Posts Tagged ‘customers’

Webinar Strategy and Elephant Chunks

by Wayne Turmel on April 19, 2010

Marketing webinars, customer training, and  recordings for your website are all things that are part of a small company’s arsenal but who has time, budget and where do you start? “We know we need to get a webinar strategy in place, but we don’t have time, budget or expertise”, is maybe the most common complaint I hear from almost all small companies and startups.

It can seem daunting, but you develop a web  presentation strategy for your company the same way you eat an elephant- one bite at a time.

Actually, the process of turning that big scary project into fork-sized chunks is pretty simple. The trick is to ask oneself a series of simple but powerful questions and think about the answers. Once you know what you want and where you are starting from, the path forward will often become clear.

  • Do you want to do web presentations internally (within your company and project teams) or externally (customers, channel partners, investors) or both? Many companies have internal communication and collaboration tools  that can be used  to record presentations for your website or web demos and webinars. The work of choosing a platform and having to do multiple presentations may already be solved with a push of the “record” button. Otherwise, realize you only now need to find a tool that can do everything you need. Either way you’re further along than you were a minute ago.
  • What are the things I’d like to do if money, time, expertise etc. weren’t a factor? In a perfect world you and your stakeholders probably know what you’d like to accomplish. List them and then take a look…. Can a marketing webinar be turned into part of a recorded archive for website visitors? Can it serve as training for your channel partners? What initially looks like 3 or 4 separate tasks could be a well-planned one that serves several purposes, (Probably not perfectly, but enough to get started and you can always perfect them later).
  • Who internally has the resources we need- and if not where can we find them? There’s an assumption that if you’re doing technical presentations, the decision making on this rests with IT or your technical people- not necessarily. You’d be surprised who you can draw on if you look past the silos.
  • Which chunk of the elephant do I tackle first? Where are you feeling the most financial pain? If travel costs are killing you, get internal communication up and running first and save the money for the future. If lead generation is your priority, schedule a single event and be prepared to record it so that you have both a live event and web content people can find long after the event.

Your webinar strategy doesn’t have to be a major undertaking and require a huge investment of money or precious time. All it takes is a deep breath, some key questions and a little ketchup for those elephant chunks

Customer is King

by Guy Ralfe on April 14, 2010

As I continue to share my experiences in the journey from corporate jockey to being an owner and entrepreneur it amazes me how similar business is, irrespective of which vertical or market sector you operate in.

I have moved from the high tech IT solution delivery to application of specialty coatings in the construction world. What is very apparent is that business seems to be the same at successful companies. Contrary to conventional understanding business is not about the product. Yes product is important but not fundamental in a way that customers are.

There is a saying “Take care of your customers and the business will follow

I have found this to be true looking back at the various companies I have worked at and when business has been good. Where I see the challenge is that most people don’t stop and think who the customer is for them or their organization.

This last week I watched a TV program Undercover Boss, which featured Chris McCann, President and COO of 1-800-Flowers.com going undercover to visit franchise stores to get a better understanding of what they could improve.  What became very clear is that they had lost focus of who their customers were – yes ultimately it was the consumer of their product but along the way the franchise store is actually their primary customer. What was amazing to see was that even though the product (arranged flowers and chocolates) were the same for the stores the individual stores success hinged on the relationships the staff created with the customers. And by the same measure the challenges that the franchise stores were facing was as a result of a neglected relationship with the central franchisor management.

In reflecting on how we transact, think about the people that you socialize with and who you call for help or favors in your network. Without giving it much thought you go out your way to take care of them and maintain the relationship. These relationships work in a symbiotic or balanced manner and just as when you feel down they help you through. So too should you be doing the same for your customers, both internal and external.

As another quote I found says – “If you don’t take care of your customer, someone else will….

Before you fight them… Choose them wisely!

by Himanshu Jhamb on March 8, 2010

We’ve all heard this many times in our workplaces – “The customer is always right” and “All customers are equally important”. Well… I am going to challenge these in this post and will focus more on the latter one. This topic came up in one of my recent conversations with a publishing industry thought leader, Gordon Tibbitts, President, Atypon Systems where both of us were talking about the capacity of individuals and the choices we, as individuals, have to make in order to utilize our limited capacities effectively. At a point in the conversation Gordon said “You know what Himanshu, before you fight them… you have to choose your battles wisely”. One might ask how do you qualify what’s wise Vs. what’s not and the quick answer is – One that you think will produce the results you are after is the wise one to take.

Not all customers are made equal. Some customers are very rewarding, whereas some are pretty much a drain on your resources. For instance, I had a customer once who did not understand the value of Quality Assurance; as a result of that they did not have a clear QA management, a QA team or even any QA processes. The impact of that alone was that the project had many delays and not only impacted the customer in a negative way but even the vendors (us being one of them) felt the reverberations of the impact to a point where it affected (negatively) our bottom-line. If someone were to ask me about if the customer was a beneficial one for us as a vendor, the answer would, most unequivocally, be a resounding NO. These are the kind of customers that you don’t want!

Another very insightful point that Gordon made during our conversation was that it is a good thing not to ruffle any feathers if you see your competitor serving a high cost client. What made this insightful for me was the observation that Mr. competitor would face a lack of capacity if they are busy servicing high cost clients, and you don’t want to burn the midnight oil to get these clients from your competitors as this would almost be counter-intuitive to your productivity (and you’d be helping Mr. Competitor, too).

This also reminds me of a quote by Napolean Bonaparte:

“Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake”

I’d like to acknowledge Mr. Tibbits for the pearls of wisdom he shared with me and I am more likely (than before) to think twice (or maybe even thrice) before I choose where I invest my resources… and I suggest you do, too!

Quality #13: Reviews can be fun (if done right)

by Tanmay Vora on January 19, 2010

Last year, in November, I posted 12 posts on QUALITY in the form of QUALITYtweets, on Active Garage. It didn’t quite seem right to stop just there… when there is so much still left to say about QUALITY!

Here are the first twelve posts, in case you would like to go back and take a look:

  1. Quality #1: Quality is a long term differentiator
  2. Quality #2: Cure Precedes Prevention
  3. Quality #3: Great People + Good Processes = Great Quality
  4. Quality #4: Simplifying Processes
  5. Quality #5: Customers are your “Quality Partners”
  6. Quality #6: Knowing what needs improvement
  7. Quality #7: Productivity and Quality
  8. Quality #8: Best Practices are Contextual
  9. Quality #9: Quality of Relationship and Communication
  10. Quality #10: Inspection can be a waste if…
  11. Quality #11: Driving Change Through Leadership
  12. Quality #12: Middle Management and Quality Culture

#QUALITYtweet Make every review meeting a learning

experience by reviewing the product

and process, not people.

We create, we review and we make it better. Reviews are an integral part of product/service quality improvement. The core purpose of any review process is to “make things better” by re-examining the work product and find out anomalies or areas of improvements that the creator of the work product was not able to find.

Establishing a good review process in an organization requires management commitment and investment, but for returns that it generates, the effort is totally worth it. In software world, a lot of emphasis is given to formal inspections, but they work best when a formal process marries with a set of common sense rules. Here they go:

1) Reviewing early

Reviews in early phase of product development means that findings are less costly to resolve. The later defects are found, more expensive it gets to resolve those defects.

2) Staying positive

The art of review is to report negative findings (problems) without losing the positive undertone of communication. Negative or destructive criticism will only make the process more burdensome. Stay positive and keep the process lightweight.

3) Keeping review records

When a lot of time is spent on reviewing, it makes sense to track the findings to closure. Recording the finding helps you to effectively track the closure and trends.

4) Reviewing process, not the person

Always question the process and not the person. Human beings are bound to make mistakes, which is why reviews are required. So accept that mistakes will happen. How can we have a more effective process so that these mistakes are not repeated? That is the critical question.

Imagine that Bob is the reviewer of John’s work product and consider the following conversations:

Bob: “John, I reviewed the code of invoices module developed by you. Again this time, you have not implemented the architecture correctly. You committed the same mistakes that were also found in the registration module earlier.”

OR

Bob: “John, I reviewed the code of invoices module developed by you and your team. We have found some anomalies in the architecture implementation. I just wanted to know if the team had undergone the workshop on our standard architecture. If not, we should invite our systems architect to take a small workshop on system architecture so that the team has better clarity on how it can be best implemented.”

Two conversations with a totally different outlook. The first conversation tries to blame the producer where as the second conversation tries to assess the process and take corrective actions.

5) Training and more training

Reviewers can make huge mistakes if they are not trained. If you don’t invest in training your review teams, you cannot expect them to do it right, the first time.

6) Reviewing iteratively

Review often. During the course of product building, product needs may change. New ideas may be implemented. Keep review process constant amidst all these changes. Discipline is the key.

7) Reviewing the process of reviewing

Are we reviewing it right? Are we reviewing the right things? Periodically, assess the results and the benefits of having a review process. Assess how reviews helped improve product quality. In process assessment, also identify if people are heavily relying on reviews. It that is the case, it is a bad sign.

Success of any process depends on 2 E’s – Efficient and Enjoyable. Same holds true for your review processes. Review is a control mechanism, and hence the focus on getting it right the first time is still very important. A good review is just an internal quality gate that ensures that internal customers (reviewers) are happy with the final product. If your internal customers are happy, your external customers will be happy too!

Portfolio Management – A Case Study

by Sanjai Marimadaiah on January 12, 2010

Portfolio management is a critical activity for any business leader, be it a General Manager or a Venture Capitalist.  This article offers a case study on portfolio management with a focus on value-net1 and the economic value of portfolio companies. The intent is to provide an analysis of the portfolio that can serve as the basis for growth strategy.

The Value-Net1:

The success of any business initiative depends on the value delivered to its customers. While immediate customers are important for near-term growth, the long-term viability of a company hinges on the value delivered to eventual customers, i.e. customer’s customer.  Hence a view of how you serve your eventual customers is important in portfolio management. Several business entities, called value-net1 partners, are involved in the process of delivering value to end customers.

The Portfolio:

Rajesh Setty is a successful CEO and now a venture capitalist with a growing portfolio of companies.

Following is a brief description of 3 of his portfolio companies:

An innovative approach to solving the content marketing challenges. Content such as white paper and ebooks are better managed to ensure that it is efficiently delivered to the target audience. Since the company is still in a stealth mode, a fictitious name, ContentKing, is used.

Jiffle brings efficiency and intelligence to event marketing activities.  It offers a simple and intuitive web portal for event managers to schedule and manage client engagements at events.  In addition, customers can generate various reports on the efficacy of their participation at various events by product line, region, etc.

iCharts business service allows one to easily build sophisticated, searchable online charts. iCharts makes it easy for customers, journalists and others to find, reuse and republish your data — helping proliferation of your data across the web.

Analysis of the above portfolio companies highlighted a common theme in their value proposition. There were opportunities for collaboration among portfolio companies and also opportunities to expand the value range of services.

A common theme among the 3 portfolio companies is that their immediate customers are demand generation teams.  Hence these 3 portfolio companies influence the adoption of product/service by the eventual customers. However they are at different stages of the AIDA – Marketing model5.

AIDA – Model 5:

There are 4 stages in the AIDA model – Awareness, Interest, Desire and Action.  A customer first has to be aware of the existence of the product then be interested in learning more about the product, then have the desire/need to buy the product and eventually be convinced that it is the right product in order to buy it. Support is added as the last stage by some marketing professionals. Different tools, tactics and activities are required to be effective at each of the stages.

The dynamics of each of the stages in the AIDA model are different. As you progress from Awareness to Action, the number leads decreases while the cost per lead increases. The following is an illustration of this dynamics. The numbers in figure 1 and 2 illustrate the relative scales. The actual value varies by product and industry.

Figure 1

Mapping the Portfolio on the AIDA Model:

The 3 portfolio companies are mapped on the AIDA model in figure 2. The immediate target customers are listed below the portfolio company. Finally, the Assets/Capabilities of the VC, Rajesh Setty, is also mapped to highlight the investor’s affinity to their domain expertise.

iCharts4 is at the cusp between Awareness and Interest. The interactive charts not only build awareness to a company’s offering but also generate interest in the offering by providing interactive charts that offer more details. ContentKing2 deals with whitepapers and eBooks, hence heavily in the interest phase. Jiffle3 is placed in the Decision stage but can play well into the action phase. The meetings at conferences and tradeshows influence the decision and at time deals are closed at these meetings.

Figure 2

The Conclusion:

The mapping in Figure 2 provides a bird’s eye view of the strategic position of the portfolio companies in the AIDA model. This can serve as the foundation to develop strategic growth initiatives for the individual companies as well as help VCs manage their portfolio companies.

Considering the price per lead at each stage of the AIDA model, one can get a sense of the valuation as well as revenue potential of the portfolio companies. The portfolio manger can evaluate collaboration opportunities among the portfolio companies and also opportunities to invest in new companies.

The individual portfolio companies can brainstorm whether it makes strategic sense to expand along the AIDA model. It also forces the portfolio companies to think beyond their immediate customers by engaging in initiatives and partnerships to help product/services companies in their pursuit to close sales.

Note:

  1. Value Net:
  2. ContentKing: http://www.rajeshsetty.com (watch the URL for announcements)
  3. Jiffle: http://www.jifflenow.com
  4. iCharts: http://www.ichartsbusiness.com
  5. AIDA Model:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AIDA_(marketing)

Quality #6: Knowing what needs improvement

by Tanmay Vora on November 16, 2009

Qualitytweet_6Welcome to the sixth post in this 12-part series on QUALITY, titled #QUALITYtweet – 12 Ideas to Build a Quality Culture.

Here are the first five posts, in case you would like to go back and take a look:

  1. Quality #1: Quality is a long term differentiator
  2. Quality #2: Cure Precedes Prevention
  3. Quality #3: Great People + Good Processes = Great Quality
  4. Quality #4: Simplifying Processes
  5. Quality #5: Customers are your “Quality Partners”

#QUALITYtweet The first step of your

process improvement journey is to

know what really needs improvement

In modern day sports, players and their coaches have sophisticated facilities to learn from recorded versions of the game with some great analytical tools. When reviewing these recorded versions with the team, an important job of a coach is to tell the player:

  • What is going right? How can we consolidate that?
  • What can be improved further? How will it help the game?
  • What needs to change?

Process improvement is all about improving your game with a thoughtful consideration to critical aspects of business.

You can do a lot of improvement in non-critical areas (and feel good about it). Just because you are improving something does not mean you are improving the right thing. The key to success of any improvement initiative is to pick the right areas. To get driven by operational nitty-gritty is one of the biggest mistakes most improvement managers commit. Process improvement can become an important business enabler provided all improvement initiatives are business oriented.

Do a quick reality check by answering following critical questions to gauge return-on-investment of process improvement initiative:

1) If a particular area of operations is improved, will it have a direct impact on customer’s satisfaction level or customer’s experience? (Focus: External Value)

2) Does the improvement in a particular area directly improve the productivity of team and enable them to execute faster? (Focus: Productivity)

3) Does improvement in a particular area directly have impact on revenues and business? (Focus: Revenue)

4) Does improvement in a particular area make it easier for people to generate qualitative outcomes and improved job satisfaction? (Focus: Internal Value)

How do you find out what “really” needs improvements? The answer is – by collaborating. You can never identify broader improvement areas by isolating yourself in a comfortable cabin. You have to actively collaborate with the following stakeholders:

1)      Customers : In a customer-centric process culture, feedback from customers are carefully assessed to identify customer’s expectations on what can be improved. Your customer can be your strongest ally in improvement journey. Seek feedback.

2)      Business Development Folks: They are the ones who have maximum face time with customers. These could be project managers, account managers or client relationship managers. They can give improvement areas that directly map with business.

3)     Middle managers and team: They are people on floor who get things done. They are best candidates to give suggestions on what can be improved operationally to deliver quality upfront and improve productivity.

The famous 80:20 rule applies to process improvement initiative as well. 80% of improvement happens by focusing on continuous identification of 20% improvement areas. It helps to adopt a clinical approach in identifying the 20% that really matters – yes, that much (20%) does make that much (80%) of a difference!

Branding With or Without YouThis is in continuation to my branding series that was published from October 1 – October 8. Here is a quick recap of the earlier posts, in case you would like to go back and take a look for the sake of continuity:

  1. Branding – What’s the point?
  2. Branding – What’s your brand promise?
  3. Branding – Branding is a balancing act
  4. Branding – Consistency, Consistency, Consistency
  5. Branding – Don’t get caught in the hype
  6. Branding – Get the mix right

This post is the 7th in the branding series and is about your brand being created… with or without you!

Brands are dynamic.  Customers use our products and services. They like or dislike their experience and they say so, publicly.  This type of customer engagement directly impacts your brand.  In this way, your brand is being created with or without you.  You can’t control it.  What you can control is how you deal with it.

You’ve probably heard the saying “feedback is a gift”.  It’s also a gift that you can’t return or exchange if you don’t like it.  It’s yours to deal with whether you like it or not.  Since most brands have some sort of an online presence today, customers have a very public option when providing feedback.  They can leave their comments on your 1-800 customer feedback line or send their concerns to some anonymous email.  More likely, however, they will post their issues to a website, blog or user group.

When customers provide this type of public, direct feedback, we basically have two options:

1.  Engage – and hopefully influence the nature of the discussion

2.  Remain passive – and let the discussion continue without us

I encourage companies to engage in the discussion.  That’s the point of the internet, social media and online communities.  We have the capability to have these discussions in real time with many more customers than we could have ever have done in the past.

Yet, there are hundreds of examples where companies have had negative comments appear online about their products and they chose not to engage, or even acknowledge, the feedback.

In most cases this sort of “head in the sand” approach doesn’t work out very well for the companies involved.  They appear aloof, disconnected and uncaring.  Customers post comments on corporate blogs and social media sites, and the damage is done.  Companies then spend a ton of money and time trying to “manage their online reputation” – which usually means feeding good content into these sites in order to push the negative stuff off the first few pages of search results.

While this may work in some cases, it seems to be that it is a lot more effective, not to mention efficient, to just engage in the conversation to begin with!  Here are some ideas to help you proactively manage your brand online:

  • Pay attention:  Create Google alerts for your company name, brand names, etc.  Monitor where you brand is being mentioned and in what context.  It’s next to impossible to influence how the brand is being represented if you don’t know where you’re being mentioned.
  • Be active:  Identify the key places where your brand is being mentioned and get involved.  Participate in discussions relevant to your brand but not where you are directly mentioned.  You will get insights into the tone of the conversations and understand more how to position your brand appropriately.
  • Acknowledge feedback:  When someone posts something negative, acknowledge their issue.  Let them know you heard what they were saying.  Explain your response, but don’t try and justify your position, as you will only serve to annoy them further.

Your brand is being created. Its up to you how big a part you play in it… to make it look like the way you want it to be!

Rules for the sake of Rules

by Himanshu Jhamb on November 3, 2009

rules sake rules“I am really sorry, sir. It doesn’t matter what you have to say about why you need this specific service because it is against our policy to provide this. I want to save you the time of going over why you need what you need as we simply cannot provide it.”

I was told this at a local Walgreens a few weeks ago.

All I could do was stare confoundedly at the store representative. I mean, what can you, the customer, really do when the provider tells you that they don’t even want to LISTEN TO YOU? You do what I did – stare confoundedly at them.

I have come across so many instances of this that I am led to believe this is no trivial matter or a one-off instance. This is a serious issue plaguing the customer service industry and if you think you are perhaps not impacted by this, well… then you are probably not in the business of making money. The solution to this issue, ironically, comes from within the company itself. All it takes, in most of the cases, is another “more helpful” representative of the company who simply and genuinely wants to “help” the customer. Even if they end up with the same result i.e. not being able to provide what the customer is after, they try and try and try until they exhaust all possible options. They don’t tell the customer that they don’t want to hear them out because they care for the customer’s time. That is, in fact, complete bullshit. All that tells me is that the representative wanted to save HIS/HER time and it surely sounds a lot better if he/she said it was about saving the customer’s time. In my specific case, I simply went to a neighboring branch (of Walgreens, again) and got what I needed from a “more helpful” representative who found a way to help me, without breaking the rule… and he found a way by just spending an extra 10 minutes listening to my problem. Heck! Even if he had not been able to help me after the 10 minute of my cathartic problem-telling, I would’ve still come out a happy customer – a customer that was at least heard out.

The lesson to learn here (for me and perhaps for you) is to consistently question the rules and the rule-enforcers in your organization to ensure the purpose of the rules (i.e. helping your customer) is not being lost in the process of upholding the rules. Here are a few good ones to ask:

  1. Are you or your employees following the rules blindly and in fact, turning customers away OR are they putting some thought into the situation and EXPLORING if there is any way they can help the customer without breaking the rules?
  2. Are you or your employees enforcing the rules with a level of rigidity that is in fact hurting your customers or are you looking to “help” the customer, even if it means you might have to “bend” the rules a little from time to time.
  3. Most important one: Are you turning the customer away with a big fat “NO” the moment you sense a rule might be broken if you help them in the way they need help OR are you at least, starting out with a magnanimous YES and are willing to HEAR THEM OUT!

The next time you remember a RULE, think of why it exists and see if the RULE itself defeats the purpose of why it exists… that’s a sure shot giveaway of a rule that needs to be inspected and perhaps, overruled!

Branding – Don’t get caught in the hype!

by Laura Lowell on October 7, 2009

hypeSo…you have an exciting strategy; your messages are relevant and consistently integrated throughout your brand and all customer touch points.  Now you need an actionable marketing plan that delivers your message to your customers in ways that will increase the chance that they will pay attention, and ultimately buy whatever it is that you’re selling.

There is a lot of talk about the latest new trend (Twitter, vlogs or who-knows-what’s-next) and the coolest new technology.  However, these things are only useful if they are being used by your target customers.  This point bears repeating…these things are only useful if they are being used by your target customers.  This is the kind of thing that sounds so simple – it is common sense.  Unfortunately, it isn’t commonly practiced.

It is critical to the success of your brand that you identify customer-preferred communication vehicles and prioritize those above things that are “really hot” at the moment.  While they may be the latest fad, they might not generate the results you want.

Different marketing tools are good at doing different things – think screwdrivers and hammers.  This is, again, why it is so important to know what your goals and objectives are so that you can select the right tools for the job.  The right balance between online and offline marketing vehicles ensures that you are reaching your target customers in a variety of ways which will improve your overall results – whether they are to increase awareness or to generate demand.

For example, if you are a start-up just launching your company, you need to generate awareness that you exist. PR is a very cost-effective tool to do this.  You also need a website to explain what the company does.  To get the ball rolling you might launch an email and/or direct mail campaign with an introductory offer so that customers connect their business problem with your company.  If you are a small company trying to generate demand, a combination of webinars and SEO with speaking engagements and telemarketing could prove to be very effective at generating quality leads.  It is important to focus on the quality of the lead rather than the volume generated as the conversion rates tend to be much higher.

It is easy to get excited about the latest technology and cool marketing techniques.  Be careful, and remember that the end result is to achieve the business objectives – which is typically to sell more of your stuff.  This means you don’t need to do everything, but you need to strategically select a few key vehicles and do them exceptionally well.

Online and Offline Tactics for Lead Generation:  Ranked as % Very Effective at generating Quality Leads

Online Tactics for Lead Generation

%

Offline  Tactics for Lead Generation

%

Webinars

45

Speaking engagements at trade events

49

Searh engine optimization

44

Telemarketing for lead qualification

46

Paid search ads

34

In-person seminars/roadshows

44

Solo emails to house list

29

PR

35

White paper syndication service

28

Telemarketing for lead generation (cold       calling)

28

Online ads (industry specific)

20

Winning/publicizing awards

24

Offers in your email newsletter

18

Trade shows booths/marketing

24

Offers in 3rd party newsletters

13

Print newsletters

18

Online Ads (general business sites)

12

Direct (postal) mail

16

Solo emails to 3rd party lists

9

Print ads (industry specific)

11

TV and/or radio ads

8

Print ads (general business)

5

Source:  Business Technology Marketing Benchmark Guide 2006, MarketingSherpa, 2006

Branding – What’s your brand promise?

by Laura Lowell on October 2, 2009

brand promiseIn research conducted for my upcoming book ’42 Rules to build Your Brand and Your Business’ respondents clearly indicated that what affected their perception of a brand were visibility, authenticity and honesty of the brand.  Ok, great…what does this mean to someone trying to build a business and establish their brand? Or what does it mean to a company with an established brand trying to break into a new market with little brand recognition?  You may be surprised to hear me say (or type) that it means the same thing in both situations.

Ultimately, the key is to have a defined brand promise – what is it that your brand stands for?  Based on this you can then begin to prioritize your strategies and define your tactics accordingly.  I have seen, over and over again, where companies jump into the tactics with out understanding how they fit, or don’t fit, into the bigger picture.  For example, I once worked on a brand re-design project with a major high-tech computer manufacturer.  We had a well established brand and were trying to reposition it within the confines of the overall product portfolio.  Plus, we wanted to target a new demographic audience.  Off we went to the branding agency who created several different graphic treatments.  We reviewed them and made changes and came up with what we thought was a brilliant idea – very “off the wall”, especially for this company – but the new demographic “would be drawn to it” we explained to senior management who were having heart palpitations at the very thought of it.  Picture this…a gorilla sitting on top of a PC. Something was definitely “off”, and it turned out… it was us!

This project never saw the light of day…why?  We completely forgot the established brand promise we had been making, and continued to make, to the market.  This design had nothing to do with the real world – it was graphically outstanding and visually compelling, but who cares?  It didn’t relate at all to our brand promise.

So how do you start defining your brand promise? Here’s a list of questions to ask:

  • What does the company stands for? 
  • What is the single most important thing that the organization promises to deliver to its customers?
  • How do you want customers to feel about your organization after interacting with you?
  • What is it that the organization wants its brand to be known for?
  • What unique value to you deliver to customers?

Make sure you have agreement across the company – whether it is large or small.  People should be excited about this.  They should be able to rally around this promise and use it to make appropriate business decisions.  If not, then you still have some work to do.  But, I guarantee you, it’s well worth it.