Friday, December 22, 2017
Your brand is a lot more than just a name or a logo. It's the feeling that someone gets when they come into contact, any contact, with your organization. In fact, the thing that really increases engagement and drives loyalty isn't your products or services (though, to be fair, they do help quite a bit) - it's this idea of the larger brand itself.
Because someone could potentially have that experience with your brand, the idea of brand continuity could not be more important. Regardless of how someone interacts with your brand, it should all feel like it's naturally coming from the same place at all times. To truly master the idea of using continuity to strengthen your branding efforts, there are a few key things you'll need to keep in mind.
One Brand, One Voice - No Exceptions
Continuity means all of your marketing efforts need to feel as consistent as possible regardless of what those efforts happen to be. In the world of print marketing, this can be as simple as making sure that all of the fonts in your advertisements match (or at least reflect) the fonts on your actual products themselves. This can also encompass larger ideas, like if you revamp or redesign your company logo in one place you immediately roll it out everywhere at the same time to avoid confusion.
In a single word, your goal is "synchronicity." Every marketing-related decision you make must serve two masters. First, it must be purpose-driven with a strategic move made with a specific payoff in mind. Secondly, you need to make sure that it is NOT a move that is ultimately at odds with the way you talk to customers, the relationship that you have with them, or the idea that they have of your brand to begin with.
A Great Persona Makes All the Difference
Brand personas are incredibly helpful in this regard because they allow you to laser-focus your messaging on a few of your "ideal" customers in a way that makes it much easier to maintain one voice. If you segment your target audience into groups that are each represented by a singular fictional persona, it makes it much easier to make consistent decisions across all of your efforts. You can both make sure that continuity is preserved for all materials targeted at those people, but you can also easily get a "bigger picture" look about how each individual effort plays off of and compliments the rest.
The impact of negative brand continuity isn't limited to a customer getting their wire's crossed. Eventually, this problem will create a challenge that is much harder to overcome - a total loss of brand value in general. Not only will this see fewer sales for your actual products and services, but the same will be true of any retailers that may sell your products as well. This, in turn, will create fractured relationships, which goes a long way towards putting you farther away from your goals, not closer to them.
Tuesday, December 19, 2017
Corporate culture is pretty much the key to everything in the world of business. According to a series of studies reported on by Forbes, nearly 90% of people who responded said that company culture was incredibly important for their firms. In fact, 92% said that they firmly believed that improving corporate culture would enhance the value of their business, while more than half of respondents said that corporate culture influences everything from productivity to creativity to profitability, value, growth and beyond.
At the same time, only 15% said that their company's culture was where it needed to be.
It Begins at the Top
At first glance, these numbers may appear to be somewhat at odds with one another - but they really aren't. Corporate culture begins at the top and, if anything, that 15% statistic can be attributed to one essential little word: trust. Leaders set the tone that affects the entire organization, and if employees don't trust their leaders, they ultimately don't trust the direction of the business that they're devoting so much of their lives to.
Make no mistake: trust is not something that you can demand from your employees. It's something that you have to earn - all day, every day. It's also something that requires you to keep a few key things in mind.
Trust is a Privilege, Not a Right
Yes, you worked incredibly hard to become the leader that you are today. You put in long hours. You worked weekends. You devoted the majority of your life to your career and a constant push to achieve bigger and better things for yourself. Now you're in charge of the proverbial ship, and everyone should just trust that you know what you're doing by default, right?
There's an old rule of storytelling that says that whenever possible, "show, don't tell." That essentially means that instead of having a character talk about some important development in the plot, SHOW the development instead by having them do something active. It's why in "Star Wars," instead of just having people stand around and talk about how bad the Death Star is, we see it blow up a planet to convey the same information in a much more active way.
This is the same mentality you need to adopt if you want to start earning the trust of your employees. If you make a mistake, don't shift the blame - accept responsibility. Don't ask any employee to do anything that you would be unwilling to do yourself. If you want people to come in on the weekend, you should also come in on the weekend. If you need your team to work long hours, guess what - you need to work them, too.
Show You Care
Every day, look for new opportunities to show your employees that you not only value what they do but that you're all in this together. Remember that their productivity, hard work, and excellent performance needs to benefit more than just you and your career - it needs to positively impact them, too. They're not going to follow you into battle because you tell them to. They have to want to do so.
The only way you can get to that point is if they trust you, and the only way you can get to THAT point is if you're someone worth trusting. This simple distinction is often what separates a good leader from a great one.
Friday, December 15, 2017
If it seems like more and more marketers are incorporating holiday-themed elements into their campaigns, you're absolutely right. Though some may think this is a symptom of the commercialization of events like Thanksgiving or Christmas, it really isn't - at least, not if you approach it from the right angle. In truth, incorporating the holidays into your larger marketing efforts is and will always be a good idea for a number of compelling reasons.
It's All About Timeliness
Most marketing campaigns live and die by their timeliness. After all, what is a piece of marketing collateral if not a sure-fire way to get the right message in front of the right people at the right time? But this idea can take on a far greater meaning, particularly as far as the holidays are concerned.
Consider the fact that according to one recent study, about one-third of all shoppers reported that one or more holiday weekend purchases (think: Black Friday) were driven specifically by promotions. Likewise, another study revealed that in 2017 alone the average per person holiday spending will reach a new high of $805.65.
The ability to say "I'm having a one day sale for the holidays and here are all the details you need to know" is a great way to light a fire and motivate someone to make a purchase. But the reason why you should always try to incorporate the holidays into your marketing efforts runs far deeper than that.
In many ways, it plays directly into another one of the strengths of thoughtfully designed marketing collateral: emotion. You're not just trying to establish a connection with someone - you're trying to do so in the most emotional way possible. Connections based on emotions are the ones that instill a great sense of customer and brand loyalty.
What, then, could possibly be more emotional than the holiday season?
Capitalizing on Emotion
Think about it from the perspective of your average consumer. The holidays are something that they spend a huge portion of the year thinking about. They're devoting a large amount of their day at this point to getting ready for Christmas. They're looking forward to reconnecting with friends and family members that they may have lost touch with throughout the course of their busy year.
Emotions are already running incredibly high. So why on Earth would you NOT want to take advantage of that?
Making an effort to incorporate the holidays into your marketing efforts - even in some small way - taps directly into what people are already feeling all across this season. Even if you're not running a holiday promotion, making an effort to use holiday-themed visuals - or even just wishing your audience a heartfelt "Happy Holidays" - goes a long way towards connecting YOUR brand with what THEY are experiencing in the moment.
It's also something that you can never begin too early - particularly considering that 49% of marketers now say that they begin their holiday campaigns BEFORE Halloween. Make no mistake about it: if you're able to successfully connect with your audience via a holiday-themed campaign at the end of the year, you'll be building the type of emotional bridge directly to your audience that will serve you both well.
Wednesday, December 13, 2017
What is the value of a customer? What profit can they bring this week? This year? Over a lifetime? It may seem like a simple concept, but many small businesses have no idea what a regular customer is worth to their business. This creates two problems:
- Uncertainty about effective marketing. What is the number of new customers you'd like to attract and what is an appropriate budget to do that? Defining a customer value will guide your marketing strategies!
- Ambivalence regarding customer retention. With a metric for measuring customer values, you can navigate appropriate parameters for retaining them or expanding their business. Research shows that increasing customer retention rates by merely 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%!
Customer Lifetime Value
While there are many complex formulas for calculating a Customer Lifetime Value (CLV), a basic approach is to break calculations into five digestible portions, like this:
- Average Order Value (AOV). On the most basic level, AOV is calculated by how much money is spent per customer in a year, divided by how many orders are placed by that customer in that timeframe.
- Purchase Frequency (f). Take the number of orders/visits/transactions from the past year and divide it by the number of unique customers you had. The total equals frequency, or how often an average customer purchased from you.
- Customer Value (cv). The base value of a customer can be calculated by multiplying the AOV by the purchase frequency (cv = AOV * f). In this instance, the customer value is being calculated for one year.
- Average Lifespan/Time (t). A customer's lifespan is how long they actively connect with your business before they move on or go dormant. This can be a complex calculation, but to keep things simple you can either give a broad estimate (an educated guess) or you can calculate an average based on a select number of known customers (adding the length of each of their commitments and dividing by the number of customers). For example: Total Length of Commitment/Number of Individual Customers = Average Customer Lifespan (t).
- Customer Lifetime Value (CLV). Now that you've got a general idea of a customer's value for a year and the average customer lifespan, you can use these variables for a lifetime value: Customer value (cv) * Average Lifespan (t) = Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)
While this is a very simplified equation, even a ballpark CLV can give you a more accurate idea of how valuable each client is to your business. What should you look to spend in order to gain a customer? How much should you spend to extend their loyalty? A benchmark CLV will give you a helpful base for marketing, loyalty programs, and sales goals for the upcoming year. Take a look at a more complex approach Starbucks has taken to determine their CLV as a whopping $14,099!1
Your Customers Are Your Future
A customer represents the future of your success and your livelihood, and it will be difficult to thrive if you aren't willing to risk or invest to attract new business. What are your obstacles to expanding your reach or enlarging your advertising? Has the uncertainty of direct mail marketing kept your business from growing? Why not rely on our expertise? We offer sophisticated, simple ways to reach a mass audience for an amount that works within your budget. Need a creative concept or help to carry it to completion? We offer prompt, knowledgeable service for every custom design mailing. Give us a call today!
Monday, December 11, 2017
Close your eyes and picture this: On your early morning commute, you get stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Your senses are bombarded with horns honking, the sound of breaks squeaking, and the pungent smell of exhaust. Your reward for making it through this mess isn't much better. Your individual cubicle awaits, lit only by artificial lights which have a way of making you look sick and feel hopeless. Once you arrive in your allotted space, you are faced with mountains of redundant, seemingly meaningless tasks you must complete, while answering to eight different bosses who don't communicate amongst themselves.
If the movie "Office Space" came to mind during this exercise, you are getting the right idea. While the movie's comedic portrayal of an office environment is exaggerated, as business owners, it's wise to learn the lessons you can glean from it.
Bill Lumbergh is the boss in the movie "Office Space." He is often seen hanging around Peter's (main character's) cubicle, overreaching his boundaries and seemingly controlling every aspect of Peter's day. Peter also has eight bosses other than Bill, or maybe including him. This means everything has to be repeated over and over to the point of insanity. This drives Peter crazy, and it is not productive either.
Lesson #1: Give your employees what they need to do the job: training, materials, etc. Then, let them work. Get out of their way. Studies have even proven that micromanaging can cause employees to perform at a lower level, not higher. Just imagine trying to do even a simple task with someone standing right over your shoulder, and it's easy to understand why micromanaging is so detrimental.
Provide Well Functioning Equipment/Updated Software
In the movie, the copy machine almost takes on the role of character thanks to the fact that it is so detested by Michael and the other main characters. It seems this copier/printer will never work properly, which causes endless difficulties. Peter, Samir, and Michael (main characters) end up destroying the machine in a rural field outside town after their frustrations reach a boiling over point.
Lesson #2: You should provide your employees with what they need to get their job done as mentioned above. Sure, things break. That's understandable. However, expecting your employees to continue to use subpar equipment, computer, software, etc. yet still pushing them to meet deadlines and maintain the same level of production simply isn't fair.
Create a High-Quality Working Environment
It is no wonder the characters of "Office Space" so detest their jobs. They work in 6' x 6' cubicles with no windows. In addition, Peter is situated right across from another employee who patches calls through, so in essence, she spends all day saying "just a moment" in an irritatingly spunky voice.
Lesson #3: Cubicles are sometimes unavoidable in today's office buildings. However, give your employees the freedom to move around to break up their day. Make sure you have seating available for your employees outside where they can walk around and enjoy being outdoors. If outdoor space isn't an option, at least make sure you provide a lounge with couches or comfortable chairs where employees can go to take a break from their own cubicle walls.
Most employees understand that doing business in today's technology-saturated society often means they are required to sit at a desk and work on a computer most of the day. This doesn't have to look like the movie "Office Space," though. Thankfully, with a little thought and purposeful planning, you can ensure your employees never feel like Peter or the other characters from the movie. Simply adhere to these lessons from "Office Space," and you will be heading in the right direction.
Wednesday, December 6, 2017
Cash flow is important in the lifespan of any business, but one of the key things to understand is that it's about more than just "money in versus money out." It's a valuable look into the bigger picture of what you're doing, and by having a handle on this aspect of your finances, you can take advantage of business opportunities when they arise.
First, you need to understand how every element of your business relates to this cash flow concept, including marketing. To that point, marketing has a very specific relationship with cash flow that you're going to need to be aware of moving forward.
Hone Your Budget
Yes, it's true that marketing costs can often seem unpredictable. However, working hard to hone your marketing budget can make these unexpected situations easier to deal with.
To get started, sit down and think about your upcoming marketing efforts in relation to your other expected cash inflows and outflows. You can't afford to throw just anything at the wall to see what sticks; you have to be more precise than that. Create a realistic marketing budget (that includes room for experimentation if needed) that is proportional to the rest of your expected business expenses and revenue streams.
It's All About That Return
What matters most? Return on investment. For this, focus on the metrics that provide you the context necessary to understand your marketing efforts.
Essentially, stop thinking about marketing ROI as just "how many sales did that last campaign bring in?" and don't be afraid to break things down on a more granular level. Start looking at metrics like your customer acquisition cost. If one of your campaigns was aimed at increasing more traffic to your website, start breaking things down based on metrics like "time spent on site" and "conversion rate."
It's important to know how your marketing collateral is performing in terms of overall sales and revenues, but in terms of your cash flow you need to dive deeper than that. As long as you're able to A) show that your marketing is giving you something in return, and B) you can identify exactly what that something is and when it occurs, you know where the value of every marketing dollar rests.
This, in turn, will give you the context necessary to understand marketing's affect on cash flow and vice versa. When you know that "X action will pay off in Y way after Z amount of time," you suddenly know the impact that every marketing decision you make actually has and when that impact is going to occur. This makes long-term cash flow projections not only easier to make but more accurate as well.
Friday, December 1, 2017
Human beings are visual learners, which is part of why visual communication is so effective (and important). Whether you're talking about a B2C or B2B situation, marketing presentations allow your message to transcend the world of more straightforward marketing tactics and take on a whole new potential audience at the same time.
Case in point: according to one study, people only tend to remember about 10% of what they hear just three days later. If they receive the same message when paired with relevant visuals, that number jumps to an incredible 65%. It makes sense, then, that 37% of marketers said that visual resources like presentations were one of the most important forms of content for their business in general.
However, presentations are NOT necessarily a silver bullet, and you shouldn't treat them as such. Without a strong narrative at the core of your marketing, in general, it's far too easy to get lost in fluff that ultimately doesn't matter - affecting the impact on your audience as a result.
What's in a Narrative? Quite a Bit, It Turns Out
Call it whatever you'd like - a narrative, a central idea, the main thesis, etc. Every campaign needs a straightforward idea (preferably one that can be summed up in a sentence or two) at the start of it all, acting as a solid foundation from which everything else is built.
For the sake of comparison, let's look at the power a simple narrative brings to the table regarding another visual communication medium: filmmaking. The movie "Star Wars" from 1977 is one of the most successful films of all time. It spawned billions in merchandising sales, one of the most successful franchises ever, and even led to the $4 billion acquisition of LucasFilm by Disney a few years ago.
But "Star Wars" isn't really about crazy aliens, amazing spaceships, thrilling outer space battles and all of that other stuff. At heart, "Star Wars" is a simple and relatable narrative: a young boy who grew up on a farm dreams of a better and more exciting life, so he jumps at the chance to join the Rebellion and travel the stars.
It's not any more complicated than that. Every single scene in the movie reinforces that narrative in some way. It all relates back to that simple idea.
Simple and Effective
Your marketing needs to be the same way. Whatever idea that you're trying to convey or message that you're getting across, it needs to be A) stated up front, B) as short and as simple as possible and C) relatable in some way. As long as you have those three elements, every other decision you make with regards to content needs to refer back to it, and your marketing will soar.
Having a strong, true narrative (and identifying it before you begin work) keeps you focused. Without a true narrative at the heart of it all, you're left with marketing that doesn't really justify its own existence.