Wednesday, September 20, 2017

10 Tips for Building Brand Loyalty

I’ve been with the same mobile provider for 20+ years; and I’ve used the same brand of soap for as long as I can remember. I guess it’s fair to say I’m a brand loyalist.

A recent article in Entrepreneur magazine addressed the issue of whether such brand loyalty is a dying trend. It cited statistics on both sides of the argument: According to a study from Retail Perceptions, millennials expect brands to earn their loyalty—and they rank product quality as more important than a brand name. Yet, a Facebook survey showed that 77% of consumers returned to the same brands over and over again.

Where do you fall between these two camps? How about your customers? Whether your business is selling pizzas or insurance policies, brand loyalty matters. We all want to attract and maintain our customers long term. Ultimately, that loyalty leads to increased profits. So, how do we drive that brand love when immediate access to competitor brand information is just a click away? Here’s a few ideas for attracting and keeping loyal customers:

1. Establish your brand identity. Know who you are—and then stick with it, using consistent messaging across all channels.

2. Make it personal. Develop messages that are tailored specifically to your target audience: That personal connection makes your customers feel like you are speaking directly to them, not to the masses.

According to an Infosys study, 86% of consumers surveyed said personalization plays a role in their purchasing decisions—and 73% said they preferred to do business with brands that use personal information to make their shopping experience more relevant.

3. Listen to your customers. Find out what they want or need—and then dig deeper: Why? How? Answering these important questions can help you better align your products/services/delivery methods to better meet customer needs and expectations. What’s more, we all like to be heard. Asking for feedback sends a clear message to your customers that their opinions matter.

4. Provide Raving Fan customer service. There’s a lot of competition out there touting better, faster, less expensive products/services, so exceed their expectations with standout customer service. Do the unexpected things that let your customers know you care: Make a follow-up phone call, send a personal email, share an article or video that aligns with their industry or interest, or surprise them with breakfast for their next staff meeting.

5. Prompt ongoing brand experiences. Keep your brand front of mind by making connections with your customers at various times during a transaction or program experience using blogs, emails, social media prompts, and more. In this age of immediate access, out of sight means out of mind, so keep your brand relevant with frequent, strategic touches.

6. Create Community. Engage with your customers and ask them to share photos of themselves at your event or using your products on social media—facebook, Instagram, twitter, Pinterest. Shared posts on these channels will start a conversation about your brand, and will also foster an emotional connection—think happy, exciting, motivating, inspirational, etc.

7. Innovate. Quality counts, as does innovative product/service offerings. By continuing to improve, evolve and introduce new products or solutions, your customers will associate your brand with what’s next.

8. Create a consistent experience. Give your customers the quality and the experience they have come to expect from your brand, every time. Example: I know I’m going to get the same bold cup of coffee from a new Starbucks location as I do when I visit my regular store—that consistency is expected.

9. Be transparent and honest. If there is a customer service issue, a product problem or a mistake, own it. Your customers will appreciate hearing directly from you, rather than through another source.

10. Recognize loyal customers.
Whether you offer points for transactions, reward service anniversaries, or simply connect with customers who have been with you for a while, it’s important to show existing customers that you appreciate their business. And, a customer loyalty effort is less expensive than spending marketing dollars on new-customer development.  

Do you have any tips that you’d add to this list for boosting brand loyalty? Please share your thoughts on our Facebook page

All the best,
Tim Connor

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Be a Top 5% Performer: Here’s How

Have you heard the expression, “Everything he/she touches turns to gold?” Has it left you wondering: What is their secret sauce? The truth is, successful people choose to be different: Top 5% performers think differently, act differently, see themselves differently, and spend their time differently than those who don’t achieve at that high level.

The successful outcomes of these top performers require setting goals; establishing a plan to achieve those goals; and holding themselves accountable to execute these strategies. Every success, in every market and industry, reinforces this Goal-Plan-Execute formula—it’s so simple, so basic.

So, why do so many people fall short? It’s their mindset: They are not choosing to focus on the right things, and then to follow the essential next steps.

This mindset ideology is not new thinking—it tracks with a favorite book of mine: The Strangest Secret in the World by Earl Nightingale. The book was written in 1956, so it’s outdated in terms of its view of gender in the workplace and other modern-day cues—but all these years later, Nightingale’s guiding principle remains the same: You are what you think about. And so, he suggests, that thinking in a relaxed and confident manner is the essential first step to enjoying success.

How do you build on that premise? How do you take that positive-thinking prompt and then incorporate the essential
Goal-Plan-Execute into your routine? Here’s a few ideas:

1. Focus your mind. Align your thoughts with positive outcomes: Envision your customer happy. Imagine positive referrals. Focus on your employees realizing a new level of success. When you hit a roadblock or hurdle, find the positive in the situation.
2. Define your brand advantage. Start with why: Ask yourself why you do what you do… What is the biggest value you deliver to your clients? Maybe you save them time or money. Simplify their operations. Provide essential expertise. Make them happy. Incorporate these into your brand messaging to confidently position yourself to succeed.
3. Make yourself indispensable: Elite industry experts understand and include the latest products/tools/trends in the solutions they provide customers. Never stop learning, never stop evolving.
4. Be unwavering: Set specific, attainable goals—write them down! Next, develop an actionable plan that spells out how you will achieve these goals.
5. Be deliberate in how you spend your time: Execute your plan with systems in place that hold yourself accountable.

Your success will largely be determined by how you choose to spend your time. If you allow yourself to get swallowed up with small tasks, such as constantly checking email, you are choosing not to focus your time on the big, higher impact tasks and projects that will help you achieve your goals. Write down the five most important things you need to accomplish this week or month, and do those things first!

Do you have any other ideas about ways to drive and maintain top performance? I’m always looking for feedback.

Bob DeGarmo, President

“One, you will become what you think about. Two, remember the word imagination. Let your mind soar. Three, courage. Concentrate on your goal every day. Four, save 10 percent of what you earn and action. Ideas are worthless unless we act on them.”  –Earl Nightingale, The Strangest Secret in the World

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Helping After Hurricane Harvey

After enjoying a relaxing holiday weekend in NE Ohio, we can’t help but reflect on all that we have to be thankful for—and to think about how we can help the people of Houston who are dealing with aftermath of Harvey. If you haven’t yet donated, or if you’d like to give to a national relief organization as Hurricane Irma is gaining speed and taking aim at Florida, the article below is an excellent resource.

This article from The New York Times, reprinted in its entirety, provides information about various relief organizations, charities—and how you can make donations safely.

Where to Donate to Harvey Victims (and How to Avoid Scams)
By Christina Caron Aug. 28, 2017

A temporary shelter set up at the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston.
Credit Alyssa Schukar for The New York Times

If you have any additional resources that you know of that are not mentioned, please share with us on our Facebook page.

All the best,
Tim Connor

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Creative Ideas For Better Brainstorming

We’ve all been there: The brainstorming session that ends with your team staring at words and phrases strewn across a whiteboard—but with no definitive theme, messaging or outcome. This is where creative reinforcement is required.

In a recent blog on MarketingProfs, Sandra Stewart answers the call with five creativity boosters that are pure genius. What’s great about these five tools or exercises is that they can be used to generate greater productivity out of both marketing and business brainstorming sessions—you’ll find yourself using them in other meetings and scenarios where outside-the-box thinking is required. Here is a summary of her ideas for better brainstorming:

1. The Take Away. Less is more when it comes to communicating with authority and clarity. This prompt encourages your team to strip it down and avoid cluttering the message with excessive words and phrases. Her example:

“Say you're developing messaging for a new product, and you have a list of 12 key benefits. Truthfully, they can't all be essential, and you need much more focus to make messages memorable. So, take away a benefit and consider the result: Are you gaining in focus what you lost in comprehensiveness? Keep taking away, stripping away detail until you get to a benefits description that's as simple as it can be while still conveying something meaningful to your audience.”

2. Word Trees. This is opposite of the take away tool: “Start a Word Tree by listing words or terms related to a broad concept. Then, for each word, start a new list of related words. Keep branching out as you go, and continue for several generations.”

Word trees are great for developing brand attributes, product names, campaign themes, positioning statements, and more.

3. Oblique Strategies is a series of written prompts created by musician Brian Eno and artist Peter Schmidt as a way of breaking through creative blocks.

Prompts include directives such as "work at a different speed" or single words like “water." Sandra advises: “Consider the prompts in light of your process or problem, and use them to guide a new approach. For example, if we were developing messaging for a cleantech company, we might respond to "water" conceptually, by considering how the company's technology flows; or we might respond literally, by listing the ways it affects water use.

4. The 5 Whys is an exercise for getting to the root of a problem (from Andrew Razeghi's The Riddle: Where Ideas Come From and How to Have Better Ones.)

“First, turn your problem into a "why" question—say, "Why doesn't our story resonate with this market?" List your answers. Pick one—say, "We're not talking about the right things"—and ask "why?" Maybe the answer is, "They don't care about what we think they should care about." Then ask "why?" about that answer, and continue until you get to the fifth "why."

5. Blue Sky. “While the previous exercises involve constraints in some way, the Blue Sky exercise is the opposite: It involves envisioning what you would do or create if there were no limits (time, talent, money, laws of physics), and then working out what would have to be true for you to achieve that. Can you make some of those things true? Are there interim goals you can plot a course toward? Can you break the Blue Sky project down into steps? What can you do right now?”

Of course, after you generate the creative ideas, the next step is to develop a plan for executing.

Do you have other brainstorming ideas or tools that work for your team?  Please share your thoughts with us—because there’s no such thing as too much creativity.

Ellen Moriarty

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Benefits of Routine

If you have kids then you already know: Back-to-school season is upon us. As my family has been busy shopping, organizing, and preparing to get back on a regular everyday schedule, it’s got me thinking about routine and its many benefits.

Many of us have a morning routine that we follow. Whether that includes journaling, packing lunches, exercising, or all the above, it has been scientifically proven that that daily repetition is good for us. Research shows that a daily routine helps develop healthier sleep patterns (which improve cognitive function) and according to the New York Times, “a morning routine reduces decision fatigue and can help you be more productive throughout the day.”

I’ve concluded that mornings really matter. The things that I do first set the tone for the rest of my day. I like to begin my day early, with coffee and a workout—and then I change my voicemail message. I am a big believer in the power of habit; and for as long as I can remember, I have recorded a new message every morning, which stems from the opportunity to make a strong first impression.
Here’s a few morning routines of successful people that I found interesting:

  • Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson wakes up at 4 AM, drinks coffee, and then starts his workout with cardio
  • Warren Buffet begins every day by reading—he recommends reading 500 pages a day
  • Tony Robbins sets aside 10 minutes to reflect on everything that he’s grateful for. He suggests taking time every morning to focus on things you’re thankful for in/about yourself, your family and friends, your career, etc.
  • Oprah Winfrey wakes up before the sunrise and begins her day with meditation

And this, from Steve Jobs, is a favorite: In a 2005 commencement address he gave at Stanford, Jobs shared the motivational tactic he used to start every day: “For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ Whenever the answer has been no for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

What does your morning routine include? Are you doing things every day that you enjoy? If not, there’s no time like the present to make a change. Message us on Facebook about your routines—you just
might inspire us to try something new!

All the best,
Tim Connor

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Getting It Right: Integrated Marketing 2017

In July 2015, we ran this blog about integrated marketing—and now, two years later, the argument for integrating multiple channels as part of a strategic marketing effort still rings strikingly true. As digital media channels continue to become more pervasive, we need to incorporate those touches along with off-line connections, to make solid, memorable brand connections. 
The debate has been raging since the rise of digital media: Which is more effective? Print or electronic? If you want people to understand and retain information, studies consistently show that it’s print. Yet on the other side of the aisle, some e-marketers argue that print is dead. The truth is, in this digital age, there’s room for both in your marketing tool chest.

It’s no different than 20 years ago when we began to use new print applications. Today, we have more channels available, both online and offline. The genius is being able to blend the best of both via an integrated marketing effort.

Print and electronic marketing are not mutually exclusive—each channel has its strengths and limitations. And using them together actually strengthens your brand. Having a consistent, impactful message woven together using different channels (social media, direct mail, promotional products, pay-per-click, etc.) you can ensure that your brand is represented consistently while leveraging the impact of the cross-channel reach.

Using a mix of online and offline channels also allows you to re-connect with your audience throughout a campaign to reinforce your brand message, drive relevancy and prompt action. You might tweet about a new promotion, send an email blast and follow up with a postcard. And because each of these channels can be used to connect with a specific audience segment your message can be tailored just for them. That’s the power of integrated marketing.

An article in Entrepreneur magazine touts the benefits of integrating print and digital touches in your marketing strategy. It notes that print communications can actually leverage your ecommerce site and even strengthen your social media presence. Print engages multiple generations of consumers; can be used to drive social media traffic (via printed calls-to-action on postcards or print ads, for example); and extends your brand reach by sharing your reviews and information offline.

There’s no time like the present to evaluate your marketing effort. Whether you’re operating as a brick-and-mortar business or an online service provider, balance is essential. Print has a tangible, enduring appeal that complements modern digital channels. Using both will get results.

As an instant update to this archived blog, check out the link below: This recent article from Small Business Trends offers 10 great examples of integrated marketing campaigns that work by combining content with PR, print with digital, etc. It’s worth your time to click through.

Do you have any campaign examples you’d add to that list? I’d like to hear from you.

All the best,
Tim Connor

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Top Product Packaging Trends for 2017

Do you grab a bottle of wine off the shelf because you like the label? Or does a sleek graphic prompt you to try a new brand of shampoo? If so, you’re not alone. One-third of consumer product choices are based on packaging, according to research by The Paper Worker

There is tremendous power in packaging design: As marketers, it allows us to make an immediate—and ongoing—brand connection with our target audience. So, whether you’re planning a new product launch or sending a specialty promotion to B2B prospects, there’s no time like the present to rethink packaging design. 

In her blog published at the beginning of the year, designer Martis Lupus outlined predictions for the nine top trends for successful product packaging in 2017—and we embrace her view as spot-on. Below is a summary of those design trends:

1. Be simple, bold and clear 
Minimizing the elements used in a package design can elevate a product…as long as it gets the point across. In our fast-paced world, shoppers don’t always have the time to study each and every product detail. Stick to the essentials and make sure they help the buyer make a more informed decision; a clean-cut design can convey information and make a product shine using simplicity.

2. Embrace custom lettering
Almost every designer loves to get crafty and create some of their artwork by hand. We do this to get the organic effect: fluid imperfections—like irregular lines or natural texture fills—can make a product stand out through warmth and set it apart from digital designs. This warmth can create an emotional tie to the product, making it feel handmade and wholesome, or communicating a feeling of nostalgia. 

3. Go wild with color
It’s no secret that colors evoke emotions and affect purchasing decisions. Because of this, color has always been one of the most important choices in packaging design. Lately we’ve seen designers put colors to work in new and exciting ways. Bright colors and vibrant associations are beginning to make a scene on store shelves.

4. Repeat a pattern
Using well-chosen and beautiful patterns can elevate a package design from ordinary to ethereal. Repeating a visual motif that captures the essence of the brand sends a strong message. Whether your pattern is bold or playful, patterning your package can create a strong identity that customers will remember.

5. Use illustration as narrative
Behind every design there is a story. We seek out and cherish the stories that feel closest to our hearts. Packaging design has begun to incorporate narrative illustrations.

6. Put it in the mail
Remember the joy of getting something in the mail? With faster, more efficient ways to communicate, that experience has become more rare. Packaging design is here to save the day with an emerging postal trend.

7. Imagine ingenious die cuts
Traditional packaging tends to hide its contents, but modern designers are experimenting with die cutting to show products to their advantage. Whether it’s encouraging tactile interaction, mimicking a brand’s logo, or forming identifiable or humorous shapes, creating a window in your packaging can show the product in a meaningful or clever way, making a buyer stop and take notice.

8. Find vintage inspiration
Vintage package design is evolving each year (ironically) through the use of new technologies and materials. There’s something about vintage design that resonates through time. It brings back memories for people who lived through the original era and satisfies the curiosity of younger generations eager to explore the past.

9. Explore eco-friendly packaging
Eco-friendly, biodegradable, natural, sustainable… Call it what you will, going green with packaging is a trend that’s here to stay. Beyond its positive impact on the environment, it can also save companies money and attract customers.

Click on link below for the original blog by Lupus, which includes fabulous photos of each of these must-follow trends.

I find these trends inspirational in terms of how we can help our customers tell their brand stories while making memorable connections. Can you think of standout product packaging that prompted a recent purchase? Share your thoughts with us on our Facebook page.