Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category

Sometimes little things make a brand

June 13th, 2011

When it comes to building a personal brand, I think the little things can make a big difference. I was reminded of this as I think of my two sons. And yes, as a branding guy, I think of everything in terms of branding, even my two young kids. But seriously, even at a young age, I can see things that fit their brand.

My youngest is a complete clown. He loves to laugh and make people laugh. His little brand touch lately has been adjusting the straps on my backpack. He knows that I pick my bag up every morning and I’ve mentioned to him multiple times that I don’t want him playing with it, but his rebel clown brand lives on.

Contrast that with my older son who is easily one of the most thoughtful kids I’ve met. He has been known to buy flowers for his mother without anyone prompting him. The other day, he put toothpaste on my toothbrush and laid out my pajamas while I was in the shower. His caring, thoughtful brand shines through.

Another example is Apple. If you’ve every purchased one of their products, it’s hard not to notice how brilliant and over-engineered their packaging is. I doubt it costs much more than any other electronic packaging, but it’s so thoughtful and it gives you the feeling that you really are part of something special.

What are your favorite brand touches? What could you be doing as a brand to add those little memorable touches? Toss in a little surprise now and then; sometimes it’s the little things that make a brand grown big.

A Solid Base Hit

June 7th, 2011

I went to an Angels game a couples weeks ago with my son and was reminded about a question that came up during my talk in Las Vegas to the Kaseya Connect group. The title of my talk was “Branding Your Companies Unique DNA” and we were discussing the importance of investing in your brand.

An audience member asked, “A common complaint amongst companies is that they spend a ton of money and three months of time launching a new brand only to have it not pay off. Do you have any suggestions?”

I answered his question with a simple baseball analogy about base hits versus home runs. Sometimes you may need that home run; you may need to swing for the fences and make the big investment in order to make a big shift in your business. But the thing about swinging for the fences is that you have a greater risk of striking out.

On the other hand, getting a base hit is a little more manageable and the risk is less. In most cases, I like the base hit approach to helping a client build his or her business. I like the idea of hitting a couple of solid base hits each month instead of throwing every ounce of effort into one big thing. Sometimes home runs are needed, but beware the strike out.

I would also suggest that if you’re going to swing for the fences that you still hit a few base hits first. Besides, it’s nice to have a couple of people on base when you finally do hit that one over the fence.

Next time, we’ll discuss things to consider before you swing for the fences …

Focused on Culture

June 3rd, 2011

A few weeks back, I had the privilege of speaking to a great group of IT service company owners at Kaseya Connect in Las Vegas. My talk was titled “Branding Your Companies Unique DNA” (if you’re interested, you can download the simple slide deck here).

Over the past couple of weeks, some of the content has sort of settled in and I wanted to take an opportunity over the next few posts to address some of the questions that were asked at the end of my talk and in the hallways after.

One of my points in the talk was about how company culture is very much a part of your brand, which brought up a great question: “How do you retain culture as you become a bigger company?”

As I thought about this question a bit deeper, I came up with a few pointers based on what I’ve seen in the marketplace, mainly as I’ve witnessed with some of my favorite clients and how they lead the companies that they own.

1. Share your vision
Even when your company is growing, you can still share your vision for the future and keep your staff in the loop. This can be hard if you’re growing at a quick pace and your schedule is always full, but I think at least once a quarter, you should rally people together either in person or virtually and share how things are going from a top level. Show them that you have vision and that you understand where your business is and where it’s going.

You might also start an internal blog or email chain where you can talk candidly about things that are happening in the business. This could be especially helpful if you are larger than 25 in staff or running a company with multiple locations.

Either way, people want a leader that has vision. If you have goals for the company, share them with everyone. If you’re working with a new business consultant to better the company, introduce that person to your staff. If you’re working on a new product, let everyone know (not just the sales staff).

We all need to be a part of something big. So, let your people know how deeply you care about them and the future of the company.

2. Go to the front lines
I think back to the days of knights and swords when kings used to lead armies into war. Think about how much different our world would be now if this was still the case. A staff loves a leader that is willing to charge to the front lines with them. If you as a company owner are still willing to go to the front lines, that will inspire your people. It shows that you are in the trenches with them, even if only for a little bit. When was the last time you went out on a sales call? Or took a customer service phone call? Or helped clean up after an office party? When you as a leader show that you are happy to get your hands dirty, you give your company a sense of togetherness. Don’t just stop with you, though. Encourage your managers to get in the trenches with your people too.

3. Share time
I know someone that used to put together a team of walkers for the Race For The Cure event every year. They would invite staff, clients and vendors to participate in the event together and they provided a cool t-shirt for everyone involved. Whether it’s participating in a charitable event or having a quarterly company lunch, you should make a conscious effort to do things together as a staff. Ask your staff for suggestions; maybe they’re already involved with a charity that you can volunteer with. Making an effort to spend time together takes time and resources, yes, but your brand culture will thank you for it. And if you can involve clients, even better.

Some final thoughts …

Study companies that have gone before you, and ask your colleagues and fellow business owners what they do to build their culture. Read books about great companies (“Delivering Happiness” by Tony Hsieh is a great one to start with). Also, ask your marketing people for ideas on how to engage staff. I’ve played part in a few fun internal campaigns with the sole purpose of building some excitement amongst a company’s staff.

One culture caveat: while I haven’t seen it happen very often, it is possible to completely ignore common sense and your company’s financial health for the sake of culture. Like anything, you can swing the pendulum too far the other way. But I believe you can have culture and make money, no matter the size of your company.

Lessons learned from Yelp

January 26th, 2011

I had an interesting conversation recently with some restaurateur friends. We were reading comments on Yelp and noticing the difference between someone who gave a place 5 stars versus a good old fashioned 1-star rant. It made me realize how businesses tend to think they can cater to anyone and everyone instead of focusing on finding customers that are a good fit for their product. Some observations…

2 stars is okay sometimes
The truth is that you can’t be everything to everyone. I guess some restaurants are trying to do just that by offering up a catalog for a menu. But it’s okay to have some people not like you and your business. Really. All you have to do is cater to your fans and build a big enough group of fans to sustain your business.

Think before you act
It’s important to take each comment with a grain of salt. Sure, you should pay attention to every comment that comes in, but it’s important not to have a knee-jerk reaction every time someone suggests a change. I respect a business owner that can say no, even to good ideas. If you are going to bring a vision to fruition, you have to make forward progress. Bouncing from idea to idea, trend to trend makes that harder to do.

Make your business a destination
The danger in trying to appease everyone is that you won’t be memorable to anyone for anything. But if you position yourself as an expert in something, people will seek you out. Just as people will flock to a taco joint that’s known for their amazing tacos, they will come to you for that remarkable thing you do.

Stay humble
One danger of shunning any and all critics is that it can come across as arrogant. Just make sure it’s not true arrogance. Look for trends. If enough people are complaining, maybe you’re actually wrong in this instance. You don’t have to react to every comment, but you do have to pay attention to those bigger trends. Be wise and surround yourself with outside advisers who can help you decipher the true issues.

The bottom line is that you should do more of what your fans love and don’t worry so much about the critics. What do those 5-star review clients of yours love about you? Can you do that same thing for others?

I want you to meet blank

June 29th, 2010

One of our “intangibles” (as Tim Sanders calls it in “Love Is The Killer App”) is our network. He talks about sharing our network openly, about how we sometimes grow our network for the sake of others. It’s similar to my belief that we read books for the sake of others, I prescribe them like a doctor would medication; a “read this and call me in the morning” sort of thing.

When it comes to connecting people in your network, the old school of thought is that you maintain the middle man position and see what you can get out of it. I think brokering a product can be a good business model, but brokering relationships can get sticky and make you come across as selfish. I believe that if we support the success of others, it will come back around. Zig Ziglar said, “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” So true.

So, what is the best way to connect people? Well, face-to-face is the most personal approach, but also the most time-consuming. That’s why I love email for this purpose. It’s the quick and perfect way to connect people. Here’s how to share the love amongst members of your network:

1. Send one email to both versus sending separate emails. It takes less time and gets you out of the way sooner.

2. Include a little blurb about each person, perhaps how you met or brag about a project you did together or a service they provided. It’s your stamp of approval.

3. Include both parties contact info so they can connect. I like name, email and a phone number. If they have a website, that’s a good tidbit of info to provide too.

4. Finally, preface that you just wanted them to meet and encourage them to connect. This shows that you are thinking about both parties and shows your value as a “connector.”

I find this to be a very efficient way to connect others and grow the overall value of our networks. Remember, all ships rise with the tide.