Network9 http://network9.biz Brand Consulting | Brand Management Wed, 09 Aug 2017 12:34:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Branding That Just Gets it Right. Lessons Learned From the Hive. http://network9.biz/brand-design/branding-that-gets-it-right/ http://network9.biz/brand-design/branding-that-gets-it-right/#respond Sat, 05 Aug 2017 14:23:16 +0000 http://network9.biz/?p=10547 The story of a brand that just gets it right When I read the story of Mikaila, who started her own lemonade company, Me & the Bees, I was blown away. She is only 12 years old now and a wildly successful social entrepreneur. I have a lot to learn about branding and creating buzz from […]

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Branding that Gets it Right Me and the bees-brand design

The story of a brand that just gets it right

When I read the story of Mikaila, who started her own lemonade company, Me & the Bees, I was blown away. She is only 12 years old now and a wildly successful social entrepreneur. I have a lot to learn about branding and creating buzz from this amazing girl and her family, whom she refers to as her hive.

What I love about her company is the way she totally gets it about branding. She puts every element together, but you can tell it’s real.

Look at the level of detail in the photo above, from the sticker on her laptop to the print on her dress. I just love this.

Mikaila’s Story

When she was 4, she was stung by a bee, twice. Once is enough to traumatize most kids, but not this one. Instead of developing a phobia, she developed an interest in bees. Her parents encouraged her to learn about them to overcome her fears.

She discovered their importance in our ecosystem and decided to do something to help them. That in itself is remarkable. At the same time, she was given her grandmother’s cookbook with a recipe for flaxseed lemonade, and an invitation to enter a business contest on Lemonade Day in Austin, Texas.

“So then I thought, what if I make something that helps honeybees and uses my Great Granny Helen’s recipe?”

She is all of 12 as of this writing. 

The Brand Design

Here’s what she does that every company can do in their own way…

  • Tells a compelling, real story
  • Combines her love of bees with a family legacy, making it personal
  • Uses flaxseed in her lemonade which adds a health benefit
  • Uses local honey giving it an exclusive ingredient
  • Shares profits with organizations that help honeybees, demonstrating social consciousness
  • Makes it her mission to save the bees that support our ecosystem, creating a sense of contribution when you buy her product
  • Uses media to get the word out
  • Created a perfectly scripted, adorable, on-brand video

Read more about brand strategies that slay the competition

How Mikaila uses language that reinforces her brand

“Buy a Bottle…Save a Bee.” is her tagline

“A bee in need is a friend indeed.” Is language in her video.

“My family hive” is a section on her website. And on and on.

Me-and-the-bees-brand-language-example

Just look at the graphic design on this logo.

It doesn’t get any better than this.

Branding that Gets it Right Me and the Bees brand logo

She has national distribution and sells out her product everywhere. She has been honored by President Obama, won funding on Shark Tank (at 10 years old), appeared on MSNBC, Good Morning America and on and on. This young lady is a superstar.

Wake up, business owners! This how a compelling narrative +  great design + powerful language + social consciousness = a big winner! 

Hello Mikaila Ulmer! “The future is looking bee-utiful.” Thank you for brand lessons learned!

Mikaila-with-her-bees

 

Talk to a Brand expert

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Ignoring SEO on Your Blog is a Waste – 7 Tactics You Can Do Yourself http://network9.biz/seo/ignoring-seo-on-your-blog-is-waste-of-time/ http://network9.biz/seo/ignoring-seo-on-your-blog-is-waste-of-time/#respond Tue, 01 Aug 2017 01:36:15 +0000 http://network9.biz/?p=10513 Are you writing articles but ignoring SEO on your blog? Do you just slap 600 words into WordPress and pray? Do you think you have to spend thousands a month for an SEO team to get the SEO value? Actually, you don’t. Who we are addressing here are authors who write articles but don’t do the […]

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Ignoring-SEO-on-Blog-is-a-Waste-of-Assets

Are you writing articles but ignoring SEO on your blog?

Do you just slap 600 words into WordPress and pray? Do you think you have to spend thousands a month for an SEO team to get the SEO value? Actually, you don’t.

Who we are addressing here are authors who write articles but don’t do the basic SEO work that makes them searchable. If you are ignoring SEO on your blog, you are wasting a valuable business asset, and you won’t see the results of your hard work.

Here are 7 essential techniques anyone can master. They will make a difference in getting your articles indexed and therefore more visible.

And, you can do all of it in WordPress yourself.

Infographic-7 essential SEO techniques

Be strategic about the content of your blog.

SEO is a big piece of it and we’ll get to that part. But first, write great content for your audience, not for Google. Then do the SEO work.

  1. Define your audience and understand them well enough to know what they are interested in reading. You are not writing to please yourself, this is about your audience. Nobody has a nanosecond to waste these days, so your content has to be good. Write content they want to read, offer news or learning. Read more about content writing tips for your target market
  2. Do research to back up your idea. See what others have written on the same subject, so you can add to the conversation or offer a new point of view. Google your headline. Write it in a different way and Google that.
  3. Look at the other suggested results at the bottom of the Google results page. These are keywords and phrases that people are actually searching. It will give you new ideas.
  4. Learn how to tell a story. Don’t be boring. If you don’t know how to do that, hire a darn writer!
  5. Study headlines that grab attention. There’s a trick to it. Experiment with different ideas. Be bold!
  6. Learn how to optimize your posts and use SEO: You have to be able to use the WordPress dashboard and tools.

To do the next steps, install an SEO tool:

In your WP dashboard, install Yoast, an SEO plugin that enables you to optimize your content. There are other tools, but we like and use Yoast. It rewards you with a satisfying green light when you get it right!

Yoast green lights in dashboard

Here’s 7 things you can do yourself to up the SEO value of your content:

1. Headings within your post:

Headings matter! Just like a book, you have a title, table of contents, chapters and sub chapters. There is a hierarchy for content in web content too.

There can be only one Heading1 tag…and that should be your article’s headline. It’s like the title your book.

Most likely if your site was set up properly, that will be automatic. If not, talk to your developer.

Ignoring-SEO-on-your-Blog-Headline text strategy

Make your sub headlines for content sections Heading 2’s. Select your sub headline(s) and in the toolbar, select Heading 2 from the dropdown menu.

Using-Heading-Tags--Don't-Ignore-SEO-on-Your-Blog

Make your sub-sub headlines Heading 3’s, 4’s. And so on. Read more about textbook perfect Htag structure

2. Write a snappy, strategic meta description:

Once your post is finished, you will add your meta description. Make it fun and a short synopsis of the article. This is to grab readers attention, BUT make sure it contains you main keyword or phrase. Be creative here!

Meta-Description-Yoast-SEO-Tool

3. Add Alternate Text (Or Alt Attributes)

This is a BIG one. I am amazed at how may bloggers omit this extremely important SEO factor.

Alt text goes on every image you use in your article. When you upload it, enter a short phrase that describes the image AND has your keyword in it. This practice started so that blind people can “see” your image through a text description. It also allows Google to see it too. Don’t waste this asset.

Where-to-add-Alt-text-in-Blog

Each image should have different alt text. For instance, if your article title is “How to Write SEO Content”, then one image can say “Person Studying How to Write SEO Content”, and another could say “Tools for How to Write SEO Content”. Don’t label them “image-1-lg”.

4. Sprinkle your keyword or phrase throughout the article, but don’t overdo it.

Yoast will guide you. The phrases don’t even have to be exact. Google’s latest changes now accommodate context.

5. Link to your other articles or external references

To promote your other content, another asset, drop in the article title and create a link to it within the body of the text. Like this: Read more about SEO 101. If you refer to research or a news article for example, link to that. It adds authority.

6. Check  and adjust your SEO work

Follow what Yoast suggests. If the readability light is not green, break up your sentences to be shorter. Tweak your text to adjust. See what turns red or green on the tool dashboard. It will tell you exactly what to do to maximize SEO value. Just do it.

7. Promote!

Now you’ve done all you can in your dashboard. The rest is engagement, which adds another marble in your SEO jar.

Likes, comments and shares in particular, tell the search engines this is good content. Big SEO bonus: this creates inbound links to your article. Post it on LinkedIn, FB, tweet about it or any other medium you use in your business. Don’t keep it a secret!

What is SEO?

In case you’ve been on Mars for the last decade or so, know that SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It’s a way of saying that you’ve written your content in such a way that search engines can index it and people get the most relevant result when they search. Sounds simple, right? It sort of is, but there is a lot more to it.

Get writing services for your website

Why is SEO important to your business?

In theory, you can affect your company’s placement in search engine results by following SEO best practices. The challenge comes in what Google considers “relevant.” Many pieces of content can be relevant to the same topic.

So how does Google decide which comes first? This is where it gets interesting.

There are tons of articles on how to do SEO, but it takes time and talent to master this. If you want to move your content up in rank fast, hire an SEO expert who has the knowledge and the tools to handle the analytics. There are many ways to work the technical part of your website to include SEO strategies.

Really want dig deep into learning SEO? Read articles by Neil Patel, my personal favorite SEO Guru.

These techniques are part of any SEO team’s toolkit, but simple enough to do for those who don’t have that advantage.

Make the most of every blog post with SEO

If the purpose of a blog is to keep your business relevant, but the search engines can’t find your content, what good is it doing? None. Stop wasting your time by ignoring SEO.

Does this sound a bit overwhelming? It certainly can be, which is why businesses like yours so often hire teams like ours.  You can leverage our SEO expertise and make your content work as hard as you do. If you want to have a conversation, contact a member of the Network 9 team today at 1.212.979.8055.

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Green Power: Brand Strategies That Will Slay the Competition http://network9.biz/brand-design/green-power-brand-strategies-to-slay-competition/ Wed, 31 May 2017 12:00:05 +0000 http://network9.biz/?p=10478 Get some green power: Adopt brand strategies that create recognition, trust and loyalty. That’s how you’ll slay the competition. It doesn’t matter what type of business you own. Every niche is absolutely saturated. For green brands, this is especially true, as more and more consumers want to be responsible for our environment and their health. It takes time […]

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Green-Power-Brand-Strategies

Get some green power: Adopt brand strategies that create recognition, trust and loyalty. That’s how you’ll slay the competition.

It doesn’t matter what type of business you own. Every niche is absolutely saturated. For green brands, this is especially true, as more and more consumers want to be responsible for our environment and their health. It takes time to establish a strong foothold in the market, and a new competitor can knock you off your feet.

No matter what your market, your company faces the same 3 challenges to making a sale:

“I don’t know you. I don’t like you. I don’t trust you.”

For new buyers with no history with you who search the web for your type of product, the first thing they see is your website or social page. They need to get to know you a bit, like a blind date.

What your website and social sites say and the way you say it can either create trust and likability, or it can sound generic and boring, making you forgettable.

Break-Through-3-barriers-to-Sales

Here’s how you can overcome the 3 barriers to sales:

  1. Create a design and write copy that tells a story. This will make you memorable (Now I know you.)
  2. Tell stories about your history, people, values, and interactions with other customers. This builds likability. (Now I like you.)
  3. Include case stories, testimonials, charitable giving and current articles about new innovations, industry and company news. This builds credibility. (Now I trust you.)

Look for a designer who understands the connection between language and brand. Hire a writer who knows how to tell a story.

Read more about storytelling

Once you’ve got this, here are 3 more ways to slay the competition:

Green brand strategy #1: align your company with others that share your brand values.

It makes sense for you to get your products into stores that champion green brands. If you’re selling eco-friendly snack foods, you want to be the shelf at Whole Foods (perhaps the most well-known of all green brands). Green building suppliers would be smart to align their brand with Home Depot, who is rapidly expanding into this sector with its new Eco Options program.

The 3 barriers to sales apply to companies as well as consumers. When they know, like and trust you they are much more likely to buy from you.

Green brand strategy #2: focus on benefits.

Don’t go shouting from the rooftops that you have the eco-friendliest product around. It’s bound to be challenged. Instead, let consumers decide for themselves what qualifies as “green”. What you can do is talk about the benefits your products or services provide. Here are some real life examples:

  • Tide Coldwater® laundry detergent announced that you can now wash all clothes in cold water (and get the same results), thereby saving the energy that would have been used to heat the water.
  • Philips shares exactly how much money (and energy) you can expect to save over the life of a particular lightbulb, when compared to traditional incandescent bulbs.
  • Charmin announced that its paper comes from responsibly-managed forests. They tell a story about how they have reduced manufacturing waste by 85%, and water consumption by 18% between 2010 and 2015.

You get the point. None of these big brands are shouting that they’ve gone green. They’re simply telling us about the positive progress they’ve made.

Benefits let you draw your own conclusions, making your message more powerful and memorable.

Brand-Strategies Testing-on-Focus-Group

Brand strategy #3: pay attention to the reactions of your audience.

Branding is all about how your audience feels when they interact with your marketing materials. If you want them to feel a certain way, but their reactions on social media or when they contact you tell you they feel otherwise, that’s a good indication that you need to change direction. Rethink your copy and ask if it tells a compelling, not boring story. Test it out on a focus group.

Besides trust and loyalty, what green consumers should feel when they encounter your marketing message is:

  • Inspired to “go green(er)”
  • Connected to your core values
  • Validated by your message
  • Empowered to make a difference
  • Feel good about helping the environment

At Network9, we love our planet too. Let us give your green brand the power it needs to slay the competition in a saturated marketplace. We can get you there. Contact us at 1.212.979.8055 to get started building a brand people know and love today.

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How Storytelling Humanizes Software Companies and Boosts Sales http://network9.biz/brand-design/how-storytelling-humanizes-software-companies/ Wed, 03 May 2017 15:55:33 +0000 http://network9.biz/?p=10430 Software sales and marketing departments often rely on “tried and true” sales tactics such as listing detailed technical specs or years in business. While that info is important, it doesn’t differentiate you or create a human connection. If your old sales model is leading your business into obscurity, it’s time to change direction. How storytelling humanizes […]

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Software sales and marketing departments often rely on “tried and true” sales tactics such as listing detailed technical specs or years in business. While that info is important, it doesn’t differentiate you or create a human connection. If your old sales model is leading your business into obscurity, it’s time to change direction.

How storytelling humanizes software companies and benefits sales!

Instead of blah blah blahing about technical specs or how many years you are in business, why not tell a story that is so compelling people see how your product and your company is the only clear choice? It works!

Barriers-to-Sales

Every company is up against these 3 barriers when new customers come to you:

  • “I don’t know you.”
  • “I don’t trust you.”
  • “I don’t care.”

How Storytelling Humanizes Software Companies and Boosts sales

How telling stories shows consumers your human side and breaks the barriers:

  • Stories demonstrate who you are as a company and as people. It shows them your purpose, motivation, expertise and culture. (Now I know you.)
  • The key thing here is although you are talking about yourself, if you show people how all of the above benefits THEM it creates likability and trust.
  • What makes you different from (and better than) the other guys? Using uncommon language to answer this question shows people you are uncommon. (Now I trust you.)
  • Show people you care about them works to have them care about you. Talking about your community involvement the way Tom’s Shoes does creates positive feelings for your company. (Now they care.)

The end goal is always to get your ideal customer to know you, trust you and like you. 

Obviously, the same thing applies to the software that you are selling.

Unless you have a unique product, you have competition. Why should they buy yours?

You want your prospects to fall in love with your product and your company in equal measure. 

Know your shortcomings. Hire a professional.

We adore software engineers and their teams, but let’s face it, many of you aren’t writers. You know every facet of the program you are selling, but when you try to explain the benefits to a potential customer, it comes across as very technical and cold. How can you overcome this barrier? 

  • Always be ready to share your “why”. Why should people buy from you? What problems does your software solve for them? How is it different from anything else?
  • How did you get to this point in your life? What was the path that brought you here? The answers we get to this tell us about motivation, ingenuity and drive. This forms the basis for an “about us” page that is very different than “We have had 25 years of experience.”
  • What makes your company different? Is it one-on-one service, 24/7 customer support, implementation assistance, or maybe something else? What is your secret sauce?

Storytelling-is-memorable-not-boring

Once you develop your brand story it can be repurposed into website copy, brochures, ads, presentations and your elevator pitch.

When you embrace your story, you’ll be very different from everyone else. That makes you memorable, not boring.

When companies build their brand through powerful storytelling and compelling website copy, it results in increased conversion.

We love working with our fellow business owners in order to help them achieve success through individual, thoughtful branding. 

That, of course, includes the visual part of the design to which you’ve become accustomed to seeing when you hear the word “branding”.

But a brand is way more than a pretty face. It must tell the story of your business in a way that makes people feel they know you, they trust you and they like you. That’s how storytelling humanizes software companies and closes more sales.

Do your website and presentations do that? Talk to a Network9 Presentation Pro.

Talk to a Brand expert

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Why IT Pros Should Have a Go-To Web Design Agency http://network9.biz/brand-design/why-it-pros-should-have-web-design-agency/ Thu, 20 Apr 2017 13:13:45 +0000 http://network9.biz/?p=10412 IT professionals are modern day heroes; businesses can’t operate without you. But now that your clients have identified you as their resident computer genius, you’ll almost certainly get requests that extend beyond your normal scope of work. Where does your work begin and end? Here’s why IT Pros should have a go-to web design agency. […]

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Why IT Pros Should Have Web Design Agency

IT professionals are modern day heroes; businesses can’t operate without you.

But now that your clients have identified you as their resident computer genius, you’ll almost certainly get requests that extend beyond your normal scope of work. Where does your work begin and end? Here’s why IT Pros should have a go-to web design agency.

We get it too! Since we operate in the website/Internet/programming world, clients ask us about anything related to computers. They don’t distinguish between systems management and software support (IT) and writing website development code.

The Left Brain, Right Brain Conundrum

IT is a left brain logic and engineering skill. Website design is a creative marketing (right brain) skill.

Let’s look at the typical tasks of an IT services company and a web design and marketing agency:

Left-Right-Brain-Skills Web Design

They could not be more different, but the overlap lies in the code development.

Because there is code involved in the website building process, clients believe their IT firm can handle the whole thing. Sure, you could fix a website, or program one from scratch. But the primary work is creative A computer IT technician is a left-brain engineer, who keeps the computer systems running. Designers are right brain creatives who drive the sales process.

Read our post on why having an IT guy be your website manager is insane!

Websites, Branding, and the special skills that bring them together

A brand’s image is determined by the visual and emotional impact of its marketing components and the language that communicates it.

A website is the most significant visual expression of a company’s brand, and like most visual media, it requires artistic ability. It should be beautiful, functional, and convert to sales. Websites are a vehicle for storytelling (which is a far cry from data mapping or troubleshooting hardware issues).

Client interaction is huge

Most IT Pros we know prefer keyboard interaction over people interaction. Designing, writing and building a website takes many, many hours and a ton of client face time. Do you see yourself doing this?

3.5 Billion and counting…

With over 3 billion websites out there in our borderless global economy, it’s tough to stand out. Design pros stay on top of new in website technologies, know how to engage prospects, and how to get the client’s website to convert to sales. When it’s done well, this is a specialty that can turn a “mom and pop” into an empire.

IT Pros Serve-Clients-Sanity-Intact

Keeping sane and serving clients

Because you care about serving your clients and their businesses, you want to support them. But you also want to keep your sanity intact.

We all have a network of people with amazing skills who we can call on for specialty services. Having a go-to web agency you can refer your clients to makes you another kind of hero.

Find a great match whose work you trust, whose business practices are aligned with your own and who you can count on to deliver value to your clients, just like you do.

Browse our design work

After all, you wouldn’t bring a PC repair kit to a design studio, and you won’t find us trying to repair a server anytime soon. If you’re an IT professional who wants to develop a relationship with a reliable and creative web design team, give us a call. We’re eager to meet you, too!

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