Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Protect Your Image--Stay True To Your Brand

So some people ask, "What is branding?" Steering clear of any cattle, branding in business simply means the identity of a company or product.

A well known example would be Kleenex. Kleenex has done such a great job of branding that many people don't say "I need a tissue," but they say, "I need a Kleenex." Kleenex is the name of the product, but it is now interchangeable with they type of product it is.

 A top priority for any company should be to create a unique branded image & protect that image at all times. This means anytime you print business cards, brochures, promotional custom products, produce videos, post on social media or do any other form of marketing, you should stay consistent with your brand. You have many competitors, both locally & online, that offer the exact same service or product; so you need to differ from them & be unique. You need to make an impact & be remembered. It's more important now than ever before that you stand out.

June 19, 2012, I wrote an article stating four rules for successful branding & company identity. Are you ready for three more?  These have to do with keeping your brand consistent so it well be easily recognized.

Use this as a checklist to make sure you are staying true to your branding when doing your marketing:

Always use your logo. Think about how many people know the McDonald's arches. Better yet, think about how many people DON'T know what the McDonald's arches represent. While you may be a small company & your logo won't be recognized nationwide or worldwide, it will be recognized within your local business region if you brand it properly. Don't skew the proportions of your logo & don't change the colors. If you have a multi-color logo, sometimes you have to print in one color & that is okay, but stick to one of your colors. The ultimate goal is for people to be able to recognize your logo without having the business name printed below it.  That's successful branding!

Stay true to your company colors. Most companies have certain colors used with their logo & their marketing theme, which is great. Whenever possible, always use the color combination on your customized promotional items, when printing your logo on paper such as a newsletter or with your presence online. This consistency of color branding reinforces your brand.

There are some exceptions to this: sometimes it's wise to go with colors other than your own if you're distributing promotional imprinted products at a political rally, school function or sport events. Then it might be wise to use their colors with your logo prominently displayed.

There is a new school of thought which I have doubts about: following a trendy new color........orange is an example. Orange is just not for Halloween anymore. You may have seen a lot more clothing in 2012 from the orange color family.  Same with promotional products. Sometimes with your business, you have to go with the "in" fashion & capitalize on that even if you don't personally follow the crowd. When giving out your promotions, if you give people what they want, including the "in" colors, they will use your promotional custom products more, giving your company more marketing exposure. To decide if you should stick to your company colors or go with a trendy color, depends largely on your target audience, the group you're appealing to.

In both these instances where it could be necessary to stray from your colors, it's more important than ever to have your logo & tagline vividly displayed for your company identity.

Develop a tagline. It should highlight why your company is different from competitors or be catchy & represent the mood of your business. Always use your tagline on any printed product or material. Let it become part of your logo......part of your image.

Overall, the main theme to remember in branding is consistency. Always keep a uniform look & make sure your employees understand this as well so your branding comes across consistent in all forms of communication. Over the long term, your branding will pay off big time & your company will have a much better recognition with not only your current clients, but also with potential customers who have yet to use your products or services.
Stand out from everyone else. Let your image scream out: "Remember me! I'm here!"
Ronni Sherman

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Building Customer Loyalty

How do you retain your existing customers? What can you do to keep their loyalty so they don't wander over to your competition? These two questions seem to plaque everyone who's in business today--whether he's a CEO of a large corporation or an owner of a small neighborhood store.

The thought seems to be that repeat business happens naturally if you're good at what you do. To a certain extent that's true, but not entirely. Why not implement tactics that boost the likelihood of repeat purchases?

Here are the main constituents of customer loyalty:

1. CUSTOMER'S LOGICAL & EMOTIONAL REACTION TO YOUR BRAND: Your target audience has to feel rationally & emotionally connected to your product or service. Before you get your name out among the public you should know who you're targeting & what their needs are. Also, be familiar with their buying habits. If they can't relate to you, they'll go to your competition. It is important your brand is defined & consistent......that the message you're sending is what your customers want. Above all, make sure your marketing campaign is going out to the fraction of the public you want to receive your advertising message.  Do your homework before you distribute your promotional custom products or place your ad in the neighborhood circular.

2. GOOD RELATIONSHIP WITH THE CUSTOMER: Once your product or service has been used by your customer, you should focus on establishing & maintaining a beneficial relationship with them so they continue to come back to you. This is done through online & offline advertising & marketing: emails, direct mailings, follow-up phone calls, personal sales calls & of course, promotional imprinted products. And just as important, the quality of what you offer & the quality of your customer service. How well did you keep the promise you made to your client? This is the essence of their loyalty.

3. OFFER PRODUCT EXTENSIONS: If possible, introduce an extension of your line to keep your customer's loyalty or to draw in new clientele. For example, Crest toothpaste offers more than their basic fluoride toothpaste with a whitening solution. They expanded their line to include Crest Pro-Health gel, toothpaste specifically for night time or children & dental whitening strips. To grow & bypass your competition, you need to find ways to expand your targeted audience.

4. SUPPORT A GOOD CAUSE: Some consumers will remain loyal to you if you support a social, environmental or communal cause that is advantageous to the public. For example, KFC offers pink buckets & Wilson Sports Equipment has pink tennis balls & rackets with the pink ribbon--all to support breast cancer awareness. Most pharmacies & grocery stores use non-woven bags for their promotional custom products to promote an eco-friendly environment.

5. AVAILABILITY OF YOUR PRODUCT OR SERVICE: Don't advertise what you don't have--not having your product available can drive your clientele to your to your competition. Obviously, not having it available is sometimes out of your control. I then strongly suggest that you have a rain check or some other special offer on hand to keep your customer close to your side. Above all, do not let this be an ongoing issue.

6. CONFORM TO THE LATEST TREND: Don't be a dinosaur & think if it worked last year, it will work this year. That line of thinking spells disaster. Be educated about your product--stay up to date by constantly reading & learning all there is about your specialized field.

7. KEEP YOUR COMPANY NAME VISIBLE AT ALL TIMES: Don't fade from their memory. Customized promotional gifts such as pens, note pads, letter openers, recycled bags or drinkware......whatever relates to your field or to your target audience should be given out constantly. They'll appreciate what you give them & will be reminded of you when they need your services or products. Promotional items outlast any other form of advertising & is the most subtle & less intrusive of all advertising.

8. AVAILABLE OPTIONS USED AS LURES: A consumer gets a host of benefits from a new company trying to lure him over to their business. Many of them are hard to ignore. Hopefully you've already won their loyalty; but many times it's hard to resist lower prices & special offers. Rather than only concentrating on special offers for the new client, it's extremely beneficial to reward your long-standing customers with discounts & promotions for their loyalty. If you offer incentives only to potential customers, you may lose your older, loyal ones. In other words you're trading a new client for an old one. Your business won't grow that way & whose to say that the new one won't roam to your competition once a better reward is offered. This is such an important point: acknowledge your long-standing customers!

My pet peeve is when large nationwide companies like Time Warner or AT&T offer great incentives to get new customers but don't pass anything on to the clients they already have. An example: Time Warner is offering $150 Target gift card to people who sign up now, but not to the ones that have previously signed with them. I feel Time Warner is taking my business for granted & are hoping I'm satisfied with their not-so-perfect performance that I won't look into AT&T or Dish TV.......they are so wrong.

If I didn't have to wait a week for a service call or if they weren't constantly shutting down their service for updates, maybe I'd stick with them......with or without an incentive. It's not just one variable that creates customer loyalty, it's many.

One last thing: don't forget to smile or to say "thank you". Both of those go a long way.

No doubt you will always face stiff competition. I hope this helps you to stay ahead of the game.
Ronni Sherman

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Take The Stress Out Of Your Promotions

There seems to be no way to avoid it......stress is all around us & has become a part of our lives. Whether it's at home, at work, trying to juggle busy schedules or family or health issues, stress & tension is prevalent.

Most of us live with it, but have also found outlets for it......the gym or another form of work-out, a favorite sport, hobbies, shopping, hanging out with friends. Yelling, hopefully not at someone but in the privacy of your car, can also be a release & some experts claim a pretty effect one at that.

Circumstances, uncomfortable situations & people are all triggers for the stress we feel. This is never more true than in the work place. Offices are confined & don't have the space to work off steam when tension builds. Maybe you could get a punching bag into your cubicle or do yoga during your lunch hour; but start yelling at the top of your voice from your desk & you might find yourself out of a job.

Bottom line, there really isn't an outlet for stress during the work day. Tension is one of the leading causes of decreased work productivity & absenteeism. There is a quick fix though & that's giving out stress items as your next promotional imprinted product. Putting your logo on one will not only keep your name visible but you could be associated with good health in the work place. Because the primary health issue in the office is stress, your customer will use these more than you think.

Stress relievers are a fun & inexpensive way to keep your business name in someone's view. They are cute, funny, useful & people really like them.
Happy Wobbler--imprint on the back.

Customized promotional stress relief items are effective. They can be used any number of ways from customer appreciation & trade shows to holiday gifts. People love to sit them on their computers which is good, because their primary purpose (other than promoting your business name) is to stretch & relax the muscles of the wrist, hand & forearm which can become stiff & irritated from extended computer use.

There also some that talk or have a magnet on top to hold paper clips. These become more of a novelty item to decorate the desk & no longer have the original use of relieving tension......unless you want to hear "thank you" or a hearty laugh every time you squeeze it. Frankly, I think that could add to the stress--not only yours, but your co-workers also.

The stress ball is the most popular for squeezing away anxieties. Picture an executive leaning back in his chair squeezing it while on the phone, a receptionist absently gripping it while reading something on the computer or a sales person throwing it around while on a short break. They provide a release for someone without taking up valuable work time or space.

Here are some unique ways that stress items have been used:
1. AFLAC salesmen give out stress relievers in the shape of the famous duck.

2. A company selling pre-owned European cars advertises "low stress, hassle-free experience" on  VW Bug shaped stress relievers.

3. Businesses mostly opt to imprint stress relievers that actually relate to their fields, such as a dollar sign for a bank or a shopping cart for a supermarket; but occasionally you'll see some creativity.......like an apple for a doctor's office or a snail for a post office.

You can choose a style that best represents your business......globe, convertible, plane, tennis or golf ball, computer mouse, molar, house, hard hat, stop sign, judge's gavel, nurses & doctors, limo, cell phone & every kind of food & animal you can possibly think of. Or go with the season  or special event. For September, October, November & December any shape that represents the holidays will set the mood for good times to come.

Whatever shape you choose stress relief items are novel & effective ways to put your name in front of your client or prospective customer. These promotional custom products will help relieve the recipient's tension & energize your advertising efforts.

Build your brand while providing fun stress relief.
Ronni Sherman