What Mountain Biking Can Teach You About Business Strategy

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If you’ve ever been on a mountain bike and felt the exhilaration of barreling down some well-worn single-track, you’ve likely also felt the pain of crashing headfirst into a tree. You might’ve sat there dazed, thinking, “what went wrong?” while you picked the leaves out of your helmet. You were trying so hard to avoid hitting that tree. How could you have hit it? The answer is really kind of crazy.

The most successful mountain bikers stick to these simple words of wisdom – “look where you want to go.” For some strange reason, your brain sees you looking at something and interprets that as, “ I want.” So, your brain does its’ best to give you what you’re paying all that attention to. If you’re cruising down the road staring at a tree chanting, “please don’t hit that” under your breath, chances are, you’re going to look yourself straight into that tree. To avoid the tree, you simply have to look at the road you want to travel.

These same words of wisdom can have many applications in life, especially when it comes to your business strategy. How many times have you heard of businesses failing for one reason or another? Is it possible that the owners’ focus was not on the success of the business, but rather on the fear of failure? Did those owners “look” their businesses off of a cliff because they were so afraid of failing? Probably.

Like those successful mountain bikers, the most successful business owners focus on success and not on failure. They have a clear view of the path they want their business to take. They have a clear view of the customers they want to serve. They have a clear view of what their business is about. How do they get that focus? It’s really a three-step process.

Re-train Your Mind

As human beings, we have a natural fear of the unknown. If you’ve never done this particular business, you have very little idea of the exact plan that will make your business profitable. This is scary, no doubt. But, if you can train your mind to be ok with that unknown, you can focus your energies on the success of your business, rather than sitting in the fear of the unknown. How do you do that? Well, a good way to start is to understand when that fear starts talking to you; when the only thing going on in your head is worry. Understanding that that is fear and saying to yourself, “I don’t know what’s going to happen and I’m ok with that,” can turn off the worry and allow you to focus on success.

Create Your Path

Before you start your business, and periodically after that (think one-year plans), sit down for a few hours and write about your business. What is your product or service about? Who does your product or service appeal to? Where do these people hang out? How can you reach them? Having a clear understanding of these things will help you focus your marketing energies moving forward.

Travel Your Path

Now that you’re looking towards the path of success, you can move forward. You have the time and energy to focus on the discrete marketing strategies that will make your business a success. Whether it’s shooting YouTube videos about what you do, or traveling to meet with the people that you want to serve, you have the right mindset to go about making your business a success.

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How Social Media Changes Everything in Terms of Customer Engagement

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Customer engagement has always been one of the primary contributing factors when it comes to strengthening a brand or growing a business, but this is especially true in an era where social media rules the day. The conversation between a business and its customers is more important than ever, but the actual mechanism through which that conversation is unfolding has changed dramatically in a short period of time. When it comes to customer engagement and social media, there are a number of important things to keep in mind.

All Eyes Are On You

Perhaps the biggest factor to understand when it comes to social media and customer engagement is the idea that a conversation between a business and its customers is both more intimate and more public than it has ever been. If a customer has a positive experience with a representative of your brand on their Twitter page, they’re never more than a mouse-click away from telling all of their friends about it. The reverse is also true – a negative experience on a site like Facebook can have huge potential ramifications due to the public nature of that conversation in the first place.

If you search for your brand’s name on Twitter and see users talking about an issue they’re having, you can easily interject with some troubleshooting tips to help them get the most from their product or service. Not only did you solve their problem, but they also didn’t have to ask for help – this is a “win-win” scenario as far as customer engagement is concerned.

There Are No More Small Problems

Consider the public relations nightmare that Entenmann’s created for itself, for example. One day, a social media marketer at Entenmann’s hopped on Twitter, looked at the current worldwide trending topics and noticed that one happened to be #notguilty. Sensing an opportunity to both interject into a popular conversation and craft a pretty solid pun at the same time, the brand sent out a tweet asking who was “#notguilty about eating all the tasty treats they want.”

The issue with this is that, as it turns out, the #notguilty hashtag was created as a result of the highly controversial Casey Anthony trial – the verdict of which had just come down earlier that day. Suddenly a seemingly innocuous tweet about snack cakes turned into a national nightmare for the brand as they were seen as obtuse at best and highly insensitive at worst – all of which could have been avoided had the marketer just clicked on the hashtag to see what it was actually referring to. This is the type of major issue that simply didn’t exist five years ago before social media became such a permanent fixture in our lives.

These are just a few of the many ways that social media has changed just about everything in terms of customer engagement in the digital age. We believe that success in this field requires a deeper understanding of the game that you’re now playing as a business owner, so to speak. It’s now easier than ever to pay attention to the conversations that your customers are having with one another and interject in positive and meaningful ways. This is a two-way street, however – one wrong move and you’re potentially looking at a PR nightmare on a massive scale, so making sure that you’re always putting your best foot forward is more important than ever.

Typography and Your Brand: How the Way Your Message Looks Affects the Way It Feels

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As a marketer, a huge amount of your time is spent crafting the perfect message to really grab hold of the attention of your target audience in a way that they will be unable to break away from. The words that you’re using are so important that many people fail to pay enough attention to another element that is just as necessary: typography. Simply put, the way that your message looks can ultimately affect everything from the way the reader digests it to how it is interpreted in a number of different ways.

What Your Typography Says About You

The term typography does not refer to any one particular type of font, but rather an entire family of fonts. Serif and Sans Serif are two different fonts, for example, but they both belong to the same family. Serif and Times New Roman, on the other hand, are two completely different font families.

Simple typography selection can actually be a great way to make a particular impression on your reader even before they’ve had a chance to digest what your marketing materials are saying. Serif fonts tend to invoke a feeling of professionalism or traditionalism, for example, while fonts designed to mimic handwriting tend to come off as much more casual and approachable. Script fonts tend to be perceived as more formal. As a result, when crafting your buyer personas you should be thinking about not only what they want you to say, but how they want you to say it. An older target audience would likely respond more to Serif typography, whereas a younger audience may prefer the additional friendliness that handwriting-style typography conveys.

Brand Consistency

One of the major benefits of making strong typography choices in your marketing materials feeds back into the larger idea of brand consistency. Take the typography of your corporate logo as just one example. By making a strong typeface decision early in the designing process and using the same overarching idea across all mediums, you can make all of your communications feel like they’re coming from the same place. If your print flier uses the same basic typography selection as your website, for example, they suddenly feel like they’re coming from one place even though they’re being digested via two incredibly different forms of communication.

Controlling Pace with Typography

Typography can also be a great, subtle way to dictate the speed at which certain marketing materials can be read. Say you have a 500-word print flier that you can’t edit to be shorter, but also are afraid may be overwhelming to the reader. By using a different typography selection to highlight certain key points, you’re immediately commanding the reader to stop and pay attention to those lines. All of the information is still there, but if their eye is naturally drawn to the contrasting typography (as it likely will be), they can skim the entire flier if they want and still walk away with the message you wanted them to receive.

These are just a few of the ways that typography ultimately feeds into how successfully your message is received by your target audience. By taking a deeper level of control over typography, in addition to crafting the specific message you’re trying to convey based on word-choice, your brand stands a much better chance of making the type of positive and meaningful impact on your target audience that you were after in the first place.