM agency can transform your brand’s online presence. But as in most professional fields, there are plenty of charlatans looking to take you for a ride.

That’s why we’ve put together some key tips to help you find the SEM partner you’re looking for. Read on to learn more.

Can They Show Results?

A good SEM agency should be equipped to show you the proof in the pudding. There’s no good reason to take an SEM provider at their word.

If they say they can get results, get them to show you how. What successful projects can they show you? What hard data do they have to back up their assertions?

But it doesn’t all rest in facts, either. If it’s an SEM company worth their salt, then chatting with their previous clients should be enough to tell you if they’re worth your time.

Find out who they’ve worked with in the past and ask for testimonials. Check out their reviews and what people are saying about them online. It’s easy to set up a website and declare yourself an expert. Get the evidence to back it up.

Are They Realistic?

The internet is a bubbling chaos of communication. Nobody can wholly predict it. Anyone who claims to is likely trying to sell you snake oil.

When you’re looking for an SEM agency, stay cautious of anyone who promises you the world. Chances are, vacuous promises are a way of reeling you in. Once you’ve spent the cash, they’ll go on to underdeliver on their impossible guarantees.

Look for an agency with realistic ideas instead. They’ll factor in the size of your business, your reach, and your budget to draw up a picture of success that works for you.

You don’t need an agency that intends to rely on wishes for a successful campaign. Get one that can give you an idea of the facts and the reality you’re working with.

Do They Understand You?

Marketing of any kind is as much about knowing the business as it is knowing the customer. Your SEM agent should show that they’re ready and willing to learn about your company.

From the outset, you can judge them by the number of questions they ask. If it seems like they’re interrogating you about your business, great! That means they’re engaged and they understand what a tailored marketing campaign looks like.

On the other hand, if they seem more interested in selling you a one-size-fits-all solution, be wary. What works for other brands, even in your niche, might not work the same for you.

The ideal SEM will offer to work with you on a solution that suits your business. That means taking into account what you do and what your customers expect.

What Tools Do They Use?

If an SEM agent doesn’t know anything about analytics, they don’t know how to do their job. Web analytics like Google Analytics is a crucial part of any search engine strategy. They give live feedback on the success of marketing campaigns and thus your ROI.

Smart marketing means using analytics to tweak marketing in real time. It’s also fed back into future campaigns to squeeze out more success and patch up any holes.

An SEM lacking knowledge of analytics is like a pilot flying without instruments. Maybe they’ll get lucky and land it, but you’d probably prefer to feel safe in their hands.

How Long Have They Been Around?

SEM is an experience game. Although things change rapidly in the SEO world, most new developments build on what came before. You’re working with an SEM agency because you acknowledge you’re not an expert. That means they need to be.

Finding out how many years they’ve been in operation is a good rough indicator of the experience involved. Ideally, find an agency who’s remained focused on SEM from the beginning. If they’ve hopped around between different online services, it could be a sign they haven’t gained any real experience.

Even if they say they’ve been in business for years, try to check their history. Frequent name changes or domain moves could be a sign they’re not all they claim to be. A company with a bad rep will often try to shed their previous persona and adopt a new one.

It’s easy for anyone to set up a website and claim to be an SEM. Sifting out the frauds from the experts will be what decides whether you get value for money.

What’s Their Price Structure?

This one isn’t simply a case of knowing what your SEM agent would charge. SEM providers can have quite variable price models, so you need to figure out what you’re dealing with before you commit.

Some SEM agencies will charge based on clicks, others on a percentage of the overall output, or based on ROI. It may be difficult to compare across SEMs. But the main thing to consider is whether their pricing model suits you.

If you know you need a solid, predictable budget for your marketing, then you’ll want to go with an SEM who can offer a fixed figure. If you’re more worried about growing your brand than what you’re spending, then fees based on the overall media percentage won’t seem so bad.

Just be wary of the incentives SEM agents might have to drive up activity in return for more money in their pocket. You want the marketing campaign to serve you, not them. If the SEM is driving your spend, you may have fallen into their trap.

Find the Right SEM Agency

Shopping around to find the right SEM agency is a smart move. Once you have a few options, you can compare them to find the partner who will really work for you. By keeping the above points in mind, you can filter out the time-wasters and narrow it down to the ones who’ll make a difference.

Looking for more digital marketing advice? Be sure to follow our blog.