Why is your online brand so important?
- It usually is your first impression, and bad first impressions are tough to overcome
- A great brand will save you TONS of money in online advertising and marketing dollars
- A well executed brand will prevent you from competing only on lowest price
Barry Edwards, owner and creative director of Edwards Communications, has been building brands online since 1996. He specializes in establishing brands that get found online and that convert prospects into customers without spending more money than necessary on online ads.
Barry utilizes UX (User Experience) design and refined Content Marketing to get small business in front of their best target audience and generate leads from these prospects. He’s also sharing his FREE eBook with our listeners, “5 Steps to Build Your Best Brand”.
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Transcript of Biz Chat Ohio’s podcast 2.8: Barry Edwards
Hello, everyone. Welcome to Biz Chat Ohio, the podcast bringing you big ideas for small businesses and the best of small business news and industry trends from Ohio thought leaders. This podcast is made possible by Lakeland Community College and the Ohio Small Business Development Center. I’m your host, Cathy Walsh, Director of the Small Business Development Center. And I’m joined by my co-host Gretchen Skok-DiSanto, Director of the Lakeland Community College Entrepreneurship Center and Business Advisor for the Ohio Small Business Development Center.
After a few episodes on other business topics, we are back to marketing today, definitely my favorite topic. One of the key activities we talk to our clients is marketing. Because if you’re not marketing your business, you are absolutely going backwards in that business. Marketing is crucial not only because it’s important to the success of small businesses, but also because we recognize it’s such a dynamic field that small businesses need to consistently stay abreast of.
And regardless of the size of your business, branding is a cornerstone of marketing. Pickton & Broderick describe a branding as strategy to differentiate products and companies and to build economic value for both the consumer and the brand owner. We’re definitely excited to talk with our guests today because of his experience helping countless small businesses with their branding and marketing efforts. So let’s get going, and I’m going to turn everything over to Cathy to introduce our guests today.
Yeah. Thanks, Gretchen. Today, we are joined by Barry Edwards. Barry is the owner and creative director of Edwards Communications, which has been building brands online since 1996. He specializes in establishing brands that get found online and that convert prospects into customers without spending more money than necessary on online ads. He utilizes UX, user experience, design and refined content marketing to get small business in front of their best target audience and generate leads from these prospects. So thank you for joining us today, Barry.
I am so glad to be here. I’m a big fan of the show. And I’m just really honored, so thank you for having me.
We’re glad to have the opportunity to pick your brand about– I mean, your brain, sorry about that.
Because branding is on the brain today.
Yes, it is.
Why don’t you tell us how you define “branding”? It is a word that we hear a lot. It’s thrown out a lot. We’ve done workshops on it. How do you define “branding,” and what is “brand building”?
That’s a great question, because everybody tries to get a little too verbose about it when you look it up online and it’s really not that complicated. It’s just the realization that people will form an opinion of you and your company, especially online. Everything I’m going to talk about is going to be from the online perspective. I’m speaking to small businesses and entrepreneurs who are trying to build their brand online.
And so everything that they do, from their logo to the slogan, even your About Us page, which is really underappreciated, but then there’s things like defining your products and your value propositions, I’ll talk about that in a minute. But even your business card, business cards are not so highly thought of in today’s virtual world. But frankly, they set the stage for your visual brand and they’re an important part of my developmental process.
But then there’s your website with your social media and your content marketing that fuels it all. All of these things shape how a person thinks about you and your company, and that is what your brand is. And if you don’t realize that you actually have a brand, you’re not taking advantage of shaping their thoughts. So once again, I utilize my five steps to building your best brand, the ones I just went over, business name, which is super important.
And it’s kind of like today online, you really got to take into account, when you name your business, what your URL is going to be, your domain name. And ideally, you’d like to get that .com, but it’s not completely necessary anymore. My website is edwardscom.net. There’s .io. There’s .site. There’s an endless amount. But ideally, you’d like to get the .com. But then what you also have to think about with that business name, what are your social media handles going to be?
Ideally, you would like them to be the same thing as your domain name to make it simple, but these things need to be taken into account. And of course, after you finish that up, you got to start thinking about your logo. And with a logo, this is another thing that I think people don’t put enough credence into. Because if you think you’re just going to sub it out for $40 overseas, you’re probably going to come back with some kind of clip art icon, which you could possibly get flagged for by a lawyer, a copyrighting infringement.
And your logo is very often the first impression of your company, so it’s really hard to get over a bad first impression if it’s not really good. On the other hand, a great first impression is a great way to start. When you have your logo somewhat straightened out and your business name, you have to ask yourself, do you need a slogan? If your business name and logo don’t speak to what you do and many of ours don’t, then you want to consider a nice, concise slogan that speaks directly to what you do so that the audience has no doubt in what you’re offering.
Now, from there, I did want to discuss the About Us page of your website. This is an important part of your marketing, because it’s a trust factor. I’ve been following analytics for many, many years right now of all the websites that I develop. And when people go from your initial– if they don’t “bounce out,” as it’s called, from your initial page of your website, then they’re probably looking at your offerings, such as your products and services, and they don’t bounce out from there.
If they like what you’re offering, they’re going to go to your About Us page and see if they trust you. So you want to put some very important information, like your mission statement, how you got started, why you got started, maybe a Meet the Team if you have a small team with you. That’s a great way to personalize, but it’s a great way to build trust.
Now, from there, I like to talk about how you define your products and your value propositions. Now, defining products, I guess what I’d like to say about that is it’s niching down. You want to put your best three or– yeah, about three products or services forward first so that you lead with what you’re the most expert in.
And a lot of people have a problem with, but I do so much. I do everything in my field. Well, while I understand that, when you have that mentality, then the only thing you’re going to compete with your competition on is price. And it’s going to be a race to the bottom in a price war, and you’re going to end up with clients that you don’t value as much as you would otherwise.
Now, imagine for a minute, if you lead with your three best products, services that you are most comfortable with, you feel expert in, and you love servicing these people in this way. Now, you build a relationship with that person for the first time. And then they’re going to ask you, what else do you offer? It’s like a plumber. A plumber– or let’s say heating and air conditioning.
This is an example right off. I have a family member that does this, and they feature installing this high-end air conditioning unit. Well, now that they’ve done that and that trust is built, they may ask you about other things, heating units and just general service. They’re going to call you back in. And if they like you and trust you, they’ll be a lifelong customer.
So niching down is super important, which goes hand-in-hand with your value propositions, and that is how you differentiate yourself from your competition uniquely. And this could come down to your individual expertise. It could come down to your proprietary way of doing things, but it’s something that your competition cannot easily replicate.
And so number four in my process is your business card. Really overlooked these days, but this process that I’m talking about is sequential when I’m building a brand. And so after we get the business name and logo and slogan out of the way, got us some About Us bio information and defined our products and value propositions, now you can take some of the brand you’ve already built, like with the logo, you already got some colors established, slogan included.
You probably got some fonts established. Now, you can design your business card, and always use both sides of your business card these days. On the back, you could make a small ad, put your three best products or services on there, or simply your mission statement.
That brings us to our final thought number five, website/social media/content marketing. Now, that’s a lot right there. But they’re all interdependent, because your website is your headquarters of your entire brand. And you got two seconds to sell your product or service once somebody gets there. They got your competition up in other tabs online.
So if you’re not clear about what you’re offering right away, they’ll just go and check out your competition. So you got to buy a couple seconds in order to buy a few more seconds, so get them into your services to check out what you’re offering or products. And then from there, you want to build with trust factors. You want to have trust factors in there to convert those prospects in the leads.
But that brings us to social media. How do these people find your website? They find it via social media. That’s your marketing aspects. As I said, your website is your headquarters. It’s like your virtual brick-and-mortar store, but your social media is like the avenues, the roads with the billboards and stuff that point people to your headquarters, your website. With that to fuel all of this, you need content.
Without the content, your website and social media is completely empty. So you have to figure out what your voice is. You have to figure out how to push value-added content through your website, your blog. I suggest case studies and out into your social media and repurpose this into your email campaigns. Because at the end of the day, you’re looking to build a list of prospects and even customers so that your customers will repeat. Your prospects will slowly convert into customers.
And so never waste your content. If you put bad quickly-made content out there, poorly-made content, you will lose your prospect forever and even some customers. So quality content is really hard to come by. It takes some work, so you want to repurpose it in every way that you can. Put it on your website. Put it in your blogs. Push pieces of it out to social media. Build ebooks with it, which we call “lead magnets,” so that you can build that email list. And that will be called your “content marketing campaign.”
I got a follow-up question. You talked about the importance of that high-quality logo and using right colors, et cetera. Can you talk a little bit about the importance of having the right pictures? I mean, we’re talking the visual element, so, yeah, part of that is definitely your logo. But what about the pictures that people are using on their websites and their social media? What are your thoughts there? I mean, is there such a thing as a bad picture?
One that is stolen and you will get sued for, that’s a very bad picture.
There’s certainly that. There’s that side of it.
I can’t stress that enough, to tell you the truth. But no, that’s a good question, Gretchen. Because at face value, I’ll say steer away from pictures that look obviously like stock photography. And that is the three people that are pointing at the thing on the table that is indicative of the product or service that you’re selling. We’ve all seen those. It’s horrible. They all look like models, and they’re all posed.
You know what that’s like? That’s like the restaurant that they take the pictures of the restaurant when it’s really empty, because it’s easy to do. It’s all empty and, oh, my beautiful room and all that. No, people. You own a restaurant. You want to show it when it’s in action and people are having fun and participating within your restaurant. And it’s the same with your products and services and other small businesses, preferably something that is action-oriented that shows your product or service in use and people in a positive manner.
But I’m going to stress two things once again, one that doesn’t look like obvious stock photography that’s really boring for people and it’s kind of a turnoff. And the other is, I mean this, make sure that you either get it from a free pic site like Pixabay or there’s others or that you purchase it from something.
Like Bigstock is a premium stock site that I think has the best quality for the price ratio out there, so that’s a good way to go. But don’t underestimate there’s face recognition software out there, and there’s a lot of legal firms that just use interns to scour the web looking to find people to sue for illegally using their photos or artwork.
And back to the logos again, Gretchen, a lot of times– and I’ve worked with other companies as a consultant and they’re using overseas companies that just churn out logos within 5 to 10 minutes. I’m telling you, they’re just stealing icons off of clip art sites and then putting your name to it. And once again, right there you’ve run the risk of getting sued for copyright infringement on that. So that’s a pretty good example of bad art and bad logos to use.
That’s a very valuable warning. Thank you so much. So another question, what are a few problems that people face when trying to build their brands? What have you experienced that people should be aware of?
Yeah. There’s a lot. And I think number one is the misinformation that my own colleagues have thrown out there. We have cannibalized our own industry by selling our marketing-made-easy classes and telling everybody how easy it’s going to be if you follow my system. And to be perfectly honest, it’s very hard.
So even when I talk about a content marketing plan, well, you have to understand SEO to a large degree to do this correctly. So SE– I’m sorry, search engine optimization and that is using the correct keywords that are pertinent to your industry so that you come up and climb up the rankings on their search engine pages so that you are found more than your competition. Now, this is harder than most people think.
Along with just doing correct keywords and knowing how to structure your copy so that you’re not getting flagged and penalized by Google, you also have to know how to register yourself with Google. And I say “Google,” as much as a love-hate relationship I have with them, they definitely dominate the search engine market by about 90%. About 90%, as I recall, Google is being used versus other search engines, so you have to know how to optimize with Google.
Mostly, you have to know how to not create errors on your page to have a bad structure. And for the love of God, like the picture thing, do not copy and paste content from your competitor’s websites onto yours. Google has robots that flag this immediately without any personal intervention. It’s an automated algorithm. You’ll be flagged and demoted within search engine results, and it’s really hard to recover from that.
That is the most common problem, I think, that I get sought out for, to correct those kind of things. Hey, I’m not being found in the search engines at all. What do I do? And then the first thing I do is analyze their site for bad structure and then the content. And I swear to God, people seem like they think that, if they can convince me they didn’t really steal that copy, that it’s going to be OK. It’s not up to me. It’s a really automated thing via the search engine, so please do not.
I guess that’s back to the original part of the question, is people have to understand it’s like writing a research paper when you quote copy and do it correctly and refer it back to your original source and then when you should just summarize in your own words what that copy is about, that is how you do it properly. So you need to know this stuff. It’s not as easy as it may seem at face value.
And when you make a mistake, it’s incredibly costly. But on the other hand, when you build your brand correctly– and I don’t mean to talk about SEO as if that’s part of your brand. But when you’re building your content, which is part of your brand, SEO becomes a factor. So when you do this all correctly, you stand to start gaining a following, prospects, and even converting leads organically rather than paying abundance amount of money on Google ads and Facebook ads and those kind of things.
I want to ask a question. So we’re talking about how DIY is kind of the hard way to go for a lot of business owners, because they don’t have that marketing expertise. But if they’re going to look for a third party to do that for them, tell us about how you work with your clients and what they should expect if they’re approaching a marketing firm or a communications firm to start doing this work for them so that they can find their best brand and understand how that’s going to work for them.
Yeah. It’s a very good question. I know that the first thing I do with my clients is try to unearth their biggest passion behind why they even began their company. This is a great example. I remember talking to an exterminator, a guy that went solo out on his own. And I was talking about how to find your passion behind your business and things like that.
And he goes, look, I just got a job out of college with this exterminator guy and I just realized that I could do it a lot better than he could early on, so I went out on my own. There’s no special passion behind that. I got to feed my family. That’s what it’s about. And I said, there you hit it. Your family. Now, when you do exterminating for your own house and your family, what kind of special precautions do you take?
And he started talking about organics and all of that. And I said, well, there you are. Become a family-oriented exterminator and lead with the organics first. You know what you’re talking about. You’re doing it for your own family. There’s your passion. There’s the way you differentiate yourself. And now, I’m kind of thinking about, how did I get there?
Oh. So I want to come back to the original question. And so what I do with my clients as I begin talking to them is unearth that original passion that they started with. They usually have forgotten about and even take for granted their own expertise in that, so we start to bubble that up to the forefront.
The other thing and this is what you asked in a way is, if they’re talking to other marketing firms, what should they look for? What should they ask for? Measurement. They should ask, how do you measure my success online? That’s a big one.
And a lot of people throw that “SEO” term around and so on, because they think that, oh, I could kind of figure out what your keywords are and throw them into some copy. But I have proprietary ways of measuring a client’s success online and seeing how they are rising in the search engine results. And if a marketing firm can’t speak to that, then I would suggest that you move on from there.
I think that’s interesting you’re talking about exterminator. I was at a luncheon years ago and met a couple who had an exterminating company. I’ve never met two more passionate people who were so passionate about their business, because they really solved a huge problem for their clients. So you can get passionate about anything out there. But here I am, how many years later, I still remember those people. I use them as an example for being passionate about what you do and how important that is, so I’m glad you brought that up so that makes me smile.
And that’s a very important thing to remember. Because if you do rediscover or discover the passion behind what you’re doing, it’s contagious to your clientele. And if you don’t have that, it gets back to value propositions. And again, value propositions are how you are uniquely supplying your clients your particular product or service. And that can be a proprietary process and it could be unique experience, but it’s something that your competition can’t readily replicate.
My point to that, back to the passion, is that’s what gets you out of bed in the morning. And if you’re just trying to be everything to everybody, you’re going to have the lowest common denominator clients. They’re not going to particularly like you. They’re just using you, because you’ll do it at the lowest price. And you don’t want to do everything at the lowest price. You want to treat everybody great. And in order to do that, you lead with your passion and you lead with your most passionate products or services first. And that’s what will get you out of bed in the morning and build proper relationships with your clientele. That’s a brand right there.
Hey, Barry, I understand you have something to offer our listeners today. Could you tell us about that?
I sure do. I have an ebook on my site, at edwardscom.net. It is five steps to build your best brand and it’s a small business guide to building an organic lead-generating online presence, so it’s directed right at your target market. And you can get that at the pages edwardscom.net/bbb as in “build your best brand.”
Perfect. So thanks so much for being with us today, Barry. We greatly appreciate you sharing your branding and marketing knowledge with our listeners. Now, we have down here that– and you just mentioned this, but your website is edwardscom.net. And we’ll make sure that we put that website in our show notes. Are there other resources you would suggest that our small businesses that are listening today make sure they check out so that they’re staying in touch with cutting-edge marketing information?
Well, I absolutely love a podcast called This Old Marketing by Joe Pulizzi and his partner. He’s a Cleveland marketer. You guys probably have had him in as a speaker many times. He was the founder of Content Marketing World, the event. Then it was hosted by the Content Marketing Institute. Really a great podcast of two guys that have been friends and partners forever. And each week, they really come out at you with some very interesting perspectives on what you should be doing now with content marketing and where things are going in the future. So I highly recommend that one.
Oh, by the way, not to mention my own podcast, which is Over 50 Starting Over. My partner and I, we talk about how to better ourselves after 50 years old and even to pivot your career at this time. Many people are. Many people are getting squeezed out of corporate America. Many people are getting fed up with corporate America and want to do what they’ve always wanted to do finally in that third act of their life, follow their career passion. But mostly, it’s two guys just talking about their perspectives on how to do things a little bit better after 50 years old.
Thanks, Barry. We’ll make sure all those resources are shared in our show notes. And again, thank you so much for joining us today.
My pleasure. Thank you very much for having me.
Thanks for listening. Look for Biz Chat Ohio on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, or Spotify. And subscribe to receive our latest episodes and business blogs at bizchatohio.com. If you would like to learn more about the Ohio Small Business Development Center at Lakeland, please visit our website at www.lakelandcc.edu/sbdc.