Archives for June 2012

Why Maintaining Font and Style is Important for Branding

A successful brand is all in the details. It’s easy to get caught up in designing that perfect logo or snappy tagline for your business, while ignoring the finer points of your brand strategy. Fonts are often overlooked. Many people take them for granted while dashing off e-mails or memos, but underestimate the importance of typography and risk devaluing all the hard work you’ve poured into your brand.

It’s important to get things right the first time. Choose a font style and color that best represents your business and then stick with it. Consistency is key. Keep these points in mind when developing a font you’ll be happy with for years to come.

Find the Fonts that Work

Search for font styles that best fit within your company’s branding strategy. Think of your business as a person; what kind of personality do you want to convey? Is your company an aggressive sales corporation or a high-end clothing store? Serif fonts typically offer more elegant characters while sans serif fonts are more clean and modern. Also consider whether any style variations would be appropriate, such as italics, light, regular or bold. Your font should always function as an extension of your brand.

Plan Ahead

Make sure your fonts reflect not only what the company is today, but also what it might evolve into 10 or 20 years in the future. Could your business change in any way that would make, for example, an extravagant serif font seem out of place? If you don’t consider this, your business could face a dilemma: abandon the current font and all the brand recognition it has already built up or stick with a design that no longer works for your business.

Determine Your Font’s Function

Where will people be reading your font? Business cards? Billboards? Online? It’s often better to use a sans serif font for websites whereas serif fonts often work well for longer documents. Try using fonts with contrasting characteristics for headlines and body text, which will build visual texture to your document or web page. You can also use all similar fonts for a more streamlined look.

Keep Things Consistent

Companies that are inconsistent in how they use fonts will come across as unprofessional. Carefully chosen fonts can help deliver a strategic message, whereas random diversity mutes your brand’s voice and can portray a lack of structure. This is especially true for websites. Never use one font for the Home page and another font for the Contact Us page, for example. This can confuse readers as they navigate the site and can make information difficult to read. Even print brochures or newsletters can be confusing if fonts are not kept consistent.

Develop a Global Style Sheet

Ensure that everyone who will be updating the website, printing new business cards or tweaking your brochure always consults your company’s style guide. This document is the font bible for your business, outlining which colors and styles can be used for certain materials. It may also contain information on the use of images and positioning of text. Developing a comprehensive style sheet can take some time, but it will pay off by ensuring your brand’s voice doesn’t become muddled by inconsistencies.

A Personal Branding Backfire

Personal brandingHow often do you get the opportunity to make a strikingly positive impression on people only to quash it with a bout of selfishness? An acquaintance of mine recently had the unfortunate circumstance of having their home burn to the ground resulting in the loss of everything. You can imagine their shock and sense off loss.

This person had on their schedule a booked and paid for networking workshop. In their state of affairs they contacted the organizer and requested a refund since they were in no state at this present time to focus on the event. The facilitator of the networking workshop made a poor choice.

Instead of sympathizing with their situation and taking the high road, they complained that the bank may now charge them fees to refund. They resisted making this person’s plight easier. They made it obvious that the money they would be losing was more important than that person’s loss. How small of them. Their brand diminished in a major way with that approach.

That told me that their brand wasn’t about helping it was about the money. Instead of jumping to help this person and suck up any financial inconvenience it may have cost them which would have caused this person to brag to no end how considerate they were being -they chose the opposite. This facilitator has done real damage to their brand. Any good will is now lost with one statement.

The gauling thing that added insult to injury is that this person ended the conversation with their feeling sorry for the person’s loss and if there was anything that they could do – just ask. Sad thing is they missed an opportunity and didn’t get it.

It’s not often our brands get an opportunity to really show the kind of stuff we are made from. Every day I try my best to over deliver for my clients. I don’t charge for every blessed thing. Over delivering is part of what my brand stands for. Our brands must stand proud in good times and in bad. Seizing opportunities when they present themselves is key to growth. My analysis of the situation outlined above is that the facilitator was in a hard place financially and only saw money leaving instead of opportunity coming. They didn’t really believe their own brand values which were probably determined in good times. This person had a helpful brand prior, now has a selfish brand. That few dollars lost to bank fees will now cost them thousands in future business.

Branding in a Crowded Marketplace: Differentiation is Key

The rate at which brands succeed and fail in today’s ever-changing society is mind blowing. With our fast-paced evolving world, brands are discovering that their previous strategies are no longer effective.

While simply slapping a logo everywhere may have been a successful approach several years ago, today it is simply ineffective at cutting through all the market noise and attracting consumer attention. The market is overcrowded and consumers are inundated with logos on a daily basis. Brands now need a connection with the consumer.

In our current marketplace, simply slapping your logo on everything just won’t work anymore. Consumers want more depth than that. They want captivating stories, new experiences, and variety that is still “on brand.” Rather than simply repeating a logo, brands should adapt to the new marketplace by being unified around several small ideas that manifest themselves differently in design applications yet still feel coherent.

Today’s consumers are demanding. They no longer respond to any well designed logo, but “fall in love” with brands that present a unique personality. The logo, as well as the brand, has to come across as special. Brands need to have meaning and purpose to them and a story and design appearance that customers can relate to.

While this may seem like daunting news to any organization trying to build its brand, the solution to the problem of an overcrowded marketplace and increasingly fickle consumer is basic: differentiation. The fact that brands need to stand out from the competition has been a truism for as long as businesses have been in existence, but is more important than ever as more and more people start up a new company and enter an already competitive global marketplace. For any brand, big or small, it is important to look inwardly and ask yourself the following questions:

  • How are you different?
  • What do offer that none of your competitors offer?
  • How can you use that differentiation to craft a brand identity?

The simple truth in connecting with consumers lies in these three questions. By determining what sets your brand apart, whether it is a revolutionary concept or simply excellent customer service, you can build a branding strategy around that differentiation that consumers can connect to.

Standing apart from the crowd does not mean that you have to reinvent the wheel; it simply means that you need to find what makes your organization different and get that message to your customers. In today’s world, success is achieved not from posting a logo everywhere possible but building a message of uniqueness to share with your consumers.

4 Ways to Give Employees Feedback

The other day I saw an interview with Magic Johnson. Magic was talking about his coach, Pat Riley. He said that Riley was a great coach because he provided honest feedback. Riley yelled at Magic just like everyone else. He corrected his mistakes and provided honest analysis and feedback.

Now, I’m not insinuating that Magic Johnson or the Los Angeles Lakers were successful only because feedback was given. (Skill had quite a bit to do with it). But what I am suggesting is that a constant stream of objective feedback helps any organization—auto shop or NBA team—improve.

Giving Feedback

If you’re an owner or a manager you have to give feedback to your employees. It is a fact of running a business. If an employee is struggling to treat customers with respect, you need to give feedback. If an employee is failing to book appointments over the phone, you need to give feedback. If an employee is doing a shoddy job, you need to give feedback. If you’re noticing a pattern of laziness or slacking, you need to give feedback.

But here’s the big question: how do you give feedback?

We’re going to provide you with some tips and some real-life examples of how businesses are putting these tips into practice.

Tips for Provide Feedback

1. Provide analysis—not opinion. Opinions can make an employee defensive. Factual analysis is much better than opinion. But here’s the problem: analysis is a lot more difficult to give than an opinion. Why? Because analysis requires standards. It requires previously agreed upon goals and benchmarks. Opinions don’t. For example, if an employee is doing a shoddy job, it is very easy to say ‘’you are doing a bad job.” It is harder to say “You know that we expect this job gets done in 25 minutes. You consistently take around 25 minutes.”

Analysis takes the discussion from “personal” to “factual.”

One of the things tools like LogMyCalls allows you to do is listen to employee customer interactions and then provide objective feedback on those interactions. Customer calls are recorded. Then you can log in and simply listen to the calls and leave feedback about your employee’s phone performance. Did they answer the phone in a cheerful way? Did they make an appointment? These are not subjective opinions, they are questions based in objective analysis.

Additionally, it allows you to set up scorecards and actually grade your employees’ performance on the phone. These scorecards are objective, meaning that analysis, not opinions, are provided.

2. Be Specific – Feedback cannot be general or unfocused. Feedback is effective when—and only when—it is specific.

It is much more effective to say ‘’yesterday I noticed you took a very long lunch, in fact, I’ve noticed that you’ve taken a long lunch every day this week,” than it is to say ‘’you haven’t worked very hard this week.”

It is very effective to say “yesterday I logged in and listened to a call you answered around noon. I noticed that you didn’t ask her to come in to the shop.” However, if you said, ”you don’t do a good job on the phone,” that would be too general and wouldn’t help the employee improve.

When we help companies set up their scorecards we always encourage them to make the grading criteria as specific as possible. For example:

  • Did the employee use his/her name when answering the phone?
  • Did the employee ask for the customer’s name?
  • Did the employee ask an open-ended question to the caller?
  • Did the employee ask the caller directly to make an appointment?

Notice that each of these criteria is very specific. There is no way they could be misinterpreted or confused. The employee either did these things or they didn’t. This is specific, fact-based analysis rather than general opinion.

3. Focus on the Positive – People respond to compliments better than anything else. When was the last time you praised an employee? When was the last time you made them feel like they did a great job? (Most managers can’t remember the last time).

Focusing on the positive will build goodwill with your employees and, in most cases, will get them to work harder.

One of our clients has a reward system built in to their call monitoring and call scoring system. When employees score over 80% on a scorecard for a week they get a giftcard, or the boss buys pizza for the employees. (Our data shows that you are 3 times more likely to get an appointment when a call score is over 80%). You want to incentivize and encourage excellent performance.

Remember, just because you are providing feedback doesn’t mean that feedback has to be negative.

4. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. – Why do your employees consistently sound rushed and rude when they’re on the phone with customers? Why are they making mistakes? Before you blow up at them or criticize them, you should think about things from their perspective. Maybe you are understaffed. Maybe you are understaffed at certain times of the day and a simply adjustment of lunch breaks would fix the problem.

Another of our clients in the collision world uses LogMyCalls to help them with staffing. It shows them the ‘Peak Call Times’ during the day. They found that their calls spiked significantly between 11am and noon. Prior to this tool was the hour when many employees were taking breaks and going to lunch. Now, the owner leaves his staff in the business until the afternoon when calls slow down.

Here’s the point: you have provide consistent feedback that is factual and honest. If you don’t, nothing will improve. Ever.

Live Transfer vs. Telemarketing: Generate More Sales with a new Approach to Customer Calling

With the growing popularity of using high-tech mediums to connect with customers, one might assume that former, more traditional methods would be rendered obsolete. However, phone calls aren’t simply being replaced by emails and text messages; they’re actually evolving right along with them for a more complete marketing system.

In an effort to stray from the bad reputation of telemarketing, a new process called live transfer takes a streamlined, customized and cost-effective approach to marketing. Since this technique is relatively new, it might be helpful to better understand what distinguishes live transfers from telemarketing, and why the former is a much more superior method.

What Exactly is a Live Transfer?

For a more detailed look at this unique method, consider the following example of an average live transfer interaction. A telemarketing specialist calls five customers who have proven to be potential leads for your company. Three of the customers quickly dismissed the call, while the remaining two showed strong interest in hearing more about the company and converting to sales.

By filtering out uninterested customers, a live transfer connects companies with only the most serious prospects to improve efficiency and save time. Because of this more sophisticated design, live transfers deliver some of the highest conversion rates when compared with alternative marketing campaigns.

Instead of having your employees waste time trying to convince the three uninterested customers, your company only receives those two callers who have revealed significant interest in making a sale. This process saves time without sacrificing your company’s outreach to potential customers, which allows for a more effective campaign. Not to mention, live transfers save you money by eliminating the need for more workers and employee time spent on generating leads.

The Subtle Differences Between Telemarketing and Live Transfers

For those who have personally experienced telemarketing, the differences between the two methods will be quite obvious. However, for those few who have little-to-no experience on either end of telemarketing, the following will illustrate the very distinct differences between it and live transfers.

Unlike live transfers, telemarketing is non-discriminatory and assumes every person who answers the phone is interested in what they have to say. Naturally, this method tends to lead to a rather pushy sales method that has given the process a bad reputation since it was first instated.

Alternatively, live transfers have a different goal in mind. Where telemarketers are looking to convert as many callers as possible, the primary goal of live transfer professionals is to find candidates that are interested. This appeals to the customer because it adds convenience to the buying process for a product or service they are truly interested in.

It also appeals to the business in question because it connects them with interested buyers before the competition draws their attention away. Since live transfers take the feelings of the customers into consideration, it’s a much more respected method than telemarketing. The latter tends to see those on the other end of the line as customers only, rather than people too.

Making the Smart Choice for Your Business

Every successful business owner knows that one of the most fundamental rules of success is catering to the needs and wants of the customer. Although telemarketing has soured many of the benefits that come from personal telephone calls to customers, live transfers have helped to change public opinion on this technique. With a method that satisfies both parties involved, live transfers are the ultimate choice for businesses looking for greater efficiency and more conversions.

How To Build Brand Awareness As A Sales Strategy

All of your activities both on AND off-line should involve a personal involvement. That connection is what my brand stands for and it should be yours. Within my marketplace I have a respectable amount of awareness. That in turn develops leads. Depending on where you are in your business circle, it would
be unwise to take your market for granted and reply on past glories. Searching you out shouldn’t have barriers. Minimal activities leave the impression you’re not the leader you claim to be. I enjoy meeting people and finding out what they do and how they manage their sales activities. If you have a sales team, what are they doing to raise the awareness of your firm? You may be shocked to find out that they’re doing precious little. Sales is not a 9-5 job. I know many who think it is, and those are the ones who bitch on the economy – as if they have no control.

ALL of your promotional efforts should be focused on two fronts – ONE on-line and TWO off-line. I would have to say that I spend roughly two hours a day checking my stats, following up on comments to my blogs. Browsing groups in Linkedin, checking out Facebook and Twitter. Occasionally writing new articles, commenting on other articles and much more to keep my brand in front of as many eyes as possible on-line. Let’s not forget my Sunday task of putting together the next week’s branding tip and participating in interviews,webinars and email marketing.

All of these efforts online put together form my on-line strategy. And like any type of promotional effort, it is on-going. I do get leads and opportunities as a result so I believe it would be fool hardy to stop. You can’t get results if you’re not in the game.

On-line marketing aside there’s another aspect of my promotional efforts that delivers results – that being my off-line efforts. Some younger entrepreneurs may refer to this as old-school, but I view it as, (if not more important) than on-line. Having local awareness and benefiting from that dynamic rounds out your professional awareness. It allows you to be more hands on. Connecting face-to-face flushes out your brand. For myself, working solely online is too one dimensional. Some of the activities I’m involved with locally are:

• Volunteering on the Business excellence Awards for the Windsor Chamber
• Board Member on the Leamington Chamber
• Active in the Windsor and Leamington Circle networking groups
• President of The Great Lakes Industrial Sales Consortium networking group
• Networking at Chamber activities
• Mentor with business students from the University of Windsor
• Public speaking
• Facilitiate workshops on branding
• I belong to a 9 year strong mastermind group

… and what ever else pops up. I work very hard to get everyone on my subscription list. That way I have my own niche audience to speak to with the assistance of email marketing. After all my brand is all about the conversation and building relationships with small businesses. Build your awareness strategy and watch your brand grow from all touch points.

Why Customers Stop Being Customers

Whether you want to admit it or not, your business makes mistakes. Maybe the quality of your work wasn’t up to par (just one time, of course:). Perhaps, your billing was incorrect and your customer was charged too much. Maybe, a job took too long, or there was something wrong with a product you sold your customer.

These things happen to customers of every business. Statistics show that customers are pretty resilient. All of these things are pretty much forgivable. Your customer will forget about billing disputes, quality issues and pretty much everything else you throw at them. But, statistics show they will not forgive you for bad customer service.

86% of people say they’ve stopped doing business with a company because of just one bad customer service experience (up from 69% in 2007) – Harris Interactive, Customer Experience Impact Report, 2011). Think about that! Almost 90% of the time customers will not return if they’ve had a bad customer service experience. Wow!

So, why will a customer leave you because of bad customer service and not because of other mistakes your business may make?

Here is the answer:

Customer service is personal. A billing dispute isn’t personal. A missed appointment isn’t personal. A dirty hotel room isn’t personal. Neither is a shoddy job. But, customer service is VERY personal. Customers get upset when they’ve been treated poorly. They take it very personally.

What can you do?

1. Track Customer Service Performance – One of the best ways to do this is with call tracking and call recording. For decades call centers have used call recording to track customer service performance, but now the same technology is available to any business for a low price. You don’t need to install anything or get a new phone system. It is honestly very simple, easy and cheap.

2. Score Customer Service Performance – Scoring calls for customer service performance will help you start to see trends. You can track which employees are good at customer service and which ones are losing your business.

3. Customer Service Training – This training does not need to be an expensive endeavor. It can be as simple as you simply training your employees to sound cheerful on the phone or ask for the caller’s name and use it during the call. Little things like that will cause you—statistically—to lose less business.

4. Hold Employees Accountable – You should have a system in place that rewards good customer service and punishes poor customer service. If you listen to a call and you hear an employee providing excellent customer service compliment the employee. If you use a call recording platform and you hear a bunch of great calls, than you should throw a party for your team or provide incentives of some sort.

How Do We Know?

We record tens of thousands of customer service and sales calls a week through our call tracking platform. These calls produce valuable marketing data (call tracking analytics, lead scoring, etc.), but they also produce vital customer service data. We listen to these calls and then score them for quality and training purposes. Our scores show us (and our clients) one thing: companies treat their customers very poorly in most cases. This is not an opinion. It is fact. It is based on actual data our system pulls from actual calls.

We also hear reactions from customers who’ve been treated poorly. They take bad customer service very, very personally. If a customer is treated poorly by you or your employees they will not forget it. They have been personally offended. You have made the customer feel dumb, disrespected or angry. They’ve been frustrated and upset. They won’t forget it. That is why, 86% of the time, they won’t return.

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