29 Sep 2011

5 Ways Your Brand and Branding Define You

There is a big difference between your “brand” and your “branding.”
Your brand is you: who you are , what you do, what you stand for, your DNA personality. You are a tangible artifact, which you create into a brand–an image that lives in the minds of the people you interact with and who come to know you. Are you…
  • A watercolor nature artist?
  • An NBA athlete?
  • A criminal trial attorney?
  • An eighth-grade science teacher?
  • A cupcake baker?
  • A cardiologist?
  • A business consultant?
  • A French chef?
Your branding is what you do: every way you put your brand in action to create  associations with you, including your…
  • Website
  • Blog
  • Email marketing
  • Community involvement
  • Social media platforms
  • Collaborations
  • Partnerships
  • Sponsorships
I recently discovered a brand website called Ranking the Brands, which lists and profiles some of the most trusted, popular, core power brands out there today–Coca-Cola, Google, BMW, Microsoft, Walmart, Hershey’s, Apple, Harley-Davidson and UPS, to name just a few.

What do these standout brands have in common?
  • First, they are laser focused on what they do, who they are and whom they serve.
  • Second, they differentiate themselves from their competition.
  • Third, they evolve how they serve through their brand story.
These brands have built legacies and leadership by paying back and paying forward. They have built schools, donated food, supported the Olympics and encouraged educational and philanthropic activities, which is why we want to support them and what we remember them for.

Here are five ways your brand and branding define you and your business:
1) It’s your calling card, piece of real estate, your stake in the space.
2) It’s the only way to make a footprint and imprint.
3) It tells a story about you and what you do.
4) It’s the way people remember, recall and recommend you.
5) It is the single most important way to establish your credibility, authority and niche.
Sam Walton wanted Walmart to be remembered for saving people money so they could live better.  Milton Hershey wanted to open new doors for children in need.  Deborah Shane wants to be known as someone who cares deeply about helping people succeed in their careers and business.

You Only Have a Little Time: Say It and Make It Stick

We are living in a world of instantaneous communication where you have to say it and make it stick – quick - or the opportunity is gone.

Think about it: If you’re trying to communicate in this digital age, then you’ve noticed that our attention spans are short. Twitter makes us think we can get the gist of “it” in 140 characters or less.  But not just that; those of us who have worked with children were either frustrated or discovered the art of quick and powerful lessons. Have you ever tried to teach a roomful of 6-year-olds? My hat is off to the professional educator because in my opinion, a 6-year-old’s attention span seems to shift every 2 minutes.  And that’s perfect.
You can’t become good at communicating, marketing and getting the kind of attention that you want your company to have unless you practice.  And the way I see it, working with Twitter and with children is the perfect marketing exercise.

Can you explain what you do in a way that a roomful of children can understand it?

What would happen to your marketing if it was clear and relevant enough for children to understand? Meeting that standard of simplicity could be good for business. That means minimal jargon. That means words and stories that  really connect with your audience.
Apple did it with the first iPod.  Remember their marketing language: “1,000 songs in your pocket.”
A child can understand that. It’s clear. It’s engaging.

Can you make your business matter in 140 characters or less?

Use Twitter to master the art of the meaningful sound bite. Since you only have 140 characters, you’re forced to be interesting and quick.
Think about it: 140 characters is a good rule of thumb not only for Twitter but also for:
  • blog post headlines,
  • press release headlines,
  • elevator pitches
  • 30-second ad spots
On Twitter, you only have a few seconds to get your point across before something new pops up. In business, you only have a little time to reach a potential client before something new pops into his/her mind.   So use the resources around you—children and Twitter—to learn to maximize your sound bites.

5 Tips to Improve Your Marketing Mix

It’s not about one marketing piece, it’s about the whole thing. To be effective, your business needs a presence both offline and online. It needs to use print and digital marketing tools. It needs both advertising (paid) and publicity (free). It’s the marketing mix that gets and keeps your company message “out there” in front of your target audience.

Here are five marketing mix tips to seriously consider and implement:

 1. Brochures & Business Cards
Print marketing items are not dead yet. Sometimes our technology doesn’t work like it should, and having that business card and brochure as a backup could save your marketing opportunity. Besides, there are a lot of people who just need to have something in their hands in order to remember you, so give it to them.  Have your calling card ready.

2. LinkedIn
Use this business social network as an extended business card. As people hear your name around the Web and at conferences, there is a good chance that they will check you out on LinkedIn (this has happened to me). So fill out that profile and link it back to your website.

3. Website & Blog
Your website is your digital home, so make it count. Let them know who you are, what you do, and how it could benefit them. And then solve a problem for free by answering a question that your target audience would care about. You could turn that answer into a little ebook or white paper for download, or make it a blog post. Just make sure it’s something that truly helps, because you’re building a relationship, and “fluff and foolishness” is not good for business.

4. Press Releases
Use press releases to let the local media know about your business and upcoming campaigns. Your company probably has some awesome events, but nobody cares if they don’t have a chance to know about it.

5. Email
It’s about the relationship, and email is one of the most enduring ways to build that relationship, so take the time to grow your list. For a beginner most of the initial work is in getting the code and placing it on your Web pages. But the email service that you use should have a guide or “how to” page showing you what to do. Once the code for your email subscription form is in place on your site, then you can begin to focus on what to send your subscribers each week or month. Remember, it’s consistent marketing that makes the difference.

12 tips for business success

What's important to the success of small-business owners and entrepreneurs? Knowledge, skill and talent.
However, many competitors have the same traits you do. The key to beating the competition and achieving success is mental, reflected in one's attitude, totally controlled by the individual and requires no cash. This holds true in most human endeavors besides business — in sports, the arts and politics.
How many times have we seen the underdog team or player win over the more talented opponent? The difference is often attitude.

These 12 attitude attributes can put you in the right mindset for achieving entrepreneurial success.

1. Have passion for your business Work should be fun. Your passion will help you overcome difficult moments and persuade people to work for you and want to do business with you. Passion can't be taught. When it wanes, as it surely will in difficult times, take some quiet time. Whether it be an hour or a week, take inventory of all the reasons you started the business and why you like being your own boss. That should renew your passion.

2. Set an example of trustworthiness People have confidence in trustworthy individuals and want to work for them in a culture of integrity. The same is true for customers.

3. Be flexible, except with core values It's a given that your plans and strategies will change as time goes on. This flexibility for rapid change is an inherent advantage of small over large business. However, no matter the pressure for immediate profits, do not compromise on core values.

4. Don't let fear of failure hold you back Failure is an opportunity to learn. All things being equal, venture capitalists would rather invest money in an individual who tried and failed founding a company than in someone who never tried.

5. Make timely decisions
It's okay to use your intuition. Planning and thought are good. But procrastination leads to missed opportunity.

6. The major company asset is you Take care of yourself. Your health is more valuable than the most expensive machinery or computer software for the company. You don't have to choose between your family or your company, play or work. Maintain your health for balance and energy, which will, in turn, enhance your mental outlook.

7. Keep your ego under control Don't take profits and spend them on expensive toys to impress others. Build a war chest for unexpected needs or opportunities. This also means hearing out new ideas and suggestions no matter how crazy they sound.

8. Believe
You need to believe in yourself, in your company, and that you will be successful. This confidence is contagious with your employees, customers, stakeholders, suppliers and everyone you deal with.

9. Encourage and accept criticism graciously. Admit your mistakes. You need to constantly work on convincing your employees that it's OK — even necessary —to state their honest opinions even it if conflicts with the boss's opinion. Just stating it once or putting it in a mission statement won't cut it for most people.

10. Maintain a strong work ethic Your employees will follow your lead. It will also help you beat your competition by outworking them, particularly when your product or service is very similar.

11. Rebound quickly from setbacks There surely will be plenty of ups and downs as you build the business. Learn from the setbacks and move on. You can't change the past.

12. Periodically get out of your comfort zone to pursue something important Many times you will feel uncomfortable in implementing a needed change in technology, people, mission, competing, etc. For the company and you to grow personally, you sometimes have to step out of your comfort zone.

Many organizational and leadership shortcomings can be overcome or mitigated with the good attitudes described above. All can be learned except passion, which comes from within. Take time out of your hectic schedule to periodically reflect on these attributes. You may be inspired to act.

28 Sep 2011

Infolinks Self Serve In-Text Ads Marketplace

Self Service Infolinks Marketplace

Infolinks has introduced the world’s first In-Text ads Marketplace. The Marketplace allows you to create and optimize In-Text ads campaigns in a matter of minutes. Now advertisers can effortlessly create and manage their ad campaigns just like with Google AdWords.

You can use the new Marketplace to promote your blog, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube Channel, etc., for a bigger brand boost at a reduced cost. While most bloggers work on free ways of generating traffic, the use of paid traffic sources like Infolinks can get the job done a lot easier. As an AdWords advertiser, I’m looking forward to testing out the Infolinks In-Text ads Marketplace.

Quick and Easy Interface

The self service In-Text Advertising Marketplace allows you to create campaigns in only a few minutes. You can select your own keywords, target geographically and monitor the campaigns with a real-time reporting system. If you know how to set up an AdWords account, you’ll have no problem with the Infolinks In-Text ads Marketplace.

Opening an advertiser account in the Marketplace is simple and will only take you a few minutes to complete. Simply visit the Marketplace, complete a short registration form, fill out your billing details and then activate your Infolinks campaign. It’s really that easy.

23 Sep 2011

Love those customers!

In keeping with my recent rants on service and Customer Service Executives here’s some more info to get your team going.
The organisation you work for has done some shuffling of titles etc. Or perhaps they are about to hire a new person (you) for a role in Customer Relations – they want you to manage it… Let’s say they are giving you ‘some scope’ to develop the role and or the department and let’s say they are serious and want to really wow the customers, love them so to speak. How will you go about it? Here’s ten thoughts from my perspective.
  1. Create an environment in the organisation from top to bottom where the Customer is King (it’s not new but it is still a great idea) no customers – no business right… so it should make solid sense.
  2. Get clear about the intended results – more sales from more visits of existing customers – or higher level sales from existing customers? (Hey did you notice I’m talking about existing customers and not new ones, they’re the role of the marketing dept…)
  3. To what level can you ‘schmooze’ them? If you sell luxury or expensive items it will be very different to lower value items (or it should be…)
  4. Plan like crazy – implement the same way. A great plan will beg to be implemented, so take a look at the plan and set out what will happen for the year (once in place the tweaking should be fairly easy).
  5. Develop a budget plan, see if you can get the budget to go up based on results more sales more slice of the pie to build the relationships further.
  6. Customer loyalty plan – sounds nice what does it really mean – I think it’s more part of the relationship and a guide as something to aim towards, not so much a plan on it’s own.
  7. Exceptionally train everyone who comes into contact with Customers, remind them, support them and allow them to give the customers service brilliance…
  8. Watch customers dealing with your business and go crazy over any and or ALL barriers to them being able to do business with ease. Just watch them for a while, any squirming, wincing, annoyance of any kind do something about it NOW!
  9. Ask yourself (and the rest of the team) how many ways can we woo the Customers so they love us and want to come back… perhaps search the web for ways to connect with customers you might not think of (go for weird, you can always cut back.)
  10. Scream “Service – Service –SERVICE!” at the start of every training session on service and at the start of each day (just before the customers start to buy) and ram home the message often (perhaps whisper it quietly to staff with a grumpy disposition).
Now take massive action on all of the above and give the people what they want, your unconditional love! Sure it might cost a few $$ to do, but the end result should be very well worth it. Oh and one last thing, do not tell people you love them, just show it by brilliant action and example,.. They will tell you they love being loved and that’s a far sight better!

More Customer Love…

As If I haven’t prattled on enough lately about customer service people and loving customers… some more ideas and chunks of info must be useful to assist people to really think about what they do and how they might make this whole area better. If this resonates with your organisation then you could use this as a brainstorming tool to get practical action to take place.
So here, take a lok at more weird and whacky ways to “love the customer!”
Concentrate on the customer, figure out  what they need – want – love – aspire to – entertain them – quiz them – excite them – prod and poke them! (careful!) – cause them to giggle – get VERY curious about them (In the right way…)
  • Thrill them with a fresh approach or two to loyalty
  • Tell them things (good things, bad things, things they want to hear and get engaged with)
  • Wrangle with them (Perhaps their minds.) – Massage them (metaphorically perhaps)
  • Tell them to love you / cause them to love you!
  • Care about them intensely but don’t tell them
  • Invigorate their souls
  • Cause them to blink (for the right reasons)
  • Feed them deeply satisfying nourishment
  • Talk to them seductively (think more metaphors…)
  • Tenderly hold their hand/s
  • Cause them to blush (by doing Ok things…)
  • Give them a passionate embrace
  • Dance with them
  • Know their fears
  • Know what they love
  • Develop personal profiles of them (not stalking!)
  • Know why they love your organization
  • Keep them warm and comfortable…
  • Readily and effectively tantalize them
  • Get quirky with them (like they are experiencing a Cirque Du Soleil clown act!)
  • Thrill their senses
  • Knock them down with a feather
  • Build them up with kindness
  • Awe inspire them with a sensational view
  • Throw windows of exceptional opportunity at them
  • Link them to things they will love (think strategic alliances here)
  • Give them a recipe they will love or at least might love it if they try it
  • Cause them to cry with splendid delight
  • Caress their emotions/soul with every ounce of passion you can muster
  • In short, build the relationship with them, because people buy from people they like/love.
There, now go love your customers, your bottom line will appreciate it. One things for sure though, your competition will not be able to keep up if you get started.

Going past one no…

Oh please, dear sales person, if I say no once perhaps you had better dig a bit deeper, ask more questions…  if I have an objection about the price, then ask why… what do I already know and how do I know that.
If I have a niggle about one point, perhaps there are other points you can focus on… and hey how do you get past the issue of price “Why would I spend $5 – 6,000 if I can get one for $3-4,000?” simple, it’s like cars they do basically the same thing, some are perhaps better quality, some provide more status, you want quality and status, you pay… Here’s why (outline a benefit).
Oh and if you’re calling me in Australia but you have an American accent that sounds like you are in an overseas call centre and the line is crap, I am going to be suspect about you right from the start. Sure you get some points for being first on the phone after my email enquiry, but those points were soon lost.
I will probably buy, but from which company… let’s see who can sell to me the best. Sure price is not everything but a big difference in price gets me wondering and you need to be able to spell out how what you provide is better.
If your business is thinking of using a call centre to help with your leads, then do some CAREFUL research first.
“Never argue with an idiot. They drag you down to their level then beat you with experience.” Dilbert.
So now I have had four calls from people wanting to set up an appointment – answer my questions – send me more info.
The first two – dodgy… American accents bad lines and hard to understand. ergh…
The second two, one female one male – the female asked great questions and provided good answers – the guy however ummed and arghhed a bit but got through the info, clarified a few points but still a bit average. He did suggest to check out the quality of the units I was after and to get lots of brand names and model numbers of the gear others were saying they would supply.
So who will I buy from… I will see if any other companies will ring today and compare the figures they say they will email me.

 Day one got me a bunch of calls from interested parties, day two fielded some more and day FIVE I had a guy on the phone who said “So, got your enquiry, what do you want….” FAIL… he prattled on about quality and said he would email me the material… price “can’t match the low priced stuff, but it’s crap anyway…” (Ok thanks for the feedback, and also thanks for giving me the brand names I should be looking for that made things easier).
My research showed some interesting info, the lady who had chatted so nicely, had good info, and asked good questions to establish my needs the best… well turns out the Co she works for gets slammed in forums all over the net… and what’s also worrying they have about three different business names they trade under!! A quick search of those found more issues… oh boy it just became a bigger minefield!

Making your staff pay…

What your employees earn for the organisation needs to be more than what you pay them, but how much? There are costs to cover having employees, so it makes sense to earn more than just what they cost the organisation.
In some organisations they seem to have no idea how much value their people add to the organisation, so lets have a think about the issue.
Let’s look at a range of costs and how it all adds up (their wages while they are on holidays and wages for a person who may replace them, as well as superannuation, insurance etc).
How much?
If we work on a figure of $800 per week that’s nearly $42,000 pa. Here are the ‘hidden costs’.
- 4 weeks wages for a fill in employee while the other is on holidays    $6,400
- 1 week personal leave                                                                    $800
- Superannuation @ 9% pa                                                               $3,700
- Workers compensation Insurance                                                    $300
- Payroll tax @ 5%                                                                           $2,100
- Training and development or uniforms and ‘tools’                               $2,500
- Incentives and bonuses                                                                   $1,500
- Accumulated P/A savings to cover 10 yr long service leave                 $960
- Accumulated P/A savings to cover the other worker on 10 yr leave       $960
TOTAL:                                                                                         $19,220

That’s just under half of the annual wage so they need to be earning the organisation a total of AT LEAST $61,200 to pay their way and cover their costs.
Let’s break it down further, on average it’s suggested out of a whole year people only work 220 days so that makes it $324 per day or $40.45 per hour. If you take into account ‘slack or down time’ (it’s raining, they are waiting for supplies, not feeling too well, angry at the boss for spending time reading business articles.) then that figure could readily go up.
For some of our readers they will know this hourly figure intimately and they will have their employees earning solidly above the basic level so they know they can cover longer term costs and thrive readily.
The thing is though, now you have some starting points to work with how will you change things in your business to make sure your business covers its costs, makes a profit and you come out smiling with lower stress levels?

Guaranteed! But at what cost…

It’s standard practice to have a guarantee for many products and services. For some in business it’s the thing which sets them apart from their competition, for others it’s a legal compliance issue which they prefer wasn’t there.
What does it cost your business and how should you handle it?
Being a service nut I like the way it can make your business stand out from the crowd, compliance or not… so handling guarantees becomes a major issue you solidly stand behind, giving every customer ‘peace of mind’ in knowing you will be there with them if ANY issue arises.
Over the period of a year or three it can be easy to look at the cost of supplying services to fulfill your guarantee obligations to keep your ‘customers happy and fulfill your legal obligations. In the intervening ‘learning phase’ it may be a case of  guessing how much guarantees might cost. Here are a few points you might consider in the process.
  • Is there a consistent percentage of sales which you can attribute to guarantees?
  • What is the time taken by staff in providing guarantees?
  • What is the cost of providing the staff to do these tasks?
  • Is this time significant enough to impact on other aspects of  your business… e.g. making profits from std sales.
  • How much will the cost eat into your profit margin?
  • What will you need to add to your operating costs to take into account this ‘cost of doing business’?
  • How will the cost variation affect your average dollar sale and will that still make your business competitive?
I’m sure there will be other questions to ask in the process as you explore guarantees and their impacts further. The main thing is to be very mindful that guarantees have a cost, learn to live with that and allow for it in your forward planning.

Step in early or wait for the problem to arise.

It’s a dilemma many Supervisors, Managers and Leaders face. You have a team who waiver from the path occasionally, do you let it go until it becomes a problem, or do you step in early and keep things on track.

I figure if you take a Leaders view you provide the guidelines so the team can follow the lead, therefore you don’t wait for a challenge to arise, you provide a great set of guidelines to ensure things stay on track. If things stray from the path, you then get to put on your ‘coaching hat’ and provide support to ensure the team are aware of the guidelines and assist them to explore how they might have ‘strayed from the path’.

This is one of the reasons I often suggest a great set of Values – Mission and Vision be in place as a foundation to always work from. It allows the Leader to have back up, to allow the team to explore if they are holding true to the values of the organisation.

I guess it becomes a case of ‘see something, do something’ before things become an issue. In a decent situation it can be more of a chat which takes place asking questions about how things are going, and what sorts of examples the team may have about how things are going and if they match to the values etc.

This can be a more powerful position to work from as it works more on the teams internal motivation and thought processes rather than having things imposed or pushed on them when challenges arise. It’s as if they have come up with the solution or drive to solve the challenge, rather than being told the answer.

The real trick to all of this is getting things to fit to the way people communicate – If people are not used to being asked questions relating to ‘values and beliefs’ then they might find it hard to respond, let alone act on the information. However the Leader who is a more flexible communicator will find ways to weave these into normal conversation and start the ball rolling, perhaps using examples of how things might fit in certain situations.

Be flexible in your approach, get in early and lead the team then tweak the details to suit, I’m sure you will find leadership can become a whole lot easier if you try this out.