Archive for 'example'

Branding: Differentiate or Die

By Derrick Daye on Sprint

What has changed in business over recent decades is the amazing proliferation of product choices in just about every category.

It’s been estimated that there are 1,000,000 SKU’s (Standard Stocking Units) out there in America. An average supermarket has 40,000 SKU’s. Now for the stunner: An average family gets 80% to 85% of their needs from 150 SKU’s. That means there’s a good chance they’ll ignore 39,850 items in that store.

The dictionary defines “tyranny” as absolute power that often is harsh or cruel. So it is with choice. With the enormous competition, markets today are driven by choice. The customer has so many good alternatives that you pay dearly for your mistakes. Your competitors get your business, and you don’t get it back very easily. Companies that don’t understand this will not survive. (Now that’s cruel.)

Just look at some of the names on the headstones in the brand graveyard: American Motors, Burger Chef, Carte Blanc, Eastern Airlines, Gainesburgers, Gimbels, Hathaway Shirts, Horn & Hardart, Mr. Salty Pretzels, Philco, Trump Shuttle, VisiCalc, Woolworth’s.

And this is only a short list of names that are no longer with us.

In this global killer economy you have to find a way to differentiate yourself–or have very low prices. To do this, here are the steps you must follow:

Step One: The Context

Arguments are never made in a vacuum. There are always surrounding competitors trying to make arguments of their own. Your message has to make sense in the context of the category. It has to start with what the marketplace has heard and registered from your competition.

The context also includes what’s happening in the market. Is the timing for your idea right?

Nordstrom’s differentiating idea of “better service” played perfectly into the context of a department store world that was reducing its people and service as a way to cut costs.

Lotus launched the first successful network on “groupware software” called Notes just as corporate America was networking its PC’s. IBM ended up buying Lotus and Notes for $3.5 billion.

It’s like riding a wave. If you’re too early or late, you’ll go nowhere. Catch it just right and you’ll get a long and profitable ride for your difference.

Step Two: The Differentiating Idea

To be different is to be not the same. To be unique is to be one of a kind.

So you’re looking for something that separates you from your competitors. The secret is understanding that your different-ness does not have to be product related.

Consider a horse. Yes, horses are quickly differentiated by their type. There are race horses, jumpers, ranch horses, wild horses and on and on. But in racehorses, you can differentiate them by breeding, by performance, by stable, by trainer and on and on.

A product or service can be differentiated by feature, leadership, preference, heritage, specialty, how it’s made and on and on. (I wrote a book on this subject if you want more ways to differentiate your brand.)

Step Three: The Credentials

To build a logical argument for your difference, you must have the credentials to support your differentiating idea. This will make it real and believable.

If you have a product difference, then you should be able to demonstrate that difference. The demonstration, in turn, becomes your credentials. If you have a leak-proof valve, then you should be able to have a direct comparison with valves that can leak.

Claims of difference without proof are really just claims. For example, a “wide-track” General Motors’ Pontiac must be wider than other cars. British Air as the “world’s favorite airline” should fly more people than any other airline. Coca-Cola as the “real thing” has to have invented colas. When it’s “Hertz and not exactly,” there should be some unique services that the others don’t offer.

You can’t differentiate with smoke and mirrors. Consumers are skeptical. They’re thinking, “Oh yeah, Mr. Advertiser? Prove it!” You must be able to support your argument.

Step Four: Communicate Your Difference

Just as you can’t keep your light under a basket, you can’t keep your difference under wraps.

If you build a differentiated product, the world will not automatically beat a path to your door. Better products don’t win. Better perceptions tend to be the winners. Truth will not win out unless it has some help along the way.

Every aspect of your communications should reflect your difference. Your advertising. Your brochures. Your Web site. Your sales presentations.

In marketing, the rich often get richer because they have the resources to drive their ideas into the mind. Their problem is separating the good ideas from the bad ones, and avoiding spending money on too many products and too many programs.

Unfortunately, without the proper resources, even the best differentiating idea won’t get off the ground. Look what happened to AT&T in recent years. They failed to differentiate themselves from Sprint Nextel and MCI. The result: A price war that ended in the ignomy of being bought by a Baby Bell.

As I said, differentiate or die.

The Essence of Duct Tape Marketing

By GuyKawasaki

Duct Tape Marketing_ The World_s Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide_ John Jantsch.jpg

Duct tape (the tape) is simple, effective, and affordable—it’s not always the prettiest solution, but it does always work. The central theme of Duct Tape Marketing: The World’s Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide by John Jantsch is that effective small business marketing is a system—not an event—composed of simple, effective, and affordable techniques.

When you combine that with the cult-like obsession many people have for all things duct tape you also get a pretty good example of how something simple like the right name can do a great deal for a company, product, service, or book. I asked John to distill his marketing ideas to a top-ten list, and here is what he provided:

  1. Narrow the market focus. Create a picture of the ideal client: what they look like, how they think, what they value, and where you can find them. Start saying no to non-ideal clients.

  2. Differentiate. Strip everything you know about your product or service down to the simplest core idea. Make sure that the core idea allows you stand out.

  3. Think about strategy first. Take everything you’ve done in steps one and two and create a strategy to own a word or two in the mind of your ideal client and prospect.

  4. Create information that educates. You are in the information business, so think of your marketing materials, web sites, white papers, marketing kits as information products, not “sales” propoganda.

  5. Package the experience. Put visual elements around every aspect of the marketing strategy that you adopt. Use design to evoke the appropriate emotional response from your ideal prospect.

  6. Generate leads from many points. People learn in different ways. Your lead generation efforts must allow your prospects to experience your firm from many different angles and views.

  7. Nurture leads along the logical buying path. There’s a natural way for your prospects to come to the conclusion that you have what they need. Build the lead conversion system for before, during, and after the sale.

  8. Measure everything that matters. Certain things always matter. The secret sauce is in finding and measuring the intangibles – those things down on the shop floor that eventually add up to profit.

  9. Automate for leverage. Embrace the Internet or else. Create access, stimulate community, capture innovation, and build knowledge to automate the basic delivery elements of your information business.

  10. Commit. Resist the temptation of the marketing idea of the week. Create daily, weekly, monthly, and annual marketing calendars, make marketing your new habit, and find the money to stick with the plan.

What's Happened to Effective Writing?

There are several poorly written articles circling the bowl on a daily basis, and this may end up being yet another one, but it’s alarming to me that professional journalists consistently botch spelling and grammar. It used to be newspapers, magazines, and books served as an example of the proper use of punctuation, word groupings, grammar, and synonyms. Not anymore.

On any given day, I challenge you to count the number of typos or grammatical miscues in your local fish wrap. In the past, you’d be lucky to find one per month. Nowadays, you’d be lucky NOT to find one per section. Online versions are even worse, but that is likely due to the push to get more and more content live and the desire to make the online versions more “free flowing.”

That said, is it too much to ask of someone paid to write for a living to pay attention to the squiggly lines in the word processor? Those lines are trying to tell you something! At least pay them some lip service, and double check your work before you submit it to an editor. Speaking of an editor, what are these people responsible for now? In the old days, they served as quality control, but today they seem to be more interested in cranking out material to meet or beat a deadline. Quality doesn’t seem to matter anymore and we, the public, don’t seem to care because we still read the stuff even if it is sub par without complaining loud enough for anyone to hear us.

Another reason sub par material may have become acceptable is the big business management approach of the major literary outlets. When larger companies attempt to manage numerous resources by stretching everyone thin in the interest of “productivity,” things naturally slip through the cracks. I run a small business so if a larger firm came to me and offered to buy me out for a nice chunk of change, I’d have to listen. It would be nice if there weren’t so many mergers and spin-offs of media companies, but that is the world we live in today.

You regularly hear phrases such as instant gratification, microwave society, what have you done for me lately, etc. when describing the order of the day. They all apply, but are we in such a hurry that we can’t take a little more pride in the work we produce? I would hope the majority of people would be embarrassed by producing a widely viewed article or literary piece peppered with poor grammar and/or spelling errors. The good old days of looking to print media as an example to follow are long gone, but I wish they’d return at least in this aspect. Am I asking for too much?

Who Do You Think You ARE Anyway?

In order to write a vision for your business, the first step is identifying who you really are and what is important to you.

Not what you DO or have been doing, but who you ARE.

You may be doing things that are really not in alignment with what is important to you in your business. It’s critical to identify any of those discrepancies to redirect your efforts toward a successful venture.

List all the things that you don’t want to see in your business. A great way to do this is to create two columns and make the list of your “don’t wants” on the left and in the right column list what it is that you do want. This is sometimes referred to as the “T exercise” because of the T created by the columns.

It’s easier to identify what is important to you if you think of what it is that you don’t want first. We just seem to come to better choices that way. The important thing is to identify quickly what you do want without putting too much emphasis on the negative.

Areas to consider in this business analysis sound very much like ones you would include in a newspaper article: Who, What, What, Where, Why and How!

What products or services are planned? What image is important to you? What is your role as the owner? With all of these questions, first write what you don’t want to have and then write the reverse to clearly identify your desires.

Next, you need to consider the location, the Where. What is the location of the business? Where do the customers come from? Where will various parts of your business be located?

The next W is the Who. You need to determine whom you don’t want as customers and then clearly define who your ideal customers would be. Other considerations in this category are possible strategic alliance partners, and advisors who could be a support to your business growth.

Timing of your startup including completion of necessary facilities and systems is the “When” of the equation. A difficult area for many businesses is determining when it is the right time for expansion and delegation of responsibilities to allow for growth. The challenge is to do this without overextending their financial resources.

Probably the very most important category for consideration is the Why. Why are you creating the business? Just as important is the question of why your customers will buy what you are selling.

The How plays a key role in the climate of the business. How do you envision your interactions with employees, suppliers, and customers?

Taking all these categories through the process of writing what you don’t want to see in your business and turning them around to the clear choice of what you do want will bring you to a list of desired characteristics. From this you can pull together a summary and then condense it into just a statement.

An example of a vision statement might be, “Within the next five years grow Widgets International into a $5 million international widget company providing custom-made widgets of excellent quality to makers of patio furniture.” You can choose this simple format or one that is worded more in your writing style.

With the vision statement, you have a clear description of what you see your business doing in five years. You could also write this for a shorter or longer time frame.

All of the steps you worked through in this process will help you as you develop the rest of your business plan.

Your next step is to create a mission statement. The mission statement gets into more of the implementation of the vision you see. It is broad and then is broken down into the necessary goals, strategies, and plans to carry out the mission statement.

Step by step you are refining what you really envision in your business. You can start to answer that question, “Who Do You Think You ARE Anyway?”

Exuberant Productivity Coach, Suzanne Holman, MAEd, works with financial service professionals, realtors, and self-employed professionals determined to make every hour they work truly productive so they have quality time and abundant energy for fun and family!

For a FREE Exuberance Assessment and tips for increasing your productivity and having a more satisfying life, visit Exuberant Productivity.com

The 10 New Rules of Branding

By Derrick Daye on Walmart

1) Brands that influence culture sell more; culture is the new catalyst for growth.
Look at Google. They are changing the way we behave online. Nike is a brand that has become a part of all culture. If you get into that split screen, you become part of the lexicon of life.

2) A brand with no point of view has no point; full-flavor branding is in, vanilla is out.
Love or hate Fox News, you know where it stands on issues. And Ben & Jerry’s is more than just ice cream; it’s a company that stands for a cause. Younger consumers have grown up in a consumer world. They’re flexing their muscle, and they want their brands to stand for something.

3) Today’s consumer is leading from the front; this is the smartest generation to have ever walked the planet.
Today’s consumers are more discriminating and more experimental. They have very strong opinions on brands, and a lot of brands are getting consumers involved. Take Converse and the Converse Gallery, where consumers can make a 24-second film that will run on their site. It’s consumer-generated creativity and a natural savviness.

4) Customize wherever and whenever you can; customization is tomorrow’s killer whale.
The second advent of the Internet has consumers wanting something all their own. Consumers say, ‘I need something that is mine, not mass-produced for everybody.’ The best example is Apple’s iTunes Website. Instead of buying a CD, consumers are buying the tracks they want and putting them on their iPods. Look at Starbucks, which creates whatever beverage a consumer wants, and Nike, which allows you to design a shoe online.

5) Forget the transaction, just give me an experience; the mandate is simple: Wow them every day, every way.
Apple and Coach found that the best way to give consumers a brand experience wasn’t just to sell product in store but to control the entire experience. This is why they build stores in major cities. Looking for the other brands to soon be involved in the ‘experience.’

6) Deliver clarity at point of purchase; be obsessive about presentation.
There’s an “option overload” in the supermarket aisles, and anything that simplifies that for consumers is welcome. If I’m a consumer and I stand in front of a shelf, I see a wall of product. Brands are beginning to recognize that you have to be clear about what they are selling at the point of purchase.

7) You are only as good as your weakest link; do you know where you’re vulnerable?
Today’s younger consumers show zero tolerance when a brand makes a mistake. If a Website isn’t good enough, they will ignore your brand, and if you get negative PR about something, it will stick no matter what you do to rectify it. Brands like Wal-Mart and Nike are still connected to negative PR about alleged abuse of foreign workers.

8) Social responsibility is no longer an option; what’s your cause, what’s your contribution?
Consumers now expect corporations to get involved in cause marketing. Businesses are doing a better job at getting behind causes, for example, Timberland (“Take a stand against genocide”), Target (“Every day Target gives back to the community”), eBay (its Giving Works program, for starters), and GE (which this year launched its Citizenship Report, an annual report of sorts regarding the company’s environmental and safety initiatives). Not all businesses promote these efforts, however, because they’re worried their efforts will be seen as commercial.

9) Pulse, pace, and passion really make a difference; had your heartbeat checked recently?
We’re in a crazy world. We keep piling more devices upon us. The more you have, the more you need. If your business does not have a high metabolic rate, you’re not going to survive. Companies like Google move fast, and that means the older, slower companies are doomed.

10) Innovation is the new boardroom favorite.
Brands are inspired by Apple more than anyone else. They transformed the music business, and people are taking what they did seriously. Procter & Gamble and GE are driving this and have made innovation the core of their corporate strategy.

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