Archive for August, 2011|Monthly archive page

Build Business Brand Proactively

In Branding, Marketing, Marketing Communications on August 25, 2011 at 1:20 pm

Every business has a brand. Some businesses build their brand proactively and create a strong, positive brand. Others ignore  brand development and end up with a negative brand that dooms the business.Your brand is too important to your business success to ignore it. Instead, build it proactively.

Simply put, your brand is your promise to your customers regarding your products and services and the overall sales experience you provide. Your actions define your brand while your marketing materials support it. Adopt these strategies to grow a strong, consistent brand that will serve your company well.

  • Build your brand on action. Some companies fail to see the connection between their actions and their brand. They believe that if they develop a slick marketing campaign promising quality products and services and excellent customer care, this will become their brand even if they fail to deliver on their promise. Wrong! This is like building a home with sturdy walls and a flimsy foundation. The structure just won’t stand. You must deliver what you promise.
  • Reflect your brand in your marketing materials. On the flip side, some business owners believe that as long as they sell quality products and services and treat their customers well, the quality of their marketing materials doesn’t matter. Wrong again. You need to let customers know what makes you different from your competition. Otherwise, your competitor with a strong marketing program but only average products and services will far outsell you.
  • Develop a message that speaks to your audience. I once attended a networking event during which everyone had the opportunity to give a 30-second commercial about his or her company. There were several banks represented. One by one, each bank representative offered the lowest home mortgage rate and nothing more. I was left with the impression that every bank was the same. What’s the solution? Develop a strong marketing message that quickly defines the customer pain points your products and services address, your solution to these pain points or needs and what makes your solution better than that offered by your competition. Otherwise, you will compete solely on price.
  • Build your brand by design. Many businesses start out with a logo, business cards and letterhead and then develop the rest of their marketing tools in a reactive mode — when some event forces them to do so. The end result often is a different message and design for each marketing tool. If you want to build a strong brand, incorporate your message and unique image into every marketing tool.
  • Stay the course. Customers and prospects need to hear your message consistently at least six or seven times before it begins to make an impact. If you did your homework and carefully developed your marketing message, design and strategy, stay the course. Give your marketing strategy time to succeed.
  • Change if you must. While consistency is important, even the most carefully made plan sometimes needs to be tweaked. Evaluate your results on a regular basis and adjust your marketing as needed for even stronger brand growth.

Copyright 2011. Joan B. Marcus

Your Audience Rules — or Should

In Writing on August 16, 2011 at 4:25 pm

I’m not much of a sports fan. I’ve learned the simple rules of soccer thanks to the many years I’ve watched my son play. I get the gist of baseball, basketball, football and golf. But if you move beyond the basics, I’m pretty much lost. When I watch a football game, the most I usually get out of it is the score, unless there is someone there to explain the game at a basic level — a very basic level.

A true football fan, on the other hand, can watch the same game and understand the strategy, the play-by-play and the statistics. He or she can recount plays and explain how they fit into the overall game. He has a deep understanding of what is going on without explanation.

When you write, readers may vary as well. Some will have in-depth knowledge of your subject matter while others may know very little about the topic. Your job as a writer is to communicate clearly with all of your readers without dumbing down the information or overwhelming your readers with too many details. Here’s how:

  • Understand your audience. Before you begin to write, understand who your audience is, their depth of understanding of the subject matter you are writing about, their interest and their purpose in reading what you have written. If your audience is familiar with your topic, you can count on shared knowledge to “fill in the blanks.” If the topic is unfamiliar to your readers, you need to provide more detail. If your audience varies in its understanding, you should provide enough information so every reader can understand the key points you are communicating.
  • Make it easy for your readers to get what they need. Why is someone reading what you have written? What level of detail do they need? If your readers need quick facts, for example, use a bullet format. Make use of subheads and bold and italic type to make key points stand out. If you need to provide more detail for some readers, use a traditional journalistic style, summarizing the important points in the first paragraph with supporting details in later paragraphs.
  • Write clearly and succinctly. Writing is a thought process. To write clearly and succinctly, you must have a firm grasp of the key points you want to make before you start writing. After you draft an article, edit it carefully for content, grammar and style. When it comes to writing, less is more. If one word conveys what you want to say, don’t use two. Eliminate jargon.

Bottom line — write for your audience for optimum communication.

Just Keep Going

In Writing on August 9, 2011 at 3:45 pm

I just returned from a wonderful family vacation in the Great Smoky Mountains. If you have never been to this national park, it is well worth the visit whether you explore the park from the comfort of your car or on foot. Each time we hiked, we found natural treasures along the way from cooling waterfalls to wildflowers, towering trees to wildlife.

Unfortunately, however, I am not an avid hiker. I hike only occasionally, generally while on vacation, so while I was more than willing to begin, my stamina is probably not what it should have been for some of the hikes we chose. Needless to say, after a while, my pace slowed down and hiking became more of an endurance sport than a fun activity. I could feel myself gritting my teeth, willing myself forward because I refused to stop before I got to the end of the trail. But at times, I must admit, the thrill was gone.

One day we decided to hike to Ramsay Cascades, the highest waterfall in the park. It’s an eight-mile round-trip hike and the trail climbs about 2,400 feet. The end of the trail is a rock scramble. By the time I reached that part of the trail, I really just wanted to  stop. The thought of scrambling over rocks to reach our destination was a bit more than my urban mind and body could tolerate. As I was scouting out a resting place, a couple passed by on their way back from the falls. They assured me that while the rest of the trail was more challenging, it was doable and well worth the trip. Sure enough, in a few moments, I reached Ramsey Cascade. The view was breath-taking. More than that, I felt a real sense of accomplishment even though I had found muscles that I never knew existed.

So, what does hiking have to do with writing? There are probably many lessons I could draw from my hiking experience, but here’s what really sticks in my mind — just keep going. When writing gets tough, keep at it. Don’t let distractions side track you. The hike to the end is well worth the pain, whether you are writing a book, a poem or a business report.