Archive for the ‘unique value proposition’ 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.

 

 

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Why Look in the Rearview Mirror?

October 18, 2016

bluetooth_rear_view_mirror_hands_free_car_kit

 

 

 

 

What’s the point of looking back? 

As CEO, what can you learn from looking back?  For Marketing Matters (FMM) starts year 10 this week. Given that milestone, I have been reviewing the past 9 years to update the business plan to grow and move forward. Part of that work has been ‘eating my own dog food’: updating and revising FMM’s marketing messaging and positioning.  It is from this place that I have been looking in the rearview mirror.

4 Key Takeaways from Looking in the Rearview Mirror:

  1. What a long, strange trip it’s been:  Revisiting the past 9 years by reading business plans, positioning, and reviewing clients has been fun! The path has taken many turns – some planned and some not. People I have met over the years, distant clients that helped launch FMM, and networking organizations that I was involved with. While time flies by, this is the longest ‘job’ now on my resume – wow!  So while it has not felt long, it has been strange! Some strange people along the way, but that is part of any journey! And with the strange moments being a blur in the rear view mirror it is actually comical to recall…and worthy to recall and learn from.
  2. The Cobbler’s Kids…I am a classic example of the Cobblers Kids not having shoes. So my takeaway is to not be so consumed with work that you don’t MAKE time to work on your own business strategically.  We are our clients’ outsourced marketing department. We develop and revise marketing messaging, design and build websites and keep all marketing materials current. Yet we (FMM) have gone years (yikes!) without updating our own website and our own marketing materials. Key takeaway – make it happen before year-end. I am now on a mission as this is embarrassing.
  3. Go Back. It is not wasted time. It really is enlightening to go back and review the journey. Where have clients come from? What networking efforts are bearing fruit? Make the time to go back and review your journey with an open, inquisitive mind.  There are key nuggets to affirm, to remember and to bring with you as you go forward. And if you are a Kenny Chesney fan like I am, listen to his song I Go Back as you take a stroll down memory lane and take notes.
  4. Celebrate. Celebrate progress. Celebrate accomplishments and how far you have come.  Whatever your milestone, take a step back and acknowledge the progress and the hard work that has taken you this far. It is not easy. However many years you have been doing it, feel good about how far you have come. Reflect on what you have built. As business owners we push ourselves and we work hard. A key takeaway for me is to pause and feel good about where FMM is now and how it started. I encourage you to do the same.

Looking in the rearview mirror has helped create a renewed sense of focus and energy!  Now I look forward to the road ahead and the journey to partner with more savvy CEOs of small and medium-sized growth-focused businesses.  I hope you too find benefit in taking a look in the rearview mirror for insight to help you move forward. And another final takeaway I have come to learn…enjoy the ride.

 

What can your business learn from Rio?

August 4, 2016

RIO 2016 OlympicsI love the Olympics!  I clearly remember reading all there was to read in Sports Illustrated and in Newsweek when the mail would arrive! Yes, I am dating myself and my kids would be astonished to be reminded we did not have cell phones and internet to get live updates of athletes’ performances.  We sat in the ‘family room’ and watched TV as a family with no disturbances from everyone being on their own device.

With Opening Ceremonies tomorrow night, I can’t help but wonder what all of us can learn from all that is swirling around Rio 2016:  Zika, plumbing issues, contaminated water sources where athletes will be competing, corruption, a very pricey train that stops 8 miles short of Olympic Village…and the stories go on and on.  Perhaps there were such challenges in other Olympics as I was growing up, but this one in particular seems rampant with issues.  So what can we learn?

I would propose that Rio highlights the fundamental need for and importance of planning.  Both planning ahead and contingency planning.  Just like any major project in your company (or even a small project or initiative), one develops a plan. The plan includes critical milestones, dates that have to be met (e.g., opening ceremonies, arrival dates for athletes), resources (financial and human) that need to be available and trained to support the project.  Define the top-level goals of the initiative/project (insert the word Olympics) and then expand the plan by logical work streams (e.g., security, transportation, living quarters for athletes, venues, etc.)  Assign experienced owners to each work stream and develop formalized structures for meeting, coordinating, communicating etc.

Take security as one example.  Can anyone fathom leaving such a vital effort until Live Date minus ~45 days?  I was stunned to read the company hired to handle security (and now replaced) was only hired about a month ago!  They were supposed to hire about 3000 people and get them trained and they had achieved hiring about 500 and apparently the training was basically non-existent.  Yikes. So in addition to planning, once could also learn the importance of allocating the necessary time to properly train people on their roles; ensuring they have the tools and information they need to perform their roles.

When I meet with CEOs to discuss their marketing needs, I ask them if they plan. Do they have a strategic plan? Do they value a plan? Recently a prospective client stopped in his tracks as he paced the boardroom we were meeting in. “Why did you ask me that question?”, he asked me.  I smiled and explained that I ask it to evaluate the fit for us working together.  I value planning.  A key part of our value proposition is planning and accountability to delivering on the plan.  I have worked with clients who value the entrepreneurial spirit and insist that plans are not necessary; they insist they need to be nimble (inferring a plan is confining and restrictive) and they end up valuing activity over progress, ineffectively leading across the organization as there lacks alignment and focus. Plans bring people in an organization together. It provides focus and discipline and sets priorities.  He nodded and said – “Of course we plan. We have a business plan and I would see no other way to run our business”. Great – sounds like a good fit.

I would not go to this Olympics if someone offered me the experience for free. It is a shame that there appear to be so many aspects of the experience that present real risks and that for whatever reason have been poorly planned and/or executed.  As you watch the athletes compete, as you cheer on Team USA, reflect on the strength of your company’s plan.  When was the last time your business plan was reviewed? Do you have a marketing plan that aligns and supports the sales plan? What about training and employee development? For many companies the next quarter is the planning phase for 2017. Let’s hope and pray that all athletes and visitors to Rio 2016 are safe and sound. But for our businesses, remember that hope is not a strategy. Don’t leave your company’s future to chance.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Assess these 10 Things to Start 2016 Strong for your Business

January 4, 2016

2016-new-year-ss-1920-800x450The first full business week of 2016.  Time to clear out the holiday cobwebs and kick off 2016!  So what will the year bring for you and your business?

 

 

 

 

10 Things to Assess about Your Business to Start 2016 Strong:

  1. Your Customer/Client Base: are you in an acquisition mode, expansion mode or retention mode?
  2. Value proposition: the corner-stone of your company’s marketing foundation.  Is it solid? The 3 C’s of a solid value proposition:  is it clear, compelling and consistent? Do you need to revise/update/enhance for the new year to address competition or logical evolution of what you offer in terms of value?
  3. Target audience: compare your ideal target audience to your existing customer base. What did you learn in 2015 that affects your ideal target audience? How can you better appeal to your ideal target audience in 2016?
  4. Your dream list: is your dream list in good shape going into the new year? Do you have a workable list of clients, prospects and suspects? Do you have a scalable process to manage and update?
  5. Sales Tool Kit by sales stage: what elements in your sales tool kit need to be updated? What elements are used most effectively?  Where are the gaps that sales needs to more effectively move potential sales through the funnel?
  6. Client stories: what successes in 2015 have not been documented? How valuable could these stories be to support your goals in 2016?
  7. New employees: did you have new hires in 2015? Are you planning new hires in 2016? How are these employees being effectively on-boarded to know, understand and represent your brand? Who owns bringing these people onboard other than on the job training?
  8. What went well in 2015 that you need to ensure continues to go well in 2016?
  9. What did not go well in 2015 that you need to fix?
  10. Offerings/Products: any changes/updates to existing offerings? Any planned new offerings this year? What is the timeframe? What needs to be developed and prepared to effectively launch?

The start of a new year is a fresh start. We are bombarded with messages about making resolutions, planning for the new you. As you launch the first full week of the new year, make the time to take a step back, assess the above components that represent key elements of an effective marketing plan.  Use these 10 items to help you organize and prioritize a plan for 2016. Make this a great year for your business.  Make time for marketing. If it is part of your core expertise, leverage it. If it is not, don’t be a DIYer, secure the marketing talent you need to develop and execute a plan to get you to where you want to be in 2016.

Happy new year.  Go get ’em.

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+.

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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.