Archives for January 2013

Great or Safe – You Can’t Be Both!

MOUSETRAPI’ve seen several cases lately where graphic designers will gather opinions on Facebook regarding logos they’re designing. I can’t help but think that reflects badly on their brand. The client is retaining them based on their professionalism in the field. I feel letting Facebook friends chose their best says plainly that these designers don’t have the confidence to know what is the best solution. A logo speaks to the face of a brand. It’s not a work of art but a communication vehicle. These designers are doing their clients a disservice.

I believe that a designer who is charge of helping to develop brand images must do so based on the brand and its promise to its marketplace. There are plenty of examples of individuals who believe it’s not a good idea to ask the public for their input. Steve Jobs of Apple was one of these. He absolutely believed he knew what people wanted. Henry Ford had a great quote: “If I had asked them what they wanted they would have said faster horses.” I’ve always said to my clients, “I don’t give you what you like, I give you what you need.”

More times than not crowd sourcing delivers mediocrity. The general public are more likely to choose safe over ground breaking. When you engage the efforts of a professional you put yourself in their hands. If you don’t entirely trust them, then you chose the wrong person. Put your brand into the hands of someone who can really make a difference. The last thing you want is to be is safe. Safe doesn’t stand out from the crowd. If you’re a graphic designer reading this and you enjoy crowd sourcing to make your decisions, maybe it’s time you reconsider your occupation. When you’re designing an image your client is the brand that hired you,not the public. They are there to be inspired by the truly great ones.

We should all strive to one of those.

The Web Killed The Trojan Horse Brand

imgresBefore the web was a dominant influencer to a brand, a company could essentially hide behind their brand. How their advertising portrayed them was all the contact the public had with the companies they bought from. With this in mind a company could say one thing on the surface and do an entirely different thing behind the scenes. The tobacco industry is a good example. In the public eye, the advertising showed a lifestyle that was glamorous and appealing while the reality behind the scenes was that they were selling a product that could kill the user. At that time there was no recourse as effective as social media to exposing the double identity of that brand. Today the web changes that scenario.

Today, every business has to be sure that all channels of contact with their prospective customer may be using is represented in their marketing plan. You have to be aggressive in defining what your brand stands for. The flagship of your brand today is your website. If you hire an amateur to do you site, it will turn off those who approach you online. Your brand image must be consistent to make the best impression every time they come into contact with you. Any week points in your presentation works against you. Unlike the old days, you can no longer risk the ire of the public when you say one thing and do another. Authenticity is paramount to defining your brand. Anything that reflects bad behaviour will be exposed almost instantly to a planet-wide audience. If its bad enough, it could take on a life of its and ruin a brand.

The web is an open book and that’s a great thing. If your brand fears the web, then it has problems culture-wide. The web absolutely levels the field. Staying on top off your marketing efforts on and off-line allows you some control over what messages are being pushed out to the public. The challenge of course is staying on top of these efforts. Just like lean manufacturing, your branding needs constant attention and improvement. To ignore your brand is to play with your sales potential.

7 Steps to Customer Service Success for Your Brand

customer serviceIf your business offers customer service, then you should know that treating your customers kindly and with respect makes all the difference in the world to your reputation and your bottom line. There is nothing worse than a dissatisfied customer talking badly about your business and the way they were treated by you—yes you because to them

YOU are your BRAND

It doesn’t matter that you are not personally there, the people representing your company represent you. Here are some tips to help you get your customer service associates up to par.

  1. Always ACKNOWLEDGE your client/customer.  Customers walking in your place of business should always get a smile, a hello and offer of assistance.   If you’re dealing with customers via phone or email.  Make sure to follow up and acknowledge you received their message as soon as you’re able.  If you don’t have the answer or solution right away – say so – and stay in touch until you do.
  2. LISTEN.  But even more important – HEAR what they’re saying.  This is probably the most important skill you’ll ever learn and it’s good for any situation. Once you hear what the customer is really saying then take steps to address the issue.
  3. Interact with the customer. ASK QUESTIONS so you can fully understand the real need. A customer may get frustrated because they don’t understand, feel unappreciated or aren’t satisfied.  Figure out what they need and give it to them.
  4. If you don’t have the answer or solution right away. ASK FOR HELP.  Make sure the customer understands that you will get the information they need as soon as you’re able.  If you’re dealing with a customer in person then make sure your actions follow your words.  Be happy to solve their problem.  If you’re interacting via email or phone- make sure your words reflect your sincere efforts of getting the solution to the issue.  Stay in touch & keep them updated until you have a satisfactory resolution.
  5. Insure that your customer service reps are TRAINED to treat your customers right.  Give them authority to take care of matters as they come up.  Have them keep a written log of each issue along with names, contact info, problem & solution.  This can be very helpful if the customer isn’t happy with the solution.  By keeping a log you can be sure that everything possible was done to correct any problems.  It will also be a great help as you’re creating or modifying policies & procedures.
  6. NEVER ASSUME anything about a customer by the way they dress, look or act. This is so true in customer service. Every customer is important regardless of looks, and making assumptions about customers beforehand will only backfire on you, and tarnish the reputation you are striving to create.
  7. If the customer service rep you have working with you just doesn’t seem to be able to uphold your high standards of customer service, Do Not Be Afraid to REPLACE them.

Your Brand Is You! Implement high quality customer service standards to help increase the respect of your brand.

Acknowledge, Listen, Ask Questions, Ask for Help, Train Your Staff, Never Assume & Replace when necessary.  Buy following these seven principles of customer service, you will be treating your customers with the care they deserve.

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#1: Goals And How To Stick With Them All Year

With the new year, our podcast is revived and have every intention of keeping it going through the year (and beyond). That’s the important thing isn’t it? Setting goals and wanting something for the new year is one thing. Taking action on it and keeping on doing it for the whole year is a whole other thing. What better way than to kick off our podcast talking just about that?

Join me (Lynette Chandler), Melissa Ingold of SpecialReportsClub.com and Kelly McCausey from SoloSmarts.com as we casually chat about:

  • Our direction for 2013 and how they come to be
  • Why you need a WHY and how it should change over time
  • How growth doesn’t always equal doing more
  • Branding consistently across your sites
  • Content Curation – this is awesome. We spent a bit of time on this but packed great tips into just a few minutes
  • Ways to keep your why, words and overall goals in front of you all year

Mentioned Resources

Mastermind group for women – SoloMasterminds

Kelly McCausey’s Smart Podcasting Skills

Eighteen Months After My Big Rebrand

It was more than a year and a half ago when I realized I needed to make a big change. After more than nine years in the ‘work at home mom’ niche, I had an empty nest and an increasingly awkward sense of self when I sat down to blog and podcast content for that niche.

When you love your niche the way I did (do!), you’re slow to notice that you may no longer fit in with the people you’re talking to. But that’s the key – when you realize you’re talking TO them, not WITH them. I realized I was having a bit of an identity crisis!

After much thought and consideration, I felt most authentic identifying myself as a solopreneur and decided to embrace that niche.

Solopreneurs are entrepreneurs who run a business on their own on purpose, light and tight. They don’t have plans to take on employees one day or grow into a big corporation. This sets them apart and means they need different resources than the typical entrepreneur who does dream of that sort of growth.

My First Rebrand Image

So in the summer of 2011 I made the big announcement, I was going to change everything up and rebrand from Work at Home Moms Talk Radio to Solo Smarts. Basically, I’d still be talking about building online businesses that can be done from home and interviewing the people who do it, just focusing on the online solopreneur (men and women) instead of moms.

When You Rebrand, You Worry.

How will my market respond? Will the moms I’ve been working with all of these years feel like I’m leaving them behind? Will they misinterpret my change as a message that I feel like I’ve outgrown them? I did not feel that at all.

Thankfully, I’ve always been transparent with my blog readers, podcast listeners and email subscribers. I was able to simply share my heart and the thought process I was going through. They knew my son was grown and out of the house. They knew I didn’t have the work at home mom lifestyle anymore.

Letting them in on everything in advance, I set out to change the name and look of my blog and podcast. Then I extended the change to my shopping cart and membership site. It was a lot of work. In spite of my efforts, there was some confusion in the months after as people who weren’t paying close attention noticed the changes and asked questions. I expected that and didn’t let concern me.

I was pleased to note that while I did lose about 15% of my mailing list over the next year, I actually experienced an increase in engagement with my subscribers. The subscribers who stayed loved the change and loved being on the inside, knowing what was coming and being able to watch it all take shape. I chose to believe that the moms who left my list did so because they really needed to learn from someone IN their situation. I wasn’t in it anymore so it wasn’t a rejection of me or my new brand, it was an embracing of themselves.

When A Rebrand Involves A Change in Gender Focus, You Worry.

My market was moms for so long and that meant I only talked to and worked with women. I never aimed even a tiny amount of my content to a co-ed crowd before. When I completed the rebrand to Solo Smarts I purposefully chose a man for my first podcast interview and continued to include men in my schedule. I loved it of course but I’ll admit it felt unnatural at first. I also intentionally avoided interviewing anyone focused on a mom niche. This meant turning down a lot of interview requests at first but that isn’t a forever thing. Work at home moms are usually solopreneurs and I still love the niche, so I’ll definitely be interviewing some great WAHMs in the future.

The reason behind leaving them out for awhile was to help me make a clean break. I wanted everything about my new brand to say this is for men and women and not all WAHM focused anymore.

I also turned down requests to be interviewed on WAHM focused blogs and podcasts. This was painful because I love any chance to get exposure but in light of the rebrand, it wouldn’t have been the right exposure.

I recently sought out my best guest blog content hosts and asked them to update my bio to include my new brand and update my link to Solo Smarts. They’re happy to do that. I’ve asked others to simply delete my content or remove my name if it’s not going to serve my new brand well. Again, they’re quick to cooperate and I appreciate that.

The wrinkle in the mix is my membership site. Mom Masterminds turned into Solo Masterminds but members wanted to keep it focused on women. I decided to embrace their wishes and only accept female members. The reason being that it has always been more than a business community, inviting men in would change the way we relate to one another. Every once in awhile a man will express some regret on this, but that’s OK. Everything else I do is non gender focused.

I’m Not Worried Anymore.

 

Eighteen months later, I believe I’ve accomplished my goals. It’s rare these days for someone to refer to me as being a ‘WAHM’. It’s unusual for someone to say that I’m the ‘mom business expert’. Opportunities to speak to a co-ed business crowd finally started coming in over this past year. I’ll be teaching on podcasting at a live event next month and I do believe the room will have as many men as women, that’s pretty exciting.

Solopreneurs are Smarter

One of the things I did that really help to cement my new brand was to write a book. Solopreneurs are Smarter is a small book where I get to share what a solopreneur is and what makes them unique. If you’ve made a big branding change or plan to, I encourage you to think about a book. What you’ve published says a lot about who you are and who you want to reach!

Choosing The Right Color For Your Brand

50sColorsNothing is more striking visually in a brand than its colour palette. It can move people, calm people and agitate them. Colour has meaning and can be historically relevant. An example of what I mean by this is – let’s say you have an antique store or modern store for that matter that sells 1950’s era goods that are original or retro. You would be wise to use the pastel colour palette from that era (shown here). On doing this, your audience would immediately relate to the environment you are trying to create.

Color also can help the customer feel a certain way. Red for instance is a power colour. It motivates. This is the number one colour used in retail sales to get customers to react to a sales statement . Act Now! Call Today! Up to 50% off – these are things you see every day and colour sells them.

I also like to analyze what colours the competition is using and use a palette that is completely opposite which is currently being used. Think UPS and brown. This is a leadership approach to color selection. How ever you choose to pick your corporate palette, don’t just make the choice based on your personal taste. If mauve is the proper selection to help you sell, don’t ignore it just because you may not like mauve.

Email Marketing: Cultivating Know-Like-Trust

When people think of you and your brand you want them to do 3 things:Know Like Trust

  1. Know Who You Are/What You Do
  2. Like Who You Are/What  You Do
  3. Trust What You Say

When it comes to your brand and email marketing, personalizing your emails, auto-responders & newsletters can help you accomplish all 3 things listed above.

You want the email recipient to recognize the email is from you, like you enough to open the email right away and take action on what you’re telling them to do.

One of the ways you can make that happen is by treating your reader like someone special.  Craft your emails so they’re written directly to them.  Personalize it.  Make them believe you’re talking right to them and the stuff you’re sharing is specifically for their benefit.

Email marketing is one area of your business where you can make things personal between you and your subscribers. Done the right way, this method of marketing can mean more sales for your business.

Another way to cultivate Know-Like-Trust is to actually email your subscribers.  Your readers subscribed to your mailing list and they expect you to send them emails.  Think about this:

If you’re not sending regular emails to your list you are depriving them of the information only you can provide them.

If you email your list on a regular basis you are training them – conditioning them, if you will – to expect emails from you.  When your subject lines are compelling and the email body is interesting & entertaining then your emails will be opened.  Once your emails are opened on a regular basis, your readers will start to take action on the recommendations you make.  But the first step is to write the email.

I’d recommend sending an email to your list a minimum of three times per week. Don’t worry about feeling or acting “salesy”.  If you think about email marketing as providing information, making recommendations and sharing awesome products then you’ll do fine.

You don’t have to sell in each email, auto-responder or newsletter but you should be including a clear call to action in each email that has then DO something.

Think about what you want the reader of your email to do:

  • sign up for an auto-responder
  • buy an affiliate product you recommend
  • buy one of your products
  • leave a comment

Then make it clear to your reader what ONE action you want them to take.

Make it a priority to email your list for at least 3 times each week for the next month and report back in the comments with your results.

 

 

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