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A complete guide to branding and marketing for growing businesses in Alberta

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Want all of the information on this page and more in one handy resource? We’ve got you covered. That’s why we created The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Growing and Scaling a Business: Branding and Marketing, a free downloadable guide full of expert advice, handy templates and rich resources that lead you through how to build your brand and market your business as you grow. Save it to your computer, and have this guide on hand as you grow your business to the next level.

So you’re looking at branding and marketing for your growing business—congrats! That means you’ve successfully made it through the first few years of entrepreneurship, which is no easy task. We’ve collected information from all kinds of industry experts and resources to give you a comprehensive guide to branding and marketing as you expand your business. Here’s a quick look of the topics we’ll cover:

How corporate social responsibility builds business

What is corporate social responsibility for businesses?

CSR stands for corporate social responsibility. While each business does corporate social responsibility differently, it ultimately boils down to doing the right thing. It’s about working towards doing business more ethically, sustainability and resiliently. It’s about investing back into your communities of operation. 

You’ll find that you’ll build value for your business by committing to a social or environmental goal—when you approach these intentions with integrity CSR can be a competitive advantage, and will benefit you and society as a whole.

What does corporate social responsibility really mean?

When we talk about corporate social responsibility, we’re talking about how a company exercises its rights, responsibilities, obligations, and privileges in society. It’s part of abiding by the unwritten code of conduct in which organizations are generally expected to “do the right thing.”

 

Why CSR?

Going deeper than a value-add to your business, society and planet, a commitment to a focused CSR plan can help reduce employee turnover, increase market share, and build a strong reputation.

Focusing on your corporate social responsibility could be what gets you loyal employees and customers. An employee engagement survey by Cone Communications showed that 64 percent of millennials wouldn’t take a job if the company didn’t have strong CSR values, and 88 percent said their job was more fulfilling when they had the opportunity to make a social or environmental impact.

Cone Communications also found that 87 percent of customers would buy a product because they cared about the issue the company addressed, and 76 percent said they’d avoid shopping from a business whose beliefs were contrary to their own. 

 

What are the four types of corporate social responsibility in business?

The four types of corporate social responsibility in business are:

  • Philanthropy: donating money or goods towards various causes.
  • Environment conservation: using environmentally sustainable practices in any area of your business.
  • Diversity and labor practices: building practices and a culture where all employees and the employees of your suppliers are valued in your business.
  • Volunteerism: giving your time towards various causes.

 

Want to learn more about corporate social responsibility and how to integrate it into your own business? Check out our guide to branding and marketing for growing businesses. It has tons of expert advice and resources to help guide your business growth.

How to grow your small business with marketing

While your marketing budget might increase and your marketing strategy might change as you grow your business, how you develop that strategy shouldn’t change. Here’s a recap of some marketing strategy basics:

  • Who is your audience or target market?
  • Where are they? Get really specific by using a media partner or talking with your customers.
  • What are your goals and objectives for communications and marketing?

Follow a proven recipe for success by combining—in equal parts—your marketing, media and creative plans. All three need to work well together to boost your business. 

Before you go out and hire someone to help you with your new marketing strategy, take a look internally. Is anyone on your team equipped to do the job, with a passion for communications, marketing, creative solutions, writing, and/or social media? It’s great to start with them first, if that’s an option. They know your brand and are familiar with your team.

If no one in your company fits the bill, then it’s time to look externally—whether hiring someone full- or part-time, contracting, or partnering with a marketing agency.

Having the right team can make all the difference in creating an impactful marketing strategy. But how do you measure your return on investment (ROI)? While clicks and views on social media make us feel good, they don’t actually indicate dollars. Before you implement any kind of marketing plan, figure out which metrics matter to you (which means figuring out what your goals are ahead of time) and how you’re going to get that information.

Before you bring on someone to join your marketing team, make sure you’re up-front with your expectations, goal, and which metrics matter to you.

 

Dive into the strategies that our senior VP of brand would recommend for expanding your market share and more marketing tips in our brand and marketing guide for expanding businesses.

The importance of SEO

No matter what stage of growth your business is at, paying attention to search engine optimization (SEO) is a must. For those of you paying close attention, you might have noticed this entire page is filled with questions, answers, keywords and we hope you may have found this page through a search on your favourite browser. 

 

What is SEO and how does it work for small businesses?

Search engine optimization, or SEO as it’s commonly called, is the process of growing the quantity and quality of unpaid traffic to your website, and therefore increasing your ranking in search engine results. 

But how? It’s all about optimizing your website and web pages to make them more searchable—that’s how you rank higher and drive traffic to your site. Creating quality content, doing keyword research, and writing solid meta descriptions are all key to optimizing your website. 

As a small business owner, SEO is your best friend. You don’t need a huge marketing budget or a big brand to make SEO work for you. Since it’s free, it’s accessible to everyone. The key if you own a smaller business is to not try to compete with the big corporations for keywords—when you do your keyword research, try to find keywords that align with your business that don’t have a lot of competition. That will increase your chance of ranking higher on results pages for queries including that keyword.

 

Wait, is SEO important in 2020?

It’s pretty crazy that SEO has been around for more than 15 years, and currently it takes a huge share of website traffic on successful sites.

In fact, research by SEO platform company BrightEdge reveals that organic search is the largest driver of web traffic for the majority of business sectors and vital to revenue. The strength of SEO and driving organic traffic is clear.

Visualizing Search's Dominent Channel Share - BrightEdge Research 


The use of organic search is far beyond that of other channels and it’s still growing. Optimizing your website for SEO is going to become more crucial in 2020 as organic search keeps outpacing other search traffic.

 

What does Google consider quality content?

  • The longer the content, the more depth and authority your site has.
  • Keywords and phrases used appropriately in the title, subheadings and body copy.
  • No keyword stuffing (aka: making every third word a keyword so the copy is unnatural and awkward).
  • Relevant copy that’s informative and on-topic.
  • Links to reputable external sites.

 

What content should I share? Which keywords should I use?

It all starts with a little bit of market research. Here are some questions to spark your research:

  • What topics are your customers interested in?
  • What problems are my customers trying to solve?
  • How are my customers currently trying to solve this problem?
  • What questions are they asking to find this solution?

To find the answers to these questions, just type in a possible answer or question in the search bar. For example, if you type in “where do I eat good pasta in Edmonton,” you might notice that the common searches could include, “best italian restaurants Edmonton.”

 

Selecting long-tail keywords

Once you’ve started to answer these questions, you’ll begin to uncover an underlying topic that your business can provide content on. Say you’re an outdoor retailer, and you’ve found out that camping is a topic that your customers would like to know more about. 

Type in “camping” into Google’s search bar, and it’s autocomplete feature will suggest inquiries like, “camping near me,” “camping checklist,” and “camping gear.” These insights can help you to determine what your customers are searching for and what content you could provide them.

 

Use accurate meta descriptions

Your meta description—the short paragraph or single sentence that’s underneath the blue clickable link on the search engine results page—needs to accurately show what your linked web page content is about. If someone visits your website to answer their query and doesn’t find what they’re looking for, then your ranking will be negatively affected if this continually happens. 

 

Want to learn more about SEO, and get a reference checklist for using SEO to sell your products? We have that—and tons of other helpful resources and expert advice—in our brand and marketing guide for growing businesses. Download it (for free!) and keep it on hand as a reference.

Understanding the value of media partners

Why do you need a media partner as you grow your business?

With so many marketing options—whether it’s traditional or digital media, and which channels to use within each—it’s becoming more and more difficult to strategically pick the right ones for your business.

Companies with substantial financing, aggressive goals and strong competition in their industry need to engage with an experienced media partner to help them make the most of the multitude of marketing options available to them. 

If your marketing budget is a little tight, you could search out specific channel support from a media partner, starting with a clearly attainable goal and using the most effective channel to the max to reach that goal.

 

What do media partners help your business with?

  • A media partner supports your business by helping you realize your objectives and  making sure these objectives connect to your overall business goals.
  • They’re invested in your organization’s success and work closely with you to deliver those goals and objectives.
  • They complement your existing capabilities and allow your business to enter markets that would otherwise be unexplored.

 

What kinds of business and marketing objectives could a media partner help you achieve?

  • Ultimately, your core business objective: if you’re for-profit, this will most likely be to generate revenue and ideally a positive return. If you’re non-profit, the goal is probably to raise funds for your cause. These are the foundation for all of your marketing and media objectives and goals.

  • Strategic marketing objectives: the goals can be multifaceted, and as diverse as maintaining visibility, targeting new customers, deepening relationships with existing clients, increasing market share, or improving client retention.

  • Traditional/digital media objectives: this could be maintaining visibility so you’re top-of-mind when a customer wants to make a purchase, or building a brand-loyal online community around your product or service.

  • Traditional/digital media goals: review your marketing and media objectives, then craft goals to achieve them. Maybe your goal is to reach 1,000 email subscribers in six months, or it could be to cultivate relationships with five relevant authorities in your industry to link between your platform and theirs to build your credibility and authority.

 

Looking for more info on media partners and how to maximize your marketing channels? We’ve got you covered. Our guide to branding and marketing for growing businesses includes tons of resources and expert advice on what you need to know as you expand. Download it for free and keep it on-hand as a reference.

Why great media relations can help grow your business

As your business grows, you’ll probably attract the attention of some kind of media. While being in the spotlight flattering, it’s important that you know how to respond to interview questions when they come.

Our number one piece of advice: tailor your answers to answer your potential customers' questions. Focus on what they want and need to know, instead of what you or your interviewer want to say.

Here’s some more advice for being interviewed by the media:

  • Remember the purpose of the interview
  • Have one to three key messages prepared
  • Every word counts, so keep it short and on-topic
  • Make sure your messaging is consistent across all spokes-people
  • Take your time, and ask the reporter to repeat the question, or ask one question at a time if you need
  • Focus on the current issue, not on old history

Do's and Don'ts for media interviews

Do's Don'ts
  • Tell the truth
  • Correct any incorrect information immediately
  • Say you “don’t know” when you don’t know
  • Show concern and emotion
  • Be polite, and if necessary, firm
  • Avoid off-hand comments
  • Be sure you understand the question
  • Comment on rumours or unrelated company issues
  • Speak on behalf of others
  • Share personal opinions (this usually ends in unemployment)

Want to know more about speaking to the media? We have more answers and tons of other helpful information in this article about being interviewed by the media and in our branding and marketing guide for growing businesses.

Copywriting for business

Living in a highly-visual age doesn’t mean that you should scrap writing content for your business—it just means that every word needs to count. When you write quality content that works with your visual elements, you’ve got the perfect combination to help your business grow.


Here are four copywriting tips for expanding businesses:

  • Keep it bite-sized: keep your paragraphs to five lines or less. Big chunks of text make people’s eyes glaze over.

  • Spice it up: while your business does need to sound professional, it doesn’t mean that you can’t make your tone warm and conversational. Shake the formal stuffiness off, and speak to your customers as you would in person.

  • Focus on your titles: that single sentence in your email subject line or topping your blog post determines whether someone will click through and read it. Make sure the title is specific, clear, and directly related to the content your customer will read. Use numbers, or “how to” in the title when relevant. You can use a cliffhanger, but please, avoid making it click-bait.

  • Know your voice: if your company was a person, what would they be like? How would you want people to feel around them? How would they speak? Personifying your business gives you a clearer idea of what your brand voice is. Sticking to this voice across all of your material gives your brand a recognizable identity.

 

We’ve got three more copywriting tips for you in our brand and marketing guide for growing businesses—plus a bunch of practical advice and resources from industry experts to help you as your business grows. Download it (for free!) and keep it on hand as you expand your business.

Grow your business with inbound marketing

Inbound marketing is a digital marketing strategy in which your business is able to attract potential customers without directly selling your product. The goal of inbound marketing is to grow your organization by building real, lasting relationships with potential leads and customers. It’s about valuing and empowering these people to reach their goals at any stage in their journey with you.

While outbound marketing interrupts your audience with content they potentially don’t want and probably didn’t ask for, inbound marketing gives them the information they were on the hunt for and solves problems they need solving.

 

Where does content fit into an inbound marketing strategy?

Inbound marketing involves grabbing people’s attention with engaging content and continuing to impress them with even more valuable content until they’re ready to make a purchase. Content is key. By continuing to provide information and resources that are both personalized and relevant, you’ll develop trusting, loyal relationships with both your current and future customers.

Essentially, the idea is that you serve your potential customers, and keep on serving them, until they’re ready for a sale, and potentially asking you for one.

 

What are examples of inbound marketing content?

Creating quality content is key to serving your customers and eventually selling to them. Here are some content ideas that you can use in your inbound marketing strategy:

  • A blog
  • An ebook
  • A whitepaper
  • An infographic
  • A case study
  • A webinar
  • A podcast
  • A video series
  • Digital wallpapers or graphics

No matter what content you’re giving them, make sure that you’re focusing on SEO, like you read above.

 

Why do inbound marketing? What are the benefits of inbound marketing?

We’re glad you asked! There are tons of ways your business and customers can benefit from inbound marketing.

  • It ensures the buyer’s journey takes customers down one, easy-to-follow path.
  • It integrates marketing and sales, creating a seamless connection.
  • It shows that you’re customer-focused.
  • Your customers benefit by receiving quality content.
  • Your leads will be more informed and your potential buyers more ready to buy.
  • Your sales team, having worked with marketing to create the buyer’s journey, will know which products or services they should be offering.
  • You’ll attract buyers to your site by offering relevant content.
    It builds trust and increases the likelihood that buyers would do business with you again.
  • You’ll have higher quality leads that are more profitable to follow up on.


What are inbound marketing strategies?

Inbound marketing strategies are all about customers finding you organically, rather than aggressively going after potential leads through invasive (and annoying!) tactics. They involve any form of uninteruptive marketing—content creation, SEO, landing pages, blogging and much more—to build brand awareness and relationship with potential leads. There are three things that you should be prioritizing in your inbound marketing strategy:

  1. Attracting
    This type of strategy hinges on the content creation we talked about. You reach your audience by creating content that adds value. 

  2. Engaging
    Engaging strategies focus on communicating with leads and customers in a way that builds trust and long term relationships. Be active on social media, and interact with your audience. When you’re talking with customers, be sure to focus on their needs and wants and present solutions to the problems they’re facing—not pushing your product on them.

  3. Delighting
    While hopefully your customers are delighted by the content you create and the relationship you build with them over time, delighting strategies are all about making sure your  customers are happy, satisfied, and supported long after they buy from you. This means making sure that your team can act as advisors and guides for customers, and that they’re intentional with checking in and seeing how clients are doing whether by email or phone.

    Social listening is also key to a delighting strategy done right. Social listening is when you monitor your business's social media channels for customer feedback, direct mentions of your brand, or conversations including certain keywords, topics, competitors, or industries. As you “listen,” you analyze your findings and see how your business can respond.

    Your followers may reach out on one of your social media profiles to get feedback, ask questions, or share their experience with your business. Keep a lookout for this, and respond with helpful information that encourages and affirms followers, showing that you’re listening and you care about them.

    Overall, the key here is for your business to help out your customers in any situation, whether it benefits you or not. A delighted customer becomes a brand ambassador, so approach all customer interactions with intentionality.

 

What are examples of inbound marketing strategies?

Stumped on ideas for inbound marketing strategies? No worries! Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Having incredible customer support: 65% of people will stop shopping from a brand because of one bad customer support experience.
  • Provide value by blogging: brands that blog get 77% more traffic and 97% more links to their site than brands that don’t.
  • Reward loyal customers: it costs five times more to gain a new customer than it does to retain a current one.
  • Convert visitors with a landing page: 56% of all website clicks are directed to a landing page—deliver high-value content to convert visitors into leads.
  • Add opt-in forms around your website: businesses who add all kinds of opt-in forms to their websites can increase conversion by 1000% or more!
  • Use social media to drive traffic to your site: people are on social around 2-3 hours a day—bring them off social and onto your site to bring them closer to becoming a lead.
  • Prioritize SEO to get found online: search engines are the primary way online experiences start. Optimize your website and add quality content to boost your ranking and traffic.
  • Direct visitors with calls to action: it’s impossible to convert a visitor into a lead if you don’t give them any clear action to take on your website. Use CTAs to show them where you want them to go.

Lead generation to build your business

Effective lead generation is exactly what it sounds like: the process of attracting new leads and priming them to become new customers. Lead generation is all about creating enough value for potential leads to warm up to your business, and get them on the customer journey to eventually make a purchase.

 

How do small businesses generate leads?

Lead generation can take many forms, including:

  • Formal referrals
  • Email marketing
  • Blog posts
  • Social media marketing
  • Landing pages
  • Word of mouth
  • Co-marketing and working with influencers
  • Host an event
  • Text message marketing
  • Paid Google Ads
  • Optimizing your website
  • Creating relevant content that add value
  • What is the lead generation process?

Here are the four basic steps of the lead generation process:

  1. A potential lead discovers you through one of your marketing channels, like your blog, social media account or website.
  2. That lead clicks on your call to action (CTA)—usually a button that encourages website visitors to take a specific action.
  3. This CTA takes your potential lead to a landing page—a web page designed to provide an offer in exchange for a potential lead’s information.The offer has to add value to someone’s life—like a free ebook, template or course—so that potential leads will judge it to be worth providing their personal information to get.
  4. The lead fills out a form on the landing page to get access to the offer.

Boom! Now you have a new lead.

 

What should I include in a landing page?

  • First, figure out your goal: if you’re a B2B business, lead generation is most likely your goal. If you’re B2C (ecommerce), click-throughs are more common. This goal will dictate how the landing page looks and how you’ll measure its success.

  • A warm welcome: don’t be a stranger—make sure you invite your potential customer with a greeting in a personal tone.

  • A quick answer to the implicit question that’s driven them to your website: you don’t want to leave your potential customers feeling confused. Transparency is always best.

  • All the information that they need: instead of forcing them to navigate through your homepage (and most likely give up during their search).

  • Make sure it’s clean, easy to read and has a clear call to action.

Want to learn more about lead generation, including topics like pillar pages and topic clusters? We’ve got you covered. Our guide to branding and marketing for growing businesses has what you need to know when you’re growing your business. Snag it and keep it on hand as your business expands.

Driving business through social media

It’s a given that your business is on social media if you’re in the expansion phase. If not, then your competition is building relationship and interacting with your audience. For the purpose of this page, we’re assuming that you’re on social media and are looking to take it to the next level—whether that means social media growth or business growth (ideally, these two are the same).

If you’re looking for tips on how to set up your social media accounts, when to join social in your business journey and which platforms to use, check out the Entrepreneur’s Guide to Starting and Growing a Business.

Here a few tips to get you started:

Business vs. personal accounts

When you started, it made sense for you to be the face and voice of your business on social media. But as your business grows, it makes more sense for it to take on it’s own identity and to have its own account.

If you have a ton of followers and a tight online community on your existing person account, not to worry—make your personal account your business account and change the account name, and then create a new personal account for yourself.

 

Creating content that tells your story

Create social media content that promotes engagement and community interaction, not loud sales pitches. Social is not the place to push sales—it’s the place to build community and relationship with your customers.

Here are some content blunders to avoid:

  • Too many hashtags
  • Hard selling and pushing right from the start
  • Repetitive product/service posts (if you’re bored, your audience will be too)
  • Dropping off the grid: inconsistent posting can kill your social media presence

Try this handy ratio to keep your social media posting consistent. Out of 10 posts:

  • Seven should be your own original content
  • Two should be curated, well-chosen material from other individuals or businesses
  • Only one should be a sales pitch

 

When should I hire a social media manager?

The hiring question can seem tricky, but it’s as easy as asking yourself these two questions:

  1. Do we have the money to pay someone to do this?
  2. Have I run out of time to manage this myself?

If you’ve got the cash, but no time, then hiring someone is probably your best bet. If you can’t hire someone full-time right off the bat, you can always hire someone part-time or on contract. While you can find great freelancers on websites like Fiverr and Upwork, be careful not to hire the first or lowest-charging person you find. Social media communication can make or break your brand and therefore your company, so take your time finding the right fit.

We’ve got more to share with you about social media—including PR recovery and photography tips—in our guide to branding and marketing for growing businesses. This downloadable PDF has all kinds of resources and expert advice to guide you along your business growth journey.

Vlogging

Want to start vlogging to share your expertise, grow your brand and community, and reach more people? Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Your camera needs to be horizontal.
  • Keep your eyes on the imagery line that delineates the top third of the frame.
  • When filming buildings, utilize exterior wide shots and lots of signage.
  • Use wide, establishing shows to provide context or introduce a subject.
  • Medium shots are good for interviews.
  • Use close ups for emphasis or to highlight an emotional moment.
  • Depth of shot: business in the front, party (and out of focus) in the back.
  • Hold the shot for longer than you think you need to.
  • Look for what’s eye catching: what stands out? What’s different?
  • Use natural light as much as possible.
  • Be conscious of the weather and the time of day: low sun and cloudy conditions give you the best footage.
  • When shooting indoors, face subjects toward windows.
  • Pay attention to artificial light colours (like blue, green, yellow and orange), and bounce artificial light off window coverings for a more diffused, natural look.
  • Wardrobe: avoid logos, stripes, patterns, and have a couple outfit options available.
  • Hair & makeup: keep it looking clean—use light powder blotting paper for sweat/shine.
  • Location sound: if the area is too loud to have a quiet conversation, it’ll be impossible on camera.

If you’re looking for more vlogging tips, we have more—including some illustrated guides—in our guide to branding and marketing for growing businesses. We’ve compiled tons of expert advice and resources into one handy PDF to help guide you as you grow your business. You can download it for free and keep it on hand. 

Podcasting

Looking to become a thought leader in your field? Podcasting has skyrocketed in popularity, making it one of the more common ways to show your expertise and grow your audience. As with anything, there are pros and cons to jumping on the podcasting bandwagon:

Pros Cons
  • The barrier to entry is quite low. If you’re already having important conversations, you can just record them.
  • Podcasting is an easy way to share your thoughts, especially if you’re not a writer.
  • It’s relatively inexpensive. The equipment might not seem cheap, but it’s a one-time expense.
  • You have an opportunity to develop yourself as a thought leader in your industry and raise awareness of you and your business.
  • It’s hard to build an audience quickly. You need a whole promotional plan for your podcast. If not, the endeavor might just add work to your life, instead of raising awareness to you and your business.
  • iTunes is drowning in podcasts. It can be a challenge to stand out in the crowd.
  • You need a unique point of view that separates you from everyone else in your category.
  • If you don’t have any tech knowledge, the recording process can be confusing.

We cover how to protect what you’ve made—whether on your podcast or any other marketing channel—in our guide to branding and marketing for growing businesses. Get a breakdown of the different types of legal protection you can get for your intellectual property, plus tons of expert advice on all things branding and marketing.

The makings of a strong internal communications strategy

You may have a killer brand, and a company culture to envy. Maybe you have the best product on the market for your industry. But if you can’t share any of these things with your staff and customers, then unfortunately no one will know about it. That’s where communications come into play.

Start with internal communications

While you might think that communicating with your customers should be top on your priority list, we’ve found that the best communications strategy always starts from the inside with solid internal communications.

Here are some tips for nailing your internal communications, then external comms:

  • Be clear on your business objectives and your brand, and set communication objectives that support them.
  • Your brand should start from the inside, out. Internal comms is integral to getting your employees to support and represent your brand.
  • Internal communications shouldn't be an afterthought or something you do once and forget about. They say that culture eats strategy for breakfast—but what’s culture without strong communications?
  • Keep your brand values and messages front of mind when developing your marketing and internal communications.
  • Match your voice internally and externally—keep it on-brand and consistent no matter who you’re talking to.
  • Keep in mind that you’re “communicating” any time you are informing, educating or inspiring your team members.
  • Get someone to be in charge of your communications. You can hire someone who’s  great at writing, creative and has a killer attention to detail. Or, if you’re wanting to look internally, your marketing specialist will probably be an excellent fit for the job.
  • Communicate to others as you would have them communicate to you.
  • Have a clear understanding of both what you want to achieve and the audience that you need to reach.

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