The World Of Brand Awareness has Changed – Sort Of.

There was a time when you started a business and the first thing you did after putting up the shingle was to start building brand awareness. The first order of the day was to find a location. If it was a business that met with consumers you chose a location that was convenient for them to visit you. If you had a services business you like chose a location that was prestigious and would immediately impress those who crossed your threshold.

Next order of the day was to decorate. If your budget for decorating was several hundred or several thousand it was all to make you look competent and professional.

Brand Megaphone Advertising Product Awareness Build LoyaltyThe on of course came your logo and marketing materials that you would distribute manually and using direct mail. You’d hire a professional graphic designer to help your brand image look like the large players in your category. It was key that a prospective customer have the right gut reaction when they first came into your circle. Brand image was recognized as essential for business success.

Then came along the “advertising budget.” How much were you willing to spend to build awareness of your new business? The marketing plan. Who are these people who will make your business a success? How do you reach them? What will it cost? I used to look at it from an individual cost perspective. I’d ask the question – “How much are you willing to give someone so that they become aware of you? Are you willing to give them a dollar, 50¢ or 5¢?” This was of course determined by the budget. If you had an audience of 10,000 people and a budget of $20,000 then you’d expect to pay 50¢ each and so on. How you spent that 50¢ was key. Was that 50¢ a one-time thing or would it have to spent over 6 months or more. No matter the size of the business it was an expensive process. But done well and by those who were well seasoned in the exercise, it could prove very effective over time. Brand awareness was and still is a long term strategy.

THEN, every small business played that game. Some were great at it and some sucked. It made brands and killed brands but the common denominator was brands had to spend money building awareness or fade away and their dreams with it.

TODAY, every business can play on the same playing field to some extent. Thanks to the web, businesses can build brand awareness for free. They can join other players on dozens of social media channels and build incredible opportunities. Free is a relative term on the web though . Free as far as parting with coin but not free in dedicating time. To run socially takes an enormous amount of time and coordination. Many businesses are dedicating their whole existence to web-based promotional efforts. And, of course they can also engage the services of seasoned pros who can help assist them at their web efforts and achieve goals in a quicker time-frame.

What astonishes me and influenced this post, are the businesses who in the face of free choose to do absolutely nothing about building brand awareness. Nothing. Then when nothing happens, they blame the economy, their customers (or lack there of) – never the fact that their frugality and lack of confidence is killing them. They continue to dream of course – that’s really all they have. You see them all around you.

Go to any live networking event – they’re the ones swimming the room, politely smiling but have nothing to add to conversations. They view networking as showing up and trolling the attendees and desiring new bodies each time they go – failing to understand that when all the same people keep attending the better it is to build relationships that will extend to referring you to their networks. Most of these events are free or close to it. They only want to do business with those attending. BIG brand awareness mistake – short sightedness.

To make brand awareness really work for you, you have to have a dynamic on AND offline exposure. They need to compliment each other. Together they are like a 1-2 punch. You have to be flexible enough to see opportunities and be willing to engage them. Don’t base your planning on what’s free or not. If you won’t invest in yourself why should you expect your customers to? As a friend of mine says, “If clients witness a lack of confidence they couple that with a lack of competence.”

Oh, so true.

Reap the Benefits of Using The Cloud In Your Business

Running a small business has so many things to consider to be profitable. Keeping expenses down is just one of them. By using The Cloud rather than expensive hardware, you can save money by keeping your data in The Cloud which also allows you and your team to work together seamlessly on projects. These are just a couple things utilizing The Cloud can help you with, to learn more read How the Cloud is Reshaping Small Business Productivity.

Reap the Benefits of Using the Cloud in Your Business

5 Things That Determine Your RETURN On Investment?

When companies of any size spend money they expect (or at least) hope to get a rerun on that investment. It’s not too much to ask. Of course the trick is to determine “what” will bring in the greatest return. You have to be honest with yourself and recognize that that return isn’t always about the money. We know the end game is money but the road to getting there – the motivator, is often times something entirely different. It’s usually some event that motivates brands to take a hard look at themselves and determine whether or not a brand needs an over-haul.
ROI?
Five influencing facts might be:

ONE: Low hanging fruit – let’s say it is the money.
They want more of it. They want to increase the brand’s market share. A tell-tale sign is that sales are flat and the sales staff have hit a wall. This happens when brands follow perceived industry leaders and the sales staff are having the same conversations with their clients that their competition is. They have no differentiator. Sales needs a reason to sell, to draw their customer base to them. This attraction would be their ROI

TWO: Succession.
What becomes of a brand when the leadership decides to retire or there is a death? They chose to re-brand to make sure the brand is seen in it’s most desirable light. This makes it to be more desirable to a buyer. It doesn’t matter whether this new owner is from inside or outside of the company. Desireabiility is the ROI here.

THREE: Buy-out.
If someone approaches them to sell – the decision makers choose to re-brand so that they are ready to sell if that sale becomes an actuality. They want to be perceived as powerful. Perception is the ROI is this case.

FOUR: Culture.
This comes up if the staff are not so motivated anymore. Internal communications are lacking and the general atmosphere needs an energy pill. Each company’s culture is unique and affects the mechanics of the brand – it works in unison. That energy would be their desired ROI.

FIVE: A negative Event
Maybe the brand was recently part of a scandal, the stock nose-dived or some other catastrophic event. The leadership wants the brand to regain it’s power position. If the brand is powerful, it is able to withstand these overwhelming events. The ROI hoped for here is power in the comeback.

There are whole number of reasons why you and many other companies like you might desire a closer look at their branding. These reasons each carry with them an expectation for ROI. Addressing them is the sign of a very pro-active brand. One that refuse to accept the mediocre and strives to be the best in their category.

3 Steps to Finding Your Peak Productivity Zone

Why is it when you sit down at your desk to do a few minutes of work and hours later it’s still not done? Is it overwhelm? Distraction? Could be. Another reason could be you’re operating outside of your productivity zone.

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Not many of us are conscious where our productivity zone lies. Even long after we have left the corporate world, we continue to wake up and go to work during the same times as we did before. Depending on your business, sure we do have to operate a certain number of hours within the socially accepted business hours. However, your best work should be scheduled for times when you are at your peak.

What is Peak Productivity Zone?

Some people call these their power hours. It is the time of day when you feel you are most alert, creative and energized. Most people identify with being a morning person or a night owl and these are clues to where your zone lies. It’s not always a hard and fast rule. Some self-proclaimed morning people can also be highly productive at night. To better identify your zones, try these steps.

Step #1 Re-assessing What “Type” You Are

If you confess you are a morning person. Think again. Do you jump out of bed each morning and are able to hit the ground running really quickly? Or are you a slow starter. Though you wake up early, in actuality, you can’t think of work or anything until you’ve taken time for quiet reflection, and to enjoy a cup of coffee.

Maybe you are able to get to work after some time to complete your ritual but you need more mundane starter tasks before you feel ready to tackle the harder tasks.

Step #2 Map Your Energy Levels

Using a simple a spreadsheet or paper, record your energy level during different hours of the day. A simple scale of 1-10 works, 1 being low and 10 being high.

Track this over a period of time. 3-4 weeks will give you a good indicator. You may see a pattern emerging that you’ve never noticed before. Don’t be surprised if you find your energy levels waning and returning through the day.

Step #3 Work It

By now, you would have identified a time or times of day when you are fully engaged. This is where you should schedule the big tasks that require your focus, concentration and creativity. These are the times when you should hang a do not disturb sign on your door, make sure everyone respects it, and protect dearly.

If you have meetings, administrative tasks, time for others, and chores should be scheduled them outside of your peak productivity zone.

Sounds simple? It is, but don’t mistake simplicity for inefficiency. Often, it’s the simplest things, and smallest change that can make a big difference.

One great book that talks about a similar concept of managing your energy is The Power of Full Engagement. Put it on your reading list.

Get Real! Brand Authenticity and You.

Today’s marketplace is a great place for brands and their advocates to exist. Traditionally, prior to the web, all a brand could do was to make their consumers “aware” of their brand was using advertising channels such as bill boards, transit, radio, TV and public relations. Once a consumer got wind of the brand that interested them, they would have to physically visit the bricks and mortar location for more information. Or they could look in their mail boxes for flyers, or their daily newspapers for inserts and printed ads etc. The entire buying cycle was initiated by the brand and reacted to by the buyer. Very straight forward and not very deep.

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In today’s marketplace the consumer has a limitless access to the brand’s environment. Brand’s can more easily form strong relationships with their customers. Some would say today’s digital environment makes loyalty tougher. I believe it to be easier, so long as you’re willing to engage customers with a genuine brand experience. If the brand chooses to try and manipulate the experience based on an unrealistic expectation, they will more likely be viewed as not being authentic. That authenticity is a hallmark of proper branding.

But if your brand strives to provide an authentic persona, it’s a great platform to engage customers. You’re able to feed them your expertise on many levels. This acceptance allows you the potential to charge more for your services. If you’re a services based brand this open environment allows you to properly exhibit your expertise and this draws customers to you. Your are perceived as the expert your brand touts you to be.

The bottom line is to embrace the opportunities the digital world is serving up. You make think that there’s no space for you to play or that it’s over your head. Toss those barriers aside and embrace the web. You will be shocked with the results of your efforts over time.

5 Tips To Keep Life & Business Goals From Colliding

Apart from financial gain, the desire to have more time for themselves and/or family is among the top reasons many give for starting their own business. Yet, those of us who have ventured out know – family time is the first to get sacrificed. We want to fulfill a lifelong goal, but we don’t get to enjoy the fruits of our labor. We want to make our family happy. Instead, they think our business is a poisonous fruit. Ironic isn’t it?

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Will you finally have time to live your life this year? The answer is (and should be) Yes! Like everything else, it takes some work but your family is worth it. Here are five strategies you can put into action without sacrificing either your business or life goals.

Get Help

Releasing control of your work, and spending your hard earned money to hire someone is a challenging. It’s very hard to see, particularly in the beginning, how spending can result in more returns and profits. After all, it’s been drilled into us since we were kids. Save your money. As a kid, I remember saving quite a bit of money, then my mom would take me to the bank to deposit it into my own account, and that’s it. I’m not discouraging saving money. It’s a good habit, but at the end of the day, I still left home with $0 in the account. It’s a long story, but if only I’d been taught to invest that money into something that will bring in more money, I’d have started life off on a better foot.

If your business is not in a position to hire yet, it’s OK. Keep working at it. Do save your profits, but as soon as you are able to afford assistance without sacrificing too much profits, then it is time to invest. In help, in people. Extra help frees you up for bigger tasks and you’ll also be able to knock off of work early.

Realize It Takes Time

You’ve heard of the saying Rome wasn’t built in a day. Few things are. Even a seed takes time to germinate and grow into a plant. It takes even more time for that plant to grow into a strong, formidable tree. There will always be something you have to do. Even if you completed everything on your list today, tomorrow, you’ll find new things that need attention. Create work hours. You may find yourself getting more productive when you only have a few limited hours to get down to business.

Communicate Each Others’ Plans

Your family knows that what you do is important to you and for their sake. If you have a project that is of particular importance e.g. Winning a high profile client, let them know that you will be working more for a while. Be sure to schedule in extra time for them after.

Similarly, ask them to keep you informed ahead of time as much as possible of the events going on in your life that they want you to be present. If there are conflicts – it’s up to you to decide which is more important. Sometimes, a big contract negotiation with a client does take precedence over being taxi driver for music class. However, if it is a concert your child has been working hard for, it would probably be worth a shot to re-schedule the meeting time with your client.

Schedule Everything

While everyone’s schedule is different, it makes a lot of sense to keep weekends off-limits to work, or at least to client work and demands. This is especially true when you have school age children. Most schools have their year planned out way ahead of time. Grab the school calendar and plan out your holidays and long weekends to coincide with theirs. Block them off early in the year so you’re not scrambling to find time later.

Treat family activities like an appointment to be kept. Put them on your calendar. In your task list. Schedule it or you’ll forget it.

Make It A Point To Enjoy Life

If you’re unhappy, you’re not going to be happy at work or at home no matter how hard you try. If your business is no longer a source of joy for you. It’s time for some serious re-thinking. If the situation at home is driving you to stay longer at work, then that needs taking care of too. Sometimes the decisions are painful, but life is too short to stay unhappy and you only have one chance. Be intentional about making changes that lead to fulfillment and success.

Now’s the Time to Step-up your Game – AGAIN!

9673439_s2015 is the year that you’re going to do things a little differently. The time is right to step up your game. Without gazing at the past too much, recognize that that was how you used to conduct business. That’s when all you’re best strategies delivered on making your brand better, more memorable amidst your stakeholders. Give yourself a well deserved pat on the back.

That said, the fastest way to step-up your game is to change-up your game. Start doing business differently that anyone in your industry. Break the norms, shake the bushes and start acting in a way that has the competition questioning your sanity. “Bob’s finally lost it.” they’ll say. “Where’s he coming from” they’ll add. Those are comments aimed at a person who keeps ‘em guessing. These are brands who are following not leading. They spend more time watching the other guy’s butt to the point they have to keep putting the brakes on for fear of (I think you’ve got the picture).

There’s one strategy that will absolutely change the game once again for your brand and that is positioning your brand. I would hazard to guess that well over 90% of companies have never effectively positioned their brands or even considered it. They’ve certainly applied pretty catchy slogans but they’ve never given positioning a second’s thought. Many, if not most think the slogan IS their positioning. A slogan inspires the brand culture while positioning makes your brand the only choice. It absolutely resonates in the mind of your stakeholders. Jack Trout and Al Ries call it, “the battle for your mind.” The perception of your brand in mind of your stakeholders is your positioning whether you enjoy it or not. This perception is key to making 2015 your best year to date.

You see it all around you all time – more of the same. I often wonder why businesses just carry on all the same practices without any strategy in place to help them leap ahead of everyone else. Great brands sometimes get there in spite of themselves, others use strategy to their benefit. We all know there’s no magic answer – there is only effort and a willingness to change-up how your do things. Not only does it keep the competition ay bay, but it also reinvigorates your entire brand culture. Brands people like to talk about are inspiring by just how different they really are. These are the brands who walk the talk. You see, hear and read about them in the media and social channels. These are the brands that are well known within their communities. They are known and spoke about. They are judged favorably and are the ones who seem to bounce back fastest from brand foibles. But don’t kid yourself, these brands are there through shear effort. They keep their eyes on the ball and watch for any opportunity to step-it-up.

What can you do for your brand this year. Make it something that gives the competition the cold sweats. Help them out with a case of Ban Rollon.