Is Your Brand Increasing Your Sales or Killing Them?

mercedes-logoI talk with a lot of marketing strategists who extol the importance of branding for a company’s success but it’s like pulling teeth to drag most of them down from the conceptual clouds and get specific about exactly what they mean.

Every company has a brand whether you’ve proactively designed it or not.  Your brand isn’t just the way you present your company; it’s how you’re seen in the eyes of your prospects and clients.

coke_logoMost of us recognize the highly advertised brands like Coke, Mercedes Benz, Nike etc., but someone the connection between what those big companies with huge advertising budgets do doesn’t clearly tell  smaller business owners what they should do and why.

According to Rob Frankl, “branding is not about getting your prospects to choose you over your competition; it’s about getting your prospects to see you as the only solution to their problem.”Nike-Logo

Here’s what I discovered when I went on a quest to clear up my own vagueness about this topic.

There are 3 major components of a brand: content, style, and graphics.

Content derives from your values, beliefs and key messaging you deliver to the marketplace.  What do you say about your company or products and services?  Why are those things important to you?  Do your ideal clients actually care?  How do you know?

Style reflects the personality of your brand or firm.  Are you intelligent, fun, stodgy, casual, conservative or out in left field?  Again, is there a style to market match?  You need credibility with your marketplace and the way you ‘behave’ in your market will either attract or repel them and determine how much they trust you.

Graphics is all about the visual, physical representation of your company. It includes colors, font, logos and photography.  It is the first thing people tend to focus on and create but really should be the outflow of the first two components.

You must know who you are but if you create your brand just based on your internal interests, you could miss the mark by a mile.  You must also thoroughly have and understand your target audience before you attempt to ‘present’ yourself to them.

It your brand is appealing, it will make people want you.  Real branding raises your bottom line revenues, lowers customer acquisition cost, increases customer retention and profitability. So review the way you’re portraying your company, check with your clients and prospects to understand how they view you and if you’re confident you’re sending the message you intend, market the heck out of it (in all of the right places, of course)!

When to Train, Coach, Manage or Fire an Employee

I spent over two decades of my corporate career in various roles in Human  Resources and as a result, had TONS of conversations with managers about how to deal with their employees or teams when their performance wasn’t ‘up to snuff’.  Quite often, their initial ‘remedy’ was to suggest training, but training isn’t always the answer for performance issues.

Train

ASUDowntownTraining (when done well) imparts specific skills and/or knowledge. It’s most useful when targeted and narrowly focused on a particular topic and is attended by people who are willing to learn but not able to do the specific task.

Training’s effectiveness is enhanced greatly when employees can immediately implement the new skills or knowledge back on the job. So it’s best when a group of people need to improve on the same areas. Training an entire department when only one or two people need it is a waste of company resources.

One reason training often ‘fails’ is because managers think one or two days of concentrated training will turn their errant person into a super star and unfortunately, that rarely happens. The value or ROI (return on investment) of training therefore, is improved when it is supplemented by some sort of follow up activities that reinforce the new abilities and behaviors over time.

[I have experienced  some powerful 2- to 3-day personal development programs that generate dramatic mental beliefs and emotional perspective shifts in people that result in new behaviors but those are unfortunately not the types of programs generally offered in the workplace.]

Coach

LLH_on_PhoneCroppedOne of the major values that coaching brings is its ability to produce sustained growth and change over time. People are creatures of habit and habits don’t alter significantly after 1 day of training. The effectiveness of coaching requires that a person be willing and able to move forward productively.

Sometimes people are thrust into coaching because they are good as most aspects of their job but demonstrate some counterproductive behavior that is impeding their performance.  If those people aren’t willing – deep in their hearts – to change, coaching won’t produce lasting change.  (A good coach will recognize when someone is going through the motions and either challenge the person to ‘step up’ or will terminate the coaching relationship if they don’t.]

In a collaborative, productive coaching relationship, the coachee develops critical thinking skills by being guided to tap into his/her own internal resources to reach decisions.  Rather than becoming reliant on the coach, the coach becomes a springboard for the ‘clients’ own self-development.

Coaching can really accelerate the career momentum of an already effective person and make them even better.  With coaching, people can improve their leadership presence, strategic thinking and credibility in the workplace.

SMARTgoalsettingManage

SMARTGoalSettingGraphicClose management is useful when a person is able but perhaps not so willing to perform.    Management involves keeping someone on a ‘short leash’ by instituting short-term goals, objectives and consequences or outcomes.  ‘Hit this quota’ or ‘produce this result by this date’ are examples of management tactics.

Tight management may include frequent ‘check ins’ to make sure the right behaviors that should produce the result are being enacted on a consistent basis.

Managing a person who is not able to perform a particular task won’t be enough to get the job done. In fact, piling on the additional pressure of short term goals will likely raise their anxiety and reduce performance.   This person needs training, coaching or some other sort of ability development process.

Fire

DonaldTrumpYou'reFiredWhen a person is not willing or not able (after the above development efforts have been tried), it might be time to ‘fire’ them.

As an HR executive, I would occasionally have managers drop in my office saying “I need to fire “So-And-So”.  I would always ask ‘why’ and inevitably they would say, “They aren’t getting the job done.”

When I would then ask, “What did they say when you spoke to them about this?” and often heard, “I haven’t talked to them. They should just know better!”

Well, employees can’t read your mind. You must tell them clearly what your expectations are.  You should then give them time to correct the situation.

Even in an employment-at-will state, it’s dangerous to fire someone ‘just because’ because juries generally tend to side with employees and the company (and maybe even the manager) could be left with an expensive lawsuit or complaint filed against them.

If you do get to the point when termination is the answer, always do it with dignity.  The employee may have just been in the wrong job for his or her skill set.Perhaps YOU made the wrong hiring decision.Perhaps business has caused a change in the job requirements.

I remember working with one astute manager who said she never had to ‘fire’ a person but had several under-performing employees who had been ‘counseled out’.

She was so caring and sincere and skilled in counseling conversations, the employees always left of their own volition, happily looking for a job where they could shine and be happy.  They rarely knew she was ‘trying to get rid of them’ and always felt empowered by the separation.

So, next time you’re confronted with an under-performing person or team, use the above distinctions to pinpoint the most effective remedy and you’ll get a higher return on your investment.

Do You Relate to Your Business Like It’s a Slot Machine? 5 Steps for Increased Sales, Revenue & Profits

Having spent the weekend in Las Vegas, I had a chance to engage in one of my favorite forms of Las Vegas entertainment, playing the penny and quarter slot machines.

I just about doubled my modest $25 ‘investment’ and kept myself thoroughly entertained for a couple of hours. By Las Vegas standards, that was a good ROI.

It got me wondering about the allure of slot machines.  I think it has to do with the suspense of the ‘hunt’ and the thrill of the win. It’s a similar dynamic.

“How do I find my best prospects?”


“What does it take to win them over?”

If you treat your business like it’s a slot machine though, you could be suffering from some serious problems.slotmachine6

1. Feeling like you’re not in control
2. Trying lots of strategies but unsure which ones will really work
3. Worried about if and when your big payout is going to happen

Here are 5 ways to win at business and improve your sales, revenue and profitability.

1. Focus on your core strengths

Many people suffer from the I-have-lots-of-strengths-interests-and-abilities syndrome.  I grapple with this one sometimes myself.  You may find that you’re afraid to focus because you’re worried you’ll be leaving dollars on the table.

Actually, the opposite is true.  The more you focus, the easier it is for people who need you to find you.  So define what you do best and organize your business around that.

2. Know who you best serve

Similarly, many of my clients are reluctant to select a target market thinking that they’ll make less money if they don’t do everything all of the prospects in the world need.  Again, not true. Trying to serve to many people will keep you scattered, spreading your efforts too thin.

It’s easier to find specific groups of people and it’s easier to market and sell to them because you can say all of the right things that will grab their attention.

3. Listen to your clients & prospects

In order to grab their attention, you have to be speaking their language and this requires that you know what they’re talking about.  A lot of business owners make the mistake of creating products and services JUST because they’re good at it without knowing if the market is at all interested.

4. Understand their pain

When you listen deeply to your prospects and clients, you can learn what keeps them up at night.

You’ll get a visceral experience of how they’re suffering and where you can help.  You can better empathize with them and show your concern for their situation in a more authentic way.

5. Offer solutions to conquer their pain

Once you know the things you excel in, who most needs you and what their problems are, you’ll be able to offer them the perfect antidote to their dilemma and they will thank you for it while eagerly snapping up your products and services.

When you follow these 5 steps, you’ll be more strategic about your business, you’ll stop dropping coins in any random slot machine and your payout of more and bigger sales will just happen naturally.

5 Steps to Less Stress

If you’re like many people, you probably have more things on your To-Do list than you can get done To-Day.  The key to keeping your sanity is creating a virtual sanctuary where you can recover from from the demands of living.

“Easier said than done”, you retort.NestSmall

Think of it as though you were a momma or poppa bird having to create a space for eggs that were about to be laid.  Imagine that you (and your energy) are as precious as the parent birds instinctively know their little about-to-be-born hatchlings will be.

If you truly believed your actions would create life or death, safety or danger, what would you differently?

We place unreasonable demands on our bodies and sometimes forget to feed our soul.

Here are 5 specific, must-do things to rejuvenate your soul and experience relief in a hectic world.

1.  Schedule time every day to center yourself.
I spend my first few minutes of waking praying and meditating.  I keeps my spirit elevated and reminds me of the bigger picture.

2.  Express gratitude for all that you have.
A great evening ritual is giving thanks for all of the good things you have heard, seen, felt, beheld.  In times of challenge, it’s tempting to focus on the negative, but doing so just makes things worse.  Find SOMETHING to be grateful for everyday.

3.  Move your body enough to elevate your heart rate and work up a sweat.
The knowledge economy we live in promotes a sedentary lifestyle.  Between eating more processed foods and sitting on our…tushes… all day, our bodies aren’t being physically challenged in the way they need to be to be healthy and strong.

4.  Stay focused on what’s important.
Constantly ask yourself, is this task I’m doing or conversation I’m having in line with my purpose or major life goal? If it’s not, do something different.

5.  Give love.
Yes, even at work.  You don’t have to say “I love you” (although it’s really helpful at home).  But you’ll be surprised how much more relaxed and calm you feel if you have love rather than fear or hate be your dominant emotion day by day.

Obviously, these aren’t time management tips.  But I assure you, when you practice them religiously, time will seem to expand on its own and you’ll have more peace and less stress.