This is a new blog taking over for the previous one by John McMahon. I will be commenting mostly on Art & Design. I recently came across an excellent article on Brand Strategy by Julie Rains which I am reposting here. I hope you find it useful.
A few months ago, a promising independently-run business shut its doors within a couple of years of startup. Though I enjoyed its product offerings, I had a hunch that it would not survive, not because of operational mismanagement or sloppy customer service but lack of a well-defined and relentlessly-communicated personality or brand.Though some happily embrace and effectively use branding to differentiate their businesses, many entrepreneurs are unconvinced of its value. Some rationalize that branding is counterproductive to a small business, especially a tiny one.
Skeptics may think that narrowly defining a target audience and its ideal customer limits revenue and growth possibilities. Reluctant owners might wonder if spending time and allocating resources to developing and managing a branded presence detracts from profitability. However, conveying an image that is in sync with a viable brand strategy can not only help even the tiniest of companies but can be a major driver of its success. Branding touches and intersects with all aspects of a business: marketing, operations, sales and more. Consider how effective integration and consistent portrayal of a brand image can benefit your business. Your ideal customers will recognize that they are being wooed.
The small shop mentioned earlier aimed to please a variety of people, primarily those within a ten-mile radius. This seemed to represent an appropriate target audience, homogeneous on a superficial level. But their lifestyles and consuming habits were wildly divergent, increasing the difficulty of winning favor among various segments.
Nevertheless, in its seedling form, the brand held promise of reaching this audience with its similarities in demographics despite dissimilarities in consumer behavior. However, the branding concept was minimally developed and focused on product offerings and an occasional special event. Infrequent mentions of the brand message were contained in its website, in-store signage, social-media messaging and face-to-face conversations.
All aspects of the brand image should resonate with your target audience, letting them know how their quality of life could benefit from connecting with your business. Ideal customers should understand and want the emotional connection and tangible benefits that differentiates your company from competitors. Your customers will know what to expect from your products and services. The types of products and services offered, along with their respective price tags, are influenced by the brand strategy. In the case of the failed small business, the primary message was generally consistent in terms of purchasing; that is, items procured for the business roughly matched brand criteria.
The message that needed more clarity, however, was how these disparate items were part of a more cohesive whole from the customer’s point of view. Unless they evaluated the business premise and, frankly, stretched their imaginations, most would not see the connections among boutique-style offerings and seemingly basic items and folksy product lines. More intentional messaging with greater frequency could have better portrayed the brand image and helped endear the customer to the business and its unusual assortment of offerings.
Customers will know who to tell and what to say about your business. Customers spread the word about the tiny business, telling others about its presence and encouraging visits. But, other than espousing the convenience of its location, they really didn’t know what unique benefits to promote or what points of distinction to emphasize. Initial interest was high, but then traffic seemed to flounder.
Given a clear brand message, both newly enchanted and long-time customers will know who to tell about your business and what they should say. They will intuitively insert the salient features and benefits of your products and services in conversations with friends, family members, professional colleagues, etc.
You will know what to say in social-media and face-to-face conversations. The shop owner shared information that was useful but not relevant to the ideal customer. Over time, social-media messages, marketing campaigns, and face-to-face conversations became more and more disassociated from the original brand image. Promotional efforts and conversations began to resemble those of area competitors, further eroding the possibility of brand loyalty.
Endless possibilities for engaging audiences, educating customers, promoting key products, and showcasing special events through social media and daily interactions can overwhelm many business owners. But a brand strategy can serve to shape and channel this content so that the image is accurately conveyed and continually reinforced.
You can charge prices that support business profitability. The lack of a narrowly-defined brand image caused price issues for the fledgling business. Pricing strategy seemed inconsistent as some items were bargains while others were marked up considerably. Worse, while some customers understood the benefits of premium products and unquestioningly paid store prices, many were confused about their value and were resistant to pricing.
Owners of the tiniest companies find that a properly expressed brand can not only reach target audiences, set expectations, and streamline business decision-making, but also help the business command desired pricing. Ideal customers understand, appreciate, and are willing to pay for unique expertise, specialized services, distinctive products, and one-of-a-kind experiences.
Julie Rains is a senior writer at Wise Bread, a leading personal finance community dedicated to helping people get the most out of their money. Get daily money tips by following Wise Bread on Facebook or Twitter.
Increasing sales is not just a matter of raising quotas, adding new products, changing commissions or redefining territories. Your staff needs to know how to close more of your prospects and how to penetrate your current accounts. Easier said than done? Not really.\ With effective sales training, selling becomes a procedure and closing sales is no longer a problem. By learning how to stay on a sequenced, logical path -- even through a long sales cycle -- the salesperson can take the presentation from initial contact to final closing in a manner that is comfortable and natural for the seller and the buyer. All customers, regardless of what they're buying or the industry they're in, have similar reasons for selecting one product/service over another. Understanding buying motives and controlling the decision-making process is the core of every presentation. It's so easy to lose a sale. The salesperson can ramble on aimlessly, the presentation is made to the wrong person or the buyer doesn't have the need. There are dozens of mistakes, or "sins," salespeople commit every day that cost you sales. These can be avoided and increased sales and profits are the result. Here are some of the most typical sins:
Sin #1: Talking too much, listening too little.
The typical salesperson walks into an office, gives the official two minute warm-up -- asking about the fish on the wall or the family photo on the desk -- then, like a high diver, leaps into a hot presentation about this feature and that feature, the options available, the price and the savings. There is no close. Most interviews are terminated by the prospect so they can get on with their life. Afterward, it's always the ex-prospects who are at fault for not understanding why they need the product or service. Knowing what questions to ask and how to ask them is the only way to find out if you're making a presentation to the person with the real need, the authority and money. If you're not presenting to the right person you're wasting your time and the prospect’s time. The salesperson needs to find out the facts and feelings of the prospect before a effective presentation can be made.
Sin #2: Selling the product, not the benefits.
When someone buys a drill bit, it's not the drill bit the customer wants, it's the hole. People buy to fill a need or solve a problem. No one is willing to pay for a product or service they don’t need or does not perform. Yet salespeople sell as if they will. Presentations continually focus on the width, height, weight, power, speed, buttons, bulbs or whatever of the product/service. It's just like selling cars with no gas, pens with no ink or computers with no software. The value just isn't there. A customer buys a computer for efficiency and profit, not for its whistles and bells. Whether they’re individuals or committees, people buy benefits, not features. Prospects have hidden buying motives. There are reasons why they select one brand over another, why one product/service seems to fill the need better.
Sin #3: Never asking for the order.
As a prominent study proved, more often than not, customers don't have to worry about a pressured close, because in 62 percent of the cases, the salesperson never asks for a sale. For most salespeople, selling is an uncomfortable experience because they don't know where to go in their presentations. They're afraid -- and rightfully so -- that with each sentence or gesture, they will destroy their chances of closing. So, like a voice activated tape recorder, they just go on and on, recharging their batteries until the tape runs out. If the customer doesn't volunteer to "buy," then they just don't "sell." Should the prospect hesitate when asked for the order, alternate ways to bring the sale to a successful close are made available. In this situation, the salesperson must elicit additional information, respond to objections and look for openings to successfully close the prospect. When prospects say "I would like to think it over,” “Your price is too high," “I want to shop around,” what they're really saying is,"You haven't convinced me to buy."
Sin #4: Pushing for the Close
Too often, the salesperson tries to "sell" rather than help the customer "buy." When the salesperson is ready the trick closes begin. These old closes and gimmicks are outdated and backfire more often than they work. The prospect has Fears, Uncertainties and Doubts about the decision to spend money, and when closed too soon, reacts negatively to being forced to make a decision. Pushing too hard means the salesperson is forcing the prospect to build a defensive wall that won't come down easily. Following the sequence of a well- given presentation means asking for the order will be at the right time. After the needs are understood by both the salesperson and the prospect, the benefits described and the fees discussed, then and only then is it appropriate to ask for the sale.
Sin #5: Wasting selling time.
Selling is a problem for most salespeople because they don't know how to spend their time profitably. Selling is prospecting, cold calling and obtaining leads. It is traveling to meet strange people, having to send emails and proposals, make phone calls and hand out brochures. It is doing the paperwork and servicing the client. Many salespeople look busy, but they're not closing sales. They suffer from lack of organization, and instead of using their time to be in front of qualified potential customers, they're spinning their wheels in unproductive work. There is only one way to insure you get to the close, and that's by having a logical sales procedure. When salespeople know what has to be accomplished next in the sales process, they waste less time and energy and close more sales. When they don't know what the customer decision making process is, they tend to go off in all directions and have little success. During every sale, the prospect has a defined, yet hidden agenda. If this is not adhered to closely, there usually will be no sale. This is why the salesperson should learn the buyer’s decision-making process.
Sin #6: Not identifying prospects from suspects.
There are many people who will listen to a sales presentation. It may make them feel important or help them fill their time. Whatever the reason, it doesn't help the salesperson get any nearer to the sale. In fact, it takes the salesperson further away from the sale because time has been wasted and the point-of-entry into a company has been mismanaged. Presenting to people who are not qualified is just that -- presenting. It is not selling. And a company or a salesperson can't make a profit by just presenting. Probably the greatest misuse of a salesperson's time is presenting to someone who doesn't have the need, the authority or the money. Professional salespeople know the frustration of trying to sell where there is no buyer. The salesperson must know how to properly qualify a prospect and determine if there is adequate reason to proceed with the sales process. Even if the initial contact is not with the decision-maker, the salesperson needs to take advantage of the opportunity to move up the decision-making ladder.
Sin #7: Making a sale, not a customer.
For many salespeople, just getting the sale is the only objective. To accomplish this end, they use whatever means are available -- assumptive closes, high pressure tactics, promises of extra incentives, threats of price increases or whatever other tricks are in the bag. Salespeople like this sometimes walk out with a sale, but they don't sign on customers. In fact, the customers may be so resentful of the pressure and tricks, they may rethink their commitments. Even if the order isn't canceled, these buyers will have no particular loyalty to your company, and likely will buy from your competitor the next chance they get. A professional salesperson is someone who helps a prospect satisfy a need. Everyone benefits from this. And most importantly, your company can count on the loyalty of a new client -- one that will return with repeat and increasing orders. Closing the sale is the beginning of a new relationship: serving the customer.
The author of "The Seven Deadly Sins of Selling is Roy Chitwood, the President of Max Sacks International, one of the world’s leading sales training organizations. Roy is located in Seattle, WA and can be reached at 800-488-4629 or email@example.com You can subscribe to his free "You're on Track" Tip of the Week by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bed bugs are back and they are voracious, after years of DDT treatments in the 50s they were under control but now they are biting there way coast to coast from suburban homes, to big city luxury hotels to Abercrombie stores in New York to office buildings In Minnesota.
What Are Bed Bugs?
The common bed bug, (Cimex Lectularius) has been a persistent nuisance pest throughout human history. Adult bed bugs are about ¼ inch long, with 6 legs, rusty brown color that feed on human blood, they do not carry diseases but these critters attach when you are a sleep and will give you the nastiest case of itchies like you can’t believe. The bites can turn into welts. Bed bugs are also amazingly hardy. They can survive a year without feeding, they can spread easily inside suit cases to inside desk draws.
The ways to deal with them
Inspect your bed for little blood spots, vacuum more regularly from carpets to sofas to suitcases, stop buying 2nd hand furniture. If you find you have bed bugs call a licensed exterminator and get at least 3 estimates. Extreme heat kills bed bugs. Throw bedding, clothing, sneakers, etc into a clothes dryer. If you can heat your house to over 120° that will kill them, but first remove things that would be adversely affected by extreme heat (i.e your vinyl record collection, bottles of wine, etc.) If that doesn’t work – move out, you will be glad you did.
In typical American fashion, bed bugs present several business opportunities including:
* Become a bed bug exterminator
* Bed bug inspector
* Become a dog trainer that specializes in training dogs that can detect bed bugs
* Sell bed bug exterminator kits
* Write a song about bed bugs and get it recorded and make royalties
* Hit the lecture circuit giving seminars on the all the ways to eliminate bed bugs
* Change your trial lawyer practice to representing all those people that have been bit by bed bugs with a class action law suits against hotel chains
* Become a bed bug lobbyist – go to Washington and lobby for a bed bug tax credit
* Become a bed bug psycho-therapist
* Sell bed bug insurance
* Go Wall Street and sell derivative contracts on bed bug infestations
* Write a book maybe "Bed Bugs for Dummies" or "How To Profit From Bed Bugs"
So there you go, so why not take advantage of the bed bug craze before someone else does? Bite back before the bed bugs bite you.
Odyssey Starts Global Partner Program to Deliver Their Interact Software
By Trupti Kamath
Odyssey Interactive Ltd, a profitable UK software company every year since it was founded in 1996 provides companies with enterprise Intranet solutions that streamlines business processes and promotes employee collaboration is expanding its partner program. Click here to read more
Is Your Facebook Profile Pulling Its Weight?
By Rebecca Appleton
Social media is about building ways for people to connect with each other and share information about the things they care about and Facebook tops the list of the most popular social media sites. Click here for Facebook tips
Is Branding Relevant in Today’s B2B Market?
By Norwin Merens
As companies struggle in a tough economy, it is time to re-evaluate their business methods to squeeze out a profit. Click here to read more
Rethinking Your Content Strategy
Compendium, LLC – a leading content software company that provides businesses with solutions to publish content for customer acquisition has just published a Whitepaper on driving more demand for your services with less effort. Click here for free download
Today’s Quotable Quote:
A person with a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds.
Today's Business Focus:
Should Advertising Agencies Be Called Advertising Agencies?
By Mike Carlton
click here to read the article.
Engineering & Computer Simulations (ECS) Named in Top 1,000 Company by Inc. Magazine
Click here to read article
Quote of the Day
"Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are."