Optimize My Brand

Strategy, tactics, ideas and tips from Creative Company.

Website SEO review: Dos and don’ts

When it’s time for a website SEO review, think marketing first SEO is today’s critical marketing tactic. It’s essential for anyone who wants to build their business. Why? Because people looking for answers, goods or services (what you offer), are starting their search online. Great Search Engine Optimization gets people to your website, not someone elses A search engine doesn’t shout, “look at me!” the way an ad or billboard does. It’s a go-to tool we all use when we’re seeking answers, we want to learn, or we’re eager to buy. It’s not intrusive. It waits patiently until we’re ready to look. When someone arrives at your website via search, it’s by choice. They have actively looked online for what you offer. You didn’t have to shout to get noticed. They found YOU. That’s a huge advantage in closing new business, no matter who you are. Keywords for SEO are one of your critical marketing ingredients because they help people find you online. They’re the words and phrases people type in to find what you offer. Choose the right keywords and you will send warm leads—people who are already looking—to your website. That’s good. Really really good. Sounds easy? Not really Here’s the thing. If you sell shoes, you’re probably going to use “shoes” as a keyword. But lots and lots and lots of people sell shoes. So how do people find you? Get specific. Google offers a good overview of SEO that shows you how to narrow your keywords to get better results. That’s one angle—get specific and descriptive so it’s clear you offer dark roast coffee beans instead of instructions... read more

Brand messaging is more important than the logo

Brand messaging is your verbal brand Your brand is both visual and verbal. Once design has established the look and style, it’s the message that will clarify your positioning and articulate your value to your target audiences. Whether building a brand from the beginning, or refreshing an existing brand, choose the words that will resonate with your audiences, from their point of view. Instead of just speaking to what you do and what you have to offer, shift your brand message to converse with your audiences, to invite them to learn more, to give them the outcomes and results they can expect. Before building the brand messaging hierarchy, understand your audiences, what they expect, the problems you solve for them, and the results they see from working with you. Then find the expectations and desires that draw people in, that are the “wow!” … whatever you do or offer that’s over and beyond what’s expected, that causes delight and appreciation. Those are the ideas to layer into your messaging hierarchy. It’s more than the brand promise When we develop brand messaging, the brand promise (some people call it a tagline) is at the top of the hierarchy. Think of it as a promise to the customer and not a shorthand description of what you do (that’s why we call it a brand promise, instead). Although the brand promise is what’s heard the most and is the statement that accompanies the company name and logo, often in a design lockup, good messaging extends beyond the promise. Brand messaging hierarchy Think of brand messaging as a series of key ideas that lead the right people... read more

Write well and prosper: 8 tips

Content marketing, the term applied to today’s information-rich, education-focused marketing process, requires clear, concise and appealing copywriting. Here are 8 tips to help you write well for marketing … and prosper. Although I’ve been creating content for marketing for many years, only in the last three years have the following 8 points crystalized for me, to help me write well. They’ve driven me to whack down the number of words, sharpen my focus and phrasing, get to the point and write well from my reader’s point of view. What a difference it makes. I look back on pieces more than five years old and wonder, “What was I thinking?” What spurred the change? What has driven me to edit ruthlessly and focus to create better content? Learning more about SEO, and studying results of web writing, emails and other measurable digital content. Here’s what I’ve taken to heart. Here are the 8 tools and ideas I use to improve every word, phrase and paragraph. Today, when you write well, you’ll see response. 1. Copy written for good SEO is good marketing copy. This is REALLY important. When you write well the words and phrases that help your audiences find you are the same words and phrases that communicate your marketing position. Why? Because good SEO and good marketing deliver what your audiences are looking for. The best advice for writing a blog that draws traffic is “answer people’s questions.” Marcus Sheridan (the Sales Lion) exploded his business when the economy tanked by following that rule. Check out his insights. People want to do their own research–especially on a large purchase–before they... read more

Flesch reading ease: Your website is not a college textbook

15 seconds … or less … is your window of time to connect with your website visitor and entice them to look further. What does your website say? Is it frank, direct and clear? Or is it a complex muddle of confusing, long, run-on sentences packed with buzz words and industry lingo? Today’s web searchers have no patience. They’re clicking through quickly if they don’t see what they’re looking for. Or leaving if something leaves them baffled about “what do you do?” and “why should I care?” The Flesch Reading Ease score will improve your writing. This simple tool, found in Word and many other writing programs, scores objectively and mercilessly. Once it’s turned on, it will show up after a grammar and spell check. If you can’t find it, search the help menu for instructions to activate it. If you’re on WordPress, the SEO Yoast tool (free) also uses the Flesch Reading Ease score as it checks your copy for keywords and readability. It’s worth installing. The formula looks at average sentence length, average number of syllables in words, length of each paragraph and active or passive writing. It delivers (in Word) multiple scores, including the Flesch Reading Ease score and the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level as well as basics like word counts and averages. What are your target scores? The higher the Flesch Reading Ease score the better (the top is 100). The lower the grade level, the better. Generally more than 70 for reading ease. A grade level around 6th grade will give you clear and direct copy. In industries where terms are complex, this may be hard to do.... read more

Inbound vs. outbound marketing–attracting vs. shouting

Are you shouting to be heard, instead of attracting those who want what you offer? Inbound or outbound marketing, which strategy is right? Advertising in all of its forms is based on one premise … “hey, look at me!” Of course, smart advertisers will place ads where they expect their target audiences will be looking. But those ads–from magazines to TV to billboards–are still based on intruding, demanding attention. Shouting. Inbound marketing incorporates some advertising, but is a digital strategy based on attraction, instead of shouting. When you’re considering inbound vs. outbound marketing, one doesn’t replace the other. In fact, inbound and outbound marketing can work well to support and enhance one another. Yet inbound marketing is today’s marketing, because it’s designed to attract people who are looking for what you have to offer–online. Quick definition of inbound marketing, according to HubSpot: Sharing is caring and inbound is about creating and sharing content with the world. By creating content specifically designed to appeal to your dream customers, inbound attracts qualified prospects to your business and keeps them coming back for more. As the chart shows, inbound marketing includes tactics to attract and then engage your audiences, to turn them from visitors to customers. The advantage of software like HubSpot is these tactics are integrated into one online program. It’s possible to create, watch, measure and then improve based on the results you achieve. Why inbound? Why attract instead of shout? Digital. The web. Where do you start when you’re researching, comparing prices, deciding which airline or hotel or shopping? Things have changed since the heyday of advertising. (Think Mad Men,... read more

Economic development brand and website transformed

Creative Company collaborated with the McMinnville Economic Development Partnership to rebrand the organization and redesign their website around their messaging and positioning. The new economic development brand identity puts the focus on McMinnville and Partnership. The website, built-in cooperation with McMinnville-based LVSYS, transforms how McMinnville is presented to local, regional and out-state businesses that want to locate, start or expand their business, or hire a workforce in McMinnville. The logo design establishes an economic development brand that is both business-like and friendly. By putting the emphasis on “McMinnville” with a calligraphic font, the logo communicates both the personal touch and the group’s focus on McMinnville. Supporting the script is a classic sans-serif font with an emphasis on partnership. The MEDP brand promise—Exceptional Performance. Enviable Lifestyle. All Here—is integrated into the brand identity with a calligraphic “all here.” “Taking on a complete reworking of our brand, core messaging and ultimately a new website could have been overwhelming,” explained MEDP Executive Director Jody Christensen. “But Creative Co. walked us through each step with keen insights and innovative tactics. The results are authentic, targeted and unique. This project has exceeded our expectations in every way.” Deep information that’s easy to find The goal for the Partnership was to create a website that provides deep information about services available to businesses, while showcasing McMinnville companies, lifestyle and resources. A simple, open design with clear calls to action and large text makes the site welcoming and very easy to read. The LVSYS platform supports in-house updates and content additions by MEDP staff. Creative Company built content from the messaging hierarchy created in 2011 for... read more

Brand build for the new year, are you ready?

The new year is nearly here. Is your marketing ready? This year is nearly done. Have you seen the changes? Economic recovery. New opportunities. More demand for what you offer. (we have) Yet when you think about your marketing program, are you frustrated? Excited? Just trying to keep up? Hang on … there are more changes coming. How’s your brand? Build for the new year The end of the year is a good time to step back and take a hard look at your brand and marketing. Is it still working? Are you getting response? Or … are there new audiences to reach and new stories to tell? The challenges we have seen in the last few years will only continue to proliferate. How people choose, what they look for, what they expect, and where they search for information … get back to basics. What’s predicted for 2015? More changes, more digital options, more opportunities. “The only constant is change.” A few predictions summarized: “Brands are publishers,” content that educates, informs and adds value will grow as a critical marketing tool and a brand build tactic What’s your story? The human stories that build authenticity and add heart will elevate the brands that use them Expect more visuals–bigger images on websites, tiles with photos instead of plain links, more pictures in social to get more shares Digital marketing and social media will continue to morph–more options, pay to play on social, more screen sizes … mobile/responsive is essential for your website and brand build program Where to start? What’s imperative for 2015? It’s a digital ecosystem, true. But we’re all still... read more

Website ideas and content reach homeowners

A refreshed website explains proactive, preventive home repair services Salem, Oregon-based Kaufman’s Home Maintenance offers a service people don’t use or understand. The company had the dual challenge of showing homeowners the value of scheduled home maintenance and signing up new customers. To reach their audiences, Kaufman’s had to re-boot their marketing strategy and add new website ideas. Kaufman Homes Inc., founded by the Kaufman brothers 40 years ago, built a reputation for top-quality custom homes. Over the years, brothers Dean and Duane Kaufman discovered a common issue. Many homeowners didn’t know who to call when things went wrong. “We were constantly fixing others’ mistakes, many of which could have been avoided if a preventive home repair and maintenance program had been in place. We discovered frustrated homeowners trying to find qualified and reputable contractors to handle home repairs and other home services. That’s why we started Kaufman’s Home Maintenance in 2008.”  –Dean Kaufman But Kaufman’s weren’t seeing results from their initial marketing push. After attending a seminar presented by Creative Company’s president, Jennifer Larsen Morrow, they called. Starting with the audiences Creative Company began by identifying the target audiences—homeowners without the time, tools or skills to handle repairs. Scheduled home maintenance means no more tinkering around the house and no more weekends spent on a never-ending ‘honey-do’ list. Elderly homeowners and working professionals are the main target. To reach these audiences, the firm redesigned print ads and digital billboards to focus on familiar problems—from the “honey do” list to minor home repairs. Every billboard includes a link to an updated, more descriptive website, KaufmansCanHelp.com. Previously, the website ideas didn’t give complete information. Interested homeowners want... read more

Your positioning statement guides your marketing

Positioning statement–the anchor for your messaging Although it seems like it should be simple to define what you do and offer in one statement, it’s not. Creating a positioning statement that guides your messaging hierarchy requires discipline, insight, a focus on your audiences, an understanding of what makes you unique … and a good wordsmith. Once achieved, the positioning statement is at the core of communications–it defines who you are from the audiences’ point of view. What is a positioning statement? Every word must add to the meaning and tone you wish to create. It must support how your audiences perceive you. It defines what you offer that they value. A good positioning statement doesn’t focus on the specific products or services you provide. It summarizes how you work with your customers, what they can expect from you, what you bring to the table beyond any specific products or services. When enhanced with a value proposition and three key ideas (as well as the brand promise) your positioning statement will guide your entire marketing program. Use it as a checkpoint, to test new campaigns or content development. Extract the ideas and concepts to inspire headlines for ads or copy for websites. The positioning statement is the single concept or impression that should come to mind when someone thinks of the organization—the thing that distinguishes you from competitors. Positioning influences all aspects of messaging. Part of the messaging hierarchy In the messaging architecture we create for clients, the positioning statement expands on the brand promise. It expresses what makes you unique, what’s important to your target audiences, and what’s important... read more

Writing websites: Don’t make me squint!

A great website is informative AND readable As our online styles and tastes change we still need to understand how people see and read. Writing websites is one level, but how the copy is formatted and appears on screen is just as important. Websites and blogs continue to evolve. Layouts are more open, must be responsive, and text is shorter. More photos and visuals help people navigate from section to section and page to page. Images dominate (because our brains process them 60,000 x faster than words). Even though our image shows a senior, review the facts below. Even at the age of 40, we’re reading and light challenged. Yet many designers (especially the younger ones who have good eyes) love the look of what I call “mouse type.” They often focus more on overall look and presentation of the layout than on content and readability. This leads to websites with dense copy in small fonts. Or layouts with reverse text (white on black) or low contrast between text and background. Ouch. Many available website templates also have these unreadable formats (plus long line lengths) built-in. Double ouch. From Smashing Magazine, this excerpted post summarizes why 16 pixels is today’s minimum font size for websites or blogs. We actually prefer even larger sizes for body copy–20 pixels–which gives us 16 pixels or slightly less for captions and credits. “Important Facts About Reading There are some particular findings that are pivotal to issues such as readershipand readability and comprehension. If people won’t read it, or if they can’t read it or understand it, then what’s the point of having it? At age 40, only half the light gets... read more
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