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Your Brand Exists In Spite of You.

Your Brand Exists In Spite of You.

What is a brandBrand(ing) is a pretty simple concept.  So, why do so many people muck it up?  Too many people just don’t understand what a brand (or branding) is.  In a recent meeting with a local business I asked what they thought their brand represented.  The answer: “We’re just a small company.  Branding is for big corporations.”  I know there are many people who feel the same way and I have 6 words for them – Not true.  Not true.  Not true.

Your brand exists in spite of you.  Your brand exists whether you advertise or not.  It’s your choice whether or not to harness the power of your brand … or whether to let your brand manage you.  I’d take the first coption.

 

So, What is a Brand?

Here are the big 5 guidelines of what a brand is.

  1. Your brand is the truth of your business (or yourself).  It’s the essence of who you are in relation to you customers.
  2. Your brand can be aspirational … but don’t wander too far from your truth.  You won’t fool anyone if you claim customer satisfaction as your strength if you don’t respond to customers … and occasionally hang up on their phone calls.
  3. The essence of your brand has to have meaning to your customers.  Do your customers care if your hair salon is technologically savvy?
  4. You don’t get to choose whether you’re going to brand your business.  It’ll happen with or without your flowery taglines, advertising, Facebook posts and tweets.
  5. Great brands are not defined by a tagline or advertising.  It is defined by what you do, who you (really are) and how you respond to your customers’ needs and wants.  Your tagline, advertising, etc. helps you to communicate your brand.

 

What’s the Difference between a Brand and Branding?

Here’s a very short list of branding examples.  Branding are the actions that have the potential to define and/or communicate your brand to the public.  But, remember that, without defining your brand that communication loses (almost all) value.  Go back to Rule #1 – Your brand is the truth of your business.

A tagline

Advertising

Facebook page

Twitter account

Website

Promotions

Merchandising

Pricing

Products

Services

Logo

 

How Do I Define my Brand?

Define your market, your customers, and the unique need that you (can) own.  Think about what your unique competitive advantage might be.  Volvo owns “safe cars”.  Apple owns “simple, accessible technology”.

Think about what truly matters to your customers.  Get a big sheet of paper and write down answers to these questions:

  • How do you address your customer needs better or differently than your competitors?
  • What are your customers concerns, needs and wants?
  • What do they expect from your business?
  • What are your biggest customer complaints and compliments?

Now look at your answers and look for some big trends.  If most of your customers constantly complain about not being able to reach you by phone then your issue isn’t just answering the phone – it’s customer service or accessibility that you need to respond to.  The bottom line is figuring out the unique truths of your business that will help you to consistently exceed customer expectations.

 

(Em)power Your Brand.

Once defined, your brand needs to live.  Promote consistently.  Reflect the brand in all that you do.  And, when competition intrudes on your brand, make it better.  Brands must evolve over time to maintain their edge.  Think about Apple.  Their branding, as demonstrated by their products and services, are constantly evolving as others intrude on their space.  You need to work on constantly strengthening and evolving your brand.

Discover the Hidden Benefits of Employee Engagement

Discover the Hidden Benefits of Employee Engagement

employee engagementAre you looking for more customers, happier customers, bigger sales and juicier profits? If the answer is yes, then take a walk around your office and look at your employees. Are they happy?
OK. I know. You don’t care about their happiness, you care about their professionalism and productivity. Consider that happy employees are more engaged in their work. Employee engagement may be your most powerful tool to making employees more productive, stay around longer and boosting your business.

 

Employee Engagement = Greater Productivity

Happy employees are more productive than their sad sack compatriots. Professor Arnold Oswald (one of the researchers) reported that “Companies like Google have invested more in employee support and employee satisfaction has risen as a result. For Google, it rose by 37%, they know what they are talking about. Under scientifically controlled conditions, making workers happier really pays off.”

 

Employment Engagement = Customer Satisfaction, Sales and Profits

Kevin Kruse, a Forbes contributor, lists 29 different research studies that support the many benefits of happy employees. “An employee’s discretionary effort results in the Engagement-Profit chain. Because they care more, they are more productive, give better service, and even stay in their jobs longer. All of that leads to happier customers, who buy more and refer more often, which drives sales and profits higher…”
Click here for a list of the research. 

 

How to Build Employee Engagement

You don’t need buckets of money to make employees happy. Of course, that’d be nice. But, there are other, perhaps more important, things you can do to increase employee engagement.

“Bonuses, company perks and paid days off aren’t enough to keep employees happy,” said Pete Pedone, president and founder of home audio/video system design firm Interactive Home. “Showing an employee how much the company appreciates, respects and values them on a personal level is much more gratifying.”

One (relatively) small business I work with seems to be able to keep their small group happy, diligent and productive. How do they do it? They manage and lead. Sounds simple, but it does require a bit of awareness, energy and focus. They’re available for questions. They monitor performance and take corrective action as needed. They instituted ‘free lunch Wednesdays’, take 3 minutes for a ‘dance your way to the weekend’ Fridays, lunch with the boss on their work anniversary, communicate company news and make sure to thank everyone when there’s a big business success. Relatively simple. Relatively inexpensive. Really big rewards for this small business.  While I’ve never heard them mention the words ’employee engagement’, they’ve been able to retain their best employees, maintain a balance between professionalism and fun, earn a reputation for great customer service … and profitably survive in a very competitive market.

Focus – Set clear goals & responsibilities for every employee and for your company.
Communicate – Communicate openly and often. Give them the good news … and the bad. Make sure you keep them connected to your business goals. Face time goes a long way.
Acknowledge – Give your sincere thanks for a job well done. Let people know when anyone on the team goes above and beyond expectations. Celebrate your big business success.
Respect – Earn and give respect consistently and it’ll grow into trust.
Fun – Consider that your employees spend about 40% of their waking hours working and commuting. Making it fun from time to time lifts everyone’s spirits.

 

The Bottom Line

There’s little doubt that employee engagement helps your business … with just a little bit of time, energy and focus. Remember…

“When employees are happy, they are your very best ambassadors.” Jim Sinegal, Costco Co-Founder

Don’t Walk Into the Blue Light

Don't Walk Into the Blue Light

Marketing truths & the blue lightA while back, I was working with a start-up client who had a great product, engaging personality, amazing vision, a far-reaching business network and (seemingly) bottomless buckets of money. Doesn’t get much better than that. Or so I thought!

Things went well for a few months. The marketing plan was in place and working. New business was coming in. Sales were increasing at a faster pace than we anticipated. My bubbly energetic client was happy. And so was I. As a marketing consultant, you can’t ask for much more than this…a smart, insightful clients who appreciated the positive impact of your work.

We had about a year of success, far exceeding our business goals and were becoming a ‘force to be reckoned with’ in the industry. I was spending so much time with them that I soon had an office, an Acting VP of Marketing title and was embedded in their organization. But, this isn’t a fairy tale and there’s no happy ending.

One lovely spring day, I was working away on their new business plan, armed with the confidence of our past success. I heard an unusually loud conversation at the reception desk that was peppered with “You can’t do that” and “Yes we can”. I soon discovered that the company from whom we purchased our beautiful new Herman Miller office furniture was now repossessing the furniture. Although we were able to stall them, a few days later, the dozen or so 40” display monitors scattered throughout the offices were repossessed. It was disturbing, but I’d been told that they were financially stable, so I wasn’t too concerned. In fact, I’d worked on a few of the investor pitches and knew we had secured enough to fund us for quite a while.

My rude awakening occurred when I finally got in touch with the CEO. Although we raised millions, he spent more. He felt we (he?) needed to appear far more successful than we were to get the really big investors. After all, no one wants to invest in a struggling company. And then came the lesson that I’ve learned NOT to follow.

“If they want you in a blue suit, turn on a blue light.”

In other words, be who they want you to be.  Who you really are is your truth. That applies to your personal life and your business. You can create a new truth, but turning on the “blue light” doesn’t work. Sooner or later, the electricity goes out and you’re standing there naked and cold.

The truth of your business is your brand and it has the power to make or break you.  Don’t claim to be technologically superior if you’re not. Don’t shout about your product’s exceptional performance if it’s just like all of the others in the market.  If your business isn’t what you want it to be, CHANGE IT. You can transform your business. But, whatever you do, don’t walk into the “blue light”.

Inbound Marketing = Big Brain + Small Wallet

Inbound Marketing = Big Brain + Small Wallet

Brian Halligan, CEO of Hubspot believes the big brain, small wallet marketing that our digital, connected world is the only way to meaningfully market today.  Sure, you can use some traditional tools, but failing to seize the opportunity of inbound marketing is a serious mistake.  Listen to his comments of how well-suited inbound marketing is to small business.  Take a few minutes and listen through his presentation at Harvard Business School.  It’s well worth it.

 

Does Your Business Flutter, Flitter or Fly?

Does Your Business Flutter, Flitter or Fly?

FLY

Flutter and you’ll spend a lot of energy – but not go anywhere.

Flitter and you might get somewhere – but is it where you want to go?

Fly and you’ll have the power to go where you want, when you want!

Without a business plan, chances are that you’re fluttering or flittering.  But you could be flying, perhaps even soaring, if you just took a bit of time.

Creating a plan isn’t that difficult.  And, the process of building that plan is just as important as the plan itself.  Once you get your ‘planning state of mind’ energized, it will help you discover insights into your business and market that you never before considered.

 

flut·ter \ verb \ˈflə-tər \

of a bird or insect : to move or flap the wings quickly without flying

 

flit·ter \ verb\ flitər

move quickly in an apparently random or purposeless manner

 

fly \ verb\ flī

move quickly through the air (under control)

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What Are People Saying?

Susan is a marketing leader who understands the creativity required to insure enduring success. She is smart, innovative and committed to getting it right.

K. SharpeC.E.O.Sharpe Partners

How We Can Help You.

We are marketing consultants based on Long Island, NY. Over the past 20 years, we've built fierce market leaders in a broad range of businesses - from tiny start-ups to global Fortune 500 companies.  Our experience spans multiple industries from consumer electronics to financial services and from food services to photo.  We're looking forward to talking to you to see how we can help take your business to the next level.