Archive for the ‘Marketing Practice’ Category

VI. Monetizing Your Successful Brand

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Part VI of an extended exploration of nature and value of “Branding” and practical discussion of how to create, strengthen and extract greater value from your ‘Brand’

The foundation of successful branding – whether you’re a start-up entrepreneur or leader of a corporate marketing department – is a solid business strategy, solidly executed:

– An offering that promises to satisfy the needs and expectations of your customers

– An organization that consistently delivers the values and experiences you promise 

Creating a successful brand requires investing ample time, $$$ and effort in building and maintaining the excellence of your business.

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While communication is the first priority of start-up and new product branding, the brand-building imperatives of established companies are more varied:

1.  To nurture, strengthen and protect the reputation you’ve already earned

2.  To use your good name and reputation to deepen relationships with customers you already have

3.  To open doors to new markets and to successfully launch new products.

In this part of the product life cycle, four tools are key to strengthening your brand and expanding its influence and value-creating power:

Foresight:  Anticipating, and developing innovations to answer your customers’ evolving needs and changes in the marketplace. 

Execution:  Consistent, trouble-free performance that is focused on keeping a step ahead of your customers’ evolving needs and preferences

Communication:  Messaging which explains and reinforces the value and satisfaction that your products deliver, and the benefits that your company brings to the large community.

Diligence:  Protecting your brand from decision within your company that would dilute or neglect the reputation your have earned, and from outsiders who would misuse your products and good name.     

You’ve invested in building the value of your brand and the reputation that stands behind it.  They’re your guarantee to deliver what customers have come to value and expect.  You’ve earned that trust, now here are ways to monetize your brand equity:

– By charging a premium price – National brands of canned tuna are almost always more expensive, for an essentially identical product

– Through greater market share – Coke and Pepsi dominate the grocer’s soft drink shelf, although there are plenty of other fizzy cola brands 

– Through easier access to new customers and new markets – New consumer electronics?  Sony and Apple have a big head start over any new competitor.

– By launching new products, more quickly and with lower risk

IV. Brand Building for Start-Ups

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

Part IV of an extended exploration of nature and value of “Branding” and practical discussion of how to create, strengthen and extract greater value from your ‘Brand’

The foundation of successful branding – whether you’re a start-up entrepreneur or leader of a corporate marketing department – is a solid business strategy, solidly executed:

– An offering that promises to satisfy the needs and expectations of your customers

– An organization that consistently delivers the values and experiences you promise 

While branding plays an important role in business strategy, no fancy logo or advertising campaign can overcome the drag of a poorly conceived product, poorly presented. 

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As a start-up, your hands are probably more than full juggling all the details of getting your business up and running.  Fortunately, getting those details right is the first step in building your successful brand.  There are 3 fundamental elements:  Defining your identity, communicating the performance and values you promise to deliver, and execution that fulfills your promise.

Define Your Identity

Your start-up’s first brand building requirement is to clearly define your identify – the character of the company you aspire to be and the nature of the markets you intend to serve.  For example:

– Want to be known as the luxury brand (and earn the right to charge luxury prices)?  Then everything you do – from the way your phone is answered, to your employees’ demeanor and dress, to the appearance of your store, website, signage and advertising, to the way you pay your suppliers – should whisper elegance and respectability.

– If you elect to be a bargain-basement supplier, your customers may tolerate bare-bones facilities and less than attentive staffing, but the bargain hunting customers who flock to you today can just as easily fly off to the new-discounter-in-town tomorrow.

-Aiming to serve mass-market tastes and sensibilities?  Better not plan to switch gears and become the next hot spot for the artistic and avant garde.

Pretty elementary stuff, I know, but a lack of clarity and focus around your identity and the purpose of your business – and the dilution of effort that results – is the Achilles’ Heel of too many start-ups.

Communicate Your Promise

As a start-up, your first imperative is to quickly establish your visibility, credibility and recognition in a noisy, crowded marketplace.  Communications is the start-up’s key branding task, and your goal:

Shape all your formal and informal communications to create a memorable image of the attractiveness of your product and company, and an enthusiasm within your potential customers to spend their $$$ with you.

                The array of communications vehicles available to you is both seductive and confusing:  internet presence and SEO, e-mail and social media, print and TV advertising, seminars and customer meetings, or host of other vehicles for getting your message before the public.  It’s tempting to jump in – and spend tons of money – before you have a well planned communications strategy.  Build yours around fact-based, objective answers to these priorities:

1.  The Audience:  Which groups of people are most likely to buy your product?  Why would a product like yours appeal to them?  Where are they most likely to learn about products like yours?  Who else might influence their decision to buy from you?

2.  The Content of Your Message:  What information (and what emotional appeals) would motivate people in your targeted market segments to try your products?  What do they need to know to find you and complete their purchase?

3.  The ‘Look-and-Feel’ of Your Message:  What will appeal to the sensibilities of the people you need to influence?  How can you create the proper image of your company and product?

4.  The Communications Media:  What mix of communications vehicles is most likely to capture the ‘eyeballs’ of the people you need to influence

Armed with this sort of insight, you’re in position to create a communication strategy that uniquely suits your company, your product and the markets your aim to serve, providing: 

1.  Education:   “Yes, I see what your product will do for me.”

                                “That’s something that would be really valuable to me.”

                                “Now I know where to get one.”

2.  Recognition:  “I remember hearing about your product.”

3.  Motivation:    “Oh, yes!  I want to go get one now.”

If your communications can elicit answers like these, you’re well on the way to success.       

                “More details, more specifics” you ask?  Well, I wish I could, but your business, your product, your customers, and the market environment you’re in are like no others.  A big part of the success of your branding effort will be your creativity and skill in crafting a message uniquely suited to your situation and goals.  Here are some thought-starters to point you down productive communications pathways …

An animated, slapstick TV commercial may be a fine way to sell beer to an audience of couch potato athletes, but it’s not likely to appeal to the well-healed retiree looking for discrete wealth management advice.

Selling a new synthetic lubricant for jet engines demands facts, figures and no-nonsense data, but an ethereal vision of fantasy and hope sells more cosmetics. 

Your grandmother probably won’t learn about new osteoporosis drugs on TWITTER, and it’s not likely that the high school video gamer will see your ad in the local newspaper.

Internet marketing is probably not the most effective way to enroll a high end life insurance prospect, but you can’t afford to rely on 1-on-1 customer visits to promote your fancy cupcakes.

Remember – Effective communications begins with a clear sense of the message you need to convey, molded by your understanding of the needs, preferences and expectations of your intended audience.               

Execute Your Promise

Respect for your brand comes from delivering performance and experiences that satisfy your customers.

Make sure that, from the beginning, your execution is right.  Delivering what you promise is the key to building a strong and valuable brand.

Customers, casual lookers and third party busy-bodies continually balance what they experience against what you promise.  A mis-match between what you promise and what you deliver can quickly become a brand killer. 

– You promise low prices but customers find you’re scooped by the discounter on the corner

– You promise excellent service, but phones and emails go unanswered

– You promise confident professionalism, but show up late for your appointments   

No amount of advertising or fancy logos can overcome the disappointment of a product that doesn’t work, missed delivery dates, unanswered telephone calls, or rude and unresponsive service people.  News of poor products and service spread far and fast, and repairing a bad reputation is no easier for your start-up than it is for a high school outcast.

III. The Value Creating Power of ‘Brand’

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

Part III of an extended exploration of nature and value of “Branding” and practical discussion of how to create, strengthen and extract greater value from your ‘Brand’

Successful branding can be hugely valuable, far beyond the mere functioning of the product or service itself.  Think Google and Facebook, Coca Cola, Mercedes Benz, Apple, Nike, Whole Foods, the Rolling Stones ….  

LYCRA brand elastane fibers, a phenomenal money-maker for its inventor, the DuPont Company (and for current owner, Invista) is a great story of branding success.  Even though DuPont didn’t make the LYCRA swimsuit or lingerie, or even the stretchy fabric that the garment is cut from, DuPont’s investment in branding has made LYCRA one of the most respected, well known and valuable names in fashion and functional apparel.   

During its heyday, DuPont’s LYCRA fibers commanded huge market shares –and prices often 50 percent higher than competing spandex fibers – translating into hundreds of millions of dollars of extra profits, year after year, for DuPont.  This, even though the LYCRA fiber was often technically inferior – in the length of its stretchiness, the strength of its snap-back, its resistance to repeated trips through the washing machine and dryer – compared to the competing brands. 

DuPont pursued a decades-long, comprehensive, coordinated strategy to reinforce the mystique and exclusivity of the LYCRA name, including:

   – Targeted advertising and co-promotions

   – Support, encouragement and publicity for innovative fashion designers

   – Support for sports science research, product development and promotion

   – Leadership in end user focused product and technology development

The resulting avalanche of profits, year-in year-out, was DuPont’s reward for years of aggressive investment in building, maintaining and protecting the LYCRA brand.

Other examples of the value added by a company’s or product’s good name and reputation?  Look no further than Facebook, Intel microprocessor chips, or Gucci bags, a Niemann Marcus, GatorAide or your latest i-accessory.   

The extra value represented by this ‘brand equity’ isn’t just a psychic reward for market success.  It has real, money-in-the-bank consequences:

   – Enhanced market share points and growth rates

   – Opportunities to charge premium prices

   – Opening up new markets and reducing the risks of introducing new products

    – Greater market value for your company

And a final, cautionary, note:  “Brand” isn’t necessarily forever.  Neglect and abuse can degrade the value of your brand just as surely as they can wreck the value of your house.  Think Lehmann Bros, Lindsay Lohan, Oldsmobile or Gateway computers. 

 Maintaining the hard earned value of your brand requires continuing attention and investment – in new product development, in perfecting news ways of relating with your customers, in diligent conversation with your marketplace, and in continuing excellence in execution.

Part 1 – Introduction to Brands and Branding

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

Part I of an extended exploration of nature and value of “Branding” and practical discussion of how to create, strengthen and extract greater value from your ‘Brand’

                From the largest corporations to the entrepreneurial start-up, “Branding” is a concept, a strategy, an exercise near and dear to the hearts of business owners and marketing leaders.  Unfortunately, ‘Brand’ and ‘Branding’ are subjects as likely to sow confusion and wasted resources as they are to drive business and marketing excellence. 

                To many entrepreneurs and market development managers, ‘Branding’ means selecting a name, designing a logo, and laying out a snappy advertising campaign.  Their driving interest is to generate early visibility, credibility and awareness, and to stimulate a respectable number of potential customers to ‘try and buy.’  Others approach Branding as a long term business strategy, a sustained investment aimed at creating Millions or Billions of Dollars worth of ‘brand equity.’

                There is a depth of truth in each of these concepts of “Branding”, along with a significant degree of incompleteness.  Great new products might never reach the light of day without a healthy infusion of introductory publicity and hype. But, relegating your branding investment to your new product launch risks leaving significant $$$ – potentially Billions of $$$ – on the table.

                An intelligent approach to branding encompasses both the short term need for visibility, credibility and recognition, and the longer term opportunity to create tremendous power and wealth in your brand.  While tactics to implement these diverging views of the ‘branding’ may appear radically different, the fundamentals are surprisingly similar:

1. Crafting an offering which is especially attractive to potential users

2. Communicating your promise to deliver performance characteristics and experiences that are valuable to the customers you hope to attract

3. Establishing your visibility and credibility among audiences which matter most

4. Consistently delivering what you promise

Simple enough, but there is a world of marketing strategy, plans and tactics – not to mention the hard work of consistent execution – required to create and communicate your promised ‘valuable product performance and experience’.  In the following chapters, we will:

– Take a closer look at the fundamentals and value creating potential of a well planned and well executed branding strategy

– Highlight important steps that you can take to strengthen and extend the power of your brand

 A couple of notes regarding fundamentals:

– As used here, the term ‘customer’ goes far beyond your transactional customer,  the party who hands you a credit card or sends you a check.  It also encompasses the much larger circle of the public which can influence you failure or success – potential customers and disgruntled former customers, competitors, commentators and regulators, internet busy-bodies, …

– ‘Product’ means whatever you’re selling – cars or cupcakes, business consulting or personal advice, dental or banking services – along with all the things that go along with it (your price, instruction booklets and telephone tech service, packaging, “batteries required – purchase separately”….)

– “Experience” is all those other ways that you touch your customers and community – the ease of finding and navigating your website or store, how well you answer emails and the telephone, the friendliness of your people, your ability to ‘get it right the first time’, the news and publicity that you and your employees generate ….    

Brands and Branding

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

Your “brand” is the sum of everything that people think, feel, believe and ‘know’ about your company and your products and services
– Peoples’ experience with, and impressions of your company create your brand (with or without your guidance)
– Logos, trademarks, slogans, etc symbolize your brand
– Advertising, websites and signage publicize your brand
Successful brands create ‘equity’, value over and above the utility of their product
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          From the largest corporations to the entrepreneurial start-up, “Branding” is a concept, a strategy, an exercise that is near and dear to the hearts of marketers and business owners.  Unfortunately, brands and branding are subjects as likely to sow confusion and wasted resources as they are to drive business and marketing excellence.

         The Marketing Intelligence Blog will kick off 2011 with a series of posts designed to lift some of the mystery around “Brands and Branding” and to help you create and nurture the good name, recognition and value of your company, its products and services.   

Marketing for Entrepreneurs and Small Business

Friday, November 12th, 2010

A recent article at Yahoo Finance, “Ten Mistakes that Start-Up Entrepreneurs Make,” is a must-read for inventors, entrepreneurs and small business owners. Mistake Number 3, in particular, rings a bell with this marketing guy:

“3. Spending too much time on product development, not enough on sales”

Most inventors and entrepreneurs – from the newest medical device, to 3-D imaging software, to a designer cupcake and cookie business – are stretched just too thin. Under-resourced, under staffed and under-funded, the typical start-up is forced to prioritize and sacrifice … and areas often neglected are marketing and sales. Here are 7 things every start-up and small business should be doing to assure that the customers will be there, $$$ in hand, when you open for business:

1. Early, EARLY, EARLY in the life of your start-up, figure out who your likely customers will be. Who has the passion – and the $$$ – to buy a product or service like your? Where are you likely to find them? And even more important, where are they mostly likely to go – on the street or on the internet – to discover a product like yours?
2. Understand what your potential customers love and what they hate about products or services like yours. Then, emphasize the things the like, provide a solution to the things they hate, and don’t waste your time and resources on things they don’t care about
3. Test your concept – early and often. Ideas that seem obvious on paper or in your discussions around the company coffee pot are often far less than obvious to outsiders – investors, supplier or distribution partners, and potential customers. Entrepreneurs often fear that a competitor will ‘steal’ their idea, but for most start-ups, the much bigger danger is sinking all your hard work and $$$ into a venture that customers don’t care about.
4. Nothing can jump-start your start-up better than an early success, so Focus, FOCUS, FOCUS! I know, that dazzling set of opportunities that you envision is seductive, but the temptation to pursue them all is an invitation to doing none of them well enough. Pick a particular offering (or closely related family of offerings), a customer segment you know well, and a well defined distribution scheme. Then, invest all your effort in making it work. The credibility, confidence, publicity, and knowledge – not to mention cash flow – you gain from your first success will make it that much easier to pick off the next and the next and the next opportunity.
5. Remove any hurdles that make it inconvenient for your customers to do business with you. Take a look at your own business through the eyes of a customer: Is it easy to find and get into your store – on the street or on the internet? Does your website and your storefront signage clearly and succinctly explain your business? How can I learn more about you, your product, your business? Do you offer a convenient assortment of payment options and customer-conscious return and refund policies?
Remember – What you think about your business is ultimately a lot less important than what your customers think and feel about it.
6. Share your success. You deserve to be amply rewarded for pushing your idea to fulfillment, but don’t forget the ones who helped get your there. It’s the right thing to do – and it’s darned good business. The more closely that your partners’ success is linked to yours, the harder your employees, your suppliers and your distribution partners will work for yours.
7. Get to know, understand and appreciate your customers. Organize your business so that it’s a positive, rewarding and hassle-free experience every time your customer touches you – beginning with their first phone call, email or their first step inside your store.

Where Should You Spend Your Time?

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Stefan Doering (New York Entrepreneur Week) started an important Linked-In discussion, asking “As CEO, Where Do You Spend Most of Your Time?” Many leaders of businesses large or small, I suspect, would react much as Doering’s audience ….

“On Monday I had a room of 30+ entrepreneurs glaring at me…. It started when I asked them how much time they spend in the following three basic areas of (any) business … The room fell silent when I told them how much they should spend:
Marketing: 60-80%
Production: 10-30%
Administration: 10%
…. [ because ] There is no one in your company that can sell your company better than you. No one!”

Doering’s is timely advice to anyone with an interest in making their business more successful, but it is especially pertinent to the majority of entrepreneurs whose business is the creation of their subject matter expertise – their superior ability to make or do something useful.

Marketing isn’t intuitive to many of us, and not comfortable for many others. If you’re one of these ….

First – Take time to something about marketing. The web is full of useful sources, great discussions, and access to real expertise. Linked-In and similar networking sites are particularly useful.
Second – Invest a lot of time getting to know your customers. Spend more time listening than talking. Find out what makes their business and their customer tick. Spend less effort trying to explain why your offering is so good and more effort figuring out how to solve their problems.
Third – Structure every aspect of your company – from product design, to sales, to invoicing, to customer service, to how the phones are answered and the emails responded to – to make it easier and more attractive for your customers to deal with you.

Remember – The ONLY source of your profits is a throng of customers eager to spend their $$$ with you.