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Grammarly: A Overview and Review

Grammarly: A Overview and Review

Writing with proper grammar is essential in business. Bad grammar can not only change the meaning of a sentence and cause miscommunication, but it can also reduce credibility. Many text editors and browsers have tools to help, but there are a lot of things they don’t look for. It’s easy to make mistakes that word processors don’t catch. One of the best tools to check your grammar is Grammarly.

Grammarly is an app for writers that suggests edits in real-time for spelling, grammar, and writing style. It can even suggest edits based on types of writing, such as academic, business, technical, and creative writing. Grammarly is available for free in a limited edition or as a premium edition. I’m reviewing the free edition.

Four ways to Use Grammarly

There are four ways to use Grammarly:

  • Chrome Extension
  • Online Dashboard
  • Microsoft Office Extension
  • Windows App

Let’s look at each method.

Installing the Grammarly Chrome Extension

Google Chrome can also check your spelling and make suggestions. This same tool works with any text editor that appears in the browser such as Facebook and MailChimp. It’s still very basic. Grammarly replaces that with its own tools (unless you disable Grammarly for a particular website).

To add the Chrome extension, in the upper right corner click the three vertical dots to open Chrome’s settings. Hover over More Tools and select Extensions.

Click the Hamburger menu in the upper left corner. At the bottom of that menu click Open Chrome Web Store.

Search for Grammarly. Click the blue button labeled Add to Chrome.

Clicking the image or title opens a modal that provides an overview with a video, reviews, and related extensions.

Clicking Add Extension opens one final modal asking for permission. Click Add Extension.

It will take a few seconds and then open a tab with a message and links for downloads. Here you can download it for Windows, Microsoft Office, and check an online document.

You’ll see the Grammarly logo in the upper right corner of your Chrome browser. Clicking the logo opens settings where you can disable the extension for the current website, show definitions and synonyms by double-clicking, choose your dialect of English, see the premium edition, create a new document, and go to your Grammarly dashboard.

Clicking My Grammarly opens a tab with a dashboard where you can upload documents and upgrade to the premium edition.

Personalizing Grammarly

When you click on Grammarly the first time it lets you set up your personalized options. The algorithms will adapt to suit your needs based on your choices.

Select the type of writing between school, work, or other projects, choose the dialect of English (American, British, Australian, or Canadian), your primary language (choose between English and non-English), and your grammar skill level (beginner, intermediate, and advanced).

Personalizing Your Grammarly Dictionary

Personalize your dictionary from your profile page in the dashboard. Add as many words as you want and Grammarly will no longer flag those words. This is helpful for writers in specialized fields and fiction writers that create their own unusual names.

Using the Grammarly Chrome Extension

The Grammarly icon, a G in a green circle, automatically appears on anything that Grammarly can check.

It underlines the text that it doesn’t like and the icon changes to show that there are errors. This example shows two issues. The logo has changed to a red circle with a number to indicate the number of issues.

Hovering over the text opens a box with suggestions. If I want one of the choices I just need to click on it. It indicates the type of error it is, which can help me improve my writing.

The change is automatically made when you click on one of the choices and it now indicates that I now only have one error.

Hovering on the circle opens it to show a few options. Click the red circle with arrows to open the document editor. The yellow circle shows the number of advanced corrections are available in the premium edition. The power button turns Grammarly off for this website.

Grammarly Document Editor

The document editor opens in a modal over your content where you can focus on your writing and see a few tools and options. Using this is optional.

Each of the tools on the left of the modal open on hover, identifying what they do. Here you can make selections of what to check. When you’re finished, click the back icon in the upper left corner or click anywhere outside of the modal.

Grammarly Online Dashboard Editor

You can also use the online editor to write or check your documents. Once you login to the Grammarly website you’ll see the dashboard. To create or edit your document in the Grammarly dashboard, click New or Upload on the document icon.

This opens the editor where you can type, paste, or upload your text. Clicking the logo in the upper corner opens a few tools to check your work.

Problems will be underlined. Clicking on an underlined word displays options (just like it does in the browser). Click to see more information and it opens an analysis with word options, a rank based on the goals you’ve set, insights, goals, number of alerts, number of premium alerts, a plagiarism tool (premium edition), and a human proofreader (premium).

Insights show stats about your text. It also shows vocabulary (shows the number of unique and rare words) and readability (shows word length, sentence length, and readability score). These are helpful to improve your writing. I like the reading time and speaking time estimates.

Goals allow you to tell Grammarly about your intent, audience, style, emotion, and the domain (choose from general, academic, business, technical, creative, or casual).

Once you’re done making edits you can download, print, or copy your text to the clipboard to be used anywhere you want.

Your new document will now appear in the dashboard where you can edit, download, or delete it.

Installing the Grammarly Apps

In the Grammarly dashboard click Apps to download Grammarly for Office or Windows. Once they’re downloaded, run them the same as any app.

Grammarly for Microsoft Office

The Office app adds Grammarly to Word and/or Outlook. It adds new tools to the ribbon menu with contextual spelling, grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, style, and advanced features (which requires the premium edition).

When you click on the Grammarly icon the errors are highlighted in the text and issues are identified in detail on the right. I had no issues with general performance, but it can sometimes take a few seconds to check your document.

Grammarly for Windows

The Windows app looks and works the same as the online dashboard. It even connects to your account and brings in the documents from your dashboard. This is a great choice if you want to work offline.

Grammarly Pricing

Aside from the free plan, there are four premium plans:

  • Monthly – $29.95 per month
  • Quarterly – $19.98 per month
  • Annual – $11.66 per month
  • Grammarly Business – $10 per month per member

The free plan is great for basic checking such as email, social media, and even blogging. The premium editions are better suited to writing that requires the most professional level of quality possible. The free version does have some good tools, but if you need a premium plan then I recommend the Annual option. Even the Quarterly option is a big savings over the Monthly option.

For more information, visit Grammarly.com.

Ending Thoughts

I use several word processors including Microsoft Word, Google Docs, and WordPress’s built-in editor. Word and Google Docs have tools that underline misspelled and misused words. Google Chrome has those tools and applies them to most editors. Grammarly goes further than that.

Grammarly is an excellent tool for improving your writing quality. It’s easy to make writing mistakes that you don’t notice during the editing process and Grammarly highlights those, drawing attention to them.

Grammarly works great but it’s not perfect. It doesn’t always understand how words are used in web design and development, for instance. And I’m sure there are other industries that it doesn’t understand perfectly. This means there might be times when you disagree with its choices, but it’s still a valuable tool that’s worth using. It can be personalized, which helps a lot too.

I was pleased with the types of errors Grammarly highlighted. It shows misspelled words, repeated words, punctuation, missing words, case, tense, pronoun agreement, etc. Some of these issues require a premium edition to highlight and explain them though.

At the very least, I recommend using the free Chrome extension. It works in your browser, so it applies to anything typed within an editor such as WordPress, newsletters, social media, email, etc. It doesn’t work everywhere though. For example, it doesn’t support Google Drive. The best way to analyze the Google Docs text is to paste it into the Grammarly dashboard editor and then paste it back into Google Docs when you’re done.

Grammarly’s designed for anyone wanting to improve their writing, but shouldn’t be used in place of knowing good grammar. It can’t take the place of a professional editor but it does help by identifying a lot of problems that can easily be missed.

7 Best Company Communication Apps

7 Best Company Communication Apps

Whether you work for a small business with just a few people, or a large corporation with branches in multiple cities, communication is important. Without strong communication between team members, it can be hard to stay focused on a common goal and achieve a high level of customer satisfaction. Fortunately, there are several apps that can streamline your communication efforts.

In this article, we’ll discuss the importance of internal communication for businesses, and talk about how using a communication app can make yours more successful. Then we’ll explore seven of the best company communication apps available.

Let’s get to it!

How a Communication App Can Improve Your Business

A communication app is a platform designed to make it easier for team members to work together. Apps provide a way to centralize information and enable team members to quickly seek additional information or help from others. Some may include other useful features, such as client communication or project management.

When it comes to completing projects successfully, communication is key. Strong internal communication has been shown to help team members stay focused on a common goal, instead of each pursuing their own idea of what the end product should look like. It also helps increase productivity and customer satisfaction.

While email can accomplish some of what a communication app might do, it generally isn’t as efficient. Chatrooms consolidate messages and keep responses in the correct order, making communication more organized and readable than long email threads. Even so, email is still useful for more formal communications, such as client updates.

Additionally, communication apps are useful for teams with remote members. Chatrooms and video conferencing provide fast, real time communication to help remote members feel they’re part of the team. Apps are also useful when people from branches in different cities need to work together to complete a project.

7 Best Company Communication Apps

There are a wide variety of communication apps available, with different features and focuses. We’ve compiled a list a of some of the best, highlighting their unique qualities to help you find the one that best meets your team’s needs.

Let’s take a look!

1. Slack

The Slack website.

Slack is a predominantly chat-based app that was recently acquired by Atlassian of Trello fame. If you were a previous user of their other popular (and now discontinued) tool Hipchat, you might consider looking into Slack instead. It solves many of the problems of email chains by organizing conversations in ‘channels’.

Team members can join or leave channels as they need to avoid receiving irrelevant messages, and easily find old messages for reference down the line. Additionally, Slack enables you to share files, make voice calls, and host video conferences. It also integrates with tools including Dropbox, Google Drive, or even your company’s own software.

Key Features:

  • Creates clear and organized channels you can join or leave at your convenience.
  • Enables you to search messages for relevant information.
  • Provides file sharing capabilities and integration with a wide variety of other platforms.

Price: Free – $15 per month, along with ‘per user’ fees | More Information

2. Basecamp

The Basecamp website.

Providing several communication options in a single app, Basecamp enables you to interact with teammates in a variety of ways. These include Campfire, Basecamp’s real time chatroom, and message boards for organized conversations you can save for future reference. Plus, you can forward emails to the app, and send direct messages to individuals.

Basecamp emphasizes the importance of client communication as well. It enables you to include clients in conversations, and keep them updated via several project management features, including to-do lists, scheduled check-ins, reports, and progress charts. Basecamp will also handle your project calendar and file sharing and storage needs.

Key Features:

  • Provides a vide variety of communication options, and the ability to ‘loop in’ clients.
  • Enables easy progress updates including to-do lists, charts, and more.
  • Includes additional project management features including calendars and file sharing.

Price: $99 per month | More Information

3. Zoom

Zoom's website, featuring two people using a tablet.

If you’d like to have face-to-face conversations with your team rather than use a chatroom, Zoom can provide the next best thing with group video chats. You can host one-on-one conversations or meetings of over 100 people. Private and group chats enable further discussion during conferences.

Plus, Zoom enables screen sharing to make presentations smooth and simple. It works on a variety of devices, including smart phone and tablets. Team members can join conferences with a phone call, and you can still use screen sharing on mobile devices. You can also use cloud recording to save conferences for future reference.

Key Features:

  • Provides high quality video conferencing ideal for teams with remote members.
  • Enables screen sharing on all devices.
  • Offers recording and cloud storage options.

Price: Free – $199.50 per month | More Information

4. Bitrix24

The Bitrix24 website

Bitrix24 not only helps with communication, but also enables task and team member management. It includes both video conferencing and chatrooms for real time communication, as well as the ability to create workgroups for specific assignments. You can pull in emails to create calendar events or tasks, too.

Bitrix24 includes workload management, time tracking, and task boards for managing your team. You can encourage collaboration with calendars, file sharing, and the ability to bring in external users, such as your clients.

Key Features:

  • Includes chat and video conferencing options.
  • Provides team management features such as time tracking and workload management.
  • Enables collaboration with organized schedules, files, and client communication.

Price: Free – $199 per month | More Information

5. Sameroom

Sameroom's Home page.

For those managing multiple teams or working with clients who already have their own internal communication system, Sameroom provides a way to chat without forcing anyone to give up their preferred platform. Instead, Sameroom connects platforms so you can chat with collaborators on other systems.

You can also use Sameroom to connect accounts on the same platform. For example, if you have a Slack channel for a client project, and the client also has a Slack channel for the project, you can connect the two channels so your team and your client’s team can see messages on both channels.

Key Features:

  • Connects chat platforms so you can communicate with other teams without anyone having to switch platforms.
  • Enables connections between different conversations on the same platform.
  • Provides integrations with over 20 chat apps.

Price: Free – $5,000 per month | More Information

6. Asana

Asana

Though generally used as a project management tool, Asana can be adapted for internal communications as well. It enables you to hold group and one-on-one conversations with teammates, and the project boards will help you keep your team in the loop by showing which tasks have been completed.

You can also utilize task comments to inform teammates or ask questions about your progress on specific assignments. This will help you keep communications organized. In Asana you can easily manage your notifications regarding conversations and tasks to avoid receiving irrelevant communications as you would with long email chains.

Key Features:

  • Includes project management features such as project boards that help keep team members in the loop.
  • Provides comments for task-specific chats, and conversations for project-wide chats.
  • Enables you to choose when you receive notifications.

Price: Free – $23.99 per month + per user fees | More Information

7. Wrike

The Wrike website.

Another project management app with communication features, Wrike, enables you to send teammates chats that appear directly in their workspace. This minimizes time spent moving back and forth between sections of the app, and ensures urgent messages are seen and responded to quickly.

In Wrike, you can also add comments directly to images, videos, and documents to provide contextual feedback. You can see your team’s progress on projects with live activity streams, project and team reporting, and workflows. This eliminates the need to ask what tasks have been completed and what still needs to be done.

Key Features:

  • Includes a messaging system that displays chats directly in your workspace for easy access.
  • Enables contextual feedback through comments on tasks.
  • Provides clear updates on project status with reports and workflows.

Price: Free – $24.80 per user, per month | More Information

Conclusion

While email still has a role in the workplace, apps make for stronger communication between team members. The right app can take your business’s productivity and customer satisfaction to new heights by keeping your team focused on a common goal.

In this article, we’ve looked at some of the best company communication apps. Each has unique features to offer, including video chatting with Zoom, integrating client communications with Basecamp, or connecting different apps via Sameroom. You may even find it helpful to combine project management and communication in a single app, such as Asana or Wrike.

Personas: What They Are, How to Make Them, and How to Use Them in Marketing

Personas: What They Are, How to Make Them, and How to Use Them in Marketing

Marketing personas can help you prevent this problem. In this article, we’ll explain what personas are, how to create them, and how to use them in marketing.

Let’s jump in!

 

What Marketing Personas Are

Marketing personas are characters designed to represent sections of your target customer base. They’re used as tools to help understand customer motivations and predict their behavior in order to ultimately increase sales.

For example, if you create a product that you believe will appeal to teenage boys, creating a persona for them is a good idea. You’ll give him a name, an age, and state a problem of his you can solve. You can also note things such as whether he has a car, or an after school job.

This makes for more efficient and effective marketing. When you’re trying to decide how to market your product, personas help you see through your customers’ eyes. By considering their values, you’ll better know how to tap into your customers’ emotions to make your products or services seem more appealing.

Persona marketing is useful in a variety of different situations. For example, it can link with content marketing to help personas for your target readers. They can also help you determine the best way to communicate with your customers, and what kinds of promotional strategies to use. They can even be useful for inspiring new products or services based on your customers’ needs or desires.

 

How to Create Marketing Personas (4 Steps)

Creating marketing personas can be a time consuming process. However, if you put your personas to good use, it will be well worth the time and effort. Let’s run through four steps and discuss how to create a persona!

 

Step 1: Gather Information About Current or Potential Customers

The first step in creating a persona is research. You will want to gather all of the customer information you’ll need to create useful personas. Demographics including age, gender, income, family status, education level, and location are a good starting point.

However, information such as their preferred method of communication matters, too. You may reach teens on social media, but have a better time contacting older people on the phone. Determining which keywords your customers find most engaging will also be helpful.

Perhaps most importantly, you’ll want to get at the core of what drives your customers to make purchases. Aspects such as their values, biggest challenges, needs, and desires are critical components for your personas. This kind of information will be the most vital for helping you understand your customers’ motivations.

There are several sources you can use for compiling this information. Facebook Insights and Google Analytics are useful tools if you already have a Facebook profile or a website. You can also use customer surveys, interviews, or in-person interactions with customers to bring together the data you’ll need.

Step 2: Find or Create a ‘Persona Template’

You’ll find lots of methods for displaying persona information. Bulleted lists, short first-person narratives from the personas’ perspective, tables, or even a combination are popular options. Any method is fine, so long as it exhibits your personas’ information in a way that makes sense to you.

You could also create comparative personas by including charts and graphs to note information like what percentage of your customer base each persona makes up. Sliders can denote information such as personality traits, or a willingness to spend.

There are plenty of persona templates to be found online. However, if you’re feeling creative you could make your own, or mix and match parts of templates you’ve found. This way you’ll have an ideal template for your specific purposes.

 

Step 3: Determine the Right Number of Personas for Your Business

How many personas you need will depend on your business, and both your current and ideal customers. Persona marketing is most effective when you strike a balance between enough personas to cover your customer base thoroughly, without introducing ‘decision paralysis’ in a given situation.

First, determine how many problems or challenges your product or service solves. If each of those problems applies to a different kind of customer, you’ll need a persona for each. Niche businesses will probably have fewer personas, since they’re targeting a specific market.

You should also consider which types of customers you most want to appeal to. It’s possible that you’ll be able to identify a very large number of personas you could market to, but if you’re really only interested in targeting a select few, create personas for those types of customers and focus on those sections of your customer base.

Step 4: Humanize Your Personas

Giving names to your personas might feel a little silly, or at the very least, inconsequential. However, the opposite is true. Humanizing your personas by naming them – including details like their hobbies and job titles, and even finding photos to represent them – is part of what makes a persona an effective tool.

Persona marketing works best when it’s used to create a customer-centric brand. Rather than being a profiling tool, marketing personas are supposed to help you see through the target customers’ eyes to better understand them.

Humanizing your personas helps to accomplish this by making your personas seem more like real people. Each will have problems that you’re trying to solve with your products or services. In addition, they’ll have their own preferences, desires, and narratives that will play into how you’re able to reach them.

You can use basic tools and assets such as name generators and stock photos to help with this part of the process. You can even take things a step further and seek out the most common names for certain demographics – like age or job title, for example.

 

How to Use Personas in Marketing

The uses of marketing personas are vast and varied. While most people think of them as useful for developing ideas for marketing specific products, they can also help with lead generation and communicating with customers. They can even provide inspiration for new products or services.

Once you’ve created your personas, you can start creating content to attract more people to your business. Through the use of keywords in blog and social media content, you can help your business rank when customers are searching for an answer to their most common problems, bringing new leads to your business.

Personas can also help you pinpoint how best to contact your customers. For example, knowing which social media platforms are most popular among certain demographics will help you ascertain which platforms to use to get in touch with your target audience.

Speaking of target audience, personas are frequently used in content marketing to craft blog posts, social media posts, and even email blasts. Knowing your audience can help you determine the best tone, style, and language to use to speak to your customers.

Different kinds of promotions appeal to different kinds of people. For example, the frugal-minded may wait for sales, limited-time products, or other discount deals. In contrast, contests and giveaways excite more competitive types. Fortunately, your personas can help you determine which promotions are most likely to motivate your customers.

Finally, knowing the problems or challenges that your customers face can point you toward new product and service lines. Ultimately, finding ways to solve these issues for your customers could open new doors for your business.

 

Conclusion

When you’re able to see your business from your customers’ perspective, you’ll better understand how to appeal to them. Personas make customers’ desires and motivations more clear so you can better create content, products, services, and promotions.

In this post, we’ve explored some of the benefits of marketing personas, and how to create and implement them for yourself. Try following these steps to create your own marketing personas:

  1. Gather information about current or potential customers.
  2. Find or create a persona template.
  3. Determine the right number of personas for your business.
  4. Humanize your personas.

4 Simple Digital Marketing Tactics You Can’t Ignore in 2018

4 Simple Digital Marketing Tactics You Can’t Ignore in 2018

Never before has digital marketing been more important. As consumers move from physical to digital channels, engaging content marketing and highly personalized real-time digital communication is the foundation for success.

1. Reach Mobile Consumers with Short-Form Video

Consumers are interacting with content on all forms of digital devices 24/7/365. As such, the dynamics of content marketing have changed. Today, content only succeeds if it delivers what each individual consumer wants, when and how they want it.

One of the most effective forms of content marketing is video marketing. In fact, video marketing is one of the few types of digital content that provides the contextuality, flexibility and entertainment value consumers want while they are on-the-go.

Consumers are consuming more visual media content and financial service customers are no exception. Video content is the ‘low-hanging fruit’ for marketers, offering an advantageous way to humanize and explain complex ideas and concepts using short-form entertainment to get these concepts across.

Video is a highly engaging and palatable medium, and incredibly convenient to consume. Two quick and compelling stats to consider. First, according to Insivia, viewers retain 95% of a message when they watch it in a video, compared to 10% when reading it in text format. Secondly, a survey by Animoto discovered three critical stats: four times as many consumers would rather watch a video about a product than read about it, 1 in 4 consumers actually lose interest in a company if it doesn’t have video, and 4 in 5 consumers say a video showing how a product or service works is important.

What is exciting about video marketing is that it combines the best qualities of digital communication, giving viewers the intimate experience of a face-to-face conversation while providing the non-disruptive, ‘on my time’ engagement style that people love about texting and email. What is more exciting is that this form of communication can now be personalized on a 1:1 level, with highly customizable content that stands out and is memorable.

2. Use Live Streaming to Bring Experts to Mass Audiences

You can move beyond traditional scripted videos by tapping into the live-streaming trend to reach targeted audiences. Live streaming allows viewers to engage with your most respected internal experts or popular influencers on a new level. The impact is multiplied when you allow for live interaction in a form of Q&A engagement.

This form of content marketing is especially impactful in the financial services sector. According to Wainhouse Research, a full 44% of corporations are planning to increase their streaming budgets in 2018. In addition, the entire streaming market is set to grow by 20% each year through 2020. It’s not surprising that financial services, in particular, is leading the charge.

Let’s face it – the nuances, advantages and disadvantages of a complex product like a Roth Ira or small business banking cannot be properly explained with a standard 300 x 250 digital banner ad. Research shows that live streamed videos on Facebook Live get viewed 3 times longer than a pre-recorded video. In addition, a study conducted by Livestream and New York Magazine found that when it comes to brand content, 82% of people prefer live video to social posts, and 80% would rather watch live video than read a blog.

As an added bonus for marketers, data can be collected to gauge individual level of engagement and help optimize and personalize future marketing efforts. Instead of hoping your customers will travel and/or spend money to hear from your key financial experts or popular influencers, why not shift to online conferences and presentations, where they can attend at a time and place that’s convenient to them?

Finally, live video streaming is, by its nature, highly transparent. Viewers can engage with your internal expert or outside influencer in open conversation handled in real time. If you’re looking for a compelling way to build trust with your audience, a live video is a great place to start.

3. Build a Library of On-Demand Webinars

Webinars are becoming the unsung hero for financial brands. They not only draw a captive, deeply engaged audience (the average amount of time spent with a webinar is 57 minutes), they also compliment topics, such as financial service products, that are complex or detailed in nature and provide the education required to convert a lead.

These virtual learning environments are, in essence, a modern, immersive educational experience that can tap vast repositories of content with custom-created elements that can be changed, updated and switched out in real time. They can also be promoted to the right customer or member at the right time, through the right channel using targeting insights built from internal data and advanced analytics.

For example, take a look at Vanguard, who built a library of webinars to engage and teach customers about retirement, investing and estate planning. This library allows customers and prospects to browse and view webinars at their own pace, delivering insights on the topics that truly interest them.

Other companies are using webinars to showcase their well-known internal (or external) experts and as a way to drive traffic to additional content and services. For example, Wells Fargo takes deep dives on personal subject matter like post-college planning, and conduct live virtual seminars on retirement planning and diversification strategies allowing robust two-way interaction – a feature not found in typical static one-way marketing communications.

4. Don’t Forget Mobile Marketing

Last, but definitely not least, in-app marketing provides the opportunity to deliver highly personalized messages and offers using a channel many customers and members access every day – their mobile banking app. Customers and members are just like everyone else … glued to their smartphones. And, they’re not just checking Facebook and texting friends – the number who are banking, making transactions and trading via mobile devices continues to grow.

According to a survey from Bank of America, the number of Americans using a mobile banking app has risen in one year from 54% to 62%, including 75% of Millennials, 66% of Gen Xers, 47%of baby boomers and 40% of seniors. So, it bears repeating, regardless of what content, messaging or offers you are delivering to your prospects, leads and clients, if it is not optimized for every mobile platform, you can guess what will happen. That prospect will simply move on, with lightning speed, guaranteed.

On the other hand, with increased use of advanced analytics to process internal and external data insights, the financial services industry is an enviable position to be able to reach their base in through either a mobile banking app and/or text. And there is virtually zero cost to do so.

With fintech set to grow by 55% through 2020, according to Technavio, and individuals flocking to digital wallets and smartphone credit card readers, all while consuming vast amounts of content on their personal devices, don’t be left in the dust while your competitors find your customers where they live – in real time.

In 2018, it is more important than ever to stand out from the overload of marketing noise, folding these four digital tools into your marketing mix. Each will allow you to better reach your targets through the mediums and channels that are already part of consumer’s busy lives. Focus on the methods that create robust engagement, open conversations and a personal touch, all while providing the scale you need.

The Basics of Branding

The Basics of Branding


Branding is one of the most important aspects of any business, large or small, retail or B2B. An effective brand strategy gives you a major edge in increasingly competitive markets. But what exactly does “branding” mean? How does it affect a small business like yours?

Simply put, your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from your competitors’. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be.

Are you the innovative maverick in your industry? Or the experienced, reliable one? Is your product the high-cost, high-quality option, or the low-cost, high-value option? You can’t be both, and you can’t be all things to all people. Who you are should be based to some extent on who your target customers want and need you to be.

The foundation of your brand is your logo. Your website, packaging and promotional materials–all of which should integrate your logo–communicate your brand.

Brand Strategy & Equity

Your brand strategy is how, what, where, when and to whom you plan on communicating and delivering on your brand messages. Where you advertise is part of your brand strategy. Your distribution channels are also part of your brand strategy. And what you communicate visually and verbally are part of your brand strategy, too.

Consistent, strategic branding leads to a strong brand equity, which means the added value brought to your company’s products or services that allows you to charge more for your brand than what identical, unbranded products command. The most obvious example of this is Coke vs. a generic soda. Because Coca-Cola has built a powerful brand equity, it can charge more for its product–and customers will pay that higher price.

The added value intrinsic to brand equity frequently comes in the form of perceived quality or emotional attachment. For example, Nike associates its products with star athletes, hoping customers will transfer their emotional attachment from the athlete to the product. For Nike, it’s not just the shoe’s features that sell the shoe.

Defining Your Brand

Defining your brand is like a journey of business self-discovery. It can be difficult, time-consuming and uncomfortable. It requires, at the very least, that you answer the questions below:

  • What is your company’s mission?
  • What are the benefits and features of your products or services?
  • What do your customers and prospects already think of your company?
  • What qualities do you want them to associate with your company?

Do your research. Learn the needs, habits and desires of your current and prospective customers. And don’t rely on what you think they think. Know what they think.

Because defining your brand and developing a brand strategy can be complex, consider leveraging the expertise of a nonprofit small-business advisory group or a Small Business Development Center .

Once you’ve defined your brand, how do you get the word out? Here are a few simple, time-tested tips:

  • Get a great logo. Place it everywhere.
  • Write down your brand messaging. What are the key messages you want to communicate about your brand? Every employee should be aware of your brand attributes.
  • Integrate your brand. Branding extends to every aspect of your business–how you answer your phones, what you or your salespeople wear on sales calls, your e-mail signature, everything.
  • Create a “voice” for your company that reflects your brand.This voice should be applied to all written communication and incorporated in the visual imagery of all materials, online and off. Is your brand friendly? Be conversational. Is it ritzy? Be more formal. You get the gist.
  • Develop a tagline. Write a memorable, meaningful and concise statement that captures the essence of your brand.
  • Design templates and create brand standards for your marketing materials. Use the same color scheme, logo placement, look and feel throughout. You don’t need to be fancy, just consistent.
  • Be true to your brand. Customers won’t return to you–or refer you to someone else–if you don’t deliver on your brand promise.
  • Be consistent. I placed this point last only because it involves all of the above and is the most important tip I can give you. If you can’t do this, your attempts at establishing a brand will fail.