Category Archives: Game Strategies

Perception vs. Reality

Perception vs. reality in marketing your brand.

With as many blogs as we’ve posted about marketing, it’s puzzling why this is the first time we’ve addressed the topic so basic to marketing.  Does the consumer’s perception of your business match the reality of your company?

Here’s a little test:  Imagine your dream vehicle, the car or truck you’ve always wanted to own and drive.  With that image firmly in mind, see if the picture at the end of this blog matches your ideal.  Does perception match?

You’ve probably heard the phrase:  Marketing is perception.  There’s an element of truth to that because every company and business wants to have top-of-mind awareness for their products and services with the largest consumer base they can capture.

An analogy would be that Cadillac is the top-of-the-line in American automobiles, the “Cadillac” if you will.  Keep in mind it has taken years, lots of advertising dollars, and various trials and tribulations to achieve and maintain that image for General Motors.

You, too, must have that commitment to your brand to ensure its position as the leader among your competitors.

It’s a marketing process wherein you craft the ideal, then work toward matching reality to that perceived image.  Once it’s achieved, the focus shifts to maintaining a sustainable corporate brand identity.

One of the first steps is to assess what perception already exists for your products or brand.  You can engage professional services to perform this analysis or do it yourself with the pain-staking effort of talking to customers and non-customers.  Customers can tell you what they like about your products and services and your company overall.  Non-customers can give you the perspective of individuals who a) may not be aware of your products yet, or b) have an adverse opinion of what your products or services entail.  Either way, you need to know the perception.

Another step, and again, professionals can assist with the process, is to determine how closely the perceptions are to where you want them to be.  Coupled with that is delineating the steps to bring the two more closely into alignment.

Changing perceptions is difficult.  Consumers generally remain loyal to certain products and services, hence brands, they know, like, and trust.  Getting them to change to something else is a challenge, as much as it is to convert customers of a competitor to your brand.



Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand


Customer Service: Tasks or Customers?

The clerk behind the grocery store service counter was running ragged.  There were five customers backed up waiting to take care of business, from purchasing lottery tickets to returning merchandise and from asking about a coupon to getting a price adjustment.

When it was our turn, we made a comment about how busy it appeared to be.  The clerk replied that it had been hectic all day and that the work they’d been assigned “in the back” was not getting done.  At that point, we began the conversation about staffing the “customer service” counter.

We suggested that the reason they were there in the first place was to take care of customers, not whatever the manager assigned as chores or tasks.  There was agreement before a “but” that prompted our response to let the manager know, in no uncertain terms, that the assigned work was not getting done because they were taking care of customers.

If you are a manager or business owner, it is imperative that your employees understand their first priority:  Take care of the customers!  Reports, stocking shelves, team meetings or whatever else is on your agenda of priorities should always take a back seat to taking care of the people who want to move your merchandise and give you money.  Anything less, in our opinion, is poor management.

Consider this example;  You’re shopping in a store and hear the announcement over the  public address system that all “associates” should assemble in the men’s wear section for a team meeting in five minutes.  What’s your perception?

One could be that you have five minutes to get any help before there is no one available to take care of whatever you might need in terms of service.

Two could be that someone is going to get chewed out and made an example of in front of all the other people on shift.

Three could be the manager has a self-inflated ego about what’s important to the company.

A criminal mind might use that meeting to attempt something illegal.

While we realize it is difficult to hold team meetings when a business operates 24 hours a day, they can be conducted prior to a shift change by paying a few minutes of extra time for staff to show up early.  Consider how the workers feel when they have to stop what they’re doing and ignore customers to attend a group get together that may or may not have significance to their performance.

It is far easier to build employee morale through individual attention.  Corrective action is best achieved one-on-one and while praise for exceptional performance is appreciated in a group environment, it is also a boost when provided face-to-face.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand


Old School Advertising

Once upon a time, people looked for information about a business in the yellow pages of their local telephone directory.

Yellow PagesIf a business placed an advertisement in that directory, it was wise to be the first company listed under the desired category.  The “old school” method of naming your company, therefore, was to have a title such as All American Plumbing or AAA Heating & Cooling.  The idea was that the consumer would dial your number first because you were first in your category.

In a sense, they were following the #1 immutable law of marketing;  The Law of Leadership.

Fast forward to 2015 and the world of electronic communication.  Searching the phone directory for a business listing has been following the path of the dinosaurs for a number of years, with the end not too far away.  Today it is much faster and more efficient to look for a business using a web browser on a smart phone, laptop, tablet, or similar electronic device.

In many cases, the listing enables the online user to call the business directly from the listing, view the website, or discover the hours of operation among other choices.

So, although the old school theory of using the first letter of the alphabet to lead the way in a business listing is passe, the law of leadership still applies.

If a potential consumer does not know the specific name of your product, business, or company and chooses to search by a generic category such as “plumber” or “Italian restaurant,” it is critical that your business comes up on the first page of search results, preferably leading the way by being first on the page.  Search engines are intuitive enough to know your location, so searching for an Italian restaurant when you’re in Chicago is not likely to return a result for Poughkeepsie, New York.

The bottom line:  You want to be on the first page of search results!  Statistics have shown that 74% of users will not go beyond that first page.  If your business is not there, you are out of the picture, and will wonder why your website isn’t generating the results you expect.

How do you do it?  One way we recommend is to work with a consulting firm with a proven track record.  Just building a web presence is not enough in today’s competitive environment.  You need the right key words and strong page descriptions, but you also need to understand your market segments – not everyone needs what you offer – and provide relevant content that entices your ideal audience members to use your products and become loyal to your brand.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand


Online Advertising Pros and Cons

According to recent reports by Chartbeat and Google, only 0.1% or less of banner ads are actually clicked on.  One-tenth of one percent or less!  Couple that with statistics showing that 56.1% of all, repeat all, website ads are not seen and you come to the realization that business owners need to rethink their online marketing strategies.

Roger Yu of USA Today wrote an article recently about how “some notable names in the online publishing business (are) starting to rethink the way they present their content and sell their ads, focusing on the amount of time spent on their content by readers.”  The gist of Yu’s article is that online users want relevant and/or compelling content.

Let’s look at the cons of online advertising first.

Banner, pay-per-click, and similar ads are not likely to produce new clients for your business, despite the number of people viewing the sites where you may advertise.  When you think about it, which is something we encourage people to do, users don’t want to be sold, so the only way someone is going to click on an ad is if they’re tricked into doing so or are supremely interested in what the potential offer is all about.

The site owner will tout viewers and length of stay on the sites you may advertise on, but when you measure the return on your investment, you are likely to find it’s a waste of money.

What you have to do is weigh the new clients you gain against the cost to acquire them.  For example, if you’re spending $600 a month in online advertising and only acquire one new client, the cost of that acquisition is $600.  Is a client worth that to your business?

Technology is changing rapidly.  What that means is consumer buying habits are also changing rapidly.  What you need to increase the likelihood of a sale is the reader’s time and attention.  That’s where the value lies for both the consumer and your brand.

Yu’s article reported that in December 2014, “…Google issued a report that said 56% of ads it serves aren’t ‘viewable,’ a term that suggests ads are too far down on the site or that readers aren’t scrolling down far enough.”

On the plus side, having a web presence for your business that is mobile-enabled is essential in this era of smart phones.  If a consumer can view your website on their phone, touch and call your business with a couple of thumb or finger moves, you have developed an effective online approach to advertising your business.

If you know where your potential customers are likely to be, such as shopping on or searching with Google, and you can afford to advertise your products there, it may be worth the investment.  Try it short-term to see if it generates results.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand



Business Card Etiquette

Your business card is a major component of your corporate marketing strategy.  It is a mini-billboard for your business and tells prospective customers how they can reach you.

How your card looks is critical.  How you present it to people is pivotal.  The information it contains enables people to contact you.  Let’s dig into the details.

Business card presentation

1)  The look of your card.  Your corporate logo should be prominent on your business card.  Call it brand recognition.  Your name is also critical, so make sure it’s spelled correctly when you proof the card (Yes, ask for a proof and proofread your card before authorizing printing).  Your title is less important than the information on how to reach you.  If you want people to call, make sure your phone number is there.  Your address is vital if you operate a retail store.  Your website and E-mail are important if you want people to contact you through those electronic channels.

On a side note, make sure your website reflects the image you convey on your business card to reinforce your brand identity.

2)  Presenting your card.  How you hand out your card is a key presentation element.  If you attend a networking event, having a good supply of business cards readily accessible is a key to success in discovering potential clients or referral sources.  Practice pulling out your card from your purse, pocket, or other storage place so you can grab the card without looking at it and present it properly.  Hand the card to the other person so the information is easily seen and creates a positive brand impression right away.  If they are good at networking, they will accept your card and look more closely at it to digest your information and ask questions to stimulate the conversation.  Be polite and ask for their card, too, and if you want to make a note about them afterwards, proper etiquette is to ask their permission to write on their card.  Note:  It’s not a good idea to start writing on their card without asking first.

3.  It’s about information.  Your card should contain essential information and not leave the recipient guessing how they can follow-up with you.  Even though your company may have a myriad of phone lines coming in, highlight the dominant number that you accept calls on.  The impression people get when they call the corporate number and have to wade through a robo-operator to get your extension and voice mail message is that you don’t want their business.  Callers like to talk to a real person right away.  The same holds true for an E-mail address.  Make sure the one you give people on your card is one you check regularly, and when you get an E-mail from someone you’ve met, at least acknowledge that you received it.  As much as we rely on electronic communication techniques in today’s business environment, people still like to interact with people.

Your business card is the leave behind you have to create an impression with someone you’ve met face-to-face.  It’s also a symbol of your brand identity, so present it properly.  Keep in mind it can also be used as a reminder when you mail a letter to someone.  It’s considerate to include two cards in a letter, one for the recipient and one for them to give to a potential referral.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand

How to Build Brand Loyalty – 5 Basic Steps

Building brand loyalty involves being able to attract customers, keep them coming back, and have them sing your praises to other consumers.  Their loyalty depends on how well you take care of them and lasts through the reputation you build for your brand.

Step One:  Produce and provide a quality product or exceptional service.  Quality is a major determining factor when it comes to the price equation.  Consumers will purchase an inexpensive product and remain loyal if it’s useful and offered in a consistent fashion.  French fries come to mind as an example.  Fries are relatively cheap to produce, yet customers develop a fondness for how and where they get their favorite fries.

Step Two:  Meet or exceed the customer’s needs.  Beyond food, shelter, and clothing, you should know what your customers need.  Do they want the prestige of owning your product or using your service?  Do they seek certain performance standards?  Do they need to fill a basic need or pick up a bit of luxury?  The deeper knowledge you have of your client’s needs, the easier it becomes to meet and satisfy those demands.

Step Three:  Deliver what you promise.  Failure to deliver what’s promised opens the door to lots of business headaches.  How does your delivery person deal with an irate customer when your order taker says the pizza will be there in 30 minutes and it takes longer than 90 minutes to get it there?  Does “Oops, I’m sorry!” help build brand loyalty?  The other side of this brand building step is to avoid promising what you can’t deliver.

Step Four:  Take care of your customers.  Customers will remain loyal to your company and its brands if everything about it provides them with more pleasure than pain.  If a customer likes how well your vehicle handles, how easy it is to get in and out of, how much storage space it provides, and how good it looks sitting in their driveway, the odds are fairly good you will cultivate a loyal customer who brags to others about your vehicle.

Step Five:  Ride for the brand.  Once you’ve settled on a brand identity and begun to implement the strategy that goes with it, stick to it!  Understand that it make take time to become ingrained in the consumer’s mind, so allow your advertising and other marketing efforts to work before pulling the plug and shifting gear.  When customers know you make the difference they’re looking for and remain consistent, their loyalty is easier to maintain.

These are five basic steps on the path to building brand loyalty.  There are others, of course, and we’ll share more in coming posts.  Keep in mind that what may seem simple can be rather complicated.  Your task, as a business owner, is to remain focused on doing what you’re good at.  Engaging a business and/or marketing consultant can be an effective way of growing your business and achieving your dreams.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand 

Making Changes

You’ve probably heard the analogy about large corporations being like an aircraft carrier or battleship while smaller companies are compared to PT boats or cruisers.  It’s the analogy that making a course correction or changes within a large corporation is more difficult and takes longer than the same action with a smaller vessel.

CVN-76 USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier

CVN-76 USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier

There’s an element of truth to the analogy, although you must remember that larger businesses have more resources at their disposal when it comes to making changes.  An aircraft carrier, for example, has the resources to protect the direction its been going while it prepares to make a course adjustment.  It has a much greater reach and a larger crew than the destroyer running alongside.  In fact, the destroyer can be part of the larger aircraft carrier’s entourage and thus help affect change more quickly.

Enough of the military perspective.  We’ve advocated for several blogs about the importance of constantly taking a step or two back and looking at your business from a different perspective.  We are against change for the sake of change.  However, if a change is warranted for whatever reason – economic downturn, cost inefficiencies, product obsolescence, poor performance, or lagging sales – the more rapidly and efficiently change can be made, the better off the company will be when it comes to survival over the long haul.

Smith-Corona once owned the market for typewriters but failed to make an effective transition to computers.  IBM, on the other hand, had a large market share with their Selectric typewriter and made a relatively successful change to the world of computers.  Similar comparisons can be made in other fields – Motorola with portable phones, for example.  The company once owned the manufacturing sector for portable phones and now has a smaller share of the market but is making a comeback.

Change is a constant in every business environment.  The key to staying ahead of change is to remain abreast of what the consumer wants and is willing to pay for.  How does a company do that?

First, at least some of the corporate culture needs to embrace the concept that change is the only thing that’s permanent.  Change is happening all the time as consumers age and change buying habits – purchasing online versus at the retail outlet, for example.

Second, engage strategic partners such as Brand Irons to put a finger on the pulse of consumers and more clearly define marketing direction or internal changes that may be a necessity to move in the right direction.  The slogan below links to our website.

Third, be pro-active in making changes.  Waiting, although it is a decision, can be disastrous if your competitors move more quickly and capture a big chunk of your market share.  It’s your business to gain – or lose.

Be sensitive and open to change.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand 

Business Plans & Branding

Developing your corporate brand begins with your business plan.

Circle B brand

Some professional advisers insist that business owners should complete their own business plan.  We agree – to a certain extent.  The business owner must provide the input to a business plan.  Without the owner’s commitment to completing and implementing a plan, however, the process is a waste of time.

A business owner knows what they want to do but may need the skills of a more experienced planner to compile the plan more effectively and obtain financing.  Many people in business also don’t know what they don’t know, which means having someone with the expertise in many different areas to assist can save time and money.  Expertise in leading a sales team may not translate well to budgeting and financial projections.  Being proficient in production techniques may leave something to be desired when it comes to choosing advertising channels or defining consumer markets.  Professional consultants earn their fees by having the knowledge that proves beneficial in a variety of areas.

The first step in starting a business involves some soul searching and market research.  When Brand Irons meets with a prospective client, it is essential to be open and honest in the discussion.  We look for commitment to the process of planning as well as to the long-term success of the business concept.  We also recommend a feasibility study to assess the economic and market conditions, potential profitability, and other financial considerations before deciding to proceed.

Spending a little money up front to know the idea has merit is a wise investment.

While the cost of a feasibility study may be daunting, if the results indicate a better-than-average potential for return on investment (ROI) and the owner decides to go forward, the foundation of the business plan has been put in place.  Assembling the rest of the plan and crafting a strategic model to implement is relatively simple once the decision is made to proceed.

What few people who want to start a business realize is that only one out of every 50 business ideas is commercially viable.  That’s a 2% success ratio!

With the proper guidance from business and marketing consultants such as Brand Irons, you can craft a brand identity for your business based on the foundation provided by your business plan and strategic model.  Your business is unique, which is one of the reasons you need professional assistance in compiling a brand strategy that is consistent with the unique nature of your business and capitalizes on your assets.  The result is a more focused approach to marketing your business and reaching your desired audience.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand

The December Purge

While helping a former client close the business, it has been amazing at how much “stuff” has been accumulated.  Hence the title of this week’s blog.

Business owners typically defend every part of their company, and that’s good.  Where that defense can falter, however, is when the business acquires assets, property, or “things” that have value at some point but become worthless to the company at another point.  Those items should be purged and sold, destroyed, trashed, donated, recycled, or whatever can be done to eliminate them.  We do not advocate clearing room to add more clutter.  Far from it!  The point is to eliminate what is not necessary to do business.

A Native American casino printed 10,000 newsletters to send to their player’s club members.  We found boxes upon boxes of those newsletters in storage.  When we asked why they were in storage and not in the hands of club members, the response was that newsletters were only mailed to the most active members of the club – about 1,500 people.  The remaining 8,500 newsletters were purged, the storage space was put to better use, and adjustments were made to future printing and mailing orders.

Shred and dispose of paper files that are no longer needed for tax or accounting purposes.  Old furniture, desks, chairs, computers, file cabinets or whatever else is sitting in storage should be sold or donated.  There are countless not-for-profit organizations that would welcome donations and enable your company to take a write-off (make sure you check with your accountant on deductions).

Purging gives you an opportunity for a fresh perspective.  Look at what you have through impartial outside eyes.  Update your signs if your market segments have changed, and get rid of the old ones!  Clean up your office to give yourself new energy.  Try to get it done in a day, even if you give up a Saturday to preserve your sanity at work.  Bring in a spouse or a different set of eyes to look at everything, and try to avoid getting defensive.

Now, by purge we are not talking about a wild spree of firing employees.  Do, however, take a look at your staffing requirements, job responsibilities, and employee performance.  You may find staff who deserve accolades and some who deserve to be let go.

The December purge enables your company to clear the debris from the current year and make room for the challenges of the next.  The holiday period may also be a slow time that serves well for the house cleaning process.  Think about purging again in six months, around the 4th of July or whenever it’s convenient.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand 

Sales Confidence

Once upon a time, there was a sales person who should have been in a different line of work.  At a trade show, they were standing in the aisle and as prospects walked by would ask, “You wouldn’t be interested in buying a web site, would you?”

Every answer was a resounding “No!”

Business man and meeting table background

This sales person, and many others like them, lacked the confidence to be convincing in their introductory pitch.  That’s a sign of either poor training or the need to choose a different occupation.  It was later discovered that the sales representative had clients who had never been asked to pay for the work being done on their website.  More later.

A sales person must have a thorough knowledge of the product and/or services he/she is offering.  With the wisdom comes belief in the product or service’s ability to meet the needs of the consumer.  That implies the sales person also understands what those needs are and how the company they represent can fulfill those needs.

Other elements that generate confidence in a sales person:

Empathy – Merely rattling off a sales pitch to a prospective customer is likely to turn off the potential purchaser.  People, in general, do not like to be sold, so the sales person who fails to ask questions or show concern for the prospect is bound to be viewed as pushy.  Some will get the sale through persistence.  Without listening, though, the chances of that sale falling through increase exponentially.

Presentation – The empathetic sales rep presents information to the prospective customer in a manner that appeals to what they hear the prospect saying.  Yes, some elements of the presentation need to be canned and rehearsed so they come out of the rep’s mouth with confidence, but the knowledge of how the product or service can be of value to the consumer is more important.

Closing Skills – One of the primary reasons that sales people fail is they lack the confidence to ask for the money, and close the sale.  Part of this involves being sensitive to the prospect.  If you can sense that the person in front of you is ready to make the buy, ask for the sale.  If you’ve dealt with all the objections, make it official and get the consumer on the way to enjoying the product or service you’ve convinced them is worth purchasing.

Back to our website sales person:  It was obvious they were not cut out to be in sales, so she was let go.  A week or so later, she came back in and expressed her gratitude for being fired.  Why?  She said it was the best thing that ever happened to her because it made her realize she wasn’t cut out to be in sales.  She found a job in technical support, which made her happy.

Do your sales people have confidence in marketing your products and/or services?

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand