Monthly Archives: August 2012

Are You Riding On The Right Trail?

from Harper's Weekly 1867

Image of a typical cattle drive from Harper’s Weekly magazine, circa 1867

Is your business heading in the right direction?

Think about that for a few minutes.  If you have a clear objective for where you want your business to be in 5 or 10 years, you can be relatively secure in knowing that your company is headed down the right path.  Granted, economic conditions may change in three years.  Government intervention may lessen in six.  Market conditions could change tomorrow.  The goal is to know which trail you want to ride, stay as close as possible to that route, and be ready for obstacles along the way.

The trail boss hired by ranchers in the late 19th century knew which trail he needed to use in driving the cattle to the markets in Kansas or Colorado.  Depending on the season, he anticipated weather conditions such as the rains the cowboys might encounter.  There were strategies in place to keep the herd healthy along the way.  Heavy rains might force them to hold tight for a few extra days to let the swollen rivers subside before trying to cross.  Dry weather might cause them to slow the pace but keep moving until they could find water and grazing grasses.

Your business should be prepared for the conditions it will encounter along the trail, too.  A warmer than normal winter might reduce your snow blower sales, so reducing your inventory is a potential strategy to keep your expenses down.  Is your sales force moving products with the highest margins?  Have you analyzed whether the market has changed for that product, or the service that generates the highest profits?

Allow me to share a classic example from the optical industry that I am confident is repeated in other industries:  A super sales person is at the top of her game and generating substantial commissions from the volume of sales she brings to the company.  The boss (or sales manager) looks at how much this sales person is getting in commissions and believes that she’s earning way too much.  She gets called in to the office and is told her territory is being reduced and/or her percentages are going to be cut back because she’s “costing the company” too much money.

Stop and think about this all-too-common scenario.

A sales representative sells your products.  That creates orders which generate revenue – and profits – from the sale.  The representative earns a commission for bringing business in the door.  You want more sales, but at less cost to the bottom line or, as the reality points out, at the expense of the person responsible for manufacturing those sales.  Ever wonder why so many sales people leave a company they appear to have been doing well for?  Ask them if their percentages or territories were cut back.  I’ll wager the answer will be “Yes.”

If you’ve really thought about it, the opposite scenario should be the rule.  Expand your top sales representative’s territories.  Give them a better percentage to generate more business … unless you don’t want more business!

The company who lost that stellar sales representative is now, two years later, wondering why their sales are down and why their competition is doing so well.  Guess where she went to work as an in-demand sales representative?

Your business needs to be clear-headed and focused in its direction.

Brand Irons is one of those companies that can help you determine if you’re on the right trail.  If you have a business plan, take a look at it and see if it still makes sense to be going in that direction or if a new path is worth investigating and developing.  If you need a strategy for your business, it’s to your advantage to bring in an independent, third party perspective to ensure it’s appropriate for the market and to advise on which trail may be the most lucrative and profitable over the long haul.

Imagine how the buyer might react if a trail boss brought in a herd of camels to be sold at the cattle market.  All that effort for naught.

Developing A Game Plan

The professional football season has arrived!  As the harbinger of autumn, students returning to school, and fall sports, football season also reminds me that business owners need to have a plan for their success.

When you see a coach on the sidelines with his play chart, it’s easy to think of that as a cheat sheet.  In reality, it’s the result of hours of preparation and planning.  The head coach and his assistants have assessed the talent of their players and considered their options for every possible scenario in a game situation.  They know that if the offense faces 2nd down and 15 yards from their own 35 yard line, they can bring in four wide receivers  and execute a 20-yard sideline pass to get the first down.  If they fail to execute and it’s 3rd and 15, there’s another play – perhaps the same one – that is in the plan.

Calling a play

You need game plans for your business and your football team.


Yet it all comes down to the basics – the line needs to block.  The quarterback needs a few seconds of time to spot and hit a receiver who’s going to be open.

Your business, to ensure growth and a positive bottom line, also needs a game plan.  Sure, you can jot down some thoughts on a cocktail napkin, but planning for success is a team effort.  Your front line employees must know their assignments, especially as they pertain to taking care of the consumers (opening the holes to make the sale).  Your production team must be prepared to meet the demand and generate results.  Your marketing crew needs to position your efforts to satisfy customers while putting profits on the bottom line (touchdowns – points scored).

Success in business, as in football, is a team effort.  A big difference in business is  that your opponent seldom changes, whereas in football you face a different team each week.  It’s all in the preparation.

A parting thought:  Remember that part of your business plan should include how you deal with adversity, negative press, or economic downturns.  You may say you will let the chips fall where they may, but it makes more sense to know which ones you can pick up and which ones should be chalked up to a learning experience.

As an independent, third party consultant, bringing in a consultant such as Brand Irons can provide you with an emotion-free perspective that puts teeth in your business plan.  it also gives you a consumer’s point-of-view about the perceptions of your business that can prove beneficial in dealing with adversities.

Website Reflects Your Brand

You have many places to display your brand, which some people refer to as a logo but is far more complex than your corporate emblem.  Your website is one of the most critical locations to market your brand, in addition to displaying your logo.

I had a client ask me a few months ago if it made sense for his company to have a website any more.  He was probably thinking that with all the attention social media is garnering, that a website was a waste.  I insisted a website is still vital for marketing one’s business; it’s just that the technology behind websites and how the spiders search for content is constantly evolving.  In other words, websites still and will always need to be updated to accommodate technology and the content modified to reflect the changes the business … and consumers … go through on a regular basis.

Another client was frustrated because a friend of her daughter told her he could build the business website.  Sound familiar?  After months of sitting on the domain name, the daughter’s friend had yet to activate the website.  There was always an excuse, but the one excuse the friend found hard to swallow was that he lacked the expertise to get the project done at the professional lelve the business needed.  We got involved by generating the content and working with a developer to get the site done.

The client has realized that marketing her business is a bit more complicated than the first blush, and that emotional connections can make business decisions difficult.  It was hard for her to “fire” the friend of her daughter because of the emotional impact, and from the cost she had to incur to fix the problem.

It is a decision that must be made, however.  Emotions aside, your website is one of the main tools for marketing your business.  If you lack the skills or the staff to generate the content that will tell your story and present your business in the most advantageous light with the highest likelihood of generating top returns from the search engines, you need to find and contract with professionals who can get it done.

You can actually save money with professional assistance.  Here’s how, and how you can tell if you are working with a pro:  A professional meets with you to gather the information needed to generate your website’s content.  During that meeting, they should also give you a fairly accurate estimate of how much time is required to craft your copy.

You save money working with your web development company when you can deliver content, images, logos, and color schemes in one fell swoop.  If you are building your first corporate website, start with a basic site, but think through what elements you envision being there when it is what you want it to be, or if money were a non-factor.  If you are tweaking an existing site, and bringing in a new developer, your old developer needs to give the new team access to your files.

While it may seem too complicated, remember the importance of your corporate image, and how it’s reflected in your web presence.  Old images and expired dates, including the copyright, can be damaging to those visiting your site for the first impression.

Here’s an example of how a good team can save you headaches and time.  We started working with a web developer who had constructed a website for a cookie company.  The design was done and the content was in Latin because the developer was waiting for the business owner to provide copy.  Getting involved, as we’ve often found, the owner lacked the time to generate the content because they were focused on running their business.  That’s more common than you might think, and business owners often struggle because they lack marketing skills, especially when it comes to the Internet, in most cases.  They simply don’t have time to devote to that aspect of their business.

The developer hired Brand Irons to generate the content.  We met with the business owner on Monday and E-mailed the website’s content back to them on Tuesday.  We followed up on Wednesday and heard the owner ask if the developer could just post something about the site being “under construction” instead of content in Latin.  We advised them that all they needed to do was make any changes and approve the content and the site could be updated with new content within a couple of hours.

They did, and it was updated later that day.  Visitors are much happier now, and we even translated the landing page copy to Czech, Danish, and German.

So, yes, you do need a professional looking website for your business.  You can engage Brand Irons to design it in such a fashion that reflects your brand the way it should.