Friday, March 23, 2018

Why Establishing Your Brand as an Authority is a Top Goal

With every piece of marketing collateral you create, you're essentially trying to accomplish two key goals. Yes, you're always trying to inform members of your audience about the products or services that you offer - or the ones that you're about to launch. But at the same time, you need to do something much more powerful. Something that, if executed correctly, can help guarantee that yours is a brand with the ability to stand the test of time.

You need to establish your brand as an authority - not just in the context of what you have to offer, but within the larger sense of the industry that you're operating in. If this isn't already one of your top goals, it should be for a number of essential reasons.

The Power of Brand Authority

To better understand the importance of brand authority, consider the following two statistics. According to one study, 45% of your brand's image (meaning what people think and feel when they encounter it) can ultimately be attributed to both what you say and how you say it. More importantly, the same study revealed that 54% of people don't trust brands at all.

The most critical thing to understand about this is that brand authority is not something that you can give yourself. The majority of people who don't trust brands don't do so because the brands told them not to - it's because those brands failed to live up to their promises one too many times. It's because they didn't have anything to offer beyond a sales pitch. It's because those brands weren't able to connect with their audience in an emotional, raw, and ultimately genuine way.

Because those brands failed to understand that brand authority really has to do with your larger reputation - it's that kernel of trust that you don't give yourself, but that others give to you.

It's also not something that you're going to be able to build in a day. It's less the product of one major move and more about a series of smaller ones. It's something that grows slowly, every time you choose to partner with a charity on community outreach or make your presence known at some type of local event. It's something that grows inside your audience every time they see a piece of collateral that isn't just a product spec sheet, but that offers true insight and information in a way that helps them even if they don't make a sale.

When built properly over time, it's also something that makes it easier than ever to not only keep the customers you already have satisfied but to bring new ones into the fold as well. This will invariably translate into a sense of "when the time comes and I do choose to make a purchase with this particular brand, I can rest easy knowing that it is money well spent."

In the End

Ultimately, establishing your brand as an authority should be a top goal because it allows you to become more than just the products you sell or the services you provide. When your customers have a question, they come to you for the answer. When they want to learn more about a related topic, their first thought is to go to you for the education they seek. When you do launch a new product or service, they're interested in what you have to offer because there is a level of trust that exists between you that they don't have in other relationships.

This is why brand authority is so important - because it lets you become more than "just another company" and provides you with a level of authenticity that can take a standard audience and turn them into a loyal army of passionate advocates before you know it.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Magic of Dialogue

Who doesn’t love a great conversation? There’s something compelling about swapping stories, sharing hurts, and multiplying joys as we connect together each day. Companies are finding the catalyst to true connection often comes through listening.

Marketing and editorial strategists Michelle Horowitz and Kendall Meade believed so strongly in conversation that they launched an entire online platform called InTELLects to grow real-life interactions that promote conversation, creativity, and community:

“I’m energized by making connections and asking people deeper questions,” says Michelle. “It’s how I learn, and it’s how I grow.”

InTELLects features notable leaders, thinkers, and change agents, building a community of mentors and offering users the chance to ask questions – any questions – to grow the collective conversation. The co-founders believe authentic discussions pave pathways to clarity, grow existing communities, and instigate this new universal truth: “ask, and you shall succeed.” InTELLects is promoting a paradigm shift that’s moving companies away from “shoving a sales pitch” and toward authentic customer engagement.

The Critical Surfing “Slow Down”

In today’s complex ecosystem, marketers are realizing that consumer engagement (or return on EXPERIENCE) is a long-term, holistic measure of a customer’s encounter with a brand. Engagement includes any action a customer takes to connect with a company: downloading an app, participating in a forum, or referring products to friends. Engagement brings significantly greater return than website traffic, as researchers report that attention span in “surfing” is typically less than nine seconds per page.

How can we slow people down? Horowitz says asking questions is a wonderful place to start.

“True engagement stems from building a place where people can honestly learn, share, and engage,” she said. InTELLects believes that real conversations transcend the noise and forge emotional connections.

Through digital channels, today’s entrepreneurs have powerful tools to create highly personalized relationships. While community forums have been around for ages, expanding social networks like LinkedIn Groups and Google+ Communities offer a chance to connect with customers and ask questions that can build emotional connections that last. Recent data shows that 68 percent of audiences spent more than 15 percent of their time reading the comments section of a story – revealing the allure of dialogue to build powerful community connection.

Growing the Conversation

As you seek to build your own “conversational opportunities,” here are a few questions to consider:

1. What does your target audience connect with?

2. What questions do they have about your product?

3. What is their favorite feature of your business?

4. Where can you proactively predict what they want to stay ahead of the design curve?

5. What educational or training gaps could your company offer on their behalf?

6. What are some practical questions you could pose to gain insights in these areas?

Need ideas to get you started? Grab your team and brainstorm how you might:

  • Host a contest

  • Promote customer achievements on your own social media page

  • Allow your VIP customers to co-create content

  • Host webinars or events

  • Make someone your “brand ambassador” for the month

  • Allow users to have fun, like the Reddit community did in its season-long Fat Tire experience

As technology barrels ahead, one of our own goals is to keep people at the forefront. Whether it’s online forums, beautifully handcrafted printing, or just the face-to-face interactions we have with you every day, we believe nothing trumps relationships. We enjoy hearing about your own questions and ideas, and we look forward to serving you this year. Let’s keep talking!


Friday, March 16, 2018

Women Leadership Matters in Business

There are plenty of lists in business and the news. However, they frequently only represent one half of the human race with men. The fact is, women can be just as tremendous as business leaders, and they are showing their capability daily. Here are five women we all can take a lesson from in how they function and perform as leaders and would provide great case studies if the higher education system would recognize them:

1. Mary Barra

General Motors has been in the heat of regulatory and litigious battle over faulty car ignitions that were known by its management to exist but were allegedly tolerated for cost savings. However, it has been Mary Barra who has been at the helm of the company leading it back on the correct path. And Barra is no stranger to the car world. She worked her way up from the bottom through engineering and then through administrative management as an insider. She is the most powerful American car company CEO yet most American drivers know nothing about her.

2. Ginni Rometti

If your name is on a government file somewhere, there's a good chance Rometti's company product has touched it. As the CEO of IBM, Rometti's products and services have the widest reach and are used worldwide. Ginni Rometti was also an insider, starting with IBM as a system engineer in 1981 and then working upward into management. Today, her decisions impact every big company and government that relies on large database systems and related hardware, but many in the tech field would be hard-pressed to remember her name on a test.

3. Meg Whitman

Probably one of the most recognizable of women business leaders due to her run for Governor of California in 2010, Whitman today is the in-charge CEO of HPE (formerly Hewlett-Packard). Whitman first gained fame as hard-charging CEO of eBay, launching its massive growth in the 2000s, but she was already on the executive track well before. Although she resigned in February 2018, Whitman continues to redefine her role as one of the longest-lasting CEO role models for women in business. And many wonder what Whitman's next step will be in 2018 as the leader has reincarnated herself multiple times.

4. Marillyn Hewson

Another insider who worked her way up the ranks, Hewson started with Lockheed-Martin in 1983. In her earlier executive capacity, Hewson has held key roles in operational leadership in a company that competes with the biggest brass for top aviation contracts from the government, military, and industry. Since 2015, she has been aggressive on the military market, reading the tea leaves for a resurgence in military spending. Her strategy was correct, especially after the latest Presidential election results. Most would not expect to see Hewson next to generals in photo ops, but she is the face of Lockheed-Martin on Capitol Hill.

5. Debra Crew

When people think of a cigarette company CEO, they visualize an older man with thinning hair and a cigar. They don't think of Debra Crew. Yet this CEO has cut her teeth in PepsiCo, Dreyers, and as a veteran intelligence officer prior to her executive days. Crew's challenge is huge, making a company work in a world where smoking seems to be a dying market. And since her start as CEO the company has grown in capitalized market value by 16 percent.

These five women are not models, actresses, or famous wives. They are battle-hardened CEOs worth their title and with billions in market investment at their fingertips.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Brochures: An Incredibly Effective Marketing Tool

Sometimes things become trends for a reason. Case in point: brochures. Brochures are still incredibly effective marketing tools. Why? 

Because Brochures Have Versatility to Spare

Brochures are the perfect supplementary tool to give to someone to clue them into more information about your product or service WITHOUT having to rely on the internet. Did you just come across someone at a trade show or other event? Give them a brochure. Did you just have a walk-in that you weren't expecting but don't have time to dive into the deep details you need to make a sale? Give them a brochure.

Any good salesperson can tell you that the number one rule of marketing is "always be prepared," and a brochure allows you to do precisely that.

Because It's A Marketing Tool in More Ways Than One

Another one of the most important reasons why brochures are still incredibly effective comes down to the many ways in which they can be used beyond straight selling. Yes, this is a great way to give someone a big portion of information about your products or services... but a brochure also makes your contact information readily available. It works a lot like a business card that way, only going above and beyond what a business card can do on its own.

Because of The Power of the Hard Copy

Finally and perhaps most importantly, brochures are effective marketing tools for one reason above all others: they exist in the real world. They're physical. People can hold them in their hands, or give them to friends and family members. 

Customers prefer having something that they can hold rather than reading information from a company website. Some people even so far as to print the information they want from your website so that they can digest it at their own pace (at the cost of their printer ink). 

Nobody is saying that gorgeously designed websites aren't exactly that - but a brochure is a perfect way to take all that information you already have and bring it into the realm of the physical. Not only that, but brochures and other types of print marketing will immediately allow you to stand out from competitors who have switched to primarily digital materials - another benefit that is too powerful to overlook.

These are just a few of the many reasons why brochures aren't going away anytime soon. If you didn't get to create as many brochures as you wanted to during the last year, 2018 would be an excellent time to start. 

Friday, November 24, 2017

From Small Things Come Big Changes

Pierre Omidyar didn't plan to start a mega-corporation in the late fall of 1995. In fact, all he wanted to do was get rid of some computer equipment he had laying around by selling it through a digital garage sale. However, once he realized how popular his simple web page started to become, and the fact that he could charge a fee for folks to use it, eBay was born.

In three short years, the eBay online auction concept went from a private website to a viable business that quickly began to explode. Omidyar had hit on what many in business invention call a "primal need," something that everybody needs and doesn't yet exist.

With the help of Jeff Skoll, Omidyar brought in Meg Whitman, the same Whitman who later ran for California's governor, and corporate eBay took off. By 1998, eBay had gone beyond just selling used and collection items and was quickly becoming a viable brand name for online selling in general. The model continues today and competes directly against regular retail selling.

Seeing What it Could Become

The key aspect of Omidyar's success, however, was not Whitman and her corporate choices of personnel, nor was it the smart linkup with PayPal to make eBay's payment processing extraordinarily fluid and easy for customers. Omidyar could see that he had something valuable and, if given the resources, what it could become. This key talent is what makes the difference between inventors and idea people who never quite achieve success, and people like Omidyar who realize what seems to be impossible starting out.

Omidyar had a number of essential factors present and working in his favor:

  • Again, the primal need for an online auction platform or similar garage sale digital tool was needed.

  • Second, it could be easily accessed by anyone who wanted to participate and pay the fee.

  • Third, the tool was easy to use and produced immediate results and rewards for those using it.

  • Fourth, and most important, no one else was making the same idea happen successfully at the time.

Without these elements in place, Omidyar's personal website might have made some small cash and even generated a small following, but it would not have turned into the worldwide corporation we know as eBay today.

Finding Ways to Make it Grow

Some explain the opportunity as a momentary blast of good luck or fate, and others argue it's the genius of the person involved producing some incredible new service or product. In reality, eBay is neither; it is a product of Omidyar being able to see the promise of an idea and finding ways to make it grow and become more useful, accessible, and popular.

Ebay expanded and became a household name because the company took every opportunity to follow the four principles above in its business strategy. That constant commitment to creating value in a brand is why people keep coming back to eBay as a service some 20 years later, regardless of what the internet and technology have provided since.

If you need help creating value in your brand, we're here to help. Give us a call today!

Monday, October 30, 2017

3 Signs to Help You Identify if Your Market is Changing

So much of your marketing success depends on your ability to get the right message in front of the right people at exactly the right time. To accomplish this, you need to know your audience - and the market that they inhabit - as intimately as possible.

But what happens if one day, suddenly and without warning, that market begins to change? Worse yet, what happens if this trend started while you weren't necessarily paying as much attention as you should have been? The answer is both unfortunate and straightforward: you'll be stuck playing "catch up."

This is a situation that you do NOT want to find yourself in. Here are a few key signs that indicate a market change may be taking place.

Product Innovation Is No Longer a Key Value Driver

You've worked hard to build a robust and stable business and nobody offers what you do in quite the same way. You've had a tremendous amount of success relying on this type of innovation up to this point as a result. However, if things start to shift in the opposite direction, you may be looking at a market change that you'll want to adapt to as fast as you can.

Simply put, product innovation - that is, the quality of what you do and how you do it - should always be the key value driver for your business. If you start to have to fall back on things like your prices, the reputation of your brand, or simply your ability to "out market" your competition, it's likely that your audience is reaching a maturity level that will represent a challenge in the future.

Look to Your Competitors

Competitors are not always a hurdle to be overcome. Oftentimes, they can be the "canary in the coal mine," so to speak, especially in a situation like this one. Take a look at some of the leaders in your industry, especially competitors that are larger than you are. What are they doing? Are they growing or retracting? Are they doing something that nobody else is doing because they can see something coming down the road that nobody else does? Keeping an eye on the health of your larger competitors can be a great way to stay ahead of the larger market trends that may be right around the corner.

Listen to Your Customers

Ultimately, the most important thing you can do to identify signs that your market may be changing requires you to see your marketing strategy as a two-way street. You're not just communicating with your audience; your audience is also communicating with you. If you're having a hard time getting solid insight into the direction of your industry and market alone, cut out the middleman and go right to the source: ask your audience what they see as their future needs in the areas you've dedicated yourself to serving.

Send out surveys or questionnaires asking for raw, honest insights into the questions you're asking yourself today. Take a current client or customer out for dinner and ask them what they see for the next five or even ten years in your industry. Never forget that without these people, your business wouldn't exist - so it's in your own best interest to listen to them as often as possible.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Print Advertising Feels Like Printing Money

Wouldn't it be great if you could print your own money? Life would be so much easier, right? Well, maybe not, but here's a little secret that feels like printing money: print advertising.

Print Advertising is Like Printing Money

Good advertising can go a long way for your business. Sometimes it's hard to explain what good advertising is, but you know it when you've seen it. Whether it's a heartfelt image or a tagline that makes you think, there's just something about incredible advertising that has a way to move and motivate you.

Good print advertising can inspire you to make a change, donate to a cause, or purchase that cool, new tech device. It provides everyone who passes it, holds it, or takes it out of a mailbox the chance to see that printed information. And, since print advertising is often locally targeted, it means that you can create a far more personal connection to your community than you can with digital ads.

Every time someone sees your printed advertisement and, in turn, goes in and buys a product or service from you, you're essentially printing your own money! These customers may have never come to your business and purchased your product or service without seeing the advertisement.

You Like What You See, You Buy What You Like

Picture this: You're walking down the street. Maybe you just finished grabbing a coffee with a friend, and you're heading back to your car. You check your watch to make sure you're still on time to pick up the kids from school. You look up and there, on the side of a building, is a poster for a brand new product one of the local boutiques is offering. It stops you in your tracks as you gaze up at it. It's incredible! How come nobody else ever thought of that before! You pull out your phone and snap a picture, so you remember to pick up the item later.

All of this is the power of print advertisement. People pay little mind to online advertisements, and TV ads are often on while the viewer is off grabbing another beverage from the kitchen. Print ads, however, are there regardless of what a person is doing and how often they pass a certain intersection. And every time someone sees the advertisement and buys something, you've just printed more of your own money.

So, what are you waiting for? Now is the time to start printing your own money in the form of print advertising!