branding marketing

Companies Don’t Control Their Brands: Customers Do. It’s Time To Rebrand Branding

Gee Ranasinha Marketing

What is your brand? Where is your brand? Your brand is an ephemeral quantity that exists in the minds of your customers, created based upon their direct and indirect experiences with your company, product or service. Your brand is one of the reasons why your customers choose your business value offering over that of your competitors’. It’s one of your business differentiators. Branding isn’t something that gets created in your marketing department. Every single person in your organization directly or indirectly contributes to shaping and defining your brand. More than that, unless every single person within your organization understands and actively engages in your branding strategy, your branding initiative will fail. Most people think ‘branding’ is your company logo. Or a particular set and shade of colors. Or the typeface you use on your website, brochures, and letterhead. It’s not that. At least, it’s not just that. Branding is the way we differentiate one business from another, but not (just) in terms of logo, colors, and the rest. At its core, it’s the very essence of the promise you’re making to your customer. It’s a long-term, never-ending commitment. The importance of branding cannot be overlooked. But it’s also important to …

who you know social network

It’s Not What You Know…It’s Who You Know

Gee Ranasinha Business, Communications, Social Media

Not so long ago, a big part of doing business locally involved getting to know people of influence through organizations such as alumni associations, business organizations, religious groups, the golf club – and of course the Freemasons. Being accepted into such institutions was almost a prerequisite to conducting business. A few years ago I remember having a conversation with an acquaintance at an industry conference. Within a short time the conversation turned to golf. When I casually mentioned that I wasn’t a golfer, my conversation partner looked at me with shock and surprise. “You don’t golf? But then how on earth do you get leads?” But aren’t these old-style networks now under threat from social media? By online networks such as LinkedIn, Viadeo and XING? The issue with the various old-style networks is they usually want new members to be of the same class and cultural background as the existing constituency, thereby discriminating against race, sex, age, religion and goodness-knows what else. If you’re from what they’d regard as the wrong side of the tracks, you may find your access to such networks hindered, or even blocked. Online networks, in contrast, have no such membership restrictions. Sure, at the individual …

fire your worst customers

Do the Right Thing: Fire Your Worst Customers

Gee Ranasinha Business, Customer Service, Website

I fired a customer today. The project wasn’t particularly well-paid, or creatively stimulating. But that’s not why I fired the client. In fact, the project was for a pretty large organization that may have paved the way for more lucrative work further down the road. So, why did I fire the client? Here’s the story: The business owner came to us with a problem. We proposed a solution to that problem which everyone around the table agreed would address the company’s issue. However, for reasons I won’t go into here, the client then came back to us a week later asking us to fix the problem another way. We pointed out to them that, while their way would address their problem in the short term, in the long term the problem would still be there. The solution they were proposing was, in essence, a stop-gap. A patch. A workaround. Furthermore, it didn’t make sense financially since the difference in cost between the two solutions was virtually the same, and that sooner or later they’d end up having to implement our proposed solution anyway. They would end up spending almost double what they needed to, for no reason. However the client …

the thrill of the chase

The Thrill Of The (Sales) Chase: But Don’t Forget Existing Customers

Gee Ranasinha Business, Customer Service, Marketing, Sales, small business

Every business needs customers. Well, duh… It’s also true that every business owner, sales manager, and marketer loves finding new customers. The initial contact, the first meeting. The sales pitch, the demonstration, and submission of proposal. Then follows the negotiation, the close, the transaction and, finally, the payment. It’s a complex dance, often with many intricate steps. Any one of those steps can go awry at any time. potentially resulting in sales failure. I think that’s part of the fascination. Business owners and sales managers are often Type A personalities. They relish the thrill of the chase. The sport, the competition against sales professionals from other businesses who are just as hungry for the sale. The importance of understanding the prospect – what makes them tick. The desire to win. The inherent risk and ultimate cost of failure. Looking at it this way you could be forgiven for thinking it’s all quite primeval. Supposing you’ve navigated successfully around the potential pitfalls to failure and – congratulations – closed the deal. What happens next? Sure, the customer takes delivery. Maybe there’s an onboarding phase – installation, training, support, and so on. But I’m thinking farther forward. I’m thinking about the time …

telephone sales cold calling tricks

Hanging On The Telephone

Gee Ranasinha Business

Why do companies still try to con us when they cold-call? Perhaps we’d be more receptive (and polite) when receiving sales calls if the person on the other end of the phone wasn’t trying to hoodwink us to listen to what they have to say. We’ve all been on the receiving end. The telephone rings: “Hello, my name’s John and I’m calling from the International Research Institute. We’re putting together a survey on (insert subject name here) and I was wondering whether you had a few minutes to answer some questions?” It’s tempting, isn’t it? John hasn’t given you the impression that he’s trying to get you to part with any money. John’s is only preparing a survey. He’s asking you, ever so politely, if you wouldn’t mind taking some time out of your busy day to help him. You’re a good person, so when someone asks you for help you want to oblige. Right? Which is exactly what John’s betting on. Of course, in reality there is no survey. It’s an elaborate lie. John isn’t calling about you answering questions to help him prepare some survey – he’s trying to sell you something. He’s using the ‘survey’ ruse in …

shotgun shells

Russian Roulette

Gee Ranasinha Marketing

Ever heard of “The Shotgun Approach” ? As you may know, a shotgun doesn’t usually use a bullet as its ammunition. Rather it uses a shell that contains hundreds of small pellets, or “shot”. Since the shot sprays out when fired, the user doesn’t have to aim too precisely. The idea is that, when fired, enough of the pellets will find their target. Most don’t, but it doesn’t matter since at least some do. In marketing communications The Shotgun Approach can be translated as coming up with as many reasons to buy, as many product/services features and benefits, as many compelling arguments as possible in order that something that you say will resonate within your target market’s psyche and move them into the buying phase. In effect you’re blasting them with everything that you’ve got, in the hope that something sticks. However – clay pigeon shooting aside – The Shotgun Approach doesn’t work. Perhaps it used to, though I’m not even sure about that. We’ve all been subject to the sort of marketing messaging that I’m talking about. Overly-wordy email blasts, confusing advertising, hopelessly-jumbled slide presentations. The end result is an impersonal, confusing mish-mash of corporate rhetoric and buzzwords that …

Who’s Damaging Your Brand?

Gee Ranasinha Communications, Marketing

A special thank-you to Gary George, the first (but hopefully not the last) guest blogger for Business Value Matters. Gary is one of the smartest technologists I know, a consultant for premedia business process analysis company Tunicca, a new father – and a good friend. It’s a strange thing writing a guest blog, a proud feeling to be asked, but this one comes from an idea I had and thought this was the best place for the content, I never imagined that I would actually be asked to write it myself, so I won’t even try an mimic the writing style, you get me as I am when I write on my own blog. I’m keeping this short as it’s based on the frustration of driving nearly every time I get behind the wheel of my car, a frustration or experience I don’t have when I have driven in different countries, although I am sure this happens there. This frustration got me thinking about the companies the drivers and their vehicles represented, have you worked it out yet? Everyday on the streets of the UK we see companies advertising their brand on their company vehicles, these vehicles and their drivers …

Now What Do You Do?

Now What Do You Do?

Gee Ranasinha Business, Communications, Customer Service, Marketing

Congratulations, you’ve made the sale. Your customer is happy with their purchase and has paid in full. The product or service that they have bought from you meets or (hopefully) exceeds their expectations. Maybe they’re even happy to recommend you. Well done. So, what do you do now? Most organizations understand that, in today’s business environment, regular customer communication is vital for ongoing visibility, helping them remember you rather than your competition. However, many companies, while aware that they should keep in touch with their customers after that initial transaction, don’t know how or what to say to them. They end up sticking the customer name into the company’s standard database, to be blasted with promotional info no different to what a prospective customer receives. Then they wonder why their existing customers are no longer buying from them. Customers that have bought from you don’t need to drink the KoolAid. They don’t need sales pitches, aggressive advertising or discounted offers. Just as you’ve become a known quantity to them, they should be one to you. Structure your “existing customer” communication differently from your “prospective customer” messaging. Communicate to your existing customers with information and messaging that adds value to them, …

brand 'me'

Is Your Brand Helping Sales, Or Hurting Them?

Gee Ranasinha Marketing

Developing and communicating a corporate brand helps you deliver your business value message, confirms your marketplace credibility, helps build customer loyalty and reduces entry barriers during the sales cycle for qualified prospects. But is your brand helping the sales process, or hindering it? Imagine that you received a phonecall from a salesperson at Apple, who wanted to know whether you would be interested in their value offering. What mental image would you have? As an Apple salesperson they could be selling computers, watches, music players, TV set-top boxes, phones, tablets, software, support contracts, or even speakers. Because Apple is such a successful company with a broad range of products and services, they could be trying to sell you any (or all) of these things. And therein lies the issue: Brand marketing can often hinder a salesperson’s ability to effectively communicate the company’s business value offering. The very essence of most brand marketing programs is to instil a strong and evocative image into the target market’s mind. However, this also forces prospects to make conclusions about why a salesperson is calling them. If your company is known for one thing – and ONLY one thing – then this isn’t a problem …

Crowd

Your Customers Don’t Care

Gee Ranasinha Business

You’ve been reading all the latest business books and website articles, and you notice that your competitors and peers are embracing various social media applications as a way to get closer to their customers. The natural knee-jerk reaction? Get on the bandwagon and have your company start its own blog. Or Facebook page. Or Twitter stream. Or whatever. After a certain time, you step back and analyze how effective your ‘social media strategy’ has been. Guess what? It’s been a flop. Why? Because your customers don’t care. The reason why your campaign’s a failure is because you’re not saying anything that your customers haven’t already heard before, from 101 other sources, who’ve been in the social mediasphere a lot longer than you have. So why should your customers bother? Many companies are frightened of humanizing their organization, yet that’s exactly what successful blogs and social media are about: removing the anonymity. People like to interact with people, not entities. Social media allows them to do that. However, if all you do is tell your audience what you want them to hear, rather than what they want to know, you’ve lost the game. Social media is about your customers driving the …

external business influences out of control

External Influences

Gee Ranasinha Marketing

Every industry has their unique set of external influences that govern the validity of your business value. Make you that you know the factors that influence your business – and keep an eye on where they’re heading.

standing in your own queue

A Taste Of Your Own Medicine

Gee Ranasinha Business

“Customer Experience” is a marketing buzzword to describe how well a business satisfies the needs of its customers before, during, and after the buying process. Clearly, to do better at Customer Experience (or “CX” if you’re a skinny-jeans wearing hipster who thinks working on your MacBook at Starbucks every day makes you cool) you need to understand your customers. Like any business owner, you think you understand what makes your customers tick. You believe you understand why they buy your product or service. But have you ever, personally, gone through the buying process that your customers go through? Depending on your business, there may be a number of external influences that are not directly under your control. That may have a fundamental effect on how your business value is perceived by your customers. A series of hoops that your prospective customers have to jump through to get to your value offering. Perhaps your software is sold via third-parties like retailers, distributors, integrators or VARs. Perhaps your food is ‘sold’ by your serving staff. Perhaps your conference is promoted by direct sales personnel. Customers are a funny bunch. They make up their minds about a company based on their experience in …