Podcast – Marketing Monday: How to Create an Impactful Brand

A good brand is critical for any organization and leader.  This podcast will discuss how to create an impactful and powerful brand.

Click here to listen to the podcast.

The Power of Exceptional Client Service

ThinkstockPhotos-510872711I can’t stop thinking about client service.  As I visit more and more businesses or receive phone calls from various vendors, I am shocked by the lack of good client service.  It is such an easy way to build your business, brand or organization; it is disappointing that more leaders don’t make this a priority in their business and marketing plans.  It should be a key component in your business strategy and hiring philosophy.

As a marketer and strategic thinker, I am convinced that a focus on client service will help differentiate your company, brand or organization. It is the pulse of the organization. It is necessary for every leader.

There are 3 basic ways to start building a client-centric environment, providing excellent client service. There are many other ways to start building this culture.  This is just the beginning.  If you would like more information on this, feel free to contact me.  Here are just a few:

  • Go Above and Beyond – It goes without saying that great customer service is going above and beyond the expectations of your clients or audience. Are you doing just enough to get by with your clients? Are you doing the basics of what they expect?  I’ve stressed this in previous blogs, but it is important to know the basic expectations of your audience.  Make that your benchmark and then go beyond.  If the basic expectation is to provide a good product, perhaps your above and beyond is to provide special packaging.  If the basic expectation is to help your client buy a home, perhaps the your above and beyond is a framed picture of your client in front of her new home.  Get creative and go above and beyond.
  • Anticipate Needs – How many of us have grown frustrated when the server at your restaurant did not provide you with a glass of refreshing water during dinner or lunch on a scorching hot day? Or provide extra napkins when you are digging into your favorite pizza or your messy bbq wings?  We are frustrated because he/she did not anticipate or think about our needs.  We are equally surprised and happy when we are given that glass of water before we ask or extra napkins are placed on the table as soon as we ordered. Are you thinking about your client’s needs as soon as you engage with them?  What issues are keeping them up at night? How can help solve their problems or meet their needs.
  • Build Emotional Connections – There is a reason why Starbucks asks for your name and writes it on the cup. They could easily give you a number for your order, but this is just a small way that the company seeks to differentiate and develop an emotional connection with you.  What are some simple ways that you can connect with your clients? These connections should occur across the entire customer journey, not just when you first meet the customer or client.  It is not just once or twice, but think about how to constantly connect with your customers.

EXCEPTIONAL client service will cause others to talk about your business or organization with others.  It is your referral system. It creates enthusiastic cheerleaders for your business and lifelong clients and followers. This is a definite way to build your client base or membership and brand your organization.

If you would like more information about how to create a client-centric organization, please contact me for more information.

Rising Above the Noise

The competition is fierce.  So many organizations and businesses are clamoring to be seen and heard.  However, with digital media, social media and the many networking events and advertisements, how does a business, organization or writer rise above noise?

Below are five practical ways you can stand out and gain the attention of your audience.

  • Be a Thought Leader. I cannot stress enough how important it is to establish yourself as an authority and leader in your industry.  You must gain knowledge of your topics and specialty areas and then TELL other about it.  And tell them often.  It is not enough that you know a lot about a topic and confident in your field.  If you are not showing and telling your audience about how much you know, you are missing out on clients, customers, members and relationships.  Thought leadership is done by blogging, podcasts, videos, articles, etc. There are many ways to do this and EVERY business should have a plan to do this.
  • Know the Your Audience This is the biggest strategy tactic in any marketing endeavor.  If you know the burdens, challenges and problems of your clients and target audience, you can address how to handle those challenges in your marketing strategy.  This will immediately get the attention of your specific audience.
  • Choose Your Outlets. Social media is important.  However, depending on your target audience, it is not necessary for you to be on every social media network. If your audience is not there, don’t worry about being there. Decide which network will work for your business and then do your best to market your business or organization on that network.  Create a strategy and target your audience.  Strategy includes knowing the timing of your posts, using hashtags appropriately and creating online ads, and much more.
  • Underserved or Overlooked. When thinking about your business or organization, is there an aspect that can address the underserved or overlooked?  Is there a creative way to address a need of another group or unique interest?  If so, consider focusing your marketing on that aspect of the business.
  • Be Personable. People connect with humanity. People want to do business, follow and connect with people that they like. Therefore in your marketing strategy, be sure to show the human side of what you offer.  Your personality or the personality of your staff, board or company will help to differentiate your company and rise above the crowd.

If you are interested in rising above the crowd and the noise, please contact me for practical ways to focus your marketing and increase your audience.

Does Your Organization Have Raving Fans?

I had the wonderful privilege of visiting the corporate headquarters of Chick-fil-A yesterday.  As we all know, this company, from top to bottom, sets the bar for exceptional customer service. It was both an honor and overwhelming to take in all the wisdom that was shared regarding their philosophy on honoring others and providing excellent client service.  Each philosophy was steeped in spiritual nuggets and life truths.

Transferring all that wisdom and knowledge into another business model can be challenging, however, it is absolutely

necessary if you want to grow your business/organization and differentiate yourself in the marketplace. If your entity is struggling to grow, take a look at how you and your staff provide service to visitors and clients.

It is easy to think that if you have a great product or service, client service is not very important.  This is unequivocally wrong.  I have seen many small business owners think that because they have a great service they can be rude or not take good care of their clients. Having a great product, service or worship experience may create a satisfied client or member, but it will not guarantee a raving fan.

According to the NY Times, did you know that 83% of satisfied customers will not tell others about your service or product.  This is not a raving fan.  A raving fan will pay full price for your service and then run and tell others about it.  How many of your clients and customers are doing that?

Raving fans directly affect the bottom line of an organization.  If you are not systematically finding ways to create them, you are leaving money and resources on the table.  This is not an easy process.  It requires you and your staff to go above and beyond . . .every single time. It requires you to see your business/organization from the eyes and needs of the client or customer.  It is also critical to create emotional connections and know the real needs of your clients. In addition, creating raving fans is more than great customer service, it is providing the client/customer/member with more than they expected.

What is that one thing that could differentiate your business and service?  Something that shows you have gone above and beyond their expectations?

If you are not creating raving fans or providing exceptional client service, please allow me to help you implement this in your marketing strategy.  Contact me and let me help you connect the dots

Lessons from Subway vs. Jared: How Will Your Company Handle Crisis?

Many of you have heard about the recent Subway marketing and public relations crisis.  The famous spokesperson, Jared, plead guilty of pornography charges, as well as having sex with minors.  The investigation has been brewing over the past couple of years and Subway distanced itself from him when learning of the news.  Yesterday the court finally made their decision about Jared. Subway responded with a simple tweet and post:  “We no longer have a relationship with Jared and have no further comment.”

There were definitely some missteps of Subway during this crisis, such as responding with “no comment” at one time or not quickly developing another marketing campaign to move attention away from the Jared Fogle situation.  Definitely some missed opportunities.

What are some lessons we can learn from how Subway responded to this crisis in their business? There may be a time when your company, church or organization faces a public relations nightmare.  It can range from an illegal situation, sexual scandal to a simple inappropriate post or tweet by a leader of your organization. What will you do?

Here are a few things to remember:

  • Act fast and be transparent. Often brands are criticized for this, such as the many brands and companies associated with Bill Cosby. There are many that believe people should wait until the legal process has played out before a company severs ties.  Hertz waited during the OJ Simpson murder trial.  They waited until he was charged before ending their relationship with him.  Their sales plummeted and took years to turn around. If there is a mistake or PR crisis, be quick to apologize and remove yourself from the situation.  If there is a hint of creating excuses or “let’s wait and see” – your customers, clients or members may not respond well.
  • Never underestimate the power of social media. Subway knew the power of social media, which is why they quickly used Twitter and Facebook to state their position. Many people scoff at using social media for their businesses or organizations, however, when used properly – even in bad circumstances, this platform has the power to be a megaphone for many.
  • Be Transparent. If you or your company/organization is in the midst of controversy, tell your story.  You do not need to give all the details, however silence is dangerous. One of the major rules in public relations: do not give people a chance to form their own story or opinion about what happened. Tell as much as you can.  If not, human nature will cause us to write our own scandalous story about what happened.
  • Do not build your entire marketing strategy on one person for a business, church or organization. Even with the best vetting and research, mistakes will be made. We often see this with churches. A church will focus so much on the pastor that when there is a fall, the whole marketing for the church suffers.  Be very careful.

Usually, with time and the correct approach to damage control, brands can eventually bounce back.

If you ever need help with crisis communication or brand identity, feel free to contact Lee Watts. We would love to help you connect the dots!

The Key Factor for Any Marketing Plan: Are You Adding Value?

Developing and implementing a strategic marketing plan can be difficult. There are so many variable and challenges with developing a clear strategy and consistently implementing the marketing strategy.  Also, marketing encompasses so many different areas and platforms, it can be hard to keep up.  However, if you focus on one major question while developing your marketing strategy – “how can I add value?”

This is not the same type of value that is discussed in accounting or on spreadsheets.  Added value in marketing is something your business or organization can offer to your customers that is of high value to them, but of low cost to you.  What are some things that you can easily do or produce that is of great value to others not in your field?

Don’t overthink this or make it too complicated. A few examples: if you are a hairstylist, it could be your top 5 recommended hair products.  If you are a trainer, it could be a video on the proper way to do a sit-up. An accountant may offer a free audit or proper way to maintain your records throughout the year.  There are a myriad of things that you could offer your clients, depending on your business. The key is to develop the list and add new value-adds often.

When you develop a list of value-adds for your skill, profession, service or product this adds an extra level of value to your business.  It also makes you competitive with the next business in your industry.

Another key reason to develop value-adds: Loyalty. You want loyal customers that trust you immensely.  This creates repeated business and new referrals.  However, the key to this is to really know your audience and what they want.  Too often this is a fundamental flaw in marketing and business plans – knowing your audience.  Join me for my next podcast as I discuss the importance of targeting your audience.

Below are just 3 basics in developing your value-add list:

  1. Know your audience and what they want or are curious about.
  2. Make a list of things that you know or have that won’t take much energy or money for you to share or create.
  3. Develop a fast and easy way to distribute or give your value-add.  If its complicated to get it, this will turn your customers away.

Finally, don’t be afraid that you are giving too much knowledge or your secrets away.  Of course you want to remain competitive and gain new customers, so there needs to be a balance.  However, trust in the law of reciprocity – you will reap what you sow.  When you sow into people and your profession, the harvest will return to you.  Don’t lead out of fear or greed.

If you need assistance with your marketing and business development strategy, or simply need help connecting the dots with your current plans, feel free to contact me!

Five Essentials for Building a Brand

When speaking to someone interested in starting a business, writing a book or leading an organization, inevitably the aspect of branding is discussed. Branding is one of my favorite marketing topics because branding is truly about emotion and connection. The strategies we use to create a brand should focus on creating a strong connection and relationship between the product/person/company and the customer or guest. More importantly, this strong connection creates customer loyalty.

To grow a business, brand or create loyal customers – a robust brand strategy is needed. This takes time and patience, however, it is absolutely necessary.

Below are essential keys needed for building any brand:

1.) Know the Strengths. Are you aware of your individual strengths or the strengths of your organization? If it is your individual brand, spend valuable time examining your strengths. Ask those closest to you about your strengths. The same holds true for your company. What are the strengths of the company? This may become clearer through surveys and focus groups, asking key customers, clients or guests key questions about the company or brand. If you are starting a company, find your target audience and discover what they value.

2.) Be Authentic. Authenticity is key in branding. This is knowing your strengths, as well as your weaknesses – but being perfectly okay with both. For example, Chick-fil-A does not try to make burgers or tacos. It has identified its strength, and probably its weaknesses, and they continually build on their strengths. They make really great chicken sandwiches with exceptional customer service. They don’t focus on making new sandwiches or twists on chicken sandwiches. As a result, they avoid their weaknesses and focus on the brand.

3.) Add Value. Whether it is an individual brand or company, be clear on the value you bring. Does your brand solve a problem or meet a need? Not only should the brand add value, but it should also differentiate you or your company from others. So many brands, organizations, services and products are competing for our attention. What will differentiate your brand from the others? It could the smallest thing that makes the difference. Discover “the thing” that will set your brand apart from others.

4.) Create an Emotion. What is the feeling you would like to invoke in your audience or clients? What emotion do you want your brand to feel? Dale Carnegie states: “When dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion.” Brand strategy should focus on building an emotion.

5.) Consistency is key. It is critical to reinforce the value, skills and expertise your brand brings. This should be communicated through your various marketing platforms. Consistency will help your prospective clients and customers, as well as your current clients, quickly know how to describe your business or your service. Consistency is also important for your visuals. Eventually you want customers to see your logo, your colors, as well as your fonts and formatting and know instinctively that it is your company.

If you are interested in creating a brand strategy for your company, organization or building your individual brand, please contact ashby & watts. We can help you connect the dots.

The Myths of Marketing

If you ask ten people the definition of marketing, you are sure to get ten different responses.  Most people don’t quite understand it or assume that it is only “creating a logo” or “selling your service or a product.”  However, marketing encompasses a myriad of topics, ranging from strategy to establishing mission and vision statements, to client experience and service, to branding, to sales. Below are some common myths I frequently encounter when discussing marketing:

  • Myth:  People assume that if they have “enough” clients – they don’t need marketing.

Truth: A large part of marketing is uncovering needs, interests and the burdens of your current clients in order to get more work or purchases from them.  Being too comfortable with your current clients and not actively engaging them and growing them is dangerous to your business growth. What other needs do they have that you are not currently meeting? How can you add more value to your current audience, customers and clients? There is always more…great marketing will always uncover other needs of the client.

Businessman writing e-marketing terms

  • Myth: All my business comes from referrals, I don’t need marketing.

Truth: Yes, most business does come from referrals. Referrals are critical to growing and sustaining any business, which is why client service is very important as part of your marketing and growth plan. Do you have a plan on how to convert a happy customer into a referral?  We can’t assume that just because a client/customer likes your work does not mean they are telling others about your work or business.  Are you keeping track of your referrals during “down times” so that they will keep referring your business.  Don’t ignore your referral network.  They are valuable for your continued growth. A great marketing plan will include your referrals.

  • Myth: Social Media doesn’t affect my marketing.

Truth: Social media has the power to create or break a brand, depending on well or poorly your social media plan is executed.  Admittedly, social media may not always be the determining factor in landing your next customer or client, but it can validate or invalidate you or your company with a potential client who is still deciding whether to hire you. Developing a good social media plan is critical for any brand, organization or business and does not require a large budget, just focused intention and planning.

  • Myth: Marketing is simply advertising.

Truth:  Advertising is only a slither of what a marketing professional does or may only be a small part of a marketing plan or budget.  In fact, most marketing departments work with advertising professionals that are much more talented and focused on the dynamics of advertising.  Marketing creates a strategy on what to do with advertising and how to convert advertising into business.  Developing a good ad is only one piece of a much larger puzzle.

  • Myth: I have a logo and a website. I’m done with marketing.

Truth:  I cringe when I hear someone narrow down their marketing efforts to simply a logo and a website, when actually a logo and website is just the beginning. Marketing is about consistently creating and promoting great content and images to engage your target customer.  It is creating a story with your logo and website. It is building a brand. This is done through a variety of channels. Is your website designed in a way to increase traffic and the customers you are seeking?  Does your logo convey the top 3 words of the brand you wish to create?

  • Myth: Marketing is sales.

Truth: Wrong!!  I kinda chuckle when I hear sales people assume they are marketers because they know how to sell or when marketers assume they know sales. Different strengths are required for each. It is important for marketing to do its job effectively so that the sales team can come in and close the deal.  If you are having a difficult time closing deals, it could be because of a lack of effective marketing.

These are just a few common marketing myths that I encounter regularly. Do you see or hear yourself in any of these myths or assumptions? If so, please contact me so that we can discuss your marketing and brand. I would love to help you “connect the dots.”

Why Content Is King!

Gone are the days when marketing was merely about a great logo and a catchy tagline.  Marketing has gotten smarter and more demanding.  It asks more questions and looks deeper into the strategy and process. Clients and customers want content. They want to know what can the company do and how can the company add value to their business.

Marketers are now challenged with a savvier way to offer and present content to its clients and prospective clients. There are definitely challenges with this, including the simple challenge of time. It takes time to create content, the right content, and present it your audience.  The following blog posts will focus on few key ways to create content:

Re-purpose a presentation.  Professionals are often asked to present or speak at conferences and seminars. Often when the conference is over, the presentation remains on the computer or folders. However, there are undoubtedly some key points that can be expanded to create a blog or article.

After every speaking engagement, the presenter should make it a point to spend 30 minutes writing a short article about some key points in the presentation.  This could be used on a blog, article, discussion post on LinkedIn and various other platforms.

The Connection: Never let a presentation rest. Make it your goal to use it at least 3 additional platforms. 

Making the Most of Your Website

So you’ve started your new company or organization? One of the very first things a new business owner or leader often chooses to do is create a website.  A good website is a valuable way to communicate the company brand, values, services and vision to the world. However, for both small businesses and large companies, websites are often stagnant and invaluable soon after development.  Many hours and countless dollars are spent on developing a website, yet few develop a strategic plan for the website after its deployment.

In the next few blog posts, I will offer practical ideas on how to make your website work for you long after the launch of the website.

Make Your Website Interactive.

As you develop your website, think about the experience you would like a visitor to have with your brand. What do you want them to “feel” when visiting your website? How long do you want them to stay?  What actions would you like them to take after visiting your website? As you define those areas, think about elements to add to your website to help create the experience, feeling and action item for the visitor.  For example, a survey or quiz may make the user feel heard or entertained. A video may provide the opportunity for a potential customer or client to learn more about your services.

The Connection: Think about your audience and what you want them to do or know after visiting your website. 

For more information on how to maximize the use of your website and develop a strategic plan for your company, please contact ashby & watts consulting.

%d bloggers like this: