Monthly Archives: February 2013

Defining Success

As a business owner or key management person, you know your business should have a strategy for constantly adding to the bottom line.  That growth strategy outlines goals and identifies the steps to be taken in achieving those objectives.  In the end, this defines what you consider and will accept as success for your organization.

Larger companies generally have the resources to set these objectives through annual planning sessions or corporate retreats guided by independent third party professionals, such as Brand Irons.  Smaller companies also have the ability to conduct these strategic success meetings and bring in professional guidance.  The cost of these planning sessions are more than offset by the focus they bring to your corporate culture and the results they generate through higher productivity and reduced waste.

The richest value comes when your team agrees to and commits to the end result of the planning and is able to successfully implement a majority, if not all, of the objectives.

There are others, but here are five of the objectives your business should define:

  1. Net Profit.  What are your earnings projections for 2013?  Subtract anticipated costs to come up with your expected net profit numbers for the year.  Are those realistic and attainable numbers?  Will they satisfy you and/or shareholders?
  2. Annual Sales.  Knowing what your bottom line is supposed to be, consider how sales will achieve those projections.  Who is responsible for generating sales and what will they have to do to get them?  Do you need more sales people?
  3. Production.  Evaluate whether the capacity exists to produce what is sold in a timely fashion, or whether there is sufficient inventory to meet demand.  Take a close look at ways to streamline costs yet still deliver quality products and service to your customers and prospects.
  4. Customer Service.  How loyal are your clients to your brand(s)?  Do they enjoy the experience of working with or purchasing from your organization?  Do your sales personnel and front line people convey the right sense about your culture?  That culture should pervade your entire organization.  Does it?
  5. Marketing Results.  Whether it’s through sales, advertising, promotions, or public relations, your company’s marketing efforts should generate measurable results.  What do you measure?  Conversion rates for sales presentations.  Client response to advertisements (sales directly tied to an ad, for instance).  Increased “Likes” on your Facebook page.  Phone calls asking for information or to arrange meetings.  New subscribers to your newsletter.  You decide what else to measure, based on what is important for generating results.

You define success measurements to better allocate resources.  There’s an adage about setting goals that goes something along the lines of “If you set sail without a destination, how will you know when you get there?”sailing ship

If you place an ad in the newspaper and ask viewers to call about a special offer, you can gauge the success of the ad by how many calls you receive.  Then you must ask:  Were there enough calls to 1) pay for the ad? and, 2) warrant the expense in terms of sales that resulted?

However you define success for your business, make sure you take the time to think through whether that is, realistically, how you want to define your success.


Missing: Call to Action!

Far too often, advertisers neglect to include a call to action in their advertisements.  What is the purpose of an ad?  To get customers or prospective customers to buy your product and/or service!  Pure and simple.

Pen to Drop

Be specific.

Author Paul G. Thomas shared a powerful message about the importance of a call to action in his book, Psychofeedback.  Here’s an example he shared:  Hold a pen or pencil with two fingers and tell yourself “I can drop this pen” repeatedly until you drop the pen.

Why does the pen stay in your fingers?

The message, like the call to action in your advertising, needs to be more specific.  Try this phrase, “Drop it!”

Another friend, author Bob Nicoll –, shares a story that is specific to advertising.  A convenience store near where he lived had a sign that encouraged patrons to “Don’t forget the ice.”  Bob asked the owner how his sales of ice were.  “Abysmal” or something similar was the response.  When you tell people not to forget something, what do they do?  Forget.

Bob asked for a marker and some paper to make new signs.  His signs read, “Remember the Ice!” when he gave them to the owner.  When he returned, he asked the owner how his ice sales were, and the owner replied he was having a hard time keeping it in stock.

The lesson in these stories:  1)  Tell your customers and prospects what you want them to do.

Be specific.  Think about the end result you want from any advertising you spend hard-earned money to put out there.  Why would you spend good money and forget to ask for the sale?  There are three basic actions to call your audience to do:

  • Come in;
  • Visit your website; or
  • Call you.

Many advertisers use the attraction of a sale to draw potential customers in to their store.  Pick up a Sunday newspaper and browse through the ads to get a better idea of what I mean.  “Special 2-day sale now going on” or “50-60% off all men’s shoes” or “This week’s specials” are fairly common lures to draw customers in, and the more successful ones are the ads that send a message to act now.  “Buy a new Mercedes this Saturday and receive a FREE 60″ wide-screen TV,” is an example.

Ever wonder why retail stores include so many different products in their ad flyers or TV commercials?  They want to attract you to come in but they’re unsure of what you really want or need or might be thinking about buying.  That’s why they lump a bunch of products together to pull you in.

If you study those ads, though, the direct call to action may be too subliminal.

The call to action where an advertiser sends the consumer to the company’s website can be especially effective with the under 45 demographic.  It can work for any age group, but can also be extremely narrowly targeted as well.

Success with this call to action requires that the website have the information the users are looking for in an easy-to-find location.  Internet users have little patience.  Remember instant gratification?  If you’ve sent them to the web for a special offer, that coupon or banner must jump out at them once they land on the site you’ve given them.  If not, you’ve probably lost them for good.

The intent is to get them to your site and pique their curiosity enough to get them to do some browsing on your site and learn more about your company and its products and services.  The nice thing about this call to action as well is that it is easy to track the volume of traffic being generated by the site and correlate it to the placement of the message.  Tracking is beneficial.

The third call to action is to generate a phone call.  A professional hair salon or massage therapist, for example, may prefer that clients or potential customers call to schedule an appointment instead of walking in.  Some professionals may encourage walk-in traffic, but doctors, dentists, optometrists and other medical professionals, as well as lawyers, accountants, and marketing consultants prefer a scheduled appointment to allocate sufficient time for the customer.

As you craft your advertising messages, think about the desired outcome.  If you want the phone to ring, ask for it in a bold headline.  If you want people checking out your website, use social media with links and make sure the address is easy to find once they’re online.  If you want customers in the store, make sure they know how to find it and tell them to stop in.

Call Brand Irons at (920) 366-6334 for an appointment to clarify the call to action for your business and build your brand.






Budgets & Bullet Points

2013 Budget graphicWhen you are sitting down to develop an annual advertising budget, think about where you’re going to spend your hard-earned dollars.  Will each dollar generate a return?  How much will it cost you to acquire a new client, or to keep your existing customers?

You must measure these metrics to know if your strategies are working.  If you plan on spending $20,000 on television advertising as part of your budget, you should also know what the value of a prospective client is to your business.  Why?  If your business is building websites and each prospect potentially represents $5,000 in business when they become a new client, that TV campaign would need to result in four new clients to cover the cost of advertising.  More than four and you’ve generated a positive return on your investment (ROI).

Is it a negative ROI if you fail to land any new clients?  From the bottom line perspective, probably so.  From the viewpoint of the exposure you’ve generated for  your business with TV spots, hardly.  The bullet point becomes how effective was the message in your commercial.

And that is another bullet point.  If your advertising fails to generate a positive impact on your bottom line, that should not result in the wide-ranging opinion and a deep-seated conviction that “advertising doesn’t work.”  It only means it was somehow flawed.

More bullet points that impact your marketing budget when it comes to advertising:

  • Make sure you know your target audience for any advertising;
  • Verify that the delivery vehicle (TV, radio, newspaper, Internet) is effective in reaching that target market;
  • Find the market research that gives you reasonable assurance the audience will respond favorably to that message delivery vehicle;
  • Know what  you’re offering but, more importantly, what the consumer is buying;
  • Craft a message that focuses on what’s in it for the consumer, not you;
  • Deliver the message by getting the audience’s attention first; and,
  • Finish with a strong call to action so the consumer has little doubt.

Back to my point about the effectiveness of your commercial.  If you threw out a campaign or message that was missing some of the bulleted items above, chances are your results were less than what you anticipated.  Add in that the commercial may have run at the wrong time for your audience or been buried on a seldom seen page of the magazine, and your results deteriorate.

We once worked with a jeweler who insisted on having the largest ad in the phone directory.  We roughed out the concept and had the directory’s graphics department design an effective and attractive ad.  We were good to go.  When the directory hit the streets, we opened a copy to the “Jewelers” spread of pages and the ad wasn’t there!  Phone directories place ads alphabetically.  Our client’s ad was there, but it was on the page before the spread with all the other jewelers in town.  Good effort wasted and beyond our control.  Subsequent ads were mere bold-faced listings under Jewelers.

Rather than succumb to a sales representative suggesting your business belongs in their publication or on their station, take the time to think things through.  Can they answer the bullet points you’ve established for your products and services to your satisfaction?  If not, simply let them know that what they’re offering fails to meet the demographic profile of your target audience.  They’ll understand, but not give up easily.

Another option is to use the professional consulting services of a business such as Brand Irons to help you come up with a solid profile for your customers and help you make those marketing decisions so they have a positive impact on your bottom line.


Do You Know Your Customers?

How well you know your customers, their preferences and their buying habits, can be the difference between adding to your bottom line or closing your doors.  This knowledge also needs to include your prospective customers, so who are the people who consume or are most likely to consume your product or service?

The recent Coca-Cola ad during Super Bowl XLVII implied that Coke consumers were badlanders, cowboys, or showgirls, chasing through the desert after the elusive soft drink.  At least that was part of the impression I took away from the spot as an evaluator.  In other words, Coke created the perception that their product is for everyone, and that everyone wants (thirsts for) Coca-Cola.  Consumers voting for the winner at gave the edge to the showgirls and even sabotaged the cowboys and badlanders (I put the kibosh on both groups once).  It was a commercial that played out on the Internet, which was a different but not unusual way to stimulate consumer interaction.  The outcome was understandable if you consider most of those voting were probably men.

In that last statement lies the root of understanding your customers.

If the consumer most likely to purchase your service is male, your message should be male-oriented.  If it’s women, it should be female-oriented.  Super Bowl viewers were most likely men under the age of 50, so scantily clad women garnered a better response than cowboys or bad boys.  I haven’t seen the demographic breakdown, but it’s quite likely the women voters were split between the cowboys and the badlanders, but you never know, they could have been for the showgirls as well.  The point is that knowing your customer makes the decision about spending your marketing and advertising dollars easier and smarter.

Let’s consider the consumer’s buying habits, too.  A recent market research study we conducted showed that buying decisions are most often influenced positively by a friend’s recommendation or by word-of-mouth referrals.  After those two, the Internet came up as the source for purchasing information across all demographic age groups.  Television commercials also ranked high in influencing buying decisions.  For those 55 and older, newspaper ads ranked quite high.  A column in USA Today (2-4-13) reported that the newspaper method of advertising may yet survive the digital onslaught.

Some secrets:  Work hard to get and keep word-of-mouth marketing working for you.  There is a lot of marketing truth in the concept that a client who has a negative experience with your business will tell 20 people or more while those who have a positive, enjoyable experience are likely to tell 5 or 6 people.  Talk to your customers and deal with any negativity immediately.  However, when it comes to social media rants (negative comments), your best response is often no response or to let your favorite fans knock down the negativity.  Your response might only give credibility to the negative comment, but an apologetic tone may minimize the damage.  Think before you act.

You should have a strategy in place for dealing with social media issues, as well as any potentially negative publicity about your business.  Hopefully, you never have to use it, but it is better to have a plan in case it does.

Here’s a case in point:  When I worked for the U.S. Jaycees, there was a case before the U.S. Supreme Court about allowing women to join the all male organization.  I was lobbying for a plan of action should the 350,000+ member organization lose the case.  I was told by the higher ranks “We’re going to win” so there’s no need for a loss strategy.  We lost and had to scramble to put a response in place, which was poorly planned and executed as a result.  Today the organization has less than 50,000 members.

Your Internet presence must be user friendly and relevant.  Being relevant means you need to know your consumers and prospective customers.  They will scan and leave your website if the content is not relevant to what they’re looking for or takes too long to find.  Seconds count when it comes to Internet success.  How often your website content changes and is updated is also critical for the major search engines to find you, and the relevance of that content to what users are searching for is also vital.

When you have a grasp of who your clients and prospects are, your success in reaching them can be ensured with a sound marketing strategy to deliver your message to your target audience in a way they are receptive to and that makes them buy from your business … and feel good about it.  Consumers should be coming to you for the experience you give them.