Reasons To Believe: A Key Part of Your Brand Promise

RTB

Buyers make purchasing decisions based on a number of factors.  Sellers must understand these factors in order to create reasons-to-believe (RTB) in their brand.  RTB statements are short, concise, to-the-point statements that serve as a sound bite to the buyer.  Trident gum’s “4 out of 5 dentists” is a simple example of an effective RTB. The use of reasons-to-believe can apply to any person, product, service, or business.  Whether your are building your personal brand or your company’s, it’s your job to develop an RTB that resonates with your buyer.

How do you know what’s important to your buyer?  Do you understand the process your buyer goes through on their journey to the cash register? By mapping your buyer’s journey, you will uncover these critical insights, that are necessary in creating your brand messaging which should include some RTBs. Current pain level, budget, ability to solve the problem,  reputation of the seller, and the buyers emotional state are all key inputs into the buying decision.

The most effective RTBs are those created to align with a specific point on the buyers journey.  As the buyer travels thought the 4 emotional phases of buying including, awareness, familiarity, confidence, and conviction, she will require different messaging to continue her buying journey.  RTBs are most impactful when used in the confidence phase of buying.  During the first two emotional phases, Marketing is working to establish conscious and subconscious brand recognition.  Once awareness and familiarity are developed, a strategically positioned RTB can help establish confidence.  Some examples of RTBs include:

  1. Ford F 150 – highest EPA-estimated fuel economy ratings of any full-size gasoline powered pick-up on the market
  2. Chevy Colorado – MotorTrend’s 2016 Truck of the Year
  3. QuickBooks – 4 million business run on QuickBooks
  4. Perdue – No-Antibiotics-Ever, and an all-vegetarian diet
  5. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital– families never receive a bill for treatment, travel, housing or food

While some of these RTBs sound like nothing more than a simple statement, they in fact have been strategically developed to connect to a buying emotion.  All were created to instill confidence and provide an emotional satisfier…a feel-good reaction.  These companies are just a handful that have taken the time to study and understand what’s important to their buyer’s.  They understand that we live in an information society where cutting through the noise is paramount to capturing the buyers attention.  These direct, relevant soundbites provide buyers with an added reason-to-believe in a brand.  Do you know what your brand’s RTBs are?

 

Becoming a Brand Master: Lessons Learned From Taylor Swift & Jony Ive

Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift gets branding. In fact, I’d put her up against most of today’s “branding experts” as being a true master brand manager.  Swift is an artist but also a great businesswoman.  She has a clear vision of what the Taylor Swift brand delivers.

Jonathan (Jony) Ive, the world renowned industrial designer at Apple who is largely credited with the iPod’s sleek design and UI is also a master brander.  He has a deep understanding of what buyers need, and want, and focuses his efforts, and those of his team, to deliver products that meet those needs.

JonyIve

While Swift and Ive may have taken different paths to be becoming brand experts, both share some common characteristics that all marketers can learn from if they desire to become master branders.

  1.  Establish clear goals for your brand.  Is your goal to appeal to the mass market or to a niche? No brand can be everything to every one.  Taylor Swift may be a great musician and artist but there’s still those who prefer heavy metal to her country-pop. Ive’s iPhone may have an awesome design but there are millions of buyers who prefer the Android operating system over iOS. Pick your lane and nail it.
  2. Focused intensity.  Once you’ve identified your goals and they are in clear sight, go after them with focused intensity.  Having focus is wonderful, but having intensity with focus will drive you to reach your goal quicker.
  3. Always be kind, even when acting otherwise would be completely acceptable.  Every brand is susceptible to negative comments.  Can anyone say Kanye? Buyers are always watching your behavior. Be honest, be transparent, and take the high road. It doesn’t mean rolling over or not defending untruths, but do it with a smile.
  4. Be a perfectionist.  Branding is an art, and we all know art is not perfect, otherwise it wouldn’t be art. But being a perfectionist relative to executing your branding strategy is something that sets brand masters apart from those that tinker in branding.
  5. Stay above the fray, operate with a touch of paranoia.  Looking over your shoulder isn’t always a bad thing.  Two things I learned growing up that that help with this concept are; nothing good happens after dark, and what would your grandparents think?  Your brand is your own and you can do with it as you please.  Just make sure you’ve thought through the implications of acting or speaking a certain way and then accept the outcomes. If someone in your company does something that has a negative impact on the brand it’s up to you, the brand master, to take action and deliver consequences.

These may appear to be small things.  Maybe even trivial things.  And while much of what we experience in life would suggest we NOT sweat the small stuff, when it comes to our brand, nothing is too small an item to not sweat.

 

Winning the Sale Requires Marketing

winning

To win a sale requires a number of factors all aligning properly at the right moment.  The buyer’s need, a good story, the right product, and of course, an easy fulfillment (sales) process.

I’ve led marketing and sales teams for more than 20 years.  Neither could win without the other, yet each feel confident they reign supreme when it comes to closing the business.  However, there is an increasing body of work that suggests the role of the sales person, relative to closing the business, is decreasing.  Buyers are self-educating themselves all the way through fulfilling their own purchase.  Think Amazon.  You sign in, check out the product your interested in, perhaps read some reviews, and into your cart it goes straight through to check out.  If you’re Amazon Prime, 3 days later it’s in your hands and ready for use.  As the buyers journey continues to change, it’s up to the sales leader to adjust and learn new strategies that will increase their effectiveness; adding the right ingredients, at the right time, to achieve the desired outcome – a sale.

Nothing gets sold without a product, price, place or promotion.  I’ll add process in there as well as the 5th “P” of Marketing.  Combining these 5 P’s into a single offer that results in a sale is where the true beauty, art, and science all come together with marketing and sales.

Marketing is the lead function in any organization that is charged with providing an end-to-end view of the buying process.  Beginning with product development and ending with the sale, Marketing’s role is one focused entirely on creating a remarkable experience for the buyer on his journey to the cash register.  Much like a cardiologist confers with an anesthesiologist prior to surgery, a sales person should consult with Marketing.  No matter how great a heart surgeon is, she would never go into the operating room without the help of a strong and competent anesthesiologist.  If she did it would be disastrous.  If a sales person meets with a prospect without understanding the marketing behind the product the outcome can be quite disappointing.  And while I’m certain egos exist in the OR, I’m equally aware of the egos that exist within Marketing and Sales.

So here’s my challenge to Sales leaders interested in improving their team’s results…

Partner with Marketing to truly understand the offer.  I’m sure some heads are shaking right now and perhaps worse tempers are flaring.  Sales leaders by nature are confident with Texas-sized egos.  But the great sales leaders know it’s all about being a continuous learner.  Without learning you can’t be strategic, and without strong strategy skills

you’ll never improve your results.  You’ll simply go about doing things as you’ve always done, getting what you’ve always got.

Instead, I’d suggest sales leaders meet with their marketing peers.  Ask them questions surrounding the 5 P’s.

  1. What are the 3 most important features of this product and why?
  2. How did we arrive at those features?
  3. Tell me what went into our pricing for this product?
  4. What’s the impact to our brand if we discount the product?
  5. Are there any unintended needs that our product addresses? (think Post-It notes)
  6. Where in the process would my help and involvement, from a sales standpoint, yield the greatest end result?
  7. Where in the buying process do you feel there is room for improvement and can I help?

Questions like these will accomplish several things including: establishing trust between these two functions, educating each other by expanding insights and perspectives, fostering collaboration, and most importantly, if done right, this interaction will keep the conversation, efforts, and resources focused on the customer.

So to all the sales leaders out there, open your minds, focus on the customer, and be excited about the possibility of learning something new and connect with Marketing today.

Dunkin…One Hot Brand

Dunkin

Some time when I was around 5 or 6 years old my grandmother let me try my first sip of coffee.  She brewed it in a small tin percolator on the stove and I remember how the aroma of the coffee filled the house.  She put a touch of cream in a small cup, slid it across the table, and wa-la…a coffee enthusiast was born!

Dunkin has been my go-to brand for as long as I can remember.  It’s where I go to think, sometimes to work, sometimes to write, and other times to hang out.  It’s a special place I go to with my dad when we’re together, to chat and spend time with one another.  Dunkin has become a comfortable part of my life.  How did they do it?

The Marketing team at Dunkin works overtime to stay connected with their customer.  From determining new menu items, to the appropriate temperature at which they serve their coffee, Dunkin stays close to their customers thoughts.

By delivering on their brand promise every day, Dunkin has created a trusted brand that represents consistency, dependability, and commitment.  “YOUR COFFEE JUST RIGHT, EVERY TIME.” That’s a commitment.

The Dunkin I frequent in Jamison, PA is staffed by an incredibly friendly team of service professionals.  While some would argue that qwik-serve establishments are far from employing service professionals I’d argue against that position every day of the week when it comes to Dunkin.  Traveling more than 100,000 domestic miles every year since 1997, I can confidently say I’ve been in hundreds of Dunkin locations across the country.  My coffee, and the experience by which it was delivered, keeps me coming back.

Typical elements that are included in measuring a customers experience with a brand seem to have been mastered by Dunkin.  Clean stores, hot coffee, comfortable gathering spaces, WiFi, quick and friendly service, a killer app that rewards you for your business, well lit stores at any hour of the day, and great presentation of their baked goods are all things that have helped create a dominant Dunkin brand.

When you look at your brand, do you know what your customers judge you on?  What are the elements surrounding their experience with your company that you need to pay attention to?  Do you know?  If not, it is probably time you engage in some deep buyer journey work to better understand what your buyer goes through in order to arrive at their buying decision.  Rest assured Dunkin has.

Operating nearly half the number of stores as Starbucks, its largest competitor, Dunkin still controls 24% of the coffee market compared to Starbucks 36%. Dunkin reports selling nearly 2 billion cups of coffee each year.  Starbucks has elected to not disclose their number.

Dunkin’s growth will no doubt continue providing they keep their eye on their brand promise.  Assuming they do, I can guarantee them I’ll be returning every day for my medium hot coffee with cream.  Keep on runnin Dunkin!

DunkinJoe

Presentation Matters!

Jewelry

Recently I was killing time in one of the country’s largest department stores as my wife did some shopping.  As a passionate, yet at times geeky marketer, I enjoy going to the mall to look at how merchandise is marketed and how consumers interact with that merchandise as they consider their purchase.

I’m often baffled by how some stores seem to be quite comfortable with messy racks and shelves.  You know the ones where all the sweaters are thrown all over the place, sizes mixed together, shirts are on the floor, and forget about the socks section.

As I wandered through this major, national, department store I stumbled into the jewelry section.  In fact, I quite literally stumbled as I noticed the sign for a pair of diamond earrings for $3,200.  It wasn’t the price that caught me off guard.  It was the horrible presentation.  The jewelry case looked like a disaster.  I actually snapped the photo above as my brain tried to reconcile the price of $3,200 with a case that looked like it had been through the war and back.

How could a retailer that is one of the most iconic in the country allow one of their stores to present merchandise like this?  Could their executive team even be aware that they are trying to sell jewelry for thousands of dollars in this manner?  I could never imagine a mall jewelers case to looking like this.  You’d never see a presentation like this in Nordstrom or Bloomingdales.  So my question is simple…

If this is the only way you’re able to present merchandise should you do it?  Is it worth jeopardizing your brand’s image? Is it worth the risk of destroying its value?  Further is this the image you expect of your brand? Crusty, cracked, faded, and dirty? Would any of this company’s executives spend that kind of money anywhere else where the merchandise was presented this way?  I’d bet not.

This got me thinking.  I wondered just how expensive jewelry displays actually cost.  Maybe, just maybe they were really expensive. So I went to http://www.nilecorp.com which sells jewelry displays.  I inventoried the displays in the case and priced out replacements.  NEWSFLASH: To replace the faux suede displays in this picture would cost a WHOPPING $50.00! Seriously?  Kind of makes you wonder just how far out this capital expenditure has to be budgeted for. Sense the sarcasm?

The morale of this story (blog) is that a multi-million dollar brand can be tarnished for under $50.00.  And whether your company is a local small business, a national retailer, or a luxury automobile manufacturer your brand is open for business 24/7. So if you’re not paying attention to these kinds of details guess who is?  Your lost customers.

And remember this…while diamonds may last forever, their display cases don’t.  Pay attention to the details.

Consistency: The not-so-secret ingredient to building a strong brand

consistency-is-key

If I were to ask you to name your favorite brand what would you say?  What metric or definitions would you use to acknowledge those companies whose brands rise to the top?

Brand building is big work.  Heavy work.  Time consuming work.  It takes patience, curiosity, interest, a willingness to listen, a willingness to act, a conscious effort to deliver what you promise day in and day out.  Yes, a brand is simply that…a promise.

Chances are your favorite brands may do many things well, but there’s one thing I bet they do better than all the others.  I’ll bet your favorite brands deliver what they promise consistently.  Not 70% of the time, or 80% of the time, but 10 out of 10 times you get exactly the experience you’ve come to expect.  It’s exactly the reason you keep going back.  It’s THE reason it’s your favorite brand .

Consistency is the little, but not so secret, ingredient of successful brandsDunkin Donuts, Starbucks, and Wawa deliver great coffee all the time.  Apple delivers quality products for home, work, or on the go, that are easy to use and deliver what’s promised.  The gym I go to is always so clean you could eat off the floors which says a lot for a gym!  I drive 23 miles to take my car to a Cadillac dealership when there is a Caddy dealer 4 miles from my home.  Why?  They always recognize me by name, their waiting area is ultra-comfortable with TV, work stations and high-speed internet, not to mention their  “Nordstrom-like” restrooms.  Speaking of Nordstrom, their service is remarkable each and every time.  Whether you’re buying a brand name shirt, or one that carries John Nordstrom’s name, you can rest assured you’ve purchased something of quality.

We all have examples of our favorite brands.  What’s funny is how many companies I’ve experienced where paying attention to those little things is viewed as more of a luxury than a requirement.  Dunkin didn’t get the reputation for great coffee by accident.  They didn’t say “it doesn’t matter where we get our beans from or what type of equipment we use to brew it”.  They are all about those coffee details.  Nordstrom’s didn’t develop its reputation as service workhorse by giving customers a hard time when an item didn’t fit, work, or hold up as expected.  And for those of you privileged enough to live in a city where Wegmans operates you know how consistent their delivery of remarkable service is.  Wegmans has been known to take back, refund, and provide other goodwill gestures for food purchased that the customer didn’t like.  Consistently consistent.

If you’re selling fast and easy, it better be fast and easy all the time.  Not just most of the time. If you’re selling fresh, it needs to be fresh at 6 am or 6 pm.  If you’re selling durable, it better last under the harshest uses or conditions.

Regardless of what you sell, think about how consistent your brand delivers on its promise.  If it’s anything shy of 100%, or Six Sigma, I suggest you reevaluate and understand not just why, but what you’ll do to correct it.  Nobody wants to buy “sometimes”.  In fact most people buy with their emotions, and as human beings our emotions are wired for a “forever” experience.  People don’t like change and if your brand is inconsistent you’re indirectly creating a situation that will bring a change to your customer.  Not a good thing.  Consistently consistent.  That’s the key.

 

 

Enough With The Spam! Get Permission to Market.

Permission

Tired of SPAM?  I’m not talking about the the stuff in the can that comes from the great state of Minnesota.  No.  I’m talking about the massive amounts of content that continues to be pushed down our throats via direct mail, email, advertisements, billboards and all the other various forms and mediums of media.

The vast majority of all incoming marketing messaging we receive is forced upon us.  We didn’t ask for it.  We didn’t invite it. We don’t want it.  And we especially don’t want all those pesky calls that come throughout the day from those companies who feel they have won the right to interrupt us with their message.  You know those calls.  The ones where you answer your phone and there’s a pause while the phone system uploads the call to the salesperson on the other end.  UGH!

Why do companies continue to take this approach to telling, and selling, their buyers?  The truth is that it’s comfortable.  It’s what they’ve always done.  It’s what your boss demands.  There is math that supports an ROI – make this many calls and you’ll get this many deals.  The other side of that same equation that is never considered, is how many potential buyers have you pissed off forever given this arrogant approach?

Permission based marketing takes time.  It’s a relationship.  Imagine walking up to a woman and saying “hurry up, we need to get married right now”, or bumping into that guy you see at the coffeeshop each day and saying “I see you here everyday, you should buy me my coffee today”.  Relationships don’t work that way.  Okay.  Maybe sometimes they do, but by and large, most lasting relationships take time.  Trust.  A commitment on each side.  Yet because approaches like these work sometimes many companies feel that if they do this often enough they’ll win with volume.

Asking for permission seems almost as uncomfortable, if not more so, than asking for the sale.  Can I talk to you?  Can I share my thoughts with you?  Can I connect with you over time to get to know you?  These are the questions you should be asking.  But to ask those questions you need to have something of value to offer.  Why do you want to talk to me, or why should I let you talk to me?  Your response should be clear, concise and focused.  You’re not about selling as much as you are about sharing.  But again, sharing takes time.  It takes patience.  It takes trust.

Think about approaching your prospects to gain their permission rather than the sale. Of course you’ll need great content, time, and most of all a genuine belief that you’re helping your customer.  Yes, it sure is a mind shift; and not one that is easily adapted.  Yet as the number of voices in the marketplace continue to increase, all fighting for shelf space with each prospect, it becomes crucial to win the hearts and minds of these prospects by gaining their permission.  Being, acting, looking, and sounding like your competition only helps your prospect weed you out quicker.  Provide value, in a safe and easy environment for which your prospect can consume it and get to know you and you’re on the path to increased revenue.

Does Inbound Marketing Work?

Inbound

Yes.  Right out of the gate, Inbound Marketing does work.  But like everything else in life, success is largely dependent upon a few key ingredients beginning with a clearly defined objective.

Many companies look at Inbound Marketing as a way to simply accelerate their cold calling efforts. These are the companies that still believe that the only way to generate more revenue is to shake more hands.  The concept of Inbound Marketing however is focused on a virtual handshake evolving into a virtual hug.  It’s about creating a safe environment for your customer to learn, ponder, and explore at their own pace.  For Inbound Marketing to work your customer must believe the content you’re offering has value.  They must also believe you have a passion…a purpose…a genuine desire to help solve their problem the best way possible. This means the content you develop answers their questions and provides enough information to lead them to ponder new ideas or considerations.  It all begins with great content.

Some companies try to disguise their sales materials as content.  Don’t bother!  It won’t work!  Your customers are too savvy.  They know too much.  They have access to other competitors content that they are comparing yours against!  No.  Your content must be factual, original, thought-provoking, specific, and end-result focused.  That means you must understand your customers needs; in fact better than they know them themselves.

Once you’ve created killer content be sure to have a system in place that enables you to manage your Inbound Marketing efforts.  There are a number of solutions available for companies of all sizes to manage their Inbound efforts without breaking the bank.  Check out HubSpot, Marketo, and Pardot.  Each of these systems have their pros and cons depending on your own objectives.  The good news is they all produce great content to help inform you in your decision making process. After all they are in the business of Inbound Marketing.

In summary, Inbound Marketing is about being invited to the party rather than crashing the party with traditional Outbound Marketing activities.  It’s permission based.  Inbound’s philosophy is to establish virtual credibility and rapport first, before a sales attempt is made.  It’s about nurturing.  Cultivating.  It’s about content.  In my next blog I’ll show you some easy ways to great started on creating content that matters to your customers.

Let me know if this was helpful.

 

The 3 Deadly Sins of a Marketer

A Marketers primary job is to understand their customer.  What drives their buying behaviors, their decisions, their choices.  It’s the marketer who is responsible for gaining this knowledge and use it to create the companys go-to-market strategy.  Here are 3 things that can crush a marketers effectiveness in creating a successful strategy.

  1. Not challenging the status quo.  For marketers joining a new team be wary of the famous “won’t work”, “tried that before”, or “our product is different”.   Thomas Edison made over 1,000 attempts before the first successful light bulb.  Edison said, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times.  The light bulb was an invention of 1,000 steps.”  Your job as a marketer is to challenge the status quo in order to find the message that best resonates with your buyer.  For those marketers who have been in their current roles for a while change this up to bring a level of freshness back to the office.  Read a book, talk to a collegaue, do something that provides you with an opportunity to propose trying something new.
  2. Lack of curiousity.  Marketers are part sales person, part researcher, part engineer, part visionary, part data analyst.  Given the breadth of your role the most important question you’ll have in your arsenal is “why”.  Ask it often and ask it everywhere.  As tools such as A/B testing become more mainstream asking why can be positioned as a quantitative inquiry and one that is backed by data.  If you’re working in an enviornment where “why” may be a bit too challenging then reposition your intention as a test, a study, a pilot.  No matter what you call it, it stills answers the question “why”.
  3. Failing to learn new things.  Change is fast, faster than ever.  Whether it’s marketing automation, Google’s new Penguin algorithm or dynamic content, your job tomorrow will be different from the job you leave today.  Keeping up with all these changes requires a personal investment of your time and energy.  Reading, webinars, conferences are all ways to keep up to speed on what’s changing and evolving in the world of digital marketing and media.  Twitter is a great source of valuable content if you follow the right people and companies.  Set a specific time every day for your reading.  Building a routine around your personal education is a critical success factor in taking control of your professional development.

Confidence THEN Conviction

perception

Confidence is one of the most studied, sought after, and revered human traits. We all aspire to have confidence. The confidence to ask for a raise, or a date, or the confidence to ask for the business. Nearly everything we do in life requires confidence. But do you know what ingredient is needed to super-charge your confidence? It’s conviction.

 Years ago I found myself sitting in a meeting with the brilliant founder of Intuit, Scott Cook. In that meeting we were discussing why one of our product lines wasn’t acheiving the level of sales success we had anticipated. All of our research suggested it was due to a lack of brand awareness within that product category’s space.

At the end of our presentation Scott sat back and looked around the table. We were all quiet, anxiously awaiting his approval of the depth and quality of our work and findings. Instead he sat up, placed his arms on the table in a folded position and said, “I have a question. Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard of a Yugo.” We looked around the room at one another and quickly hands began to rise. Still looking around the room Scott then said, “Now keep your hand up if you’d buy a Yugo.” One by one hands came down and we now knew we were about to get schooled in the topic of brand awareness.

“Your problem is not with awareness. Your problem is that the market has no conviction in your product”. Scott effectively made the point that strong awareness without conviction equals failure. Our job was to instill conviction in the marketplace. Doing so required us to establish confidence first with our buyer. They needed to first “believe” we were capable of what we said we could do, and only THEN could they demonstrate their conviction to buy from us.

Establishing confidence begins with awareness, followed by increasing the buyers familiarity with your offering. Once familiar, the marketers job is to instill confidence. This can be done through a variety of ways including testimonials, surveys, samples, free trials, or a no-risk guarantee. Regardless of which method you use to instill this confidence it must be real before you can ask for the customers conviction to purchase.

To make this journey successfully you must be willing to truly hear what your customers are saying. You need to assess the marketplace. And perhaps most importantly you need to exude a personal conviction that by doing these things your business will grow with happy, delighted, and profitable customers.