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How Local Businesses Can Stand Out & Attract New Customers by Developing a Powerful Brand

In conversation with Maciej Fita

For this episode of Ecoffee with Experts we have Maciej Fita, founder of Brand dignity with us. Matt gets Maciej to share his expertise in building a visible brand identity, a resonating brand message, and effective ways of creating a unique brand for businesses. Watch this interview to understand aspects of developing a powerful brand strategy to attract more clients and growth.

The best way for a local business to attract more customers is by showcasing your brand’s personality

Maciej Fita
Founder of Brand dignity
Hello, everyone. Welcome to this week's episode of E coffee with experts. I'm your host, Matt Fraser. And today on the episode I have with me a very special guest Maciej Fita with Brand Dignity. And today we're going to be talking about how local businesses can stand out and attract new customers by developing a powerful brand. So Maciej, welcome to the show.

Hello. Hi, everyone.

Yeah, it's good to have you here. So have you always wanted to be an entrepreneur? Like, has it been in your blood since you were young?

I grew up skateboarding. And in sixth grade, I tried to start a skateboard company. And obviously, we didn’t make it, it didn’t happen. But I used to love the idea of watching these guys on these videos back then with the logos on the hats and the logos on the shirts and the logos on the skateboards. And I thought it was just so cool. So I’ve always had like this branding kind of brain and marketing. And yeah, so at a young age, I tried to attempt something, but what can you do when you’re young?

So when did you first decide you wanted to be an entrepreneur? Like, how old were you? What was the situation that brought that about?

I’ve always liked the idea of it. It is a scary leap to make. But at some point in my life, I knew I have to do it. So I worked at an SEO agency in Boston, and I was in marketing. I had just started as a beginner SEO specialist. I had just gotten into the industry. And this was right before the 2008 marketing crash happened or the real estate crash. I absorbed a lot of positions at that agency and I started wearing a lot of different hats and learning a lot. And I just know, I learned so much in such a short period that I kind of wanted to just go out and be a Digital Marketing Freelancer. And one of the things that I love doing was offering turnkey programs for clients where we put together multipronged programs to hit as many corners as we could. So it was maybe roughly in my early 20s when I kind of took the leap of faith and saw what could happen.

So in 2010, you founded Brand Dignity. What motivated you to start your marketing agency, as opposed to being a freelancer working for somebody else?

I was dabbling with a couple of different businesses right before that kind of was some side gigs and some side hustles. And I loved the marketing aspect of it. And I was doing marketing as a full-time job at the time. And so it just got to a point where there wasn’t anywhere further up for me to go within this agency. And I knew to make, you know, to make a better life for myself, I kind of had to jump out there and start my own thing. And I kind of ran it as a freelancer for a while, I’ve always surrounded myself with really good partners, to help execute workload as I grew. So it’s an agency, we have a couple of employees, but we do partner up with a lot of people that specialize in certain things. Yeah, it’s a model that’s worked well.

So you mentioned branding, skateboarding, and things like that. And I used to have a Tony Hawk skateboard, so I know exactly what you're talking about. I wish I had it to this day, probably worth a lot of money. So you mentioned branding and I know it's one of the things you do, but tell me how can a local business attract more customers with a strong branding strategy?

I think it comes down to personality. I think sometimes you get a local business that will just want to slap up a website that their cousin built, and they think that it’s going to all of a sudden change the world for them. And it just doesn’t work that way, not these days, and even in the early days of the Internet maybe might have. But it’s good to give your brand a personality and I think a website allows that to happen. If you’re a fun group of people running a local business, the website is the way to showcase that. And it shows that there’s a personality behind the business as well. So I think it’s good for potential customers to see that they might bump into the website and be like, Oh, this looks like a fun group of people. Let’s check them out. And if the follow up after that within the organization is good, then you know it all clicks and connects.

So then how can a local or small business create a powerful brand that stands out on their website? What are some of the things they should do?

You know, obviously, everything down to identifying what colors work best for your business and who you’re trying to track, a great memorable logo that’s up to date and modern. And then having a kickball website that holds all this together, that’s always evolving. I mean, I think a lot of small businesses forget that websites are a journey, there’s never a finish line. And it’s good to always be building out that footprint building. I’m always putting my SEO hat on whenever I do this because that’s just kind of my background. So I’m always thinking about, what blog should you be writing to attract new customers? How should you position your social media? If there are different industries you’re targeting within your local business, let’s get industry pages there, because people will search for industry-specific keywords. So it’s just about constantly finding that personality and building up that footprint of that site.

So if they're thinking about a logo, what are some of the ways that a small business can go about getting a logo that's like that you described? That's modern, that looks good, that represents their brand? Are there any questions they should be asking themselves or any resources you can share?

Yeah, there are all these different ways to put a logo together, whether it’s just an icon, whether it’s just words, it just comes down to doing your research first sticking around. I think inspiration in the early days is important. Like, for example, we’re doing a company right now that cleans solar panels, and they want it to be corporate and professional, but still have like a modern fun flair to it. So we did a big exercise where we just kind of went through sites like Pinterest, and some of these other ones, just looking for inspiration, seeing what they like. Sometimes local businesses don’t know the different types of styles of logos out there. They might just think that putting words down is the only thing to do, but there are so many different twists and variations you can do to really make that mark modern and represent their business properly.

So how can local businesses make sure their branding efforts communicate the right message to their potential customers?

Sometimes that just takes a little bit of time to figure out. You have to figure out what your business proposition is, and if you’re expressing them properly. Whether it’s through taglines or website copy. But sometimes that’s a hurdle that you have to jump over a couple of times until you figure it out. I’ve seen clients rebuild websites, and they’re constantly changing taglines until they get something that they like.

How can they find out if their brand message is resonating with their target audience? Are there certain ways to do that, like the testing methodology that you recommend using?

I think it’s a combination of just simply asking them sometimes. If you have family members. We have a lot of clients, I would just ask family members. We’ll do a mock, if they have a big enough family, some people would love to take a look at it and give their feedback and be like, yes, no. Internally, the company is also great. Have that logo go around to different employees or the website mock up and just get everyone’s opinion, get everyone’s feedback. And then just analyze all that feedback and see what you could do to make the Tweak because sometimes you’ll have someone internally that has a great idea. In small local businesses, the owners tend to do a lot of the decision-making, but sometimes you can have an employee there that’s gonna have a great idea. So I think it’s just simply asking sometimes. And sometimes you’re going to have customers that are cheerleaders that love working with you if you have a close relationship with them. I’ve worked with a lot of local businesses here, even in things aside from Marketing, and I’ve become friends with some of these people. Sometimes we just kind of toss ideas off each other, even if they’re not working with us.

So would you say customer surveys could be an idea or maybe even posting on your Facebook page and saying this A or B which one do you like better and getting your, your fans to or your followers to wherever they call them now?

I guess it depends on how big of a follower base you have. Sometimes we could fall on deaf ears. And it’s tough to get those surveys sometimes to be responded to. I get stuff from Amazon all the time, here’s a $100 gift card to talk to us for an hour. And I’m just like, I don’t know, I don’t want to do it. It’s 100 bucks, but it’s just like, I don’t know, I just have a hard time or whatever. So if you have a good follower base, if you are a local business that has been around for a while, and maybe collect email addresses, and you have a decent-sized list, sometimes sending an email will help. I guess it depends on what kind of area you live in. If you’re in a fast, bustling city, a lot of people don’t have time for this stuff. If your business is in a more rural area, maybe businesses might take the time to respond to that survey. But oftentimes, it’s a multi-prong process, and you got to try different things until you get people’s attention.

So from beginning to end, like someone, comes to you with bonus data well, whether a new business or an establishment or whatever. How much time would you say goes in from the conception to the finished product of developing a brand, or a small business?

You know, it varies greatly. We’ve had some clients that first mock-up, perfect, let’s move in, perfect, let’s move, first mock-up of a logo, perfect, let’s move. And then he got some that will have revision requests for nine months on a font. So it just depends, and it’s tough. It’s tough you get it from both ends of the spectrum. But yeah, you get some of them to move fast, and some just move a little bit slower.

That's interesting. And what do you think is the most important aspect of creating a strong brand for local businesses?

I look at it as a whole package. I think a kick-butt website that’s smooth and modern, up to date, is really important. I think people lose sight of that sometimes. Because that’s the most important thing, that’s where your community is going to congregate, to learn more about who you are, whether they trust you. The trust is a big part, especially with some, let’s say you’re like in real estate, and construction and stuff, people always get burned, and this and that. So if you don’t have a presence at all, that sometimes is daunting. But if you have a nice website, testimonials, just really describing your work. And just having those trust factors and trust signals in place, along with, just a modern website and a nice logo, I think that’s usually a good starting point.

What would you say are some of the must-have elements to having a kickabout website that you've seen, that have been effective over the years that you've been doing this?

Call to actions, for sure. If someone’s scrolling down the page, they should be able to communicate with you multiple times. They shouldn’t have to go back up and look for it should be easy for people to be able to submit a lead. Or if it’s an e-commerce site, make a purchase. Usually, small local businesses are more on the lead generation side of things. But the trust factors are important.

I always try to get clients to see if they can get video testimonials. Even just a couple can sometimes help a lot. Or just even regular testimonials are always important. And aside from the website, things like Google My business are huge. Google Maps, those Google Maps listings, I tried to get every client to just don’t worry about it. Get them to put the review there. And then you can copy and paste that and put it on your site. I’ve had a couple of clients that cleaned up their local listing page, and all of a sudden, we’re starting to get some leads to this page. So there are a lot of external things that I haven’t touched upon. I keep touching upon the website because that’s kind of the foundation. A combination of the website and then local Google Maps listing stuff is the core driving business.

Google business profile? How can they make sure they have consistency across all these different channels? And so many different mediums for marketing, Google My Business, Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, the GMB, the Google business profile, they call it now. Are there any tools or resources you would recommend for maintaining brand consistency across all those different avenues?

There are a lot of software programs out there that you can connect, like HootSuite is a big one. Pay Ark has a big one. You just sync up with all your channels. It just comes down to organization. When those websites are done, it makes it very easy for you to blast out a message to six to 10 different social media channels, with one click of a button. This will help with timing for clients, so they don’t have to go and log in to all these different programs. But I think it’s just organization and having some scheduling in place, even if it just comes down to the bare minimum of a spreadsheet. What are you doing in May? What do you want to do? And then just go start going through and checking things off and making sure things are in motion. I think that sometimes it is a daunting task for small business owners to try to tackle themselves. There are so many different things you got to do throughout the day that you might be away from the computer, you get left by the wayside quick.

So using some scheduling software, or doing a little bit of work upfront to be able to have those things still go live, when you're not present. Do you recommend creating a brand library or something like that of content?

I always recommend that everyone does something with content for their marketing. It just depends on how big of an organization they are. I think small businesses usually just have a blog. But if they’re very savvy, and they’re doing podcasts, and maybe they’re doing different events that they’re recording. And yeah, if you have that stuff, having a kind of an asset library would be good, especially for SEO, because then every one of these assets can sit on the wrong page. And each page only becomes indexed when people start bumping into the stuff and become an entranceway into their site. So that just leads me back to that sitemap increasing the footprint of the size of your site is important. Like we have a blog and I think we’ve got maybe like two and a half thousand blogs on there. But yeah, and there’s some really good traffic that comes in residually monthly from that.

Yeah, I was checking out your site and I read quite a few of your articles. In regards to brand identity and the visual aspect of it, what about the brand messaging? What is your process for helping a small business create a brand message that resonates with the market?

We have a questionnaire that the clients fill out, that allows us to start putting our thinking caps on. And once we get through it and process all the information that they’ve provided us, we start to think about maybe how the logo should be local or what the tagline should say, or what the homepage header should say to grab. Because you got two seconds to grab someone’s attention when they get to that site. So it’s a process of just kind of going through first, what they give us. Sometimes clients provide us with a lot of information in those questionnaires, which is good because then we have a lot, ample to work with. And we can move and pivot pretty quickly in different ways that they want to switch things up. But yeah, it just comes down to putting our thinking caps on and putting some ideas together, and getting that ball rolling.

Do you use the voice of the customer research for things like? For instance, it was a plumber going on to HomeStars or HomeAdvisor or Yelp or whatever the avenue directories are, or even Google My Business for a competitor and finding out what customers are saying about what they like and don't like about the industry to try and develop the brand message?

We’ve worked with quite a few small local businesses where we kind of know some of that stuff. Like we’ve worked with a lot of plumbers, and electricians, and sometimes we know the typical gripes that clients have with these businesses. So we factor that into the equation.

So here's a question I have for you. You mentioned you're working with various plumbers. How do you as an agency, when one plumber comes to you, how do you avoid cookie cutter in the same brand messaging, as a plumber, and not come up with a site that's just another plumber.com? And creating their unique brand message for who they are as a plumber and their company, as opposed to another company, and not having a conflict of interest of cloning what you already did?

Yeah, it’s a good question. And we do get that sometimes. One of the things that I like to look at is that every company has got its unique elements. No, sometimes we’ll get a plumber that is a family-owned three-generation company, and they haven’t updated their website in 15 years, but it’s just like an old old template, and that three-generation has been around for 30 years messaging wouldn’t be applied to their kind of brand message to instills confidence. And then things like making sure if it’s a big enough team, you want to get images of all the formers and the owners and everyone on there. And sometimes even getting their resume on there. It shows their experience level. But then when you get a new company that just started, it’s two people and they’ve been around for a year, then you got to get creative with the messaging. And try to stand out a little bit, especially when there’s not a lot of testimonials yet, and I’m not a lot of assets to work with, then you just try to position them as an expert in their area, and kind of slowly build up those assets.

How does developing an effective brand fit in with developing a unique selling proposition? For instance, you mentioned the family-owned business has been around for 30 years, and then the one-year startup. Can a one-year startup build a brand based on a unique selling proposition that dominates the market? And have you seen anything like that? And since we're talking about plumbing, and I just throw up plumbing, because everybody talks about plumbing when they use examples, like Dallas plumber, or whatever. I've seen one USP for a plumber, like an on-time plumber, he guarantees that he'll be on time, and there are no overtime charges, and so on. Does something like that create a strong brand for a business?

Oh, yeah. Because I think that’s a hurting point for customers. A lot of times you might call a plumber, and they’ll show up three hours late. So I’ve seen that too. Sometimes they’ll guarantee that they’ll be there on time or they receive $100 off their consultation or their service, or whatever it might be. So you have to dig around and look for some of that stuff that maybe some of the newer people are providing, so you can get creative with that value proposition.

Are there any examples? Like, you don't have to reveal the name of the company, but are there any examples you can share that you've seen that garner results or a case study, that like wow, this blew up their business developing this brand, with this USP?

Not every plumber we work with, we do brand development. So you’ve had, it’s probably like a 50-50 split, or sometimes they just come on board for SEO and content marketing. They just have their website built. But the one case study that I have, and thus it’s a combination of multiple things. But one of the things that I usually recommend for a small local service provider, like a construction company, a plumber, or an electrician is geo-targeted pages for the regions that they want to go after. And that can help with the way that people look at it, so if you’re an Austin, Texas plumber, you create a page and speak to the people that live there. Because you might speak differently to the people that live there than someone that lives 100 miles away, that’s in a more rural area. So that’s part of the brand part of working with some of these clients, and you got to think about and see what would happen. But we have seen some great results for clients. I’m doing breakout that Sitemap and getting some geo-targeted pages, especially for some of the farmers that we’ve worked with.

So I can imagine that developing effective copy would be an important element of developing this. Are there any copywriting tips or formulas that you use that you found to be beneficial?

Not really formulas, but I think certain businesses are so dry, it’s good to try to have some light, airy kind of fun coffee. So we try to put that spin on some of the clients we work with, especially with farmers, who have some personality to the coffee. Because you put 10 farmer websites together, most of their coffee is going to be the same, with fixed surgery and 20 carbs, this and that. So it’s put some personality into it and make it fun. I think people want to see that sometimes. Sometimes it’s tough to do like in the accounting field, but we work with some accountants that we try that kind of work well.

Yeah, that is one of the most boring businesses. How do you make accounting sexy? Do you have any takes on that? Have you done that?

I have one client, she was actually in Texas and she was like an accounting consultant. And she made a really fun website and she had pictures of herself all over the place. Professional photos so there are ways to do it.

I was referring to the formula for the AIDA, the Attention Interest Desire and Action copywriting formula. I'm just curious if you use that formula when working with clients to develop some of these things or the PAS the Problem Agitate Solution formula. Using those formulas, copywriting formulas to like strategize and come up with a brand message?

A lot of times the copy will be split into sections where it’s like problem – solution. How we’re going to fix it, and maybe I’ll experience fixing it. I guess it depends on the service too because some of the geo targeted pages are more general. So we’re not going to talk because we might be trying to squeeze in like nine different things that a plumber does on that one page. I didn’t want to have like a long scrolling page. So we kind of summarize a little bit. But definitely like header text, and like immediately the text that comes under a header, we try to get kind of witty with it and cheeky sometimes to grab their attention.

There is a question I had in my head, what about the power of video in developing a brand?

I’m not sure what that is.

For instance, using video, like video production or developing a video? Because the videos tell stories and brands are all about stories. So I imagine that's such a powerful tool. I'm just wondering, could you elaborate on your experience in that?

The sticking point sometimes with the video stuff is this cost? Because if you look locally, a lot of times you have to get a videographer out there, or you have to get someone that does drone footage. There are some cool shots that we’ve recommended, especially for the beginning. I’ve just been using plumbers again, but their plumbing agency that has 30 techs and 10 internal offices, you get everyone out in the parking lot with the trucks parked around and get a good video of a drone flying around it. That’s big for confidence-building especially if you get that. Sometimes I get people who put it in the back of the header, so it plays when they first get there.

Oh, yeah, like the video background?

Yeah. I always watch videos. The problem is the production stuff. A lot of small businesses don’t want to get involved with it. But I love getting videos of the President or the CEO of the plumbing company talking. They begin on the Page. And sometimes getting a tech that specializes in one area of plumbing that they send out for a lot of jobs talking about it. Video testimonials are always great. For those, I don’t even care what the quality of the video was for those. The customers were there and they were happy you pulled out your iPhone. And the quality is usually pretty good and then someone can clean it up. Usually pretty. But that stuff is very powerful.

Yeah, I imagine there are so many good ideas you just shared there interviewing the business owner. Well, I'll do the drone ideas awesome. Interviewing the business owner and maybe making a video about how they got started. It could just be him talking. Interviewing the employees, and customer testimonials, that's all awesome stuff. Is there any way to make a video do you think? What do you think about the future of video in regards to its accessibility? Do you think it's gonna become less costly? Like, for instance, the availability of stock photos, and stock video footage, it's not having to use them, and the cost of video equipment. I have a Canon M 50. Mark Two. And I can't remember how much money it was, but it's the most popular video camera for YouTubers to use. And it's not a $10,000 camera. And that's for sure. Do you think it's gonna get there?

I think it’s getting there already. Now, there are some websites out there that you can start to play around with videos. Sometimes they look a little too stock footage, but that’s okay. So I try to stay away from that because it doesn’t have that personable component to it that I think the videos should have, but I do think it’s getting easier. There are sometimes people that do good drones that don’t charge a crazy amount of money. I guess it depends on the scope of the project too. If you have to get a production team out there, to do a big-winded commercial or something like that. Those will I think always have a cost component to them. But sometimes those quick in our office videos could happen on a smaller scale.

What do you think when they consider that? Yes, it's expensive, but what about the return on investment? I think you have to frame it that way. This video is not just going to be there for one day or a month. It could be on your Youtube channel for years and be used in advertising to get your ROI. Whether it's through Google ads or Facebook ads. It gets your brand awareness out there to generate business. It is not just an expense.

Sometimes it’s hard to connect the dots about ROI. It’s not like in a Google Advert account that has tracking pixels and you can see what ads converted. It’s tougher sometimes to connect those dots on the ROI part. But yes, without a doubt some of these Youtube videos that you optimized properly, especially posting them on Youtube and getting those titles and descriptions written properly. You can get those to rank on Google search. It is another asset. It is another doorway. It’s another pebble in the river that someone can step on.

Customer loyalty is a key, for businesses striving for longevity. Do you have any suggestions on ways to foster customer loyalty that small businesses can use to keep clients?

Keep the communication going, and a lot of times businesses don’t collect email addresses and an email list can be very powerful depending on the type of service or business you have. If you have a restaurant, it can be very powerful because people need to eat every day. So if you can keep up with the communication and offer different specials. And different things happening and different products. Maybe it’s a new menu or a different plumbing service. Just things to keep that communication open. Customer loyalty programs are always an easy answer and they do often work. Not so much marketing-related. There are a lot of websites out there where you can facilitate a customer loyalty program. A card from their wallet and swiping them every time you come to the store. People love that especially if they get… There is a local restaurant that we go to and after so many swipes, you get a $30 gift certificate in the mail. That’s $30 off one meal. That’s one of the reasons we like going there plus the food is amazing. That’s stuff that works. So I think customer loyalty programs and constant communication are important.

I worked in restaurants for quite a few years. Marketing for restaurants comes too easy and some of the restaurants are underutilizing many things, for instance, having a birthday club, where there is a card on the table and they scan the QR code to join the birthday club. You get a $25 coupon or bring three people in on your birthday and you get to eat for free. That's very easy for them to do and the loyalty program. What is one big takeaway you want listeners to get from this episode?

Just realize that Digital marketing success is always multi-pronged. I think sometimes they want to hire us and SEO is the only thing they want to do. Digital marketing is an ecosystem. Something might pop into your social media account one day and then two days later it pops into your Google ads account and it makes a connection. It should always be multi-pronged. You should have different ways and it doesn’t have to get too expensive, but just having the core channels in place. Do email marketing. Do SEO blogging content, some paid ads, and social media. And after you get a good starting point for small local businesses. From there let things grow and prosper then you can start to think about some of the more advanced stuff.

How can our listeners connect with you?

You can check out our website @brandignity.com. Come check it out. Read our articles. Send me a message to say hello if you want.

Are you on Twitter or LinkedIn or Facebook?

Yes, we are on all of them. If you come to our website you can see all of them.

I want to thank you so much for being on the show. It's been a pleasure having you here and have a great day.

Yeah, It has been fun. Thanks, Matt. Have a good one.

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