When Electrum opened for business in 2004, there were no iPhones, Twitter handles, or YouTube videos (gasp). Facebook was still “The Facebook” and people sent emails to AOL accounts via their Blackberries. And, the majority of websites were clunky electronic brochures that didn’t display well on tablets, because well, there were no tablets.

Despite opening during what we would now consider the dark ages, the Electrum team managed to successfully brand our customers and position them to find, get and keep customers. We’ve learned a lot in the last 15 years. As technology advanced, learning was mandatory. But most of what we learned came as a result of measuring results, following best practices, and keeping an open mind. And now, we’d like to share with you the top 15 things we’ve learned after 15 years:

Customer Experience Is King

If you’ve put more effort on getting customers in the door than in the experience you’ll provide once they do – you’re doomed. You only get one chance to make a first impression. We invite you to read this funny, yet cautionary tale of a well-branded yet poorly prepared and now shuttered sandwich shop.

Facts tell. Stories sell.

How well do you tell you brand story? Are you honest yet engaging? Do your descriptions leave nothing to the imagination? Are you above all brief? Just look to a few master story tellers for tips on creating a brand story that engages your audience.

Write for your audience, not your CEO

While we certainly have clients possessing easy-to-market attributes, leading them to a simple brand message is not always easy. As they say, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him tell you why in 10 words or less. However, follow these four brand messaging tips and you’ll create interest rather than convey information.

All employees are part of your marketing team

We’re all guilty of sometimes needing a distraction at the office. However, stepping away from your bookkeeping tasks to doodle a logo idea or taking a break from cold calls to recommend a new campaign headline can lead to disastrous results. However, there are ways that everyone on your team can play a role in marketing and should.

Just because social media is free, don’t treat it as though it has no value.

The good news for small businesses is that social media cost them just as much as it does a worldwide brand- absolutely nothing. The bad news is that because social media is free, some businesses treat it as though it has little value. If you are going to have a social media presence at all, follow these social media commandments and deliver your brand to the Promised Land.

A customer testimonial has many benefits.

You won’t always succeed at achieving optimum customer satisfaction. But, when you do, seize the opportunity. Here are four reasons to carpe testimonium – or seize their testimonial (loosely translated) and put your customer’s euphoria to work for you.

Just because you can cut your own hair doesn’t mean you should.

The same goes for marketing, yet people try it anyway. Marketing can be very tricky and full of hidden traps and opportunities to make a wrong turn. So, if you choose to venture into the marketing maelstrom without a trusted guide – good luck. You’ll need it. But if you avoid these marketing pitfalls, you’ll be off to a good start.

Don’t be anti-social.

By now, it’s clear that social media is not a passing fad. What isn’t clear is why more businesses are not embracing social media’s ability to connect with their consumers, showcase their corporate culture, share helpful industry information, and so much more. We’ve heard the excuses and have prepared a winning argument for taking your business social.

Search engines are not evil.

For businesses wanting to rank well in online search results, search engines may appear to be omnipotent tyrants hell bent on keeping their businesses off of the first page of the search results. But nothing could be further from the truth. Just like any business owner, their goal is to provide a satisfying experience for their users to nurture brand loyalty. Here’s an overly simplified explanation of how search engines work.

Your website is a member of your business development team.

In today’s digital age, your website is often the face of your business. It can make the first impression, develop leads and generate sales. Given its vital role in your success, it is critical that it effectively communicate and fortify your brand. Here are six questions to determine if your website needs a cosmetic update or a complete makeover.

Unwritten service standards aren’t worth the paper they’re written on…oh wait.

Unwritten service standards. Those three words are as much of an oxymoron as jumbo shrimp. They are as useful as bringing sand to the beach, as effective as Congress and make as much sense as being a little pregnant. Find out why a business that cares about providing an exceptional customer experience should make sure its service standards are written, communicated and enforced.

Your brand is the sum of its parts.

Business owners often get hung up one component of their brand, such as the logo, the tagline or the name, when, actually, a brand is the sum of its parts. No one item should bear the responsibility of telling your brand’s story. It’s a team effort between the name, logo, font, color, tagline, marketing and collateral materials, website, online content and social media presence just for starters. To illustrate our point, let’s breakdown components of mega-brand Nike.

A marketing plan is your brand’s GPS

Thanks to navigation systems and smart phone applications – it’s practically impossible to lose your way in route to a business appointment, new restaurant or vacation destination. But, a road map for your brand may not be so easy… especially if you haven’t decided where you want it to go. Find out how an effective brand strategy gives you an edge over the competition.

If you aren’t measuring the customer experience, you aren’t managing it.

Your brand isn’t what you say it is. It’s the perception your customers have of your product or service. Therefore, your customers can provide a wealth of information that can improve service, enhance loyalty, and reduce customer acquisition costs.

Outsourcing your marketing makes sense.

Most businesses don’t have the budget to hire experts in graphic design, web programming, social media, digital advertising, media planning, copy writing, and public relations. Even if they could, it’s doubtful they could keep them busy. That’s why it makes sense for businesses to eliminate the overhead and get ahead by outsourcing their marketing to a full-service agency.

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