Monthly Archives: January 2014

Building A Commercial

The first step in building a commercial such as a 30-second TV spot or a promotional video for YouTube is to know your audience.

Basic demographics are age and gender.  Understanding these basics for your audience, or viewer, are important because different age groups watch videos differently and each gender has different receptors for the message.  The more clarity you have about your audience, the easier it becomes to design your commercial to get through to them and to influence their buying decisions.  Remember that people, in general, prefer to avoid being sold and would rather make their own purchasing choices.

When you’ve determined which audience you’re targeting, part of the design work is to grab their attention.  A good rule of thumb is to focus the attention-getting device (AGD) on your potential customers and what they are likely to want as the message relates to your product or service.  Is the purchase for necessity, pleasure, or to avoid pain?  There are other options, but we’re trying to keep this brief.

Once you’ve got the audience’s attention, the commercial needs to keep their attention or engage them to ensure the message is delivered as intended.  Generally, you want to leave the viewer with an indelible memory, a positive perception, and/or an urge to buy what you’re selling.  The hope is you will build brand identity and, if they like what they purchase, brand loyalty.  You also want the viewer to stay through to the end, where you provide the call to action.

Know what you want them to do.  That’s your call to action!  Do you want commercial viewers to stop by your store?  Would you prefer they call to set up an appointment?  Send you an E-mail?  Or do you direct them to your website for more information or to place an order?

Now that we’ve gone through the construction elements, let’s go back to the planning process.  One of the worst reasons for producing a commercial for your business is “Everyone is doing it.”  Know your purpose … and your audience.  Whatever you attempt in producing a spot, you are building brand awareness.  You want it to be favorable.  Yes, you are trying to sell your brand, your product, your service, and maybe yourself, but keep in mind who’s going to be viewing your commercial.  Why do they or should they care?  Does the spot relate to them … or is it about you and your company?

Remember, too, that your commercial may not reach everyone in your intended audience, and will more than likely also be viewed by people outside of the audience you’re trying to reach.  Both scenarios are okay.

What’s your budget?  Fancy graphics, animation, and acting or modeling talent can rack up a big expense without any consideration for scripting, shooting, and editing the video.  Plus you generally have to pay if you’re airing commercials on TV or cable channels.  There are ways to reduce the expenses such as shooting two or three spots at a time, but either way, it’s best to have professionals help with production because your reputation, and brand, are on the line.

Consider, too, that you need to understand the time frame involved in producing a commercial.  Concepts and script writing need to be thought through, modified, and finalized with your approval before the shoot can be scheduled.  The logistics of finding a location, getting permission to use it, and then setting up the various shots takes time.  The process of finding the right talent takes time, too.  Remember to add in rehearsal time and get talent releases as well.

When you shoot video, shoot from several angles and do numerous takes to ensure you have enough material to work with when you get to the editing booth.  Think of and take all the shots you think of so you can avoid returning to the location to shoot something you forgot you needed.  Editing requires time to enter video, audio, graphics, and manipulate the sequences between scenes.

Sure, you can shoot some video with your smart phone and post it on YouTube, but is that the image you want to portray of your company?

Take the time to think things through, and get help if you need it!

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand 



Communicating – Part 2

A recent post covered texts, E-mails, and F2F methods of communicating with your clients.  Now it’s time for delving into some other methods of getting your message through to the right people.

Phones.  Smart cell phones now comprise 56% of the United States cell phone market.  Land lines – yes, those phones you plugged into a wall socket – are heading toward extinction, along with phone directories because individuals now have access to the Internet, E-mail, and so much more … through their phones.

bag phone

Hard to believe this is how cell phone industry began.

Keep in mind, however, that talking to someone on the phone is still a vital part of the communication process.  You should know what you intend to say when you call someone, whether it’s a simple opportunity to catch-up with a friend or relative or an important business discussion.  Be prepared.  If you know your business, you should be able to answer any questions that arise off the cuff.

Time is precious, especially in business.  That means when you call another business person, respect their time and try to keep the conversation on point.  If you are calling a customer or client, be considerate of their time but take the time you need to take care of the reason you called them.  Be patient, and listen, especially if they call you.  It’s okay to tell someone you don’t have the answer, but if you promise to get it for them, do it!  Find the answer as quickly as possible and get back to them … or they’ll find the answer somewhere else, probably from a competitor.

If you put them on hold, respond back to them within 17 seconds that you’re still looking or with the answer.  That’s a short amount of time, but anything longer may lose them.  If you have an automated on hold system, make sure there’s a message that expresses appreciation for remaining on hold that comes up every 17 seconds.

There’s an old saying:  “If you don’t have time to do something right, when will you have time to do it over?”  It is applicable to phone conversations, so take the time to slow down and get clarity from your phone call.

Website.  What is all too common is the business that spends money to build a website and when it’s finished, the company figures the site is done, nothing more needs to be done with it, so it’s forgotten.  What many business owners fail to realize is that the world wide web is constantly changing and web users – potential customers – are more likely than ever to check out a business online first … before they make a purchasing decision.

Your business website needs to be kept current and relevant to the consumer.  Focus on the consumer first!  The key to communicating with clients and prospective clients through a website is RELEVANCE.  Your website’s content needs to be relevant to the search engine criteria people are using to find your products and/or services.

Think of your website as an online billboard or store.  If your prospects are looking to purchase stainless steel water bottles, they’re going to use their web browser – Google, Bing, Torch, Safari, Yahoo, or whatever – to search for “Stainless Steel Water Bottles.”  The spiders that do the searching will pull up references to “stainless,” ” steel,” “water,” and “bottles.”  If your site has those key words and other search engine optimizing information, your odds of coming up on the first page have increased.  If you also have relevant content about stainless steel water bottles and images of those bottles, along with pricing, shipping information, colors, and everything you ever wanted to know about stainless steel water bottles, your website is far more than likely going to come up on page one of the search results.  Add some videos, a blog, and other social media mentions and links and your website will generate some business for your business.

Your website should get your customers’ and prospects’ attention, clearly communicate with them about what makes your business different, and provide them with the information they need to make a decision to go with your company.

These are two more ways to convey your message effectively.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand

Managing Priorities

You own a business.  You need more customers.  You have to complete payroll.  You need to manage inventory.  Invoicing to be done.  Bills to pay.  And, oh yeah, you have a family that likes to see you once in a while.

Business JugglerThese are all priorities in one sense or another, and they can add stress to your life when everyone of them is due … today!

An easy solution:  Delegate.  However, what if you’re it?  The owner, sole proprietor or only member of the LLC, sales person, order filler, and, basically, the only employee?  How does that alter your priorities?  What if there isn’t anyone as well trained or as knowledgeable about the task to get done as you are?  What if you lack trust in someone you could delegate it to?  All kinds of challenges for managing priorities.

You bear the ultimate responsibility, so broaden your shoulders, delegate what you can, and get what you can accomplish done.  What you are unable to delegate effectively become your priorities for the day.

Two schools of thought.

1) Do the easy, simple and quick tasks to get them out of the way so you don’t have to worry about them.  When they’re done you can tackle the larger, more important tasks that require more time and energy.  You will still have to deal with interruptions.

2) Tackle the most important task first.  If it truly is the most important job and must get done, then it doesn’t matter if the smaller tasks don’t get done because the big job has to get finished.

The first school of thought may seem inane, but if you have more energy and fewer interruptions later in the day or after you’ve cleared the small jobs, it can be a viable method of managing priorities.

The second seems more logical, and could be, depending on when you have the most energy to tackle that type of work.  And, if you procrastinate on the big one, the other tasks will pile up and frustration will decrease your overall productivity.

The magic formula lies in assigning priorities to the tasks on your plate.  A #1 or “A” priority should require your attention before a #4 or “E” task.  Again, delegate if you can.  What also helps is an understanding of approximately how much time the tasks on your To Do list are going to take.  If generating a report for shareholders only requires a few key strokes and a review of the information, bump that up on the priority list because it is going to shareholders, and they like information in a timely fashion.

Each day is different, so keep that in mind, along with the realization that procrastination is also a decision … to do nothing about the task.  Perhaps it wasn’t a priority after all.

Somewhere in this mix needs to be a priority on yourself and your family.  Schedule yourself some “Me Time” and have some fun for a change.  Go out to dinner, or catch a movie you’ve been wanting to see.  Take a road trip.  Go see your parents or grandparents and visit for a few days.  Life is too short not to enjoy it.

A good friend, Jay, shared a saying that is appropriate:  How likely are you to say to someone on your death bed:  “I wish I had spent more time at work.”?

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand

How Well Are You Communicating?

The ability to communicate is a vital skill in today’s world.

Good communication relies on feedback and goes both ways.

Good communication relies on feedback and goes both ways.

When you think about your ability to communicate with your customers, being able to connect with them is critical when it comes to marketing your products and/or services.

Pay attention to some of the commercials you may watch on TV these days.  Is the company or product message promoting the company or trying to connect with the consumer?  Most miss the mark.

Texts.  Ask your customers how they would like to receive messages from you.  Many with smart phones are now open to receiving text messages, but use caution and avoid overwhelming them with sales pitches.  A text is an attention getting communication and generally warrants a response for the sense of urgency.  Trying to sell the receiver something is usually considered a major turn-off.

E-mail.  E-mail messages may seem like stone age communication with newer technological developments, but they have been a stalwart of electronic communication methods for more than 15 years.  E-mail messages that are meant to be read are best kept short.  Attachments are okay, provided they are relevant to the general message.  Assuming the recipient has received an E-mail is a false assumption.  Just because you hit “Send” is not a guarantee the recipient got it.  It may have wound up in a spam filter or lost in the cyber mail system somewhere.

If you realize someone you are exchanging E-mails with is responding promptly to your E-mails, pick up the phone and call them!

F2F.  While we could elaborate on communication methods and styles for an entire year, one of the most important is face-to-face (F2F) communication.  Yes, some believe it’s a dying art form, but it is still ranked high among the most effective ways of communicating with another person.  Laugh if you do this, but think how ridiculous it would be to text your spouse while he/she is in the bathroom and you’re in the living room.  Go and talk to them, even if it’s from outside the bathroom door!

Face-to-face communication is a two-way process.  The difficulty in the process, which is why some people avoid it, is in listening to what the other person is saying.  Our natural tendency is to say something and then look like we’re listening while we’re thinking of the next thing we want to say.  It’s a more common occurrence than you might think.

Demonstrate interest in what the other party has to say.  Listen and learn before you determine your response.  Consumer complaints are best handled by listening, and asking what the customer really wants.  Many times, they just want to know you care and that they are going to be heard.

Listening is a key skill for business owners and managers, too.  When you hear what your team members are saying, you may discover new opportunities to explore or potential problem areas that can be averted with the right action.

How you communicate reflects your brand, too.  More in weeks to come.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand

Put The Right People In The Right Position

The right strategy for positioning your employees can add to your bottom line.

The right strategy for positioning your employees can add to your bottom line.

Managing employees is an art form in business that requires an owner or manager to take the time to think things through.  Avoid rash decisions.  While it is often difficult to retain good employees, placing them in a fulfilling role with a certain level of responsibility can reap benefits and keep them challenged.

One of the keys is understanding each of your employees.  What motivates him or her?  What makes them tick?  Is it money, autonomy, authority, interaction with customers or other employees, or a steady paycheck?  The more you know about your employees, within legal guidelines, the better expectations you can set for them and the more accountable they will be.  Most employees want to make a difference and have an impact on the world, so if you – as an owner or manager – know what their expectations are and how they might fit with your corporate objectives, the easier it becomes to provide them with an outlet to achieve their goals and contribute to the company’s mission at the same time.

Make sure your mission is clear to every member of your team, and share your passion for the business so your vision becomes everyone’s vision.

Your best sales person may be ill-suited to become sales manager.  A sales manager may be the wrong person to be promoted as head of production.  Your graphic artist may be inappropriate for filling the shoes of the company’s social media manager.

Here are some simple steps to get you closer to puttng the right people in the right place:

1) Create a description of the work responsibilities and expectations, including anticipated customer interaction;

2) Compare the candidates’ qualifications, ambitions, and goals to the description;

3) Take some time to think through the implications of selecting the person who’s right for the position, including how long they’re likely to last in that job; and,

4) Trust your gut.

If you need to bounce your choices off an independent third party, consider engaging Brand Irons.  If you need to think about the transitions involved, take the time.  Better to wait on a decision than make the wrong one.  Think, too, about whether your choice makes the most sense or if you need to consider other candidates.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand