Category Archives: Relevant Content

Owning A Business – Part Five

Now that you know who your customers are, what they’re buying, and the value you offer them, it’s time to consider the message delivery channels. This is generally considered to be the area where you advertise your business, and it is one of the most challenging aspects of business ownership.

Get your message through

Choosing the right method to deliver your message is important.

Where do you spend your advertising dollars? You need to know what you want your ads to do:

  • Create exposure
  • Increase brand awareness
  • Get paying customers in the door
  • Generate a return on the investment
  • Build brand loyalty

Modern advertising theory holds that customers must first know you exist. They will then investigate and vet you to determine if you’re legit and how you’re different. Then they purchase. Age, gender, lifestyles, and other consumer demographics determine how best to deliver your message.

When you think about texts, most people respond almost immediately when they hear the text message alert. Whether it calls them to action on your behalf is another matter.

Consumers will vet your company by checking out your website or social media presence, so take care to ensure it achieves your goal and purpose of being relevant to the message.

TV commercials can build brand awareness and create a sense of urgency, but remember most consumers with a DVR (digital video recorder) fast forward through commercials.

Direct mail and other print channels can be effective if targeted to specific consumers and delivered with a definite call to action. Newspaper and magazine ads can work if the message resonates with the readers and are designed for maximum impact.

As the business owner, consider engaging a professional marketing firm to manage your advertising, but you must make the ultimate decision on how much to spend and where. If your ads fail to achieve your objectives, make the necessary changes.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand

Business Viability

If we’ve heard one story about someone wanting to start a restaurant, we’ve heard a dozen. The idea of opening and operating a restaurant most likely stems from a bad experience where someone feels they can do a better job than what they encountered. It could be that there is a belief they’re a good cook, or they have children who suggested mom and dad open a restaurant. In any case, the horror stories are more common than tales of success.

Here’s why, and the reasons apply to more than restaurants.

More than once we’ve heard about the person who wants to take over an existing restaurant that failed and closed. We even heard of one restaurant owner who closed a franchise operation and claimed they would reopen at the same location as a “different” restaurant. Could location have been a factor? Or could hiring a majority of the same employees drive a stake into the new operation?

There have been fast food franchises that have torn down one building and relocated to the other side of the street, simply because the old location was not accessible to customers who wanted to avoid turning left into the restaurant. Location is key.

When it comes to any business, it pays to do some diligence and investigate issues such as traffic flow, residential population, ease of access, and other establishments nearby that are capable of or already bringing potential customers to the location.  If you can do that yourself, great; if not, consider a professionally conducted competitive market analysis or feasibility study. Realize that the cost of acquiring that information could help you avoid moving forward on a project that is destined to fail … and spending much more money in the process.

Besides location, you have to consider your management team, target market segments, value proposition, revenue streams, various cost factors, and key resources, among others. All of these are part of developing a business model.

To go back to restaurants, for example, far too often the owner chooses to employ managers to run the operation in their stead. Unless those managers have a vested interest in the endeavor, they could ruin the business by the way they manage the employees, treat the consumers, and handle inventory and other financial matters. Ever hear stories of managers embezzling funds?

Have you identified the various market segments likely to patronize your business or use your products? What are their buying habits? Do you have a value proposition that resonates with them and is relevant to their needs and wants? Do you know how to reach them with effective advertising that provides a return on your marketing investment? What makes your business different from the other ones that provide the same product or service? It’s one of the first question certain consumers will ask.

Now ask yourself: How much money can I realistically expect to make from this business? On this step, it is critical that you are brutally honest with yourself. Leave your emotional attachment to the idea or suggestion out of the decision making process!

As part of this evaluation, ask yourself the long range question: Why am I doing this?

We are here to help you take the time to think through that question.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand


Missionary Zeal

If you lack passion for your business, it’s time to give some thought to why you’re doing what you’re doing.  Missionary zeal is essential for business owners to ingrain into their company or organization.  It becomes the defining element of their corporate culture, the reason for your existence.

150px-USS_Benfold_DDG-65_CrestThere is an excellent book on leadership by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff called It’s Your Ship and sub-titled Leadership Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy.  Abrashoff created the best ship in the United States Navy by realizing that the destroyer he commanded, the USS Benfold, was more than “his” vessel.  It belonged to every sailor on board and the standard military protocol of command and control was less than ideal as a management technique.

The captain found that the more every member of the crew knew they had ownership of their ship and that he cared about them and their role on it, the higher the level of performance could be expected from everyone.  His vision was to reinforce that the ship’s mission was combat readiness.  Pure and simple.  That vision was communicated with the expectation that every sailor on board was important to achieving that mission.  It was, without a doubt, their ship!  The fact the USS Benfold became the best damn ship in the Navy proved his approach.

Does that same missionary zeal apply to your organization?

Do your “sailors” feel as though they can help accomplish the mission?  Do they even know what the mission is?  Do they care?  If they don’t, the reason may be that they don’t believe you care about them or what they do.  Do you listen to their suggestions?  Do you implement those recommendations, or sweep them under the rug?

More importantly, do your sailors understand the corporate mission?  Do you, as the business owner or CEO, convey your vision for the company’s success?  If you are unsure or unclear, it may be time to seek professional counsel and re-visit your corporate culture.  It’s okay to embrace change if it is warranted.  Insanity has been defined as continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different result.

Your mission needs to clearly define your reason for existence, cutting through all the verbosity.  Are you in business to provide a service or a product to consumers?  Or to make money?  It should be both, but if you answered “Yes” to only making money, you need an independent third party to help you figure out how to do it.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand



Communication: Critical

Communication is critical to business success.

When you look at business plan formulas and study different models, there are two key ingredients woven through every one of them,   One is the reason for existence, or the corporate mission and vision.  Without a mission, success is hard to define and largely a matter of luck.

The second essential that is critical to whatever plan is put together is communication!Communication Diagram

Communication is the thread that is woven into and through the success of any organization.  If it is weak at any level, the message can be lost and the consequences will be seen on the bottom line.  If lines of communication are strong throughout the company, substantial profits can be gained.

Communication starts with the corporate mission.  It should be clear why the company is in business.  This falls on the owner to know the reason for the company’s existence and to communicate that vision throughout the entire organization and to the consuming public.  If the ownership has a hard time defining that vision, imagine the impact that has on everyone else involved with the company.

A consistent message must be communicated within and throughout the company, from management to employees and back as part of the culture.  All levels of the organization must sing the same song.  Managers must be open to suggestions from staff, especially those on the front lines of production or customer service.  Staff, especially those involved in sales, have a direct line of communication with customers, so their voices must be heard.  What they can communicate to the organization as feedback from consumers can mean the difference between long-term profitability and going out of business fire sales.

Everyone is part of the same ship and can make the difference between sinking or sailing.  The owner’s vision also defines his or her leadership style.

The company must communicate clearly with its customers and potential consumers.  If the customer is getting conflicting messages, often generated by word-of-mouth from other consumers, the likelihood of continued sales goes down dramatically.  Consistency is important in the message delivered to the public, but so is the value of consumer perception, whether it matches the company line or diverges.  Despite what business owners may think, people do talk about companies and ask what makes them different.

The key is to facilitate open and honest communication throughout the organization.

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



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 

Getting Your Ads To Work

You should expect your advertising to generate sales.  If it doesn’t, it should at least build or reinforce your corporate brand image or create leads for your sales force to follow-up on.  Preferably, ads = sales.

A common refrain you hear from advertising sales representatives, whether cable, TV, radio, or print distribution channels, is:  “You have to give it time, or you need more frequency.”  That’s a veiled excuse to capture more of your advertising budget on a media that is not likely to produce the results you desire.

So, what’s the secret to getting your advertising to work?

Telling a Secret

Planning and taking the time to think things through.

Let’s look at an example.  A radio station claims it is the #1 station in its market, and is the place your company should be advertising.  Sounds great, doesn’t it?  Think about this for a few minutes.

First, what do you do when you’re in your vehicle and listening to the radio when a commercial comes on?  Odds are you change the channel, like most people.  If the majority of listeners does the same thing, what chances does your advertising message have of being heard … or acted on?  You have to pay attention to consumer habits when it comes to your target audience being receptive to advertising messages.

The same concept applies to targeting a younger audience with a television or cable TV ad.  Most of them record their favorite programs and play them back with the DVR (Digital Video Recorder) so they can fast forward through the commercials.  Your 30-second spot now plays back in about 5 seconds, if it’s noticed at all.

Similar considerations are relevant to newspaper or magazine ads, although various market segments react differently to classified, display, and insert advertisements.  And most consumers now go online to check out a company or product’s website before they make a call or head to a store, so relevant content is an issue with an online presence.

Everything seems so complicated, so what should you do?  We recommend engaging a professional marketing consultant to help with getting the most out of your advertising budget, which is a portion of your overall marketing strategy.  In lieu of an engagement that is proven to make you far more money  than you will invest, you can take the time to look at establishing a budget and then thinking through where it is best to invest those funds.

It starts by clarifying who falls within your target market zone.  If you claim “everyone” needs your product and/or service, you will waste your advertising dollars.  Even if you determine it’s women vs. men, hang on to your wallet.  The market segments most likely to purchase and use your product and/or service can be much more narrowly defined.

Once you’ve narrowed the field to your primary prospective audience, figure out what advertising medium is most likely to get those people to react favorably to what it is you offer.  It may be your website or social media, signs, a billboard, or traditional media.  Use that medium with the right attention-getting device and the correct call to action and you will greatly increase your odds of success.

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   




Branding Your Services

Smoking brand ironWe’ve blogged several times since 2012 about brand-related topics, yet rarely have we been specific about how to create a brand for services.  Here we’re going to show you the tip of the iceberg with the intent of encouraging you to contact us (Brand Irons) about going through the entire proprietary process.  We know you’ll find value in this, so we beg forgiveness – or at least temporary memory loss about trying to generate business.  You can contact Brand Irons by clicking on the link in the tag line at the end of this blog.

The first step in creating a brand identity for your services is to define what those services are, and what they look like to a prospective consumer.  If you believe you sell a tangible service, consider whether it may – in reality – be a product offering.  A true definition of a service is something that is intangible because it rarely involves a physical item that the consumer can use on his/her own.

An example might be a cleaning service.  Yes, the service provider has cleaning products – either cleansers and equipment they provide or yours – but the actual service they provide is a cleaner, healthier, and perhaps neater, more organized home or office.  That’s visible but intangible.  How well the cleaning company employees do their job is subject to your perception and expectation.  You see the tangible end result, but how the work is done can vary from cleaning person to cleaning person.

Enough on tangible vs. intangible.  What you need to define is your service in terms of what the consumer receives.  If you offer a motor vehicle service, it’s less about the qualifications of the technician or mechanic than it is about providing customers with safe, comfortable, and trouble-free vehicles to use on the streets and highways.

A second step is to identify your strengths.  What are you good at providing, and can that be a profitable aspect of your business?  This soul-searching process can be beneficial if you and your business are in a transitional stage as the answers provide clarity on direction.  This is an area where a consultant can help you achieve that clarity.  You may also think about the weaknesses of your services and phase them out of your business model if it makes sense.  Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water, though.

Keep in mind that these steps may take place in a different order when you engage Brand Irons for your branding strategy sessions or think them through on your own.

A third step is creating a strategy for your brand that can be implemented relatively easily and sustained for as long as you own the service, product, or niche market.  This involves identifying your target markets, geographic range (if applicable), and other variables to put the package together and get it in front of potential consumers.  The look and feel should reflect your strengths and the power of the services you offer that differentiate your business from your competitors.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand