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.
Tuesday, January 26, 2016
Attracting Talent is One Thing - Keeping Them is Another
Many people believe that attracting top talent to a business is something akin to a sports draft. So long as you throw as much money at a person as possible, they'll definitely come to work for you, right?
Getting a hugely talented person to work for you is really quite easy. Getting them to stick around is easier said than done. Studies have shown that people are willing to switch jobs not because they'll make more money in a new position, but because they'll be happier. According to a report published in the New York Times, when a person's household income exceeds $75,000 per year, it really does nothing to improve the overall level of satisfaction that they feel. They don't lead happier, more enjoyable or less stressful lives - at least not as far as money is concerned.
What this means is that if you're offering a top tier employee $85,000 per year in an environment that they'll ultimately not fit into versus a competitor who is offering $75,000 per year in a place that they would love to work in, that $10,000 ultimately doesn't buy you as much leeway as you might think - if it buys you any at all.
Essentially, if you want to remain competitive by attracting top talent to your organization, you have to create the type of organization that top talent actually wants to work for. This means that your company culture needs to be welcoming and enjoyable. Your leadership needs to be more than just people high on the totem pole with fancy job titles - they need to be people worth following. The work that you're doing needs to be something worth pouring your blood, sweat, and tears into. Whether this means continually rewarding employees for hitting certain productivity goals, profit sharing, a second-to-none benefits package or something else entirely remains to be seen - the answer will vary on a case-by-case basis.
The underlying point is crystal clear, though, - picture the employee you want to attract and make sure that your business is a place where that person might want to work. You essentially do the same thing with your marketing campaigns and buyer personas, so when you start to think of it in those terms it really isn't that hard at all.
The Snake Eating Its Tail
At that point, attracting top talent to your organization becomes something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. By going out of your way to create the type of company culture and environment that top-tier talent want to work for, you're in turn creating a better business and ultimately a better product at the exact same time. The competitive advantage that you've gained and the quality of the work that you're turning out then go a long way towards attracting even more hugely talented people to your business, which essentially starts the process all over again.
Making this one decision to shift your focus towards creating the type of business that people can't help but want to work for creates a snowball effect of positive results for nearly everybody involved. Talented people flock to your organization and don't even dream of looking anywhere else for a job. Customers become more than satisfied with the work you're producing as your employees are putting their heart and soul into everything that you do. This, in turn, feeds back into your business by way of increased revenue and profits, creating a situation where literally everyone wins. Doesn't that sound like the type of environment you'd like to create for yourself?
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.
Friday, January 8, 2016
Passwords are Going Away
Simple passwords have long been considered by experts to be woefully inadequate as far as actual data security. This is especially true now that everything from bank account statements to medical records are being stored electronically. All it would take is someone with a little knowledge and the right hardware to guess even the most stringent of passwords, which is why the practice is poised to go away for good sooner rather than later. Many businesses are turning towards other options, like SSH-key authentication, which uses a security key in conjunction with encryption to increase the safety of information stored digitally.
With SSH-key authentication, all data is essentially scrambled via encryption algorithms both in transit and at rest. In order to "decode" that information and gain access to the data inside, a computer needs the appropriate SSH verification key. Without that key, even someone who had the password for an account would essentially find all of the data unreadable, which is why this is one security trend that is increasing in popularity and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Security as a Service
One of the main obstacles regarding maintaining security in the digital world has to do with the massive effort required on behalf of business owners. Maintaining security patches, upgrading and monitoring network-based security hardware and more can be a full-time job for an IT employee - if you have an IT employee to begin with. Instead of constantly engaging in the uphill battle of trying to maintain security on their own, many businesses are turning towards third-party security as a service for this very reason.
Under this type of situation, you would pay a third-party company to take over complete control of your network security infrastructure. They would be responsible for auditing, disaster recovery, real-time detection, maintaining security patches and more - giving you complete peace of mind as a business owner knowing that A) you are as protected as you can be against cyber threats and B) you don't have to devote a huge amount of time, money, and energy in order to get to that place.
Allowing employees to bring their own devices to work is increasingly common, but it is not without its disadvantages. If an employee accesses mission-critical information on their personal iPhone and then that device is stolen from them, the data they were accessing is potentially compromised. This is one of the many reasons why businesses are enacting strict device enforcement policies governing what types of personal devices can be used at work, what information can be accessed on them and what happens to that device if an employee suddenly becomes an ex-employee for whatever reason.
These are just a few of the important factors to consider about data security in 2016 and beyond. The Internet and technology, in general, brings with it a host of different benefits for businesses that can't be ignored, but there is a seedy underbelly to the proceedings as well if you're not careful. The key to cyber safety involves knowing what type of battle you're engaging with and making smart, actionable decisions in a proactive way.
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.
Friday, January 1, 2016
This discovery only occurred because biologist Alexander Fleming took a vacation. Returning to find that his staph bacteria petri dishes were contaminated with an invasive fungus, he observed that the fungus had repelled and killed the bacteria. The age of antibiotics was born.
Dozens more examples demonstrate that the happy accident is one of the most valuable resources in human development. One of the earliest known examples occurred when, for better or worse, some Chinese experimenters looking for the elixir of eternal life accidentally discovered gun powder, instead.
In 1938, a du Pont chemist discovered that his experimental gas had escaped its container and that a strange slippery substance was left behind. Teflon was born. Much earlier, an English pharmacist withdrew a stirring rod from his chemicals only to notice a dried clump of hard material stuck to the end of it. In trying to scrape it off, it ignited and burst into flame. The strikable match was the result. Velcro was invented by a Swiss engineer intrigued by how burrs stuck to his dog's coat. The implantable heart pacemaker was stumbled upon when an assistant professor accidentally grabbed the wrong size resistor from a box.
These examples are only a few of the many wonderful discoveries that have graced the world by a scientific accident. Their value is immense, and the world has grown richer by their discovery only through the adaptability of those who discovered them. In many cases, something else was the target goal at the time. Their discovery was an unanticipated byproduct born of the flexibility of the discoverer.
In business, it pays hefty dividends to be flexible enough to adapt to new developments and to make use of unexpected benefits. As the maker of a fairly unsuccessful wallpaper cleaner, Kutol Products was near bankruptcy when children began using the product to form Christmas tree ornaments in arts and crafts projects. The entrepreneurs were clever enough to see this unexpected use as a gift, and the company was saved by the new marketing of the modified product as Play-Doh.
A similar story is told of the development of another novelty toy, Silly Putty. In 1943, a World War II rubber shortage prompted the government to commission research from General Electric chemists for the creation of an alternative. The resulting elastic compound was ineffective at replacing rubber, but it was intriguing nevertheless. Samples were circulated, but until an enterprising toy store entrepreneur named Ruth Fallgatter saw the stuff in 1949, no one had any use for it. Fallgatter saw some potential and hired copywriter Peter Hodgson to include the item in her seasonal catalogue. While it outsold everything else in the catalogue, for some reason she lost interest and abandoned the substance.
Hodgson, however, had a clearer vision of its potential and picked up the entrepreneurial torch, renaming the product Silly Putty. It took some time, but his ability to adapt paid off. A New York Times columnist mentioned it in a very positive light, after which sales topped $750,000 in the next three days.
Speaking of gummy substances, we have alluded to the 29-year-old William Wrigley who decided to offer free baking powder as an incentive to market his scouring soap. The idea was so good that the powder became more popular than the soap. So, he offered free chewing gum to market the powder, and the gum became more popular still. Thus was born the Wrigley chewing gum empire, from humble beginnings in soap and baking powder.
Like William Wrigley, Peter Hodgson, and the brighter minds at Play-Doh's Kutol Products, always remain alert to the potential for happy accidents and adapting to situations and possibilities.