Designing Strategies: The Blog
Positioning your company as unreal, rather than real, can be better way of conveying a strong image to customers. How many times have you heard someone walk away from an exceptional place or experience saying that it was “Totally unreal!”? It’s always a positive comment. It shows that it was somehow so much better or different than similar experiences. Those are the kind of comments you want customers taking out your front door and sharing with others.
I was scanning my Facebook Fan Page recently over a hot cup of tea when I came across the following post by followers Shuttersandco in Scottsdale, Arizona. Let me be clear that I am not picking on them or trying to embarrass them. This kind of situation happens all the time. their post read:
“Samples are here and display units come next week! We’re starting to look like a real showroom!”
I hit ‘Like’ and was ready to post a congratulatory comment when I stopped dead in my tracks. “Wait a minute…” my out of control brain screamed. What is a real showroom? Other than having an unreal showroom, or perhaps a virtual, e-commerce showroom, what other types could there be? Therein lies the issue.
Referring to your showroom, office, or retail location as a real anything suggests on a subliminal level that there is some level of standardization of facilities for businesses like yours. And, it suggests that you are not at that real stage yet, but it’s coming. But, how will they know when that might be? I’m sure that isn’t what you really want; to be just like all of your competitors. Or, worse yet, to have people interested in your products and services wait a while until you become real? I’d want them to come right in my door or call on the phone immediately, not go else where or be on hold. They might well not come back when you are ready or real.
If that is the route you choose for your business, you are making a number of other decisions at the same time:
- I want to do everything ‘just like the other kids do’ — that would be your competition.
- I want to look like everyone else in my industry — again, with the competitors.
- I want to hide and blend in with everyone else — I don’t want my company to stand out at all.
- I want to limit my product lines and services — who needs to have anything unique that others don’t have?
- I want to join a price war with my competitors – there isn’t any other concept or level that can I compete on.
The whole purpose of developing a brand for your company is to make it stand out from competitors. A brand is a promise of what customers can expect from you and your business that is different from others they might consider. Your brand tells people who you are as a company – or as an individual in businsss, what you do, other than the basics that everyone else provides, and most importantly, why they should sign on the line for your products and services.
Who will bother telling anyone else that your business is just like any other? People talk about things that are different. They talk about things that are unique and exceptional. That’s what you want them telling others about you and your company. Develop strategies today to help you become that unreal business in your town and in your industry that everyone is talking about. Stand out from the crowd. Be recognized and grow. Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Time’s a wasting.
What have you done recently to make your company stand out in your competitive marketplace?
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I just finished reading a great article in Fast Company about how making very minor changes within your company can transform it’s culture and change its direction and success. All it takes is one or two small changes in behavior. Lisa Earle McLeod, the author, related a story about her family delivering their college-aged daughter to Boston University to begin her college experience.
While standing at one of those large public maps of the campus – probably with confused looks on their faces – they were soon approached by no one less than a dean of the university. He introduced himself, asked where they were from, then pleasantly offered assistance in finding the location they were seeking on campus. That was it. That one simple behavior made an important impact on their ‘customers’.
It was more than just a senior staff member being polite, his actions were a univerity policy. It was not just an opportunity for the university to help guide that student’s first steps toward their advanced education. BU takes this minor action very seriously. It is actually a fireable offense for anyone who walks by someone looking at one of the maps around campus and fails to offer assistance . They feel it reinforces their purpose: getting students ready to become part of an interconnected world.
What can you do in your company that is minor – something that takes less than a minute to accomplish – that would make a difference to your customers or potential customers? How about just stepping outside to invite inside anyone pausing to look at something in the window of your shop, studio or showroom? How many customers could you actually get inside by walking out and telling them you have a larger selection of the items they are looking at inside the store? Perhaps you could offer them a brochure with more information on the item in the window. How about just greeting visitors to your location with a positive, inspiring statement like: “Hello, how can we improve your life today?”
Think of a simple step or two to change how customers perceive your company in a postivie way. It will only take one or two experiences with you before they start talking about your company, how different it is, or what a pleasant experience they had. It won’t take them long to realize that your competitors don’t do the same things or take an interest in them before they are actually customers. Being nice costs absolutely nothing. Being helpful doesn’t cost anything either. Start thinking of how you can quickly and simply transform your company into one people want to do business with, then just do it.
What simple things have you done to improve your company in the mind of a customer? Please share your ideas with us below.
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LinkedIn is the most well known and used professional social media platform on the Internet today. With more than 175 million members, they claim that works out to just about 2 new members per second. It has become the ‘go to’ site for anyone wishing to promote their business, look for new customers, look for a job or for qualified employees. LinkedIn members span the globe, so building an international network of business contacts is ridiculously simple. With both paid and free membership levels, it is short sighted to not take full advantage of it’s many features to leverage the time and effort you spend there. Below are five easily actionable tips about how you can get more from your LinkedIn membership.
1) Get your image posted
If you don’t have your image on your Profile page, stop reading right now and go do it. Nothing makes you less interesting than using those awful default ‘egg-head’ icons. People do business with people, not egg-head icons. Don’t use your logo, or your latest family picture, you as a cute toddler or your dog. People what to know what you look like. LinkedIn is the professional social media platform, so present yourself as a professional business person.
2) Fill out that Profile page
If you want people to connect with you, give them some reasons. Fill out your business experience history, education, links to your website(s) or blog(s). Write your Summary from the point of view of a potential customer or employer. Why should they connect with you, much less hire you or buy from you? Make a compelling argument on why you are the best person to meet their needs or solve their problems and challenges. Convince them you are someone worth connecting with and knowing. Do you have any Publications you want people to know about? Even if you haven’t written a book, perhaps you’ve contributed to a magazine or newspaper column, write and publish your own newsletter or blog.
3) Add some specialized applications
There are a number of applications that can enhance your Profile page to make you even more interesting. Connect your blog to your Profile page to get it in front of more people. Let people know what books you are reading and recommend using the Amazon.com application. Use the Slideshare application to present your message in a PowerPoint format.
4) Get some recommendations
Nothing sells you better than testimonials and recommendations from satisfied employers or customers. Select those who can best exemplify the message you are trying to spread about your qualifications, expertise and ability to be the perfect fit for anyone looking at your profile. Don’t be afraid to offer suggested content that will best present you. If you are looking for a job selling widgets, get a satisfied customer write something to tell others how much attention you paid to their needs when you sold them golf carts or some other product. Tell them what specific points you’d like them to highlight… if they are willing to write a recommendation.
5) Skills and Expertise
One of the newer features of LinkedIn allows users to be more specific about their skills and expertise. It’s a simple to use feature, just point and click on the appropriate skill categories and they will be listed on your Profile page. The newest addition to this feature is the ability of other LinkedIn members to ‘endorse’ your skills… all of them or just one or two that they have experienced in working with you. This is a good back up when someone isn’t comfortable writing a Recommendation, but still wants to add to your credibility in certain areas of the work you do.
6) Edit Your Website Links
Those three links that are provided to your ‘websites’ can be better used as SEO tools. They are editable, so don’t just leave them as the default ‘website link’. Change them to direct visitors to your website, your blog and any other locations on the Internet that will help build your credibility. Mine are set to link to my website, my blog and the archive of my e-newsletter.
Treat your LinkedIn profile as you would your website, paying close attention to SEO and keywords. LinkedIn is one huge database you can exploit to your advantage through the ‘search’ and ‘advanced search’ features. Use the same keywords in each section of your profile that you would expect visitors to use when looking for your web site. Take the time to insert these actions into your marketing strategy today.
How about you, what tips can you add for leveraging LinkedIn? Share your ideas below.
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Some time ago, I read a posting in the Successful and Outstanding Blog(gers) blog that really impressed me. It impressed me enough to bookmark it in my laptop to review from time to time. The post was written by Liz Strauss, a well-known business strategist. Liz related the story of a businessman who owned businesses in the fields of newspapers, magazines and books. She was hired to develop strategy to turn the book business around and refocus it on success.
Several months into her assignment, one of those great ‘Ah-ha!’ moments occured. She reminded the owner that while his three businesses are similar, they are clearly not exactly the same and needed different approaches in strategy to be successful. What makes one company successful will not necessarily work for other businesses, regardless of any similarities. Any differences, minor or enormous, need to be addressed.
It was simply a matter of her pointing out that the life spans for each of the three media formats are quite different. Newspapers, magazines and books have very different life spans. Once she pointed out this basic element, the distinct differences became very clear. At that same moment, Liz realized the owner really didn’t understand what business he was in.
Too often, small business owners are so engrossed in their ‘forest’ that they are unable to see their ‘trees’. They are wrapped up in day to day business operations, trying to keep all the necessary balls in the air and putting out fires along the way. In the midst of all this, they fail to do timely reality checks to assure they remain focused, on track and doing everything necessary to move forward toward profitability and successfully. Knowing what business you are in and how you plan to strategically manage and market it should be at the very top of your list of reality checks.
Block off some time in your schedule right now to review the basics of your business. Put your organization under a microscope, then take another look from about 35,000 feet. What business you are really in? What products and services do you really provide for your customers? Review your vision and mission. Are you on track to achieve them? Step back and take a good look at your company culture. Does it match the needs of your business, your customers, your vision and mission? Without these reality checks from time to time, your business can go into a major tailspin in the blink of an eye. Keep your focus on the business you are really in and the customers you really serve.
What ‘Ah-ha’ moments have you had about your company that put you back on track and focused on success? Please share those moments below…
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As strange as it might sound to someone starting a new business, the beginning is when you need to plan for the end. OK, you might be thinking: ‘What is this dim-wit talking about? I want to know what to do today, tomorrow, next week and next month to get my newbusiness off the ground. I’ll worry about the end part later – much later.’ There is no time like the present to get to work on your succession and exit planning — before you need them. Developing key management concepts in the midst of a leadership crisis is definitely not the way to go.
The reality is that everything you do, every step you take in starting and growing a business should be based on where you want to be at the end. Your exit strategy and the succession plan that will make for a smooth transition and your successful exit possible shouldn’t be put off until the last minute. How will the company continue running strong with you, the founder or primary leader, out of the picture? What value will the firm have if you are no longer in the picture?
As the business grows, taking on its planned organizational structure, employees will be added to take on added responsibilities that come with growth. Success will bring growth to your customer base and revenues, introduce new products and services that provide for new market segments, and perhaps even increase the number of company facilities.
With your leadership skills focused on day-to-day matters that come with a successfully expanding business, it is easy to foget that no one is invincible or irreplaceable. Personal situations can change in a flash as drastic accidents, family or health issues arise. Any of these can pull a leader away on very short notice.
Having a succession plan in place can make such transitions less of a shock to the fiber of your organization. It involves identifying an appropriate successor, bringing her on-board far enough in advance for training and development necessary to take over the firm’s administration. Usually, the more history a successor candidate has with the company, the easier the transition phase. There are several key steps to take in developing your succession plan:
- Your Company/Industry Situation: Review the status of your company and industry today. But, also consider changes that might occur in the future and effects they might have. Based on this research process, develop a plan that includes the following phases.
- Search for Candidates: Successors can come from several sources: internal employee pool, external pool of others within your industry, and external pool of others outside your industry.
- Select & Develop the Right Candidate: Invest in training the ‘heir apparent’ to strengthen weak or missing areas of expertise necessary for them to take over the leadership role.
- The Transition: Managing the transition between leaders will be different for each company based on its unique situation.
While many companies manage to forge onward during a short term absence of key leaders, the longer your absence, the less likely your firm will successfully stay on track without a formalized succession plan. If you have left this important part of your planning on the back burner far too long, it’s time — NOW– to pull it out and get to work.
Planning for the success of your business when you are no longer there is crucial. Get to it! Put your company in a position to successfully pass the baton when it becomes necessary.