Getting down to business
No matter what stage a business is in, there is always room for improvement, hence your reading a business news site at this very moment. You’re looking for ways to gain a competitive advantage and earn fiercely loyal customers that will last a lifetime and spread your brand message.
Below, Libby Gill offers seven business tips based on her experience as the former head of communications and public relations for Sony, Universal, and Turner Broadcasting and her current role as CEO of Libby Gill & Company, an executive coaching and consulting firm.
The era of shameless hype
TIP #1 It’s not hype: every business – and business owner – needs a clearly defined brand.
Even in this era of shameless hype, some business owners still debate whether it’s worth spending the time to craft a well-defined brand. Why, they wonder, if they consistently offer great value to their customers and clients, do they need to go to all that trouble and expense? If they do a good job, won’t people find them?
As much as we’d like to think our prospects will simply discover our products and services, they truth is they have lots of options – and most of them are just one click away. It’s essential that you build a brand that artfully articulates your value across multiple platforms, like your website and marketing materials. If you don’t strategically create the brand you want your customers to remember, you run the risk that the world will simply assign a brand to you. Your brand is your destiny and if you fail to define, refine and manage it, you do so at your peril.
Make it sticky
TIP #2 Names are important, choose carefully.
Even if your business already has a name, you may need to name a project, workshop, team, blog, book, or just about anything else. Some things to keep in mind when attempting to choose a name that will stand the test of time include the following. Clearly sum up the value proposition of your business in your name, like Freelancers Insurance Company. Make your name “sticky,” that is catchy and memorable like Virgin Airlines or Zappos.com (a play on the Spanish word for shoes, zapatos). Keep your name as short and concise as possible, and make sure that it works in print on your website or letterhead as well as it does when spoken.
Crafting your brand’s promise
TIP #3 Take the time to hone your brand promise.
Learning to appropriately – and gracefully – articulate the value you offer clients and customers is nothing short of an art form. But if they don’t recognize what you bring to the table, you put your business at risk. It’s worth taking the time to craft a brand promise (also called an elevator pitch or value proposition) that explains what you do, how you do it, and for whom you do what you do. Here’s an example of what I mean, followed by a simple formula you can use to hone your brand promise:
Libby Gill helps organizations like ABC-Disney, eBay, and Wells Fargo,
create cultures of bold leadership that consistently deliver on their brand promise.
(Your name) helps (your core customer) learn / create / build (outcome).
Throw in a little bit of science
TIP #4 Engage your customers in a multi-sensory brand experience.
Scientific research shows that brands that engage multiple senses create a richer customer experience than those that don’t. There’s a reason that Starbucks – with its familiar green logo, smells, tastes, and even sounds – makes an emotional connection with its customers the minute they walk in the door. While not every business can take advantage of all the senses, consider the look, feel, sound, sights and smells of your brand rather than just picking a color and calling it a day.
Encourage collaboration and creativity
TIP #5 Maximize your physical space for greater effectiveness and engagement.
Whether your business functions with cubicles or corner offices, it’s important to consider how the environment you create affects both customers and employees. Studies show that most workers are involved in “head down” endeavors for approximately half the workday, so be sure to provide plenty of task light, privacy, and white noise. Alternatively, you should provide shared spaces that allow for different uses including large group meetings, project or team tasks, and small conferences. Casual spaces such as cafes, lounges, and even game rooms – far from being a luxury – can foster camaraderie in a relaxed setting that encourages collaboration and creativity.
Beware of invisible competitors
TIP #6 Competition comes in a variety of forms.
While most business owners recognize direct competition – that is, those companies offering products and services that feel a similar need as theirs – they frequently underestimate the indirect competition and completely overlook the invisible competition. While direct competition to McDonald’s would include Burger King or Arby’s, indirect competitors could include everything from cooking at home to going on a fast food-free diet. Invisible competitors are, by their very nature, the most difficult ones to spot.
These are the competitors that don’t look or feel like competition, and may not be obvious at first glance, but still interfere with the prospect wanting to buy from you. They can include: customer fear where a prospect gets cold feet or is continually distracted; new challengers who pop up ready to poach your customers; and, worst of all, fading customer relevance. The best way to combat the competition is to stay customer-focused, service-driven, and improvement-oriented. In other words, never rest on your laurels.
Know who controls the purse strings
TIP #7 Don’t underestimate the power of the mom consumers and Millennials.
Moms make or influence more than 80% of buying decisions. And college-aged Millennials, despite their youth, currently have a combined $40 million in discretionary income up for grabs. Significantly, Moms and Millennials are most loyal to companies that support one cause for the long term. They want to see the impact – right down to the specific actions – an organization has made to help solve a social or environmental problem. If you are ignoring the power of these technologically savvy and uber-connected groups, you’re missing the two biggest segments of decision-makers and influencers out there.