Monthly Archives: September 2013

10 Reasons To Engage A Marketing Consultant

While we could speak for other consultants, we’ll let them do that for themselves.  What we can write about are things to consider when engaging a business and marketing consulting firm such as Brand Irons.  Here are 10 reasons to engage:

  1. To make more money.  Yes, there is a cost to engaging a consultant, but you hire them to open doors, bring in more cash flow, and to create opportunities you may be too close to be able to see.
  2. To hold you accountable.  Too often, business owners get tangled up in the day-to-day activities of their business and wind up working in it more than on it.  Consultants help keep the grand vision in focus.
  3. To reduce risks and identify needs.  An independent, third party observer looks at your business objectively, which makes it easier for them to see the potential problems and address solutions to keep things running smoothly.
  4. To research options and alternatives.  Your business may be on the cutting edge, and a consultant can study market trends, emerging markets, and your competition to keep you at the forefront of your industry.
  5. To develop successful strategies.  There are times when the path through the forest is a straight line and others when it involves cutting down some trees to achieve your objectives.  Experts know what works for marketing your business.
  6. To keep you focused.  You should always maintain a customer orientation, which is a perspective your consultant keeps as the emphasis of every move you make because it’s important to add new customers and keep most of the old ones.
  7. To identify resources.  A strong, professional consultant has a myriad of resources at his or her fingertips, all ready to step in on a moment’s notice to modify a website, provide employee training, or assist with legal or other issues that arise.
  8. To be your coach.  Consultants usually have a limited engagement with a client, which means they should teach you what you need to know, coach you along, prod you if necessary and, at some point, let you move forward on your own.
  9. To solve problems.  The independent nature of a consultant and some common sense go a long way to helping businesses solve problems with solutions that may be obvious or hidden but easily thought through … and resolved.
  10. To be engaged.  When you engage a consultant, for whatever purpose or length of time, they should be immersed in your business … as a consumer … as a confidant … as a friend … and as a professional who cares about results.

Think about these general guidelines with the understanding that it generally takes time for a consultant to become familiar enough with your business and where you want to take it to develop a relationship focused on the results you’re looking for, even if you’re unsure of what those might be.  The more open and honest you are with whomever you engage, and the more honest they are with you, the more success you will realize.

Consider, too, whether the person or firm you’re looking at has the experience and knowledge to help you solve the problems you think you have.  You must also be open to the realization that what you think is the problem may not be; it may be something entirely different than you anticipated.  The consultant should be able to clarify the scenario for you in terms you understand.

What you engage is less a formula or system than the mental acuity to grasp your situation, look at it objectively, and provide viable solutions.  To check out Brand Irons with a simple conversation, call (920) 366-6334 or go back to

Get Your Ads To Work For You!

As a business owner, you should be able to answer the question:  Is your advertising working?  It may (or may not) surprise you how many advertisers will say that advertising doesn’t work.  There’s probably a good reason why it isn’t working… for them.

Here are some potential reasons that advertising fails to generate business:

  1. The ads focus on the company and not the consumer;
  2. The ads fail to get the viewer/reader/user’s attention;
  3. The message is unclear or lost in graphics or animation; and,
  4. The call to stir the consumer to action is missing.

We’l get into these in detail in a minute or two.  We also want to address why advertisers may not have the answer to the question above – they probably are clueless as to whether their advertising is working.  You must engage with your customers and prospects to know how they discovered you, unless you already have a tracking system in place that provides you with those answers.

You can engage your “shoppers” with a tactic as simple as asking them how they heard about you and/or your products.  Most consumers, especially if they are enamored with your products and services, will gladly explain why and how they came to patronize you.  The more clearly you can track results, the better.

On one occasion, there was a restaurant owner who saw an increase in business after he started advertising on the radio but, when asked, had no idea why he had gotten busier since the ads started running.

One client got feedback from a customer who was asked how they had heard about the business and responded they’d seen their ads on TV.  The client was not running any TV commercials at the time.

On another occasion, a volunteer offered that his firm was spending more than $7,000 a year on phone directory advertising.  When asked if he knew how that was working for him, he responded, “I have no clue.”

The lesson:  Do your best to track the results of your advertising.  You should know if it’s working, or if you are – at least – breaking even on the investment you’re making.

Try one method and gauge the results.  If it works to your satisfaction, build on it.  You may want to try tweaking it and seeing if it gets better results, but only if the concept seems like it will work.  There are occasions where you do need to give it time for the consumers to “get it” before making purchases.  Before we get too deep into this, however, let’s go back to the four points at the top of this blog.

1)  Remember the purpose of your advertising.  It’s about getting your message through to your potential consumers so they will purchase your products or services.  Sounds simple, but every consumer is unique and makes buying decisions based on need or want.  You should know which consumers are most likely to purchase your products or services and tailor your message to sway their decision to buy from you.

Consumers could care less if you believe your product is the best on the market; they have to believe it.

2)  Ads must grab the attention of the audience.  Consumers are bombarded by more than 2,000 advertising messages a day – from the brands on automobiles and smart phones to pop-up ads, TV commercials, billboards, text messages, and thousands of other exposures.  If your ad blends in with all the others, your impact and potential gain is minimal.  Think in terms of your ideal consumer and what message or image is most likely to get their attention.  Use it and measure the results!  The attention-getting device (AGD) we’ve blogged about before is intended to get the viewer to want to learn more.

Consumers will go elsewhere if it’s a false attention getting device; you must keep them hooked with relevant content once they’ve taken the bait.

3) Your message must engage the audience with appropriate (to them) content.  Copy sells; art enhances.  Art and graphics create a feeling and can get a viewer’s attention, but the copy or content of your ad is what does the selling.  It should be written, again, from the consumer’s point of view.  They could care less about how many revolutions per second a power drill can generate when all they want to know is if the drill can bore a hole.     Ads should focus on benefits more than features and set the audience up for the call to action.  Getting the viewer to react favorably and buy your product or service is the end result, is it not?  You may tell a convincing story, but if it fails to stir the reader to do something, it fails.

In this era of information overload, use an editor, copywriter, or other resource to trim your copy to achieve the greatest impact from the words you use.  If your words can convey the same message in four words instead of 40, your readership and impact will go up.  Those 20 words could be shortened to:  Brevity increases reader impact.

4) Remember the call to action.    If your prospective customer has been intrigued by your message, there is interest in your products and/or services.  If that consumer has gotten to the end of your commercial with that interest, they are either ready to make a purchase or looking for more information about how they can do that.  If you leave them hanging without a call to action, you have increased the chances of losing them as a potential customer.  The key to a call to action is rather simple:  Do you want the consumer to call, E-mail, stop in, or go to your website?  In other words, what do you want them to do?  Order now! is a call to action, provided you show them how to order now.

Advertising does work, if it’s planned.  Putting together an effective marketing strategy that includes smart advertising is one of the services provided by Brand Irons, where we want you to Brand Your Work and Work Your Brand.

What’s Your Plan B?

If you already have a disaster strategy in place for your business, congratulations!  Yours is one of the few that does.

What do we mean by a disaster strategy?  Think for a minute about the worst thing that could happen to your business today?  Or tomorrow or the next day or a week or a year from now?

Have you considered the implications of that crisis?  Have you derived strategies to deal with whatever happens?

Being prepared for worst case scenarios means you have a Plan B.

Let’s assume you have one client that represents 60% of your company’s business volume and, because that client loses a government contract, they have to end your relationship and cancel  your pending orders.  What do you do?

Odds are you have to scramble to replace that loss of business.  That means:

  • pushing the sales force to close more deals;
  • driving potential customers to get off the fence and commit;
  • trying to expand work orders from the other 40%;
  • perhaps reducing the work force temporarily;
  • finding another buyer for the materials you’ve already ordered;
  • potentially suing the client for outstanding order fulfillment;
  • offering incentives to potential customers to come on board; and,
  • increasing your marketing and advertising exposure, among other tactics.

So what should a Plan B look like?

Take a look at your industry and come  up with a ratio of what percentage of your business should be devoted to one customer.  By taking the time to think it through, you will most likely come up with the answer on your own.  The key is to find a natural balance that maintains cash flow while sustaining strong customer relations.  It could be 100 customers who each represent one (1%) percent of your business, ten that each account for 10%, four that are 25% each, or thousands that account for miniscule percentages of your overall business volume.

Think about the pitfalls and benefits of each scenario, and the multiple variations.

From the crisis perspective, losing one of those 100 customers only impacts one percent of your business while losing one of the four means a fourth of your business is lost.  It would probably be much easier to add one percentage point to one of the other 99 customers than to get one of the remaining three (or all 3) to pick up the difference from losing 25% of your business.  If you’ve got thousands of customers, what contingencies are in place for dealing with a major product recall or harmful defect?  Improper action could have a significant impact on your customer’s loyalty.

The actual disaster you plan for may never happen to your business, and that’s okay.  By taking the time to think through the repercussions and responses, you consider variables and prepare for actionable contingencies.  It’s a process that prepares you for events beyond your control.  Whatever they may turn out to be, you can cope with the consequences much more easily.

It is wise to review your disaster strategy occasionally, depending on the potential severity of the impact a crisis could have on your business.  What do you do if your building catches fire and employees are hurt?  What if flooding occurs or a tornado strikes?  How do you react if there’s a groundswell of negative publicity about your company in the social media outlets?  How do you handle a shareholders’ takeover attempt?

Diversifying your product line or adding additional services can also be part of your Plan B.  When you have a single service or product, your company is exposed to market swings, economic downturns, consumer trends, and a myriad of other factors that can impact your business.

Plan B may also be a long, hard look at your financial status, a frank discussion with bankers, accountants, investors, and shareholders and taking steps to sell or close the business.  Obviously, if the conditions are poor, selling may mean only minimum offers.

What happens if a trojan horse virus or malware shuts down your entire computer system – order processing, client records, and everything is contaminated?  How long will you be down, or technically out of business?  This is less of a treatise on the importance of backing up your data as it is on having a plan in place to deal with this potential crisis.

Brand Irons can help you put together a comprehensive disaster plan or crisis management strategy.  Call us at (920) 366-6334 for an engagement consultation.

Protecting Your Brand

Classify this as a “Did You Know?” blog entry.

If you are concerned about protecting the proprietary material related to your business, talk to your legal counsel about the steps you can, and should take.  Your attorney may refer you out to counsel who specializes in copyrights, patents, and trademarks, but it’s worth the effort to ensure your investments retain their value.

An example would be putting copyright information on your business documents.  You can insert the © that indicates “copyright” in your document, along with a date and an identifier, such as © 2013, Brand Irons.  While we don’t pretend to be attorneys, we do believe that simple act sets precedent.

As we understand it, where the legality gets sticky is if you pursue a violation through the court system, you have a far better chance of getting a favorable judgment if that copyright has been registered with the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress.  The fee may be as little as $35.

If you’ve talked to someone who either has or has tried to obtain a patent, you have probably heard pros and cons about the merit of having one on your product or idea.  These are processed through the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.  The key to having a patent on your invention is less about the filing process than it is about protecting your concept and product from being stolen by a potential competitor.  This is where your legal counsel can provide a valuable service.

If you have a patent, as we understand it, you should obtain signed non-disclosure and non-compete agreements with any parties interested in learning more about it.  The key is the signature and the date, especially if there’s an expiration attached to the document.  This, as we’re sure your lawyer would tell you, is the first step in protecting what you have. You must then take every other step necessary to ensure you enforce the provisions of your patent protection.  Again, consult and engage your attorney to handle these efforts for you.  You want counsel handling these matters so you can run your business.

When it comes to protecting your brand with a trademark, there’s a 7-step process to start with on the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office’s website.  From a protection standpoint, having a mark on your logo, service or product name indicates you have taken steps to protect the theft of your brand identifiers.  Will it deter knock-off competitors?  It should if the potential rival has scruples and business ethics, but remember that competition in our global economy relies on following the leader.

Yes, you should be flattered that someone is mimicking your brand concept.  You should also be aware they are diluting the market by causing confusion among consumers who have yet to establish their loyalty to your brand.  Setting the precedent of shutting down imitators sends a strong message through the marketing world that your brand is, indeed, your brand and one that will be protected at all costs.

Will there be emulators?  Yes.  Will there be loopholes in sustaining your legal rights to copyrights, trademarks, and/or patents and in protecting your brand?  Yes.

Your strength in these matters lies in the strength of your brand.  The more you create a unique identity that consumers associate themselves with, become and remain loyal to, the stronger the case becomes for your brand.

Another aspect of this topic that we’ll leave you with is that you should have a strategy in place for dealing with legal attacks of this nature.  Consider it a crisis, perhaps relatively minor but with potentially significant long-range impact, and be prepared to deal with it.

Think of it this way:  If you discover someone has launched a product with a similar purpose and knock-off logo, you’re already suffering damage.  The sooner you can nip it in the bud, the less significant the potential repercussions.  And remember, Brand Irons is here to help you establish and protect your brand.

Brand Your Work – Work  Your Brand