This morning I simply wanted to make you aware of a new section on the Nick Venturella Media site. Introducing (Do It Yourself) DIY Education. This is an online book store (Amazon affiliate) with useful and empowering books that I’ve read and recommend for other business owners and creative entrepreneurs.
You don’t always have to be in classroom or have formal education to gather the knowledge you need to run your business. I’ve learned plenty from the books in this section, in fact, the majority of my business education came from these books and my application of their ideas...and yes, failing, reflecting and improving as I keep moving forward.
What I like about learning this way is that with each book I get to piece together my own self-paced curriculum tailored to me and my business.
Within this section I plan to feature one book each month, which you’ll see right at the top of the page. This month it’s Richard Branson's book, Business Stripped Bare (Amazon affiliate), which I also reviewed in the nickvmedia brand communications blog.
posted by Nick Venturella
If you’ve ever read the book Made to Stick (amazon affiliate) you know that one of the elements of “sticky messages”--that is messages that end up being memorable and easy to recall--is being concrete.
What the authors of Made to Stick were talking about was using commonly recognized imagery and ideas in the language used to communicate your message. In the book they give the example of Aesop’s fable about The Fox and the Grapes, which is where the term, “sour grapes,” comes from.
The fox story is concrete in that it talks about how the fox couldn’t eat the grapes hanging on the vine above him, just out of his reach. In the fox’s defeat the fox proclaims the grapes were likely sour anyway. The lesson learned was that it’s easy to despise that which we cannot obtain.
My point (really the point of the authors of Made to Stick), is to the extent you’re able try to be concrete in the way you talk about your company’s brand, in the way you display imagery regarding your company’s brand (logo, identity design, etc), in every way you outline the benefits of your products/services, etc.
Give folks clear imagery that is common enough for them to wrap their imagination around. This is extremely important in service companies that don’t necessarily have a tangible product to sell.
So I was at the grocery store the other day buying a bag of potato chips (I know, a healthy snack). I was looking for potato chips with ridges or waves, whatever you want to call--wrinkles.
I found two brands Ruffles Potato Chips and Lays Wavy Potato Chips. To me, they’re the same chip--the quality is the same, the flavor is the same--for all intense and purposes they might as well be the exact same chip. So, because, in my mind, the product is the same and either will adequately satisfy my potato chip craving I look less at which brand I choose and focus on price--which one is cheaper?
In this case the Ruffles were about $0.40 more than the Lays, so I went with the Lays. The idea of differentiating on price alone for a product that is in demand is essentially a commodity.
Perception is often reality, to the customer
My potato chip story illustrates the consumer mindset when purchasing a product or service--the consumer perception of your product is the only perception that really matters, not yours. But, what’s interesting is with the way you communicate your brand messaging and position your brand, products and services you can help guide customers toward the perception you would like them to have. The way you communicate your brand and educate consumers about your products and services can have the effect of justifying the pricing you set, even if it’s higher than your competitor’s. This is possible when your customers no longer see your products or services as a commodity that they could get elsewhere with the same amount of satisfaction for less.
In the potato chip story, had Ruffles provided more compelling messaging that raised its value in my perception of their brand and product, I may have shelled out the extra $0.40 for their chips.
Think about your own business
Do you offer products/services that can adequately satisfy a customer’s needs just as easily as your competition? Is price really the only difference between your product and your competitor’s in the eyes of your target customer? If so, you need to think about building more value into your offering and communicate that value to your potential customers so you can line up what you want their perception to be with what their actual perception is.
How do build more value?
One way, is to write out a list of features and benefits of your product/service compared to the features and benefits of your top competitor’s. From there, look for similarities and differences. Highlight the differences. If the differences are positive, giving you an advantage over your competition, find a way to emphasize that in your marketing messages. It’s also a good idea to cross reference your list with a poll from your current customers asking them why they chose to do business with you over the competition. By completing those two exercises you should be able to uncover a few differences that can be competitive advantages for you/your business.it.
Not long ago where I live we had a massive hail storm that damaged the roofs and siding of just about every house in a 10 mile radius.
Not long after that storm I started receiving post cards from roofing companies in my mailbox. This was a fairly smart marketing move on the part of roofers knowing that those affected by the hail will likely be working with their insurance companies and hiring roofers to repair the damage.
What was interesting was that I was receiving between 2 and 4 of these post cards a day. Some were designed very nicely, quite professional looking and decently well written. Others were obviously home-made, which doesn’t bother me when you can tell some thought was put into it. However, I encountered plenty of post cards that looked like they were for roofers who were simply looking to capitalize on the recent influx of potential work (you know, some guy with a van who spent one summer as a roofer who now thinks he knows how to run and operate a roofing company, oh and thinks he knows how to do a nice professional roof job--yeah, that guy is not getting business from anyone).
Finally, there was one company that didn’t have any glossy brochures or fancy postcards. It was a locally owned family run exterior/interior contractor. What was different and appealing about them was they printed a black and white flier with a bit of brief info about their company and their capabilities. Then they were walking around my neighborhood going door to door with the flier and sticking it in the handles of folks’ front doors--different than everyone else.
The flier’s message of prompt and courteous service was underscored by a live, knowledgeable person who answered my phone call by the second ring and was legitimately happy to hear from me and helped me. After calling on a few other roofing companies this was a pleasant surprise.
Needless to say, Toubl Contracting, Inc. won my business. The moral of the story...do things a bit different. Simple resourcefulness and creative innovation can go a long way, but if you follow that up with good human sincerity and hardwork you will have likely stumbled onto a winning combination.
There is a definite branding value to writing blog comments on other well-read and well-respected blogs that you follow. Chances are good that you have a blog or two that you read regularly and view their authors as experts on the topic of which they write.
It’s likely that you’re not the only one who follows a particular blog because of the value received from reading it. So add value to the blogs you follow by adding a point or two in the comments section of the blog. Or share a scenario that’s pertinent to the blog topic...something that enhances the value or creates interesting discussion surrounding the original post.
The idea is that by offering comments that add value to a post by another well-known, and/or widely read blogger can not only help to enhance the blog on which you’re commenting, but expose you to that blogger and his/her audience. (Plus, for those readers interested in finding out more about you it gives them an opportunity to link back to your website.)
Here are some benefits of commenting on blogs:
So write value-adding comments. Feel free to offer your comments on this post.
So, I was flipping through various radio stations as I was driving this morning, and I came across an interview with the rap/R&B/hip-hop producer and artist, Jeremih (pronounced Jer-a-my).
I’m definitely a sucker for artist interviews. I like to learn about the artist’s thoughts and intentions behind an album.
As I was listening to the interview I drew a strong parallel to blogging and business, and in some similar ways, blogging and business are just like the music industry. Here’s what I mean...Jeremih’s new album “All About You,” features other well-known artists like Ludacris, 50 Cent and others. Those big names allow Jeremih to communicate his brand with some leverage, capitalizing on the larger fan-base of those other, well-known, artists featured on Jeremih’s album. By Ludacris and 50 Cent agreeing to be featured on Jeremih’s album their fan-base is exposed to Jeremih, and essentially a positive endorsements is given for Jeremih’s album and music to the audiences of both Ludacris and 50 Cent.
In blogging and business a similar thing can happen. Think about posting guest blogs from other well-known bloggers in your industry, or asking if you could write a guest post for their blog--it’s at least worth asking, and the cross-pollination of audiences can be beneficial for both parties.
This sort of thing happens in other aspects of business, too--not just in blogging. For example, when your company builds a referral network with other companies to help each other out.
Say, you’re a lawyer working with small businesses and you often refer clients who need an accountant to a well-deserving accountant friend of yours who you trust and know does good work. Well, your client benefits because they’re getting a qualified referral from someone they trust, your accountant friend benefits because he/she is getting a qualified potential new client from a trusted source and you benefit by building more good-will with both your client and your accountant friend.
There are definitely advantages and opportunities when you expand your network of relationships. Be on the lookout for them and build positive reciprocal relationships to capitalize on them.
Learn more about Brand Communications and how to use it with your Inbound Marketing efforts
I recently read an article in the Washington Post about business cards. The article written by Michael S. Rosenwald basically talked about the fact that business cards are still the preferred method of sharing business-related contact information.
There were several reasons given in the article as to why traditional printed business cards are still winning over newer digital versions (i.e. various smartphone apps, etc.), but one that stood out to me was the impressions one can get when they receive a business card. I’m talking about the look and feel of a business card. I’m specifically referring to it being a visual extension of your brand--your personal brand or your business brand.
Often a business card will tout your logo and tag line as well as your contact info. As stated in the article, you may be trying to recall a contact that you met at an event who happened to give you his/her business card, and though you cannot recall that person’s name you recall the shape of the logo or the colors used on their business card. Then as you thumb through your pile of cards you stop on the exact card you were thinking of with the contact info of the person whose name you could not recall. The logo and/or colors were memorable enough that your brain knew the exact card you were looking for in your pile of cards as soon as you saw it again. That’s brand communication at work--keeping aspects of your brand, the writing or visuals associated with your brand, on your mind enough to allow better recall of your brand with each exposure to it.
A well thought out logo design and business card design is one of the simplest and most effective brand communication tools you have. Take it seriously, and use it widely.
Learn more about Brand Communications and how to use it with your Inbound Marketing efforts
I’ve been reflecting lately about the economy and the many folks still out of work these days. While the economy has recently shown signs of slight improvement it hasn’t been enough to stop the unemployment hemorrhaging.
Now, I don’t claim to have the answer, but personally I’ve found that my own pursuits, at least in my field of marketing, have benefited from my continuous personal marketing efforts.
As a marketing professional I am constantly branding myself, reading up on my industry and exploring ways that I can experiment on my own with marketing initiatives that I think are useful--to myself and potentially other businesses (or potential employers).
I’m definitely fortunate that I’m not currently looking for new employment, but when I was in that boat I kept churning away at my own blog and entrepreneurial web presences trying out things that I may not otherwise have had a chance to experiment with in any previous employment. My thought was that I’m marketing myself and my capabilities, and I’m building my own brand (and essentially a portfolio of what I can do), all the while continuing to network with trusted contacts (that’s extremely important). As I got potential employment nibbles I made sure to make known my personal efforts and demonstrate how those efforts could help the potential employer at hand.
My point is, the fact that I never gave up, and never will give up, on improving myself to consistently be marketable to others and grow my skills has landed me more than one role in my career.
My best advice for anyone out of work (and I’m not trying to be insulting if you’re already doing these things with what currently feels like little luck) is to continue to be proactive, think entrepreneurially, take action as opportunities arise, network like crazy and never give up.