Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Three Words that Will Change Your Business Forever: Focus. Focus. Focus.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” —Aristotle

“FOCUS” is a foundational principle of branding. Without it, generalities distract, distort, and discredit your brand. Here are five ways to develop and keep it:
  1. A laser focus is simple. 
What most companies lack are not ideas at all, but judgment. Good ideas are everywhere. Good judgment is a relatively scarce commodity. Thoughtfully consider all your options and then make your decision based on that simple “stand-out” idea.
  2. A laser focus is memorable. 
You can't make yourself or your company successful. Only your customers can do that. A memorable focus has an element of shock. If James Carville had said, "It's the economy," the media probably would have ignored the message. However, "It's the economy, stupid." got their attention.
  3. A laser focus is powerful. 
Does your choice of copy and visuals make an impact on your customers, or do you follow rote industry jargon and visuals? Step out of your box with a creative vengeance.
  4. A laser focus needs an enemy. 
For you to be truly successful, others must fail. Know what you’re up against and devise a plan of attack.
  5. A laser focus is the future. 
A laser-focused company puts its best people and most of its resources into the products or services that represent the future. In the short term there will be a need to handle yesterday's products in an efficient way. That should not, however, distract management from putting most of their attention on tomorrow's focus. Decide what single product, service, or idea is your best hope for the future and let this become your focus.

Millennials, Millennials, Millennials! That's all I ever hear. But what about...

Millennials are receiving more and more attention. Companies are developing marketing plans to target this demographic; the news media constantly features the sometimes erratic and wild behavior of this demographic; politicians tweet to influence; while the education system caters to their emotional needs.

It's easy to understand why everyone is clamoring: Their size is bigger than the Baby Boomer generation and they're on the cusp of becoming the generation with the most spending power and influence. What's not easy? Figuring them out. According to Goldman-Sachs, "Millennials have grown up in a time of rapid change, giving them a set of priorities and expectations sharply different from previous generations." Point taken.

But what about...the GenXers? It almost sounds like the middle-child (Jan Brady) syndrome, where the GenXers is often forgotten, being sandwiched between Baby Boomers and Millennials. According to AdWeek, "The numbers tell the story. Last year, CNBC analyzed a large sample of companies' earnings calls with Wall Street analysts. In 17,776 transcripts reviewed, companies mentioned Generation X just 16 times. While executives gave millennials plenty of love, the network noted, 'companies do not seem to pay much attention to Gen X at all.'"

Interesting facts about the GenXer:
  • Born between 1965 and 1982 (they are in the mid-30s to around 50)
  • Have a sense of doom
  • Have been called the "Latch Key Kids," the "New Lost Generation," and the "Why Me Generation."
  • Only 49% think they are unique.
  • Only 41% associate themselves as Xers.
  • It is a smaller group than Boomers (77 million) and Millennials (83 million) at only 65 million.
Even more interesting facts as to why marketers should NOT ignore GenXers.
  • They have $125 billion in spending power.
  • 31% of the income dollars are in America.
  • They have the highest brand loyalty.
  • 81% are "moderate" to "extreme" brand loyalists.
  • 81% shop online, spending over $1,900 per Xer on average per year.
  • 75% are happy with their lives.
Given these facts, marketers will do well not to be distracted by the hype of Millennials and the demands of Baby Boomers, and pay a lot more attention to the "middle child."


The Art of Spreading Your Message

“Focusing solely on what you can potentially do better than any other organization is the only path to greatness.” 
Jim Collins, author of Good to Great

People are hardwired to notice difference. In an information-rich, time-poor era, distinction that raises your brand above the competition is critical for success. So be different and consider integrating the following:
  1. Coherent brands deliver confidence. The physical appearance of your presentation and marketing literature conveys expertise, talent, and quality. A coherent system of communication saves time (and, by extension, money). A coherent system allows you to be prepared at every point in the sales cycle, from introduction to first meeting to client communications. Perhaps most importantly, a coherent package of information sends this critical message: "We have our act together."
  2. Branding helps establish your credentials. When presenting the services your company offers, don't forget to cover the basics in describing your firm: the six Ps--philosophy, process, people, products, performance, and price. This usually applies when prospects are getting to know you, but many even existing clients need to be reminded of your credentials and unique offerings.
  3. Good brands respect the rules of storytelling. Covering the basics does not mean pouring yourself straight into the philosophy-process-people mold. Keep in mind that your competitors will be presenting similar information. Capture the imagination of your audience by emulating the elements of any well-crafted story: a strong opening, passion, universal truth, satisfaction as the plot unfolds, and a memorable close.

Corporate Brand Culture: 5 steps toward improvement

Your brand's culture is an internal embrace. It's a belief system of value that's held by the company's leadership AND its employees. It's also the corporate environment that supports, presents, and projects the brand message to the public.

If every team member has the same values and ideas your company desires, then you've got a successful brand culture. This is rare and should be cherished. However, if company morale and confidence is low, employees are just punching the clock and getting a paycheck, you'll need to rally your team. In reality, most companies are somewhere inbetween...either way, your goal is always to energetically project a singular, vibrant brand message to the marketplace.

Just as Albert Einstein is credited with saying, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results,” you don't want to keep repeating past mistakes. In order to change your brand culture, you'll to have to go outside the managerial/marketing stratagem and involve the people of the culture...your employees.

5 steps toward improvement:
  1. Diagnostics – Know your (internal) Strengths and Weaknesses and your (external) Opportunities and Threats (SWOT).
  2. Involvement – Ask employees what central issues they believe about your current brand and where it's headed. What would stir their passions. Is it going green? Is it R&D? Is it more community involvement? What would make the brand more relevant and thus easier to market?
  3. Innovation – Involve employees in the decision process, asking their ideas on how to make things happen. This helps to promote ownership of the new culture. Allot freedom, a certain amount of time and space, and provide a system of measurement for employees to test drive their ideas. Post certain challenges and invite individuals to offer a portion of their work week toward solving them. Recognize these endeavors regardless of outcome.
  4. Peer Support –  Encourage peer-to-peer support and interaction. As employees take ownership in the decision process, build a system for ongoing communication, critique, joint ventures, and checks/balances.
  5. Brand Story –  Once the new culture is implemented, journal the journey. What is the new brand story? How did it grow from one perception to another? How is it evolving? How can the brand "live happily ever after"? Make sure each team member believes and is inspired by this story.
While building your brand's culture is an ever evolving process, applying these steps today will help solidify its transformation and future.

Things that make you say, "Hmm."

From head-scratchers to modernized messaging, enjoy these funny signs from across the U.S.:

Well, this is one way to combat carbon emissions.

Talk about mixed messaging.

But snap chatting is okay, right?

Excellent point! Thanks!

Wonder which president this colonial city is named after?