How to get the most out of your relationship with your marketing agency

A client-agency relationship is more than just a business transaction. It takes more than charismatic account management and savvy sales pitches to make the relationship really work. What many agencies and clients miss, is in the on boarding process– from the business objectives to the culture. Here are 5 key points to help you kick-start an awesome partnership with your marketing agency:

Invest some time

Given that you’re trusting this agency with the reputation of your brand, you need to feel confident about the ability and reputation of the team. Plus,  actually getting on well with the people you’re dealing with has a huge impact on your relationship – so don’t be afraid to explore the company culture, values and, of course, technical expertise. Developing authentic, trusted connections with your customers is at the heart of marketing; similarly, you need to feel confident in your relationship with your agency. The best way to do this? Invest some time when it comes to finding out a little bit more about the agency, whether it be heading over for a lengthy chemistry meeting, going out to lunch or arranging a happy hour.

Agree to a communication plan

At the start of any new client relationship, a communication plan should be mutually agreed upon from day one. 

Some tips to consider when agreeing to a clear communication plan:

  • How often and how you’ll catch up, whether it’s in person or over a call
  • Your point of contact – Knowing exactly who your liaison is saves a lot of time and effort when you’re in need of a prompt  response
  • The agreed goals and objectives for your business and what you expect from your agency.
Set measurable key performance indicators (KPIs)

In order to keep up with and evaluate the performance of your campaigns, your agency will need to provide you with specific metrics against which to benchmark success. These should be based on business goals and expectations that were set out at the very beginning of your relationship. Reviewing them thoroughly will allow for greater productivity moving forward, and will also signal when there needs to be a change in strategic direction as well.

Make your meetings count

No matter how often or seldom your meetings occur,  preparation will enable you to get the most value from your meetings with your agency and negate the need for continuous threads of emails or calls outside your regular meetings.

Tips:

  • Agree upon an agenda before each meeting. This will give you the opportunity to include topics that are a priority
  • Have objectives clearly defined before the meeting
  • Ensure all relevant people are present to allow decisions to be made
Make the most of your agency’s expertise

You know your brand and industry the best. Similarly, your agency will know the latest developments and technologies in their industry best. In order to optimise your campaigns, they should be able to anticipate twists and turns, and should have the ability to adapt quickly when things don’t go as first planned or when new opportunities arise.

Your agency should always work according to your agreed plan and scope, but flexibility is crucial to the success of your campaign performance. Not only does this benefit your outcome, but its encourages your trust in them to be able to deliver on outcomes that matter to you.

At the end of the day, your agency contains a wealth of knowledge and expertise, so use it! Explore all the ways you can learn from them;  whether it’s downloading guides, reading their blog or regular newsletter or simply asking questions your agency can help you grow your own skill set.

Want to talk more about how an agency of experts could help your business? Drop us a line at [email protected]

7 things to consider when choosing the right PR agency

Are you thinking about hiring a PR agency?

With so many agencies to choose from, it can definitely be an overwhelming process to find the perfect partner to help communicate the right brand message to the right audience.

Whether you have gone through the selection process in the past or you’re looking for the first time, here are the 7 crucial factors to consider when screening potential agencies:

1. Plan and prepare

First and foremost, you’ll need to decide what your business goals and objectives are. Do you want to achieve brand awareness, or make your new product launch the talk of the town? Or perhaps you want to establish yourself as an important thought leader in your field? Having a clearly defined goal helps to narrow your search down to find agencies with the right capabilities and expertises.

2. Size does matter

Bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better. Large firms may have greater manpower and resources, but smaller agencies make up for it with a nimble and flexible team that’s quick to catch changing trends. By default, smaller agencies have a flatter hierarchy with less bureaucracy and red tape. This can translate into saved time and resources, and greater visibility into operations. What’s important is to identify an agency with the right size and fit for your brand – one that has the relevant experience and staff to meet your needs.

3. Avoid a bait-and-switch

When hearing pitches, pay attention to the team. Make sure what you see is what you get. Are you dealing with a large agency where smaller accounts are handed down to junior staff? Will the team pitching to you be working on your account? Some agencies send a pitching team made up of senior partners and the top creative honchos to woo you, but once business is secured, the account will be handed off to other members of the team. Clarify who will be developing and executing the campaign to avoid unpleasant surprises.

4. Making connections

When you hire an agency, you gain their valuable contacts and connections. Make sure the agency has trusted and positive relationships with the right people and media. Besides making it faster for you to see results, your business would also be able to leverage upon those relationships beyond PR purposes.

5. Area of expertise

It goes without saying that the agency you hire should understand your industry and the basics of your field. Having to constantly explain programmatic buying to the account manager can get frustrating, so pick an agency that has experience in your industry and region. They should be able to work their magic and simplify the technical jargon, making even the most unsexy topics sound fun.

6. Practice what they preach

PR is one of the fastest moving industries, and it’s important to ensure the agency you choose is dynamic and always one step ahead.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when making a decision:

  1.   Are they experienced with social media?
  2.   Do they provide digital strategies in addition to traditional PR?
  3.   Are they able to provide media training?
  4.   Can they build great thought leaders?

If, for example, an agency says they specialise in executing social media strategies, check to see if they have an updated blog and social media pages. You can tell a lot about an agency through its online presence. Are they practicing what they preach?

7. Counsellor versus yes-man

While it’s important for an agency to execute campaigns well, they should also be providing strategic counsel and speak up when they feel your ideas won’t achieve much. Instead of a yes approach, an agency that challenges your ideas and offers alternative solutions works better than one agreeing to every single idea. Having an objective view and strong news judgement is one of the biggest benefits to hiring a PR agency. You want an agency that takes initiative and thinks outside of the box to find the best solution to help achieve your goals.

Keeping these tips in mind will help you choose the right PR agency with the appropriate capabilities, experience, and right fit for your company.

 

Keen to learn more about what Mutant can offer? Drop us a note at [email protected].

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4 ways to convince your manager to adopt content marketing

Exactly two decades ago, Bill Gates predicted the power of content marketing, writing an essay on “Content is King”. We’ve been hearing this mantra ever since. It’s not exactly without reason, because content is driving the internet now. The most visited websites are full of great content and for a business, this opens up many opportunities to attract valuable leads. Producing quality content relevant to your audience demonstrates your company’s knowledge and expertise, and positions you as a thought leader. When executed correctly, it helps build brand trust, awareness and a positive reputation.

Now you may know this but…what if your manager doesn’t hold the same belief?

It could be down to a lack of education or understanding and it can be frustrating to get them on the same page.So, here’s how to convince them:

  1. Angle your pitch

You know how a convincing pitch is prepared to woo a prospective client? Yup, so apply that same principle on your manager. Tell a story, find common topics, and relate it to how content marketing can help them with their job and drive the business forward. Let your manager come to his or her own conclusion by asking if their recent purchases were made based on obvious advertisements, or after reading opinions, articles and reviews.

  1. Target business goals

Familiarise yourself with the company’s business goals, and demonstrate how content marketing aligns with the business objectives. Besides the (obvious) potential increase in revenue, demonstrate how the goals of traffic growth, business leads and good customer experience can be achieved with content marketing.

  1. Offer solutions

Find out what problems your target audience faces, and come up with a few content ideas to show how your business can address these questions. This step combats any reservations managers might have about the business being too “boring” to generate interesting content.

  1. Be prudent

While it’s good to show your boss the many benefits of content marketing, you do need to explain this is a long-term strategy that works on building brand awareness and reputation.

It’s not easy persuading a superior, but hopefully with enough preparation, your manager will jump on board the content marketing train by the time you leave the meeting room.

 

Now that your boss has converted, drop us a line at [email protected] and let us help you drive your content marketing campaign.

 

How to score your first job in PR

Internships are vital for getting your foot in the door. Just because you’ve studied for more than a decade to eventually get your degree doesn’t mean you’re automatically entitled to a full-fledged job the moment you graduate.

The harsh truth is that most agencies aren’t going to hire fresh graduates with no experience, but they are always on the lookout for interns. So you may have to bite the bullet for 3 – 6 months in an internship before you can even dream of getting your name cards printed –  and that’s ok!

So, take it from me, an intern turned full-time exec at Mutant – you need to stand out.

No boring cover letters, please

The first step to writing a good cover letter is to differentiate yourself. Don’t follow wikiHow’s tips on how to write a cover letter and ditch the boring and formal language that so many people write in.

Hiring managers receive tons of resumes every single day so you need to impress them right off the bat. If you’re going to write in the exact same way as everyone else, chances are the manager won’t even bother to look at your CV.

PR agencies look for people that can write well, and creatively. So if you’ve got the skills, why not show it off in your cover letter? It is after all the very first impression that you will make on your potential employer.

 TIP: Get started on writing that killer cover letter here.

Be active

You need to show the agency why you should be considered for the job. Telling them that you’re enrolled in the relevant degree is great, but so will everyone else.

In a competitive market, the need to stand out is stronger than ever. Employers don’t necessarily look solely at grades but also at other external activities or communities you may be involved in.

Prior to Mutant, I had a couple of finished personal projects and a previous internship under my belt. This included my short digital video creation stint with Youtube x SK-II, being a suggested user on Instagram and 5 months in an e-commerce startup.

The more activities or projects you’ve done, the more you’ll have to show and talk about in your CV and interview. Even if you’ve never worked in PR, the relevant experience in those projects will show employers your interest and passion for the field.

TIP: Start with something simple, like freelance writing.

Tailor your application

Don’t blanket send! I applied for many internships and jobs at various PR agencies and their specialisations ranged from lifestyle, startups, tech, healthcare…and the list goes on. I didn’t send them all the same CV and cover letter. Instead, I tailored each one to make it more relevant to the specific job description and the business.

Tailoring your job application to the business will show the agency that you’ve done your research and have interest in the position.

Do your research

This is a no-brainer. Simply take 15-20 minutes out of your day to go through the company’s website, social pages and profiles of who will/may be interviewing you (I said ‘may’ because sometimes you won’t know who will be sitting in the interview).

Because agencies usually have their case studies up on their website, it’s just like an open-book test. Reading through them will help you think of interesting questions to ask during the interview.

This is something I’ve done across various interviews – and to the interviewer’s pleasant surprise, they said they never expected someone a junior to do that much research.

Bottom-line, it honestly isn’t that hard to exceed expectations. It’s just 15-20 minutes of research. Do it. Don’t be lazy.

Ace that interview

If you’ve secured that interview, congratulations! The next step is to ace it.

Doing a couple of rehearsals beforehand and thinking of some good questions to ask will help you get ready and feel more confident. Remember, interviews are not just for the employer. They are also a great opportunity to learn more about the business and if you see yourself as a good fit. You can also find out about the job opportunities available for you after the internship.

 

Landing a PR internship is the first step, the next, is to dominate it. Stay tuned for the second part of this blog, where I will share my secrets on how to turn a PR internship into a full-time position.

So, have you got what it takes to be a Mutant? Visit our careers page for more information.

You can’t do everything

This feature is part of a regular series”Getting frank with Joe” giving you a brutally frank, yet realistic look at the business world.

When you run your own business, it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing no one has the same passion and drive that you have. You’ll think other people’s way of doing everything isn’t how you would do it, the quality and attention to detail isn’t at the level you have, and the drive and passion behind it simply isn’t there.

The ironic thing is that you are correct. Your business is your baby and you cannot expect people to have the same investment in it without the emotional and financial input you have had.

But it also doesn’t matter. Seriously, stop complaining and be a solutions person.

Having worked with dozens of startups, this is one factor I regularly see that impacts the long term viability of a company – no matter its market potential.

Focus on growing your business

In a small business it’s easy to oversee all activity and influence everything. That’s cool if you want to stay a small business, but I’m guessing you don’t. If you are spending all your time overseeing everything, you need to ask yourself how effective you can be actually growing your business.

You know what you are good at, so why not focus on that? Get other people to do the other work to free you up.

Different doesn’t mean worse

When you hire someone else to do a job, I guarantee that 95% of the time they won’t do it exactly how you would. You need to get over that. I don’t mean throw quality to the wind, I mean get used to people doing things differently.

It’s better to get something happening, than to kill time and slow your growth doing everything yourself.

If quality drops when you step away, or your staff aren’t performing, then invest your time into training rather than instantly taking over every function. If things don’t improve, fire them, and hire someone better.

Interns are not a growth solution

I’ve seen this a lot and I think it’s worth slotting in here as a standalone point. If you are trying to resource your company by stacking it full of interns, you are going down a dangerous path. Yes they are cheap and enthusiastic, but they are also inexperienced and short-term.

By all means, have your interns to help lighten the load, but don’t treat them as a replacement to hiring experienced, capable professionals.  

Experience is sometimes worth the spend

When you hire for any specialist role, make sure you’re getting someone who knows what they are doing and are experienced in the field. It’s worth the extra money.

If you are tight on finances the argument is the same. It’s better to have someone who is experienced and great working for three days a week, rather than paying the same for a full-time junior who needs constant support and checking.   

Specialists are specialists for a reason

If you are using an agency or have a senior hire, listen to what they say. This doesn’t mean you can’t have input – it means that you don’t ignore their warnings without an extremely good reason.

I’ve seen so many CEOs of all-sized businesses decide they know better and interfere in a process they, quite frankly, have no business getting involved in.

You might have read the newspaper every day for your entire adult life or even been interviewed a couple of times, but it doesn’t mean you know more about the media than the trained specialists you are paying, who have dedicated their working lives to getting results for clients.

I know all of this is easier said than done, but if you invest your time and resources towards making sure the people around you are capable and awesome, the payoff is massive.

Have a question? Why not drop us a note at [email protected].

 

The do’s and don’ts of social media

It should be no surprise that in this day and age our eyes are glued to anything that is square-ish, has a touchscreen, and fits comfortably into the palms of our hands. Chances are, the opened apps include Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat – the works, if you will.

If we’re going to be spending this much time browsing through social media, we might as well do it right. And to all the millennials who think they’ve got it down – think again.

Social media can be used by almost everybody. You don’t need to have 10 social media accounts or post something every half an hour to be deemed active. To obtain and sustain a successful social media presence and witness the results you really want, first understand the following do’s and don’ts:

Don’t focus on the number of likes

What an outrageous thought, but let me explain why. What really matters isn’t how many likes you receive, but rather who liked your post. If you scroll through a list of ‘likes’ and realise that you really only wanted to reach 5% of them, the rest are as good as none. This is because you’ve attracted the wrong audience, resulting in a lack of engagement.

To put it simply, let’s say you run a small ice cream cafe and post on Facebook announcing that chocolate scoops are 10% off, praying silently that your customer numbers will magically double overnight. But instead of dessert enthusiasts, you realise that the ‘likes’ came from your co-owner, boyfriend, and mother. Sure, these are all people extremely dear to your heart, but they’re not who you’re targeting. The ‘likes’ may look impressive online but they’re not serving your business’ purpose.

Reach out to YOUR target audience

Some posts on Facebook may be boosted to become ads, meaning that you pay to reach a wider audience. Boosting essentially means selectively choosing the audience who sees your posts on their News Feed. It’s a very cost effective way to reach the right people, and Facebook’s Business Manager page gives you the complete rundown on how to fully utilise the functions to effectively promote your business.

Take a look at the example below:

Sponsored advert example for content

As a frequent budget air flyer who’s always looking out for cheap deals to Taiwan, this FlyScoot ad definitely appeals to me. FlyScoot consistently monitors footprints on their social media pages and website, and effectively churns this data to target audiences who need to save a buck or two but still loves to travel around Southeast Asia.

Don’t slap on texts and links

Humans on social media have attention spans even shorter than that of a goldfish – an incredulous three seconds. This disturbing yet very real fact should make you think twice about how you post. If you want to share a blog on your company Facebook page, you pretty much only have one shot to get it right.Just think about all the other pieces of content which you are competing with – you need to make your post stand out!

Customise the appearance of each post

Spot the differences between these posts. Which would you rather click on?

Social media advert examples - sabines baskets

 

There is so much flexibility with social media these days. Certain functions allow you to not only enhance the visual appeal of your posts but also increase your readership.

For example, posting as the Page Admin on Facebook allows you to:

  • Edit the post caption to remove any URLs
  • Replace the default photo that automatically comes with the link
  • Rewrite the main header of the link
  • Change the subtext of the link
  • And so much more

These simple yet effective tweaks transform a boring, black and white post into one which really displays the most attention-grabbing information. Remember, you’ve only got three seconds to reel in your audience, so make it count.

Don’t be the same

Companies usually make the common mistake of posting the same content across all their active platforms – meaning the exact same captions, hashtags, and images. Sure, you’re getting the word out, but you’re also annoying your audience. Don’t get me wrong, it’s alright to share the same information across all your social media, but be creative about it and tweak it to match your audience.

Be selective and get creative

It’s important to understand how each platform works. Instagram for example, leverages on jaw-dropping photos and hashtags to capture the right audience. While Facebook extends beyond this by allowing users to share their reactions or emotions.

Look at this example below from The Yard:

Social media advertising on mixed platforms

 

Both of these posts talk about the same thing: new trampolines. But, they’re customised to sit well within each respective platform. Doing this will allow you to reach the maximum number of users without turning anyone off.

Now it’s your turn – go create magic on social media.

Need help with social media? Drop a message to [email protected] 

mutant-social-media-cta

 

 

4 steps to simplifying your fancy shmancy software pitch

How many times have you attempted to explain your software platform or application and start blubbering out a list of features before flatly declaring, ‘Well, it’s an Uber for…’

Every time you fumble with your pitch, you lose out on potential clients, investors, customers and partners. ‘Geek speak’ won’t help you scale your business to billions. So how are you going to explain deep tech to the masses?

Even if you are able to sell it to a potential customer well-versed in jargon – sales people won’t be able to sell the jargon, they need something easily digestible.

Whether you’re working on a deck, elevator pitch, sales pitch, or just talking to someone at a party – you’re going to want take the lingo down a notch.

Here are four steps to simplified success:

Before you start, think of your product, answer these questions, and look to them often for anchors.

1. Why does this exist?

Most people tell the ‘what’ before the ‘why’, and the listener loses interest. Answer the question, ‘so what?’ before some even asks it.

Let’s take a great example. If you watch HBO Silicon Valley, here is the product elevator pitch before (By the CTO, Richard) and after (The Visionary, Erlach):

The what (Richard): “Pied Piper is a loss-less middle-out compression algorithm.

Mutant-piedpiper

 

The why (Erlach): Today’s user wants access to all of their files, from all of their devices instantly. That’s why cloud-based is the holy grail. Now Dropbox is winning, but when it comes to audio and video files they might as well be called Dripbox. Using our platform, Pied Piper users would be able to compress all of their files to the point where they truly can access them instantly, we control the pipe they just use it.

2. Replace jargon with how it works

What’s the point of sounding smart if no one knows who you are? The best leaders are ones that show people what they are doing. Particularly in ad technology, it’s a really really crowded space and everywhere you turn there’s a new best practice article about what all these acronyms stand for.

3. If you’re struggling, use metaphors 

If you’re not able to identify a problem that you’re solving, try to explain how your product works using metaphors. This works best when you’re talking about your product at a networking event. If you’re talking to a total stranger with no knowledge of their background, it’s an easy way to get people on the same level before hitting them with the facts. Here’s an example:

 Ad impression

Jargon: When an ad is fetched from its source and is counted whether or not the ad is clicked is not taken into account.

Translation: An ad impression can represent an employee that showed up to work but didn’t really do anything, and still got paid. When an ad is loaded onto a web page, and there’s a chance that someone will view it, it’s counted as an impression even without clicks. (Jargon translated from www.mediaratingcouncil.org).

4. Write an email

If you’re having trouble writing an email about what your product does write it, then delete it, and write the entire thing again — it is guaranteed to be clearer the second time around.

The first time you write it out, your mind is just working through how it works – rather than the bigger picture. When you clear your physical space and write it again, it will come out with more brevity and clarity.

 

Need help simplifying your message? That’s what we do. Write us at [email protected].

Your brand sucks: Part 2

If you’ve just joined us, this feature is part of a regular series giving you a brutally frank yet realistic look at the startup world. In ‘Your brand sucks: Part 1” I talked about realising that effective brand communication is key to success. This second part will continue with some more honest truths.

  • You are not Steve Jobs

You just aren’t.

Don’t make subtle comments in meetings about what Steve Jobs’ approach to marketing was. Don’t make sly comments about Steve Jobs’ attention detail when you are ripping apart plans or copy. You just aren’t him!

But don’t worry. You are you, and that’s awesome. You can have your own vision for your brand. Use that to justify your decision making processes instead of having input simply for the sake of having input.

You are building your own empire, and that means there are a whole new set of rules that you decide, and which marketing students in 30 years’ time can marvel at. If you don’t know what the vision is, then that’s also ok. Plenty of amazing leaders have built billion dollar companies by knowing their strengths and collecting the right people around them, who can help them to articulate, communicate or even develop a vision and brand.

  • Don’t go cheap

This makes me want to cry. I see it most often from the types who transition from a bigger corporation into startups. They are used to these things simply happening in the background without understanding it. They usually react to the discovery of cheap offshore outsourcing like they’ve discovered a life hack no one else has ever stumbled across before.

They’ll proudly pull out their branding decks at a first meeting and exclaim how they got it done in Thailand for a few hundred dollars (often followed by a series cocky statements reminding us that our prices need to be dirt cheap, or they’ll simply get that done offshore as well.)  

Firstly, I take this as an insult to me, my colleagues and the craft we’ve spent our working careers learning and developing in. It’s not a great start to any partnership to insult the other person. If you talk to me like this at the beginning, I will simply tell you to go elsewhere. Why would I pour my energy into your brand if I think you’re an arse?

Secondly, the “great deal” you were offered probably sucks. Nine times out of 10 you’ve gotten something I would slap a high school student for submitting. This is particularly true if you’ve just asked them to come up with something without a brief or concept.  

If you fail to see the problem and refuse any input, I’d write you off as a lost cause. No one’s got time for that, and I’d prefer not to associate my agency’s brand associated with you. As a startup you are already up against the odds. Throwing in an amateur, cheap-looking brand and poor strategy just makes your own life so much harder.

Like any rules there are exceptions, and people love to cry out in outrage pointing out the inaccuracies of it all because they can point at a handful of companies it doesn’t apply to.

And to be honest I don’t care. Ignore it and make your business journey 10X harder than it needs to be.

It’s not about spending money, it’s about using your brain.

Need help? Drop me an email at [email protected].

Content distribution 101

You have written all this content, but what’s next?

You may have read our recent post which talks about making the most out of your content, and stretching it that extra mile, and in this post I’m going to go a bit further and explain what content distribution is and how to develop a clear strategy.

Content is all the rage, but if you publish it on your website and leave it at that, it’s very unlikely that many people will ever see it. This subsequently becomes a waste of your time, resources and money. Any marketing activity needs to be backed up with a clear strategy that best matches your goals. Content is no different and there are many avenues that brands can take advantage of to gain their worth in words.

There are three main ways in which content can be distributed.

  • Through paid channels – when you pay for you content to be distributed (i.e. Advertorials, social ads, Google ads etc.)
  • Via your own channels – the channels that you have direct control over, such as your website social media, and newsletters. Basically, anything your have direct control over.
  • With shared opportunities– when other people share your content through PR channels, to include media coverage, social shares, reviews etc.

Below is a chart showing the activities falling under each category. Interestingly, it shows us that all three distribution channels are connected. This simply means the same piece of content can in fact run through multiple channels.

Content Distribution strategy

(Source: http://blog.bufferapp.com/content-distribution-tools)

The more visibility your content piece has, the more people are going to see it, which ultimately means you will have more success in delivering your message, and evoking a response.

However, I do need to stress that a great content distribution strategy means very little if the piece of content is not suitable for your intended audience or is poorly written – so firstly get that right. (Check out our blog to help you create quality content)

Work out a strategy that best suits your budget and goals. Incorporate as many channels as you feel are necessary in reaching YOUR target audience. Ask yourself: Where are they looking for content? How do they engage? If you are targeting a younger female audience, say 25 and under, with your latest beauty product and tips, it’s fair to say they are very active on social media, so competitions, mentions, shares and reviews will be most effective, as will engaging with influencers and running targeted social ads.

Your content strategy should ultimately help drive sales, and in-between help educate and inspire your target audience. Be smart and never compromise on quality.

Part two of this topic will show you how to set up a content plan and distribution strategy – so stay tuned.

Need help with your content? Drop a message to [email protected] 

Content Marketing CTA

Your brand sucks: Part 1

This feature is part of a regular series”Getting frank with Joe” giving you a brutally frank, yet realistic look at the business world.

Look, I get it. You’ve worked your arse off building your business – you deliver a product or service you are proud of. The market is simply waiting for something like this and a massive increase in sales is just around the corner simply because you have nailed it. Right? Wrong.

When you fail to communicate your brand, you will not achieve the success you aspire to and – most likely – will crash and burn. I’m not about to give you a step-by-step guide on how to do that but I will give you a few pointers to keep in mind.

  • Your business is not unique

I’m a simple guy; I love the idea that a person can deliver an exceptional product and it will become a success. But unfortunately those times are no longer here, if they ever existed.

Sure, there is the odd exception, but when you do come across those rare cases, there is a specific purpose and strategy behind it. Think of those cool bars with a secret entrance and no obvious branding. They didn’t get popular simply because they make a good cocktail, there is a specific strategy behind their success. This can be a mix of PR, word of mouth and social media. I’ve seen amazing businesses go under because they wanted to be underground or aloof, without understanding how to effectively communicate.

It’s not just lifestyle either. Whether you are in construction, B2B technology or whatever, if your target market doesn’t know you exist, can’t relate to you, or they don’t easily understand your key values, then you are not building the long-term relationships that is  needed to scale your business.  

  • Take a look in the mirror

All founders need to take a good, hard look at themselves before getting too involved with branding at a creative level for both planning and execution. Supply the vision and ethos that will guide the strategy, but if you lack the skills, understanding, or even interest to get involved, then please don’t.

I’ve seen all sorts of approaches towards brand strategy and communications, where the CEO doesn’t have any experience or know what they are doing. If they recognise they lack in the area, they are often fine. The others, less so.

mutant-startup-brand

In one meeting, I met the CEO of a tech company that had successfully raised millions in funding. It was an amazing platform and should have done really well in the market since they launched 18 months earlier. Yet here they were looking for desperate last ditch measures to get sales, so they could raise more funding just to survive.

I asked the CEO about his marketing and branding strategy. There was none. He even told me he hates doing “that sort of stuff”, yet he was the one in charge of executing it. Unsurprisingly, the marketing efforts fails, and then the CEO decides it doesn’t work.

With millions of dollars and over a year of operations, this company had built itself a large global team, yet not one person outside of the CEO had a role that involved giving thought on how to actually get the product in front of paying users, or how to build the brand or to scale it (beyond tech requirements).

So there you have it! Stay tuned for the second instalment to my branding series where i’ll guide you on how turn failure into success.

In the meantime, drop me a note at [email protected] if you could use a hand promoting your new idea.

Missed the first Getting frank with Joe instalment? Check it out here.

 

Getting frank with Joe Part 1: “No one cares if you are a startup”

Okay, maybe your friends, family and investors do — but that’s about it. The rest of the world couldn’t care less that you are a startup.

They say they care, they think they care, they like the idea of it and the romance of it all, but they don’t really care. Don’t blame them; I’m sure they are nice people, but at the end of the day, their love of supporting a startup goes no deeper than an immediate reaction.

This might come as a bit of a shock because your business is everything to you. To you. Allow me to run you through a few home truths to help you avoid falling on your face when it comes to managing a successful startup.

Your target market doesn’t owe you anything

You can certainly leverage being a startup in your branding and to tap into natural sympathy and support. You can even cultivate pro-startup audiences and have your brand develop and evolve over time.

But be under no illusion that most people won’t hesitate to drop you if they have any issues or face any barriers.

They will gladly move back to their safe corporate, mass market product if you impact their consumer experience in any way. It’s simply the nature of the beast.

Don’t be a loser

Always be positive around friends, contacts, clients… anyone.

Why? When you talk about your business, even your closest friends are making subconscious decisions about you and your company, and when they have the opportunity to refer you to one of their friends or contacts, they know their reputation and credibility is also at stake.

If all they hear from you is complaints about staff or how tough it is, they are going to form a negative image of you and are less likely to make the referral.

But when you are positive and they feel like you are on the up and up, well, everyone loves a winner.

This is not necessarily a conscious decision. And yes, if you are too positive, you run the risk of not sounding genuine. No one believes any entrepreneur who says it is all smooth sailing.

Try something like this:

Friend: “Hey mate, how’s business?”

You: “Really good. Cashflow is a total pain in my arse but we are getting some really strong traction.”

Boom. You get your gripe out, but the positives outweigh it and you still sound like a winner.

Don’t let your bubble become a crutch

I often come across founders or staff from startups who are extremely tapped into the startup scene, constantly patroning drinks, networking events and conferences. In many ways this is great – you will learn something from your peers in this space and you’ll have a good time. They will be a valuable source of tips, advice and a sympathetic ear, but it does not replace your need to get out into the real world.

Unless your company or brand is aimed at the startup community, no one cares if you are friends with a dozen different CEOs of bootstrapped enterprises. By all means keep your toe in the scene, but the law of diminishing returns exists even for your own time. Instead, think about who your target audience is or what you want to achieve, and go where they go.

Don’t be a wuss

Toughen up. It’s supposed to be hard.

Recently, I was blown away when a startup I was meeting with said they couldn’t meet before 11am because that’s when they arrive at the office. Seeing my shocked expression they followed up with, “Oh don’t worry, we work really late. Like until 8, sometimes 9.”

It was clear they had bought into the romanticised version of their own story – staying up late working over Red Bulls and pizza with the occasional break to play Xbox. Meanwhile they are barely doing a normal day’s work because they don’t turn up until lunch.

I’m all for work life balance, but if you are serious about your startup, you are going to have to haul arse.

There is more to having a startup than proudly proclaiming it.

So basically, ignore the fact you are a startup in your day-to-day work life. Your number one priority is to move your business forward, so focus on that. Don’t let the hype or romanticism blind you. Be awesome every single day and get on with being successful.

If you have any questions just get in touch with us at [email protected].

This blog was first published in Tech in Asia on 19th April 2016

What is content? – Part 4: How to be an engaging thought leader in 2016

It’s 2016, and the internet is hungover from the content overload of 2015. Thought leadership is still as relevant ever as a way to build your brand, but there’s too much of it floating around left unread.

As we mentioned earlier, the production of content is going up as engagement goes down. To ensure your thought leadership piece doesn’t get left behind, follow these six tips.

Look for your industry’s pain points. Before just writing what you know, do some research on and offline to find out what’s bothering people in your industry. As industries are becoming increasingly digital and offline activity goes mobile, there are lots of unanswered questions. Not sure what the future holds? Prediction pieces always make for great hits.

Take a stance. Having a strong opinion doesn’t mean pushing your ideas on other people, it means encouraging a dialogue and inspiring others. If there’s a topic dividing your industry, consider taking a side you believe in and go with it. As long as you know what you’re talking about it can be a positive to be a bit controversial, especially with the huge volume of copycat how-to blogs out there.

Give anecdotes. To make it seem like a really organic thought, give short windows of situations that taught you a lesson. You could also share a staff journey that can inspire others in their own careers.

Skip the cliches. Cliches can over simplify certain concepts and ideas. Using your own words and examples will help you establish your own voice that will be easier to remember.

Name drop. People want credibility in thought leaders. If you studied at a prestigious university, worked close with an inspirational leader, or worked at a Fortune 500, mention it.

Don’t have the time to produce your own thought leadership? Let our skilled content writers do it for you. Contact us at [email protected].

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