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Step 3: Pumping some iron. Creating an online presence.

“The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow.” – Bill Gates

Does your organization have a website? More importantly does your business have an effective website? What about Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and all the other social media programs du jour?

Your online presence is your opportunity to make a good first impression. If you are in the business to business world, one study found that 94% of business buyers do some form of online search before contacting a business.* When it comes to individual consumers – they visit 10.4 online sources before making a purchase!*

While an online presence is important for securing a good first impression, it also plays a fundamental role in supporting your entire marketing program. An online presence provides your potential customer the ability to find out more about your product and services. Make it easy for your prospects to find out who you are and what you can do for them.

Whether you hand a potential customer a business card or conduct a billboard campaign in your market, it is vital to include information on how that potential customer can find out more.

In many instances, if your business cannot be found from a simple Google search; you simply do not exist. You can’t compete if you don’t show up for the game. Make sure your online strategy allows you to compete.

Did Steve have an online presence? Not really. Steve’s 15 year-old nephew, Roy, built Steve’s website for a high-school project. Roy is now 20 and is studying to be a doctor. The website has not been updated for 5 years. Steve doesn’t really care for computers and hasn’t visited his website since Roy showed it to him 5 years ago. Furthermore, Steve’s Auto Repair cannot be found on a Google search, but Steve’s competitors show up consistently. When Steve’s potential customers finally do stumble across his website, they are not impressed. Steve does not get a chance to make a second impression with these potential clients.

What’s the best online strategy for your business? Unfortunately, that is not a one-size fits all answer. Here are some basics:

  1. Get a website. Unless you are a seasoned pro at website design, hire a professional. Hiring a pro to build your website doesn’t have to be expensive. Get a few quotes from different companies. Keep in mind – the cheapest quote isn’t necessarily the lowest quality – and the highest quote isn’t necessarily the best quality.
  2. SEO (Search Engine Optimization). When someone searches for your business on Google or any other search engine, your name should appear on the first page of results. Ideally it will be #1 on the search results. This is the other key element to a website. It’s one thing to have a website, but if no one can find your website – what is the point? The company that builds your website should know a lot about SEO. If they don’t, find another company to build your website.
  3. Social Media. Whether you love it or hate it, you need to do it. Don’t know much about Social Media? There are many companies that will manage your social media for you. Many of these companies just charge a small monthly fee.

There is a lot more that can be said on this topic. This guidebook is meant to give you the fundamentals. If you just implement the 3 steps above, you will already be head and shoulders above your competition.






Source: Muscle

Step 2: The warm up. How do you brand your business?

“Start unknown. Finish unforgettable.” – Nike

Now that the foundation is set with your marketing plan, the next step is to create a brand image for your business. A brand image is what sets you apart from your competition. It is how people will recognize you and your company from here on out. You may have started out unknown, but the work you will put into building your brand image will help you become unforgettable.

The cornerstone for your brand identity is your logo. Do you have one? If you do have a logo, do you use that same logo consistently? Do you have certain colors and fonts that coincide with this logo, do you use those colors consistently?

Just like a workout plan – consistency matters. You wouldn’t expect to drop 50 LBS by following a workout plan haphazardly would you? A solid workout plan is only as good as how you use it. The same principle applies with your logo.

Let’s look at some classic branding examples. Do you recognize any of these companies?


Of course you recognized these brands very quickly. McDonald’s, Coca Cola, and Apple have branded themselves so well, that even just a silhouette of a Coca-Cola bottle triggers recognition of the brand. Nowhere in these advertisements did the name “McDonald’s” or “Apple” need to appear.

While it might be unlikely that any of us will create the next household brand name like Coca-Cola or McDonald’s, we can certainly learn from their branding model. Why reinvent the wheel? Take advantage of what these multi-billion dollar companies have already figured out! (Ironically – Coca Cola and McDonald’s won’t help you build muscle).

It is completely obtainable to make your business as recognizable in your area as McDonald’s is to the general public. If you sell insurance on Main Street, USA, why not brand yourself to be so recognizable that when people need insurance they think of you instead of the dozens of other agents? Do you own a clothing boutique? A boutique is a prime place to brand yourself all over the place. From the storefront sign to the tags on the clothes and the bag the customer carries the clothes home in, you have the opportunity to reinforce your brand over and over again.

They key is being consistent with your brand image, i.e. your logo. Remember Steve, with Steve’s Auto Repair?

Steve had his business cards and his sign made right when he opened his shop. He had the print shop draw up a simple design for his cards and he had the sign company do the same. The result? Two very different logos on two prime pieces of marketing. But Steve likes fixing cars. He wasn’t too concerned with the inconsistency of his logo. Both looked good, they just didn’t look the same. As time went on Steve had brochures made. These brochures were made from a different printer. Steve told the designer to design as they saw fit. After all, Steve wasn’t a marketing expert. Steve’s brochures turned out beautifully. Except he now had a third logo that looked nothing like his other logos. One year Steve decided direct mail would be a good way to reach people. He used the same logo that was on his business card this time. A few months later Steve put up a billboard. This time, the logo of choice was the same logo of his sign.

Do you see the inconsistency? This is common. Many businesses struggle to find synergy with a brand image. Unfortunately Steve missed out on an opportunity to really brand his shop. Steve could have saved money and gained new customers by utilizing a graphic design team to develop one logo that would represent him best and used on all of his marketing materials.

If you don’t have a set logo, or you don’t like your current logo now’s the time to make the change, but keep it consistent. I strongly recommend outsourcing your logo creation to an advertising company or a graphic designer. The little bit of money that it costs to do this, will save you more in time, effort and your sanity!

Now that you have developed a logo, you can create the rest of your branding material. These items below are key to developing a consistent brand image, and all of these components should be included in your marketing budget.

  • Business cards
  • Brochures and hand-outs
  • Signage
  • Promotional items, such as pens, post-its, etc.

The warm up is now over…get ready to start flexing those marketing muscles!

Source: Muscle

Get Marketing Muscle Step 1: Goal Assessment

“The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses, behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.” – Muhammad Ali

Step 1: Goal Assessment

This is the foundation to gain the marketing muscle you are striving for. It is all about goal setting, planning, and setting your mission. Do not attempt to market your business without going through this step. Skipping this step is equivalent to jumping into a gym after being missing in action for an entire decade – Injury, regret, and wasted time and money is the only possible outcome.

You are probably anxious to get started with your marketing. If you just started your business, I bet swarms of advertising representatives have already contacted you to tell you how great their program is. Maybe it is, but not now. RESIST THE TEMPTATION! It is easy to get trapped into an advertising hole without a set marketing plan. Don’t fall prey to the “Spray and Pray” marketing program. If you do you will end up using advertising programs that seem most convenient and pray that they work.

Here’s a simple 3-step warm up for your marketing muscles:

1. Plan: Create the marketing plan.

Creating your marketing plan sounds more daunting than it really is. Let’s start with the basics. Think about your business, and write down the answers to these questions.

Who are my potential customers?

Where are these customers?

Who is my competition?

Where is this competition?

What product or service do I need to focus on to gain more customers?

When is the best time to talk to my desired target audience?

How do I reach my target audience?

2. Relevant Message: Speak to your potential customers.

Real world example:

Several years ago I worked in the advertising sales department for a newspaper in South Carolina. One day I came across an ad for a national company in a competing newspaper. My mind started racing with ideas on how to get this company to advertise with me. I then became curious to see if this company was advertising in more newspapers across the country. Which brings me to my mom. She lives in Ohio and reads my hometown newspaper daily. I asked her one-day if she happened to see an advertisement for a business I was prospecting. My mom’s response, “I don’t read the ads in the newspaper!” I told her that while she did not intentionally look for the ads, she did see the ads. As you can imagine we went back and forth on this point and finally agreed to disagree.

 A few months later as I was home for Thanksgiving, I walked into the kitchen and saw my mom reading the newspaper. She looked up at me, pointed to an ad in the newspaper and invited me to a Black Friday sale at a shoe store. I smiled, and asked her how she found out about this sale. She proclaimed, “Here’s the ad in the newspaper!” And that is when I won that argument.

 My point in this story is that store clearly spoke the language of their customers that day. Does the average person wake up in the morning with bated breath anxious to see what business is advertising in the newspaper, radio, TV, or billboards…of course not. The average person isn’t consciously aware of an advertising message unless it is something that they want or need in that moment. My mom was looking for shoes that day. The fact that this store had a sale on the particular type of shoe she was hunting made the shoe store’s ad relevant. Because the shoe stores ad was relevant we went to that store that day and we both purchased shoes because of that ad.

Learn who your customers are and present a relevant message that speaks their language. 9 times out of 10, if an advertising campaign isn’t working it’s BECAUSE of the message!

3. Budget!

What about your marketing budget? Naturally, this needs to be established. Just like keeping a food diary will help you get the body of your dreams, establishing and sticking to a marketing budget will help keep you focused and on track. As you will learn in the next steps, there is more to marketing than the traditional ideas of marketing that you might have. Even the “small” items like $50 donations to the local little league team are considered marketing. Account for those small items.

Next step…The Warm Up. How to brand your business!

Source: Muscle

Meet small business owner, Steve.


Meet Steve. He loves working on cars. It is his true passion. That’s why he started Steve’s Auto Repair five years ago. Steve started out small and built up a loyal following of clients over the years. He prides himself in the service and value that he offers his clients. Steve’s business is running pretty well, but the fourth quarter of the year his business consistently drops due to the holiday season. It’s becoming a big problem and something needs to change. Advertising is on his to-do list, but the thought of putting together a plan and then forking over the money for the advertising campaign sounds about as pleasurable as doing his taxes.

 The month of October rolls around and Steve realizes that he really needs to do something to help bring in customers during his upcoming slow season. He keeps saying he will start advertising soon, but just doesn’t have the time to follow through. Coincidentally, the local newspaper advertising rep walks into his shop and talks to Steve about a new advertising program that the paper has to offer. Normally Steve wouldn’t entertain this offer, but since he does need to advertise he listens to her pitch and decides to give it a shot for one-month to “try it out”.

His month of advertising in the newspaper runs its course and Steve realizes that he got nothing out of the campaign. No one even mentioned they saw the ads. He begrudgingly writes the check to the newspaper to pay for his campaign, and proclaims “Newspaper advertising does not work for me!”

Fast forward to the first of December. Steve’s shop is slower than ever. Most people are spending their disposable income on Christmas gifts, not auto repair. He bumps into a radio ad rep at a chamber of commerce holiday event who proceeds to tell Steve about this year end special rate for radio advertising, and offers Steve an amazing deal to advertise. Steve thinks it over a couple days. He doesn’t want to waste money on advertising again, but business is slow. He needs momentum, just a few new clients! Maybe the radio will work. Steve calls up the radio rep and tells him he will try it out for 30-days hoping for results.

30-days go by. In those 30-days, Steve’s aunt and second cousin were the only ones to mention that they heard the radio ads. Frustrated, Steve once again proclaims “Radio does not work!”

Steve was not happy about spending $2,000 on advertising over the winter that gave him zero return on his investment. Thankfully, it is March and Steve’s business starts to pick up, because it always picks up in March. Steve hopes that next winter will be different.

But it wasn’t. Steve repeated the same cycle the following year. Another $2,000 down the drain.

Like most entrepreneurs, Steve started his business because he has a passion for what he does. If it were up to him, his days would be dedicated to fixing cars. But let’s face it – that is not reality. As a small business owner, you are tasked to wear multiple hats throughout the day – some more enjoyable than others. You might start your day as the bookkeeper, close an important sale over lunch, and by close of business you are the head of HR dealing with a disgruntled employee. You are busy.

When it comes to marketing, you know you have to do it. Who has the time to do marketing though? There are bigger fires to put out throughout the day, right? The problem is not that marketing takes up too much time, the problem is that marketing has the perception of taking up too much time because marketing seems overwhelming. Think for a minute: How many advertising representatives have contacted you in the last year claiming that they have the “best advertising program” in your area? I’m willing to guess that it has been at least a handful of them. Maybe you tried a few of their programs. Did you get results? If you are reading this post, chances are that your advertising expenditure did not garner the results that were promised.

Full disclosure: I’m not picking on advertising representatives – mainly because I am one of those advertising “vulchers”, I mean representatives.

Maybe you just started your own business? Perhaps you have owned your business for many years, but are searching for some fresh ideas to help promote your business? Whatever brought you here, I am glad you found this blog. I chose the phrase “get marketing muscle” very intentionally. Getting the marketing side of your business strong is similar to getting your body ripped. There are no short cuts – but the formula is a simple 5-step program. Luckily for all you foodies out there (myself included)…Throughout this guide we are talking about marketing muscle, not true muscle on your body – so, feel free to eat/workout as you chooseJ Stay tuned for Step 1 in the marketing process — Goal Assesment.



Source: Muscle

Photographing your digital billboard

I must admit I have struggled taking good quality photos of digital signs and billboards for years. Unfortunately, the convenience of snapping a photo on your iPhone does not apply when photographing a digital sign. If you have ever tried taking a photo of a digital billboard, you are very familiar with the “tiling” that appears (see example below).


The “tiling” look when the camera settings are not correct.

I recently purchased a Samsung digital camera. I am not a tech nerd – so I was a little intimidated by all the options and settings. Regardless, I went out in the field on a quest to take amazing photos of my client’s digital advertisements. After pushing every possible button on the camera – my photos still looked subpar. Frustrated, I called it quits for the day and consulted Doctor Google on the optimal way to photograph digital billboards.

Through my Google search, I found all of the answers to my questions on a tutorial by Watchfire Signs. This was the most comprehensive yet easy to digest information that I have found on this topic. My photos now look award winning — ok, that is probably not true, but they do look pretty darn good.


Post-tutorial photo. Ta-da!

If you need some guidance in this department here is the link to the Watchfire Tutorial on Photographing LED signs.

Source: Muscle

Do billboards even work?

Do you need more proof that outdoor advertising is effective? Here are some interesting stats and facts about the travel habits of Americans – conducted by Arbitron.

Arbitron, a media research company, recently conducted an Out-of-Home (OOH) advertising study. The study provides a detailed examination of America’s travel habits and its exposure to outdoor advertising including billboards, digital signage, bus shelters, taxi cabs, kiosks and more. The study also examines the shopping and purchase decisions of America’s on-the-go consumers.

  • The vast majority of U.S. adults have the opportunity to be exposed to out-of-home advertising each month. Close to 9 in 10 Americans aged 18 or older have traveled the roads or rails in a vehicle in the past month including cars, trucks, buses, taxis, commuter rails and subways.
  •  Time spent potentially exposed to Out of Home (OOH) media is significant. The average time spent traveling is over 20 hours per week and covers 169 miles. Mega-Milers, the heaviest travelers, average 363 miles per week.
  • OOH media viewership is high. Three-quarters of total U.S. adults have noticed advertising on static billboards, digital billboards, sides of public buses, bus shelters, taxi cabs, commuter rails, subways or any street level advertising such as kiosks or newspaper stands in the past month; viewership among travelers is 84%.
  • Billboards are the most viewed OOH media. Roughly two-thirds of travelers have seen a billboard advertisement in the past month and over 4 in 10 have viewed a digital billboard.
  • Engagement with billboards is considerably high. Over 8 in 10 billboard viewers make a point to look at the advertising message at least some of the time; nearly half look at the billboard ad each time or almost each time they noticed one.
  • OOH media delivers more affluent consumers. OOH media viewers overall are more likely to live in upper-income households and Mega-Milers, the heaviest travelers who account for the majority of OOH ad impressions, are three times as likely to live in an upper-income household compared to light travelers.
  • Purchasing decisions are often made away from home. Over two-thirds of travelers make their purchasing decisions at some location outside of their home over the course of a typical week; over half report making their purchasing decisions most frequently when they a not home.
  • Out-of-home ads generate buzz. Roughly 4 in 10 OOH media viewers have talked about products they saw advertised with others and 8% have blogged or posted to a social network.
  • Out-of-home ads motivate action. OOH media has prompted 4 in 10 viewers to visit a store or restaurant they saw advertised or watching a TV show.

Source: Muscle

How often should you change your message?

Studies have shown the length of time a campaign remains effective is not necessarily
the result of too much frequency but rather the creative treatment. Some of the many
factors which may shorten or lengthen the effective life of an ad are:

Advertising Message

The complexity and relevance of the message, as well as the style used to
communicate to a consumer have an impact on the length of effectiveness. While
intriguing executions gain the most attention in the short term, if the solution is too
difficult to grasp or too obvious, the “life” of the execution may be much shorter.

Product or Product Category

Some product groups are more sensitive to consumer apathy than others.

Target Audience

The composition of the target audience has a bearing on the duration of an ad’s
usefulness. An ad aimed mainly at adults might have a quick wearout factor among

Number of Creative Executions

Multiple executions can be effective during a sustained advertising period. Multiple
executions of the strategy and relatively short posting times can be used to prolong the
ad’s “life.”

Timing and Flighting of Campaign

Mediacom’s What Works study has shown that outdoor can sustain awareness even
after the campaign has ended. Up to six weeks after the campaign has ended there is
no significant drop in awareness.


Competition pressures can affect an ad’s longevity. Where there is little differentiation
in the creative style of two competing products, strong media pressure can result in
category overkill and accelerate decay of both ads.

Media Weight Levels

The weight level plays a major role in determining the rate at which consumers learn of tire of a specific execution. Campaigns with heavy weight levels can extend awareness by using multiple executions through the advertising period.
Source: University of Alberta Study
For more information please visit

Source: Muscle

7 Billboard Design Tips

We have all seem them. The busy billboards, jam-packed with information. It’s easy to make the mistake of wanting to fill a billboard that is 300+ square feet with information about your business. In the case of billboards, however, the old adage “Less is More” rings true.

Here are 7 tips to help you maximize your billboard design:

1. Keep it simple. 7-10 words of copy, maximum.
2. Use 1 point of contact, maximum. A website, phone number, street address, etc are not ALL needed in your ad. Choose one, or even none.
3. Focus on 1 message. Too many messages creates confusion.
4. Be bold, using high contrasting colors.
5. Use big fonts.
6. Use simple crisp fonts. The fancier the font, the less likely it will be legible.
7. Include these 4 components:

  1. A compelling image or photograph
  2. A catchy headline
  3. Logo/Name
  4. One form of contact info (if any)

Lastly, after implementing these 7 tips, give your design the “billboard test”. Print off a copy of your billboard proof or mock-up that was prepared for you by either your graphic designer or the billboard company. This can be on a regular 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of paper. Now, take that print out and tape it to a wall. Once taped to the wall, step back 10 feet. Can you read it? What is the main message that you take away from that billboard design? Next, get another opinion – preferably somebody that isn’t already familiar with your business or message. What do they take-away from the design? If you both take-away a positive message, chances are you billboard design is ready to go live! If you have conflicting thoughts on the main take-away, chances are good that you need to go back to the drawing board.

Here is a great example of the “Less is More” approach with billboard designs.


Far too much going on here.


Simple is better. This is a perfect branding style billboard.

If you need help crafting your perfect billboard design, please contact us!

Source: Muscle

5 “Free” Advertising Programs

I often get asked, “What can I start doing today to advertise my small business without spending a dime on advertising?”

Here are 5 tips that you can start implementing today, without dropping a penny from your marketing budget:

  1. Social Media. Depending on the type of business, you should strongly consider getting a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, and whatever else the social media du jour may be. Of course, deciding which one or ones your business should sign up for is an entirely separate blog article in and of itself. Here’s the rule of thumb for the purposes of this article: Get your business active on whichever social media platform(s) you are most comfortable. For example: If you are an avid Facebooker on the personal side, create a Facebook page for your business. On the other hand, if you are not comfortable with social media, perhaps you should skip this step for now.
  2. Email Marketing. Have you ever heard of the 80/20 rule? In short, the 80/20 rule states that 80% of your business will result from 20% of your customers. Stay in touch with your current customers. Keep them posted on interesting news about your business. The optimal word here is “interesting”. I am not suggesting that you should flood your client’s inboxes with useless information everyday. On the contraire, I am suggesting that you stay engaged with your customers when you have a compelling reason to email them. Always answer the question “What’s in it for my customer” before you hit send. Here are some examples of the compelling reasons for your customer to open your email:
    • A sale. Everybody loves a sale. If your business rarely has one, this email will be even more enticing for your customer to open.
    • An event. Maybe you are hosting an open house with free giveaways? Perhaps an interesting person (that your customer base finds interesting, that is) will be speaking at an event you are hosting?
    • Educational information. This could be anything from news in your industry to a new product available at your store. Example: A coffee shop just starting selling a popular seasonal flavor coffee for a limited time only.

3. Invoice Marketing. My cell phone carrier loves this technique. Every month my bill includes at least one piece of self-promotion in addition to the bill. If you are in a business that sends out invoices via snail mail, why not capitalize on this mailing? This is a great opportunity to contact these clients with more “compelling” information.

4. Optimize social proof! Simply put, social proof are customer testimonials. According to HubSpot, 78% of Internet users conduct product research online. What does this mean to you? Other than the fact that your business needs an effective website, it also means that the more positive feedback OTHER people say about your business online, the more likely that person is to do business with you. Examples of social proof online:

  • Yelp! This might not pertain to every business, but it is especially essential for those businesses that are geared toward Business to Consumer, versus Business to Business. I don’t know about you, but I rely on Yelp! whenever I visit a new town for things such as restaurants, hotels, gyms, coffee shops, and even dog parks! This linkwill let you claim your business on Yelp!
  • Facebook reviews. If you have a Facebook page, consider adding a review tab to your page. It is quick and free! Here is a link for more details.
  • Google reviews. More information can be found here.
  • Your website. You can either add in the customer reviews from the Google and Facebook pages, and/or you can create a separate page dedicated to customer testimonials. There is no right or wrong way!

5. Speak! Position yourself as the expert in your field and provides a setting where potential customers can approach you. Seek out speaking engagements whenever possible. These speaking engagements can be on a large or small scale.  And remember, when you do obtain a speaking engagement that is a perfect time to let your customers and prospects know through Email Marketing and Social Media sharing!

I hope that you found these tips useful and hopefully you can implement at least one, if not all of these tips this week! Please share below in the comment section any “free” marketing ideas that you have implemented and how they have benefited your business.