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Do you have a favorite lunch spot? Maybe a cafe that once made a great impression on you? If so, that's the power of branding at work.
Your brand image is often the difference between having a lifelong relationship with loyal customers and never being discovered at all.
But, building an amazing brand doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to figure out how to reach your audience in the most effective way possible. By following these simple (but often ignored) steps, you’ll develop a better understanding of what your customers want and how to exceed their expectations.
1. Focus on storytelling, not product features
Without a good brand story, your product holds no inherent or emotional value for your customers. As author and story coach Lisa Cron tells us, humans are hardwired to respond to stories. When a brand makes a deep impression on us, it impacts our buying behaviour. A 2013 Psychology Today piece showed that, when evaluating multiple brands, “Consumers primarily use emotions (personal feelings and experiences) rather than information (brand attributes, features and facts).”
It’s about building a human connection with your customer, not touting the bells and whistles of your product.
Keep in mind that a good story needs to be backed up by an excellent product. Even the most talented creatives can’t change the perception of a poor product.
2. Don’t try to be something you’re not
In order to last the test of time, your brand message needs to be true to who you are as a company. Don’t get hung up on what’s cool or trending now. Instead, focus on how you solve a real and enduring problem for your customer. Some of the most ‘uncool’ products have the strongest brands. Think about online accounting software Freshbooks, major appliance company General Electric or toilet paper company Charmin -- they know their customers and how to sell to them. Focus on what you do best and offer an authentic experience for your customer.
3. Give value to get brand love
Your content should focus on building relationships and helping your customers make informed and well-thought-out decisions. That way, when they choose your product or service, it’s because you’re actually the best fit, which will lead to stronger, longer lasting relationships. Not every piece of content you create should be about your product or lead to a direct sale. You need to understand your customer journey and where content fits in (that’s why you should have a documented strategy). With a strategy, you can develop a consistent brand experience across all of your channels, which is absolutely essential for long-term growth.
If you can nail down a content marketing strategy for your business, then you’ve discovered a cost-effective way to increase awareness about, and engagement with, your brand.
4. Be customer-centric on social
Focus on networks that are relevant to your target audience and start getting social. No matter how big or small your company is, around 67 percent of consumers in the U.S. expect to contact your brand on social. Good customer service on social is directly linked to business growth. A report by Aberdeen Group finds that businesses with social customer service experience around 7.5 percent year-over-year growth (compared to 2.9 percent without social customer service), so don’t underestimate its value.
With so many branding opportunity opportunities online, it’s easy to forget about the importance of combining online and offline experiences. Going to conferences, meeting local people in your industry and public speaking are excellent ways to fast-track your brand’s visibility. These in-person events will help build your authority as a thought leader and get you facetime with key influencers in your industry. It really does pay to get outside. As CEO and professional speaker Jess Ekstrom points out, 90 percent of her leads come from connections made at conferences.
If you’re not sure where to start, think local. Host a small luncheon, run a seminar, or try career mentoring in your community. If you’re looking for conferences or events to attend in your industry, check out Meetup, AllConferences.com and Lanyrd. These are useful general directories that can get you on the right path.
Good brands understand what their customers want and find creative ways to deliver a memorable experience. If you aren’t doing that, then you won’t stand out against other brands that are constantly competing for your customers’ attention.
It is a common trend in Nigeria that failed businesses and entrepreneurs rarely return back to active business life after witnessing a setback in their business operations.
This would literally mean most businesses in Nigeria are not structured to face deeming challenges.
Failure in business is usually absent from our plan, making it difficult to manage if it eventually occur.
In my few years of consulting and participating in the management of some small and medium scale businesses, I have observed that whenever unfavourable business situation arise the best option for Nigerian businessman is “quit the business and start a new one or consider another line of business.”
I have also realised that most business setbacks are propelled by an interplay of many factors which are most times within the control of the business.
Hence, the solution is not to start from the beginning but to adopt a tailored efforts towards resuscitating the business.
Here are some strategies that can be deployed to get your business back to life.
Treat your business problem as unique, don’t copy anyone
First, understand that you no longer want to be just a millionaire. You want to become a multimillionaire.
While you may think a million dollars will give you financial security, it will not. Given the volatility in economies, governments and financial markets around the world, it's no longer safe to assume a million dollars will provide you and your family with true security. In fact, a Fidelity Investments' study of millionaires last year found that 42 percent of them don't feel wealthy and they would need $7.5 million of investable assets to start feeling rich.
This isn't a how-to on the accumulation of wealth from a lifetime of saving and pinching pennies. This is about generating multimillion-dollar wealth and enjoying it during the creation process. To get started, consider these seven secrets of multimillionaires.
No. 1: Decide to Be a Multimillionaire -- You first have to decide you want to be a self-made millionaire. I went from nothing—no money, just ideas and a lot of hard work—to create a net worth that probably cannot be destroyed in my lifetime. The first step was making a decision and setting a target. Every day for years, I wrote down this statement: "I am worth over $100,000,000!"
No. 2: Get Rid of Poverty Thinking -- There's no shortage of money on planet Earth, only a shortage of people who think correctly about it. To become a millionaire from scratch, you must end the poverty thinking. I know because I had to. I was raised by a single mother who did everything possible to put three boys through school and make ends meets. Many of the lessons she taught me encouraged a sense of scarcity and fear: "Eat all your food; there are people starving," "Don't waste anything," "Money doesn't grow on trees." Real wealth and abundance aren't created from such thinking.
No. 3: Treat it Like a Duty -- Self-made multimillionaires are motivated not just by money, but by a need for the marketplace to validate their contributions. While I have always wanted wealth, I was driven more by my need to contribute consistent with my potential. Multimillionaires don't lower their targets when things get tough. Rather, they raise expectations for themselves because they see the difference they can make with their families, company, community and charities.
No. 4: Surround Yourself with Multimillionaires -- I have been studying wealthy people since I was 10 years old. I read their stories and see what they went through. These are my mentors and teachers who inspire me. You can't learn how to make money from someone who doesn't have much. Who says, "Money won't make you happy"? People without money. Who says, "All rich people are greedy"? People who aren't rich. Wealthy people don't talk like that. You need to know what people are doing to create wealth and follow their example: What do they read? How do they invest? What drives them? How do they stay motivated and excited?
No. 5: Work Like a Millionaire -- Rich people treat time differently. They buy it, while poor people sell it. The wealthy know time is more valuable than money itself, so they hire people for things they're not good at or aren't a productive use of their time, such as household chores. But don't kid yourself that those who hit it big don't work hard. Financially successful people are consumed by their hunt for success and work to the point that they feel they are winning and not just working.
No. 6: Shift Focus from Spending to Investing -- The rich don't spend money; they invest. They know the U.S. tax laws favor investing over spending. You buy a house and can't write it off. The rich, in contrast, buy an apartment building that produces cash flow, appreciates and offers write-offs year after year. You buy cars for comfort and style. The rich buy cars for their company that are deductible because they are used to produce revenue.
No. 7: Create Multiple Flows of Income -- The really rich never depend on one flow of income but instead create a number of revenue streams. My first business had been generating a seven-figure income for years when I started investing cash in multifamily real estate. Once my real estate and my consulting business were churning, I went into a third business developing software to help retailers improve the customer experience.
Lastly, you may be surprised to learn that wealthy people wish you were wealthy, too. It's a mystery to them why others don't get rich. They know they aren't special and that wealth is available to anyone who wants to focus and persist. Rich people want others to be rich for two reasons: first, so you can buy their products and services, and second, because they want to hang out with other rich people.
It really is an interesting time for your business, isn't it? Sales are rolling in, and your customers are happy. Your employees are highly engaged and going full tilt.
You're now in a position where you need to answer some serious questions. Are you willing to do what it takes to expand? Do you have what it takes--in your head and in your gut--to enter a serious growth phase?
In the recent Oracle/Inc. study of the fastest growing private companies in America, when asked the question, "what is the biggest obstacle to your company's growth," the number one response was the inability to manage fast growth.
While the respondents saw the inability to manage fast growth as an obstacle, they felt it was clearly surmountable. The proof? The "ability to scale" was listed just behind sales as a top reason why their company was able to succeed to the point of being named as an Inc. 5000 honoree.
Companies who can successfully scale and grow become market leaders and, perhaps, even household names. So before you decide to enter a high-growth phase, here are five indications that you are ready to make such a move.
1. Your head and heart are in the right place. You had a good idea. You turned it into a business. You've gotten off to a great start. But, this is where the real work begins.
Migrating from a start-up to a fast-growing company requires passion, dedication, and near total immersion. You must deal with pressure and incredible anxiety, take on enormous responsibility, and still manage to balance other aspects of your life―like family and health.
Ask yourself if this is for you? If you can't imagine yourself doing anything else with your life and are convinced (beyond a shadow of a doubt) that you will not just survive but thrive, then you may have what it takes to jump on the road to growth.
2. The money is starting to roll in. Congratulations! You have started a business, and people are actually paying you for your products and/or services.
Pat yourself on the back. Many start-ups don't even reach that stage.
Of course, revenue alone doesn't make a functioning business. Revenue and profits are two very different things. Is your business model structured in a way that you're not just making a profit today but can continue to be profitable?
If you are already profitable or can see a rational and clear path to scalable and sustainable profitability, you may actually be on the road to growth.
3. You have assembled a killer team that has what it takes to manage a much larger business. There are endless stories of friends, relatives, classmates, and colleagues starting a business together only to find out that old relationships aren't enough to fuel a successful and scalable business.
Even teams that have successfully launched a business may not have the skill sets required to lead and scale that business over the long-term.
Growth only happens when all needed "human elements" are in place. This means people who have either worked in a large and thriving business or understand the technologies needed are the right employees to fuel sustainable, scalable growth.
Look at your current team. Do you have those people? The ones who can lead and inspire and know how to manage people? Are they masters of sales, finance, marketing, communications, and logistics? If not, can they learn to be?
If the answer to these questions is a resounding "yes," then you are almost certainly ready for growth.
4. You have enough cash in the bank or cash you can bank on. Cash flow crises are the number one killer of small companies.
Experts agree that growth should be guided by a business's ability to generate and manage cash, not simply by making a profit.
When businesses grow, cash can be consumed by any number of incremental expenses including higher rent, utilities, payroll, and inventory costs. If you are planning to grow, then you must have far more cash at your fingertips than you need to just make payroll. You need to have cash available to put back into the business.
If you are confident that you can cover additional outlays and can weather any number of storms (anticipated and unanticipated), then your prospects for growth look awfully good.
5. You have your processes in place. When you're just starting out, you can get away with "flying by the seat of your pants." But as you grow, there must be processes and systems in place to deal with volume spikes and dips.
Take a good look at your current processes. Are they paper driven? Are they over-reliant on spreadsheets? Are there inefficiencies? Are there black holes where key data disappears? Are there gaps in communication?
Conversely, have you made a real effort to establish automated and integrated processes that will allow your business to scale? Have you invested in a software solution that allows you to track finances, sales, and talent, without having to pull out a calculator and do manual computations? Do you have the tools that provide real-time information on your expenses, sales, logistics, and other essential metrics? Are best practices baked into all of your business functions?
If you can confidently answer "yes" to those questions and have invested in the kinds of solutions that will allow you to grow and scale exponentially, then you are already well on the road to growth, expansion, and success!