How to make a brand powerful


I noticed a clever piece of branding yesterday on Twitter. It was incredibly subtle (the best marketing always is) and this company took advantage of Valentine’s Day to send a message of love (with a little present attached) to its clients without having to say who it was from. In this case the recipient would have immediately known who sent it because of the brand. There was no logo or name to latch onto, just the design of the card in that distinctive style that could be nobody else.

Now anybody who truly knows what a brand is will know that the design is not the be-all-and-end-all, it is also the ‘baggage’ that comes with it. Certainly this particular exercise would have backfired if this brand hadn’t worked on its reputation. It is also through hard-earned relationship-building with its clients that enabled this company to make a difference, as well as a consistent message of quality, added value, desirability, trust, knowledge and experience that is necessary to build a powerful brand.

A brand should reflect the culture of a business. Customer perception is formed after developing a relationship with the company, through purchasing their product or using their service, being a supplier, attending a workshop, offline networking, hearing recommendations and WOM, reading their blog or newsletter, and communicating with them through other media, such as social networking. There the customer will learn more about the company and the people who work in it, their values, aspirations and how they connect within the business world and their industry. The more sociable and approachable the company is, the more likely the brand will develop into an ever-lasting concept that ‘sticks’ in their minds.

And it is the ‘after-care’ that is so important to enhance the perpetuity of a powerful brand. The client should leave with a glowing feeling of achievement, excellent customer service, satisfied requirements, a sense of good value, and an affinity and liking for the company and what it provides and stands for. This is also an area where the company needs to work just as hard as gaining the customer, as advocacy is a powerful and strong marketing method that should be cultivated and appreciated with an appropriate sense of attainment.


How important are your competitors?


All businesses, whether large or small, should always be aware of their competitors.

But this doesn’t mean you should be frightened of them, or even ignore them. Competitor awareness should become part of your marketing strategies, to analyse what they are selling, what processes they have in place – even down to what suppliers they are using and their distribution methods.

Of course it wouldn’t be wise to exactly copy your competitors or you might have a law suit on your hands. It is your company’s differences that make dealing with competitors exciting, worthwhile, innovative and forward-looking.

So it boils down to each of your USPs (unique selling points). What is it that makes you different? Are your differences more productive and profitable, provide a better service for your customers, more efficient and therefore cost-worthy? Do you occupy a better share in the market and have better visibility where your customers ‘hang out’?

As well as examining your customer services and processes, what added value can you provide? It is usually the little things (for you) that make a big difference (for your customers) that can tip the balance. It has been likened that promotional freebies can stimulate a similar desirable experience as to sex, and we all know how much sex sells!

So going back to basics, incorporate competitor awareness and analysis into your earliest objectives and strategy making, and be mindful of your marketing message and how it compares and contrasts with your competitors.  Examine any gaps in the market, and with your knowledge of your competitors’ activities, either steal a march and get in there first, or understand their methodology and adapt your business to capture the customers they might miss, or work alongside to effectively and efficiently use the same target market within each of your capabilities.

It is that last concept of competitor awareness that can possibly help your business to grow. Sometime in the future there may be a possibility of a merger, but until then encouraging good relations with your competitors could benefit in ideas and considerations that could be good for all concerned – whereas waging war could be detrimental, expensive and even unprofitable.

“Not all bounces are bad”


This title is derived from a quote from Cat Young of Solve the Web, who kindly came to the Appletree offices last week to give us a quick tour of Google Analytics. And it was her statement “not all bounces are bad” that stuck the most in my mind.

Let me explain what a bounce is.  It is the action of website visitors who don’t continue further from their entrance page to another page on the website, resulting in leaving the website altogether. This action is recorded as a bounce by Google Analytics, and there is a general consensus that bounces are not a good thing.

But visitors have many reasons for looking at a website. The fact that they leave the website immediately from the same page, sometimes within a few seconds, doesn’t necessarily mean it was the wrong one. Obviously if Google Analytics shows they spent 0 seconds on the site, it was probably more likely to be an errant visit, but consider how long does it take to look up a telephone number, check on an email address, or find out the URL of a blog? This is particularly relevant if all this information is immediately available on the entrance (or landing) page.

Apparently it doesn’t matter how long a visitor spends on that page, 1 second or 1 hour, if they leave the website without venturing to another page it is classified as a bounce. This also means that ‘squeeze pages’ (specially formulated landing pages) for email campaigns and other internet marketing activities are destined to only show up as bounces on Google Analytics. These webpages are especially designed not to contain irrelevant links to elsewhere in case they distract the visitor’s concentration to its purpose. Their main function is to create a conversion: get the visitor to buy something, sign up to an event, or download a file.

Therefore you can see why bounces aren’t all bad, sometimes they are inevitable. If your website is purely for reference purposes, a source of relevant information about your company or your industry, and your webpages are beautifully designed to provide that information easily, effectively and immediately, your extremely grateful visitor will only reward you with a bounce.

Here’s something for you to think about: how do I stop visitors from bouncing? How do I rearrange my navigation on the landing page (which might not necessarily be the index page) to encourage visitors to venture further into the website? What added value to I provide my visitors to encourage this? Would they be adequately satisfied for being diverted from becoming bounces? Are all bounces bad anyway?

What makes you different?


On 1 September 2010 we took over running Ladies That Lunch … And Men Too.  This networking group has been running for about 7 years and I was a member when it first started. We’re now looking to grow the business, opening new venues and increasing the membership. To do this we need to know what makes this networking group different from others and what we can do to make stand out.

Here are some of things we’re looking at:

  1. The venues – what makes our venues better than others? What level of service do they offer? What’s the atmosphere like?
  2. The website – is it easy to use? What value does it add to membership?
  3. The networking lunches – what’s on the menu? How many people attend each meeting?
  4. The added value – what else can we offer our members? We’re looking at running workshops and asking our members what else they want

You can translate this into questions to ask yourself about your own business and what makes it different from your competitors.

  1. What does your office/location say about your business?
  2. Does your website deliver the right message?
  3. Does your service actually provide what your customers want?
  4. What value do you add?

When we’ve answered these questions, we’ll let you know! If you’re a member of LTL you might notice some improvements. In the meantime, think about what makes your business different from your competitors and then tell the world about it.

What’s added value in marketing?


In one of the questions I answered in LinkedIn, one responder asked me what I meant by added value. He thought it referred to the difference between the cost price and the manufactured price of a product. It may do, but when you use the term added value in marketing it takes on a different meaning – also nothing to do with Value Added Tax and other hideous things like that…

Added value in marketing is simply something you can give to your customers that is of high value to them, but of low cost to you. It appears as a complimentary additional advantage, an enhancing of your product or service by giving the customer what they really want or are looking for, something that improves its performance or makes it look nicer (such as professional looking packaging or a slick presentation).

It can be as simple as offering advice on how to use a product more effectively, suggestions for alternatives uses, complimentary accessories they cannot do without, or discounts for return custom or referral to another customer. It can even take the form of quality assurance: reliable delivery from a trustworthy company, complete with a courteous driver, and a telephone call to say when they will arrive at a convenient time.

The idea is that the customer perceives the increased worth of what you are offering them, in the guise of excellent customer service or quality of your product’s features, all of which goes towards gaining customer loyalty and repeated business. This all depends greatly on undertaking relevant and effective marketing research to find out what your customers really want and what will make a difference to them.

This customer perception of exclusivity ensures that added value makes your company different from your competitors, especially when you can offer guarantees to gain customer confidence and reduce buying resistance. Your added value will separate you from the pack, your business will instantly become more attractive, and if customers take the bait (in the form of a prize in exchange of their contact details), you will be able to influence them through further relevant marketing communications to offer them more products and services with more added value.

And if you thought one effort was enough, think again – capitalising on customers’ greed will mean constantly changing or improving on your added value, but it will be worth it!

How customer loyalty is preferred over satisfaction


If you make your customers happy, then they are satisfied; but that is not the same as loyalty. Loyalty requires working on these satisfied customers, giving them excellent, high quality service, forming a relationship with them to find out exactly want they want, how it can be delivered to them in the best possible manner, and consistently providing your service that exceeds their needs.

It’s a bit like marketing and sales. Sales will make your customers (and business) immediately happy, and therefore satisfied; marketing works on a higher level, and helps maintain that satisfaction to transform it into loyalty, a long-term process that assesses how to provide added value, nurturing customer relationships to supply an excellent experience, pre-empting their needs and desires in advance or making the solutions to their problems available whenever required.

Of course it’s much easier to maintain loyal customers than to get new, satisfied ones. It’s that 80/20 rule, 80% of your business will come from 20% of your customer base, the loyal ones. Provide 80% of your business to everyone, but retain the most valuable 20% for your most loyal customers, to make them feel special and to engage with them on their particular level.

Work with that top notch customer criteria, satisfy them to the utmost level, and they will transform even higher to become raving fans. Then you know you’ve cracked it, as they will become your branding ambassadors, spreading the word about your business and what it provides to an even wider audience.

So what does your business provide for your loyal customers? What added extras do you deliver to maintain a relationship with your most valued customers to keep them in tip-top condition and consistently returning for more?  What’s the best possible customer experience you can offer that sets you apart from your competitors, goes way over the top in delivering that experience, and treats them like royalty in return for their loyalty?