Monthly Archives: July 2014

The Trust Factor

Credit must be given when credit is due.  The trust factor is a concept we learned about word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing from the networking guru, Dr. Ivan Misner, founder of BNI (Business Network International).  The concept is worth elaboration since it applies to more than WOM marketing for your business.

Graphic designed by Brand Irons.

Graphic designed by Brand Irons.

The process of building trust begins with Visibility.  From the networking perspective, you must make yourself visible in order for people to begin building some trust.  That often means attending networking events on a consistent basis, whether it’s a BNI meeting or a Chamber After Hours event.

From the business and marketing perspective, visibility is important because your consumers and potential customers need to know you exist.  In this case, visibility is how your place of business is perceived, how your products and/or services are viewed, how visible you and your employees are, and how well you advertise and promote your business.  Perception needs to reflect reality.  You need to be seen and recognized!

In networking, you also establish trust by building Credibility.  You have to say what you mean and mean what you say.

The same principle holds when it comes to marketing your business.  If you promise to deliver within 24 hours and it takes 36, your credibility is damaged.  If your advertising offers a “wide selection” and the consumer discovers they have two choices, your credibility is suspect.  If you post certain hours and are closed during those times, it has an impact on your credibility.

Credibility, like visibility, must be maintained on a consistent basis to build the trust you want your customers to have in you and your business.  Our last two blogs have harped on consistency because it is so vital to continuously growing your business.

When it comes to networking, and we have found this to be true in more than a dozen years of being involved in BNI, your Profitability comes from the trust that’s established when you are visible and credible in your business dealings.

From the business and marketing side, establishing the profitability of your company is also built on the other two sides of the trust triangle.  When your products hit the market and gain visibility, they hopefully become credible and desirable in the eyes of your consumers.  This establishes the trust in you, your company, and your products and/or services that leads to the profitability you desire.

Trust is at the center of building customer loyalty to your brand.  Trust must be established and maintained with your clients.  Remember, too, that trust is easily destroyed.  It requires honesty and hard work, as well as consistency throughout your organization.  It is also worth protecting when you achieve it.

One service that a consulting firm, like Brand Irons, can offer is an evaluation of the trust factor for your business, your products and/or services.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand


Lessons In Consistency – Part 2

Here’s another perspective on the importance of consistency in business, albeit from a different angle than our last post.

Average Female

Is she your avatar? Part of your ideal market segment?

Your sales process – part of your company’s over-arching marketing strategy – should be consistent from one end to the other, top to bottom.  It starts with a constant known as your ideal customer.  Can you describe that individual?

Are they male or female?  What is their age? How do they live?  What do they like to do?  How much do they use their cell or smart phone?  Do they listen to the radio?  Watch TV?  How do they feel about your products and/or services?  How do you want them to feel?  What gives them pleasure?  What causes them pain?

The more narrowly you can define your specific target by answering these questions, the closer you can come to arriving at a sales process and effective marketing strategy that addresses their needs, wants, and desires … and gets them to want (demand) what you offer at whatever price you want to charge or that the market will bear.

When you have a solid idea of what motivates your customer to purchase your products or services, you can devise a consistent message that inspires them to be loyal to your company.  The key is to be consistent with the message and every aspect of your business that’s related to it.  Varying from that consistency costs you money!

For example, if you have customers purchasing your service at $60 per hour and they pay it without hesitation, what do you open your company up to by offering a “special” rate of $50 an hour for “a limited time”?  In a word, trouble!

By lowering your normal rate, you devalue your standards, especially if you continue to provide the same level of quality service.  Do you want to offer lesser quality because you’ve lowered your rate?  Not a good idea.  How do your customers who have paid $60 an hour feel about the discounted rate when they find out about it?  Not happy.

Sure, you have to justify that the service you provide is valued fairly at the rate you offer, but we have discovered that companies tend to under-value their products or services.  The reason they do is the fear they won’t have any business if they’re too high priced but, again, it comes back to the value provided.  This is where companies become their own competition.  You need a clear understanding of the value you provide, and stay consistent with your offer.  Another reason you can engage professional help to keep you on course.

While we don’t advocate raising prices “just because,” it is important to assess your product or service in the light of market conditions.  If the consumer perceives the value is there, they will pay the price.  If not, they won’t.  Simple.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand

How Critical Is Consistency?

We all like to try different things.  In business, however, being consistent is important … unless you don’t care if customers come back.

Pizza DeliveryThink about a pizza joint as an example.  Assume you order your favorite toppings and crust for delivery.  When it shows up, within the promised time frame, it is hot and prepared to perfection.  Your expectation has been established for the next time.  The bar is set.

Two weeks later, you order the same pizza from the same establishment.  It shows up hot and on time, but the crust is a bit overdone and the taste is different somehow.  Maybe they forgot to spice it the same way.  Okay, you can tolerate that, but now your expectations have been altered, maybe even reduced.  You may even call the pizza parlor to ask the manager why there’s a difference.

The next few pizzas you order are tolerable but still not as good as the first.  The joint seems to be having a hard time with consistency but still within a tolerable range fro delivered food.  Then the bomb drops.

You order again and the person answering the phone is rude, asks you to hold, and rather than wait, you hang up and have someone else call it in.  Same thing happens to them, and it takes five minutes to get back to you. If you are emotionally tied to ordering from that pizza place, you wait and place your order.

Thirty minutes after your pizza should have arrived, you call to find out if the driver got lost or what’s going on with it.  No apology, just some line about being backed up and your pie is just coming out of the oven, so it should be there within a few minutes.

You expect a fresh, hot pizza that meets your standard for this pizza parlor.  You’re hungrier than ever since you were ready to eat when it was due to be delivered.  Instead, it arrives cold, the whole pie looks burnt – especially the crispy crust, and it tastes horrible.  This is unequivocally not acceptable.  Yet you’ve still paid good money for your dinner.

As the owner of this business, what would you anticipate the customer would do if you were them?  Shut up and eat the pizza without complaining?  Eat it but call to complain?  Bring it back and demand a refund?  Or the more likely scenario:  Never order pizza from you again and tell everyone they know how horrible your pizza was?

The lesson for any business owner:  What does it take to deliver a consistent product or service to your customers?  In this case, making a pizza should be relatively simple:  make a crust using your signature ingredients, put it in a cooking pan, add your signature sauce, top it with consistent ingredients and spices, and cook it in an oven set to the right temperature for the specified amount of time.  Then box it up and get it delivered within the promised time frame.

Walk through that exercise with whatever product or service you offer to consumers.  Assess what it takes to be consistent.  The steps should be relatively simple and easy to identify.  Those steps should be your normal and your staff should clearly understand that “normal” is the minimal standard to achieve.  Nothing less than that should be tolerated.

What goes along with delivering a consistent product or service is the customer service side of the process.  Back to the pizza example:  How difficult would it be for someone in the business, preferably a manager, to call a customer back, apologize, and let them know the pizza is going to be delivered later than previously stated?  Find the order slip, pick up the phone, and call the client.  The point is to retain customer loyalty if possible.  Unless you have enough business that you can afford to have only one-time customers.

For some business owners, it may be essential to have a business consultant come in and analyze what’s going on when it comes to processes and consistency.  The solutions are often simple but may involve changing a company’s existing culture.  There are firms, Brand Irons comes to mind, that can help assess those challenges and create options.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand


Consumer Oriented Marketing

Rule #1 – The customer is always right.

Rule #2 – When in doubt, see rule #1.

Sound familiar?  As a business owner, you know rule #1 may be false but that the customer’s perception is that they are always right.

Customer Focus

In either case, the consumer is the lifeblood of your business.  The more focused you can be on exceeding the needs of your customers, the more profitability you enjoy.  You will build brand loyalty and have repeat customers as well as solid referrals for years to come.  Think about what you would have without any customers.

Here are some steps to consider in becoming more consumer oriented in marketing your business and your products and/or services:

  1. Know what you’re selling.  You may believe you sell insurance, but your customers are buying peace of mind and the ability to sleep well at night.  Think about what your customers are purchasing.
  2. Know your customers’ buying motivation.  This relates to #1, but goes further by analyzing whether they’re purchasing on price, convenience, satisfaction, previous experience or some other factor.  Think about why they buy from  you.
  3. Know your customers.  How often do they come to you?  What other demographic information do you have about your market segments?  Do you know where they live, or what they do for a living?  Can you address them on a first name basis?
  4. Know how to reach your customers.  Traditional advertising methods such as radio, TV, or newspaper ads may fail to get their attention.  You need to know what appeals to them and how you can best get your message through to them.
  5. Know what you want.  If you want loyal customers, treat them like they want to be treated.  That’s the platinum rule.  If you want referrals, ask for them.  If you want volume and traffic, that’s a different call to action.  Ask them to do what you want.

In many cases, your consumers want you to listen to them.  That is the foundation of the rule about the customer being right.  They may expect that you will refund their money or take back the merchandise or hear their complaint, and those all relate back to them knowing you will listen to them.

Some of the most innovative new products and services have originated from listening to consumers and their suggestions.  Keep an open mind and listen!

At Brand Irons, we walk business owners through a proprietary process that helps them identify their products, markets, value propositions, and viable distribution channels.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand

Brand & Business Review

You should review the status of your business every six months, if not more often.  This includes an analysis of your brand and the products or services you offer to consumers.

This review can be a simple process of taking a step back and looking at your business from a couple points of view, or a rather lengthy evaluation with a professional consultant.

King mirror PawnIf you’re going to do a self-evaluation, the hardest but most important thing to do is to remove any emotional attachment you have to your business.  Think rationally.  Emotion is what you bring back when it’s time to market your business and advertise your products.  Look at everything from an objective, independent perspective, just like a consultant would do:

  • Evaluate your cash flow situation
  • Assess actual sales vs. projections
  • Consider how far out are your receivables
  • Rate your advertising return on investment (ROI)
  • Look at employee turnover rates
  • Where is your company in terms of the industry standard

These are a few of the areas to evaluate on your own.  Take the time to get the information you need to make intelligent decisions, and think through what the cold, hard facts are telling you.  Look at it as if you were someone on the outside looking in.

You need to know the value of your company … and the value you provide to your market segments.

If you’re honest and open with your consulting firm, a six-month assessment may not be as critical with them as doing it by yourself.  Your consultants should know where you are on a monthly or quarterly basis.  The idea is to help you take corrective action while it can have a positive impact and before it becomes a huge risk or serious problem.

Looking at your business impartially enables you to discover if certain employees need to be released or divisions need to be trimmed or modified.  Your investors and shareholders have to know you can make the tough decisions when they need to be made.  Removing yourself from the urgent demands of daily activities to review your status reduces the risk of making fatal mistakes and reveals the validity of your company.

As the owner or CEO of your business, the responsibility for making hard choices falls on your shoulders.  It may be your chief bookkeeper who is engaged in fraudulent activity and needs to be prosecuted.  It could be that your closest friend and VP of sales is stealing clients and collaborating with your competition.  You may have an obsolete product line that needs to be terminated.  It’s difficult to make a decision unless you have the correct information, and your job is to make sure you have all the right information.

Let us know if you would like help.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand