March 31, 2015
Ted Bezos, founder of Amazon.com said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
Put another way: A brand tells the world what they can expect to get, feel, or experience when they do business with you. If you’re not living up to their expectations, what they say about you when you leave the room may not be what you think.
Most people think of a brand as meticulously chosen logo colors and graphics and clever taglines and ad copy. But it’s so much more than that: it’s a promise of what the experience of doing business with you is going to be. I think we intuitively know this that’s why we put so much thought and money into our logos, taglines and websites. What some business owners may not realize is this is just the beginning – building a brand is about building a business that people know, like and trust enough to want to buy from, engage with, and refer again and again.
Think about it: Apple isn’t just a cool logo, it’s a culture. Nike isn’t just a swish, it’s high performance athletics. And Disney isn’t just a mouse, it’s an experience that people remember and talk about for years.
Do you know what people are saying about your brand when you’re not in the room? If you aren’t sure, here are 3 ways you may be damaging your brand without even realizing it:
1. You don’t do what you say you’re going to do. Does your brand accurately reflect what a customer experiences when they work with your company? Does it correctly represent the true value of what you deliver? Does your tagline ring true? Do you personally portray one image or promise of your business while your staff and your process deliver another? I’d venture to say this is probably the #1 reason most businesses fail to grow or succeed: they promise something they don’t deliver. This promise can be spoken outright or even just implied in the brand you’ve created
The Takeaway: The key to a strong brand is not promising what you can’t deliver but knowing exactly what you can deliver and doing it perfectly.
2. You don’t live up to the expectations of your industry. Would you hire a dentist with bad teeth? A marketing consultant you can’t find online? Or a web designer with a bad website? How about an accountant who can’t pay her bills? NO, of course you wouldn’t! What do consumers expect from professionals in your industry? Does everything you do live up to that expectation from the very first impression, email or phone call to the final delivery of the product or service? If you don’t know, it might be a good time to ask (Check out “3 Questions You Should be Asking Every Customer“). Tip: if you aren’t hearing rave reviews and thank yous throughout a project or upon delivery of your product or service, it might be time to review your process to make sure you’re meeting the basic expectations of your industry. And if you aren’t, it might be time to rethink your branding strategy and create something that’s more in line with what your company really is and not what you think it is.
The takeaway: What do customers expect when they engage a company in your industry? Are you meeting the basic requirements? Are you a premium, mid-range or budget-friendly provider? (Read: “Is your Business Bland or Gourmet?”) Do you tout superior service or are you a more do-it-yourself brand? Knowing, accepting, and owning this is key to building a strong, reliable, and trusted brand.
3. You don’t treat your vendors well. Your vendors are as important as customers when it comes to being your soldiers on the street to rave – or complain – about your brand. They work with you week in and week out and chances are they know your business pretty well. What are they saying about you when you aren’t in the room? Are they telling their other customers, colleagues, friends or family that you always pays late? That you’re rude to your staff? That you consistently show up to meetings late, nickel and dime them to death, and don’t value your company?
The take-away: Every single thing you do in your business is marketing – and therefore reflects your brand. It’s critical that every dealing you have with the public sends the message you want to send about your brand.
Remember, everything we do in business is marketing because it tells people (spoken or implied) what they can expect when they engage with us. Be honest about what you do well and what you don’t and be sure your message is congruent. As long as you do this, you can’t go wrong.
Tell us your experience developing your own brand or an experience you had with another brand that didn’t live up to your expectations.
February 12, 2015
As a business owner, how often do you find yourself thinking, “Something has to change. This is not where I want my business to be”? Does it feel like you’ve been coasting for too long without seeing any real growth? The problem may be marketing team complacency. I’ve seen it happen to companies and non-profits of all sizes; from million dollar organizations to multi-billion dollar corporations. It happens. And unless you recognize the signs and do something to change it, your company will continue to coast and you won’t achieve the growth you want.
Here are the 6 signs your marketing team might need a refresh:
- You haven’t heard an idea that’s excited you in a long time- the point of having a marketing team is to keep your business fresh and exciting. Marketing isn’t just about the right tagline, logo, or print ad. It’s about ensuring your business model, products, and services stay current and top of mind for new customers. If you’re not excited about your business, chances are, potential clients aren’t either.
- They’re out of touch with your Target Market– speaking of your potential clients: have you looked at them lately? I mean, really looked at them? Your target market probably doesn’t look the same as it did 20 years ago – or even 5 years ago for that matter. What excites them? What prompts them to buy what you sell? What do they value? If your marketing team can’t answer these questions, your company could be out of touch with your market.
- Your Marketing tactics haven’t changed - that newspaper ad you’ve been running since you started your company and the networking group you’ve belonged to for decades may not be yielding the results they used to. Sure, they’re comfortable, but if your profit margins have been steadily declining or you’ve been consistently attracting work or customers that don’t excite you, your marketing has stagnated – and most likely, so has your business.
- Your marketing feels boring – the purpose of Marketing is to get your company noticed. If you’ve been using the same logo, tagline, and ad copy forever, people have stopped noticing it. Your marketing team’s job is to constantly study and innovate to get your target market excited about the possibilities of what you deliver! If your message feels boring to you and your team – trust me, then it’s boring to clients and potential clients too!
- Your team is negative and jaded- are you hearing “we can’t” more than “let’s try!” lately? If so, then it’s definitely time to refresh your Marketing team. Marketing is creative and fun and about testing different ideas to find what works. If your team is stuck on “we can’t”, then it’s definitely time for change.
- You aren’t measuring ROI- has your team given up on measuring the effectiveness of your marketing? This is a sure sign that things are going south. They’re coasting. They’ve given up. Tracking the return on your marketing investment (ROMI) is absolutely critical to growth. If your team has given up on this, you need a refresh.
We work with companies and non-profit organizations that have all, or some, of these six signs. It happens; you’ve been working together a while, you’ve had some success, and people start to rest on their laurels. While that may be comfortable, it’s not conducive to growth and innovation. Bringing in a marketing consultant – someone who can be objective and honest, is the perfect way to get out of a marketing rut. Sometimes all it takes is a fresh set of eyes!
If you’re ready for a fresh set of eyes, contact us!
February 7, 2015
I’m pretty good at telling other business owners and marketers how to market their businesses – and my clients’ success speaks to that, but I admit, sometimes I don’t always practice what I preach. I even joke about it – but this week it became no laughing matter.
As a marketer I set a very high standard for myself. After all, if I’m going to convince business owners that I can market their business effectively, I better be perfect at marketing my own, right? As a marketing consultant I need to embody all that I preach – and that’s what I strive to do. I want to walk the walk and I want to be the marketing consulting agency that demonstrates how effective, strategic marketing practices yield success! And I honestly thought I was doing a decent job of that!
That brings me to my painful lesson this week: I failed to notice that my business had outgrown my business model. I am not the same business I was five years ago – or even a year ago – and that’s on purpose. My goal has always been to attain bigger contracts, working for bigger companies. If I were my client I’d have told myself: “You need to constantly study and review your target market, your messaging, and your processes and procedures – because your audience is changing!” And what hit me like a Mack Truck this week is that I broke the Cardinal Rule of Marketing: KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE.
The fact is, my audience isn’t the same as it was last year – and that’s great news – however, I’d gotten so stuck in doing things a certain way that I completely missed that fact and ended up standing in front of a group of 100 business owners and marketers with a process and a message that fell flat- to put it nicely. The good news is, I invite feedback, and while the majority of it was still pretty positive, I got more “constructive” feedback than I’m accustomed to – and it stung. A LOT. But it also made me take a much-needed long hard look at my business. That’s when I realized: despite everything I thought I knew about my business, and how many times I’d tried and tested my message and delivery, and despite how many times it had worked in the past, it wasn’t working anymore. I had, in fact become less and less effective – AND I DIDN’T EVEN REALIZE IT! I made excuses for it and blamed everything but my own strategy. Why? Because that strategy worked for me for a while and it seemed to work for everyone else in my industry who does it. OMG – I had fallen into the very “copy-cat” marketing trap that I warn business owners about all the time AND I let my ego get in the way of my objectivity. I did EXACTLY what I warn businesses owners and marketers about constantly – and I didn’t even see it!
The moral of this story is – I see business owners and marketers make these mistakes all the time. And I thought I was different, I thought because I’m a marketer, I know better. But the thing is, we’re human. It’s impossible for us to be 100% objective when it comes to looking at ourselves and our business. And if a business is to survive in today’s world we need to CONSTANTLY AND DILIGENTLY examine, test, and critique. We need to invite honest and open feedback from our clients, colleagues, staff, and partners: NOT people who are going to be “nice” and tell us what we want to hear, but people who will tell us the cold hard truth.
Mark Zuckerberg was recently quoted by Business Insider, Jillian, D’ Onfro in her article, Mark Zuckerberg: Even the Smartest Genius Can’t Start a Business Alone: “one person’s efforts are never enough when it comes to building a company“. And he’s right, we simply cannot do this alone and we must get out of the mindset that we always know what’s best for our business. People hire me to help them see their businesses clearly and objectively. What I didn’t realize was that I am no different – I need people to help me see clearly too! Who’s helping you see clearly?