Friday, January 29, 2016
Brand awareness, of course, is the extent to which a name, label, logo, catch phrase, jingle, or another identifier that is associated with a brand, a specific product, or a company is easily recognized by customers. Brand awareness may be old news, but the Internet has taken the concept to new heights, becoming far more measurable and quantifiable as part of an overall marketing strategy.
There are many examples of successful brand awareness implementation. It has always been primarily produced by effective advertising. The most dramatically successful advertising campaign is the one where your product becomes synonymous with the product category. For many years now, a facial tissue has been called a Kleenex regardless of what actual brand was used. This is the same result we see when some people refer to any sport-utility vehicle as a Jeep and any cola drink as a Coke.
The objective in advertising or any brand awareness marketing endeavor is not simply to get your product name or image in front of the consumer. It is to get the image into the mind of that consumer, so when the buying customer wants a product, he or she wants your product before that of any competitors. Repetitious advertising creates a memory trace that remains and is reinforced with every additional occurrence. Think of mayonnaise, hot dogs, ketchup, beer, and coffee. The odds are pretty good that in each case you thought of a specific brand. It is no coincidence that the biggest selling brands are also among those most heavily advertised in various media.
While a successful advertising campaign can create solid brand awareness, a limiting or cessation of advertising can erase the gains in a remarkably short time. Forty years ago, a steel wool soap pad was known as a Brillo Pad. Today, SOS brand is the big seller. Brillo sometimes doesn't even get any shelf space, and we must ask when was the last time you saw an ad for Brillo scouring pads? The manufacturer failed to maintain the brand awareness level they had established. A massive advertising campaign by the manufacturers of SOS soap pads was the driving force that changed the landscape.
Advertising remains key to this process, and today the most critical medium for reaching the customer is the Internet. No other medium offers such widespread advantages in both reach and monitoring capacity. With the Internet, you can track how many times your ad has been viewed and how many times it has been clicked on.
Furthermore, social media and blogging have opened up new avenues for tracking your brand's impact. Programs exist that can tell you how many times your brand has been searched for by a search engine. Others can reveal how many times it has been mentioned in a blog anywhere on the World Wide Web. These "mentions" can be even more critical to brand awareness than page views or clicks because each one may represent an impartial testimony to your product. Even negative discussion tends to reinforce brand awareness. The old saying applies: There is no such thing as bad publicity.
Establish it, reinforce it, and nurture it. Brand awareness can make the difference for you in becoming another brand like Kleenex.
Friday, January 22, 2016
The Business Consequences of Employees That Don't Like Each Other
When your employees don't like one another, it creates a situation where they become disengaged from their environment. This is true regardless of the type of industry that you're operating in. When employee engagement suffers, nearly every other aspect of your enterprise will as well. Productivity begins to decline. The high level of customer service that you've become known for disappears. The individual goals of team members are no longer aligned with the larger corporate goals of your business.
In essence, the entire machine begins to break down. Think of your employees as the engine on a car. Each element is important in its own right, but they're all working together to act as the force that propels the car forward. When they stop working together, the car doesn't move â" which is exactly what can happen if your employees don't like each other and if this trend shows no signs of reversing itself anytime soon.
Ways to Improve Employee Relations
Team building exercises like business retreats aren't just a great way to make sure that you're working with a team of high-quality employees â" it's also a great opportunity to guarantee that these are high-quality people at the exact same time. Hosting regular events after work with the express intention of increasing relations and improving morale is the type of decision that will pay dividends for years to come.
Employees will begin to get more comfortable with one another and will develop the type of rapport that your business will thrive on. It creates the type of business where employees don't just take pride in their own work, but in the work of everyone else, too. People want to see each other succeed, making them truly invested in the process. This creates the type of situation where the larger idea of your business benefits as a result.
These are just a few of the reasons why it is so important to make sure that your employees actually like each other. A (cheesy) old saying tells us that âthere is no 'I' in 'team'â - in the world of business, this is very much true. Employees that like each other not only as companions but as people are more willing to help each other when times get tough. They don't just think about themselves â" they think about themselves in the context of a much larger whole. They think about success less in terms of their own careers and more in terms of your business. Talented employees who don't like the environment that they're in because of their co-workers essentially accomplish the exact opposite.
Tuesday, January 19, 2016
While they may be appreciating the packaging more after the fact, this axiom still holds true when we are making our purchasing decisions. No, weâre not likely looking for packaging we can turn into a rocket ship, but we are looking for something that reflects our values and distinguishes itself from the rest of the products out there. So, what does that mean for those of us who are trying desperately to gain the attention and love of consumers? Well, it means you need to know a few key things about who your consumer is and what they value. Letâs break it down.
People want to buy things that reflect and confirm how they see themselves in the world. How do you as a producer know what that means? Well, you might do a lot of research, or you might already know who your demographic is because they are you! For this example, letâs assume the latter. You are a 32-year-old, college-educated female living in Northern California who is passionate about organic farming, conservation, and veganism. Youâve designed a line of shoes using recycled materials that are vegan-friendly.
Are you going to shove these walking works of art into a plain brown cardboard box with a line drawing of the shoes and a white label showing the color and size like every other shoe out there? No, of course not!
Youâll likely package the shoes in an attractive, reusable bag with your logo and an image of someone wearing your shoes prominently displayed in colors of greens and browns to evoke feelings of calm and earthiness. Youâll tell a story right on the bag about how you came upon your idea for these shoes and your vision for your company and the world. Youâll let people know that the shoes and the bag are handmade in a certified Fair Labor facility powered solely by the wind and the sun, using sustainable methods and responsibly-sourced materials that are animal-friendly. Youâll even tell them that the ink used to print the bag and tags is made from vegetable products and not fossil fuels. Basically, youâll appeal to the sensibilities of your ideal buyer who shares your values.
When that person chooses your product, itâs because it confirms their beliefs in themselves, that they are passionate about protecting the environment and they despise oppressive and exploitative labor. Not only will the shoes become a part of their identity, but so will the bag that they will use every day to carry their groceries and other items. They will take pride in knowing that they did not place another shoebox and extraneous paper products into the great landfills of the world.
This bag among the sea of sameness will be what gets your customersâ attention. The story you tell on that packaging will make them love your product. Donât let your packaging be an afterthought, make it an integral part of your product.
Friday, January 15, 2016
Identify Where the Goal Posts are in the First Place
One of the most important steps to take at the start of any new year involves developing a plan for the days, weeks, and months ahead. Simply put, January is the perfect time to start developing both a short-term and a long-term strategy to identify where you see your company going and, more importantly, how it's going to get there. During this period, it is always important to develop a list of priorities for you to hit along the way. You'll also have to assess your own sense of accountability and put a process in place to manage these priorities as time marches on.
Reassess Your View of Your Own Organization
Another key step to take at the start of a new year involves taking a long, hard look at your company as it stands today and compare it both to where you started and where you hope to end up. Businesses change as they mature - this isn't something that you can avoid. The key is that you should always be changing in a positive way. Where do you stand on January 1 in relation to your goals compared to where you stood in December of the previous year? What are the strengths of your business and how have they changed over time? What are your current weaknesses as they relate to your ultimate strategy and what can you do to turn them into positive attributes in the short-term? This allows you to create a realistic picture of your business as a whole, and more importantly, create a realistic view of the future.
Who Are Your Current Leaders?
In the world of business, leaders aren't necessarily created - they're born. If you take a natural leader and drop them into an unfamiliar environment, they will eventually rise to the top. They can't help it. One of the great opportunities that the new year presents involves looking within and identifying the people who may have proven themselves to be exactly this type of leader during the last year. Key leadership, in relation to these individuals, is of paramount importance when it comes to both creating the type of company culture that you need and setting the tone for the priorities that you will attempt to seize in the next year and beyond. A leader isn't an asset if you don't know that they're there in the first place, so always look for those who have proven themselves to help align your organization with your own strategy and gain valuable insight into the steps you should be taking moving forward.
These are just a few of the important steps that you should be taking at the start of a new year to get your business headed in the right direction. Waning from the intended path is natural, particularly as a company reaches maturity. The new year represents an excellent opportunity to take stock of how far you've come and to make sure that you're still headed in the direction that you hoped you would be when you got into this business in the first place.
Tuesday, January 12, 2016
Naturally, these relationships should be as positive as possible. To do this effectively, you need to be sensitive to the needs and desires of the individual. Never forget that your customers are, first and foremost, individuals with personal needs.
In years past, some companies dealt only sporadically, if at all, with this issue, trusting fully in their products to supply what the customer needed. But, the relative success and failure of many such businesses have proven this outmoded attitude to be counter-productive.
Indeed, an entire industry has grown up around the concept of customer relationship management (CRM). Today, software is available from many sources. This software can make it far easier to manage all customer contacts, enhancing the relationship to the utmost, producing greater sales through better communication. However, it still comes down to the one-on-one relationship and your awareness in general, as well as specific customer needs.
As has always been the case, a successful appreciation for the needs of your customers is driven by sensitivity--treating people as people rather than simply as customers. Since a business' customer contacts are most frequently engaged in by employees rather than management, a company's employees and their training are of paramount importance in achieving better customer interaction.
A company is in a far better position for growth when its employees are made aware that their overall performance will be judged by their customer interaction--the levels of satisfaction those clients have achieved. After all, customer satisfaction is the most effective means of achieving customer retention, a far more efficient way to increase sales than continually reaching out only for new customers.
One key element in developing satisfied customers is to ensure that they deal with satisfied employees who present a positive picture of the company. A satisfied employee is a valuable tool. This is especially true when your employees are dealing with customer complaints. When a customer is most upset about something is when your employee's "soft skills" are the most critical. Soft skills involve the ability to address customer complaints with politeness and de-escalation of the client's emotional responses.
This brings to mind the movie, The Negotiator, where Samuel L. Jackson's character tells another negotiator, "Never say 'no' to a hostage taker." He then tricks the other guy into saying no several times, each time castigating him for his ineptitude. As humorous as this scene is, it also highlights the importance of a skillful use of words and an awareness for the needs of your counterpart in conversation. While your employee is not going to cause someone's death, she just might cause a lost sale. Making certain that every client conversation concludes with a positive perception can result not only in short term sales but also in a greater number of positive stories being shared among new potential customers.
With businesses becoming ever more international in scope, many organizations are increasingly investing in staff training to enhance cultural sensitivity. Cultural, political, religious, and linguistic differences do exist as potential barriers, and learning to navigate this new international landscape is an important ingredient for future growth.
Never underestimate the power of positive relationships. Sensitivity to customer needs is key to a better public perception of your business.
Tuesday, January 5, 2016
A century's worth of knowledge about how to go about selling something has not been made obsolete, but it has experienced some competition. The old guard, presenting the "correct" path for sales taught new recruits the art of manipulation. Jeffrey Gitomer, Zig Zigler, Brian Tracy, Tom Hopkins, and many other authors on the subject have outlined a strategy for increasing sales on the basis of this manipulation. They have shown us a successful, proven model for sales. So, what has changed?
The mantra for the old school approach was to establish and maintain a sort of control over potential customers by answering questions with questions. Establish some common ground and build a rapport. Spend all the time you can, build value, and only then reveal the price. Once a value has been established, even a higher price will seem more acceptable. It must be said that this approach has achieved much success. And, in fact, there remains a place for it, depending on the medium used for conversation.
What the Internet and digital communication have done, however, is to change the speed of interactions to the point that available time has collapsed. These days, spending a lot of time has become counter-productive if the medium is the Internet, for example. Studies show that most web surfers, even when looking for a specific product, will spend very little time searching before making a decision, one way or the other.
This makes building value more difficult, and when transactions occur online, there is no face-to-face interaction and no rapport building. Digital customers have very little time for elaborate presentations building product value. Typically, they already have a price in mind and are most interested in your price for the sake of comparison.
Today, sales are being made with a rapidity that has never before been matched. For that to occur, some of the old ways have been relegated to other media, as the Internet has expanded to take over some of their space. Online sales are continuing to explode exponentially, so it is quite clear that new approaches are being validated.
To a certain extent, a person's approach is tailored to his or her personality. Some people are built for face-to-face interaction. Some can do without it. All sales become a contract and there is a personal comfort zone that must be attained even in the quickest of transactions. Serious shoppers who demand a greater depth of information do exist on the Internet, but the Internet can easily adapt for these shoppers by offering the information to those who demand it, while streamlining the sales process for those who do not.
There is really nothing inherently wrong with the old school approach to sales. There will always be a time and place for it in certain contexts. What the Internet has introduced to the process is flexibility. While there is no flesh-and-blood person speaking to the buyer, there is a wealth of information available if the buyer really desires it. As a result, website building has become something of an art form, so the needs of customers can be addressed as those needs emerge rather than in a pre-determined sales presentation.
It seems old school and new school can live together, after all.