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Tuesday, 11 November 2014
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A while ago I had the opportunity to meet a CEO of a company that produces a well-known, globally used printing product. I was stunned to learn this company was right in my backyard yet I had no idea they were here. I asked how that could be because clearly from the size of this company they must have a strong marketing approach, and he said they had none. They had an old website and even older business cards and nothing else yet they dominate their market world-wide. I asked how that could be and he told me they had high-value industry contacts and a great partner. Then he finished with “…yeah, we’ve been told we’re the best kept secret in our industry”.

Since then I’ve met many business owners and C-suite executives of companies that have had tremendous growth because of the quality of their product/service and a great Rolodex, but no recognition of their corporate brand. They are most likely “secrets in their industry (and their local market)” as well. When I ask how this serves their company they acknowledge that it really doesn’t and that they have been thinking about addressing it

I believe “being the industry’s best kept secret” happens because senior leaders really don’t understand what impact marketing their corporate brand can have for their company. They often view corporate branding as the company logo and an “About Us” page on their website, and they don’t see the value in investing in a corporate marketing effort. Add to that, they feel that their time is already stretched too thin to be able to focus on another strategic effort.

If any of this sounds familiar to you, let me share with you the top 3 benefits of marketing your corporate brand that you may not have considered and why being your industry’s best kept secret is truly not working for you.

Visibility. First and foremost, a consistent corporate marketing effort provides visibility of your company for its assets other than the products and services it provides. Those assets have value to the market, and they include the expertise of senior management, IP, processes that allow you to service your customers and employees well, and your unique business approach that helps the company’s products or services be successful.

Credibility. The more the market knows about your company the more credibility you bring to your products or services. Positioning key executives as thought leaders in their area of expertise and leveraging them as the go-to person for press and analysts in your industry and local community, as well as announcing new IP, equipment, processes and programs, builds confidence and assures the market that your company is rooted in solid business practices and industry experience.

Leadership. Companies that treat the corporate brand as a valuable asset by exposing, nurturing and growing it become one of their industry’s and community’s leader. They’re revered for the position they have carved out, they are sought after for the collective wisdom the company holds, and they are trusted to contribute not only quality products and services but value to the marketplace because their brand has meaning. Building your corporate brand is building your leadership position.

Being the “industry’s best kept secret” means you’re missing out on growing your company and its value beyond straight sales numbers. Companies that have highly visible and highly credible corporate brands exceed their own expectations, and grow in many ways that a straight product/service brand marketing approach cannot.

 

Brand is a valuable asset of the corporation, and should be treated like any other asset. This means it must be invested in, put to work to generate value and held accountable for the results.

– Joanna Seddon, evp, Millward Brown

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Thursday, 02 October 2014
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There’s a huge Generation Gap  (more like a canyon) that is and will continue to challenge business leaders for the next 10 years.  The Gap is between Boomers (50+ CEOs/senior management/business owners) and Generation Y or Millennials (20 to mid-30 year olds), the group they are hiring or marketing to.  Rapid technology advances and a very different value system have given Gen Y’ers a completely new way to live and work, which has Boomers shaking their heads.

Take a look at the two groups…

Boomers adapted to email and smartphones and consider it to be an accomplishment. They still believe in written communication and a good old fashion phone conversation to get business done.  They likely read the paper and watch or listen to the news.  Their work experience is an office environment set with standard hours of operation.  Success to this group typically equals promotions, titles, salaries, an office with a window and industry stature.  They probably have an assistant, a club membership and maybe even a jet.

Millennials likely haven’t written a letter, printed out and, ee-gads, mailed to the recipient.  They often view talking on the phone as inefficient and rude…because texting is not.  They use Social Media and RSS feeds to get their news and information.  They work nimbly with technology and they don’t rely on anyone else to organize their  life.  Millennials view success as belonging to organizations that are socially conscious and respectful of culture, environment and differences.  Having a broad variety of professional experience is more important that tenure with a company (hint: they move around more frequently).  Success to this group means being able to do their job well on their terms…which likely isn’t a window-less office or slot in a cube-farm office, but at home, at night and weekends, at a café or in a park.

With these two very different orientations and communication styles bridging the gap becomes, at best, challenging.  And the challenge is for you, Mr/Ms 50+ CEO, because the Millennials are more flexible and easy-going, and they will be the ones in charge soon.  The challenge, whether it is a potential employee, the contact at a substantial client or a potential consumer, is that the Millennial you want to reach isn’t receiving information the way you project it.

So how do you fix it? ..because the “fixing” is on your plate.  Whether hiring or marketing to Millennials here’s what you need to do:

Stop judging.  Gen Y sees life through a very different lens.   How they live, work, buy and contribute to society is different, likely odd and very unconventional to your norms.  Be curious, not critical.

Get to know them.  Socializing is paramount to this generation and you’ll find that being in their space and  meeting them on their “turf” will give you invaluable insights on how to direct your conversations and marketing efforts.   Target communication efforts to where they “hang out”,  physically and virtually, and pay attention to what they are saying.

Know how they learn/communicate.  You don’t have to become a social media maven or a newsfeed junkie but you do need to, at baseline, understand which Social Media platforms are most relevant to deliver your message to the Millennials you want to reach, then go deep.

Engage them in your business/industry.  This is the generation that wants to learn and make a difference so they’ll be interested in your company/product IF you can show them why your company and offerings are worthy. They align themselves with socially good companies through their career choices and their buying power.  Identify key issues for them and how you, as a leader and/or your company, is involved with positive action.  Use the tactics they use to get information – social media, Internet, socialized learning.

Give them a way to connect back to you.   Some purchases or hiring opportunities might come quickly but many Millennials want to connect with you before they buy from you or work for you.  They are masters at mining the Internet, reviewing blogs, and checking Social Media to find out more.  To be successful you have to accessible.  Remember, they are not likely to call or email so you need to maintain the conversation on-line.

Make them your evangelist.  This group can be the most powerful force for your company if you are true to your word and meet their values.  They’ll help you, promote you, work for you, and buy from you.  They’ll re-post, re-tweet, blog about and video their use of your product, they will love you ….as long as you are authentic and uphold your mission.  Break that trust and they will flame your business into the ground.

It may seem easier to complain about “their crazy obsession with smartphones” and focus your company’s efforts on the prospects that communicate “the right way” (aka your way).  Do so at your peril.   Companies that don’t invest in knowing Gen Y and work hard to bridge the gap will find they’ve past their expiration date, and a competitor now has this energized generation as their valued employees and loyal consumers.

The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes.

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Tuesday, 09 September 2014
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It’s hard to decide what is the hotter marketing topic these days –  Social Media or Branding.

Social Media is a hot topic because it’s a complex and rapidly changing marketing element that many find hard to keep up with.

Branding has finally got its day in the sun because business leaders are seeing the value and bottom line revenue results that come from solid, well-aligned, consistent branding.

Or not.

If you aren’t seeing results from your company branding efforts it likely means you’re slowly killing it.  Here’s how that happens and how to fix it…

#1 Not feeding it.  A brand initiative isn’t a one and done project.  Maybe you hired a very reputable brand firm to either create or re-align your brand, spent a lot of resources on it but you feel like it is business as usual.  Why? You’re not feeding it.  Completing the project was just the beginning of the process – not the end.

Fix:  Live the brand, nurture it. As the business leader you must live your brand or no one else will. Keep the core values and promise in your sights.  Do something every day that is a noticeable display of your brand values.

#2 Allowing it to be misused.  Maybe you and folks in your company are a bit bored with your branding elements and you don’t see what’s wrong with tweaking them a bit for a certain project, but inconsistency of visual elements (logo, colors) and messaging (tag line, positioning statements) leads to confusion and the breakdown of your brand.

Fix:  Be rigorous about applying brand standards and create a branding guidelines document for your company. Police them. Assign the task of ensuring brand consistency to someone who can keep a watchful eye on it on a daily basis if you cannot.

#3 Lack of engagement with employees.  They all sat in the conference room when the new branding was unveiled but no one  jumped for joy.   It’s likely your employees don’t feel they have ownership in the brand.  Why should they care?

Fix:  Bring brand ownership to employees by identifying for them how they play a role in your company and product/service brands.   Remind, re-engage and foster their role in living the brand through the core values that were identified in the branding process.  In other words, be Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.

#4 Lack of engagement with customers. Your customers may be experiencing your brand, but it’s subtle. If you feel the role of your brand is insignificant in your relationship with your customers they most certainly will take you up on that and let it roll over them without paying attention.

Fix:  Reinforce your brand with every customer connection.  Follow-up on customer interaction with brand value messaging, adapt behavior that screams the core values you set for your brand and create an invitation for customers to be part of your brand.  Starbucks…enough said.

#5 Lack of engagement with community and industry.  Do you get the “deer in headlights” look when you tell people the name of your company?  Or do they say “yeah, you’re the widget guys” when your company is a service firm?  Company brands that are very common, hard to pronounce or under promoted don’t have the firepower to cut through today’s overwhelming barrage of information.

Fix:  Maybe it is time to do an assessment of just how effective your brand is in communicating who and what your company stands for.  Maybe it is time for a brand re-alignment.  A company brand name, no matter how common or unusual, can deliver instant recognition for the company’s unique market position in the community and industry when branding is done correctly and consistently.  My poster-child for this, Wegmans.

If your brand isn’t delivering what you think it should now is time to take a hard look at why it’s underperforming.  Brandrethworks helps company leadership analyze their brand effectiveness, determine next steps and provides the client-side expertise to ask the right questions.  Let’s have chat about your company brand and how it can work harder for you to deliver results.

“Your brand is the single most important investment you can make in your business”  – Steve Forbes

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Wednesday, 11 June 2014
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Are you looking at what you’ve invested in this year on your marketing and feel you should have more leads?  Have sales from current customers have slacked off a bit?  Do you think your marketing efforts could be doing better but you’re just not sure how to make it happen?

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As a senior manager or business owner you know when there is a gap in your company’s marketing performance but do you know why?

Not being able to identify marketing gaps is often the “can’t see the forest through the trees” syndrome. After all, we often see what we want to see and miss what we don’t want to deal with when change is needed.  But it’s really not that difficult to identify the fundamental issues that are derailing a company’s marketing effort.

When it comes down to it, you will probably find that one or more of these reasons are why your marketing isn’t delivering the results you expect.

It’s not targeted. Shotgun tactics that blast messages across broad audiences may provide results when they have big budgets behind them but big budget luxury isn’t the norm.   Identify exactly who your target audience is and where and how they receive information so you can focus your tactics to make them more effective, and using your resources efficiently. The more detail can put to describing your target market the more efficient your marketing will be.
It’s not clear. You know what you’re trying to say but does your target audience?  Are you talking their language?   Is the design effective?  Is your material “wordy” and cluttered because you feel you need to say and show everything about your product/service?   Take a step back and ensure your efforts are clear, crisp and designed to get them saying “I want to know more” or “I think I really need this”.
It’s not integrated. You have a number of great marketing tactics but they aren’t knitted together.  Many companies think that including their web address and social media icons on all their communications is “integrating” their marketing, but it’s not.  Integrated marketing involves connecting tactics so that one automatically moves the visitor to another, keeping them interested and engaged.
It’s not consistent and persistent. Perhaps you are bored with your messaging so you “mix it up”.  The problem is your audience doesn’t remember your messaging so the changes just confusion them and they walk away.  You “tried advertising” – once – but it didn’t boost your sales so obviously it doesn’t work and you’re not doing that again.  But your competition is persistent with their advertising and they get good coverage so they are getting your business.

Be consistent and persistent.
It’s lonely. You spend more time on sales efforts than on marketing.  In fact, you probably spend more time on just about every other aspect of your business than you do on your marketing and you wonder why it’s not producing results.   Marketing is a foundational and ever-evolving element of your business …and it really loves your attention!

 

Make a quick analysis of your marketing efforts based on these 5 criteria:
1.  Is it targeted enough? (hint: if you’re not getting new or more sales it’s not)
2.  Is it clear, crisp and creating a call to action?
3.  Are your tactics integrated so that they not only link together but the work together to pull your prospect along?
4.  Are your efforts consistent (branding, messaging, personality) and persistent (repeat, repeat, repeat)?
5.  Are you giving your marketing enough love?
Put a plan together to fix the breaks in your marketing and look for the resources you need to do it efficiency.

 

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Saturday, 07 June 2014
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I admit it. I have an unquenchable thirst for marketing intelligence. There are more ideas and strategies running through my head at any one time than I can share in client meetings, staff presentations, or even the longest marketing plans. That’s why I share them online. You can always catch up with the latest right here.

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Tuesday, 06 May 2014
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5 things I did that you can too!

Every once in a while the cobbler does have to make his children shoes.

The last year has been a fun, dynamic year working with clients, so much so that I didn’t make time to tune-up my marketing.  Sound familiar?!  But with the onset of Spring I’m delighted to have completely revamped my website, have new video content and fresh marketing tools to share with you.  Take a look!!

When was the last time you took an objective look at your company’s communication tools?  Isn’t it amazing how fast time goes by?  You’re probably thinking, my company website is “new”…yet it’s likely over a year old.

While it’s not realistic to redesign your marketing materials every year, here are 5 Marketing Spring tune-up tips you can use now:

1. Review website content and freshen it up – add case studies and new products or services you’re offering; ensure content is accurate, up-to-date and balanced with the right keywords. Check the site analytics to be sure it is performing well too!

2. Perk up your social media –  change banner images, freshen content, add new messaging, or add a new platform.

3. Revamp your email/newsletter format – add new design elements and modify the schedule so your news isn’t hitting your contacts the same day it has been.

4. Create a case study or short video –  tell the story of great project or customer interaction you had in the last 12 months and how you could repeat that in a benefit for others.

5. Add a new tactic – consider a new customer appreciation tactic, a referral program, PR initiative like a blog, or a promotion that is aligned with your marketing plan.

These quick tips improve your marketing presence without burning up big chunks of time.