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Tell Your Brand Story Online

One of the most important ways a business can market itself and create differentiation is by telling its own unique story of creation. This idea not only applies to traditional, brick-and-mortar businesses, but also internet-based businesses or even companies with an online presence. There are many ways to present one’s story to customers online. Scott Steinberg posted a terrific article to Mashable.com’s business section about this very subject.

Steinberg says in the article a business can create customer loyalty and brand awareness by developing a compelling narrative about the brand. He lists eight different ways this can be accomplished:

  1. “Rise above problems and offer meaningful solutions.” This first method simply means to chronicle exactly how the business solved a customer problem. Use various methods to convey this point, including video and customer testimonials.
  2. “Take viewers behind the scenes.” Let the customers experience who exactly makes the business work. Let them see the individuals responsible for the company’s success. This tactic allows the customer to empathize and identify with the business, which engenders loyalty.
  3. “Act as an industry insider.” Build original content on the website through employee-run blogs, etc. This original content should include tips and information about the specific industry in which the business is competing. Not only will customers appreciate the attempt to educate them, but it will also serve as a way to reinforce the expertise of the business and its employees in whatever industry it competes.
  4. “Find unique ways to recount your origins.” Steinberg cites Facebook and Craigslist as two examples that use this tactic well. The way this can be accomplished is by revealing the personal struggles and tribulations that built the business’ foundation. From the customer’s perspective, this gives the company a “face.”
  5. “Explore interactive solutions.” Use creative means to tell the brand’s story. Videos, visuals, apps, and games are just a few of the possibilities.
  6. “Discuss your future.” Tell the customers your hopes and dreams, as well as the practical ways you plan on reaching them. Of course, this does not mean revealing potentially damaging information. Another interesting option here is to include the customers in this by giving them a voice for input and advice. This gives them a personal stake in the company’s future.
  7. “Salute your community and your heroes.” Tell the customers who was integral to the success of the business. Who provided inspiration? Who did the founders admire and aspire to emulate?
  8. “Speak about topics close to your heart.” Speak about social issues in which the business can be involved. Steinberg mentions TOMS and how their charitable element has made them a success.

The eight tactics above can increase customer loyalty and brand awareness by revealing the business’ brand narrative. Great advice from Steinberg for any e-business.

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Lunch Ladies’ Wisdom

Every day, I pass one of three or four women at the front of the cafeteria, who man a desk to check that anyone who enters swipes their ID and gets charged for a meal.  Over the course of the school year, hellos have turned into small talk, and recently into drawn out conversations.  Last week, I talked with a woman named Cheryl for an hour.  And who could have foreseen the wisdom I would encounter, from a stereotypically “unexpected” place.

What No Lunch Lady Actually Looks Like

You’ll have to meet Cheryl, or any one of the lunch ladies, to hear their stories.  But let me summarize Cheryl’s.  Cheryl grew up in a small town and saved money while her husband worked for a medium-sized business.  She had no college education.  When he lost his job, she had enough in the bank   to open a women’s clothing store, so she did.  She pursued this until moving to Naples, Florida and managing an art gallery for thirteen years (she credits getting the job to her Saks Fifth Avenue outfit).  After that she managed a bank, did a few small entrepreneurial endeavors, and now works at the cafeteria. Why?  Because she likes the environment, and it’s a restful break from everything else.

Cheryl may not be the most successful entrepreneur, but she has tasted of life’s difficulties and joys.  She said an entrepreneur should be willing to take risks, to meet new people, to pick up and follow opportunity, and to fall back on friends when things get rough.  But one thing she said stands out above all else: hope for the best, and cope with rest.  Life is not what you wish for, but what you make of it.  I think real people, who live in the real world, often  have the most wisdom to share.  Make an effort to meet those people, and to learn from them. 

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Barnes & Noble’s Nook Is in Trouble

Phil Wahba writes in his article for Reuters that Barnes & Noble has seen declines in both Nook sales and retail revenue over the last year. Wahba theorizes that this signifies the company’s failure to react to literature’s shift towards the digital. The article notes that Barnes & Noble’s digital content revenue has slowed in growth dramatically over the last several years; dropping precipitously from 113% growth during the holiday season in 2011 to a mere 13% growth during this last holiday season. This demonstrates Barnes & Noble’s tenuous grasp on its market share in this industry.

Despite a slight bump in sales after its rival Borders Books closed down, this is just one example of Barnes & Noble’s inability to adjust to the shift towards the internet in the book-buying industry. Years ago, as an industry leader, this company was poised to retain its control over the book market despite the shift towards internet. However, Amazon beat Barnes & Noble to the punch, releasing its Kindle and focusing on the online aspect of selling books. During this time, Barnes & Noble failed to realize the importance of the internet for its future success.

Hopefully other businesses will learn from Barnes & Noble’s mistakes. We are in an internet age, where success is often impossible if the online aspect of a business is ignored.

 

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Entrepreneurship and Mobile Web pages.

Any entrepreneur considering building a website needs to strongly consider making it mobile friendly. Having a site that is designed to be viewed on a big AND small screen is now more important than ever. With the prevalence of iPhones, Android, and Blackberry phones among most target markets, the likelihood of a potential user visiting via mobile devise is tremendous. The real question is whether or not your site will be up to their standards.

Do you have the mindset you will need to design and keep track of such a site? If not, I would suggest you go over to LimeCuda and read their article about The Mobile Future of Your Business. The concepts, such as having realistic expectations, keeping track of statistics, having goals for mobile based usage, taking the time to gain an accurate understanding of what your users are looking for, are all familiar to the internet entrepreneur. But, that being said, there are some unique ways to implement the ideas.

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America’s Dumbest Home Videos

Feel like a beach comber when surfing YouTube?

YouTube is one of the most successful uses of internet technology and Web 2.0 that we see today. The “largest worldwide video-sharing community” has provided procrastinating college students and bored office employees with hours of entertainment. YouTube also gives companies and celebrities yet another promotional platform, enables amateur filmmakers to easily release their art to the world and is a source of thousands of useful instructional videos. Unfortunately, YouTube has also spawned many millions of boring, irrelevant and meaningless videos. Their owners: teenagers who somehow believe the rest of the world wants to see their foot-high back yard bike ramp being put to use and middle-aged hillbillies who want to share a 10 second video of their new brood of puppies.

This isn’t a rant about me not caring about these people’s lives; it’s a statement of concern for the growing ocean of garbage on YouTube. A similar problem is the endless copy-and-paste videos! How many “Charlie Bit Me” videos do we really need? And why is an official music video buried amidst dozens of fan videos featuring nothing but lyrics or nature pictures? I fear that YouTube may suffer from the plague that so harshly affected MySpace. As more and more noise is added, the good videos that drew us there in the first place are becoming drowned out.

Perhaps YouTube needs to be more exclusive about who can upload public video. Would it be possible to automatically delete clips that have less than fifty views after the first month of existence? I have no suggestions for a quick fix, but I would like to see a higher standard enforced.

Do any readers have suggestions for improvement? Please comment below!

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Farmville is worth how much!?

Zynga is a company that was created in 2007.  They have since dominated the social gaming industry.  Although they are the creators of over a dozen online games, their most popular is Farmville.  Farmville has a 5 million person user base per day.

It would be easy to let that number roll over you, so let’s put this in perspective.  Zynga is valued at over 5 billion dollars, which is more than Electronic Arts.  EA is the second largest video game company, and have wildly successful titles such as Madden NFL.

Zynga was able to reach these incredible levels in less than four years by utilizing the amazing power of social media.  The full potential of social networking has yet to be realized.

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