Style of Business

How to Pump Up Your Startup’s Online Brand Image

by Keetria on September 23, 2016

Crafting a brand image is no easy feat. A lot of work must go into establishing a brand, let alone creating an image that stands out and is successful. Many new startups often falter because their image isn’t one that actually serves them well, and a brand image that fails a company often belongs to a company that fails.

All in all, a company’s brand image speaks to the audience as a first impression. Consumers make a lot of decisions based on a company’s branding, so it’s essentially that your own startup have a pumped up brand image that snags you success the first time around.


Narrow Down Your Target Market

A common mistake startups make is trying too hard to have “mass appeal.” Unless you have a tried and true company that has services and products that can truly appeal to all consumers, there’s no need to market to a broad audience.

Target markets aren’t just necessary to consider when it comes to marketing. Your brand image and representation speak to a demographic, but what demographic are they actually speaking to? A pumped up brand image is one that knows who it’s trying to access and succeeds at doing so.

Focus On Your Competition

How often do you check in on what your competition is doing? Don’t worry – you aren’t snooping around in an attempt to copy your rivals, but instead you need to focus on what your competition isn’t doing.

Simultaneously, it is good to see what your rivals are succeeding at. Do they have a bigger audience than you do? Why? It’s okay to mimic their branding successes as long as you put your own spin on them – copy the concepts, not the content. Also look at where they’re faltering and take advantage of these flaws by fixing the problems within your own branding schemas.

Determine Your Selling Point

What makes your brand unique? How do you differ from other startups and businesses out there? Establishing your uniqueness should be the cornerstone of any brand messaging. There are thousands of businesses out there that do the same things, but each one has something special that applies only to them – and if they don’t, they fail.

Your brand image should center on what differentiates you from everyone else. This is your selling point – so why not use it to do what it’s there for?

Get Help with Problem Areas

Most startups are incredibly understaffed. If your company is run out of your living room with help from you and three others, it’s very likely that you won’t have all of your marketing and branding bases covered. For instance, is someone in your startup a graphic designer? Is someone an expert on demographic studies?

When you have a weak point within your company, find a way to fix it. Good branding is visual and focuses on marketing psychology, and if you don’t have team members that perform these functions flawlessly then you’re already lagging behind.

If you’re a woman in the business world, you’re likely familiar with the idea of “the boys club.” The realms of industry, innovation and entrepreneurship have long been dominated by males, and there is still a very patriarchal edge that lingers in these settings. As a woman who is also an entrepreneur, you can fell unwanted, threatened or intimidated in these spaces.

The key is to rise above this preconceived notion and do your best without allowing others to compare you based on gender. To be a woman is to be strong, confident and sure of yourself. This should shine through in your business acumen.

Still, it can definitely be hard to be a female entrepreneur some days. You want to shine bright, but the pressures, possible harassment and discrediting can get you down. When you need a positive pick-me-up, try out one of these three amazing books by female entrepreneurs. Once you read these three, keep going back for more – it’s never a bad thing to support female writers and share in their sisterhood.


“Ladies Who Launch” – Victoria Colligan, Beth Shoenfeld, Amy Swift

This is one of the best entrepreneurial introductory reads in the world, let alone just for women. The spin on this book is obviously riddled with female empowerment, but aside from that the advice is ingenious for any entrepreneurs who need a little help launching their first business. Any men who happen to be reading, you should pick this up as well.

Colligan, Shoenfeld and Swift are three female entrepreneurs who have all been in your shoes – a little beaten down by the male environment that they work in, but they put a female and spirited perspective on success. They don’t believe in succeeding in spite of being a woman, they believe in succeeding because you are a woman, and there’s nothing more empowering than that.

“Shark Tales: How I turned $1000 into a Billion Dollar Business” – Barbara Corcoran

Not everyone is born with a silver spoon in their mouth, and that’s incredibly true of “Shark Tank” star Corcoran. Her “rags to riches” story tells the tale of a young waitress bussing tables in a diner who gets a $1000 loan from her boyfriend.

Through hard work and experience, as well as failures and triumphs abound, Corcoran found out that success was still something she could accomplish, even coming from where she did. Now the female entrepreneur is a real estate tycoon who helps others blaze their own trails in the business world.

“Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” – Sheryl Sandberg

As the CEO of Facebook, Sandberg obvious has a pretty strong business resume, and her success is one that women the world over should triumph. Only recently have women found their foothold in the higher-up tech industries, and Sandberg is paving the way for millions of girls who want a piece of that pie for themselves.

Her book details her success and strategies, but also sends across an even more important message: the world actually needs more female leaders for a myriad of reasons, and it’s time we start allowing it to happen. Sandberg also doesn’t shy away from controversial discussions, like career vs. family and money over enjoying your life.

It seems like everyone these days wants to get in on one hashtag movement or another. Sometimes this is a good thing, like when hashtags stand for solidarity and social change, but often silly hashtags are trending and everyone wants their 15 seconds of social media fame.

Businesses often feel the same way. They see a hashtag, meme or trend that’s popular and utilize it in their own advertising or marketing campaign. The question is this: is this actually a smart thing to do?

The answer is simultaneously yes and no. Hashtags and trends can be great for your business’ visibility and brand image, but they have to be used intelligently.

The Right Way

There is definitely a right way to use a hashtag or trend. The best way to utilize a trend in marketing is to always think the question “does this trend relate to my brand?” If the answer is yes, it’s then up to you to create a marketing tweet, image, slogan or piece of content that ties the two together in an interesting way.

Consider the now trending film “Sausage Party.” This tongue-in-cheek reference can actually add a dash of humor to a grocery store or meat packaging brand. They create a tweet that contains an image of a variety of sausages, also including the text “Have your own #SausageParty tonight. We’ll bring the buns!”

This humorous use of a current pop culture item and brand relevance sticks out in the minds of others. There’s also a dash of personality here – the business shows it is aware and doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is good in the eyes of consumers who want companies to have a human edge.

The Wrong Way

There are three major mistakes a brand could make with trend marketing – relying on trends too much, misappropriating a trend or not integrating the trend into the brand’s concept.

First, it’s important that a business not make trends and hashtags the cornerstones of their marketing strategies. This looks desperate – occasionally is fine, but doing it too often sends the wrong message.

Second, it’s important to understand the context of a trending topic. Businesses have gotten into hot water before for using hashtags and trends in the wrong way. These trends stand for something serious, a business misuses them and they become the target of bad publicity.

Third, the trend has to be related back to the brand in some way. In the above example, it doesn’t make sense for a furniture store to piggyback off of the same trending movie. They have to find a trend that suits their own business, or find a creative way to tie a trend into their own concept. Using a trend without making this connection is sloppy and the marketing strategy will fail.

All in all, trends need to be used with care. Don’t shy away from using trends in marketing completely, but use them sparingly. Make them count and make them clever.

There is a common misconception that you need to buy, buy, buy to stay in shape. The media helps to perpetuate this with hundreds of ads touting products that keep track of weight loss, help you lose weight or help you exercise. From nutrition shakes, step counters, high tech running gear and the newest pair of Nikes, paying for all of this equipment can really add up.

The problem is that advertisers do this for a reason. They know that so many people, women especially, desperately want to lose weight.  If they think something will help them shed those pounds in an easier way, they’ll go for it. If these same people opened their eyes and realized if they put in as much effort to becoming healthier as they did spending money on gadgets that only sometimes work, they may actually get somewhere.

The long story short is that you don’t have to spend tons of cash on getting fitter. All you need is the willingness to get fit and the ability to put in the effort needed to make your dreams a reality.

Gym Memberships

A gym membership is in no way the only way to exercise. Are gym memberships cheaper than buying expensive exercise equipment? Short-term, yes. However, this conditional discount doesn’t matter. The best way to spend money is to not buy gym memberships at all.

If you are indeed hell bent on going to the gym, wait for promotional prices and always break down yearly membership fees by month-to-month costs. If you’re spending more than 20 dollars to go to the gym every month, you’re spending way too much.

Work with What You’ve Got

Do you have stairs at home? Use them to do lunges. Is your living room pretty free and clear of furniture? Use it as a space for yoga. Is your office close enough to walk to? Start doing it.

Getting fit requires some creativity at times, and you need to have an innovative mind to discover new ways to workout. Utilize any and all resources you already possess to help you get fit and you will, eventually, see results.

Committing to Routine

It doesn’t cost money to manage your time better. You can find small ways to exercise throughout the day, like using sitting exercises while you’re behind your desk for hours, but you also need about 15 to 30 minutes of cardio time that you can only get by focusing only on exercise.

This means mapping out your schedule and sticking to it. No “but I don’t have time”s or “I’m too tired today”s. Set aside this time to exercise and execute your schedule.

Budget Fitness Food

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to break the bank to buy the right foods for fitness. Go to your local grocery store and map out the cost of buying fresh produce, meats and grains. Look for discounts, coupons and sales. This also requires effort, but it will be well worth it in the end when you’re preparing home cooked, delicious meals that are simultaneously helping slim down your waistline.

Knowing How to Keep a Work-Life Balance When You're Starting a Small Business
If you’re an entrepreneur or a small business owner, you know how difficult it can be to keep your work at your office and your personal life at home. This can manifest in different ways, from answering work calls during dinner, to having to take care of neglected personal issues when you’ve set aside time for work.

The ideal situation is keeping both of these areas of your life completely separate. In reality, the more separate they are the more at ease and de-stressed you will be. When you keep your work at work and your personal life at home, you create a safe space away from stress while maintaining a professional area for productivity.

This can sometimes be impossible, though, when your life is revolving around getting a small business off the ground. Think about how much effort it takes to get your business off the ground – when there’s so much to do, is it possible to keep these areas of life separate?

The Answer Is…?

Yes. The solution is to be willing to sacrifice more home time to working, but the boundaries still need to be set.

Say that you get seven hours of sleep a day. This means you have 17 hours a day for yourself. Take away three hours for showering, eating, restroom breaks and other miscellaneous time for other needed functions. This means you have 14 hours to split up between your personal life and work.

In a normal situation, you may commit yourself to an eight hour work day, but during your business’ early stages you may need to make room for 10 hours devoted to work.

This isn’t a bad thing. A small business needs nurturing. The problem arises when after those 10 hours are spent, you’re still in business mode when you need to worry about your stress and rest.

The Solution

Setting up boundaries is the first step, then you’ll need to implement a way to maintain these boundaries.

One of the most obvious ways you’ll try to blur those lines is through your smartphone. This piece of technology symbolizes the line itself – you use your phone for both personal reasons and it’s also a great tool for business. The solution here is to separate the work-life functions of your phone as much as possible.

Learn how to turn off notifications for business emails when you get home and put your business apps in a folder that you keep on a separate phone screen. This commits you to the idea of “out of sight, out of mind.”

You’ll also need to learn how to commit to staying diligent and recognize that you NEED time away from work. When you rest at home, you aren’t slacking off or being lazy – you’re giving yourself time to recharge and relax in order to better your work performance.

This means being very diligent about where your boundaries are. Try this method out: when you get home, leave your phone on an end table or in a drawer for an hour to help wean you away from the idea that you need to work while you’re at home. The more you separate yourself from the idea you have to keep working at home, the less you’ll feel compelled to do so.

Branding Yourself Online The Whys and Hows You Need to Know
How do you brand yourself online? A better question might actually be this one: do you brand yourself online in the first place?

Aside from your business, you should also be branding yourself on the Internet. The difference is obvious: when you brand your business, you market it and what it can do for others. When you brand yourself, you market your own person and what you can do for others. This includes showcasing yourself as a thought leader, an influencer or just someone that needs an audience.

Why You Need to Brand Yourself

As you can see above, it’s pretty obvious on the surface why building a personal brand for yourself online is enticing. Who doesn’t want to be thought of as someone influential with something to share with the world?

Being an influencer, though, does more for you than just boost your ego. The long and short of it is building a brand for yourself improves your credibility. This helps you out in more ways than one.

  • Any personal projects you start or endorse will immediately be thought of as credible based on your improved personal brand.
  • Your business will be seen as more credible based on your own credibility.
  • Your social media, publications and any content with your name attached will be seen as credible and insightful based on your personal brand.

This can certainly be a great asset for your other businesses. When you work on building your brand, you also work on building your image and credibility across the board in the world of business.

How to Start Building Your Brand

Building a personal brand is in no way an exact science, but there are some basic steps and tips to follow that can get you on the right track. In general, building your brand is composed of two parts: activity and image.

How active you are online greatly affects your credibility and brand. When you post on social media often, keep your website updated and actively engage with others online, you give off an image that you are committed to maintaining your brand and being active within the business community.

Your image is greatly based on the kind of content that you post and how you engage in the above activity. Sharing insightful tips and content is one way to boost your image online.

Here are some quick and simple ways to start working on building your personal brand:

  • Post on social media every day on a schedule.
  • Post to your website’s blog and business blog(s).
  • Always stay committed to sticking with trends.
  • Read thought leader blogs and websites.
  • Offer your content services to outlets.
  • Look to attending and/or speaking at events, conferences and seminars.

These are just some of the more basic ways you can build your brand online, and you’ll quickly find that the effort involved is minimal compared to the great results you get at the end of it all. If you stick with these small tips and grow from there, you’ll have a great personal brand in no time.

4 Tips for Communicating Effectively with Employees as a Leader
When you’re part of a business team, whether you’re the company owner or the newest intern, you have to utilize your communication skills every day. This can include simple conversation or harder communication concepts like expressing something that you want in the best way.

When you’re a leader, the need to communicate effectively increases astronomically. Communication is what keeps the cogs turning in your business, and you’re the one who gives the commands and orders to keep everything running. However, there’s definitely a difference between barking out orders and effectively communicating a task, especially when it comes to employee retention and execution.

Effective communication is about getting across what you want to get across while simultaneously having an open and safe atmosphere for conversation. If you want to better hone your own communication skills as a leader, try out these tips.

  1. Keep communication vocabulary simple and streamlined.

In the workplace, there is a lot of different technical language floating around, but not everyone has the same dictionary in their brain to understand this terminology. For instance, a new intern may not quite grasp the same marketing terms as a professional marketer you’ve had on board for two years.

Thus, keep your directions clear and simplified as much as possible. This isn’t intended to insult the intelligence of your employees, but instead puts a focus on maintaining a common communication bridge.

  1. Use visual cues and stations to illustrate big pictures.

It’s one thing to send out a business-wide email about a certain point you want to get across, but emails are easy to send to the trash or leave unread. While you should still use email as a method of communicating with your team as a whole, it’s also great to go a step further.

Use whiteboards as a visual representation of a big idea you’re trying to get across. Place them around work stations and write your biggest point on them in bright colors. This keeps the message in your employee’s minds all day.

  1. Insert humor where possible.

Here’s something some SMB owners forget: your employees are humans, not automatons. A boss’ idea on this statement is very obvious in how they speak to their employees. When you speak to your employees like robots, they don’t feel like they’re appreciated or human in your eyes.

Talk to your employees like people, and show that you recognize this through humor. Show that you’re all people who have a funny bone and it’s okay to joke around a little in order to get your point across.

  1. Always encourage employee feedback.

One of the ways you may not be effectively communicating is by only giving and not taking. Communication is a two way street by definition. If you aren’t leaving room for feedback, you aren’t actually communicating.

Whenever you allow your employees to give thoughts of their own to the conversation, they feel appreciated. You also may find out that your employees have an insight into something that helps you out more than you realize.

3 Motivational Resources for Small Businesses

by Keetria on July 19, 2016

3 Motivational Resources for Small Businesses
Staying motivated is one of the keys to staying in business. When you don’t give yourself enough of a push to get things done, things start to fall off track. Think about an unmotivated version of yourself to the highest degree – not answering phone calls, deciding to stay in bed all day. How productive is that?

Normally motivation is something that starts to slump off slowly, though. It starts with small shrugs and ignoring your to-do list for one day, but it soon snowballs into something else: full blown apathy.

This is only compounded in a setting where others are also at risk for losing motivation. You can try your best to keep yourself and your employees motivated, but a big problem is that what drives all of us is totally different. Someone in their 40s might find their children and spouse to be what drives them to perform every day, but someone younger may find motivation in the form of trying to pay off those student loans.

What doesn’t change for everyone, though, is general motivation – the kind of motivation that tells them to keep doing what they’re doing for success. This three resource areas can be what kick you and your employees into motivation overdrive.

Trade Shows and Conventions

Sometimes what keeps someone from being motivated is they feel like their job or business is stuck in a rut. It isn’t trying new things, so why should they? As a small business owner, you have the power to show them the possibilities are endless, but it can be hard to do this through talks and conversations alone.

What’s the solution? Invest in taking your team to a convention or a trade show. In this environment, you can both take notes as a SMB owner about future possibilities while simultaneously showing off to your team that change is possible, you’ll just have to figure out how to implement it.

Motivational Speakers

This may sound cheesy, but motivational speakers CAN work for your team. You need to get rid of the stereotypical motivational speaker image from your mind – the energetic man on stage, screaming faux-zen self-help adages at an audience.

In reality, motivational speakers are often very business savvy. Their main audience is one that is in the business industry, thus they put a business spin on their advice. Topics like success, communication, motivation and confidence are common topics that these speakers cover, and their sermons often include tips and tricks for a more fulfilling business life.


There are a ton of motivational books out there that are geared towards business, but sometimes a problem arises: much like you may not have wanted to read the required reading in high school English class, your employees may feel no incentive to read any books you recommend.

The solution is to invest in a class set, of sorts. Buy enough books for your employees and schedule in meetings or time during existing team meetings to talk about a chapter or concept from the book. This puts more emphasis on the necessity to read the book while also making it a discussion about the motivational, helpful aspects of the book.

Ways to Grow Your Small Business

Growing a business is hard work on your own, and that’s why you hire employees to help. It’s often, though, that businesses in their early stages are generated from a lot of pro bono help and nourishment. Entrepreneurs often get their friends and family to help volunteer for advertising, product making and other tasks that need to be handled when there’s not enough money to pay yourself, let alone an actual workforce.

Your family might be an easier sell, but your friends could use some warming up to. Some friends will jump at the chance to help, but you can’t blame someone for wanting something a little more. There’s an art to convincing your friends to go in with you on a business venture, even if it’s just in the capacity of handing out fliers.


Work the Tit for Tat Angle

Not many people are willing to give something away for free. In this exchange model, your friends are giving away their time for you. What are you going to offer them in return?

Whenever your friends help you out, give them something in exchange. It can be free product, a future cut, or even something more creative, like naming a future product or service after them. When you give someone an incentive to help, they’re more likely to do so.

Make it Fun

Sometimes all you need to do to entice someone to help you with your business is give the activity a competitive edge. Get your friends to all try and refer people to your business. Whoever gets the largest number of referrals wins free product, and everyone gets to have a night of drinks to celebrate the success.

Word of Mouth

One area of marketing that people don’t focus enough on in this digital age is the power of the word of mouth advertisement. Your friends have friends, and that’s something you can use.

Tell your closest friends about your business venture, and all you ask of them is to tell their friends. This kind of pyramid, trickle down advertising is how early grassroots movements got started, and the same can be said for your new small business.

Capitalize On Togetherness

Being with your friends is a fun experience in and of itself. When you want to do something for your business, involve your friends not only to help you work, but also to have something to do together. People are often happy to organize fundraisers, make product and commit to other business activities if that’s what they think of it as – an activity.

Ask for Advice and Opinions

When you have friends, you have the perfect opportunity for case studies and beta testing free of charge. For instance, say you have an ad campaign you want to start running. Shoot it by real people you know first before taking it out of the family to market to others. Ask for their real opinions. They may be more likely to be frank with you than a stranger.

5 Desk Items

When you’re at work, it can be hard to be motivated. You stare at a computer screen all day long, pick up the same phone over and over and you don’t have a lot of room to be creative unless you’re working from home. The default uniform for cubicles can be depressing, especially when you’re staring at the same dividers and walls over and over again, day in and day out.

Thankfully most places of business allow employees to have a little sense of self in their workspace, and if you work from home then you’re the boss – you get to put whatever you want in your office, no questions asked. Because you have this sense of freedom, it’s up to you to make your workspace more motivational.

We’ve all seen those little motivational posters and buzzword stickers people put on the walls, but really – are you trying to be motivated or cheesy? Motivation comes from something meaningful and personal, and these 5 motivational items can keep you going all day long, even when it’s a rough one.

Favorite Animal Accessories

Okay, so a little cheese is alright. The companion of an animal is something that most of the world enjoys, so why not bring that cheer into your office surroundings? If you’re the crazy cat lady at home, why not be one at work, too? This doesn’t even have to apply to animals that are typical household pets. If you like sharks or sloths, why not go for that kind of theme too?

The point is to surround yourself with something that makes you happy in a tangible way. Animals are creatures that you can experience, and this can motivate you to work – whether it’s coming home to pet your own kitties or swimming with the sharks on your next vacation.

Photo Stickers

It can be hard to stay motivated with a family portrait that’s too large to bring to work or that can’t be in your line of sight while you’re typing. Something that’s motivational should always be at eye level and something you see or use almost constantly. Splurge on a website that can create stickers out of your photos, and then stick them to useable items that are closer to you.

Money Jar

Why else are you working if not to make more money? Seeing a visual representation of your savings, even if it’s just spare pocket change, can give you an added motivation boost. Bring your spare change to work every day and deposit in your makeshift piggy bank. You’ll feel more productive and driven every time you sit down.

Prompt Books or Calendars

Books like “Wreck This Journal” provide readers with instructions on how they should complete the task at hand – wrecking the journal. These prompts are meant to inspire creativity, and more adult products like those from Listography help capture the same sense of productivity and task-fulfillment. Find something in this same vein and fill out on page or complete one task every day at work.

A Home Keepsake

Sometimes you really just want to throw in the towel and go home, but you’re a responsible adult with bills to pay so you don’t. Still, if you want to keep these feelings at bay, your best bet is to bring your home to work instead. Even a small knick knack that can keep you grounded can really do the trick.