Monthly Archives: August 2013

Are Your Employees Engaged?

We’re not talking about whether they’re getting married.  We’re writing about how involved they are in their work.  A recent column by Anita Bruzzese in USA Today, which was also reprinted in the Green Bay Press-Gazette, struck a chord with us and, in our opinion, relates to marketing yourself and your business.

One of the more intriguing items in the column was that a Gallup survey found that 70% of workers are not engaged or actively engaged at work.

The piece delves into the concept that a large percentage of people have a job just to pay the bills and would rather be doing something else.  Think about your employees for a minute.  They may be doing an excellent job, in your opinion, but deep down they’re thinking about what they would rather be doing.  Heck, they may already be doing it and hoping for a big break so they can leave you behind.

Bruzzese writes about Tama Kieves, an attorney who quit her legal practice to pursue her passion as a writer.  A friend “got her thinking: If she was so good at something she didn’t like, imagine the success she might have doing something she loved.”  It took some time, but eventually a publisher made Kieves an offer for her book, speaking, and coaching opportunities.  The law career became an item on her resume.

If you ask your employees whether they are satisfied with and challenged by their work, what are the odds you’ll get a straight, honest answer?  They will, in their own mind, at first question why you’re asking.  Then they will wonder whether they should tell you what you want to hear or the truth.  Keep in mind, they may be one and the same.

Ask about their hobbies and what they like to do with their free time.  You may discover a latent talent you can encourage and, in turn, nurture their love of a paycheck from your company.  You may also discover a true passion that may lead to an eventual departure from your company.  Think of the option that incorporates their passion into your business model; it may be a whole new line of products or services you never thought of.

The gist of Bruzzese’s column, in relation to your employees and marketing your business, is that you must find ways to ensure they are engaged with what they’re doing.  We have often seen excellent sales people get promoted to sales manager and wind up failing miserably.  They are good at selling face-to-face with customers or prospects, but lack the drive to effectively engage with other sales people.  They’d rather be out on the street instead of pushing people, and paper, around.

Perhaps it should be part of your hiring process to determine what your candidates are most excited about and if they are passionate about coming to work for your company or if they like the wage and benefits package.  Where do they feel they could make the greatest contribution to the corporate mission?  Your challenge, obviously, is getting the right fit and sustaining the engagement and the resulting productivity.

There may also be a time when it’s worth spending a few minutes (perhaps an hour or two) to reflect on where you are as well.  Bruzzese’s column cites some points at the end from Kieves that stimulate such self-reflection.

When you think about that 70% ratio from the Gallup survey, it’s easy to understand why so many workers are not engaged.  Teenagers working in fast food restaurants are only there for a paycheck and because they were unable to find any other employment.  You may find a rare case where they aspire to management, but their career path usually leads in other directions.  Take that out to virtually any industry or business and chances are the percentage of 70% disengagement holds true.

Since they’re now no longer with us, I can admit that I hated mowing my grandparents’ lawn.  I would do virtually whatever I could to find an excuse or disable the lawn mower to get out of the job.  Ever wonder how many accidents at work happen because the employee is unhappy and wants to do something else?  There are professionals who can help you ensure that you do everything possible to engage your employees.

Next week we’ll spend some time on the impact social media can have on your business.



Why Does Water Taste Different?

A perspective on where our water comes from.

A perspective on where our water comes from.

Okay, you’re wondering what the heck how water tastes has to do with marketing your business, and it’s a good question.  The answer will be revealed.

Water should taste the same, right?  It’s a clear liquid without additives, so it should have a uniform texture, consistency, and refreshing appeal to the palate.

Every business is the same, right?  There’s a reason for existence, a leadership team, incorporation, sales team, products and/or services, and marketing to reach the audience.

The answer to the question about every business is obviously false.  Now, some non-business people may believe every business is greedy and therefore evil, but what they fail to realize is that a business would be unable to provide them with a product or service if it was unable to make a reasonable profit.  Even non-profit organizations need to have money to operate.  Even franchise operations are different.

As a marketing professional, I prefer to avoid reference to particular franchises (unless it’s a client and we’ve been given permission), but let’s consider one whose logo features certain-colored arches.  There is a level of consistency one expects from this franchise, wherever one of the company’s stores may be located.  That premise implies that each of the fast food stores under that umbrella is the same.  Wrong!

The variables range from location (inner city vs. highway exit) to management, staff,  volume of traffic, and the make-up of the surrounding neighborhood.  Patrons frequent one store over another for quality of food, speed of service, cleanliness, friendliness, price, and convenience, among other factors.

Let’s flip back to the variables that have an impact on water.  Think where the water comes from in the first place.  It’s absorbed into clouds and comes back to earth as rain, which then filters through the ground into an aquifer or runs off into a stream, river, lake or other body of water.  As the natural rinsing agent it is, water brings along minerals, dirt, pesticides, and other “stuff” into whatever container it flows.  Unless we extract it ourselves from a lake or stream, water is usually processed through a filtration system and pumped into a water tower or other pressure tank to flow into our homes so it’s there when we turn on the tap.  Some municipalities treat the water with fluoride or other chemicals and some leave elements such as certain levels of iron in the water.

So, the bottom line is water can taste different depending on where it comes from, especially in terms of what container holds it.  Water in plastic bottles all seems to taste the same, but it depends on if it was bottled at a spring or through a municipal or business processing system.  Some of us can drink tap water and love the taste, where others may find the iron content too high or dislike the city water’s flavor.

Personally, I have grown accustomed to drinking water from a stainless steel bottle, which reminds me of drinking cold water from a stainless scoop dipped into a milk can from my days working on a farm.  I try to avoid filling the landfill with plastic bottles, even if they are recyclable, but if it’s my only choice, plastic fits the bill.

The point of this is that your hamburger, product, or service is going to taste different to every consumer.  In the case of the burger, it could be the quality of meat, percentage of fat, how it’s cooked, or the accompaniments such as the bun, condiments, vegetables, and whatever else someone likes on their concoction.  You need to know, as much as you can, what your customers want and deliver it in such a way that differentiates you and your business from the competition … and build loyalty to your brand!

That means you need to know what your brand is.

Is it tap water?  Well water?  River water?  Spring water?  Or run-off?

When you need help finding the source of your water, contact Brand Irons for guidance.


Are You Really Who You Say You Are?

There are business owners out there who believe they, and their business, are one thing when they really are something else.  The problem creeps in when they start telling people who they are and the customers (and the public in general) discover the business is entirely different than how it’s portrayed.


This, on the surface, appears to be a public relations disaster waiting to happen.  It is more commonly known as marketing myopia, and can be corrected.  That’s the good news!

A common example is the owner of a business that sells insurance.  The type of insurance has little significance, primarily because whatever the type of insurance is offered to potential customers, roughly half of the population will have an adverse reaction to the term “insurance.”  The same percentage, give or take a few percentage points, applies to car sales, real estate agents, consultants, plumbers, and virtually every other occupation.  Why?  More on that later.

Think about insurance in its most basic form for a minute.  Insurance is protection for the purchaser from some accident, death, or the negligence of some other party.  Except in the case of dying, the owner can rest assured that his or her property is covered against a loss.  When the policy holder dies, the insurance is intended to take care of loved ones, although it can never replace the companionship that is lost.

What is the end result of having a policy?  Peace of mind.  The ability to sleep well at night.    Reduced risk in case of loss.  Protection.  What is that insurance agent selling, from the customer’s point-of-view?  Pick one of the above, such as peace of mind.

Before we move on to other examples, let’s go back to the reason why so many people have an adverse reaction to various professional occupations.  If you had a painful experience in the dentist’s chair when you were a child, how positive are you likely to feel about dentists in general?  Over the years since, you’ve probably shared your uncomfortable experience and fear with countless other people. You probably wait to go see a dentist until you have cavities or need a root canal, which creates another less-than-pleasant experience … and the cycle continues.

Any person who’s had a bad experience with an insurance agent or policy claim has done the same thing, so the more types of insurance and agents that are in business, the greater the chances of bad experiences.  We tend to forget the good experiences, so it becomes natural to have apprehension about various occupations, especially those involving sales.  People don’t like to be sold; they like to make their own decisions.

Consultants are another good example.  Business owners shy away from consultants because they have the single perception that a consultant is going to cost them money.  The truth is a consultant should help a business make money!

Let’s look at some more examples.

If you operate a tavern and someone asks what you do, do you tell them you run a bar or serve alcohol to get people drunk?  Maybe.  Would it sound better if you explained that you’re in the business of providing entertainment in a fun, relaxed environment?  People can drink alcohol anywhere.  What you provide is an experience.

As a restaurant owner, do you tell people you run a restaurant?  Yes, it’s true that’s what you do, but what they’re really looking for is the answer to why you do what you do.  Try telling people you provide delicious food and exceptional service in a family friendly or cozy, candle-lit environment … whatever’s appropriate for your establishment.  The right answer is far more likely to pique a person’s curiosity and be interested in giving you business than the fact you run a restaurant.

A carpet cleaning business helps people keep their living spaces clean and healthy.

A website company creates a global presence and market place.

A gas station enables car owners to keep driving their vehicles.

A plumber reduces the risk of water damage or ensures a clean supply of drinking water.

It’s our hope this has opened your eyes, and minds, to taking the time to think about what it is provide as a product or service to customers.  A manufacturer of baseball bats turns pieces of wood into sporting equipment but, from the consumer’s perspective, offers a quality product to play a game at a professional level.

Contact Brand Irons if you’d like some help sifting through the jumble of what you offer so you can concentrate on telling people what it is you provide to them

Are You Connected The Right Way?

How well your business is networked or connected can mean the difference between success and even greater … profitability.  A major element in this formula involves your company’s word-of-mouth status.  We all know, or assume correctly, that word-of-mouth is the most effective and least costly method of marketing your business and yourself.  What we tend to forget, though, is that word-of-mouth can also work against us as easily as it can work for the benefit of a business.

When we write about networking, there are many effective techniques that can be used to grow your business.  One of the most prolific authors on the subject is Ivan Misner, Ph.D., the founder of BNI (Business Network International), and his most influential book on networking – in my opinion – is Networking Like A Pro – Turning Contacts Into Connections, co-written with David Alexander and Brian Hilliard.

What this blog is about, though, is how to know which connections you want to make and bring into your business network.  Word-of-mouth is difficult to use for marketing unless people get to know you, your company, and your products and/or services.  Once they know more about you and determine they can trust you and what you offer, your chances for successful word-of-mouth networking are vastly increased.

It starts with self-evaluation.  Who are you?  What is your company or business all about? Why are you in business?  Who do you want to be in business with?  Do they want to, or should they, be in business with you?  Are they going to be good connections for you, or are you more a better connection for them?  Do you share or compete for customers?  Do you understand what each of you is selling and how you can best cooperate?

Armed with answers to these questions, you are better prepared to consider and determine which businesses and/or individual business or non-business individuals you want to be connected with to grow your business.  You must consider the value, or potential value, each connection has for your business to succeed.  Let’s look at some examples.

A chiropractor has a natural connection with a massage therapist.  The chiropractor’s work is easier if the client has seen a massage therapist before the adjustment, and the therapist has an easier time if the client has already been adjusted.  The connection appears obvious, and the success of the relationship depends on how comfortable the two  parties involved are with referring clients to each other.  The twist in the relationship comes from the person in the middle, the client.  If the client already has a chiropractor, the message therapist finds it hard to refer them to their connection.  Their continued success relies on being able to market their services in conjunction with each other while still being able to accept and work with clients referred to them from other massage therapists or chiropractors.

Real estate agents and mortgage brokers/bankers are another logical pair for being connected in business.  The strength of their relationship determines how well each does and how long they work together.  When you think about being connected in the real estate profession, you must also consider the other natural alliances.  A title company, remodeling service, landscaper, plumber, electrician, appraisal service, and other business entities with a stake in the success of a real estate transaction are all potential members of a coalition to benefit the consumer.  The challenge is to find the services who can refer work to you comfortably, and to be able to reciprocate on a frequent enough basis to make the relationship profitable in both directions.

The key to the success of your business networking is to have a clear understanding of which companies, and which individuals, you want to and must be connected with to grow your business.  You could be the world’s foremost brain surgeon, but unless you have physicians referring patients to you, you will be out on the street asking everyone you meet whether or not they need brain surgery … and being connected with a mechanic or a restaurant owner will probably have little impact on your bottom line.

How many sales “professionals” do you know who, when asked, will tell you they have a huge network of more than 500 connections?  When you probe a little deeper, you learn they have a customer base of 10 clients and the other 490+ are friends, family members, and casual acquaintances from hanging out in restaurants.  That’s “thinking” you are connected when you’re really a far cry from having the network you desire.

Take the time to think through how well you’re connected and which connections you lack that you would like to add to your business network.  Your professional business and/or marketing consultant can help you see the trees in the forest.