Monday, May 20, 2013

5 Steps To The Motherlode!

That next telephone call or email could be the mother lode of opportunities. If you're anything like myself, you're fiercely proud of what you've accomplished to date. The relationships built over the years have not only delivered happy customers but rewarding business friends that have turned into advocates for you.

Of course, if the mother lode is to fall into your lap, it would come not by happenstance, but a concerted effort. You know as well as I, that you can never take your eye of the goal. One of my favourite anonymous quotes goes something like. " I can't get over how lucky I am the harder I work." You have to be responsible for your own success of failure. Taking ownership is a powerful brand action. Here a few tips to the motherlode:

Put together a "Re-Acquaintance Package". This is a program that has you sending out promotional correspondence to past customers that have dropped off your radar after many years. You'd be surprised how many would love to reconnect and benefit from your accumulated experience. This could also involve introducing new products or service not yet available when you first spoke.

Develop a "Referral Kit". You know that many of your customers are indeed advocates for you, but you have no control over what they are saying about your brand. By putting together a little package of materials to hand out and a story outlining the types of business you are looking for, they will be more effective in generating more profitable leads for you. The kit should contain branded items such as pens, notepads, business cards and of course the letter of intention. Make sure your kit is as professional as you can to make it. Be sure it compliments your brand image. Send these to advocates that have the greatest influence among your target audience.

Participate in open networking events sponsored by various groups in your business community. This gives you the opportunity to exhibit a presence locally. Don't be concerned if you find yourself among regular attendees and not new faces. It is this familiarity that gets you business because everyone gets to know each other very well. Knowing allows conversations to start within 'their' networks. It's those conversation that bring terrific referrals.

Getting involved in online promotional efforts that position you as an expert. Things like bogging and social networking are great avenues to spur opportunity. Blogging especially has a huge impact from a business perspective. Chance are good that the mother lode of opportunity could hatch from this effort alone. Very powerful. Consider public speaking as well. Very engaging.

Building an opt-in business email database. Email marketing puts your message directly into the hands of your target market. Because they are opt-in, your message is welcome. A great place to nurture your brand. It is also a great opportunity to provide valuable free advice. Become a free resource which leads to a paid resource. This database is essentially your very own marketplace.

What the heck - one more. Be sure that what ever you do, you are extremely consistent in tone and brand image. Consistency pay dividends. Opportunity only comes to those who are willing to earn it and ready to accept it when it calls. "The next time you get email" - this could be the one - brace yourself!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Five Ways To Brand Like The Fortune 500's

Branding can be daunting at the best of times. As small to medium size enterprises, budgets to address brand initiatives are just a fraction of what a Fortune 500 company may apply. If you're anything like myself, you're constantly educating yourself on ways to fine tune your brand. Books on the subject is a great way to discover nuggets of information that can be applied to your situation. But often, branding books use as examples, companies who the world knows and whose budgets are no where close to small business's reality which makes it hard to relate. I thought I'd use this space to show small businesses some good branding strategies they can use to with great effectiveness and little cost.

ONE: Consistency

You'll never see a Fortune 500 company with multiple versions of their logo. Many small businesses have one logo on their business cards and another on their location, vehicles and uniforms. To many this may seem silly, but look around your communities. You'll see that this happens all the time because companies do not have brand image guidelines in place. The image of the company is left in the hands of whom ever picks up the ball to do some marketing. Establish strict guidelines for your brand and you'll experience less confusion among your customers.

TWO:  Brand Experience

Drop by any Apple store, Walmart or McDonald's location and the experience crossing the threshold will be the same no matter where in the world you'll come into contact with them. Even if you only have one location it's important that all employees understand the experience you want your customers to have once they contact your company - whether that's live, online or over a lan line. Customers have to become very familiar with  brand attitudes, policies and general expectations. I know when I step up the counter at any McDonald's, the wait staff are going to try and deliver my order as fast and efficiently as they can. All while having a great attitude regardless of how busy the restaurant is that day. 

You too can orchestrate a brand experience that customers grow to love and expect. It doesn't take buckets of cash, to make a customer feel like you care and repeat that over and over. Training staff is crucial to your brand experience.

THREE: Own Your Color

If I quote a popular marketing slogan - "What can brown do for you today?" who am I speaking of? Most people I ask this to state that's its owner is UPS. What's marvellous is that they know the identity of the firm by their colour - not their name. UPS owns the colour brown. You too can own your own colour if you choose it strategically instead of psychologically or by picking favourites. Research the colours used by competition in your category and choose colours that are not being used. I analyzed the tool and die industry in the industrial heartland and 74% of them used the colour blue. They were essentially following the leader. The rational being, "if they were successful using blue, then we should follow them." All it really does is put your brand in a sea of sameness. 

FOUR: Use An Icon

You've heard the old adage, "a picture is worth a thousand words." Well it's definitely the truth in branding. Icons are becoming so powerful, some brands are dropping their names in favor of their icons (or symbols). These companies include Apple, Target and Starbucks. Does your logo have a symbol or icon attached to it? maybe you should consider it? Some have fun with the technique by having their icon also become their mascot. Afflac's duck became so powerful they applied it to the logo. Coke's glass bottle shape was an icon so familiar, patrons could identify the product in the dark just by the feel of it in their hand. Harley uses a sound icon, which of course is the sound of their bike. Cinnabon uses smell as an icon. No matter which sensory button you'd like to push, icons scan be very powerful in representing your brand on many other levels.

FIVE: Brand Culture

Many of the Fortune 550's have a brand culture that encourages their employees to excel. From the top down a positive and inclusive attitude exists that encourages growth from within. Attitude is paramount. You too can have a winning corporate brand culture. Study how they work their human assets to benefit the whole. Attitude doesn't involve so much cash but rather a perspective and a willingness to adapt to changing circumstances. One advantage small companies have over Fortune 500's is that they are flatter, and therefore can turn on a dime to changing trends. Making stakeholders brand advocates puts everyone on the same team benefiting from a common culture.

That's about it. There is so much towards having a winning brand. These five examples are a good start to growing your brand. Implementing just one, will make a difference in your business.
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