Archive for the ‘brand’ Category

Are you delivering the complete package?

December 15, 2016

Tis the season of packages..just ask UPS, the United States Postal Service and FedEx. If I could sing I would break into song:  “brown paper packages tied up with strings, these are a few of my favorite things.”

But what about packaging your product or service offering? Are you delivering the complete package?

Consider the following for your business:

  1. Do you deliver a physical product?
  2. Are you delivering a service?

Either way, you may be missing out on an opportunity to tie your product or service up in a bow – literally and figuratively.

Now is THE PERFECT time to take note of what retailers do so effectively with their packaging. Learn from their ideas to help your business improve the delivery of your product or service. There are many creative and cost-effective ways to deliver the complete package to your customers or clients.

Three examples:

  • Brooks running shoes: Fabulous packaging! Love how they leverage product ‘real estate’ including inside the shoe on the heel of each sneaker to convey their message (Carpe Diem, Run Happy messages in my pair). While every pair of sneakers comes in a box, Brooks has fully leveraged the entire box to build and reinforce their brand. A message in the interior of the top of the box, a run happy sticker on the corner, and the box itself has favorite running routes in Seattle that make up the design of the box cover.

 

Brooks has effectively converted their required packaging  for shoes (the good ol’ mundane shoe box) into an effective marketing element. They have put creative thinking into the shoe box to tell more of their story and to build their brand. Smart. Clever. Well-done!

  • Vineyard Vines: Two guys quit their corporate jobs to start this company in Martha’s Vineyard. You may or may not care about their story, but they effectively tell their story in their catalogs and in the interior flap of their shipping box: vv-1 Very smart to convert the shipping box into an opportunity to tell their story. They need to have a shipping box anyway so why not make it a vehicle to build the brand!

Below is one of Vineyard Vines’ gift boxes. The boxes are of high quality (they should be to support their brand) and the interior of their apparel boxes are brightly colored and convey their tagline: Every Day Should Feel This Good. Note the tissue paper and sticker. vv2The packing slip is accompanied with a larger signature whale sticker for the Thule or car.  Brilliant way to increase awareness of their brand.

So you may now be saying, geez, these examples are big-time retailers. She wants me to learn from them and their big marketing budgets? Humor me and keep reading. Packaging does not need to be extravagant.

  • Rose & Dove Specialty Gift Shop: a fabulous gift shop located in North Andover, MA. Kellee Twadelle, the proprietor, established her packaging signature style years ago and has stuck with it as it is efficient, highly recognizable, simple and festive. As shown below, the packaging is a branded brown paper bag in many different sizes – she leverages ribbons and tissue paper for the event, season or holiday (e.g., Mother’s Day) for a ready to give gift, eliminating the need to gift wrap at home for no additional cost. Below is an example of her signature packaging: rose-dove-1

Being a gift shop, some sort of packaging is expected. Rose & Dove delivers the complete package while managing packaging expenses.

What can you learn from these 3 examples to help you deliver the complete package in 2017? As you scramble to buy and wrap gifts, take note. B to B can learn from what B to C companies are doing when it comes to packaging!  Take note as the UPS or FedEx delivery person comes!  Think about how and where you can improve your packaging of your product or service.

As you work on your 2017 marketing plan ( you are working on it, right?) think about opportunities to incorporate your messaging into your packaging including the following:

  • Does your packaging have space that could include key aspects of your brand’s message? Look at the exterior and interior packaging – are there blank/unused areas?
  • Could a simple sticker with a message help? (See above and the Run Happy message on the Brooks shoe box)
  • What accompanies your product or service that could be better branded? Think packing slips, installation instructions and invoices. Does the wording and visuals really represent your company’s values and beliefs?

As you wrap up the year and plan for 2017, shift your mindset. To deliver the complete package to your customers, stop thinking of packaging as an expense; view packaging as an integral part of your marketing investment to build your brand and separate you from your competition.

 

 

Building Your Marketing Department – 3 Options CEOs Should Evaluate

November 1, 2016

It’s time. You know it. Your trusted advisors know it.

You need to fill that important gaping marketing hole in your organization. You have reached that point.

But now what?  Create a job description and start a search?  What is the job description? What skill sets do you need?

When you hit this important juncture, you need to take a step back and think through what is best for your business. Just like any decision, you need to know your options and evaluate each one.

CEO and 3 Options to evaluate

3 options you should evaluate:

OPTION 1 – HIRING: If you decide to make your first marketing hire for your growing small to mid-sized business, who do you hire? What skills do you really need? The likely answer is that you need a broad range of skills.  It’s also unlikely that you’ll find all of those capabilities in just one person. I have seen marketing job descriptions that are so unrealistic it is comical.

There are two likely outcomes from pursuing the hiring option:

  1. You Over Hire – You hire a senior person, add a 6 figure salary to your payroll, add the benefits burden including skyrocketing health care and office space and the reality is, you still have not solved your core challenge. You still have a gap in marketing skills as you will need additional expertise so this senior hire can get the marketing job done. This person will need the arms and legs to get the marketing program off the ground, and will no doubt request hiring multiple agencies (e.g., PR, advertising, digital marketing). This will bump up your marketing investment dramatically. You will be seeing dollar signs.
  2. You Under Hire – You avoid the big hit to your payroll and overhead, but boy do you pay for the management and supervisory burden of hiring a junior person. You now have a young, inexperienced employee demanding your time and direction. While eager, they don’t know anything about your industry, your business model, and they have little to no real marketing expertise. You have a tactical marketing person who lacks the experience and skills to strategically plan for and implement a marketing plan. You have hired an extra set of hands. The reality is this person can become more of a burden than a solution. At the end of the day, this hire may be too inexperienced to even serve as the marketing point person that could guide and manage agencies. You likely don’t have the marketing background to provide ongoing direction so you start to question if you were better off to have not hired at all.

Assuming you are convinced now to NOT HIRE, what other options do you consider?

OPTION 2 – Agencies.  You investigate the agency route. Hire an agency and let that firm be your marketing department. This option comes down to a similar basic question: what expertise do you need? Keep in mind most marketing agencies are specialists, they are niche players offering expertise in an area (or areas) of the marketing spectrum (e.g., PR, advertising, digital advertising, branding).  The problem with this approach is that most firms don’t operate as a fully functioning, integrated marketing department, as most represent parts of the marketing pie vs. the whole. To be effective, these agencies will require that someone in the company (by default – you) be their primary point of client contact, to provide ongoing strategic and tactical direction, and offer input and approve all materials. In other words, a degree of the burden, integration and coordination across various aspects of the marketing plan have to be owned by someone. (Assuming there is one marketing plan at all, as each agency will have their own view of what is most important) In addition to the coordination and integration challenges, another important consideration of this option is cost. Hiring an agency (for a spot/niche solution) or multiple agencies is costly and if you’re budget is too small (from their perspective), you may end up with junior people working on your account.

OPTION 3 – Outsource your marketing department. You decide not to hire to avoid rising health care costs and the administrative burdens outlined in Option 1. You avoid managing junior people and trying to manage multiple agencies that don’t work together and are not cost-effective. You evaluate the 3rd option: securing a proven marketing firm that functions as your marketing department – an outsourced version – that offers all of the disciplines on the marketing spectrum. Unlike the other two options, you secure one senior point of accountability who is part of your management team and manages the rest of the team. Unlike the other options, the burden of managing multiple agencies, integration and orchestration concerns are eliminated.  You don’t have to wonder if the sales tool kit messaging is aligned with the company positioning language in the press release or the messages just developed for your social media outreach.  It’s one integrated team. This option is not about cobbling together independent marketers and calling it a marketing department. What it is about is having a full-service marketing team all wearing the same team colors who are dedicated to your company’s success – and on the same page every step of the way. With one hire, you get a full service marketing department with specialists brought in when and as needed. Your level of investment? That should be based on goals, timeframe (how quickly you want to move) and what you can afford to invest to fuel your growth. The model should scale with you as your business scales. You get flexibility,  proven expertise and one point of accountability for a fraction of what it would take in terms of time and energy for you to build this talent pool, that you don’t need full-time. ROI is higher than both Options 1 and Option 2. There are not many firms that offer this model and do it well which is why Option 1 and Option 2 are more common.

For one client of For Marketing Matters, 166 hours were dedicated to managing and executing the marketing plan this past September. While that may sound like a lot, it is actually equal to ONE FTE for the month. That particular client benefitted from 9 FMM team members working on various elements of the marketing plan ranging from senior marketing talent with 30+ years of industry and marketing expertise to junior marketing coordinators. The skill set spanned 9 team members who brought their respective talents to the mix, ranging from strategy and messaging to PR to social media, SEO, web content development, email marketing, and graphic design.

Before you think about hiring to secure marketing expertise for your company, evaluate all your options. Other savvy CEOs of small to mid-sized businesses who are ready to invest in smart growth are going with Option 3 and finding an efficient and highly effective solution that delivers the ROI they seek from their marketing investment. For more on how FMM operates as a highly effective outsourced marketing department,  contact Mary at mhonan@formarketingmatters.com.

 

Beware of Loose Ends – they can unravel a brand

September 28, 2016

Loose ends – some are so important that ignoring them could ruin the fabric of your company – really.

dreamstime_xs_21493776-yarn-unravelling

There are endless ways a loose end can present itself in your business. The key is to not discount it as minor before you really know.

Most loose ends come from failing to completely close the loop in the first place. Ask yourself, how well is your team doing in closing loops?

Expectations of a close loop:

  • Closing a loop in business is like closing the door at home.
  • Did your mom ever say to you – “did you grow up in a barn?”  when you ran out and left the door ajar vs. closing it completely as they had asked?  Mine did. My point being, to completely close a loop in your business, you need to tie off the two loose ends for a tight knot.  Just like closing the door – close it to hear it click – not ajar – Shut.  Closed. Tight.
  • If the knot is not made, the loop is not closed. The analogy is that your customers are literally falling out of that opening and likely will NEVER return to your business. The loose ends are causing problems and you need to make sure you have the people and processes in place to identify the loose ends and get them tight in a knot that stays tight.

Let’s take a common situation that may occur in your business.  A customer complaint is received. How would your company handle a similar situation to one a client experienced this past week?

  • Scenario:  Customer complaint is submitted via unique email address that we (marketing) monitor regularly. We forward the email to the appropriate senior manager for him to review, investigate and address. Senior manager email response comes back to marketing and the CEO indicating no record found of what customer is complaining about.  Period. End of communication.

Is that really the end to the scenario? Is the loop closed or open?  The loose ends are not closed and if no further action is taken, this simple example has a high likelihood of becoming a significant issue.

If we (marketing) did not step in from there and take the ball, there would have been no proactive ownership taken to address the obvious loose end here…communicating back to the customer.  The loop was not closed at all. In fact the customer complaint from a very loyal customer was going to become more of an issue if we left the loop open and let the loose end dangle.

Let’s fast forward a few days or weeks to IF the above was literally the end:  Over time, the unhappy customer realizes his complaint is being ignored (from their perspective). It is likely and in today’s world, quitre reasonable, to expect the customer would be frustrated and sign on to Facebook, Yelp, Google+ and potentially other sites to share his story and frustration. Dozens, hundreds, perhaps thousands of consumers see the complaint and now have a negative view of the brand. The brand is damaged and whatever brilliant marketing we execute reaching these folks, the damage has been done.

The Actual Scenario to Close the Loop:

The actual scenario ended as follows:  Marketing saw the senior manager’s response of having no record of the issue. Marketing wrote a response to the customer that same day to apologize, empathize and share action that had been taken (by marketing and the CEO) to ensure the issue was addressed AND also investigated other potential root causes that could have caused the scenario to happen. Later that same evening, the customer replied to my email and thanked me for the attention and response.

Without closing the loop completely, loose ends appear. Initial little threads get pulled and grow to bigger issues. Before you know it you have a ball of thread that is one big mess.  Think of that as your brand.

6 Tips to Avoid Your Brand Unraveling Due to Loose Ends:

  1. Follow up. Don’t assume the loop was closed. If you have any doubts across your company, get the right manager on it or check on how it was solved.  For many of our clients, we (marketing) assume ownership, take the lead and follow up with others to ensure the loop was closed especially when it comes to customers. We (marketing) tie off the loose ends into one tight knot.
  2. Don’t assume. Don’t assume the scenario was an anomaly.  Confirm it was one. You will sleep better at night.
  3. Get to the root cause. Don’t accept on-the-surface answers in your business. (e.g., no record found; I don’t know; not my job; I think that so and so handled it).  It may take time and resources. Are you sending signals to quickly move onto the next fire or put this one out first?
  4. Be a detective – Ask questions, encourage your team to ask questions.  When mysteries aren’t solved, they will likely appear in some other, but similar form.
  5. Look for patterns. (pun intended given the thread/fabric analogies woven throughout this blog). Are you seeing a pattern that hints there is a bigger issue? A great way to identify patterns is to keep track of issues/situations and talk about them with your team. Patterns will emerge. If you are constantly playing whack-a-mole in your business, there are likely issues that need to be solved at the root cause.
  6. Hire people who are committed to customer service. A longer term solution (granted) but it starts with a mentality.  Do you surround yourself with people committed to solving problems and doing the right thing?  One suggestion to help you hire people with the right mindset:  during the interview process provide the candidate with a written scenario that reflects a tough, unhappy customer situation that could (or did) happen in your business.  Have the candidate describe how they would address the situation.  Listen carefully for word choice and tone. Ask yourself, are they empathetic, caring, and professional? Or do they use a tone and words that raise concerns? This can be an effective way to identify the appropriate mindset to serving customers as well as indications of if they are problem solvers by indicating how they investigate the root cause.

If we had viewed our role only as get the customer complaint to the proper manager to handle, the above scenario had the potential to be a MAJOR issue for the brand. There would be NO customer follow up, no acknowledgement of his issue.  In this scenario closing the loop completely required two levels of closure:

  1. Internally.  Investigating the cause and solving the problem at the root cause. Two internal systems were checked with no record of the complaint; 1 important external system was not checked. The initial manager response was incomplete. More digging was needed.
  2. From the customer perspective. Letting them know their complaint was heard, addressed and apologizing for the inconvenience.

Doing one without the other leaves a loose end somewhere. Some loose ends are harmless.  Others have the potential to do big harm and unwind all the good will, charity, and brand building that you have done for years.

Be on the lookout for loose ends in your business and tie them together to achieve a tight closed loop.

 

Choose your words carefully

May 27, 2016

chess move strategy

One of my favorite parts of marketing is developing the brand through the careful selection of words.  I am a nerd. I readily admit that and am totally comfortable with that label.

This past month has been great spending strategic time on words. We made considerable progress for one of our clients in further development of the company’s messaging, positioning and terminology. In the past month we announced a new product and all the various efforts of preparing for that launch led to pages of notes, questions, and points of clarification. Additionally, and true for any small, rapidly growing company, the message naturally evolves over time. Two of us on the For Marketing Matters team led the charge to document standards to solidify and clarify positioning, messaging and word choice. Over the course of two meetings with the CEO we honed in on specific word selection to discuss, confirm and document standards including examples and explanations for the word selection. This document is a tremendous resource for our marketing team, but also for the company as a whole. The sessions with the CEO resulted in further clarity and alignment to the point the CEO requested the asset be included in the board package for this week’s meeting.

Why words matter (and how you could benefit from this same effort):

  1. Alignment.  How aligned is your team? For this client, the management team is geographically dispersed across the globe working at a rapid pace. This poses a real challenge for broader, strategic discussions to occur across the management team on a regular basis. We literally kept a running list of inconsistencies and questions to bring the challenge to light while developing press releases, sales tool kit materials, web content, technical specifications and sales presentations. As engineering was finalizing the product, operations was selecting final exterior finishes and sales was building the pipeline and the risks of mixed messages was high. Everyone had the right intent, but it felt like herding cats.
  2. Ownership. Words should not be casually selected with little to no grasp of the implication it can have. Example.  I was on a call reviewing a PowerPoint presentation and an idea was casually raised wondering if we should edit a bullet n the PowerPoint to describe the product as a “smart device”. I literally almost dropped the phone. Huh? This is not a casual edit to then move onto the next bullet. This type of descriptor needs to be thought through in terms of the implications to the product positioning and to the market and target buyers. If you are a CEO, ownership of messaging and the resulting choice of words needs to be made clear – this is not to be casually edited by anyone in the organization to decide they want to jump on the bandwagon of ‘smart devices’ or ‘Made in the USA’.
  3. Clarity. Literally don’t leave it up to chance. Don’t assume other employees are on the same page. Get it in writing and then distribute it – especially valuable if key personnel are geographically dispersed and don’t have the benefit of being in the same office, picking up important tidbits throughout the day.
  4. Scale. Just like the old telephone game played at many a sleepover as a kid, the message gets distorted with every person added to the chain. If scaling your organization is a priority to achieve your growth goals, don’t ignore the critical role that words have in enabling your company to scale. Capture the words you want employees to use; capture the words you want customers/clients/prospects to hear and understand. Use this asset as part of your on boarding plan.

focus definition in dictionary

 

Some tips to help you build, expand and manage this asset:

Ground rules:

First, it is important to recognize and embrace that this asset is never done.  It is a working document and marketing should own it. If you don’t have senior marketing expertise on your team, you need to. They don’t need to be fulltime, but you still need the expertise.

Second, this is not distributed for review and comment!  The danger of everyone in the company feeling they have a voice in weighing in on word choice is not realistic nor recommended. Marketing owns messaging. Marketing is not part of everyone’s job description. Working closely with the CEO is critical, but the reality is that others in the organization are most likely not well-suited for the nuances of word choice and let’s face it we all have our view of the world (remember those old posters where Boston would dominate the Globe, or New York etc.?)

What to include in establishing messaging, positioning and terminology standards:

Messaging – should include company-level and product level. Include the elevator pitch.

Terminology – document the terminology that is critical to your value proposition. Use examples of how the terms are to be used and what terms should never be used.  Example – for this client, the product is NEVER referenced as a ‘device’.  If this makes your head hurt, secure the right expertise to facilitate this investment – it will deliver a ROI if implemented correctly across the organization. No doubt.

Trademarks and registered trademarks – from a branding perspective, develop standards of how TM and R will be used. Again, consistency and clarity builds the brand. Don’t leave this to others in the organization to know how to handle. Document it and distribute across the organization.

Let’s face it most small, entrepreneurial companies don’t have a lot of overhead. They are nimble organizations. Many have not secured an outsourced marketing department like For Marketing Matters to develop and manage such assets to enable scaling of the brand and the organization. The reality is we can’t review every manual, document, proposal, client report that goes out the door for this client. We can build standards and manage the brand as part of the team and ultimately serve as the internal police to protect the brand.

So what words matter for your company?

As CEO, do you cringe when a team member uses a certain word that you never want used? Do you have a visceral reaction when a client is referred to as a customer or serving a customer is described as ‘dealing with the customer’? If your word choice is not clear internally, how can you possibly be well-understood by the market?

Watch this great Inc. video of how Dermalogica focused on words to build their brand.

The nerd in me celebrates the progress made in establishing standards in terminology this past month.  It feels great and paves the way for scale, efficiency, clarity and consistency.  The ROI is unquestionable.

 

 

 

CEOs: 4 things you can learn from Twitter

January 29, 2016

checklistAs a CEO/President of a small to medium-sized business, learning from Twitter may be way down your list of ways to manage and improve your business.  But, take note as there are several key take-aways from their actions this week.  In case you missed it, Twitter was prominent in the news with four top executives leaving the company and as covered by many publications including, The Wall Street Journal article,  it was announced by Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey that he hired its first CMO (Chief Marketing Officer).

So what can you learn from Twitter?

  1. Don’t wait for a ‘growth rut’ as Twitter did before securing the marketing talent and leadership needed to fuel your business.
  2. Make sure marketing has a seat at your leadership table. This is Twitter’s first Chief Marketing Officer! Until now, senior marketers at Twitter as described in the WSJ article, bounced around like a ping-pong ball reporting through various other departments including Finance (yikes).   The new CMO of Twitter, Leslie Berland, formerly with American Express, reports directly to the CEO.  As she should.
  3. Marketing is a critical function for any business. It is not a function that you only need when you are a certain size. It is not something you can assign (like a task or project) to another person and hope they can acquire the expertise and skill.  It never ceases to amaze me how many businesses punt when it comes to marketing. Reminds me of the recent Allstate Mayhem DIY ads.  If awareness, credibility, and lead generation are part of your goals, you need marketing expertise.  You may not need a CMO, but you need marketing expertise. Your company may not need a full-time team or even a full-time hire. Rent expertise via an agency model or maybe a combination of both makes sense. Twitter realized they needed senior leadership in the marketing function. Evaluate what you need and make the right investment in talent to reach your goals.
  4. Take action. Stop thinking about it. Put a plan in place and act. Twitter has many holes in its organization right now, but they filled a key one. 11 months left in 2016. What are you waiting for?

You may not have any time in your busy day for Twitter as a CEO of a small to mid-sized company. Can’t imagine how Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey manages his day given he also is CEO of Square.

The Role of a Printer in Maintaining Brand Identity

October 16, 2015

I often refer to myself as the Brand Police. As the marketing team for our clients, we build brand identity and consistently work to maintain a clear and strong brand identity. Personally, my role includes defining brand standards and enforcing the standards; revising client-created materials to ensure the logo, fonts, colors, messaging are all correct and on-brand. I also eat my own dog food when it comes to building and maintaining the brand of For Marketing Matters (FMM).  Although, at times it is more akin to the cobbler’s kids not having shoes! The harsh reality is clients’ needs come first, always.

HP 8610 printer

The role of the printer in maintaining the FMM brand:

One point of differentiation from our competitors is our commitment to accountability and measurable impact.  An advisor of a FMM client  once commented that FMM was more accountable than other members of the management team who are employees. One way we consistently demonstrate our accountability and results-orientation to our clients is in weekly meetings reviewing goals, metrics and activities, all part of an integrated, phased marketing plan. These reports are clearly branded as FMM documents with statuses of Done, In Progress or Not Started  color coded in the FMM colors of blue, green and white. Except recently the printed reports appeared to be more appropriate for a baby store with pale blue and pink tones. Uggh. I triple checked ink levels, performed the printer diagnostics and resigned myself to the fact that the trusty HP printer was on its last leg.  Add that to the ‘to do’ list.

Honestly, I dreaded buying a new printer.  I hoped to choose the best printer for our needs, then get it set up, with a goal of not losing more than  2-3 hours of productivity to get back to decent quality client reports. A cynical view perhaps, but that was my outlook. I bit the bullet on Monday and headed to Staples. Brand loyalty helped me narrow the field quickly by only looking at the HP All in One Printers and advice from our IT support company helped me focus on two models. My decision was made easier when a gentleman came by to check the ink required for the printer I was leaning towards getting. I asked him about it. He shared he had three in his office and they worked great. He highly recommended it and I was sold. With $100 savings, I headed to the check out line while still dreading the set up and expecting the rest of my Columbus Day to be spent getting the darn thing operational.

Thank you HP. The set up was very easy complete with easy prompts and clear, useful written instructions (a surprise) and the wireless printer was set up, connected to the network and working, printing reports in the FMM blue and green in no time! I was very proud of myself, thrilled to be back on brand and very satisfied to have purchased another HP printer.  As a client commented to me when I shared my experience, no one gets fired for buying an HP printer! Our clients are happy to have properly branded, easy to read FMM reports again, no longer having to figure out what pale pink represents!  Looking for a solid all in one printer? My vote is the HP Officejet Pro 8610. For Marketing Matters is back on brand and that feels good.

Point of Differentiation: NOT Being Politically Correct

August 18, 2015

If you are competing in a crowded market space, it is essential to clearly differentiate your product. This is especially true if you are entering into a category that is already dominated by a few brands (e.g., Coke or Pepsi) or has a wide variety of options to choose from (e.g., the cracker aisle). The same marketing foundational elements apply to the Presidential race:  build and maintain a unique value proposition that is your cornerstone; define your ideal target audience, have a clear vision and mission to keep you focused, and build a strong brand for starters.

So how is the Trump campaign doing building its marketing foundation?

Value Proposition:  His unique offering centers on NOT being politically correct. He offers proven success in business and trade, decisiveness, leadership, decision-making, action and change. There is no other candidate that has his same offering positioning.  Grade – A. 

Target Audience: He is appealing to those who are sick of the Washington insiders; who want America to lead from the front again, who want to protect the border, and targets his message to veterans. I think the jury is out as to if he will continue to appeal to women in the coming months after his Megyn Kelly comments. And then there is his recent silly comment about Heidi Klum. (Great response Heidi) Personally I feel he will continue to lose the female vote. Grade – A. He is winning big so his message is resonating with a large group, but stayed tuned.

Tagline:  Make American Great Again. Excellent.  On message; resonating with his audience, memorable and relevant.  Grade – A+.

donald%20trump%20make%20america%20great

 

Brand:  Patriotic colors – check! Clear branding – check! Words that are commonly associated with him: abrasive, brash, rich, arrogant, NOT politically correct, smart, savvy, egotistical. Not all positive, but this is his brand. He is not in this race to be liked. He has built incredible brand awareness. He is constantly in the news.  Name recognition is sky rocketing. He is bigger than life and has nothing to lose. He is funding his own campaign.  He is unlike any other candidate and sets himself clearly from the Republicans despite the crowded field. Grade – A  with reservations.

A few concerns about Trump’s marketing foundation and whether it will hold up:

  1. The rude factor.  Not being politically correct is one thing, but going too far is rude and offensive.  I think the rude factor is a real risk that could weaken the foundation. We saw glimpses of it with his Rosie O’Donnell quip; his whining that Megyn Kelly’s line of questioning about women was unfair and then making totally inappropriate comments about her being emotional and hormonal.
  2. Being a Bully is not presidential. Trump has real value to offer the American people.  Can he focus on his value proposition without being a bully? Can he refrain from attacking when feeling attacked and take the high road? I see this as a real risk that could undermine his clear value proposition, tarnish his brand and lessen his appeal to his target audience. It seems like it is in his DNA to strike back when feeling cornered.  Not a highly desirable presidential trait.
  3. Does his brand include building a team or being another egotistical president?  We lack a team player now. Our current president is divisive and largely focused on building his own legacy. Can The Donald build a team environment in Washington or will there not be enough room for his ego?

Time will tell if the Trump marketing foundation will continue to solidity or implode with a rant of political incorrectness and insults. Whatever happens, he has clearly built his unique positioning and the coming months will not be dull! Whether you like him or detest him, he is unique and we can all learn some pointers to apply to your company’s marketing foundation to differentiate yourself when competing in a crowded space.

 

 

Hey Mother Nature – take this!

March 8, 2015

Mother Nature made her impact.  This is a winter many of us won’t soon forget:  record-breaking cold; record-breaking snow; roof collapses; the MBTA and commuter rail service in Boston struggling to operate. Roads in Southie changed to one-way streets due to the massive snow piles limiting the space for two cars to pass. Let’s face it, Mother Nature has been on a rampage.

Mother Nature making an impactThis winter has had a broad effect on the economy.  Your business may be down because of Mother Nature.  Auto sales were way off in February.  Restaurants have been hit hard due to so many weekend storms and cancelled reservations.  I met with an insurance sales guy last week and he indicated business was down due to so many snow days that made booking and keeping appointments a challenge.

So what do you do as a business owner?

 

How can your business fight back?

Focus.  Plan.  Execute.

The recommendation is not new.  It’s very simple.  Simple to state, but not easy to do.

When we get beat up and business may be down, it may be tempting to get distracted with any new shiny object and get off track.  Don’t!  The key is to get back to basics.  Focus on what’s most important for your business and put together a phased, logical plan and then execute.  This is what any good marketing department or marketing agency should be doing for you.  But, if you are not investing regularly in marketing and instead treating it as a project, that is where you need to make a change.  You are wasting time and money with limited impact.

What should impact look like?

Monthly measurable results.  Just like we measure wind chill and snowfall amounts, measure the impact of your marketing efforts.  If you are not getting detailed, metric-laden marketing reports, you need to evaluate the value you are getting.

Some examples of the impact reported to For Marketing Matters clients in their February Impact reports (return on marketing investment):

Brand:

– New logo with tagline completed for a client; branding standards established; email signatures created for all employees

– New designs and messaging materials developed

Awareness:

– Online reputation management; response to positive and negative postings

– Social media posts, growth, reach

– # blogs written and exposure/reach achieved via these posts

Credibility:

– Customer success stories written and communicated to prospects/clients

– Speaking opportunities secured; award submissions

– # press releases distributed and coverage secured

Leads:

– Total Leads and leads by lead source as compared to target leads needed (client has monthly leads exceeding target so leads are not an issue; converting leads is the issue); # web leads including if prospect has budget approved with majority of leads having urgency of less than 30 days to act. (does your sales team get leads that give you this level of information?)

– New sales tool kit materials completed and available for sales team to use (including this month internal FAQs to help sales consistently and completely respond to questions; two new sets of PowerPoint slides addressing industry standard and opportunity for prospect to earn LEED credits)

– Ideal Target Profiles completed and distributed to sales to enhance targeting and shorten sales cycle

– Detailed website analysis; new web content developed and stats including SEO results and ratings

– Detailed email marketing results with lead reports for sales to act on

 

The above is an overview of the type of impact that we make in a month.  Impact is client-specific, but normally falls into the above categories.    Whatever your priorities, your marketing department or agency should be managing, measuring and reviewing IMPACT with you monthly.  Not activity, but impact. It is important to make that distinction so you as CEO are not wow’d by  activity.  To quote, Joe Friday from Dragnet, “Just the facts ma’am. Just the facts.”

Marketing is an investment and like any investment you should expect a return. If you are looking to fight back and make an impact, start with assess what marketing is doing for you. If your business priorities involve increasing awareness, gaining credibility and building leads then the marketing function plays a critical role. If you are not seeing the monthly impact from your current marketing investment, take a good hard look at what you are doing and who is doing the work.

Don’t let Mother Nature be the only one making measurable impact.

 

Is your business sending mixed signals?

February 4, 2015

How could a sweater be backordered til end of February and ship the same day?

Is your business sending mixed signals? 

mixed signalsPost Christmas we had some returns to take care of.  Turns out that a catalog company that up until now, I have really liked has a silly policy of “free shipping” BUT deducts a flat rate of $6 for any returns.  Really?  Seems like a stupid policy to me and plants the seed that makes me think twice about ordering from them in the future. But I could get beyond that silly policy, but there is more.

We ship two items back – one item a return and another an exchange for a different size.  In the same day, I receive a voice mail form the company  explaining (poorly) that the exchanged item referenced by all their internal-only codes (blah blah blah) is backordered and will ship at the end of February.  No indication if I need to call and confirm that I still want the order.  Strange message and really lousy use of internal gibberish that a customer does not care about.  Fast forward, 3 hours from the voice mail message.  Email received.  The SAME exchanged item that was backordered 3 hours ago has shipped via UPS and the tracking number is provided.  HUH?  What the heck is going on and who the heck is in charge?  Mixed signals.

Carbon2Cobalt has nice, unique items.  The items are not inexpensive and as far as I know, the only option I have to purchase such items is via mail order. Their brand image has taken a hit.  They have been knocked down many pegs in my book.  First detail happened before Christmas!  I had to return a gift purchased for my nephew PRIOR to Christmas as when the item arrived it had unique top stitching that my teenage son did not like and told me his cousin would not like either!  Note to the reader – the stitching was not visible in the images online and there was no mention of this detail that was prominent on the real item. Details matter.)  Second, the sweater being exchanged would not have had to be exchanged if their website included such notes as this style runs large – suggest you order down one size.

This is not a blog to trash Carbon2Cobalt.  It is a heads up to ask yourself – are your signals clear?  Are you sending mixed messages?

Whatever your business (retail or not), I suggest the following 10 steps to protect your brand and your business from taking the significant hit that Carbon2Cobalt has taken based on my experiences over the past month. This story does NOT just relate to retailers.  Do you Mr./Mrs. CEO know what it is like to be your own customer or client?  Is it painful to receive inaccurate and conflicting information?  Do you consistently come across to your customers as though you have no clue what is happening and who is in charge?

Recommended action items to see how clear your signals are:

1. Review your return policies

2.Return your phone scripts.

3. Listen to your on-hold messages.

4. Review and audit product and service descriptions. (e.g., sweater runs large; note top stitching around zipper in bright contrasting color)

5. Review patterns of returned products or customer feedback indicating product/service did not meet expectations.

6. Lose the jargon.  Get rid of codes and acronyms in your customer communications that mean nothing to the customer! Don’t talk about stock numbers – in this case describe the sweater! It is that simple.

7. Document and prioritize your customer moments of truth.

8. Measure and manage to these moments of truth.

9. Train new employees on your brand; your tone; your core values.

10. Repeat items above and never assume they are working correctly.

I am not saying these things are easy.  However, they are basic.  Get the basics right before you are focusing too much time and energy on the ‘nice to have’ items.  Get down to basics.

Carbon2Cobalt you have some work to do to earn back a loyal customer. I am now skeptical and honestly curious what will be coming in the mail.  Any bets on if the correct item in the correct size will ship anytime soon?