The Rise of Bot Marketing

Chatbots are taking over marketing. You may have not even noticed that you’re talking with a bot as they’re so seamless. These messenger bots have invaded Facebook messenger, platforms like Kik and WhatsApp, and are present on ecommerce websites across the Internet. Bot marketing saves companies and advertising agencies time and costs on their marketing efforts as they propagate across different marketing segments.

Despite the rapid growth of chatbots, there’s still some concern over their ubiquity. Bot messengers can certainly take over many tasks from humans, but for the moment, they only enhance and supplement traditional digital advertising. Ultimately, human interactions are a necessity for many online sales to occur and chatbots can only take you so far.

However, the future is coming fast, and chatbot marketing technology is constantly evolving. Smart speakers like Amazon’s Echo ecosystem, Apple’s Siri, and Google Voice are all informational chatbots that employ some marketing techniques, including allowing you to order food, call an Uber, and perform other functions. With some key tips, you can utilize existing chatbot technology to improve your marketing strategy and reduce stress on your team.

Customer Service

This is probably where you’ve most frequently seen chatbots. Even today, most businesses force you to wait on the phone and wait for a customer service representative while listening to incessant muzak. Many people are getting more impatient and want to be able to everything online. Whether it’s ordering food, banking, or online shopping, we want to do these tasks with speed.

Messenger bots make these chores easier—a chatbot can often answer your question in a short period, and a customer service agent doesn’t need to get involved. 24/7 customer service is now possible without paying someone to be there all hours of the day. If your customers do need additional help, chatbots can transfer them to a human.

chatbot image

Personalized Ad Creation

Ad agencies are always looking for ways to create more personalized creatives. Facebook and other messenger bots can greet customers, collect preliminary information, and then use that to generate customized ads. These personalizations can increase conversions and lead to future and repeat sales. It’s important that the bots appear to be as human as possible, or this technique won’t work. A quality chatbot will at least initially appear to be an actual customer service representative, while a bad one can damage your brand image and lower conversion rates.

Analyze Your Customers

Chatbots can do a whole lot more than talk to people. They can analyze consumer data and optimize your sales and marketing strategies with those conclusions. If you’re using chatbot marketing to sell a product, it can track purchasing patterns and monitor your clients’ data, giving you key insights to redevelop strategy.

By utilizing the processing powers of messenger bots, you can save on the costs of hiring an analyst and avoid the possibility of human error.

Customer Feedback and Surveys

If you want to grow your company and evolve your brand, you need genuine feedback from your customers. You can use survey responses to help design future business strategies and improve your customer relations. Bot marketing makes this process much easier than it has been in the past. Forget tired and expensive phone surveys that never get completed.

AI-powered chatbots can adapt conversations based on customer responses and get useful data. Wizu is a chatbot specifically for conversational surveys, helping you improve your customers’ experience and giving you valuable insights. Polly uses Slack for surveys, leveraging the power of the chat app itself to create perceptive questions.

The Future of Chatbots

male cyborg representing bot marketingAs chatbot technology grows, their versatility only increases. They are already an asset to marketing firms and businesses as they’re deployed for a myriad of uses. Bots will continue to be a marketing asset in the future, especially when used in voice assistants. You can use chatbots to handle many of your marketing needs to increase productivity, efficiency, and lower costs.

Used in the right fashion, chatbot marketing can revolutionize your business. You can learn more about your customers and increase your conversion rates with minimal cost and effort.


For the latest in chatbot technology, consult the experts at Leverage Marketing. We utilize the latest technology and can help your business grow to its fullest potential.

The 6 Biggest Myths About Buyer Personas

Whether you’re in marketing, sales, product development, or customer service, creating buyer personas can help you deliver what your customers want. However, your buyer personas may not give you the insights you need if you’re going about them the wrong way. There are several pervasive myths that can cause businesses to waste time on poorly-conceived buyer personas:

  1. Buyer personas are entirely fictional.
  2. Buyer personas are only representations of a company’s best customers.
  3. Buyer personas should contain as much information as possible, even if it’s not obviously relevant.
  4. It’s best to have as many buyer persona segments as possible.
  5. Each buyer persona represents a specific person.
  6. Once you create your initial buyer personas, you’re done.

We’ll look at each of these myths in greater depth, but let’s pause for a moment to define the term “buyer persona” for the purposes of this article. Inbound marketing pioneer Hubspot sums the buyer persona up nicely as a “semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.” You can use customer interviews and other historical data to create profiles for different segments of your target audience. You can even give them names like C-Suite Cecily and Freelance Freddy if you want (Hubspot is really into this). However, what’s much more important than the names is determining how and why the persona makes certain purchasing decisions. By figuring this out, you’ll get better at developing marketing materials that strike a chord with your audience.

Creating accurate buyer personas is harder than you might think, and there are a lot of misconceptions that can lead both novice and seasoned marketers astray. We’ve debunked six of the most common myths about buyer personas below.

Myth #1: Buyer personas are complete works of fiction.

When creating buyer personas, you shouldn’t be polishing your creative writing skills. Don’t just write personas based on what you think you know about your customers or what your sales team has told you. Look at real customer behavior, from time spent on different pages of your website to survey form fills to purchases. Conduct interviews with a large swath of prospects and customers. Interview team members from different departments within your company (sales, marketing, customer service) as well. These team members interact with customers at different points in the buyer’s journey, and bringing their insights together will give you a clearer picture of the path to purchase your customers take.

Myth #2: Buyer personas should represent your ideal customers only.

satisfied customer five star conceptAccording to Hubspot’s definition, buyer personas represent your ideal customers, but we politely disagree on this point. It’s easy to call up a few of your company’s best customers and let the praise wash over you. But that’s not going to give you insights into your typical buyers. It’s okay to reach out to your biggest fans, but you should also interview the people who make infrequent purchases, started as prospects but didn’t close, and even those people who have had a bad customer experience with your company. Figuring out the stumbling blocks that prevent people from making a purchase will help you develop better personas—and that may help you remove those stumbling blocks.

Myth #3: The more information you can cram into your buyer personas, the better.

You don’t need to include irrelevant information just for the sake of making your buyer persona seem like a well-developed character. You probably won’t ever need to know if your target customers ride motorized scooters or regularly eat French toast for breakfast (unless your company is in the motorized scooter or breakfast food industry). Getting too granular can be a waste of your team’s time.

That’s not to say that your buyer personas shouldn’t be specific: they just need to focus on the details that are most relevant to the buyer’s purchasing process. Here are a few things you probably do need to know:

  • What causes them to invest in your products or services
  • Concerns they may have when purchasing from you
  • What selling propositions (e.g. free shipping, high-quality materials) are most important to them
  • How they expect your products or services to solve a problem for them
  • Who or what influences them during their decision-making process
  • How they prefer to shop for your products (e.g. in-store, on their smartphone)

Myth #4: The more segmented personas you have, the better.

It’s easy to get carried away when creating buyer personas. You’ve collected all this data, and you start to convince yourself that maybe there really are 20 different buckets into which you could segment your customers. There’s no right or wrong number of buyer personas, but creating a bunch of microscopically specific personas is going to be confusing and unhelpful. Start with one or two core personas and build out from there as necessary.

Myth #5: A buyer persona represents an individual.

Don’t lose sight of the fact that Freelance Freddy isn’t a real person. In fact, Freelance Freddy (or whatever you’ve named your buyer persona) isn’t even supposed to represent a specific person. To paraphrase Hubspot again, your buyer personas come from an amalgamation of data provided by your customers. That means that there will be some variation within each persona (for example, some people who fit the persona might be Content Marketing Managers while others might be Directors of SEO).

Myth #6: Once you create your initial buyer personas, you’re set.

Maybe you and your team decided to create buyer personas as a marketing exercise a year or two ago but filed them away and haven’t looked at them since. If that’s the case, you’re wasting a tool that can be valuable across the sales funnel. Get those personas back out and bring them up to date. And even if you have been using buyer personas consistently, you should make a goal to update them periodically, especially when your business goes through major changes that could affect your personas (e.g. a new product offering, a subscription price increase).

Take the time to get your buyer personas right, and you’ll be able to use them to develop marketing materials that attract qualified visitors, leads, and customers.


Need help developing buyer personas or creating content that speaks to your audience’s needs? Contact Leverage Marketing to learn how we can help you target the right prospects.

How Online Apparel Brands Succeed with Digital Marketing

Of all the consumer goods available online, the apparel category—including clothes, shoes, and accessories—has seen some of the biggest gains.

Revenue for online apparel in the U.S. reached $80.96 billion in 2017 and is projected to grow to over $123 billion by 2022.

Online sales are expected to account for 40% of the apparel and footwear market by the 2030s.

In the past few years, major fashion houses like Louis Vuitton and Gucci have begun shifting marketing dollars from print ads to digital channels in response to the steadily growing popularity of online apparel shopping.

Apparel brands that focus on their ecommerce presence have opportunities for dramatic growth as shoppers move online. But the competition is stiff. Big brick-and-mortar retailers like Macy’s and Kohl’s have been investing significant resources in building their online stores, and Amazon is cutting into the apparel sales of traditional apparel retailers with its low prices and fast shipping.

Niche apparel brands can’t compete with Amazon and other major retailers on price and shipping, so they must carve out a unique selling proposition—and clearly communicate that proposition to their target audience—to succeed online.

How are small- and mid-sized apparel businesses standing out from the competition and connecting with online shoppers? We spoke with three business owners (and Leverage’s own Director of Strategy, Dan Valle), to find out what digital marketing strategies have worked best for them.

Foolies: Developing a Buyer Persona to Grow a Brand

Niche apparel brands can’t succeed in a crowded online space unless they have a clear understanding of who their ideal customers are. This was something that Alex “Nemo” Hanse, owner of the T-shirt company Foolies Limited Clothing, learned as he built his brand. “When I started seven years ago, I thought that my brand was for EVERYONE,” Hanse says. “Incorrect!”

Hanse realized that he needed to focus on a narrower audience, so he began building a profile of his ideal customer, including details like where she works, what her goals in life are, and how his brand would bring value to her. One thing he realized as he developed his buyer persona was that he should be focusing on marketing to women of color. He stresses that this doesn’t mean other women can’t buy his T-shirts. “It just means I know who I need to talk to [in order to] get my message across and help my brand grow.”

Developing customer profiles, or buyer personas, can help brands like Foolies make decisions about where to engage with their audience, what content formats to try, and what messaging to use. While a buyer persona may begin as a semi-fictional representation of an ideal customer, apparel brands should use customer surveys, interviews, and sales data to shape their personas as their company grows.

T.C. Elli’s: Creating Content That Stands Out in the Fashion Industry

Content marketing allows ecommerce apparel companies to differentiate themselves from their competitors, attract more organic website visitors to their site, and convince shoppers to buy from them. However, new ecommerce brands may discover that the data-driven and long-form content that’s dominating other industries isn’t as effective for them.

Tahnee Elliot, CEO and founder of the Texas-based fashion boutique T.C. Elli’s, is quick to make this distinction. “Fashion retailers are competing with top fashion bloggers, magazines, and other influencers in a space that can only be described as crowded,” she says. “Content for fashion brands must provide benefits for the customer, be visually and aesthetically pleasing, and meet the ‘first, better, or different’ principle.” T.C. Elli’s mix of content includes a visually-compelling blog and Instagram posts that highlight ways to wear the brand’s pieces. Elliot says that by regularly producing high-quality content, “we managed to increase traffic both online and in-store, boost organic rankings, and build brand awareness.”

One Tribe Apparel: Finding the Right Collaborators

Influencer marketing—a partnership between brands and consumers with a large or engaged online following—has become a key strategy for many ecommerce apparel businesses. As a visual platform with 500 million daily active users, Instagram is an obvious place for fashion brands to find relevant influencers. But some apparel brands have found success by looking beyond Instagram.

Ryan O’Connor’s company One Tribe Apparel, which sells handmade clothes and accessories from Thailand, has gotten the best results from collaborating with bloggers in the brand’s niche. “I chose bloggers specifically because we can have many points of exposure with them,” O’Connor explains. “Not only do we usually get a product review with a link for SEO value, but we get photos of them in our clothes that are usually shared on their social channels as well.” O’Connor adds that many bloggers also run product giveaways, which allows One Tribe Apparel to grow their audience by requesting that social media users follow their brand accounts to enter the contest.

For O’Connor and his team, working with bloggers has a bigger ripple effect than working with social media influencers alone. “If we work with just an Instagram influencer, we usually get one to three posts from them, whereas with a blogger we get the SEO benefit, social media benefit, and referral traffic from their site.”

Leverage Marketing: Identifying the Best Strategies for the Brand’s Stage

At Leverage Marketing, we recognize that there’s no silver bullet strategy that will work for every apparel brand. Whenever we take on an apparel client, we look at where they are in their brand lifecycle and identify the tactics with the most potential for the stage they’re in. Dan Valle, Director of Strategy at Leverage, points to two specific cases where tailoring our tactics to an apparel brand’s stage led to significant growth.

“One of our clients was an already-established brand with a good amount of brand awareness and a substantial set of current and past customers,” Valle says. “With their target audiences, most audience members had heard of the brand and had a positive affinity for it. We saw an opportunity to expand into new audiences while continuing to build lifetime value for current and past customers.” Leverage began pursuing newly targeted, non-branded search terms to reach new audiences and grow the brand’s customer base. At the same time, we prioritized email marketing to cross-sell and alert past and current customers about new products, leading to an increase in repeat purchasers.

Leverage also worked with an apparel brand that was in the introduction stage of their brand lifecycle and had a modest budget. “We committed to improving this client’s brand awareness through influencer marketing and content marketing,” Valle explains. Leverage also began building out search engine-optimized onsite content to work towards the longer-term goal of helping the client rank for keywords with a high volume of monthly searches.

Valle recommends that every apparel brand looking to grow takes stock of their current audience and stage in the brand lifecycle. “With this knowledge, you can make better decisions about the tactics that have the most potential now and in the near future,” he says.

Using Digital Marketing to Make an Impact in Online Apparel

As an apparel company, you don’t need the marketing budget of a Macy’s or a Nordstrom’s to succeed online. What you do need is the ability to identify your audience, tailor your content to them, and provide value that they can’t find elsewhere. Taking a customer-first approach will help you win over online shoppers and keep them coming back to your ecommerce store.


Not sure where to start? Leverage Marketing can help you target your ideal customers, develop campaigns to stand out from competitors, and measure your results. Contact us to learn about our full suite of digital marketing services for ecommerce apparel brands.

SEO and Branding: The Team Your Business Really Needs

If you’re someone who wants the best for their site, you are probably always on the lookout for the right digital marketing mix to drive results. There are a lot of options you can invest in – with SEO, PPC, content marketing, social media, and more all vying for space in your business plan, where should you put your money?

No two businesses are the same, so no advice is truly “one size fits all”, but there are big two marketing focuses that work in sync to form the base of your digital marketing strategy: SEO and branding.

SEO and branding can’t work very effectively without each other; without good branding, your SEO strategy won’t really stick and grow over the long term, and without SEO, your awesome branding efforts won’t be found on the web.

While many business owners often struggle to see the real value in brand building and SEO efforts, the two are much more related and foundational than you think.

Name Recognition

Name tag representing email personalizationWhen you search on Google for something, what drives you to click on any particular blue link? Do you always just click on the first result you see?

You probably don’t choose that link every single time. Sometimes, you’re looking for something specific and that first link gets you what you need, but what about if it’s not an area you’re familiar with, or something you’re just beginning to shop around for? You’re either going to click the link that looks:

  1. Familiar, or
  2. Most relevant to what you need.

Organic (non-advertising/paid) link click-through rate isn’t nearly as concentrated on the top ranking link as you think it is; while research suggests that the top link does generally drive a ~20% click-through rate, links #2-5 range from 9-13% click-throughs, which isn’t a whole lot lower. This is why SEO and branding can be so linked – a familiar brand name gives you a better chance of driving clicks even if you aren’t #1.

This is also why having strong brand awareness is so vital to your SEO strategy. As we’ve mentioned before, having an excellent click-through rate on search results pages is a factor in helping your links gain better ranking positions. And having a brand name that is somewhat familiar or at least present and legitimate is a good way to invite people to click onto your site, in that you’re promising a good experience and that your site isn’t, say, some random link that will download malware onto the visitor’s computer.

Authority

Another reason you want your branding and SEO to be strong? Featured snippets. Search engines are becoming increasingly full of rich features such as knowledge boxes, Q&A panels, and even direct answer boxes. Grabbing that valuable search page real estate is one of the fastest ways to establish your brand as an “authority” on your topic – and using SEO to optimize for snippets can help you do that.

Even if your content isn’t taking a whole lot of rich feature spaces, creating informative, search engine optimized, and customer-focused content on highly relevant topics can help establish your brand as a top authority in your industry and build brand awareness through SEO. Both humans and search engines will look at your thorough library of informational resources and say, “Hey, they look like they know what they’re doing over there…”

Link Building

When your brand is trusted, your site will be, too. That’s why developing a recognized and trusted brand presence is so key to link building, which is one of the cornerstone tactics within SEO.

If you’re not familiar with the concept of link building, think of it as a way of earning endorsements for your site. If another site links back to you, search engines tend to see that as a confirmation of your site’s usefulness, safety, and relevancy of your site. Once your site has collected a few relevant and trustworthy links from other sites, search engines will be more likely to serve it up to visitors in search results because it has been “endorsed” by other sites.

From a branding perspective, building great links is a LOT more difficult without a strong brand image. Think about it like this – if you’re looking for a source to cite in your blog post, would you rather link to Forbes.com, or some generic website you just stumbled upon? Assuming the info you’re citing is the same from both sites, you’re probably going to decide that the Forbes article is a better citation for your blog post.  If your readers are wondering where you got your information, they’re going to trust you, the blog writer, a lot more if you’re citing widely known and trusted brands such as Forbes, rather than something they’ve never heard of.

Searches for Brands = Easy Wins

Maybe this is a given, but it’s worth pointing out: people who know exactly what they’re looking for are more likely to find it. In other words, if someone types your brand name into Google, they are probably looking specifically for your site, your brand, and your offerings. They know what they want already. By intertwining your SEO and branding strategies, you can grow your brand recognition, and, over time, begin driving valuable brand searches that turn into faster conversions than those among visitors who are just shopping around.

This is a difficult concept to prove because platforms like Google Analytics do not supply keyword-level info that can be directly connected to conversions, but the pure authority of branded searches is hard to ignore. If your brand is strong enough, people may not even bother searching for general keywords, and will just search your brand name instead. For example, look at the search volumes around three of the most common car windshield repair keywords on the books.

auto glass search volumewindshield repair search volume

Now, look at the search volume around the brand name of one of the biggest national players in this industry.

Safelite brand search volume

Obviously, not every person searching for any of those keywords is looking to buy auto glass. But a lot of them are. That’s 246,000 people who (probably) know who Safelite is, what they do, and how to find them. That’s why they’re more targeted, conversion-friendly searches than the more general, volatile to change, and less often searched terms such as “auto glass”.

Searching “auto glass repair” is proof positive of the company’s SEO efforts as well – Safelite has secured 3 out of the 10 organic (non-paid) search results on the first page in our area. SEO for brand awareness AND organic search domination? Now that’s authority!

How to Tell When Branding and SEO are Making an Impact

Sure, SEO and branding are a superhero team that can help your business take off. But how do you know if your SEO and brand building efforts are really working and driving meaningful actions such as leads and sales?

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to decipher the exact impact of SEO and brand marketing. As with traditional marketing, measuring every buyer’s true journey from start to finish can be difficult when tracing every interaction is nearly impossible. How many places, digital and physical, did a customer see and interact with your brand before converting? Even the customer may not know.

However, we can see how often people are looking for things that are unique to your brand. (How many times your site has appeared when someone has searched for your brand name, for instance.)

Google search console performance report

To do this, you’ll need to have your site connected to Google Search Console. This service allows you to monitor several technical aspects of your site, but most importantly in this case, it helps you see what searches your site is appearing for.

Once your site ownership is verified in Google Search Console, navigate to the Performance report.

Once you’re there, you can see roughly how many Clicks and Impressions your site gets from the organic search result pages. “Clicks” refers to someone clicking on one of your site’s pages via an organic search result, and “Impressions” refers to the number of times a link from your site appeared for a query made by a searcher – AKA, how many times your brand name and website was seen.

To see approximately how often your brand name has been searched for, you can perform a search.

Google Search Console brand performance

Make a new Query filter that contains your brand name, or part of your brand name. You can also add additional filters to capture common brand misspellings or represent common searches that only include part of your brand name (i.e., if your brand is “Freedom Investments”, set a filter that only includes “Freedom”.)

Google Search Console Brand Query

Now, you can see how many impressions and clicks that searches for your brand name have generated over time. Play around with the date function to see results as far as 16 months into the past.

As an example, look at one of Leverage Marketing’s clients who needed both SEO and brand building to help create a searchable presence and a stronger brand presence. Upon becoming a Leverage client near the end of 2016, Google Search Console showed us an average of about 50 branded query impressions per day. We can translate this to mean that their brand name was getting searched and seen about 50 times a day.

After a website redesign, dedicated onsite and technical SEO work, and a concentrated effort to create the brand image and voice that this client was missing, we’ve seen branded query impressions per day climb to over double what they were before pursuing SEO and branding. The impact of our campaign has helped their brand gain twice as many searches as it did before. That’s the power of branding!

brand impression growth through SEO


Ready to set a solid SEO and branding foundation for your site but not sure where to start? Get in touch with the Leverage team – we’re experts at curating your brand image and SEO strategy to drive results on your site.

3 Ways To Use Emotional Marketing To Reach People

While you might not immediately think of emotions when you think of marketing to your customers, they are an integral part of relating to your clientele and establishing a genuine brand connection. According to Shayna Smilovitz from Instapage, “Emotional branding then is creating an emotional connection to one company that separates it from the rest, creating brand loyalty over time.” By playing on different kinds of emotions, you can humanize your brand and show customers how your products and services solve their essential problems.

You can establish genuine trust with customers by making them feel like they’re an important part of your brand and creating content that gives your readers something to discuss. Fifty percent of every buying decision is driven by emotion, so creating effective emotional advertising is the most effective means of gaining and retaining customers.

But how do you craft this emotional connection effectively? Do you use branding, ads, or stories to facilitate the relationship? We’ll explain how to use storytelling to engage with your audience, review several different approaches to emotional marketing, and show how utilizing this strategy can benefit you in the long run.

Using Storytelling to Connect with Customers

storytelling advertising

Ultimately, whether you’re writing the great American novel or crafting retail content, you’re trying to tell a compelling story. Emotional advertising is about developing a story that speaks to your audience by entertaining them. Even if you’re just writing a “how-to” guide or a recipe, you can make it fun and exciting, adding storytelling elements into it. Customers respond more readily when you use emotional marketing that appeals to the senses directly.

When writing or creating emotional ads, you’ll need to consider your audience. What are their wants and needs? Understanding their desires and aspirations will help you create relatable content.

When telling your story, it’s essential to use the tone of your audience. Write in the vernacular that your target customer is familiar with, with authentic words and powerful verbiage, to craft copy that directly speaks to your customers.

Different Approaches to Emotional Marketing

An excellent emotional branding campaign successfully transforms a casual customer into a brand advocate. According to the Disney Institute, emotionally engaged customers are:

  • At least three times more likely to recommend your product
  • Three times more likely to re-purchase
  • Less likely to shop around
  • Much less price sensitive

These statistics show why it’s integral to create a campaign that stimulates your customers’ emotions.

There’s more than one way to make an emotional connection with your customers. Hubspot has identified six core emotions that encourage sharing, engagement, and purchase including happiness, sadness, fright, surprise, anger, and disgust. By playing on these feelings, you can create personalized advertising suited to your customers’ needs. Emotional advertising is about understanding how to utilize these core emotions, evoke a response in your readers, and have that lead to action. That act can be a purchase, sharing, or engagement, depending on your goals.

Your Customers’ Deeper Desires

emotional advertising

Emotional marketing can also tap into certain desires of your customers, utilizing deeper feelings than the core six emotions. Developing an ad or campaign that utilizes these approaches (detailed in Entrepreneur), can be more powerful and lasting. They include:

  • Inspiration: Creates pride, like a human interest story
  • Aspirational: Taps into audience’s dreams, like a lofty goal, lifestyle, or experience
  • Expressing love: Reaches into personal and raw emotions
  • Milestone Connection: Celebrates a brand anniversary or important life events
  • Local angle: Connects to people’s passion and pride for where they live

This way of approaching emotional marketing helps create meaningful connections with your customers in a way that feels reliable and honest. If you don’t manage this authenticity, your advertising can fall flat and damage your relationship with customers. It’s essential to determine which strategy will work best for your business. The key to emotional advertising is understanding your audience and telling an authentic, believable story that will stick with them.


Are you interested in developing an emotional advertising strategy? The Leverage Marketing team specializes in creating campaigns that build lasting relationships between brands and their customers. Contact us today to learn what we can do for your company.

 

6 Online Branding Strategies Your New Business Can Use Now

When you’ve been busy getting your business off the ground, marketing may not be your biggest priority. However, it’s never too early to start branding your business, and the sooner you adopt online branding strategies, the better.

Branding your business online will help you connect with your potential customers in the digital spaces where they spend time. A good branding strategy should give your audience a strong sense of what your company is all about and why they should choose you over a similar competitor. A well-developed brand will stick with consumers. Even if they’re not ready to buy from you right now, they’ll remember you when they need your products or services.

Let’s look at some of the online branding strategies you can start implementing now, even if your budget and resources are limited.

Expand Your About Us Page

Take a look at the About Us page on your website. Does it read like a laundry list of basic facts (e.g., founder’s name, year launched, location)? Is it a short paragraph that you told yourself would serve as a placeholder until you came up with something better? If so, it’s time to invest more energy in the content on this page.

The About page is your chance to introduce customers to your brand and show them what you stand for. This page needs to answer the questions:

Why does this business exist?

What does this business do better than anybody else?

Not everyone who lands on your site will visit your About page, but those who do will gain a better sense of what drives and defines your brand. And the act of developing content for your About page will help you and your team come up with the language that best describes your business, which you’ll continue to use in both offline and online branding strategies.

Document Your Buyer Personas

buyer persona icons for online branding strategiesBefore you can get rolling with your website branding strategies, you need to understand who you’re trying to reach. 74 percent of online consumers say they get frustrated when a website’s content is irrelevant to them, so it’s important to tailor your brand content to the right buyers.

You may already have an idea about the kind of person who will love your product or service, but do you have documented buyer personas? A buyer persona is a representation of your target audience based on market research and historical data. If you’re a new business, you may not have a lot of customer data to base your personas on. That’s okay: you can start with broad personas and add details as you learn more about your audience. For example, a company that sells beard grooming products might identify two primary audiences:

  1. Men with beards
  2. Women buying gifts for their bearded partners

As their business takes off, the beard care company can begin collecting demographic information from sources like Google Analytics, customer surveys, and interviews.

Once you learn more about (and document) your target buyers’ interests, pain points, and buying process, you’ll be better prepared to connect with them through your brand messaging.

Create a Brand Style Guide

No matter what branding strategies you use in your online marketing, your brand voice and visual style need to be consistent. Consistency helps your audience quickly recognize and identify with your brand, while inconsistency can confuse your audience and cause them to see your business as unprofessional. Your new business should take the time to create a brand style guide that includes:

  • Your brand’s mission/goals
  • Your brand story (e., the reason you exist)
  • Adjectives to describe the brand, as well as adjectives to describe what the brand is not
  • A description of your audience (e., your buyer personas)
  • Notes about language to avoid
  • Your brand color palette
  • Your brand typography (e., the fonts you’ll use)
  • Approved versions of your logo and descriptions of when to use each one
  • Best practices for visual content

Is that a lot of detail? Yes, but it’s worth it. Having a brand style guide that you can share with your employees and freelancers will keep everyone aligned with your brand voice. And that kind of consistency pays off: you’re three to four times more likely to enjoy brand visibility when you consistently present your brand, leading to an average revenue increase of 23 percent.

Develop a Customer Reward Plan

customer reward conceptBranding your business online isn’t just about attracting new customers—it’s about building brand loyalty.

One great way to improve your customer retention is to reward customers for every purchase. For example, you could:

  • include a personalized thank-you note whenever you ship an online purchase
  • send customers a discount code after they buy something or subscribe to your newsletter
  • let customers earn store credit every time they make a purchase.

Adopting a reward plan will help you become known as a company that truly cares about its customers. Additionally, if your company offers a type of reward plan that none of your competitors have, you can use it as a unique selling proposition. For example, the shoe company TOMS markets the fact that they donate a pair of shoes to a child in need every time a customer makes a purchase.

Encourage and Share User-Generated Content

One of the main goals of branding is to engage with potential customers so that they’ll choose to buy from your business. And one of the beauties of online branding is that you can directly connect with your audience on the digital platforms where they’re already spending their time.

Once you start building an audience online, encourage your followers to share brand content on your website and social media. User-generated content, which can be anything from product reviews to unboxing videos, builds your brand’s authenticity and provides social proof. When potential customers see real people using and enjoying your product, their confidence in your brand will increase.

So, how do you get your online followers to create and share content with your brand? Give them an incentive. For example, you could run a photo contest with a gift card prize or pledge to donate $1 to a charity every time followers post an Instagram photo using your branded hashtag.

Build an Influencer Network

influencer network concept of online branding strategiesA discussion of online branding strategies wouldn’t be complete without mentioning influencer marketing. Influencer marketing involves working with someone who has a dedicated base of online followers so that their followers can get to know your brand. This might include writing a branded guest post on an influencer’s blog, having an influencer share a photo of your product on Instagram, or teaming up with an influencer to host a webinar, just to name a few examples.

As a new business, you might not feel like you have the clout to work with an influential blogger or social media personality, but influencer marketing campaigns can work for companies of all sizes, as long as you’re willing to invest some time and effort.

The first step you’ll need to take is to identify online influencers who closely align with your brand and your customers’ interests. You can do this manually by performing Google searches for blogs that are relevant to your industry, or you can streamline the process by using an influencer database tool like Buzzsumo or Upfluence.

Once you’ve identified influencers you’d like to partner with, you’ll need to take the time to build a professional relationship. Subscribe to the influencer’s newsletter, comment on their blog, share their content on social media, and familiarize yourself with their brand. Influencers will be much more open to working with your brand if you’ve done your research and shown an interest in their content than if you abruptly ask them for a favor.


Need help implementing any of the online branding strategies above? The Leverage Marketing team specializes in building brands through digital channels, and we’d love to hear from you. Contact us to learn more about what we can do for your brand.

Enhance Your Ecommerce Marketing Strategy with Leverage Learning

95% of Americans make an online purchase at least once a year, and 80% have made at least one online purchase in the past month. And, as the Washington Post recently put it, about a third of consumers now buy something online at least as often as they take out the trash (once a week). As online shopping becomes increasingly popular, it may seem like there’s never been a better time to own an ecommerce business.

However, growth-focused ecommerce businesses still face plenty of challenges, especially when it comes to attracting shoppers (who may be inclined to start their search on Amazon) and converting those shoppers into paying customers.

Build Your Ecommerce Marketing Knowledge

At Leverage Marketing, we want to help online businesses address these challenges with actionable ecommerce marketing ideas. We’ve been doing this for years with our digital marketing services, and now we’re taking what we’ve learned and sharing it in a free educational email series called Leverage Learning: Ecommerce.

The goal of Leverage Learning: Ecommerce is to help online business owners find digital marketing ideas to reach more customers and increase sales. The series is broken into 11 lessons on the following subjects:

 

content marketing for ecommerce email preview

  1. Branding
  2. Search Engine Optimization
  3. UX Web Design
  4. Content Marketing
  5. Influencer Marketing
  6. Facebook and Instagram Marketing
  7. Paid Search Advertising
  8. Email Marketing
  9. Online Customer Service
  10. Mobile Marketing
  11. Measuring Success in Google Analytics

 

When you subscribe, you’ll receive a new email lesson twice a week until you’ve received the full series. The emails offer best practices for ecommerce marketing, quick tips that business owners can implement right away, and recommendations for free or low-cost tools to streamline marketing efforts.

If you’re ready to use digital marketing to drive sales for your ecommerce business, you can subscribe to our Leverage Learning: Ecommerce series by clicking here.

SEO for ecommerce email preview

And if you enjoy this series, stay tuned: we’ll be releasing our Leverage Learning: Content Marketing series next!


As always, we’d love for you to contact us if you have any questions about our Leverage Learning series or the digital marketing services we offer!

How to Master Online Customer Service

As sales increasingly move online, it’s more vital than ever for your company to have stellar online customer service. Your web presence, including social media, online chat, and even forums, is your customers’ gateway into your brand. At Leverage Marketing, we know how necessary online customer support is, and have the online customer service tips you need for success. These brands go above and beyond when interacting with their clients, creating an accessible and fun web reputation.

Even just a decade or two ago, people would use BBB (the Better Business Bureau) and services like Angie’s List to find the best business for the job. Today, we use Facebook, Twitter, review sites like Yelp, and Google searches to find the best company. A brand with the best online customer service stands out and encourages using them time and time again.

Here are some of our tips for online customer service:

Why is Customer Service Important?

customerserviceattitude

You might be asking why customer service is important in the digital age. After all, we interact face-to-face less than ever before. Customer service is important because it can be a critical step on the way to purchase or as a way to resolve an issue with an order. First impressions are important, and you want to make sure to get it right. Well-educated customer service representatives can help potential customers problem-solve and avoid negative reactions to your company. Most importantly, online customer support provides an easy and convenient way for your customers to interact with you. It goes both ways—you learn from current and potential clients, and they can have their questions and concerns addressed.

How Should My Company Engage with Our Customers?

In today’s constantly-on environment, it’s important to have multiple avenues of customer service for your clients to engage with you. While the basics are important—phone, email, and web chat– going beyond those are essential for creating the best online customer service. Being accessible to your customers and engaging with them helps make your company feel relatable. Determine which social media networks are useful for communicating your brand message, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and even Pinterest. Twitter and Facebook are most commonly used for complaints (and positive reviews), so responding to customer comments can be a key part of your engagement strategy.

Social media is a key part of developing your brand voice: you can decide to be snarky, always positive, or have a specific sense of humor. Wendy’s Twitter account has been making waves with their hilarious and often mean @replies, which can work for some brands, but not for all. Developing your brand identity through social media is key because it’s often your customers’ first look into your product or service. Help make potential clients feel comfortable engaging by responding to comments, using emojis and GIFs to create a casual atmosphere.

Companies Known for Great Customer Service

Here at Leverage, we know about the best online customer service. We work with companies every day that utilize our online customer support tips to help their clients and develop better relationships with their customer base.  These are some outstanding examples of companies with great customer service:

jetblue customer service

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JetBlue- While it’s certainly not the largest U.S. airline, JetBlue knows how to engage with its customers. Their customer service team realizes the importance of interacting not only with satisfied flyers but also with those who had bad experiences. They’re extremely active on Twitter, responding to @mentions as well as brand mentions. JetBlue’s commitment to customers is evident in its Customer Bill of Rights: “JetBlue Airways is dedicated to bringing humanity back to air travel. We strive to make every part of your experience a

s simple and as pleasant as possible.” With many forms of support, including phone, email, an online knowledge base, text updates, and a smartphone app, JetBlue has customer service covered. From in-person to online customer service, JetBlue takes care of its customers, leading to people using the airline again and again.

Zappos- Although Amazon now owns them, Zappos disrupted an industry (shoes) and has some of the best online customer service out there. They offer fast, free shipping and free returns for a year. Zappos puts their customers first—their company motto is that they’re a “service company that happens to sell shoes. And handbags. And more….” This attitude has helped Zappos succeed in a big way. The company puts its representatives through its School of WOW to inspire its leaders and teach them the best customer service philosophy. Most importantly, for an all-online company, Zappos puts its customers first. Whether a customer calls in, chats, or uses social media, Zappos is right there to help them whatever their concern.

How Can My Company Master Online Customer Support?

To become a company known for great customer service, you need to start with a customer-first philosophy. Leverage Marketing offers web design services and social media management services that support your customer service efforts. Contact us today to develop a strategy and get the tips you need for success.

Does B2B Influencer Marketing Make Sense?

Influencer marketing—the practice of partnering with influential individuals to communicate a brand message—is hardly a new concept for B2C companies. In fact, back in the 1760s, the pottery company founder Josiah Wedgwood was using endorsements from painters, architects, and even royalty to promote his products. There’s centuries’ worth of evidence that influencer marketing can be an effective tool for B2C brands, but what about B2B companies?

If you own a B2B company, you might be under the impression that because you’re targeting a narrower audience than your B2C peers, influencer marketing just isn’t worth it. However, B2B influencer marketing can be incredibly effective, as long as you’re working with the niche B2B influencers that your target buyers follow.

How Influencer Marketing Can Benefit B2B Brands

B2B influencer marketing example from American Express

Collaborating with niche influencers—including industry analysts, conference speakers, and other thought leaders—can help you:

Humanize Your Brand

While you may be selling your products or services to businesses, it’s important to remember that it’s still people who are doing the buying. And those people aren’t likely to connect with your brand if you hide behind dry industry jargon and generic lists of product features. B2B influencers give your brand a human face and inject personality into your message, helping you appeal to your target audience and stand out from competitors.

Capture the Attention of Difficult-to-Reach Leads

One of the biggest challenges in B2B marketing is capturing high-quality leads at the right time. Industry influencers who align with your brand can reach a highly-targeted audience at different stages of the buyer’s journey, and with the right message, they can nudge those audience members towards your business.

Build Trust

When you invest in influencer marketing for B2B, you’re making an investment in your brand’s reputation. B2B influencers have dedicated a lot of time and effort to build trust with their audience, and when they make a recommendation, their audience listens. If you find an influencer who believes in your product or services, you’ll earn the trust of their followers.

3 Standout B2B Influencer Marketing Examples

Hopefully, you’re starting to see how powerful B2B influencer marketing can be. If you’re still unconvinced, check out these examples of B2B influencer marketing campaigns that had a major impact:

GE’s Instagram Series Takes Flight

General Electric was ahead of the curb with B2B influencer marketing: way back in 2013, they invited six influential Instagram photographers to tour and document their newest aviation facility. The company also shared an Instagram post inviting six aviation fans to join them on the tour by posting a sentence about why they were the biggest GE #avgeek. In less than 24 hours, the post got over 1,000 likes and over 130 comments.

Since this initial campaign, GE has launched their #GEInstaWalk series on Instagram. They now regularly invite some of Instagram’s best photographers and biggest tech aficionados to tour and take pictures of their cutting-edge facilities.

American Express Shares Design Tips with SMBs

American Express wants to appeal to small business owners, and one way they do this is by teaming up with experts who can address the pain points small business owners often experience. As part of their Love My Store campaign, they partnered with HGTV Design Star winner Emily Henderson to make a series of videos about in-store design. In the videos, Henderson visited different stores and offered the owners advice on using design and signage to attract more customers. American Express also invited small business owners to post photos of their storefront with the hashtag #LoveMyStoreAmexContest for a chance to win a one-on-one consultation with Henderson.

SAP Captures an Online Audience with Influencer Interviews

SAP, an enterprise software company, decided to use B2B influencer marketing to get more mileage out of Sapphire, their annual user conference. The company identified authors, academics, and independent business consultants who could speak on topics that appealed to SAP product users, and then invited those influencers to participate in interviews at the Sapphire conference. SAP used Facebook Live to broadcast these interviews, extending their conference content to over 80,000 people who didn’t attend. In addition to sharing their videos on Facebook, they also leveraged the interviews to create blog content.

Ways Your Company Can Use Influencer Marketing

 

expert roundup influencer marketing example

Example of expert roundup blog post from American Webmasters Association

It’s not just big brands like American Express and GE that can benefit from using B2B influencer marketing. Here are a few ways B2B companies of any size can start working with niche influencers:

  • Collaborate on a whitepaper. You could ask an influencer to co-author a whitepaper or eBook, but if the influencer you want to work with doesn’t have the time for such an extensive project, they could simply contribute several “Expert Tips.”
  • Write an “expert round-up” blog post. These blog posts often pose one question (e.g. How has social media marketing changed your business?) and collect responses from several industry insiders. If you curate this type of piece, ask the experts who contribute to help extend the post’s reach by sharing it with their social networks.
  • Invite an influencer to co-host a webinar. Attract more participants to your next webinar by inviting an influencer your audience respects to co-host. Not only will working with an influencer boost your authority, it will also add an interesting perspective to the webinar that you might not have gotten otherwise.
  • Write a guest post for an influencer’s blog (or vice versa). In some cases, an influencer might be willing to write a guest post for your blog in exchange for you contributing a post to theirs.
  • Conduct an interview with an industry expert. You could conduct the interview over the phone or email if the expert is remote, but if they’re in the same city, see if you can do a video interview. This will give you visually appealing content to share on your site and social media.

Remember, there are many different ways you can work with B2B influencers, but none of these strategies will be fully effective if the influencer’s message doesn’t align with your brand. Do your research: instead of just chasing the influencers with the most fans or followers, look for micro-influencers who resonate with your target audience.

When Should Your Startup Invest in Branding?

Here’s the short answer: Start branding right away.

For most business owners, branding is an ambiguous and scary word that means thousands upon thousands of dollars of investment in creative services and market research.

But branding is much more than just the creation of a logo and the decision on a few cool colors. It’s the cultivation of your business’s identity and character, and that entails more than a basic run-through of branding essentials.

PGA and Travel Channel marketing veteran Brian Woyt helps us understand why sooner is better than later when deciding the most fitting time to begin branding.

Should startups be branding from the birth of their businesses?

brian woyt illustration with purple quotes

“YES. Most people think branding is simply a logo. Or maybe some colors. But a brand is a summation of all things that make an organization what it is.”

When making initial considerations such as startup capital, target market, product value, and other top-level business decisions, branding should fit into the mix. Consider what type of brand customers will think your brand is. The goal isn’t to trick your customers; it’s to make sure that they:

  • Can immediately identify your product, service, advertisement, and ad copy when they see it
  • Remember your product, service, company name, and personality well after they have experienced it
  • Connect with your company on the levels of emotion and trust

By considering branding from the incubation of your business, you’ll be able to build its identity more comprehensively as you come to understand your audience and its needs.

What if I don’t have the money to back branding efforts?

brian woyt illustration with purple quotes“There’s a misperception that branding costs a lot of money. Branding is free, and it starts with the purpose and the promise an organization makes to its customers. That doesn’t require any capital.”

While some of the optional marketing pushes that come with a quality brand can cost money, such as promotion, public relations, and advertising, you can begin your efforts for free using organic marketing methods like content development and outreach.

What does the first part of branding creation look like?

brian woyt illustration with purple quotes“Remember: your brand won’t exist in a vacuum – organizations need to think about how customers will see the brand stacking up against its competitors.”

There are two absolutely indispensable elements of an initial branding.

The Positioning Statement

It’s at once simple and complex; a positioning statement is only a sentence or two, but its contents should outline the brand’s unique value compared to the competition. It’s where you’ll express your purpose and your promise to your customers. To build one, ask these questions:

  • Who do you appeal to and why are you relevant to them?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • What value does your brand add? What is its promise?

Your positioning statement will be your jumping-off point for everything you construct related to your brand afterward.

The Brand Standards

From your positioning statement, you can lay out your brand’s guidelines. Use them to nurture a connection to your brand within your organization and far beyond it.

  • Visuals – Write down hard standards for logos, imagery, fonts, and details of your corporate identity. Your employees and customers should be able to identify and react to your brand without explicit instruction if you’ve created quality visual standards.
  • Messaging – Communication is invaluable, and it will be a monumental part of your business if you want to attract customers. Map out the points of communication between customers and staff and ensure that greetings, company information, and expertise are handled cohesively across the board.

Solidifying brand standards early makes business scaling significantly less stressful. No matter your turnover, new employees, especially those who have been customers before, can receive training on positioning and brand standards, and may even help them grow.

What are the initial costs of branding?

brian woyt illustration with purple quotes“The most crucial element of the brand is the thinking that goes into determining what the brand will be and what type of conversation or interaction it will have with its customers.”

The cost of amateur and professional branding has too wide of a margin to give a fair price estimate. It’s more constructive to consider which parts of branding will cost money and which won’t, then decide where you want to pool your resources.

Stuff You Can Do for Free

You can create your positioning statement, establish some brand standards, develop content, and begin outreach to other businesses for free. The only investment in these efforts is time.

The founders of your company and up-front dialogue with customers will help steer your initial branding. Creating a concept of your company’s character and the messages it will send to customers is the foremost part of branding anyway, and you don’t have to pay bills to anyone to do it.

Stuff You Can Pay People to Do

If you’ve got a knack for the creative, you can invest your own time in creating visuals. Or perhaps you have an analytical brain, and you don’t mind sinking some time into marketing research. In either case, there are bound to be parts of learning about your audience and appealing to them that you don’t want to take on yourself.

Some of the most common paid branding efforts include:

  • Logo creation
  • Web design
  • Content writing
  • Packaging
  • Storefront design
  • Market research

However, by assembling an extraordinary positioning statement and branding standards, you can keep these costs minimal and select only the services you absolutely need.

Is it too late to brand if I already have a customer base and a fully realized website?

brian woyt illustration with purple quotesNo. It’s never too late. Most brands evolve over time anyway. Consider thinking about it as an evolution.”

Introducing a brand with a bang can certainly make an impact, but piecing it together gradually can improve your targeting and impact over a longer span of time.

If you’re well-established, do an audit of your brand. Prepare your positioning statement and look over your brand standards. Ask yourself:

  • Does everything seem like part of one brand?
  • Does our brand connect with the audience that we have established?

Answering the questions will help you find out what parts of your branding and positioning aren’t quite right. These are the parts that need to change.

Shifting your messaging is going to be cheaper than reworking your visuals. If you don’t need to change your visual branding, don’t waste resources on it. You can still rebrand or improve branding through new messaging. Do so by reworking your communication guidelines, rethinking your content strategy, and revamping your outreach approach.

If your branding is a mess, break down the changes you need to make most and divide them between the things you can do on your own and the things that require outside help. Make decisions based on needs, not desires. Your bottom line will be grateful.

Brian Woyt, current CEO and Chief Strategist at Wolf & Missile, employs his countless years of experience in prestigious marketing roles for large-scale companies in his daily work. He has seen and orchestrated marketing efforts bottom to top, and has generously shared his expertise with us so that we can share it with you. Take it from a branding master – the time to start branding is now.

You guessed it – Leverage Marketing offers branding services, too. Even cooler, we can tie your branding efforts into other marketing channels as well, including paid search, SEO, video marketing, and anything else digital marketing. Catch even more on branding and digital marketing in our Leverage Marketing newsletter and learn all the behind-the-scenes stuff for free!