Posted tagged ‘brand’

Cold Calling Step 7: Build Engaging Supporting Materials

August 4, 2010

One of the final elements of the cold calling preparation process is to make sure that you have meaningful and stimulating supporting materials for those times when the prospect does not have the time to speak with you and asks you to send “something.”

This too is a great opportunity.

Since we all learn differently, it is certainly reasonable to expect that some people prefer the written word. A focused, compelling and clear presentation is the chance for you to make an impression without being interrupted.

And having the shell of it prepared in advance, allows you to respond quickly while the call is still very much present in the mind of your prospect.

My supporting e-mail has a handful of core elements:

  • An acknowledgment of thanks for the opportunity to write to the person
  • The Value Proposition or to put it another way, “why you should read this e-mail”
  • An overview of our company (what we do and how we deliver)
  • Any validation that we deliver what we say we do. Sometimes, this means listing some recognizable customers or awards from prestigious organizations.
  • An overview of what the prospect can expect to find in the attachments. This usually translates into key features that might resonate with the prospect.
  • The next steps (when follow up is planned)

I always include my phone number.

And I always try to address my prospect by name in the body of the e-mail and mention their company too. As Guy Kawasaki says, “Though it may seem obvious, you would be surprised how much of a difference addressing a customer by name can make. Good customer service (ed. note: and sales) makes the other person feel as if she is the only customer or client that matters.”

When it comes to PowerPoint presentations, I try to create an interesting story centered on all of the items present in a script, only with more graphics, color and detail. I use very little text and try to connect the thoughts for them.

Remember, that every thing that you are sending impacts two brands – your company’s and yours. Details matter, particularly at this stage, if you wish to become not only irreplaceable, but also irresistible.

Advertisements

Determining the Candidate’s Leadership Profile

June 17, 2010

One of the challenges in the interview process was the need to capture information in a meaningful way.  The plan was to interview five candidates in one day and the risk of blurring responses, characteristics and attributes was fairly high. Effective data capture was therefore important.

The tool that was built had a section for evaluating each of the core attributes highlighted in the prior post. It was to be completed after the interview and it simply asked if the candidate had the particular attribute and allowed for any additional comments or insights.

The rest of the document – and clearly the most important section – was devoted to a series of questions designed to create a conversation that would enable the candidate to share his or her views on leadership.

Here are some examples of these questions:

A. Getting to know you questions:

(1) I’m about to buy a brand named <candidate>. Describe what I just bought.

(2) What was the best job you ever had? Why?

B. Execution:

(1) How do you assure / implement accountability among your staff?

(2) What do you reward and how do you reward it?

(3) How do you convince people to change behaviors?

(4) How do you evaluate staff?

(5) Why should someone be fired?

C. Ability:

(1) What characteristics of your present job do you like?

(2) What are some of the things you don’t like?

(3) How would you change your job if you had the power to do so?

(4) Describe your perfect job?

(5) Describe your perfect boss?

(6) Give me 5 adjectives that generally describe the people who work for you.

D. Leadership:

(1) What are 3 core tenets of your management philosophy that you would never compromise?

(2) Fast forward a year —  how is our company, the one that just hired you, different?

(3) How do you hire people (i.e. what is the hiring process / what do you look for)?

(4) Talk to me about a great hiring success (what were the factors that made it successful)?

(5) Talk to me about a great hiring disaster. Why did it happen? What did you do about it? (this is a great question to learn about blindspots)

(6) How do you make important decisions?

(7) How do you go about learning new things?

(8) Describe the perfect company culture? How would you create this culture?

E. Ability to Grow and Learn:

(1) Most people have at east one tough integrity challenge in their professional lives – what was yours and how did you handle it?

(2) What is the greatest lesson that you learned in the past five years?

(3) What is the greatest professional challenge you’ve ever faced and why?

F. Vision:

(1) Tell me about three competitive trends for which we should be concerned.

(2) What is the single most important idea that you contributed to your present job?

The purpose of these questions is to learn what is important to the candidate and the thinking process that is utilized. What can be learned from these questions is the values of the candidate, how they are reinforced and the type of people with whom these leaders will surround themselves.

Getting these answers will your company know the type of leader it is engaging.

Unintended Consequences, Decisions and Continental Airlines

September 27, 2009

Decisions only scare me when I don’t understand their consequences. If I do, and as long as those consequences are acceptable, I’m fine. That’s why when confronted with a challenging decision, I always try to investigate what could result from it. It’s important to me that I weigh the potential positive and negative consequences.

My recent trip from San Francisco dramatized the importance of doing so.

Continental Airlines prides itself on “flying right.” Their brand is built on attentive service and well-planned departures and arrivals. In fact, in a press release earlier this month, I found this quote — “Continental’s corporate culture is based on treating customers and co-workers with dignity and respect,” said Diedra Fontaine, Continental’s director of diversity and sales development. “Dignity and respect are key principles of our Working Together cornerstone.”

Continental’s recent decision to charge for bags is a terrific example of unintended consequences and illustrates how a set of negative consequences can jeopardize a brand.

Continental, like many airlines, saw this additional baggage charge as a way to increase revenue. Their customers, however, responded by deciding to take more and more of their luggage on the flights so they could avoid the additional fees.

The unintended consequence: With more than 25 people waiting to get on board this plane from San Francisco, the overhead bins were completely filled. The flight attendants at the gate then proceeded to offer free baggage check-in to all those that had yet to board.

Some passengers took the attendants up on their offer and the gate and boarding ramps were transformed into luggage check–in areas. The attendants scrambled to check the luggage at the entry of the plane. This was difficult for them because the physical location made this problematic and most assuredly, assuming they were trained to do so, it was certainly not what these attendants intended to be doing at this time.

Many passengers chose not to check their luggage. They had to stow their bags underneath their seats, resulting in uncomfortable rides for many, many passengers and difficult entries and exits from where they were seated. More passengers also stood in the aisles for portions of the flight simply to stretch their legs.

As to those poor flight attendants…

They were trying to get the flights to take off on-time because that is one of the areas that Continental evidently measures.

Once the plane took off, the flight attendants rudely rushed to pass out the meals. The were frustrated and like most people put in similar situations, they never had the chance to regain their “balance” and they performed their work the way someone would do it if they were upset.

These were the short-term unintended consequences.

The long-term ones, of course, concern the brand and image of Continental.

And if these become tarnished enough, Continental may discover that the revenue that they gained in no way compensated for the customers that they lost.

The Changing Face of Marketing and What It Means to Your Company

September 6, 2009

The message has always been the brand and the brand has always been the message.

Marketing and marketing communications have traditionally been about what is conveyed to the public and to a company’s employees but the changing face of customer service may be altering the way we think of this important role.

As more and more small and mid-size companies shift into creating ways for customers to help themselves – see this article on Southwest Airlines, a not so small company – perhaps it is time to reconsider the role of marketing in the development of new programs and IT solutions.

The thinking here is that the customer experience is the brand, as much and if not more than the message. Large companies have known this for a long time. Small and mid-size companies need to recognize this.

Does their web portal reflect the important messages of the brand? Is the IT system that is being deployed throughout the company an extension of how the company wishes its employees to think of it?

One of my clients asked the other day if it’s time for a ne role, one that he called a “Customer Experience Officer.” In these tough economic times, I’m not so sure I would approach this opportunity by adding a new role.

Here’s what I would do…

(1) Insist that Marketing outline the key principles that all new programs and internal and external software solutions must incorporate. If these solutions did not reflect these tenets, they are not rolled out.

(2) Until these principles are second nature, marketing should be a member of all new programs (and I do mean all – not just software programs) and design teams.

(3) All graphical user interface developers on the IT side should have to learn and discuss how they are incorporating these principles into their solutions.

If you share this belief that people are attracted to your brand and what it represents, is there really any other choice?

And in summary…part 1

May 1, 2009

Our session to the housewares association is less than a week away. It seems appropriate to review the lessons that we have learned and the strategic underpinnings for our recommendations.

The challenge that was posed was this:

What should you do if you find your company to be one of those that now must sell its products to a handful of superstores such as Wal-Mart, Target and Bed, Bath and Beyond and these “clients” are now in a position to dictate your pricing, the way that you do business and even your margins?

Underlying this big question was a series of smaller but no less important ones:

  1. Are there alternative marketing channels that can be leveraged?
  2. Where does the social media fit into addressing this challenge?
  3. Is there a way to identify products that need to be invented and how can we test them faster and better?

With the help of several very talented, knowledgeable and experienced friends and business colleagues, we sought to develop and create a framework, if you will, for addressing these questions.

Here is a quick review of the lessons that we learned.

Lesson 1: There is Nothing New Under the Sun. What the housewares industry is experiencing now has happened to many industries before it. This is not meant to be cold comfort and it is important. It teaches us that there are historical experiences and prescribed and proven methods that can be incorporated in our plan and framework.

Lesson 2: The Only Way to Fight the Tyranny of Kings is with Creativity. When we live inside a problem, it can be very difficult to identify the way out of the problem. All is likely not lost. Brands can be reinvented through consumer franchising, where the goal is to communicate distinctive brand attributes, develop and reinforce brand identity that is consistent with the image of the brand, build long-term brand preference, encourage repeat purchase and long-term patronage, and engage active consumer involvement.

Lesson 3: Know Your Segment and Know Your Category. Those products that add value and are successful are often so because their manufacturers and marketers understand to whom they are selling. Many companies segment broadly hoping that they can earn a “small slice of a large pie.” However, all too often, the solution is realized by segmenting finely and catering to a very defined and discrete group. We learned some tried and true ways to do this.

Lesson 4: Think Beyond the Obvious. One of the easiest and most difficult exercises to do – at least by one’s self – is to challenge what one knows to be a “fact.”  We have difficulty doing this because as intelligent and educated people, we learn and we learn well. While effective for many, many circumstances, this mechanism actually works against us in addressing these issues because we naturally self-edit and discard options that. although inappropriate at a particular time, are now valid and appropriate. (This is why when brainstorming, really top flight facilitators will not allow anyone to eliminate an idea when people are putting them up for consideration). Marketplaces change. Technology eliminates one issue but generates another. These are new opportunities for inventors. There are some wonderful books on rethinking the marketplace such Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne if you wish to explore this thinking in more detail.

Lesson 5: A Brand Community is a Business Strategy. Reconnecting with your customers will alter everything about your business. It will change the way your products are designed, delivered, marketed and supported. If done well, it will generate passion and excitement for you and your staff as well as for your customers. To effectively accomplish this, you will need to be vulnerable and open.

In our last post before Tuesday’s session we’ll review the remaining lessons that we learned.

Lesson 5: A Brand Community is a Business Strategy

April 2, 2009

As fate would have it, April 2009’s Harvard Business Review presents an article titled “Getting Brand Communities Right.” The article written by Susan Fournier and Lara Lee highlights seven ideas that are important to our analysis. I’ve summarized them here. To purchase this fascinating article so that you can read it in its entirety, click here.

(1)    A brand community is no longer a marketing strategy. It is a business strategy. To be most successful, allow your brand community be a high-level strategy that supports all of your business goals. Communicating with the community allows your business activities to take on new meaning and reflect the needs of those you wish to have as customers.

(2)    A brand community exists to serve the people in it. The authors state that if you meet the needs of the individuals within the community, you will in fact be meeting the needs of the business. Here’s the challenge. All businesses like to control the products they sell, the conversations they have and how they are perceived. Being effective here though means being vulnerable, not all-knowing and committed to addressing a need – rather than building your brand. Now, here’s the payoff. You just might discover an unmet need not related to your opportunity but one that keeps people very related to your business.

(3)    Engineer the community and the brand will follow. There is a science to engineering a community. Typically, people try to build communities around pools. These are individuals united by share values or goals (such as Republicans or Democrats). The authors explain that the relationships these pools form are limited and suggest that Web affiliations based on strong one-to-one connections (the example they use is a Cancer Survivors Network) is the catalyst that creates an engaging energy that sustains the community. The last element is to build a web community around hubs, individuals whom the community admires and is related to. Hooking up with such an individual will again drive passion.

(4)    Smart companies embrace the conflicts that make communities thrive. The natural reaction when one hears a complaint is to address it or squelch it. But in order to be an “in” group you need an “out” group. (Think Apple vs. PC, Coke vs. Pepsi). Strengthen the conflict and you strengthen the community.

(5)    Communities are strongest when everyone plays a role. The best metaphor that I could think of for this principle was the physical neighborhood within which that I live. What gives a neighborhood color, charm and notoriety are the characters within it. Each contributes to the fabric. Allowing people to be diverse in their thinking, types of support and nature makes the community engaging. To see a full list of roles, check out the article.

(6)    Online networks are just one tool, not a community. On-line networks re not enough to create a community. Communities grow from traditional approaches as well. Companies build communities using advertisements, celebrity spokespeople (“hub”), social interaction, entertainment, expert advice, packaging…and on and on.

(7)    Of and by the people, companies defy managerial control. Much like your physical community, to thrive, an on-line community can’t be controlled. Yes, it can be supported and nurtured…but not controlled. Supporting and nurturing may be done with scripts that articulate behavior guidelines  and those that encourage appropriate behavior in a particular setting. In fact, you can create settings that have different rules and allowed behaviors.

The plan for addressing our challenge incorporates these rules. Still there is more analysis to be done.

Stay tuned…

Lesson 2: The Only Way to Fight the Tyranny of Kings is with Creativity

March 23, 2009

Carl had exposed an interesting point to consider. If indeed this situation had occurred before, there probably would be some lessons to be learned in how these challenges were met in the past.

The solution, he explained, lies in creating a consumer franchise, a brand that is powerful enough to necessitate that the retailers seek your product out and put you in a position where negotiation is from strength. In consumer franchising, the goal is to communicate distinctive brand attributes, develop and reinforce brand identity that is consistent with the image of the brand, build long-term brand preference, encourage repeat purchase and long-term patronage, and engage active consumer involvement.

Put simply, if you are operating in a commodity category, you must bring something unique to the party.

There is, however, significant complexity in our particular challenge. In the housewares industry, there is a low frequency of purchasing items, that is, unlike other items, people do not purchase them again and again or very often. This attribute does not allow for the investment of heavy marketing dollars to create the brand.

Given that constraint, how can a housewares company develop their brand?

According to Carl, one of the most important elements is communication at the point of purchase. There are many factors, including packaging and color that can make the difference in getting consumers to try a product. He referred to this as the “sell-in” effort. (More definitively speaking, sell-in typically means how well one has been able to get the product into stores. Sell-through refers to how well the stores have been able to get the product into the hands of consumers.)

To be successful here, one must apply the greatest levels of creativity. He then offered a few insightful examples.

To sell a purse mirror for women, his company developed an end of aisle spinner that had mirrors placed on all sides. It proved effective because his target market, women who wanted to have a mirror available at all times to see how they were presenting themselves, would catch their reflection as they passed the display. They would stop, pause, and then notice the purse mirrors. Getting them to notice the product was the key first step in making the sale.

With corn brooms, his company took the unusual step of displaying it upside down, which was not how brooms were usually displayed, and again, would catch the attention of the consumer. By adding a distinctive angle to the handle, the product was further distinguished.

To achieve these distinctions and to create a unique selling proposition, one must look at each item separately and develop the element that makes it unique and impactful.  Should the design be simple? Can you “dress it in a tuxedo” and make it feel more upscale? What would make the difference to the consumer?

This means that inventing the product is only the beginning of the effort. The next step is to dissect the use of the product.

  • Visit stores and analyze how comparable products are displayed.
  • Who buys them?
  • Which displays and packages made the person stop?
  • Define the profile of the person who stopped at the display.
  • Ask them what caused them to stop.
  • Find out the process that they went through in making the buying decision.
  • Once the product has been bought, ask them why.
  • Be curious and creative in discovering why your products are worth buying.

Carl closed our discussion with a very interesting story.

A long time ago, Carl’s team was tasked with the responsibility of selling toothbrushes. The division had been losing significant money. To learn more about his targeted consumers’ motivations, Carl arranged for a focus group with a local dental clinic. The focus group members were asked why they were choosing certain toothbrushes and the answers he received were about the size of the brush head (husbands had larger mouths than wives and children required smaller toothbrush surfaces) and that some brushes were harder than others.

Valuable information…

The participants were then led into a room and on the wall of the room was a display of every possible toothbrush on the market at that time. The participants were then told that as a reward, they could select toothbrushes for their families.

After selecting their toothbrush reward, the participants were then led into another room and asked why they had selected these particular toothbrushes.

Their answer most often…color!

It seems that at this particular time there were only four colors available in the toothbrush industry. Carl and his team learned that even though it was never mentioned as a factor in the focus groups, color was deemed to be the most important attribute. Armed with this information, his team began to produce toothbrushes in 24 colors! The net result the product, which was a losing venture a year earlier, became a source of substantial profitable revenue within a year.

Carl had illustrated his point – creativity and research on an item by item basis was critical in establishing a brand and challenging leverage.


%d bloggers like this: