Tips & Tools: 3 Ways to Earn Media Attention for your Product-Based Business

You’ve invested your time, money and energy into creating the perfect product for your business. Now, you want to share your product with the masses. But where do you start?

If you’ve dreamed of seeing your product in the glossy pages of a magazine or talked about on television, read up on these three tips to earn media attention for your product.

1. Ensure your brand is as strong as your product

When media outlets decide on what to feature, the brand matters just as much as the quality of the product.

The media showcases the newest and most innovative items on the market in order to engage their audience and branding plays a pivotal role in this. In fact, your brand often makes the difference between featuring you over your competitor.

Start by taking a look at your packaging. Is it clean, fresh and modern? Is the design eye-catching? If your product looks busy (i.e. too much text, cluttered design) on its own, that means it will look busy in print or on screen too – a big deterrent from being featured.

Next, take a look at your social media channels. Are they fun and engaging? Do they tell a story? Media outlets are going to want to check you out online (and often, social media is how they find out about the latest buzzworthy products in the first place).

Ensure your feeds are up-to-date, active and cohesive. Not only will this help you earn media appeal, but it’s likely the first thing potential new customers will look at after your product is featured, so you want to make that first impression count.

2. Give without expectation

Now that your brand is strong enough to catch some buzz, it’s time to catch the eye of your target outlets in a creative way.

One of the best ways to do this is through media gifting. Getting your product in the hands of on-air personalities, producers, writers and editors allows them to fall in love with it personally, which will entice them to feature you on their shows or in articles.

This process requires a little bit of research. To start, you need to figure out who makes the decision to feature products like yours. These people are typically in ‘editor’ roles for print publications, or producers if you’re looking to be featured in a television segment.

To find people to reach out to, you can browse an outlet’s staff directories or look who receives the most bylines for media that mirrors how you’d like to be featured. Once you have a list of names, you will need to find their contact and mailing information. Sometimes, the outlet provides this on their website. However, you might have to call them to find out.

When gifting your product be sure to make it fun. They receive complimentary products on a daily basis, so ask yourself how you can you make yours stand out.

These @rothmanandco shams make me want to sleep in all morning long #dreamrothman

A post shared by crystal kwon⠀ (@crystal_kwon) on Feb 24, 2016 at 8:02am PST

For example, this Vancouver boutique linen store had the goal to be featured in Canada’s most popular home décor magazines. But, not only would it be expensive to send out complete bedding sets, it wouldn’t be the most engaging gift to receive. Instead, they encouraged recipients to have a good night sleep by gifting milk and cookies to have before bed, alongside a nice new pillow sham for them to lay their heads down on. The campaign was a hit!

Alongside your gift, be sure to also include a personalized note and media kit so your recipients know all they need to know about your brand in order to fall in love. And don’t forget to include your contact information for when they want to reach out about featuring you.

3. Build your connections

Building meaningful relationships is critical – it’s what media relations is all about. Before and after you send out your media gifts, make sure the recipients know your brand name through authentic and genuine relationship-building techniques. The secret to this is often social media.

Not only should you be following the media outlets and the influential figures who work there, you also need to engage with them. Like and comment on their Instagram posts, share their work through Twitter and keep up-to-date with what’s happening in their lives by monitoring their feeds.

Then, when you do reach out with a pitch, use this information to your advantage. Compliment their latest work or mention how cute you think their pet is. A little flattery can go a long way in building a lasting and productive relationship.

Finally, when all your hard work comes to fruition and your product has been featured, don’t forget to thank your contact. Send them a personalized email and share the piece on all of your social channels, tagging the editor or journalist that made that feature happen.

A lot of work goes into having your product featured in the media and earned media exposure is never a guarantee. Still, with the right techniques, a strong brand and a quality product, your product will soon be making headlines across the country!

Written by: Megan te Boekhorst, Futurpreneur Canada

Tips & Tools: How to DIY Your Brand Photography

For many start-ups, quality brand photography and other marketing expenses tend to fall in the nice-to-have column.

However, no matter what type of business you run, good photography can help you elevate your brand and attract your ideal customer.

More than ever, visual content is critical in your branding and marketing strategy. Biologically speaking, the brain is hardwired to respond to visuals far better than copy. Not only do humans understand visual information quicker, we are also more likely to remember visuals over the written word.

Hiring a professional photographer can be costly, particularly for a newly launched business. So, if you’re looking to save on costs, here are the three types of photos your brand needs and some tips on how to do them yourself.

Product or Service Photography

DIY Brand Photography

The most basic need for any business is photography of your products or services. However, the approach to your photos differs depending on which category you fall under, so let’s break it down.

Product Photography

Whether you have an e-commerce store or a physical shop, you will need images of your products. They can be utilized in marketing campaigns, lookbooks, media requests, business planning or on social media. The most basic product shots use a clean, white background. Examples of these include clothing e-retailers like Vancouver Fashion Truck or Maya Mia Handcrafted Soap Bars.

The best way to shoot product photos on your own is to use a light box – a device photographers use to create nearly shadow-less lighting against a solid background. These can be easily made at home for less than $20 using materials you likely already have. Be sure to check out this great DIY tutorial online to learn how to make your own light box.

Additionally, you can always swap out the backgrounds in your light box to keep things fresh and on-brand for Instagram photos or blog photography.

Service Photography

One mistake service-based businesses often make is thinking they don’t need photographs. However, just like with products, professional photos can be useful for marketing, social media, public relations activities, business planning, as well as web design and other collateral.

These images can be used to motivate potential customers, like with fitness studio Train Like Heroes, or to help clarify what makes your business unique, such as with zero-waste grocery store Nada.

When working to create your own service photography, focus on the unique value your service brings and ask yourself how you can capture that in photos.

For instance, do you offer environmentally-friendly commercial cleaning services? Capture the team at work and the products they use. Are you an accountant that helps small businesses figure out their taxes? Snap some shots of a client meeting in a friendly environment where the client has a smile on their face – because you make taxes so simple it actually makes your customers happy!

Lifestyle Photography

DIY brand photography

Different from product and service photography, lifestyle photography speaks to the impact your business will have on your customer’s life. These are aspirational images that convey the feeling and life your customers want to have – and will have thanks to your business.

A great example of lifestyle photography can be seen on the Tease Tea Instagram feed. Some photos clearly show the product just in the background, and others have no branded product at all. However, both images convey a moment Tease Tea customers aspire to have in their lives.

As with any photo, good lighting can make all the difference. Natural, diffused light is a business owner’s friend. If you can’t take your photos outside, be sure to create plenty of soft light indoors for best results.

Team Photography

brand photography DIY

Customers want to know the faces behind the brand. Whether you have an about page on your website or share team photos on social media, headshots of individual team members and group photos can be a great addition to your brand photography.

You can DIY your team photography by turning it into a team bonding activity. Set an afternoon aside and challenge your team to photograph one another’s ‘good side’. You might be surprised at the quality of photographs captured by those who work next to you every day.

There are many other ways businesses can utilize photos in their storytelling and marketing activities, such as event photography or blog graphics. Nevertheless, product/service, lifestyle and team photography are the most basic photographic elements that should be considered for every brand.

By using these DIY tricks and a little bit creativity, you can create brand photography that will help your company stand out from the crowd!

Written by: Megan te Boekhorst, Futurpreneur Canada

Email Marketing for Your Business: A Beginner Guide

Never underestimate the power of email marketing, a tactic that often gets lost among the shiny and new social media platforms that keep popping up. There are three times more email accounts than Facebook and Twitter accounts combined and it’s more likely to get a click-through from an email than a social media channel. These statistics are pretty hard to ignore, but how do you get started? We’ve broken the basics down for you.

Establish your goals

It’s pretty easy to just sign up for an email marketing tool and just start sending out emails, especially when you already have a list of emails to send too. However, this isn’t going to be very effective if there’s no goals behind why you’re communicating with your audience. Before you jump in, think about your goals and what you’d want to achieve from your email marketing. Who is your target market? What kind of content would you like to send? How are you going to measure success? Align these goals with your overall company and marketing goals, as well as your key performance indicators (KPIs).

Selecting your platform

There are several different platforms that you can use for email marketing that don’t require you to know HTML or fancy coding language to make beautiful and effective emails. Constant Contact, AWeber and MailChimp are some of the more popular ones and all come with a small cost associated with them depending on your usage and list sizes. Do your research and ensure that you select one that will fulfill the needs you need from your email marketing at this point, but also gives you room to grow.

Grow your email list

Before you do anything that involves collecting emails and building a subscriber list, it’s important that you make yourself familiar with Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL). This legislation came into effect in 2014 and is in place to protect Canadians from spam, while still ensuring businesses can continue to compete in the marketplace. The law does not allow you to send any commercial electronic messages without the recipient’s consent/permission. That means you can’t just take a bunch of email addresses from people you’ve been in touch with in the past and add them to a list to receive your other email communications. Another thing you can’t forget is to include an opt-out or unsubscribe method that is clear on every email communication piece you send out.

This fast fact sheet can help you better understand the law and how you can make sure you’re compliant.

Once you understand the rules around growing your email list, it’s important to remember that everyone has to start somewhere. Your first emails may not go out to thousands of people but just like anything, overtime they will grow with consistency and quality content. To attract more subscribers, find touchpoints that you can ask your customers to opt-in at such as on your website, blog, social platforms, your email signature, etc. It’s important to make it clear before someone signs up what they are signing up for. For example, if you are a business sending out lots of communications (daily or weekly) then your subscribers should know this first.

While building your list, you may want to think about segmentation depending on your company. For example, you may want to give people an option to opt-in to different communications so if they’re only interested in receiving certain things, that’s all they will receive. You also may want to think about the different audiences you may have and may want to communicate with down the line. For example, at Futurpreneur Canada our audiences are entrepreneurs, mentors and partners. Although some communications we send out may be of interest to all these audiences, some may only be relevant to certain ones. It’s important to segment these lists early on so you’re not just left with a pile of emails without fully understanding where and who they belong too.

A good way to build up your list is by offering a lead magnet which is basically something you will provide them with in exchange for their email. A lead magnet could be a special discount or coupon when you sign-up for your newsletter, a free trial, an eBook or whatever is doable for your business.

Types of emails

There are several kinds of emails that you may send to your subscribers. There are marketing emails which are informational or promotional messages sent to your selected audience. These may include newsletters, sales promotions, announcements, follow-ups or surveys. Secondly there are transactional emails. These emails are usually automated and triggered based off how your customer is interacting with your brand. For example, if they purchase something from your website, they’ll get an email with their purchase confirmation and maybe an email with order tracking or delivery information. Lastly, there are operational emails which contain important information about your business such as being closed for the holidays, if your website is down for maintenance, changes to your services, etc. All three of these types of emails serve a different purpose but are ways to engage or reengage your audience.

Build a strategy

Think through what works best for your business in terms of the types of emails you want to send and understand how and when you are communicating at different touch points to ensure you don’t over communicate. The biggest mistake businesses make is just sending emails whenever they feel like it or think of it and the lack of consistency really ends up doing more harm than good. Build out where you want to start in terms of your email marketing efforts. Maybe it’s a monthly newsletter, maybe it’s a more time sensitive campaign around different deals or initiatives you have happening. Look at the different touch points you could be communicating with your audience and figure out what fits best for your business.

Build your campaign

The email marketing tools listed above will help you build an attractive campaign or email send that fits well with your brand but there are still a few things to keep in mind when building your emails:

  • Don’t bore them with too much text. The attention span of an adult is on average eight seconds so if they open an email that’s long and wordy, they likely will just delete it. Keep it short, visual and straight to the point.
  • Check in with your audience and who the email will be sent to. Ensuring that the content you are putting into the email is relevant to everyone on your list is important. For example, you don’t want to send out an email to your whole list of subscribers that live across Canada if your email message is about a sale only happening in Toronto.
  • Think about your branding and make sure that your email messages are in line with your brand guidelines. When you visit your website, social media channels or even just look at a flyer from your business, everything should look like it falls under the same umbrella.
  • Think about optimization for your emails. With 41% of email opens happening on mobile devices, it’s critical that your email displays properly and effectively not just on a desktop computer.

Measure your results

You’ve sent out your first email(s) and now it’s time to see how successful your efforts actually were and where there is room for improvement. Many of the email marketing tools you’ll use will provide their own set of analytics to you which allow you to easily see how your emails are performing. Some of the key analytics to look at are:

  • Unique opens: This is the number of unique subscribers who opened your campaign. This will only count each person as one open and won’t count if a subscriber opened more than once.
  • Bounces/bounce rate: This number tells you the number of people your email was undeliverable too.
  • Open rate: The percentage of subscribers who opened your campaign.
  • Click-through-rate (CTR): The percentage of people who opened your campaign who then clicked on a link within your email.
  • Unsubscribes: The number of people who unsubscribed from your email and no longer wish to receive communications from you.

These are just some of the metrics that you should look at and see how they change between emails. What are people clicking on? What are people ignoring? What are people not liking? Analyze this to help you develop future email communications.

Improve

Once you’ve analyzed your campaigns, you may want to consider some of the following to improve your email communications.

1) Avoid spam filters by making sure recipients have opted-in to your communications and are clear on what they are opting in too. For more tips on this, check out this resource from MailChimp.
2) Perfect your timing by analyzing when people are opening your emails and what times and dates are getting the best results.
3) Write compelling subject lines that don’t use the bait-and-switch tactic by using deceptive lines.
4) Perfect your language by ensuring that your copy is clean, and consistent with your brand. Write as if you’re writing to one person that’s a friend of yours. What kind of tone would make you want to read it?
5) Create quality content that makes people want to stop and read and keep coming back for more. If your subscribers like what you’re delivering, they’ll want to keep reading what you’re sending.

Email marketing can be an efficient way for you to engage and reengage your audience. It can provide your audience with valuable content and information about your business and keep them coming back for more (when done correctly). Follow this guide to get started!

Written by: Lauren Marinigh, Social Media & Content Specialist, Futurpreneur Canada

Spotlight on Enzymes and GUSTA: Getting Your Products on the Shelves of Retailers

Launching and marketing a new product is an exciting adventure for the entrepreneur who is working on such a project. While it may be stimulating, this adventure can also be demanding and wide-ranging. There are a lot of challenges to overcome before an entrepreneur can picture their product on the shelves of retailers. For a number of entrepreneurs, product distribution has proven to be a real puzzle. We interviewed Enzymes’ founders, Pascale Hancock and Jocelyn Bondu along with GUSTA’s, Sylvain Karpinski, to give entrepreneurs some key advice on the topic.

Everything begins with a good product that is known and liked

The history of both Enzymes and GUSTA started with the development of a distinctive, high-quality product. As consumers become increasingly concerned about their health, they are placing more importance on the quality of the foods they buy. To address this need, Enzymes developed a brand new line of cold-pressed juices that help the consumer adopt a healthier lifestyle. GUSTA responded to this same need by developing a line of vegan deli meats and cheeses that make even the most skeptical carnivores salivate.

To distribute your product, every entrepreneur must be able to convince retailers of its competitive value and in particular, that the clientele likes it too. Although the retailer is responsible for ensuring the product’s sale to the final consumer, the product must be minimally known to the clientele before it can earn a place on the shelf. GUSTA thus opted to do a marketing campaign prior to launching its products. This campaign created a high demand for its vegan deli meats and cheeses before they were even available for sale. Merchants noticed the public’s growing demand for the company’s products and quickly indicated their intention to buy from GUSTA.

“All of our first clients, they contacted us. We did a marketing campaign before the launch. As soon as we were ready, several grocers wanted to have our products,” Sylvain shared.

An entrepreneur launching a new product has two clients to think about: the retailer who buys and resells their products and the final consumer. While the retailer is the direct client―in other words, the one who pays the bill―maintaining a relationship with the final consumer is essential. Retailers buy from the company at the wants and needs of the final consumer.

Founders of Enzymes pose with their product.

Aside from the product, customer service makes all the difference!

Simply having a good product is not enough to earn a place on retailers’ shelves. Jocelyn and Pascale from Enzymes had a good understanding of this reality. They made their products known by providing outstanding service to their retail clients. They were able to do so because they were, from the outset, the principal managers of their entire distribution. Participating in each step of their products’ distribution, they frequently visited their clients’ commercial spaces where they restocked the merchandise, rearranged displays, did demonstrations for consumers and developed an excellent relationship with customers.

“If we signed an agreement, it’s because of the service we provided. We built our clientele on that. We never let our retailers down,” Pascale explained. “We’ll never lose a client over losses. We make accommodations, we’ll change the merchandise and go do demonstrations. I think that it’s the relationship we have with them that makes the difference.” For example, the pair made the deliveries themselves at first. They had every kind of juice in their truck, went into the store, restocked the shelves and made the bill. The retailer didn’t have to do a thing. “We gave a lot because we wanted to break into the market,” Jocelyn said. “We really spoiled our clients.”

This close relationship with the client allowed the pair to promote Enzymes’ products as well as to more frequently replenish client’s stock with the most popular products. For example, Enzymes’ best seller is its Immunity juice. Frequent restocking of this very popular product means the client will never run out of it. This translates into better service for the client and has a positive effect on the total volume of sales. Pascale and Jocelyn are categorical when they say that this frequent stock replenishment made all the difference for Enzymes.

Thinking about large-scale distribution from the outset

Pascale and Jocelyn from Enzymes and Sylvain from GUSTA all agree that you must think about distributors from the very beginning. Any company that wants to distribute its products should start out by including the cost of a distributor in its cost price, whether or not a distributor is involved. This practice will help you avoid an eventual increase in your sale price, once a distributor must finally be included in the process. To set a price that truly takes distribution into account, our three insiders consider a 20% to 30% increase in cost price to be sufficient.

“Sooner or later, for any product, the goal is to have it distributed and for that to happen, you need a distributor,” Pascale explained. “If your price starts out too low and you have to raise it later to cover distribution costs, you may lose points of sale as a result.”

“You really have to take distribution costs into account right from the start, otherwise you’re sunk,” shared Sylvain.

It may be tempting to rely only on your own ways to distribute your product, especially during the start-up phase. Distribution through a distributor is a step that follows the company’s launch, but our three entrepreneur’s insist on the importance of good planning in this area. You must understand that managing your own product distribution is only a temporary and relatively brief phase in the history of a product’s distribution. The key phase in a product’s distribution is the entrance of a distributor who will help the product truly take its share of the market.

Understanding and diversifying your points of sale

Every point of sale serves a separate clientele with its own needs and buying behaviours. Pascale and Jocelyn from Enzymes quickly grasped the importance of diversifying their points of sale so that retailers’ slumps would not have an impact on their company. “Every point of sale has its highs and lows. That doesn’t mean that some points of sale are better than others, just that each one has its own cycle,” Jocelyn said.

There came a time when Pascale and Jocelyn had to find new points of sale and they were surprised by the level of sales made by these new clients. Although their products had initially been intended for natural food stores, they noted that cafés sold their products amazingly well. So they developed completely new avenues for the distribution of their cold-pressed juices.

GUSTA’s Sylvain Karpinski is also developing new distribution channels, a process that will require him to modify the formats, packaging and processing of his products. GUSTA will henceforth focus on the food service sector. “The products are sold in greater quantities and there is no packaging required. The wrapping is much simpler. Sausages are sold in 3-kg packs and the cheeses in 4-kg packs. You could quickly reach a very advantageous volume.”

Modifying the products’ wrapping will be relatively easy for GUSTA. However, restaurant owners also require that certain products be processed. Some, for example, want pre-grated cheese. To respond to this demand and get new orders, GUSTA will have to buy new equipment or partner with another company to ensure the processing of its product.

GUSTA currently has 200 points of sale in Quebec and 50 in Ontario. It distributes in health food stores, greengrocers and more and more, in traditional grocery stores. The food service industry is a brand new market for GUSTA’s vegan deli meats and cheeses.

The challenge is to be convincing

Enzymes and GUSTA have excellent products. Their quality and distinctive character are undeniable. That said, in the world of distribution, each new point of sale is a hard-won little victory. “We leave several samples. We don’t necessarily have follow-up and people don’t always answer our calls or emails. That’s the hardest part. Sometimes, it takes as many as seven attempts to get a response. There’s a fine line between being tenacious and becoming an annoyance,” Pascale shared.

Whether the scale is large or small, the challenge of distribution remains the same: to be convincing! The entrepreneur hoping to distribute his product must convince both the independent retailer and the buyer for a big chain. Although these two have very different realities, their ultimate goal is the same: to achieve the highest volume of sales possible.

Contrary to what one might think, big chains are not the greediest in terms of margins. Instead, the big chains are the most forgiving with respect to new products trying to break into the market. That said, distribution in partnership with these big players requires compliance with longer and stricter procedures. Thus no distribution method can be said to be perfect.

It’s always the same routine to get a new client: talk about and demonstrate your product, showcase its advantages and prove to the retailer that the final consumer wants to buy it. A routine that appears simple can become demanding over time. That said, pride definitely takes precedence over all the rest when the entrepreneur sees his product on retailers’ shelves.

Written By: Jean-Philippe L’Écuyer, Entrepreneur in Residence, Futurpreneur Canada, jplecuyer@futurpreneur.ca

Building Your Personal Brand Because You’re not Just Selling Your Products

Personal branding is the practice of people marketing themselves and their careers as brands. Although it’s obviously important to build your business’s brand, as an entrepreneur personal branding can be just as important.

Consumers have a tendency to trust people more than they do corporations or businesses. People are used to being bombarded with advertising everywhere they turn and it’s easy to block out and ignore the noise. Standing out as a business has become even harder than ever before, especially as a business without a huge marketing budget. That’s why personal branding can help give your business a relatable face behind your brand that people can build a more authentic relationship with.

What happens when people feel more emotionally invested in your business? They are more likely to become brand loyal which will ultimately not only attract more customers but loyal customers to your business. But where do you start with your personal brand?

Step one: Know who you are

Building a brand around a “fake” version of yourself isn’t going to get you anywhere and it’s going to be really tough trying to be someone you’re not all the time. Instead, having a good understanding of yourself, your beliefs, what you care about and why you started your business will help you put your best foot forward in your personal branding efforts. Your personal brand should reflect who you are because at the end of the day, people connect with other people and if you don’t seem like a real person then why would they trust you? Why would they trust your business? Why should they listen to you?

I love the way Entrepreneur.com put it in their article on personal branding: “Building a personal brand is first and foremost developing an understanding of your true self and then sharing that with the world. Take your masks off and don’t be afraid of being vulnerable.”

Step two: Put yourself out there

As an entrepreneur it’s natural that you want to put everything into your business. You want the flashiest marketing and sales tactics to help attract new people to your brand. However, one of the most valuable marketing tools can be sitting right in front of you—yourself. Never underestimate the importance of taking yourself out from behind your business and putting yourself out there. Attend conferences and networking events, apply to be a speaker at events or workshops. Speak authentically and don’t just talk about your product or services, instead be yourself and show people that you are an expert and thought leader within your sector. This will help build your personal brand, humanize your business’s brand and build trust.

Step three: Start writing

You may be thinking that you’re not a writer so there’s no way that you can start writing and publishing content anywhere. However, anyone can be a writer in this day-in-age and blogging has made publishing content even more attainable to people. By writing about your area of expertise for either your own blog or different blogs that are in line with your brand, you’ll start to become more known in your sector and to your consumers. For example, as an entrepreneur who owns a restaurant, you can reach out to see if you can contribute to food magazines and blogs and you can reach out to influential foodie bloggers who may be interested in interviewing you or something similar for their blog. Since you’re also an entrepreneur, you can reach out to business blogs to offer your insights and expertise around entrepreneurship and starting a business. The opportunities are endless.

Step four: Build your social media profiles

One of the biggest mistakes you can make as an entrepreneur is only building social media profiles for your business and not for you. Alternatively, using your business’s social accounts for your personal use. It’s important to remember that when an outsider sees your business’s profile on social media, they see your business and only your business. If you start talking in first-person it gets very confusing. For example if Coca Cola tweeted out: “I can’t wait to head to a business conference today in Toronto” we would all be super confused. Instead, build a personal profile(s) for yourself too. Follow people in your industry that are interesting or that you admire, follow brands that you love to stay in touch with what they’re doing, engage in conversations and with people and you’ll find you begin to build more relationships and connections in a more authentic way.

Personal branding can be such a valuable component for yourself and your business. So ignoring it completely and only focusing on your business’s brand can be a missed opportunity. Follow these steps to start thinking about how you can start building your personal brand.

Written by: Lauren Marinigh, Social Media & Content Specialist, Futurpreneur Canada

Building Your Sales Process

Written By: Jean-Philippe L’Écuyer, Entrepreneur in Residence, Futurpreneur Canada, jplecuyer@futurpreneur.ca

Any entrepreneur understands that knowing how to market your product or service is crucial to attain business success. As its main representative, you are your own brand’s appointed ambassador.

Quite naturally, the progression of your business led you to develop—consciously or not— your own selling style, complemented with a unique set of sales techniques and arguments. To recognize this fact is a necessity! This also often means you’ve developed a set of habits when it comes to marketing your goods. Take a step back and look at those habits. Do they serve you well—or well enough? Should you consider some freshening up?

Some may rightly say that selling is more of an art form than a science, but the fact remains that some basic, indisputable principles can be universally applied. Below we’ll review tried and true steps that stand out when analyzing a successful sale. Take the time to assess how these different steps could be implemented in your business.

Step one: Choosing the right channels

The very first step to sell your product or service is to determine the best way to effectively reach your potential customer.

Knowing what drives your target audience, and where, constitutes the primary drill in your prospecting tool kit. There are a lot of well-used channels that can lead to your customer: networking events, trade shows, professional associations, conventions and other business events are just a few of them.

Unfortunately, many business people stick to those familiar channels, neglecting to check out and experiment with new ones that may give them an unexpected edge. Again, take the time to investigate and try out new spots that might entice your clientele.

Step two: Prospecting

Once you’ve established which channels you will favour, you can access different customer bases that show potential for your business. Remind yourself that not all will be necessarily interested by your proposal, but a portion of those individuals may effectively turn out to be good prospects.

This is where you make first contact with your soon-to-be clients. Whether in person, by phone or through the internet, the prospection process starts here and lets you determine more precisely who is more likely to appreciate your product and is worth investing efforts on.

Could you describe what your ideal customer looks like? Think of him or her as you browse through the heap. What are their interests and motivations? Which age group do they fall in? What is their professional status? You get the picture. Prospection is not about the biggest catch, but rather about the best match with what you have to offer.

Step three: Confirming the match

You’ve started by choosing the proper channels to engage with your customer base. Prospecting actions led you to find a promising client. What you need to do now is to confirm that hopeful match and determine if he or she equates favourably with your ideal client profile. Compared to the previous step, confirming a match requires deeper insight and a more detailed assessment of your prospect’s need.

To do so, inquire about his or her real interest. Make sure not to mirror the answers with a simplistic tie-in to your product or service. What we want to achieve here is a clear understanding of the client’s frame of reference.

At this confirming stage, honesty toward your prospect, and yourself, is paramount. Is your product or service offering really suited to their true needs? Imagine if you were a doctor. Would you operate on someone for a condition you are not perfectly qualified for? Wouldn’t you instead refer your patient to a specialist? That is the mindset you should adopt toward a client, regardless of the commercial context.

This said, if your product or service fittingly addresses your prospect’s needs, you can then work your way toward step four, namely the proper presentation of your proposal.

Step four: Presenting your proposal 

The presentation step doesn’t have to happen immediately after the confirming step. For example, if the confirmation of your match occurs at an exhibition or tradeshow it will be necessary to make a later appointment to make a proper, individual presentation.

This full-fledged proposal is your opportunity to showcase your product or service in the best possible light, in tune with the needs and interests previously pointed out by the potential customer. This also means you need to skillfully customize your presentation, staying away from any kind of standardized approach.

The key here is dialogue. Your presentation has to be molded into an exchange with the client, not a monologue as too many entrepreneurs unfortunately tend to do. A robotic description won’t let you take into account all the distinctive elements that matter to your host. Make sure to underline the competitive advantages of your proposal, all the while monitoring your prospect’s feedback to your bid.

Step five: Negotiating

If the prospect is not interested by your proposal, he or she will probably try to cut short on your presentation. Sometimes this can be difficult to detect with an extremely polite client, so be observant. Ask a few simple questions like: “How does that look to you?” or “Does our product or service address your needs?”

If, on the contrary, the customer is drawn by your offer, they’ll show their interest by wanting to negotiate. That’s an excellent sign! Be aware of the very first bargaining signs as some clients can show their intent in an understated manner. Basically, what the client is looking for is good value for money in relation to his specific needs and available budget.

Many entrepreneurs wrongly assume that negotiating simply means to lower the price in order to close the sale, which is far from the case! There are numerous ways to cut a deal that will maximize both parties’ interests, where the customer feels he or she got what he needs at an affordable price and where you deem you’ve made a profitable transaction for your business.

Step six: Finalizing the sale

Closing the sale is the most important step of the process since it transforms all your preceding efforts into hard dollars. Some entrepreneurs experience difficulty with this step, a hardship which strongly impacts on their bottom line.

In some instances, the client can grab the leadership before you do on this issue. Remember that it’s your responsibility as an entrepreneur to finalize the sale; it is therefore crucial for you to stay ahead of the game.

Practically speaking, this means you have to act as the guide towards this finalization. Based on what you’ve learned at the negotiation stage, you’ll make a formal proposal—that doesn’t mean to simply write an amount and ask for a signature on the dotted line. You need to clearly lay down the benefits of your transaction for the client. That will make a world of difference.

Implementing the key steps in your sales process

The steps we’ve been looking at are considered by the overall business community as bedrock principles that can be confidently used. What do you think? Do they fit with your personal sales approach? Is there room for improvement?

Take the time to integrate those steps into your sales process and adapt them to your own business style. What you’re offering is as unique as your personality, your network and your business ambitions.

To read in more depth how to build your sales process and how to improve your overall skillset around sales, download our free sales ebook, Pitch Perfect: Your Playbook for Winning at Sales.

Leader Spotlight on Shelley Mayer of Ramp Communications

Growing up in an entrepreneurial family, Shelley Mayer always felt the draw towards becoming an entrepreneur herself. In 2011, after ten years in national automotive sales and marketing, she made that dream come true by starting Ramp Communications. She loved the creative side of marketing and communications and was very interested in helping non-profit organizations and charities, so that is what inspired her to marry her two interested to start Ramp.

Ramp is a full service marketing and advertising agency that specializes in the social profit sector. They are a Certified B-Corporation that works with charities, non-profits, social enterprise, the public sector and organizations that measure success not only through profit but also by social impact. They provide strategic and creative services to help shape their clients’ brands and campaigns and also manage campaigns from concept through to execution and implementation.

Shelley is a leader in marketing and communications with her years of expertise working with a variety of different clients, so we thought we’d catch up with her to get some insight on marketing for small business.

What do you find to be the biggest challenge for new entrepreneurs and small businesses when it comes to marketing?

I think that really honing in on your most strategic target audience and pointing everything in that direction is a challenge for most entrepreneurs. There is a tendency to want to think that everybody is your client and most entrepreneurs have limited budgets so focus helps to use funds most efficiently.

If you were to recommend to a new entrepreneur to focus on one (or two) areas when it comes to their marketing what would they be? 

Well the tactics totally depend on the nature of the business and who your customer is, but I guess I would say to:

1) Get very clear on your customer and value proposition; ensure you know who is going to be most likely to buy your product or service and why they are going to buy from you.

2) Plan one tactic to reach that audience and measure your results before adapting and adjusting. I see a lot of people dilute their effort by trying to do too many different things and doing nothing effectively.

What are your suggestions for entrepreneurs that don’t have a marketing budget that allows them to hire experts or an agency? 

Building on my previous answer, I would say don’t spread yourself too thin, and really make sure that all your efforts are aimed at that specific ideal customer.

Branding is so critical in the first stages of building your business. Where do you suggest entrepreneurs start? 

Branding is a critical element and I think it is something to be invested in. But you can’t build your brand if you aren’t clear about who you are. Understanding the values that underlay your business, why you do what you do (your company’s purpose) and your vision for the future are important aspects to settle before you attempt to create a brand. The best brands reflect the essence of who they are at their core back to the world. With authentic values and a clear purpose in place, day-to-day business decisions become easier to make because they are informed by who you truly are as a business and your team can live the brand each day.

Social media/online marketing or traditional marketing tactics – where do you think is the best for small businesses to focus? Why? 

Digital tactics tend to scale better to a wide range of budgets. The barriers to entry are low and you can measure results relatively easily so you get immediate feedback about what is working. However, traditional tactics should not be overlooked as they offer a wider range of media types and placement options that can help you reach a mass audience effectively. Regardless of the tactic you choose, ensure your ads/communications reflect your brand, speak to your ideal client and communicate your main value proposition.

What’s your one piece of advice to aspiring or new entrepreneurs?

Spending time up front to think about your brand, target audience and main value proposition can save time and effort down the road, help you get your business/brand in front of the right people from the beginning, and keep your team, suppliers, and other stakeholders on track to be effective brand ambassadors.

To learn more about Ramp Communications, visit their website here.

Written by: Lauren Marinigh, Social Media & Content Specialist, Futurpreneur Canada

Talking Sales with Expert Mark Mantha

With over 30 years of experience in a variety of client and business development senior roles, Mark Mantha brings a vast knowledge of various industries to Futurpreneur Canada as a mentor, including healthcare, IT, consumer, communications and digital media. Mark has won awards for his outstanding history in his business development efforts, program launches, sales management and more and has even worked with Fortune 500 companies. Recently (2011) he took this experience and established MAN-MAC Consulting Inc., a global leader in the digital media marketplace.

We chatted with Mark about one of his areas of expertise, sales to hear some of his biggest tips for entrepreneurs. Here is what he had to say…

How would you define the difference between sales and marketing?

Sales is the process and relationship build to sell your “stock” (company product or services). Marketing is aligning with the marketplace and targets to build your brand awareness and brand equity. There is confusion here with young companies and at times the lines do get blurred. Building your brand and your value proposition to the market is being disruptive and having a presence bigger than your company. Too many start-ups have a great story and product suite to parlay but are very covert in their marketing of that message. They get caught up in “selling” of something that is “unknown by an unknown”. Put simply, salespeople service demand and marketing generates demand.

What are your top tips for entrepreneurs developing their sales pitch?

Stop pounding your chest—talk about the market and value proposition in alignment to the pent up market demands. It’s not about you, it’s about filling needs. Sales have morphed tremendously and you must become a trust ally and confidant. Stop talking and start listening—any market will tell you where to go or what is missing. Focus on the customer’s problems and address the issue with appropriate offerings (products and services). I see so many presentations even at senior levels of companies where people talk about themselves and their next best mousetrap for an hour totally alienating themselves from the prospect.

What is the biggest mistake you see people make when it comes to sales?

Trying to put a square peg in a round hole aka not understanding need satisfaction selling (see above). Take on a consultative approach. No one client has similar needs to the next. This is not about YOU it is about them to set yourself apart you must be a valued resource and problem solver not a believer that you have the next revolutionary product. Know your audience! Many young companies take a broad brush approach to selling and prospects are miffed by the speculative approach they take. You seldom get a second chance when you don’t understand your audience and their needs.

What is your biggest tip for stewarding relationships with customers that are already in your pipeline?

Create a personal touch/relations. People buy from people they do not buy from companies. Relationship selling is based on the concept that building long-lasting relationships with people will lead to future sales. If prospects view you as an industry expert and valued advisor they will run to you for guidance and council. Selling is about comfort and when any company or person feels comfortable about you, your product suite and your company they will open up their purse strings and look to develop a partnership versus a vendor relationship.

What is your biggest piece of advice for entrepreneurs (aspiring and current)?

Market research. It’s not about building a market or next widget, it’s about supplying to a market needing help and filling a void. This is akin to watching Shark Tank or Dragons’ Den where entrepreneurs think they have just solved world hunger based on an app or a brain child derived out of their basement. Do your homework. Is your idea or product ready for primetime? Is there a growing market for such? Is there pent up demand? What are the competitive pressures? If they have never done or even looked at doing at SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis it is worth the time, money and effort.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Selling begins when the customer says no. Know their business better than they know their business. Young sales people can give up easily on their message when early rejection kicks in. Remember that nothing will be handed to you.

To learn more about sales and improve your skill set, visit our Business Resource Centre at fpbyplankdev.wpengine.com/en/resources/.

Written By: Lauren Marinigh, Social Media & Content Specialist, Futurpreneur Canada

Experts Tackle Branding Challenges with GentStone

Described as resourceful and ambitious, Blessy Urbi, Owner of GentStone, a luxury jewelry brand in Vancouver, started her own business to have a legacy she could leave behind and financial independence. Blessy not only balances her own business but works as a Senior Administrative Assistant at CIBC Mellon while also attending Douglas College to finish her degree in financial services management.

With a passion for jewelry and a realization that she could express her creativity without the bounds of a corporate life, she developed a product that makes the world a better place and changes the way people think. Blessy handcrafts men and women’s jewelry using semi-precious stones, precious metals and cubic zirconia. GentStone focuses on self-betterment through lithotherapy and self-expression. “I bring value to my clients by conveying the healing properties of each stone such as black onyx which repels negative energy and fortifies self-determination,” she explains.

GentStone started as an ecommerce website but Blessy’s products are now being sold at four retail stores in British Columbia. GentStone also has multiple brand ambassadors from all over North America that promote their products on Instagram.

Although Blessy has seen growth she also has been facing a challenge, just like many entrepreneurs do while building a business. When she started GentStone she was certain that it would be successful because of the extensive market research she conducted on jewelry. She took that research and based her brand on what other successful companies were doing, but she forgot about one important thing—differentiating herself.

“People would ask me what made me different and why they should buy from me which made me realize I was lacking brand identity,” she shared. “It took me almost a year to figure this out and I had to go back on ‘why’ I started my business.” Blessy knew she wanted to convey lithotherapy and the healing properties of the stone that she uses in her jewelry pieces but she hasn’t figured out how she can turn that into a competitive advantage and how to visually advertise her products to her target market.

We wanted to help Blessy, so we reached out to some of our friends and experts to share their insights with her around the challenge she is currently facing. Here is what they had to say…

David Brouitt is the Creative Director of Ramp Communications Inc., a full-service marketing and communications agency based out of Toronto.

When approaching a branding exercise, we always ask a very fundamental question: What business are you in?

In the case of GentStone, the temptation might be to answer that by simply saying: “selling modern fashionable jewelry”. But what you have actually identified is that you are in the business of marketing the healing properties of the jewelry you sell. This refined answer goes a long way in informing what your brand needs to be about. For example, it will help define the visual look and feel of the brand (perhaps earth tones and soft edges versus sleek and modern).

The current tone of the brand does not convey the spirit of the business you are in, which is healing. The combination of the name GentStone, the cool, sleek design of the logo, and accompanying dominant, dark images on the website, while pleasing and contemporary, reflect a different lifestyle than the products you are selling. (Images that are more on brand might be the isolated images of the jewelry in warmer settings like on rocks outside, or against woodgrain which appear on your Facebook page). In terms of models used, the woman on the website strikes a closer match to where the brand could go, than the man in the car in the cover photo.

You also need to give your customer reasons to believe. Are there testimonials or other evidence you can draw on to support the idea that the raw materials that are used in the manufacturing of the jewelry restore balance to the body or have other healing qualities? (This may be more or less important depending on who you target your marketing to. For example, if you are advertising in magazines whose editorial content is about this kind of healing, the readers will already be aligned).

If lithotherapy is your point of difference, build a brand that looks and feels warm and nurturing and then shout it from the roof tops! Make it front and centre on your website and message number one on all of your other promotional materials.

Aman Dhanoa is the Marketing Manager at Futurpreneur Canada, a non-profit organization that helps young people start businesses.

Realizing that you need to re-evaluate your brand can be a sobering process. This could take a hit to the ego and result in a lot of questions. But the fact that you were able to go back and ask yourself the key question of “why I started” should be commended. A big decision like making a pivot such as this for any business takes courage but becoming aware is just half the battle. To determine which direction to take your brand you need to look at what differentiates you from your competitors. Simply put – what makes you stand out from the crowd?

Since you have identified lithotherapy and healing properties – these benefits should be in all of your messaging and be consistent with the look and feel you want to create with the brand (name, logo, colours, design, etc.). This will build your brand identity and easily identify you in the market.

The next step is to research and get to know your target market:

  • Do you have a good sense of who your customer currently is?
  • Is this who I really want to target?
  • Who is your ideal customer?
  • Are there other opportunities I may be missing?

Let that inform your decision on whether you need to target a different age group or whether you need to move towards being more gender-neutral, for example. When it comes to advertising, think about ways you can visually tell a story about your products.

Once you have figured this out then it’s important to stay consistent to your brand identity and messaging. The name GentStone and the majority of you images imply that your target audience are men but your mission says “men’s and women’s jewelry”. Pay attention to the small details and ensuring everything fits together in harmony, not unlike the luxury jewelry you craft.

Jeremy Choi is the CEO and Co-Founder of WPUP, a support management company for WordPress websites based in Toronto.

What seems like a competitive advantage sometimes is not. I would challenge you to reach out to all of your customers and ask them why they purchased from your website over the competitors. At WPUP, when we created advertisements and products, we were so sure everyone cared about security, but after throwing in thousands of dollars, we found out people cared very little. This was incredibly valuable information to have.

However, if you do find out that what you stated above is your true competitive advantage in the market, then focus on the results of what these healing properties really create and make that the message. We find that people care about the end results of what they will get, versus the features of a product. Once you’ve established that, find a designer/agency if you can’t create it yourself and surround yourself with professionals who understand your advantage(s) and can help you create the image and brand for you.

Alex Glassey is President of
AlexGlassy.com and teaches entrepreneurs develop into successful business owners.

Two fatal mistakes in branding are that we think about ourselves (e.g. our products and services) or our competitors but our target customer doesn’t care about either one so our messages are uninspiring, undifferentiated, boring and just meh. Instead, think about what your customer wants to experience. For example: She’s in pain. Where does it hurt? Why does it hurt? How would she prefer to feel? What would she be able to do when she’s pain free that she can’t do now? Put yourself in her shoes and vividly imagine her experience from pain to relief, and the freedom and happiness that come with it.

NOW you can start thinking about how to visually communicate this. Think emotionally and of aspirations. Use colour, shapes, images and words that evoke the experience and the feelings your customer is seeking. By doing this, by putting your customer at the centre of your branding exercise, your results will be much more compelling and differentiated.

If you have advice for GentStone around this topic, tweet Blessy at @GentStone

Nathon Kong: A Strong Brand’s Secret Ingredient

Written By: Jean-Philippe L’Écuyer, Entrepreneur in Residence, Futurpreneur Canada, jplecuyer@futurpreneur.ca

The Tailor2Go truck is a real attention-getter. While it makes those familiar with the brand smile, it piques the curiosity of outsiders. With that said, owner, Nathon Kong is finding that it’s becoming harder and harder for people to ignore the strong brand he has built for Tailor2Go.

The Tailor2Go brand is inseparable from its founder, Nathon Kong. A young, dynamic entrepreneur, Nathon exudes a vibrant energy, one associated with a deep meaning. Tailor2Go is the very expression of the education and fundamental values of its founder. Nathon easily navigates between Tailor2Go’s history and that of his own childhood, a naturalness that attests to strength of the connection between the two.

Education and values as pillars of the brand

Nathon’s first contact with entrepreneurship goes back to his family. His parents owned a company that demanded a great deal of time and many sacrifices. Nathon remembers well how much this business monopolized his parents’ lives, his mother’s in particular. “All I know is that when I was young, my mother worked a lot,” he explained. In all honesty, he would have liked to spend more time with his mother. Yet he clearly acknowledges his mother’s contribution to his education. “She gave me so much more than everything I could have ever hoped for!”

Nathon’s mother was able to communicate the values of integrity and authenticity founded on “being” rather than on “having.” There was also an emphasis placed on community. “Success is not your title or what you have, but rather it is what you give back to the community,” he shared.

When Nathon describes his childhood and his education, we recognize all the cultural specificities that find their expression in his immense respect and endless gratitude for what had been passed on to him. Nathon says that in his case, his mother was his most treasured mentor.

As far back as he can remember, Nathon always wanted to be an entrepreneur. He quickly immersed himself in the milieu and today he capitalizes on the importance of achieving the full potential of what one truly is at heart.

A suit that cost too much!

While the existence of Nathon’s entrepreneurial spirit was never in question, the Tailor2Go brand was actually born of a combination of circumstances. After completing his MBA, Nathon began searching for a suit that reflected his personality. Proud and concerned about his image, he took six months to find a suit that he really liked. Having finally found that rare gem, he spent an exorbitant sum to purchase the suit in question. Despite the cost, Nathon felt that wearing a suit that truly pleased him was essential.

Although we can only guess how much Nathon spent on the famous suit, the amount remains a state secret to this day. It’s anyone’s guess! It was, however, only after spending this staggering amount that Nathon discovered the universe of bespoke suits. “Made-to-measure is more expensive but you get so much more for your money. That’s when I realized that there was an opening in the market.”

For Nathon, this was the “ah-ha” moment. To his way of thinking, men definitely wanted quality in their professional clothing. The question became how to offer them the desired level of quality and how much they were willing to pay for it. Nathon made two observations that are today the fundamentals of the Tailor2Go brand.

First, Nathon noted that the quality conveyed by a brand goes far beyond the simple product itself. It depends instead on the entire experience offered to the client. This is what allows a brand to offer its client more. Second, Nathon saw that a brand’s success was linked to the relationship it developed with its client. These two observations led to the establishment of the Tailor2Go brand’s mainstays. At that point, Nathon had to learn how to create a special relationship with the client, which would in itself be an experience.

The Tailor2Go model

This was the genesis of the idea to create a tailor who made house calls. Such a model would give the client a truly unique experience while focusing on the development of a special relationship between client and brand. In addition, this model addressed a desperate need among male professionals who want to wear made-to-measure clothing despite their lack of time. These clients would no longer have to go to the tailor because the tailor would come to them.

From then on, Nathon had his game plan. He would outfit a truck that would become his mobile boutique. This is where, Elizabeth, Tailor2Go’s mobile boutique, was born. Nathon laughs, adding that his truck is called Elizabeth Taylor!

The brand secret

Such are the foundations of Tailor2Go, an intelligent business model that is appropriate to the market it serves. That said, the Tailor2Go brand is much more than simply an effective business model that is well-positioned in the market. The secret ingredient is Nathon Kong himself! It is this young entrepreneur’s philosophy, attitude and openness as well as his discipline that serve as the bases of the Tailor2Go brand.

Nathon is an entrepreneur who knows how to pick a strong team and especially how to listen carefully to the advice he receives from the people who are with him on his entrepreneurial adventure. He has a true desire to learn the lessons provided by those who have succeeded. “I’m not good at everything and I want to learn from their success. I need to validate certain things, do the appropriate research and become informed.”

Nathon summarizes his need to learn, saying that he is a humble and insecure entrepreneur: “I make a distinction between confidence and insecurity. I am a very self-confident person. When I say that I’m insecure, I mean that I try to validate certain things. I’m not a jack-of-all trades and I need help with certain things. In the end, I will always be insecure and humble.”

Despite his thirst for learning from his elders, Nathon has demonstrated great generosity toward those who work with him. He is careful to acknowledge the time they afford him and so he tries to make the experience a pleasant one. He believes that a mentoring relationship is an exchange and that the mentor must also gain something from it. “They aren’t there to solve all my problems. That’s not what I want. It’s ultimately up to me to decide. They give me their time so I have to make the most of it. They also want to learn something in return and the encounter has to be pleasant for them too.”

On the road with Elizabeth Tailor

What’s next for Tailor2Go? It goes without saying that the goal is to ensure the company’s growth. Over the next few years, Nathon’s greatest challenge will be to build a solid team that will allow him operate his brand on a larger scale.

But remember that the Tailor2Go brand is the perfect portrait of Nathon and replicating the business model would certainly be a challenge. How could it serve several cities while maintaining the same standards of proximity and quality that Nathon has established? The young entrepreneur has to teach his company how to do without him. He will have to share the entire essence of his philosophy with his team.

Nathon has created a strong and powerful brand. He will have some major decisions to make regarding the way the brand will evolve to allow it to continue to grow. The challenge will be transferring a strong brand’s secret ingredient, namely Nathon Kong himself!

Five Tips for Developing a Winning Brand

Small businesses often confuse their brand with their logo, and that can be their biggest mistake. A brand is much more than just what your logo looks like, it’s the first impression that your consumers will get of you and the one that will stick with them. These are five things that you should be thinking about when developing your brand that will help.

Know your audience

Step one to developing a winning brand is to know and understand your audience. Your brand should touch on the concerns, needs, preferences and lifestyle of your target market, not try to be everything for everyone. Do some research on your target audience and understand their buying trends before you do anything.

What’s your story?

Creating a compelling story for your business starts with defining your mission, vision and values. Ask yourself why someone needs your product or service and why you developed it in the first place. Developing your story isn’t a time to talk about why your product is better than your competitors but instead highlight what makes it special.

Stick to what you believe in

What you believe in as a brand should follow through in everything you do. If you’re selling your products in retail stores, you’ll want to make sure the store properly aligns with your brand vision. Where you choose to carry your product can influence your brand and set a tone for it. To help make this easier, Launch Grow Joy recommends that you identify your product’s top two or three most important qualities and match these with the values of the store, especially while starting out.

Don’t cheap out on the design

Although I mentioned that branding isn’t all about the logo, it’s still critical to not cheap out or take any short cuts on developing your visual identity. This is what your consumer’s first encounter will be with your brand, so you want to create a good impression. Spend the money to invest in a designer to not just develop your logo but also your brand guidelines which will be your bible to live by through everything you do.

Grow your community

Last but not least, instead of only spending money on advertising in hopes that it sticks, focus your time on building and improving your community. People trust other people, and are more likely to check out what you have to offer based off of what another person had to say versus what you have to say. Reward and regularly engage your brand advocates, work with influencers in your space that have the same target market as you, and stop only focusing on spitting your message out yourself.

What are your biggest tips for creating a memorable brand? Tweet them to us at @Futurpreneur.

Written By: Lauren Marinigh, Social Media & Content Specialist, Futurpreneur Canada

Five Steps to Building a Marketing Strategy

As entrepreneurs, we tend to focus heavily on our business plan in the early stages, and how we are going to make ends meet. Although we see the importance in marketing, we may not see the importance in spending our time building out a marketing strategy before we get started with testing out different tactics. But marketing without a plan can be like driving with your eyes closed. A strategy can make sure you are the most effective with your marketing, and in turn, help you reach your goals.

But where do you start? Here are the five steps to take.

Step 1: Situation Analysis

Start by looking at your company’s current state. Whether you’re just starting out or have been in business for a while, stepping back and taking a good look at your business is important to building your strategy.

Look at your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT analysis). Think of strengths and weaknesses as characteristics that exist within your business and opportunities and threats that exist outside. Analyze what makes your product or service unique and what makes you stand out from your competitors, and have a clear understanding of what you’re marketing.

Step 2: Identify Your Target Market

It’s likely you understand who your target market is, but take a deeper look into them and their behaviours. Determine what their key demographics of your customers are such as age, sex, income, location, and also think about their lifestyle, like what they like to do/their interests. Entrepreneur.com suggests asking yourself the following:

Are my customers conservative or innovative?
Leaders or followers?
Timid or aggressive?
Traditional or modern?
Introverted or extroverted?
How often do they purchase what I offer? And in what quantity?

Step 3: Define Your Goals

What is the point of marketing for you and your business? Is it to drive sales? Is it to direct people to your website? Is it to get more people to subscribe to your mailing list? Define what you are hoping to achieve with your marketing and make sure to make them specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound (SMART goals) because making broad goals will make them harder to achieve.

Step 4: Lay Out Your Tactics

This is the meat of your marketing strategy. Now that you have your goals laid out and know your target audience you are trying to reach, it’s time to figure out what tactics you will use to reach these people and achieve your goals. Think about how you will reach potential customers in different stages of your sales cycle and identify a marketing mix that helps you do this. This may involve doing some additional research on different channels and their audience. For example, you’d look at the user demographic for specific social media networks, or the audience of a specific publication. This will help give you a better idea of where your target audience is and what makes the most sense to incorporate into your tactics.

Step 5: Set Your Budget

Marketing isn’t free, but since it’s one of the most critical ways to create brand awareness and bring customers in, you’re going to want to allocate a portion of your budget to it. If you are just starting out, this can make you feel a bit uneasy as you are likely already strapped for cash, but just remind yourself that marketing is essential to the success of your business. You may realize that your tactics you laid out in step four actually cost more than you anticipated, so this may involve some adjusting where necessary to make sure you have something that works for you and your business.

Happy marketing!

Written By: Lauren Marinigh, Social Media & Content Creation Coordinator, Futurpreneur Canada