Tag Archive for 'branding'

Four marketplace truths about your customers

Spend time in the marketplace and you’ll have many close encounters of the third kind with the most interesting species in all of nature: the human being. And as we have learned, the nature of humans isn’t much different from other animals: All need to breathe, eat, drink, procreate and survive.

But there is something that clearly sets humans apart from other fauna: sentience. And one of the manifestations of being self-aware is that beyond what humans need, they also want.

Every human who owns an automobile will need to buy new tires. But what they want is to keep the family safe while not spending a Saturday buying tires. So if you’re in the tire business, should you advertise tires, which are commodities that the Big Boxes can sell cheaper than your cost? Or should you develop and market a customer loyalty program that combines peace of mind for your family with pick-up and delivery? How about this tag line:

Let us worry about when you need new tires and get your Saturday back.

Basically the hairless weenies of the family animalia, human beings need shelter, but we want a home. So if you’re a realtor, should you focus on the obligatory list of residential features, or how the physical setting and interior space fit what you’ve learned is your customer’s sense of a home? Try this on:

Mrs. Johnson, countertops can be replaced. What I want to know is how much will you love seeing the sun rising over that ridge as you enjoy your first cup of coffee every morning?

Humans, like thousands of other warm-blooded species, need to eat every day, whether they get to or not. But unlike other animals, only humans want to dine. If you own a fine dining restaurant, do you emphasize the food, or the potential for a lasting memory? Check it out:

Long after you’ve forgotten how wonderful our food is, you’ll still remember that table for two in the corner or the booth next to the fireplace.

Small business success requires understanding these marketplace truths:

1. What customers need are commodities driven by price.

2. The price war is over, and small business lost.

3. What customers want is anywhere from a little bit more to everything.

4. Customers will pay more for what they want – charge them for delivering it.

As a small business success strategy, delivering what customers want or selling commodities they need, is as Mark Twain said, “like the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”

Write this on a rock … Find out what humans want, deliver it, and charge for it.

Small business brand value is more than the Q factor

Have you noticed that every new on-air person hired by a TV network looks like a soap opera actor? They’re all young and pretty. We’re left to think that non-beautiful people need not apply. That is, unless you’re familiar with a certain marketing measurement.

Marketing Evaluations Inc. is the proprietor of a marketing metric used extensively to hire on-air talent.  It’s called the Q Score, and it’s as rude as it is simple.

A prospective anchor is presented to an audience who is asked to give one of two answers: I like or I don’t like. Responses are graded based on the numeric Q Score.  Above 19 means you’ve “got Q.”

Never mind credentials, if you can read a teleprompter and have Q, you’re hired.  Below 19—fuggedaboutit.

Could the Q factor be involved in perpetuating the marketplace myth that owning a brand is the exclusive domain of big business?  After all, if only the young and beautiful possess the best TV journalism credentials, why wouldn’t we believe you can only have a brand if you have a sexy national television campaign?

Since most of us would be guilty of giving an “I like” score to a pretty face, it follows that we would also be foreclosed from thinking a dowdy small business could actually own a real brand.  But here’s the truth about branding, and it’s good news for small business: Owning a brand is more than having Q.

Most experts will testify that a brand is established when a product delivers a desirable feeling.  Pleasure, happiness, security and yes, even pretty are examples of how a brand might make us feel. A brand’s value and power are established when it consistently delivers on our feelings and, increasingly in the Age of the Customer, on our expectations.

If people were influenced only by things that have Q, churchgoers would only attend big, beautiful churches, and yet tiny churches abound. Like religion, brand loyalty is also a very personal thing, which is more good news for small business. Getting close enough to customers to discover their individual expectations is one of the many things small businesses do better than big businesses.

So it’s resolved: Owning a brand is not the exclusive domain of big business. And when it comes to actually building brand value, small businesses have the edge.

Big businesses may be good at brand Q, but small businesses are better at what really counts: building brand value. Our challenge is in believing this truth about ourselves.

Write this on a rock… Your small business’s Q is measured in brand value as defined by customer expectations.

Customers now co-own your brand message

As previously revealed in this space, the Age of the Seller is succumbing to what I’ve named The Age of the Customer®. In this new Age, control of the relationship between Seller and Customer has shifted to the latter.

This paradigm shift is largely caused by online platforms that are: 1) increasing the access customers have to information about Sellers and their products; 2) allowing customers to express and share what they’ve learned about and experienced with a business.

The first element above has created what I call, the “Moment of Relevance™,” where customers have access to virtually all the information they need before you know they’re interested, and prospects are similarly informed before you even know they exist. Such access to information is changing—or disrupting—the way you market to and connect with customers, as well as how you train sales people. Plus it demonstrates why your greatest danger in The Age of the Customer isn’t being uncompetitive, it’s becoming irrelevant.

To some, the second element looks like the new kid on the block. But it’s actually the new iteration of an ancient marketplace maxim that describes the practice of word-of-mouth: “If you make customers happy they will tell someone; if you make them unhappy they will tell 10 people.” The theory behind the 1:10 ratio is that all businesses, regardless of size, are motivated to perform, or risk a marketplace indictment by the judge and jury of word-of-mouth.

In the new Age, online platforms have caused word-of-mouth to transmogrify into a powerful dynamic called “user generated content,” aka UGC. This is when customers post their experiences, questions, praise or condemnation about a seller’s products, services, and general behavior in the marketplace. In the vernacular, it’s word-of-mouth on steroids.

Indeed, if the word-of-mouth maxim were coined today it would sound like this: “Customers may post their opinions online—positive or otherwise—about your business, making it available potentially to millions.” To paraphrase Mark Twain, comparing word-of-mouth to UGC is like comparing a lightning bug to lightning.

In The Age of the Customer, two of the new things every business must do are: 1) anticipate that customers are already well informed; 2) track and respond to UGC about your business. And how well you do these two will influence whether the new customer control becomes a handy lever to growth, or a disruptor that makes you irrelevant.

It’s the Age of the Customer—are you prepared for the Moment of Relevance?

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Be sure to check out my latest segments from The Small Business Advocate Show® by clicking the links below. I go into more detail about why every business has to execute their brand message because there is no place to hide in The Age of the Customer

You are only the co-owner of your brand message

The cost of not converting to Age of the Customer practices

Who is writing & telling your brand story?

The last time America had two grassroots protesting groups gaining critical mass simultaneously was when women’s suffrage and prohibition shared the national stage.

A hundred years later their 21st century successors are the “Tea Party” and “Occupy Wall Street.” And like their indignant forebears, the new kids on the block have just enough things in common that they’re often compared to each other, in spite of the fact that they’re really quite different, including, as you will see, in non-political ways.

Both the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street (OWS) believe that the objects of their indignation are broken and must be reformed. Essentially, the Tea Party wants to make the Federal government more fiscally responsible, while OWS demands that 21st century capitalism include elements of social justice. And in some cases both groups are itching for the same reform, like ending taxpayer bail-outs and restricting the influence of lobbyists. But here is where they diverge.

Protests by the Tea Party helped it resurrect and assume a legendary brand. But their actions were quickly polished into a cogent brand story that is being leveraged within the existing political process. As proof, in less than two years the Tea Party told their brand story sufficiently to elect enough members of Congress to significantly influence the national policy debate.

OWS protests have also created a compelling brand. Consequently, it has acquired one of the best forms of business serendipity – free PR. But, as reported in a recent article on PostAdvertising.com, the lack of a cohesive message – caused by demands that range from Tea Party-ish to Utopia – has prevented the crafting and delivery of a successful brand story. Unfortunately, as the article concludes, the OWS story is being written and told by others.

Our online research supports the foregoing appraisal. When we polled our audience about which group will have the greatest impact on the 2012 elections, Occupy Wall Street came in at 11%, while 89% thought the Tea Party would stir things up the most. A companion poll asked if either movement was “Good for America.” Over 80% said yes to the Tea Party, while only13% favored OWS.

Regardless of which ideals you align with politically, as a small business owner you must take a lesson from how the two groups manage their brands and brand stories. One is finding success by writing and telling their own story; the other one – not so much.

Who’s writing and telling your brand story?

I talked more about telling your small business’ brand story today on The Small Business Advocate Show. Take a few minutes to download or listen.

For more great SBA content, click HERE!

Reinventing your small business - and maybe yourself

Change is no different today than it was millennia ago.  A computer is just a fancy wheel.  But what is different about our modern times is the velocity of change. That’s what’s taking our breath away and causing paradigms to shift right in front of our eyes.  This reality is why for some time now I’ve been saying to small business owners that it’s okay to fall in love with what you do, but not with how you do it.  In the 21st century, the change paradigm is as simple as it is Darwinian: reinvention or extinction.

I talked about this idea with Brain Trust member, Joyce Weiss, who joined me recently on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show. Joyce is the founder of Joyce Weiss Training & Development LLC - a Best Practices Certified Company and author of Full Speed Ahead and Take the Ride of Your Life!

Joyce takes us through the process of identifying when the old way isn’t working, how to reinvent and re-brand, and what role the customer has in all of this. Take a few minutes to listen to our conversation and tell us how you’ve reinvented your business and its owner. Listen Live! Download, Too!

Transforming marketing strategies into connecting strategies

Transforming marketing strategies into connecting strategies is one of the keys to success as we lead our businesses from the way we used to go to market to the reality that the next marketplace era we are entering.  One thing is for sure: Where we’re headed is going to look a lot different from where we’ve been.  One of the big transformations that has to take place is going from talking AT prospects and customers with marketing strategies to connecting WITH them as members of the communities we have and will continue to build.

Marketplace visionary, Tom Asacker, recently joined me on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, to talk about the thinking and the steps that have to take place in order to make the connection transformation with customers, including how to think about branding in this new age.

Tom is a unique talent who teaches companies how to  advance business relationships by helping them transition from “economically driven” to “emotionally driven” models, as he revealed in one of his books, A Clear Eye for Branding. Take a few minutes to listen to the conversation Tom and I have. And as always, leave your thoughts on how you’re making this critical transformation, or ask us a question about how to do it. Listen Live! Download, Too!




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