Raising The Awareness Of A Small Business Brand

Regardless of the size of your business, “Brand Awareness” plays an important role when your customer segment makes a decision to buy. It’s utterly important that you understand and establish your brand “values”, what they are and how they relate to many areas. From product attributes to the less tangible aspects of your businesses reputation, such as good customer support to a top-notch web presence. By being able to communicate and establish the values of your brand, you establish how your product, your service, and your business is perceived by your customer segment and the marketplace.

Can A Small Business Use Branding?

ABSOLUTELY! You have to understand your own brand and what you want your brand to stand for and represent, since you will have a brand or corporate image in your market whether you like it or not! Smaller businesses increasingly compete with large, well-identified brands – in todays globally advanced society – so the objective of branding is to differentiate your business or product, to convey its unique attributes. Don’t be a secret agent. Be sure that your name, address, contact details, and logos are featured prominently on your Web site, catalogues, quotes, leader headers, even surveys, and packing slips.

How Important Are Brand Values?

Branding is often mistaken as pure customer marketing as a strict discipline. However, historical data indicates that B2B (Business-To-Business) purchasing is a complex process influenced by perceptions as much as by hard evidence on product/service performance.

How To Make It HappenIdentifying The Most Important Elements Of Your Brand

The most important attributes of a business brand will include the following:

  • fitness for purpose – is it the best at what it does?
  • value proposition – does it solve a particular problem or make a customer pain go away?
  • value for the money – if not offered at the lowest price, does it represent a good deal compared to the competition, even if it isn’t better?
  • quality – is it better built or better managed?
  • extended market presence – does the brand work in many related markets?
  • business stability – does the brand come from a stable company with a reliable history?
  • proven product/service – is the brand associated with a successful track record?
  • future investment in product development – is ongoing innovation important?

Find Out What Is Important To Your Customer

Although the above noted brand values can be applied to business products/services in general terms, it’s utterly vital to understand how your customer segment rank those values. What you may think is important, may be irrelevant to the customer.

Talk To Customers

This is the easiest and most common sense way to find out what your customer segments value, but be careful not to talk exclusively about the physical benefits of a product/service. There will be specific aspects of the product/service that is most important to the customer. Be sure to ask “open-ended” questions about the competition for example:

  • Who else have you looked at?
  • What do you think of them?
  • What is their biggest strength or weakness?
  • What do other people who you know think of them?

Conduct Customer Surveys (nPS – Net Promoter Score)

In order to identify what your customers consider important, conduct a survey; if your budget allows for it, this should be done through a third-party research company so that respondents feel that the survey is independent. It should ask respondents how they rank the different brand values, and how they believe your company and a number of its competitors compare across these values.

Review Industry Trends

When you are trying to do a million things at once, as most small business owners do, keeping on top of Web sites and publications relevant to your industry can be difficult, but is absolutely essential. Spending a few hours each week (45 Minutes A Day) finding out about new developments, trends, product ideas, and so on can be both energizing and helpful. Industry associations and publishers also produce surveys into the buying behavior in their industry sector, and these can highlight issues that can impact or be of concern to the whole industry.

Communicate Through All Channels

Advertising and marketing communications are the most important media channels for raising “Brand Awareness”. However, there are specific direct and indirect channels within the 113 various marketing channels that are specific to your industry and customer segments including:

  • products – the design and brand symbolism can convey tremendous brand values;
  • services – the way you deal with customers can demonstrate your commitment to your customers and their specific needs;
  • packaging – can carry messages regarding your brand;
  • distribution facilities – can give an impression of your approach and values;
  • Web Sites – must be consistent with your key brand values;
  • Customer Service Facilities – must deliver on the “Brand Promise” whatever it may be

Assess Your Branding

Does your product/service communicate your key brand values? The most important values are listed above, but brand values extend to the very core of your business and the ultimate customer experience.

If your nPS (Net Promoter Scores) are consistently low and the data illustrates a poor perception, or if your customers are not aware of your strengths, you must take a closer look at your product/service development programs. Also review the communications with your customers to see how the customers perceive the image of your brand.

Build Brand Values through Your Website  – Social Media Content

An effective e-commerce Web Site and Social Media Platforms is one in which various technical and design aspects all work together to drive traffic and create customer interest, build trust, communicate product/service value, and support convenient profitable transactions. Even if you don’t sell directly from your Web Site, Facebook, the key is that your customers must feel they have gained something from the visit that exceeds the “cost” (even if only in time) of visiting the platform.

Monitor The Levels Of Your Brands Awareness

Customer perceptions are their reality, and change over time if you do not plan for and make the efforts of influencing your customer’s perception of your brand. Continuous research and ongoing nPS (Net Promoter Score) efforts must be committed to and maintained in order to be continuously aware of your customer segments attitude toward your brand. This type of research is known as tracking research, and it helps to measure the effectiveness of brand communications programs.

Smith Gruppe as a “Certified Inbound Marketing” company can help with conducting A/B Testing Models to clarify whether or not your small business has any degree of “Brand Awareness”, call us 980-221-9377 or contact us at info@SmithGruppe.com today for assistance and guidance in this matter.

COMMON MISTAKES

Failing To Monitor Customer Perceptions

As stated before, continuous research and ongoing efforts  is critical. The small business owner mus know how the business is perceived by its customer segments so that you can plan for and position the way your brand is presented to the marketplace in the future.

Overlooking Customer Segment Preferences

Industry research may provide a broad view of brand values that are important to the overall customer segment. However, it is urgent to understand how individual customers – specifically your most important customers – rank individual values. This is of the utmost importance if your small business serves a niche market. The only way that this can be achieved is continuous research and an attentive ear to the ” Voice Of The Customer”.

Ignoring Communication Channels

Brand values are communicated through a myriad of channels, not just advertising, marketing or social media. Customer Segment attitudes and perceptions are shaped and formed by customer service, customer support, distribution channels as well as many other factors.

Be absolutely certain that every aspect of customer interface reflects your “Brand Values” and those most important to your customer segment!

Feel free to Contact Us – 980-221-9377 or Follow Us:

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Crossing The Bridge To 2018 – What Is Your Strategy For The New Year?

Most companies are fresh off of some sort of Executive Retreat and/or end of year Team-Building exercise in the form of Strategic Planning. The problem is that as soon as the participants entered the workplace after the first of the year, they were confused and clueless on the day-to-day deployment plan for implementing the very strategic objectives that they were excited about and task with in the Strategic Planning exercise.

Now that its “game-on”, they are disconnected from the big-picture strategy; and completely removed from their functional accountability.

Where are you?

In this writing, we will cover the “Best Practices” that allow for an intentional and purposeful “crossing of the proverbial bridge from 2017 to 2018.

Using the featured image template, let us walk you through the atypical exercise that Smith Gruppe goes through; as well as how we assist our clients in crossing the Year-To-Year Bridge.

First Things First – Your Purpose

The first thing you want to be sure of is your company’s “purpose”, or your basic reason for existing. Is your purpose” still in alignment with your overall Vision and Mission. This answers clearly for everyone in the organization the “Why” questions: Why is this company doing what it is doing? What is the company’s higher purpose? Why should I have a passion for what we are doing? If your “Sandbox” (e.g. in terms of customers, geography, and product/service mix) and the measurable Brand Commitments to those customers have changed? You can rest assured your “purpose” has changed in some type of way. —- Once defined, fill in your “purpose” for 2018!

High Points And Low Points

Next, you want to lead a go-around session in group setting offering each individual and/or department head an opportunity to express “High Point” and a “Low Point” for them in this past year.  There is to be no judging and/or scrutinizing of anyone personally expressed feelings/opinions. A good leader, who should also be a good listener will use this opportunity to gather whether or not there is unity in participating in the company’s Shared Vision. —- Be sure to have your scribe record these responses!

Aspirations

Now, we jump over to “Aspirations” on the template. In a similar go-around session in group setting, each individual and/or department head gets an opportunity to express what success looks like to them by the end of 2018. What milestones, objectives and results will the team have achieved? What does that success feel like individually and respectively as a team? —- Be sure to have your scribe record these responses! Further quantify whether or not such results are identified as being one or all of the “Critical Few” milestones, objectives and results that was critical to the success of the company.

Actions

The real work starts now. Initiate a brainstorming session as to where each individual and team identifies both the individual “Actions” and team “Actions” they need to take to achieve their aspirations. Use sticky notes to identify department and/or team actions. As it relates to individuals, this is a great opportunity for Managers and Team Leaders to implement performance review mechanisms in the form of IP’s (Individual Plans).

The evaluation of IP’s (Individual Plans) at the end of each quarter is a critical step for any business serious about building and sustaining business excellence.

It helps individuals learn how to plan, to anticipate problems, to anticipate the unexpected, identify dependencies, and most importantly to communicate clearly with team members. Moreover, if this exercise is compared to the roles and responsibilities on the company’s fACE (Functional Accountability Chart Exercise) and pACE (Process Accountability Chart Exercise); then individuals and teams take greater responsibility when goals aren’t met. —— This process will help Managers and Executives identify “why” the company is under-performing and allow them to introduce countermeasures; ultimately leading to BETTER EXECUTION!  

Resources

Discuss the “Resources” you will need to be successful. I cannot stress enough the necessity of being realistic. A lot of company’s have huge aspirations; however lack the necessary “Resources” needed to ultimate realize its “Vision”.

Make it an exhaustive exercise in identifying the necessary “Resources” namely but not limited to hard and soft skills, stakeholder buy-in, financial support, people, and partnerships.

Challenges

Back to brainstorming, think of the “Challenges” that you may face as you work to accomplish your “Actions”. Record the “Challenges” and tie them to the “Resources” that you have listed.

Again, be realistic about each “Challenge” and whether or not the company’s track record illustrates that it has dealt with and overcome this type of “Challenge” before.

Remember, “In order to do and accomplish things that the company has never accomplished before, the company must become a different company than it has ever been before!”

Review And Summarize

Now take a step back and review and summarize each major point on the template.

Emphasize, and re-emphasize the necessity of  laser focus for the entire company on the company’s “Actions and Aspirations.”

Circulate the room and secure the absolute “Commitment” and “All-In Buy-In” of each individual and team.

Next Necessary Steps

Have the scribe and/or note-taker for the meeting step forward. On a separate flip-chart, record “Next Necessary Steps” noting each department and/or individual responsible and the timeline for completion.

In order to secure absolute “Commitment” and “All-In Buy-In”, have each individual sign off on their IP (Individual Plan) and place their initials on the company’s respective fACE (Functional Accountability Chart Exercise) and pACE (Process Accountability Chart Exercise).

Cascade And Communicate  

Take a photograph of the Template and convert the document to a PDF. Send the document around to everyone to post in a visible location as a reminder of the Company’s Actions and Aspirations for 2018. For co-located groups post the document in a document repository for everyone to view online.

Consistently communicate the Actions And Aspirations for 2018 at the beginning and end of meetings to build momentum and follow-through.

Should you need assistance in this invaluable exercise, please do not hesitate to contact us at Smith Gruppe (info@SmithGruppe.com) 980-221-9377; so that we may facilitate this business development training module.

Organizational Core Values – To Thine Own Self – Be True!

Values are deeply held views, of what we find most meaningful in life. They originate from many sources: parents, education, friends, religion, people we admire and in many instances our culture. Some go back to childhood, while others are developed as we mature between adolescence and adulthood. As is the case with what we think as a mental model, there’s a major difference between the values we “espouse” – which we hold to dearly – and the “values that are validated,” by our actions that actually direct our behavior.

When you decided you wanted to start a business, and you thought  of the values that you wanted your business vision to espouse, was there something inside you on certain thoughts that said; “That’s not really me or what I want my business to represent?”

That pang you felt in your gut was in opposition to a deeply held value that you maintain. These values are coded into our brains at such a fundamental level that we can’t see that they actually control our actionable behaviors.

Organizations should be extremely beware of the temptation of allowing their “Organizational Core Values” to fall by the wayside in difficult times. If your organization has honesty listed as one of its core values, it should share the financial status of the company with the employees – even if the financials set forth that the business is failing. If employee loyalty is one of your core values, it means that even in challenging times; it will not lay off employees. You may eventually have to lay off people, however your strategy should be to avoid such at all cost because it is contradictory to your core values.

How To Create An Organizational Core Value Checklist

Step 1. Create A Core Value List

The Founder(s) should gather together the team and create a short list of maybe 10-20 values that it may want to espouse as its “Core Values”. These words and/or phrases should act as a guide to behaviors and character of what the business will represent, or how the business wants to be viewed.

Step 2. Scrub The List

Now that you have identified 10-20, imagine that you are only able to keep 10. Which 10 would you give up? Remove them from the list.

Now repeat the process until you have 2 Core Values. Which is the one single item on the list that the Founder(s) care about the most?

Step 3. Communication

Now go back and take a look at your Top 3 Values and then ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do they mean to the Founder(s) and employees, exactly? What will you expect from yourself and the employee – even in the most difficult of times?
  • How would the company be viewed and the leadership of the company be viewed if the “Core Values” were prominent, lived and practiced on a daily basis?
  • What would an organization look like whose leadership and employees lived up those values?
  • Does the “Vision” of the company align with those values? If not, should the “Vision” be expanded? Or are the Founder(s) prepared to reconsider the “Vision”?
  • Are the Founder(s) willing to dedicate their lives, and the organization to realizing a “Vision” in which the “Core Values” are paramount?

In the many situations and environments in which Smith Gruppe has conducted “Building A Shared Vision” training exercises, entrepreneurs, seasoned executives as well as management has gained meaningful understanding about themselves and the organization they work for.

In the current environment of irresponsible leadership, in which leaders are not willing to be held accountable and/or responsible for their actions and decisions; millennials and Generations X and Y are looking for authentic leadership that are capable of  living up to Shakespeare as stated by Polonius: This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.

If you are interested in establishing time-tested “Organizational Core Values” through our Core Values training exercises, please contact us today at 980-221-9377 or by e-mail at info@smithgruppe.com.

 

 

Mapping The Sales Process – The Key To Customer Acquisition

Whether you are a start-up or a SBE (Small Business Enterprise), mapping a clearly defined sales process makes for a competitive advantage and identifies the drivers of costs in your sales processes. Once you have successfully mapped out your sales process, you will know how to make the sales process shorter and significantly more cost-effective.

In our most recent post “Listen To Your Customer … And Increase Your Revenue” on September 8, 2017, we spoke on calculating the lifetime Value of the customer. Now let’s take a look at Mapping The Sales Process that will bring that customer into your business.

Sales Processes Evolve Over Time 

The sales process necessary to reach and close your customers at start-up requires much more focus and investment of resources than the same process does once your business ins mature and poised for exponential growth and/or scale.

There are typically three segments of time that you would want to consider in order to be successful in generating sales revenue. Although the methodology and combinations of methodologies will vary, the primary focus is the same.

  1. Short Term Sales: In the short-term timeline, the primary focus of the sales process is to properly engage potential customer at the right stage in the “Buyers Journey”. Whether that be at the Awareness, Consideration, or Decision Stage, your sales process should create demand for your product or service. Your marketing campaigns being customer-centric means that you have created a product or service the customer wants and needs, your product or service is relevant to your customer and/or market segment; therefore you will need direct interaction with the customer in the space that is most utilized by the customer to explain why your product or service is unique and relevant to their needs or wants. Otherwise, you are obscure and unknown to the marketplace. The most important reason to be in constant and direct contact with your potential customer segment is so that you can quickly iterate to improve the product and/or service offering based upon customer feedback, which is more difficult if you funnel sales through third parties such as intermediaries or distributors. This is the infant sales stage and it will come to a close once  you start to see demand for your product or service that you did not generate through your own sales processes.
  • Direct Sales Team – often referred to as “Business Development” team – traditionally a wise and effective sales approach at start-up. However, they are costly and they require time and training to generate revenue effectively. The “Pareto Principle” is always in play, that 20% of your sales professionals will generate 80% of your sales revenue. The remaining 80% will generate a mere 20% of your revenue, as well as consuming a lot of time, energy and resources in training and re-training the sales team churn. Top sales talent is hard to retain, and identifying “rainmakers” versus the mediocre is hard to do while in start-up phase. Do your best to hire the top talent, pay them well at the start-up stage, not just at later stages when the company is starting to mature. Despite these challenges, a strong sales team is the only option you have when it comes to ensuring that the business does not run out of cash.
  • IoT (Internet Of Things) or Web 2.0 techniques, such as inbound marketing (Smith Gruppe is a Certified Inbound Marketing Firm), e-mail, social media marketing, and telesales can help lessen the burden of sales training and the expense of a sales team, especially at the start-up stage. Many products and/or services, particularly web apps, do extremely well with a free trial and well documented testimonials and high nPS (Net Promoter Scores) rather than the costs of a sales team. The greatest reward of this tool is that you can get extensive analytics on your customer segment through Facebook, Linked In, Google Analytics and other IoT type tools on your customer that are just  not possible through the human sales channel.
  1. Medium Term Sales: At this point in time, the focus of the sales mapping process moves from demand creation to the fulfillment of committed products and/or services as a word of mouth and the sales and distribution channels start to take on the burden of demand creation. You will know own the accountability and responsibility of customer relations, client management, and product and service support, which is paramount when it comes to customer retention and the ability to create additional sales opportunities.

Suppliers, Sales Channel Distributors as well as Re-Sellers are often used to serve   markets outside of your initial customer and/or market segment, or smaller   customers segments with a lower LTV (Life-Time Value). This way, your direct sales   team (who can tend to be more costly) can focus on the larger customer segment   with higher LTV (Life-Time Value). Sales Channels, Distributors, and Re-Sellers   ultimately lowers your Cost of Customer Acquisition (COCA); which we will cover   in our next blog post.

  1. Long Term Sales: Your direct sales team will focus on sales and product and/or service fulfillment. Once you have a mature business case, usually starting at year 3; your business will do very little demand creation, and will mature in customer relations, client management, product and service support. IoT, In-Bound Marketing, and telesales channels are beefed up when deploying long-term strategies. The business will make adjustments over time as the competitive landscape adjusts, which will affect the businesses ability to get to the long-term stage and what to do to maintain its market position and ultimately its competitive advantage.

Sales Process Map

In order to develop a short-term, medium-term, and long-term sales strategy, the business must understand which of the over 133 marketing/sales channels it will use and how the use of the marketing/sales channels will change over time. You can identify trends and the aligning KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) specific to your industry as benchmarks.

The key to any degree of success is asking and addressing the right questions that your sales process is designed to address, and they are as follows:

  • How does your “Buyer Persona” and/or Customer Segment become aware that they have a problem and/or opportunity?
  • How will the “Buyer Persona” and/or Customer Segment learn that your product and/or service is the solution to their problem, or learn there is an opportunity that they were not previously aware of?
  • Upon your “Buyer Persona” and/or Customer Segment learning about your business (i.e. product or service), what is the education process by which they will become well-informed of your product and/or service; and thus analyze and make an educated decision to buy your product or service?
  • How do you close the sale?
  • How do you collect your money, and is the collection process mapped out in the CCC (Cash Conversion Cycle) of your business plan?

Short-Term

  • Direct Sales From Sales Team (100%) … All “Buyer Personas” Customer Segments -Focus On Target Markets

*This process continues until your business has consistent Word Of Mouth and becomes a mature product/service that is well-respected in the marketplace.

Medium-Term

  • Direct Sales From Sales Team (50%) … Largest “Buy Personas” and Customer Segments
  • Suppliers, Sales Channel Distributors, Re-Sellers (50%) … Medium “Buyer Personas” and Customer Segments ; Low LTV (Life-Time Value)

*This process eventually evolves into a laser-focused intentional e-commerce platform as the product/service becomes the marquee product/service that can be expanded into new market segments.

Long-Term

  • Direct Sales From Sales Team (25%) … Largest “Buyer Personas” and Customer Segments and New Markets
  • Suppliers, Sales Channel Distributors, Re-Sellers (40%) … Medium “Buyer Personas” and Customer Segments ; Low LTV (Life-Time Value) and Non- Core Markets
  • IoT, Inbound Marketing, Web 2.0 and Telesales (35%) … All “Buyer Personas” and Customer Segments in the Core Market with shared revenue and commissions going to Suppliers, Sales Channel Distributors, and Re-Sellers

Once you have gone through the necessary iterations of mapping your sales process, be sure to vet it with the experienced trusted advisors at Smith Gruppe.

Smith Gruppe has decades of experience across multiple industries, whether in a B2B or a B2C environment; and have helped many a client evolve from traditional to highly advanced and complex sales strategies. Call us today at 980-221-9377 or visit us at the “Our Services” page at http://www.smithgruppe.com. We would be more than happy to help!