Can Customers Identify Your Business?

11 01 2010

Ask a large company what “branding” is and they can answer you completely and tell you how their company accomplishes it. Ask a small business owner about “branding” and they may think it has something to do with an iron, a fire and backside of cattle. This doesn’t mean that the small business owner is ignorant; it means that they just might not understand what you are talking about.

Branding for the small business can be a critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to beating the competition. Branding promotes recognition of your product, service or store and gives an easy association for your customers to your business. Branding can consist of your logo, advertising, slogan, painting or sign on company vehicles and any marketing materials you may have.

It is imperative for a small business to determine a message that conveys something about their product or service and provides a sense of confidence. In this market, customers are not impressed that you offer a service, they want to feel confident that your business is the best choice and offers the highest value.

1) Get a logo: No matter how silly it may seem, your business needs a logo. A logo gives customers a visual indication of what your business does and will allow them to mentally associate your business with that image. When a customer sees that image, whether on a vehicle, in an ad, or on your business card, they will associate it with your business and with you. That type of recognition directly relates to business.

2) Get a slogan: Don’t try to get too fancy, too cute and certainly not too long winded. Keep it short and sweet, try to convey value to the customer, and avoid superlatives that will cause your customers ultimately to doubt your sincerity. Need a slogan and don’t know where to start? Post a note in the comments of this section for our feedback, ask on a social networking site, ask your friends and families, ask your employees, or ask your existing customers. A slogan will help with recognition and garner you more business.

3) Make your marketing materials match: You should choose a general set of complimentary colors that you will use in themes throughout your business. For example, a lawn care service would likely choose green as one of its main colors. Use your logo throughout your marketing materials and on your business cards. Imagine, if you took a brochure, an ad, and a business card each from 5 different companies and tossed them on a table, you should be able to pair them up to represent each company because of branding. It’s the similar look and feel that allow you to match up the corresponding marketing materials. If you tossed your marketing materials out, could you match them up?

Take five minutes today and toss all of your marketing materials on the table. Do you see a common theme? Does it convey the impression you want to give? Be honest, does it seem amateur or silly? If it isn’t what you’re looking for, start over. Use a budget-minded contest through Prova to get more in line with your business and the image you want to convey.

Branding is a key force in making a lasting impression with your customers and will make you stand out among the competition. I’m serious, toss your stuff on the table. Go ahead!

For any questions about business branding, send me an email at or post here in the Comments section. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll find it.

– Jeannie Nash
Marketing Strategist


Where to Start with Online Advertising

8 01 2010

Online advertising is often considered to be too confusing for small businesses to undertake. Many owners who are not familiar with the medium expect it to be complicated and expensive but this doesn’t have to be the case. Online advertising can range from a simple local Google business listing to a complex AdWords or pay-per-click campaign. Whatever your level of expertise, don’t be afraid to try. If all else fails, seek the advice of a professional marketing strategist who is well versed in online advertising techniques to help you design a campaign that will compliment your print advertising efforts and marketing goals.

The first step is to decide if your business can benefit from online advertising. Ask yourself where you could find additional customers. Do you have the type of business that people would look for information online? If the answer is no, chances are your money is likely better spent on other advertising. If your business would benefit from more customers finding you online, take some easy first steps and evaluate their results.

1) Local Google Listing – Check out for a quick and easy way to make sure that customers can find your physical location. By making a quick new business entry, you’ll get exposure and a listing on Google for free.

2) Social Networking Ads – By using targeted ads on places like Facebook, your business can target the exact audience you are looking for. These ads are generally pay-per-click which means that your business only pays if someone selects your ad and is directed on to your page. Make your ad compelling by offering a time-limited, tangible product or service. Don’t waste your money with a simple “just letting you know we’re here” type of ad. Make someone want to click.

3) Link Exchanges – If you feel that there are sites where a link to your website would benefit, suggest a link exchange to that site. By offering a reciprocal link to their site, you’ll often get a positive response. Remember, the more links that exist to your site, the better your site will rank on search engines.

4) AdWords – If you ready to put some time into online advertising, consider an ad campaign such as Google AdWords. You can create a monthly budget, set your maximum pay-per-click rate (basically buying position on search engine sponsored ads), and have outstanding statistics to measure your results.

5) Banner Ads – Certain types of businesses definitely benefit from a banner ad campaign. There are lots of services available that once you submit a banner ad, can disperse it across the Internet to appropriate sites. You can also consider buying a sponsorship on you local sites that have a lot of visibility. Consider placing a banner ad at your local Chamber of Commerce site.

6) Local Ad Sites – There are many aggregators of local businesses and services. A good place to start is to Google your own business and see what listings you end up in. You can often update these listings for free. Make sure the information is updated and if you move locations or change information, always Google yourself and make sure all listings are up to date.

Each of these types of efforts needs close monitoring to make sure you can track the results. Avoid making identical offers in multiple places so you can be sure to know where new traffic is coming from. If you have statistics for your website, be sure to check the referring domains as well so you can see what people do on your site once they come in.

Each one of these methods will drive more business to your website and the local ads will help bring foot traffic to your physical location. Make sure your potential new customers are impressed when they arrive. Make sure your website is as professional as possible. If your money is limited or you don’t have a web designer you trust, consider running a promotion with Prova to redesign your site. All the advertising in the world won’t help if once customers arrive, they lose their sense of confidence in your brand.

As always, feel free to ask questions. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll find out!

NEXT BLOG: Branding and the Small Business

— Jeannie Nash
Marketing Strategist

The Perils of Print Advertising

4 01 2010

As a small business owner, you may find yourself continually looking to get more feedback about what marketing efforts are working. This week, I’ll discuss the Perils of Print Advertising and ways to evaluate if your print ads are working for your business.

REDUNDANCY: A good first step is to avoid the biggest advertising mistake any small business can make, and that is to run an ad once. A beautiful ad may catch a few eyes but will likely not yield many results. A good rule of thumb is to plan on running ads consistently over 4-6 weeks, depending on the frequency of a publication. Consistent marketing gets customers familiar with your brand and your message and will develop confidence that you run a real business with real value to them. These days, customers are hesitant to jump on board with a new business or product. Make them feel confident in you by offering consistency.

CONSISTENCY: Make your ads look alike and slightly change the message or offer, if appropriate. Let them be recognizable throughout several publications as belonging to the same company. No one is going to avoid your company because their ad looks similar to the one last week. No one. Also consider asking the editor if you can have an ad appear in a certain place over the course of your campaign so people get familiar with where to find your ad.

COMPELLING: Offer something tangible in return for their business. Percent-off deals rarely work unless you’re giving away the farm or dealing with existing customers. Readers who are not familiar with your company may be left wondering, “25% off of what?” rather than looking for the car keys to come visit your storefront. Ask yourself if your ad reader would respond, “Now THAT’S a great deal!” Instead of money savings, consider bundling less popular items for free with the purchase of more popular items or setting a fixed price for a recognizable service. A $5 oil change would have me in a lot faster than 25% off your next oil purchase.

AVOID OVERLAP: Sometimes small businesses will go on an advertising blitz and will often shoot an entire budget within a short span of time. If your service or product is time specific or limited, this may be appropriate but often you just buy yourself a little recognition but rarely get the traffic through your door. If you run print ads in more than one publication, don’t make the same offer in the same place and ask that they bring a coupon or the ad with them. By having the tangible ad, you’ll get immediate confirmation of where your marketing dollars are paying off. Also use the time wisely when a customer brings in an ad. If you don’t recognize this customer, ask them if this is the first time they have been in. Start a conversation and learn if the customer had heard of you before or if the ad brought them in. Most customers are happy to have a conversation with you.

LOCAL ADVERTISING: Whenever you have the chance to buy an ad in a school publication, a local menu, a charity event, or even a discount card program, DO IT! These items generally are used for far longer than any newspaper and are generally much more affordable. The best way to capitalize on this is to have a business card prepared with advertising in mind. Don’t worry about whose name is on the card or what their title is. You must have your logo, address, short description of your business, contact information and tag line. You can hand these to whoever is selling a local ad and they generally will use the card as is, saving you design and layout fees and maintaining your branding. You can also have this design printed cost effectively online and use these to handout at networking events. Remember, don’t ever get the back side of your business card printed on or with a gloss coating because then you can’t write on it!

BE PREPARED: Take this opportunity to get your marketing ducks in a row and decide how you’re going to proceed through 2010. Start now with a new business card design for advertising and networking purposes that will reproduce well in black and white and look great in full color.

Need help? Set your budget and run a design contest today with Prova | Advertising and get your networking business card ready for action! For more information on running your own design contest, visit

If you have questions, please feel free to ask. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll find it.


– Jeannie Nash
Marketing Strategist

New Year’s Resolutions

28 12 2009

The holidays are a natural time for small business owners to turn their energies towards their families and their business often suffers a bit of benign neglect. Retail businesses spend most of their moments trying to capture as much of the elusive holiday spending as possible while service businesses often enjoy the quiet lull in preparation for the festivities. After the holidays is the perfect time to regroup both personally and professionally, look back over the past year and evaluate your successes and failures, and plan for a successful year to come.

2010 offers a continuation of many of the same challenges from 2009 and managing finances tightly will still remain key to the ultimate success for small businesses. Businesses need to give the impression that they are thriving in this market, despite the obvious decrease in discretionary spending. Now is the time to look over your marketing materials and take stock of your current state. Ask yourself the following questions:

1) What marketing is working for your business? Is it networking personally? Is it word-of-mouth? Is it having an outstanding product? Find your strengths and focus on those. Now is the time to take an honest look at your marketing materials and get them in better shape.

2) Are you using a logo to reinforce your brand? If so, does it convey an image about your business or product that inspires people to have confidence in your business? If not, budget some money to revamp your business image. Look for a logo that has a limited number of colors and gradients (colors that blend into each other) if you plan on doing embroidery (uniforms, give-aways) as those are harder to reproduce. Look for clean lines that will work well when printed and be easily recognizable. Avoid using clipart. Clipart looks like clipart for a good reason, it is! Hire a professional designer to put together a logo that inspires you. If funds are limited, consider running a contest through Prova Advertising, and set your own budget. You’ll see the logos and get to decide what you like before choosing a winner and paying the contest award.

3) Is advertising working? If you run ads in more traditional medium such as a local newspaper or the yellow pages, it may be more difficult to know where your ads are having an impact. Consider running a coupon, if appropriate, in one publication only to see how much traffic you get from that one. Remember, it generally takes about 4-6 appearances of an ad to start showing any impact. Don’t get caught in the trap of thinking you can run one ad and your phone will ring off the hook. It often does not work that way.

4) Are you using social media? If you think Facebook is just for kids, you’re wrong and you’re missing out on a potentially critical section of your advertising. If you don’t know anything about Facebook or Twitter, consider hiring a social media specialist to create a strategy. Be sure you find an expert who does this for small businesses. Social networking sites are one of the fastest and most effective ways to reach your customer base.

No matter what type of business you have, now is the time to fine-tune your strategies for the upcoming year to make sure your business survives to ring in 2011. It’s going to be a tough year but by organizing now and preparing for the challenge, your business will have the best chance of success.

– Jeannie Nash
Marketing Strategist

Mirror, Mirror, Who Should I Delegate to?

4 11 2009

There’s a great article posted on Dane Carlson’s Business Blog about the power of delegating. When you’re starting or growing a new business, it’s far too easy to do everything yourself, for “free.” However, is that truly the best option?[tweetmeme source=”provafm”]

Have a good read:

Social Bookmarking Options

21 10 2009

Social Bookmarking options are now available on our articles. Try it: & Digg us.

Review of ad design by contests service @

15 10 2009

Lahle Wolfe, author of Women in Business column for, posted a great review on advertisement contests. In a nutshell, “A Must-Try for All Business Owners With a Tight Advertising Budget and No Time.”