Ethics play a major role in business today and can impact everything from brand reputation to employee relations and overall profitability. The relationship between the disciplines of marketing/communications and ethics is one that is often overlooked, but your best marketing professionals can help you in both arenas. (more…)
I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For: Why Your Cleverness Will Undermine Your Marketing Strategy
U2 stated the problem but never really offered us a solution. Your potential customers may be climbing the highest mountains and scaling city walls looking for you. But if in the spirit of creativity or so-called “trends” you’ve obscured your brand in such a way that you’ll never be found in searches on Google, Yahoo or Bing, you’ve created a problem that needs to be fixed.
While involved in a recent networking conversation, a question was posed about whether a personal coach should continue to use “coach” in her title or should she get with the times and adopt the language of “consultant.” The answer to the question is ultimately another question: what are potential customers searching for?
It’s true that titles and terms get overused or stigmatized. In the world of “coaching” there is concern it is being overrun with unskilled and untrained people lacking certifications and tarnishing the reputation of the industry. Here’s a newsflash for you coaches, this is true in every industry – but changing your name from “coach” to “consultant” may just create confusion.
If at some point all restaurant chefs wanted to change their title from “chef” to “meal constructor” and began promoting their services with this new title because a chef somewhere brought shame on the entire industry due to some rookie mistakes, potential employers would be very confused. They aren’t searching Indeed or LinkedIn for “meal constructors.” Restaurants look for chefs.
People who look for coaches are familiar with the word coach – don’t miss the opportunity to expand your business by obscuring yourself among your competition. But don’t take my word for it. Do the research and see what your most successful competition is up to. Where are they located? How much business are they known to be generating? Are they a coach or a consultant? Whatever you’re doing to promote your brand, unless you have unlimited financial resources, breaking new ground by repositioning the entire industry within a new framework because of a trend you heard about is not what’s going to lead you down a path of success. You need to market yourself so that when potential clients are visiting Google, Yahoo and Bing, they can find exactly what they are looking for and you are included in those search results.
I’ve always been in marketing. I haven’t always been a marketer. My career began while I was in the midst of raising a family, but my work in marketing began much earlier than that. Marketing is the practice of selling ideas and one aspect of what it truly means to be human and to live in community.
My professional career in marketing began to take shape as an academic writer during and after graduate school. I understood the importance of “selling” ideas on paper because I was just wired that way. For many years, even prior to entering the academic environment, I had been drawn to philosophical debate – the marketplace of ideas was definitely where I felt most at home.
While completing my masters program in ethics, I began to work the area of non-profit leadership and communications. Almost immediately, I was propelled into some stories of national relevance and quickly learned how to get my message to the media the way it needed to be delivered for the sake of a cause. During this time, the academic enterprise proved it was all about the selling of ideas in ways not dissimilar from any other marketing endeavor like selling books, shoes or cell phones. The products I sold were of the intellectual flavor, but products nonetheless.
I entered the world of marketing because while at work to persuade others about ideas that I was passionate about, I found myself drawn to understand and implement more formal marketing strategies. The educator in me wanted to help others understand it, too. Having a concise message formulated and deliverable to a target audience was my job for many years in roles that were not formally marketing roles, yet roles that necessitated I perform successful marketing functions. As soon as it became clear to me that marketing was fun and I was good at it, my focus shifted and I discovered my new passion – to help others clearly articulate their message and effectively share their stories to their audience.
As people who live in a world shared with others, effective communications is integral to the quality of life in our shared communities. As purveyors of ideas, our best days are those when we respect each other with messages and stories that are, at their root, concerned with the well-being of others. People are smart, not easily duped into believing the newest fad concept delivered by the latest and greatest marketing ploy. So we should be transparent about the products, ideas and services we’re trying to persuade others to buy because people remember when they have been taken. The most creative and successful marketing tactics will include the most honest stories we can tell.
I want the work I do to mean something to someone somewhere. Projects I work on will not have relevance to everyone. For the people my work is intended to reach, I want to make a difference. My role as a marketing professional is to help my clients develop and disseminate their message to their target audience in a way that’s compelling and reflective of the passion poured into their work each day. I am a marketer offering creative solutions to tell the story that most effectively promotes your product, service or cause.
Probably the best marketing device at your disposal is the ability to create an amazing experience for your customers. When they leave your business establishment, what they are motivated to speak about—positive or negative—has great power to influence. Word of mouth is a form of influencer marketing and is growing exponentially in the virtual world. But the product promos by reality stars and sports figures on Instagram don’t carry the weight of the customer who just left your store with the memorable experience they will share with their friends and family—online and off. Let’s give your customers something to talk about:
One chance to make a first impression. The old adage is true, and if you fail to make a positive, memorable connection you may never have the chance again to convert them from browser to buyer. The days of “how may I help you” need to be replaced with “welcome” and an attitude of “how can I make this a great experience”…and then actually creating an experience that they will want to repeat over and over again. They may have walked in to simply find something they need, but make sure they get what they want, too.
Value. It goes without saying, if your product or service isn’t worth what the customer paid for it, whether an issue of quality or price, they will share their product experience with others. Customers want to feel as if they got a great deal for a great product, which is why businesses like Kohls are so successful with their discount programs. Kohls has figured out how to make the customer feel taken care of in an area of high priority—the wallet—and they know their customers talk about it to their friends and family. Those last few minutes in Kohls is what causes them to return again—when they receive their Kohl’s Cash and receipt showing how much they saved which makes them feel happy. Make your customers feel happy by creating a sense of value in your product or service.
Authentic & Respectful. People have come to accept all the buzz words and jargon when they enter a business establishment. But when a server effectively communicates that they care that you enjoy your drink, or the cycle shop talks through your uses of a new bike and doesn’t try to close the deal on the most expensive bike in the shop, you feel respected and taken care of. As a business owner, you’ve been in the shoes of your customer too, so don’t try to sell them a product or story that you wouldn’t buy yourself.
The experience people are looking for when shopping online is both the quality of the product and the convenience of shopping. In your local business, people are wanting more. Enjoy having the opportunity for the face-to-face exchange and make the most of their experience. They will tell others about it and so will you. Give people something to talk about that is beneficial to you and continue to find ways to create a memorable experience for your customers every time they visit.
Whether a business or a non-profit entity, a sole-proprietorship or a large corporation, your brand is at the foundation of successful marketing efforts. But your brand doesn’t start with your logo because it is much more than that. You have to know your business identity before you can select fonts or logo elements. Your brand is what people know and feel about your business. Reputation is as much a part of your brand as the quality of the products and services you promote. Reflecting on these 5 areas of brand development, take another look at your current strategy and see what needs to change in more completely establishing your brand.
The Emotions. What you sell isn’t your brand. When customers purchase your products, they are left with feelings of satisfaction, contentment…and sometimes buyers’ remorse. If what goes home with your customers doesn’t leave them with a positive feeling in the long run, they probably won’t be back to repeat the purchase. Consumers are usually driven by emotion when making purchases.
The Experience. Closely related to the emotional side of buying, the experience of buying is significant in establishing your brand. While your brand isn’t your product, the experience of making a purchase is an aspect of your brand. The music playing in a store, the lighting, the merchandising, and the greeting are all integral to the experience of your customers. They will remember if the shelves were messy, if the music was too loud or if they were ignored. The point is, we remember great shopping experiences, and we remember those not so great. We remember if the store environment makes us feel old, if the store was busy due to mismanagement or if it didn’t meet our expectations. Do all you can to ensure customers have an enjoyable, memorable shopping journey.
The Truth. People are not usually taken in by shallow marketing efforts. When they learn they have been taken, they react by taking their business elsewhere. There are plenty of lessons to be learned from the unethical business and marketing tactics we’ve seen over the years from popular national brands. While its easy to want to overstate the quality of our product or service, the bottom line is that the best approach to marketing is an honest approach.
The Visual. Your logo and your tagline aren’t your entire brand, but obviously they play a crucial role in becoming established in the minds of your customers. You know your favorite brands because their logos vividly come to mind when you think about the experience with their products. You’re drawn in by the quality and your experience with it. As people have an experience with your business, make sure your logo represents what you do in style and quality. Keep it where it can be seen to help people to remember who you are. And while a lot more can and should go into your brand scheme, your logo is the gateway to your brand because it opens doors to more opportunity.
The Difference. Positioning is the key element of branding. What makes your product or service different from the competition? When traveling, I prefer to stop at gas stations like Kwik Trip or Casey’s because of what makes them so different from their competition: clean bathrooms and the availability of affordable food options. The consistency is apparently in each of their locations, a part of their marketing strategy that can’t be ignored. Clearly communicating your brand’s personality – what makes it unique – is key to growing your business.
Branding your business doesn’t need to be an overly complicated process, but these 5 areas of branding will help you to better define who you are and stand out in an among the businesses around you.
“Build it and they will come” works well for some well-known brands, but for others it can be a blind leap of faith. While faith in the future is a great attitude to bring to the table, faith without action is a recipe for disaster. It takes work to get the word out about any business endeavor. Even for businesses that have been around for a while, marketing challenges will create upheaval for you and your business.
Lack of Visibility. Does anyone know you’re open for business? Are you engaging social media channels and connecting with your target audience? There are many ways to get your business noticed. From billboards and print ads to social media marketing strategies, the options are many. Your online presence and your local visibility are equally important. But even worse than a lack of visibility is poor visibility. How people see your brand represented matters immensely. Establish your brand with quality marketing efforts and your target audience will want to remember who you are. Be seen!(more…)