Success Factors of an Ecommerce Business Strategy

CommPRO Editorial Staff

Without a doubt, building a successful eCommerce business is not an effortless job. It is mainly when the market revolves around high competition with rare profit margins and a pretty high failure rate.

Today, many business owners are struggling to run a successful e-commerce business. Still, they cannot get ahead in the game due to the lack of appropriate strategies. Putting time, investing money, or hiring a management team is not all. You have to be mindful and require to know your values to develop them further. You have to build solid and influential e-commerce strategies that could take you to the next level. 

This three-minute guide shall list some critical factors that business owners must consider to measure marketing success. 

The elements we will discuss are the essential factors. So, stay tuned and read on.

Customer Service!

There is no wonder that customer service is a critical factor in eCommerce companies’ progress despite their size. Excellent customer aid can increase customer’s faith in your company. What your clients say to others could easily make or break your business. When you give the most reliable customer service, they will tell you good things about you. Nothing is extra powerful than the term of mouth credit. 

Customer Service can attract your concentration to concerns and problems that you did not know. Managing these matters will make clients feel satisfied doing business with you or purchasing from you. From content to product, everything you provide must be according to your customer’s interests and demands.

Multichannel Marketing!

Don’t you think that if we dream big, we can do extensive things? Adding limitations in your work or job is not an appropriate thought! If you are a businessman, you have to think beyond the limits to take your business to a high level! If you are dependent on one-way marketing, an unfavorable change in this way can change your whole company. Possibilities are lying throughout on the Internet. Therefore, it is a great idea to expand your marketing attempts into various channels.

An outstanding business strategy must focus on several marketing channels. You can utilize Email Marketing, Social Media, Affiliate Marketing, Referral Marketing, and offline operations to widen your reach. Suppose you do not have the broadest potential distribution of your goods. In that case, you will lose chances, and another online company will gain those opportunities. So, be mindful, and keep focused!

Conversion Rate!

Here comes the root of your business strategy! Conversion rate refers to the percentage of the visitor(s) to an e-commerce website that ultimately builds a transaction. So, it’s then possible that it is essential to determine an online store’s profit. On medium, 2% to 3% of clients will end up placing an order. It precisely indicates the bulk of potential clients are browsing your site without making a purchase.

Here are a few causes why your conversion rate is low:

  1. First, it’s a bit difficult for consumers to locate the product they require.
  2. Second, there can be a lack of knowledge about the product.
  3. Third, shipping charges are relatively high.
  4. Lastly, your site needs too much private information to enable the purchase.

High-Quality & Informative Content

As discussed earlier, many customers lack knowledge about the products they need. They usually look for the content – present on your site’s blog or product description area – to understand a particular product’s benefits, usage, and more. So, try to deliver informative and unique content to satisfy their needs. Also, make sure that your text must be 100% original (plagiarism-free). You also have to meet Google and its policies with your content. 

So, try to check plagiarism with a reliable plagiarism detector like SearchEngineReports.net to obtain accurate results in seconds. There are many plagiarism checker tools but SearchEngineReports is an accurate Plagiarism checker that provides you with a complete duplication report. This free plagiarism checker will help you to know about plagiarized parts present in your content. 

Customer Retention!

Last but not least! Customer retention leads to the movements and activities businesses, and teams take to minimize consumer abandonment. Customer Retention covers the organization’s worth to retain clients over the long term and make a recurring income from subsisting customers. For your company to maximize the number of regular customers, the Client Retention rate must be managed, and likely improved. You can boost Customer Retention in multiple ways—for example, exclusive offers, a rewarding scheme for faithful customers, and follow-up emails.

Summing-up

Keeping a constant focus on these mentioned above critical factors would explain how strong your E-Commerce business is! You can also consider other factors, such as Unique Selling Proposition, Consumer Value, Shopping cart abandonment rate, and Rival pricing, and more. Save in your pocket! The business field, especially, E-Commerce Field, is so big that it is pretty hard to stay in the marketing game. However, the factors that we have discussed today are the passkey that would help you remain gripped. So, please don’t ignore them; Start building valuable strategies now!




What Is Marketing Automation & Why Is It Important?

Frank Hamilton, Translator

A well-developed marketing strategy is an important component of your business success. Fierce competition forces you to work hard to stay afloat. Fortunately, nowadays, most of the marketing processes can and should be automated. Using marketing automation tools effectively can help you work smarter, not harder.

Marketing Automation: The Essence and Importance

Simply put, marketing automation involves the use of software platforms and agencies. These platforms provide your audience with the content they need at the right time. Automation includes email messages, social media management, sales, and other processes related to analytics, audience engagement, and planning.

In 2020, 75% of companies have already used at least one marketing automation tool. Why is it worth implementing marketing automation? This is a modern approach to business and an opportunity for employees to redirect their skills and efforts to more complex and vital business tasks.

For example, some companies are trying to implement a guest posting strategy on their own. To get a real effect, you need at least three specialists to search for the right platforms and several writers who will create content for the platforms.

As a result, it turns out that you need to involve at least 5 employees to complete this task. Instead, automating your guest posting strategy with a platform like lilachbullock.com allows you to replace the efforts of 5 specialists to complete this task. Moreover, the cost of services will be much lower than the salary of 5 employees.

The same can be done with social media, email marketing, and analytics. Therefore, the importance of marketing automation lies in the fact that you can spend your team’s time on more important, complex, creative tasks, and smartly reduce your staff, leaving only experts. Accordingly, you will be able to reduce marketing capital investments. Isn’t that what modern business owners want?

Key Benefits of Marketing Automation

Digital marketing is constantly dictating new rules for both business owners and professionals. If you don’t respond in time, you can miss out on making a profit.

Agencies and automated marketing platforms are among the first to respond to all innovations and strive to offer modern solutions. This means you don’t have to worry about you or your team missing out on something. But this is not the only advantage that marketing automation offers. Below we list the essential advantages of this approach. 

  • Personalize your marketing strategy. Automation is capable of providing information about consumer behavior. This allows you to understand your customers, and automation allows you to provide the right content to the right customer, at the right time.
  • Build loyal audiences. How much effort does a company need to take to gain loyal customers and target audiences? Automation allows you to create a strong connection between your target audience and your brand in auto mode.
  • Improve customer interaction. Marketing automation allows you to provide uninterrupted customer service. Automation allows to connect with the customer and maintain interest through content until the moment of purchase.
  • Boost Your ROI. Investments in marketing do not always bring the expected results, but only become another column of expenses. According to statistics, 76% of companies that spent money on automation received a return in the first year.
  • Gain valuable analytical insights. Automation allows you to receive a lot of information that will help to revise your marketing strategy and hit the target. At the same time, statistics can be obtained in real-time, mainly in the form of detailed reports.
  • Reduce employee costs. Automation allows for replacing employees engaging in routine tasks with advanced and customizable software. For example, there are a lot of email marketing services, platforms for social media automation, PPC campaigns launch, and much more. Thus, you should set it up once, and then, change and retarget your campaigns according to your current marketing strategy and business needs. As for your staff, you may hire only those who will help you on the path to digital transformation and suggest really relevant marketing ideas. 

Conclusion

Time and money are key to marketing. The advantage of marketing automation is that the team gets time to complete more creative tasks than writing reports and dealing with routine. Automation also shows where to invest, which significantly reduces marketing costs. Automation opens up more opportunities to strategize, create content, and address prior consumer needs. At the same time, it really justifies all the costs and allows the business to reach a completely new level. 


Frank HamiltonAbout the Author: Frank Hamilton is a blogger and translator from Manchester. He is a professional writing expert in such topics as blogging, digital marketing and self-education. He also loves traveling and speaks Spanish, French, German and English.




Methods to Protect Yourself From Cookware Brides Online

Buying a great Asian woman is a very well-liked option under western culture. These women of all ages come from a different culture and lifestyle and do not have the high-class of being well-off. https://womenasian.org/syrian-women/ Various mail buy brides by Asia happen to be born inside the U. Ings. and Canada, but you should know about the risks engaged. There are also a selection of other risks you should be aware of, such as fermage. This article will go over some of these potential risks and how you may protect yourself from scams.

First of all, concentrate on the risks. Allow me to explain feel self-assured about your capability to take care of an Asian partner, you should not select this option. Several women have simply no experience in dating international men, it is therefore important to continue to keep these in brain. However , you should remember that the majority of them are full of absolutely adore and want to offer it all to the gentleman they marry. They are also focused wives exactly who become best mothers to foreign guys.

A common risk associated with Hard anodized cookware mail order brides is the fact that they tend not to immediately agree to a marriage. They get their some do not make the decision in a single day. They want to find the one man they’re meant to marry. They may not even accept a marriage right away. A better way to stop this scenario is usually to prevent the Asian snail mail order brides website. Websites like these have more than a million users. They are extremely user-friendly and mobile-friendly. Additionally they provide good customer service. They have a data source of beautiful Asian women of all ages aged 25-34.

Asian women of all ages need to feel very special and be able to link with their partners. They want a partner that will be loyal and not present an affair. They are also looking for monetary security. You will be able to give them financially, and they’ll appreciate your efforts. They also be ready to marry a male with a steady job. When you are not looking forward to that, you can begin dating Asian brides over the internet.

Another common trait of Asian brides to be is their very own open-mindedness. They cannot consider the race or perhaps religion as a barrier. They are willing to make an effort new things and don’t hold back all their emotions. They are open-minded and get a wide range of pursuits. They are not really afraid to realize different things and revel in new experience. They can also assist you to learn anything while betrothed, which makes all of them the perfect decision. If you want to know how to date an Asian star of the event, you can stick to the tips underneath:

Asian birdes-to-be are typically even more feminine than their American counterparts. They do not possess a lot of self-confidence, but are willing to allow you to get to know them and their traditions. These gals are often more relaxed and laid-back than their western counterparts, they usually do not make-believe to be someone they are not. They are extremely open and are happy with their partners. They will be open to dating a man who is even more suited to all of them, but they can also be quite picky.

Hard anodized cookware brides happen to be difficult to night out, but it is definitely not unachievable. Don’t stop if you obtain a no out of an Cookware woman. They are usually very reticent and hard to strategy, but don’t give up in case you aren’t interested. If they’re open to dating you, they will gradually warm up to you personally and start experiencing you since the ideal partner. So for anyone who is thinking of getting committed, start dating an hard anodized cookware bride and get a wonderful relationship!

When it comes to Asian brides to be, you need to understand that they aren’t painless to have. It’s a prevalent misconception that Asian women are submissive and want to home to be submissive to their partners. While you can’t ignore this reality, it isn’t the only misconception people have about Hard anodized cookware women. Additionally , there are some stereotypes that are wildly popular regarding Asian brides to be that you need to steer clear of.

A good Hard anodized cookware bride may be a woman who has already set her goals. These women of all ages are not trying to find a relationship with someone who is only enthusiastic about a relationship with her family. They’re more likely to look elsewhere for your husband and therefore are more open-minded. They’re also more likely to have kids. The only difference is that they’re more likely to get married to someone with increased money and more freedom than you.




Social Media Marketing Quick Tips

Jill Kurtz, Owner, Kurtz Digital Strategy

How do you feel about your social media marketing? Are you feeling on top of it all or way behind? Here’s an overview of what you need to do. Cover these basics and you are in a good position to accomplish your marketing goals on social.

Be on the “Right” Social Channels

The right places to be are the places where your target customer or audience hangs out. There’s no need to be on Pinterest, for example, if the people you want to reach don’t spend any time there.

How do you decide? Pew Internet does great research into who is where on a national basis. Their social media research will give you a good sense of where your target audience is likely to be.

Do some local fact checking. Ask the people you want to engage with. Where are they on social? How often do they use it? What do they like and not like to see?

Bottom line is the right place(s) to be are the platforms that make the most sense based on your industry and audience.

Provide Accurate Profile Information

Once you pick your places to be, you may immediately start thinking about what you will post. That’s not the next step. Completing your profile is the next most important step.

Fill out your profile completely. Add images. Complete all the information fields. Not only does this make your profile look more professional and credible, but this step makes your business easier to find.

Make sure to revisit your profile regularly to make sure it is still complete and accurate. Business details change. And, all of the social channels add options to the basic profile all the time.

Always use all the options to link to your website and other social channels from each profile. The more interconnected you make your online presence, the better.

Post Interesting Content

You need to post content on a regular basis to have any impact on social media. The frequency depends on your type of business and the expectations of the people you want to reach. The content should be a mix of what you want to say and what your audience cares about.

All of your content should support your business goals and reflect your subject matter expertise. Write your content in a conversational way. Social media is a social place – write like you would speak in a face-to-face conversation.

Make Connections

You need to be seen to be effective. Follow fellow businesses, brands and prospects.

Following others shows that you’re an active participant in the social space. Social is all about creating connections and relationships. If you just want to share your latest sales pitch and don’t want to interact, that’s what ads are for.

Follow competitors, industry leaders, customers, and prospects, to see how others operate on social media. Most networks offer follower suggestions to get you started and keep your network growing.

Know Who Is Talking About You and Get Involved

Have a way to monitor for mentions of you and your brand. Timeliness is very important, especially when it comes to customer service.

Most platforms have a search function. You can also use tools like Hootsuite, Mention and Sprout Social to find mentions.

Respond to both positive and negative mentions. It is important to not let inaccurate information go uncorrected. Fans and detractors alike will appreciate knowing you take the time to react to their postings.

Promote your Social Channels

Help people find you on social. The more connections you have, the more impact your efforts there will have.

Some places you can hype up your profiles include:

  • Signage in your store
  • Website links
  • Email signature
  • Email newsletter
  • Business cards
  • Paid ads



Resolution: Committed to Cursing?

 

Dr. David Hagenbuch, Ethicist and Professor of Marketing, Messiah University, Author of Honorable Influence, Founder of MindfulMarketing.org 

Do you have a resolution for 2021?  According to Parade, the most popular annual self-promise is to lose weight.  Given interests in appearance and health, it’s understandable that many people want to watch what they put into their mouths.  What’s surprising is that individuals seem increasingly unconcerned about what comes out of their mouths.  In fact, an ad campaign from an unexpected source is encouraging people to let profanity fly.

One might guess the campaign comes from a company like Budweiser, which a few years ago ran an infamous Super Bowl ad featuring outspoken British actress Helen Mirren who delivered a caustic anti-drunk-driving rant that had parents rushing to cover their kids ears.  Amazingly, the current profanity-laced campaign is from the Mental Health Coalition.

Actually, “laced” is an understatement.  The 90-second spot’s central theme and action are the F-word and its accompanying hand gesture.  Why so much obscenity?  The premise is that since people have suffered so much over the last 12 months from a global pandemic, racial injustice, and an extremely combative election, the best thing to do is to blow off steam by telling 2020 exactly what we thought of it.

The ad ends with a fittingly obscene call-to-action: “Text [middle finger emoji] to 1-877-EFF-THIS and donate $5 to the Mental Health Coalition.”

Why would the Mental Health Coalition want to connect its mission and brand to cursing?  The rationale is not as tenuous as you might first think.  In fact, there’s a body of literature that suggests that expressing anger through swearing is good for mental health.

One study, which asked participants to submerse their hands in ice water, discovered that swearing increased pain tolerance by nearly 50%.  Other research found that people could achieve greater physical performance, pedaling a bike, when employing profanity.

Writing for Psychology Today, Neel Burton, M.D., a psychiatrist and philosopher who teaches in Oxford England, offers “The seven best reasons for swearing,” which he suggests are:

  1. Pain relief
  2. Power and control
  3. Non-violent retribution
  4. Humor
  5. Peer and social bonding
  6. Self-expression
  7. Improved psychological and physical health

It’s hard to argue against empirical science and respected health professionals, but it seems that the preceding research and writing gives less than adequate treatment to a pair of important considerations, which the following two questions address:

1) What’s the long-term impact of swearing on self-concept?  Even if uttering a curse word helps reduce pain in the moment, it seems that swearing could affect one’s extended mental health, which is partly a function of others’ perceptions of us.

First, to be forthright and hopefully avoid seeming self-righteous:  I have sworn.  I’m not sure that any of those irreverent expressions helped me in the moment, but one thing is certain: I never felt good afterward about what I said; rather, I regretted each of those instances.

While it’s uncomfortable for me to admit that I’ve sworn, it would be very painful if I had to think of myself as ‘a person who swears,’ and it would be unacceptable if I in some way encouraged others to have such a perception of me.  I don’t want to swear and, for various reasons that include my faith, I would never want swearing to be something that defines me.

A few years ago, triggered by what I saw as a troubling increase in casual cursing, I wrote an article for The Marketplace, “Don’t curse your own brand.”  In the piece I identified five adjectives, or “unbecoming brand qualities,” that profanity projects: unintelligent, angry, unproductive, indecent, and untrustworthy.

Granted, it may be more important for some people/professions to maintain the impression of piety than it is for others.  Still, a vulgar vocabulary fuels the preceding unfavorable perceptions in others, which is hard to believe have a positive net impact on anyone’s self-concept.

2) What’s the impact of profanity on others?  Almost all of the research and writing of others I referenced above suggests that ‘You should swear because it’s good for you.’  Largely missing in the analyses is the affect that one’s cursing has on those exposed to it, especially if the unpleasantries are directed at them.

Burton does mention that swearing can foster “peer and social bonding.”  I believe there are better ways to foster social bonds than swearing, but I can understand how cursing could work to that end, if it’s ‘friendly’ and mutually accepted.

In most instances, though, being on the receiving end of a curse word is not appealing.  That’s why in any kind of potentially volatile situation, from a customer service encounter to a hostage negotiation, swearing rarely helps.  In fact, it usually increases the tension by making people more uncomfortable, angry, or upset.

Overlooking the impact of cursing on others is probably the biggest irony of the Mental Health Coalition’s ad campaign.  On the organization’s own website, its homepage expresses an important truth: “The language we use is powerful, so let’s talk about it.”  Yes, words are powerful, and, contrary to the “sticks and stones” adage, poorly chosen ones can hurt deeply.

Of course, being bullied or shamed can’t be good for anyone’s mental health, but how that belittling often occurs is particularly pertinent here.  A report on workplace bullying by Safe Work Australia found that “The most common forms of bullying included being sworn at or yelled at (37.2 per cent).”  Others affirm the connection between cursing and bullying, for instance:

To summarize:

Cursing –> Bullying –> Low Self-Concept –> Poor Mental Health

These relationships are a big miss of the ad campaign, but there’s one more notable fail:  Tourette syndrome, “a neurological disorder characterized by repetitive, stereotyped, involuntary movements and vocalizations called tics.”  Though rare, some individuals with the disorder experience coprolalia, which includes “uttering socially inappropriate words such as swearing.”

Although Tourette’s is a disorder of the nervous system, not a mental illness, one can imagine that people who suffer from the syndrome are easy targets for bullies, and that those social interactions could be especially strained if the individual’s specific symptoms include swearing.

At the risk of getting waylaid on memory lane, many of us can remember a time, not that many years ago, when it was unusual to hear people swear outside of an R-rated movie or a locker room, both of which carried ‘language warnings,’ express or implied.

Now it’s not unusual to be shopping in a grocery store or watching ESPN and hear conversations punctuated with profanity.  It’s also puzzling that, unlike those in the Mental Health Coalition ad, the people cursing often don’t appear to be angry or upset; rather, swearing has simply become part of their routine communication.  Do ads like the one in question normalize such indecency?

The Mental Health Coalition serves a very important societal mission in aiming to “to end the stigma surrounding mental health and to change the way people talk about, and care for, mental illness.”  Unfortunately, however, its ‘swearing ad’ curses that very purpose, making the campaign an unfortunate example of “Mindless Marketing.”


About the Author: Dr. David Hagenbuch, Ethicist and Professor of Marketing, Messiah University, Author of Honorable Influence, Founder of MindfulMarketing.org 




Stratifyd Launches Next Generation Data Analytics Platform

CommPRO Editorial Staff

Stratifyd, a technology company that democratizes data science and artificial intelligence (AI) through self-service data analytics, today announced a revolution in data analytics with the launch of its next generation platform. This powerful analytics engine was re-designed from the ground up to be intuitive and easy-to-use, enabling business users – regardless of education, skill, or job function – to harness the power of proprietary and third-party data to easily reveal and understand hidden stories represented within the data, thus delivering the benefits of a data science team to every organization.  

The Stratifyd platform now provides the functionality to meet the demanding data science needs of an organization, but is specifically designed to be easy to use for those with limited data analytics experience. It empowers users of all skill levels to connect data sources to the platform, perform in depth analysis and data modeling, and discover insightful stories faster and more easily than previously possible. Through a graphical user interface, pre-built and customizable data analytics models, and simplified dashboards, the platform enables business users to extract insights (i.e., stories) that are hidden in the data and essential in helping companies improve customer service, better understand customer requirements, deliver product enhancements that address gaps in the market, solve problems experienced by customers, rollout new product and service offerings that deliver a competitive advantage, and more.

“Stratifyd is a company with data science in our DNA. We were founded with a bold but simple mission to enable everyone within an organization to not only uncover but also understand the hidden stories within their data,” said Derek Wang, founder and CEO of Stratifyd. “This release of our next-gen platform is a giant leap in bringing to life our vision of putting the power of data science into the hands of business users.” 

The platform was developed with the goal of helping employees from across an organization tackle real-world business challenges by analyzing and visualizing structured and unstructured data from a variety of sources, including third party and social media channels, to discern the most complete stories about a company and its products based on customer insights. 

Use Cases Highlight How Data Frames the Narrative

“Data is at the forefront of every decision a business makes and frames the narrative,” says Wang. “To better understand the stories hidden in data, it needs to be viewed from the lens of the business user as they are the storytellers that can consider the data in the appropriate context.”

If customers signal their unhappiness with a product or service through reviews or on social media, a business user can analyze the data to pinpoint the problem, making it easier to fix. Conversely, if customer churn rate has decreased, data can be used to connect the dots to see the bigger picture and the insights leveraged to replicate the successful outcome in other areas of the business.

A financial services company may lean heavily on call center conversations, customer surveys, operational data, and complaints to help them identify pain points and improve the end-user experience. Auto manufacturers might look to social media, external user forums, and blog posts to help them understand issues related to the quality of their vehicles and overall perception of their brand. In both of these scenarios, the business user has the context with which to analyze the data and drive the necessary action.

By enabling “citizen data scientists” to gather and analyze structured and unstructured data from more than 100 sources, these business users can leverage their expertise to see patterns and anomalies within context to derive a holistic narrative of customer feedback. 

Data Storytelling Flywheel Puts the Power of Data Science into the Hands of Business Users

The Stratifyd data analytics platform is the only truly end-to-end solution in the market helping organizations analyze and extract insights from omni-channel data. Its data storytelling flywheel includes everything that business users need to easily connect data, analyze data, discover insights, identify stories, and continually listen to empower data driven decisions as stories unfold:

  • First-time users can take advantage of the Quick Start Guide to accelerate their time to insights. The guide leads them, step-by-step, through the process of connecting data, deploying analytical models, and visualizing insights as they build their first dashboard.  
  • The platform includes a library of over 100 Data Connectors that make it easy to analyze structured and unstructured data – from public sources such as Amazon reviews, Google Play and iTunes Store app reviews, and social media channels, as well as internal company data such as call center conversations, customer survey results, and chat conversations – without the need for time-consuming, manual data cleaning.
  • Auto-learning Models analyze data and determine the best customized model(s) based on the data available; while advanced models enable data analysts to customize models based on use cases and specific data available.
  • In addition to making it easy to share insights across teams and departments, the platform includes Task Management features that enable customers to identify key findings in their data which require action, capture tracking tasks, and assign them to a relevant team or individual who can then take the appropriate action and track progress through to completion.



    If Not You, Who? How to Crack the Code of Employee Disengagement

    Jill Christensen

    Employee Engagement is all the rage.  Why?  Let’s start with the fact that per Gallup, only 34 percent of U.S. workers are engaged.  This means the vast majority of employees are sleepwalking though their day, giving companies little discretionary effort. 

    Engagement occurs when workers trust leaders and feel an emotional connection to your company – the same way they did their first day on the job.  And the payoff is enormous.  Companies in the top tier of employee engagement outperform their peers by 147 percent in earnings per share.  Additionally, engaged workers provide better customer service, stay longer, make fewer mistakes, are more creative and productive, and are great brand ambassadors. 

    What should an employee engagement strategy include?  To engage or re-engage employees, develop a list of action items that your managers (not Human Resources – HR) execute on consistently, which fulfill employee’s basic human needs. 

    Culture is defined as how we do things here.  So in order to change your culture, your managers need to do things here differently tomorrow than they are doing here today.  And, we know where managers need to focus, as these areas are proven to impact engagement:

    • The Right Person in Every Chair:  Employees want to work for a company whose values align with their individual values, as it causes them to feel more emotionally connected.  Therefore, hire for a values match as well as a job skills match.  In addition, if you have toxic employees, develop or remove them from your organization.  Why?  Because toxic employees spread negativity and incompetence, impacting the people around them. 
    • Goal Alignment:  Employees want to know that what they do every day has meaning and adds value, so ensure that every person’s goals are aligned with the CEO’s goals.  Why?  When an employee’s goals are aligned with the CEO’s goals, he/she can see that the work they are doing is making a difference.  They are adding value, and positively impacting the company’s future and success.
    • Two-Way Communication Culture:  Employees want their voice to be heard, so build a two-way communication culture where people can express their ideas, opinions, feelings, hopes, dreams and wishes. Why?  When an employee thinks their voice matters, they feel validated and important.  In addition, if you have the right person in every chair, you have smart people working for you.  These people are closest to the customer and have amazing insights about what’s working, what’s not, and what could be improved.  Tap into it.
    • Recognition:  Employees want to feel acknowledged and appreciated for a job well done, so create a recognition program based on thanking people for their great work.  Why?  When you give an employee a company-branded water bottle, you’ve done nothing to let them know specifically what they did that is recognition-worthy.  Put away the bottle and replace it with the words, “Thank you for…”.  These words will inspire employees to give you discretionary effort.

    As you embark on a journey to improve employee engagement, remember that it is just that – a journey.  Employee engagement is not a program or an initiative led by HR – it is a strategy.  Successful employee engagement strategies are championed by senior leaders, executed on by managers, and results are measured via an Employee Engagement Survey.  Make the shift today and you can begin realizing benefits tomorrow.  


    About the Author: Jill Christensen is an employee engagement expert, best-selling author, and international keynote speaker. A Top 101 Global Employee Engagement Influencer, Jill authored the best-selling book, If Not You, Who?, and holds a Six Sigma Green Belt. Jill can be reached at +1.303.999.9224 or jill@jillchristensenintl.com or http://www.jillchristensenintl.com.




    Industry Veteran Gregg Castano Launches News Direct – Upending Traditional Paradigm of News Wire Category

    CommPRO Editorial Staff

    News Direct, the first content and news distribution platform purpose-built for contemporary media outreach, officially launched this week. News Direct enables both journalists and PR professionals to do their best work. It’s the only platform with the exclusive capability to release standalone multimedia and features a self-directed, collaborative workspace powered by AI-assisted advanced automation software.

    Amid the coronavirus global pandemic, the volume and scale of pitches sent to journalists has exponentially increased – prompting brands and PR pros to determine the best way to convey and distribute COVID-related information in digestible bites. This is also reflective of today’s communications landscape.

    News wire services, which so many brands rely on to distribute their news and content, remain stagnant. This had to change. How news and information is disseminated and consumed today requires public relations professionals and journalists to create and deliver impactful multi-sensory stories. And this is what News Direct provides,” said Gregg Castano, Founder and CEO of News Direct. “It is a platform that helps great content rise to the top and get discovered. Full stop.”

    A purpose-built platform for the contemporary communications landscape.

    News Direct provides features and benefits that address key pain points for PR and IR professionals to position them for success. This includes:

    Exclusive standalone multimedia distribution: Bridging together PR and journalists’ ecosystems by delivering of relevant, engaging and informative content in the most sought-after formats. Infographics, videos and images are distributed as independent assets – without the requirement of embedding into a news release.

    Reimagined workflow: Users can work smarter with a state-of-the-art platform that combines advanced automation with speed, efficiency and collaboration. News Direct maintains the human element where it matters most, however – in customer service.

    Unparalleled security: The most secure data protection protocol in the category – supported by industry-leading technology that offers the highest level of content security throughout the workflow and distribution process.

    Actionable analytics: Proprietary media intelligence that provides meaningful metrics and insights that stakeholders care about. News Direct has partnered with News Quantified to provide best-in-class measurement and exclusive data reporting.

    Predictable pricing: The only major platform with a flat-rate pricing model for greater budget management and value. No word counting or geographic limitations like others.




    Layne Schmerin on The Growth and Domination by Top Tree Agency

    CommPRO Editorial Staff

    Layne Schmerin and Top Tree agency have started to become common names and buzzwords across the marketing space. As the world of marketing is almost solely done on the internet, Top Tree capitalized on this as the marketing techniques of our parents’ time are rather vague and useless today.

    According to correspondence with the co-founder of the marketing firm, Layne Schmerin,  we got a decent understanding of how his organization isn’t just remaining focused however how it has gotten one of the pioneers of the showcasing game.

    Top Tree began right off the bat as a cannabis dedicated firm founded by Layne and his brother, as they understood that the expansion procedure his office made out of need filled in as a solid base for all hurdles he immediately moved core interest of the organization.

    Initially founded to increase interest across the board of the medicinal uses of cannabis due to their family member’s battle with cancer, the co-founders decided that it was time to take matters in their own hands to educate the public about the good that comes from cannabis and shun negativity thrown towards cannabis by mainstream marketing media.

    Hence was brought into the world Top Tree Agency by Layne and his brother.

    Layne claims that they saw that they were acceptable at making efforts and acknowledged that they could help such a large number of different organizations, so the switch to a full marketing service to other clients was a no-brainer.

    The Agency has now worked with significant brands, for example, Advanced Nutrients and Ignite Cannabis. With their web based life reach of more than 10 million clients, they can contact for all intents and purposes any crowd. Top Tree has lead marketing campaigns for companies affiliated with Shark Tank as well as music giant Macklemore. The firm presently has over 619k followers across the globe and is growing at an increasingly rapid rate with the ability to provide quality service across the United States. The page is developing by hundreds day by day. With this unfathomable, totally natural, reach, Top Tree Agency can make showcasing efforts of any size for any crowd.

    In the same way as other marketing firms, @toptree was developed utilizing images and relatable social media substance. One thing they really push for is using social media influencers such as celebrities to effectively promote by organic traffic growth. As individuals saw this substance they would tag or impart to their companions to get a giggle. With each tag, remark or offer the page developed. The crowd expanded, and soon it was its very own specialty.

    In addition to the fact that Top trees have the range and establishment to make marketing efforts, they likewise have the persistence and ability. ”We treat every customer as their own substance. We make a customized arrangement and guide them consistently” Layne mentioned. This personalization can make any customer feel good confiding in the organization. The total straightforwardness that Top Tree guarantees is actually what organizations need when they really need to develop and pick up commitment.

    We are now living in a period in which advertising can be utilized to persuade individuals to do anything. Brands and Agencies are utilizing online networking to adapt everything. The wave is moving rapidly, be that as it may, through adjusted development and careful personalization, Top Tree Agency stays probably the greatest rival in the showcasing business.

    Top Tree is en route to expanding rapidly in the coming months. The firm is looking to add valuable clients and provide excellent customer service while being agnostic to brand, service, or business.




    Platinum Equity Completes $2.7 Billion Cision Acquisition

    CommPRO Editorial Staff

    Cision Ltd., a leading global provider of software and services to public relations and marketing communications professionals, today announced that it has been acquired by an affiliate of Platinum Equity in an all cash transaction valued at approximately $2.7 billion.

    “Cision is well established as the industry standard platform for communications professionals navigating an increasingly complex environment,” said Platinum Equity Chairman and CEO Tom Gores. “This is an investment that plays to Platinum’s core strengths. We will deploy our full range of global operations capabilities, financial resources and M&A support to help the company maximize its potential.”

    As of January 31, 2020, Cision is a privately held company. Cision shares ceased trading on the New York Stock Exchange before the open of market today.

    “As a private company, Cision is well positioned to meet both our financial and business goals,” said Kevin Akeroyd, Cision’s Chief Executive Officer. “The Cision management team looks forward to partnering with the experienced and talented group of professionals at Platinum Equity. Building on the company’s strong platform as a global leader in providing earned media software and services to public relations and marketing communications professionals, our near-term focus will be on improving customer experience, delivering innovative products, and increasing operating efficiencies.”

    Commenting on the transaction, Platinum Equity Partner Jacob Kotzubei said: “Cision offers an impressive value proposition built through a combination of innovation, commitment to customer service and the development of a broad suite of solutions. We will continue investing in new product development and additional opportunities to grow the business.”

    Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP acted as M&A legal counsel and Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP acted as financing legal counsel to Platinum Equity on the Cision acquisition.

    Rothschild & Co served as lead financial advisor to Cision and its Board of Directors. Centerview Partners LLC and Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. also acted as financial advisors to Cision. Kirkland & Ellis LLP acted as legal counsel to Cision.




    How Social Media Is Transforming PR and the Consumer-Business Relationship

    Clutch

    Social media has changed the consumer-company relationship. Consumers want to be heard and expect businesses to acknowledge comments on social media, according to a survey of 532 U.S. social media users.

    Social media presents a new dimension of possibilities and challenges for public relations (PR) and businesses around the world. It rebrands the concept of community and redefines the ways consumers and brands communicate.

    Clutch surveyed 532 social media users to find out what consumers expect from companies on social media and how these virtual interactions may impact their view of brands.

    Businesses can use this report to learn what their customers want from them on social media and how social media can be an effective PR tool.

    Key Findings

    • Most people (76%) expect brands to respond to comments on social media, including 83% who expect brands to respond to comments within a day or less.
    • About 80% of millennials expect brands to respond to comments on social media; 90% of those millennials expect brands to respond within a day or less, and 44% expect brands to respond within an hour or less.
    • More men (82%) than women (72%) expect brands to respond to comments on social media, and more men (46%) than women (33%) expect companies to respond to comments on social media within an hour or less.
    • Nearly half of people (45%) say they would view a brand more positively if it responded to negative comments on social media.
    • More than half of people (58%) say that social media has made customer service easier for consumers.
    • Most people (72%) say they are likely to recommend a company to others if they have a positive experience with that company on social media.

    Read the survey here.

     

     

     




    The Secret Behind Advancing Your Career

    Wendy Glavin, Founder & CEO, Wendy Glavin Agency

    Daily, I’m asked, “How did you learn blockchain?” Or, cryptocurrency? Or, artificial intelligence? Or, financial technology, and the list goes on. The answer is simple. I buy books, read, and do research. Instead of just retweeting, sharing or posting, I follow editors, industry leaders, people in other professions to learn. I regularly attend events, sit in the front row, take notes, listen, participate and meet new people.

    Why Attending Events is Crucial to Growth

    After, one of my business colleagues, Todd Fabacher suggested I meet Fay Shapiro. We had several conversations. Fay asked me to attend some of her company’s industry events. One-thing-led-to-another and I began writing articles for CommPRO. During that time, I listened and spoke to industry leaders, like Paul Kontonis, David Berkowitz (not Son-of-Sam;), Richard Levick, Ty Cobb, John Avlon, Mark Weiner, Shelly Specter, Renee Edelman, Judith Harrison, Mike Paul, Jim Joseph, and many others. I learned about many topics which I may not have learned had I not attended.

    I’m honored that Jim signed a copy of his book, “Out & About Dad” and wrote, “Wendy, Share your story!” during the event, LGBTQ experience in public relations. Other events I covered for Fay included, earned media in the digital age, truth on trial, the lack of trust in the media, Black History Month, Daniel J. Edelman’s Vision and Legacy, fake news, why PR pros must have a seat at the table, using social content to drive earned media, the importance of brand consistency, authenticity and loyalty, why companies must be purpose and customer-driven, and the need for diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

    None of this was luck or happenstance. Instead, it’s about doing the work and showing up. For example, if you attend an industry event and speak to people, follow-up. Connect with them on LinkedIn. Use Twitter, to read journalists’ feeds. Learn about what interests them. Create a relationship. People are more likely to trust the people with whom they know.

    Finally, go to events where the people you want to meet will be, instead of only attending events with like-minded industry peers. Don’t forget to bring business cards.

     

    Becoming a Published Writer

    Since I’ve been in marketing communications for 30-years, I write every day. But, somehow, I never “owned” the fact that I was a writer. The cliché is, the more you practice, the better you get. Somehow, that never hit me. But, I continued to write for my clients to learn about their industry sectors and become the voice of their companies.

    Subjects I’ve learned include, financial technology (FinTech), financial services, artificial intelligence (AI), mobile apps, crowdfunding, entrepreneurship, leadership, software, cloud transformation (I hate buzzwords;)), Twitter, and many other technologies. Twitter is my platform of choice. Why? Long ago, it took nearly a day to read The Sunday Times. Now, Twitter is like reading the New York Times in an hour.

    Using Twitter, I noticed a post from Equities.com asking for contributors. I pitched CEO Nathan Stevenson of ForwardLane, a FinTech AI startup. The Managing Editor at the time, Henry Truc emailed me to ask me to be a contributor. He said, “I’ve seen your writing. You don’t need to apply.” I said, “What about my FinTech AI client?” He said, “We want landscape pieces, not company articles.” I hesitated because it’s a daily, monthly or weekly commitment. Then, I agreed to write one article per-month.

    Henry suggested I write about, “Has the Public Lost Trust in Big Tech Companies?” We discussed a mini-research survey about how “the public” needs to be broken-down. Henry published the article. Since then, I write for Equities and have a tech column. I learned a lot from Henry and now, from Managing Editor, Ed Kim.

    While some publications don’t pay contributors, many do. When you search on Google, be sure to look for the specific subject or industry sector that interests you. Submissions to reporters expire so it’s important to search the current date. You can find any type of writing, including, technical, scientific, literary, financial, essays, marketing, public relations, travel, poetry, cooking, blogging and more. All it takes is your interest and online research.

    If you’re in PR, there’s a new site I recommend called Qwoted which sends reporters’ requests for experts. Other free sites include HARO (Help a Reporter Out) and ProfNet.

    We Think We Can’t but We Can

    Fay asked me if I could do financial writing. Having been married to a bond salesman on Wall Street for thirty-years, I said, “No. Finance is one of the only things I can’t write about.” Of course, if you know Fay, she recommended me anyway.

    In January 2016, I began working with a FinTech startup, a software enterprise company for supply-chain, and a software industry leader in mutual fund trading, data management, revenue, expense management, compliance, and analytics. All of it was financial writing.

    Remember the show, “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” One of my phone-a-friends was my ex-husband. I called him to obtain a more in-depth understanding about mutual fund trading. He’s great at providing a mini-thesis or telling me where to go to find the answers.

    It’s important to have friends in different industry sectors with whom you can call upon to help or point you in the right direction. It’s not about sending emails, IN Mails, DMs or comments, and seeing what will stick. It’s about building relationships over time. “Perception is the co-pilot to reality. You are your own competitive advantage. Nobody can be you like you can. If you bring your authentic self to the table, people will trust you and trust is at the heart of any successful relationship.” – Carla Harris

    Eventually, I obtained press passes to cover events. What’s great is you attend global and national events for free. Then, you write an article. Here’s what it led to in December 2017: “Strategic Trends: AI, Machine Learning and Customer Service” was the #9 MOST-READ article in 2017.  “From Big Banks to the Underbanked: FinTech’s Customer-Centric Model was the #8 Most-Viewed Event in 2017.

    Attending and covering events helped me reposition my career. I gained more confidence, credibility and trust. You’ll find, when you’re helping or teaching others it inspires you to do more.

    Reverse-Engineer Your Passion

    During Social Media Week 2018, I obtained a press pass. Once there, I realized that it was too late for me to interview people since interviews were set-up at 6-12 months in-advance. How could I have a press pass and not write an article? I looked at all the events and found Jeffrey Lancaster who was speaking about blockchain. I knew nothing about blockchain and decided to attend his event to learn more.

    After, I researched all the latest articles I could find. Then, Jeffrey and I met at Decoded in New York City. I came prepared with questions from a Forbes article and we talked. Jeffrey gave me a tour and explained how the company teaches non-tech executives to Code in a Day. Learn to Code in a Day is an incredible opportunity. Since it’s for groups of executives, if you want to join, please let me know. We wrote my first blockchain article, “The Amazing Utility of Blockchain: From Mining Crypto for Charities to Tracking E-Coli.”

    Finally, it hit me. I’m a tech writer. Looking back, it’s been the thread throughout my career. Often, people say you need to find a passion. But, if you look back, instead of forward, you may remember previous jobs, hobbies, interests and people you met along the way. Instead of looking for your passion, it may find you as technology and writing did for me.

    Why You Should Attend SXSW2020 

    As many of us are, I’m part of groups on LinkedIn and others including, networking, like LinkedIn Network After Work where I got my first client after launching my agency in 2016. I urge you to find and attend events in your area to meet new people, make connections, find a job or build on your career.

    Facebook has many groups. One in which I’m a member is PR, Marketing and Media Czars. A member whom I didn’t know contacted me. She asked me to attend SXSW2019. I knew it was a global event for the film and music industries. I didn’t know it included technology and so much more. After speaking with Adryenn Ashley, I decided to attend.

    If you’ve never been, SXSW it’s unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. Imagine going into the biggest sports stadium you know. Then, double that. The entire city is transformed with hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. Beyond a single venue event, it’s the entire city. Sanctioned events are in roughly ten places including, the convention center and hundreds of unofficial side events.

    I was only able to attend a few official events. I attended side events with Adryenn as part of her CrytoVixens Investors Lounge. There were panel discussions about data privacy, blockchain, GDPR, sovereign identity, voting, dating, apps, the media and more. I spoke on a panel moderated by Stewart Rogers, “How to Make the Media Love You.” Other speakers included, Brittany Kaiser, Phu Styles, Priya Kuber, Tina Mulgueen, Rachel Wolfson, Anne Ward, and Monika Proffitt. We’ve kept in-touch. I look forward to spending more time with them online, in-person and at SXSW2020.

    For me, another revelation there was ageism is a myth. I was 60-years old during South by and it was a competitive advantage. People listened to one another regardless of age, title, background, experience, or any other “data points” used to classify and categorize us. It was a debate of ideas.

    If you’re asked to attend or speak at an event, take a leap of faith, even if you’re scared… go, speak and meet people whenever you’re asked. You never know what will come of it. For me, I learned about blockchain, returned to New York City and kept reading and writing about digital trust, data privacy, Brittany Kaiser and her Netflix documentary, The Great Hack, Facebook’s Libra, and more.

    I attend a lot of blockchain events and speak with startups, cryto (cryptocurrency) enthusiasts and edit pitch decks and whitepapers. Previously, I edited a few whitepapers. Now, I do both on a regular basis. The number of new people you’ll meet is incredibly exciting and rewarding.

     

    SXSW Recap - Wendy Glavin

    How to Get by With a Little Help from My Mentors

    An important lesson I learned is to find mentors. I’ve had many, including my father, a prosecutor, who died at the young age of 67. Others include one of my boss’s Sam Rogers, friends, business colleagues whom I’ve mentioned above, and my three grown boys.

    In January 2017, I hired Deirdre Breakenridge as my communications consultant. She helped me to keep moving forward with specific assignments, focus on my writing passion and bring out my personality in my work. Deirdre continues to be an advisor, dear friend and my role model.

    I still own my own agency, continue to write and attend events of all sizes. I’ve built upon my knowledge and skillset and have more even more business colleagues and friends. As Deirdre says, “I’m a #ForeverStudent.”

    Now, it’s time to for you to think about how you will continue to build upon your strengths at any age and move forward. World-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. discovered a simple but groundbreaking idea: The power of mindset.

    In her book, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” she illustrates how success in almost every area of human endeavor can be dramatically influenced by how we think about our talents and abilities. She says, People with a fixed mindset are less likely to flourish than those with a growth mindset; those who believe that their abilities can be developed. Mindset reveals how great parents, teachers, managers, and athletes can incorporate this idea to foster outstanding accomplishment.

    My three sons always loved Dr. Seuss, as I’m sure those of you with children do too. I love this quote, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

    I’ve laid out the story of my career (although not 30-years) in roughly 2000+ words. My goal is for you to know that the secret behind learning new subjects and advancing your career is not a secret.

    As a matter of fact, it’s in plain sight. In the era of Google, you can search for anything. Using social media, you can follow people and learn about topics which interest you. Living in a globally-connected world makes it easy for you to connect and engage with people worldwide, 24/7/365-days per year.

    None of this is a secret. All of us can do it. What are you waiting for? Do research. Read a book. Attend an event. Raise your hand, even if you’re shy. People will listen if you try.

    Now, it’s your turn … what will you do?


    #SXSW - Wendy GlavinAbout the Author: Wendy Glavin is a 30-year veteran and Founder and CEO of Wendy Glavin Agency in New York City, offering marketing, PR, executive writing and social media. Her specialties include blockchain, cryptocurrency, AI, FinTech and working with B2B2C technology start-ups. Her website is https://wendyglavin.com/. Contact her directly at wendy@wendyglavin.com

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     




    Consumer Identity in a Segmented World

    Ivan Bojanic, Senior Integration Architect and Nancy Walter, Integration Architect, Gongos, Inc.

    A team of talented insights managers can inform product lines and marketing campaigns based on consumer segments, but if they don’t accurately reflect the individuals within, it’s all for naught.

    Human identity has always been a fluid and complex commodity, but never more so than in the age of technology that allows for digital connectedness and extreme mobility. No longer are the communities we’re born into the sole force that shapes our attitudes and behavior. Rather, we have the freedom to choose and reframe who we are, who we want to be, and what matters most to us.

    While this presents limitless opportunities to humans, it creates a formidable challenge for organizations. They need to move beyond thinking of consumers in clusters and groups and embrace them in all their uniqueness.

    Identity and the Peril of Labels

    Segmentation has long been marketing executives’ go-to tool for organizing and prioritizing customer groups based on a mix of specific attributes, behaviors and attitudes. But relying on a limited number of segments to guide product development and marketing communications may no longer be all that is necessary to provide organizations with the competitive edge they need.

    “The old ways of building large segments of customers or prospects, aggregating them into static groups based on basic demographics are no more.” – Christopher Dean, MediaPost.com 

    In other words, connecting with individuals is becoming table stakes. Humans are hard-wired to respond to personalization, and this physiological finding is illustrated through bottom-line success. According to McKinsey, personalization can reduce customer acquisition costs by up to 50 percent, increase revenue by up to 15 percent, and boost marketing spend efficiency by up to 30 percent. 

    Segmentation’s value is in distilling large populations into smaller, more personalized groups. But, as we look into the future, the next evolution of consumer understanding will recognize that the face of identity is morphing from association with groups, to something more individual. For instance, today’s consumers are more likely to reject labels associated with politics and faith, while still engaging socially and spiritually. The percent who accept the label “environmentalist” has dropped 34 percent since the early 1990s – even though environmentally friendly products and services have ballooned since then, and 3 out of 4 of us support protecting the environment. The problem, it seems, is the label.

    Do you care about the planet? Yes. Do you want clean air and clean water for your kids? Yes. Are you an ‘Environmentalist’? No.” Alicia Menendez, host of Alicia Menendez Tonight on Fusion TV

    This means that the temptation to standardize offers and messages to fit a group’s perceived needs is no longer effective. Ninety-nine percent of all retailers say their loyalty program performance is at or above expectations – but 71 percent of shoppers say those programs do not generate loyalty.

    Many businesses are responding to this reality, with customized products and personalized messages, and special “just for you” offers, but many others do not yet have the tools, knowledge, or inclination to celebrate their consumers individually. Only one in four businesses prioritize personalized promotions, recommendations or offerings, while just over half offer personalized loyalty rewards.

    This brings the substantive nature of segments into sharper focus. Picture a segment-based customer service matrix that assigns frontline employees a talk track designed around a caller’s presumed needs. Will this generate a personalized interaction that’s truly aligned to the customer’s unique situation? Or, will this caller become one of the 77 percent of US consumers who are retracting loyalty earlier than ever before, migrating to a company that’s willing to learn who she is? 

    Beyond Segmentation

    Fortunately, segmentation offers a foundation to understand and provide dimension to consumer attitudes and behaviors. Yet, with today’s data analytics and customer journey mapping, businesses are moving ahead in establishing “segments of one” – offering a truly personalized path to engagement. These future-focused organizations are:

    • Creating the right connection. Business loyalty leaders learn from consumers by investing in a mutual relationship that builds connection and deepens understanding. These businesses prompt engagement with the brand through social media, forums, contests, events and co-creation of products and services with consumers, while their best consumers provide insights through increased purchases, direct feedback on products and advocacy.

    Fostering these connections makes consumers feel valued through genuine offers, communication and experiences – including unexpected interactions that activate powerful emotions, such as Mastercard’s #PricelessSurprises campaign that has surprised nearly 100,000 customers with spontaneous gifts.

    • Collecting the right data. Move beyond the narrow tunnel of traditional metrics like sales and brand equity, based on patterns and preferences learned through real-time data. Starbucks captures data from 15 million loyalty members every month, allowing it to customize communications, promote relevant offers and provide unique and unexpected rewards that deepen consumers’ emotional bonds. Nordstrom, a best-in-class personalized marketing retailer, learns from customers through advanced analysis of its millions of social media followers’ posts as well special in-store experiences, like pop-up shops, that generate data on specific categories and designers.
    • Using the right mix of triggers. The right message or the right offer at the right time provides the critical trigger to prompt consumer action. Starbucks increased afternoon visits through product and promotional offerings to high-potential customers during Happy Hour, generating incremental profits and strong promotional appeal. A special offer on snacks the week before a big holiday, or a discount on home meal delivery during a major storm, engages consumers with empathy, and reaps rewards for your company. 

    The Wisdom of Honoring Identity

    Segmentation gives a broad perspective of the market, and identifies potential trends, priorities and opportunities. But the proven business value of individualization, fueled with the possibilities offered through today’s technology, can guide the way and expand beyond the notion of consumer groups and forge meaningful, personalized connections with individuals.  Transcending segmentation not only makes business sense – generating increased revenue and efficiency – but today it makes human sense as well.


    About the Authors:

    Consumer Identity in a Segmented WorldIvan Bojanic, Senior Integration Architect, Gongos, Inc.

    With a background and combined twenty years’ experience in history, law, international postwar development, writing, and consumer research, Ivan has a natural desire to explore the connections between seemingly unrelated ideas, patterns and trends. He specializes in insight curation and secondary research, synthesizing complex and disparate resources on market phenomena into digestible, compelling, and actionable narratives.

     

     

     

    Nancy Walter, Integration Architect, Gongos, Inc.

    As an Integration Architect for Gongos, Inc., Nancy excels at the discovery and synthesis of consumer knowledge and market trends. Her passion for gaining and sharing perspectives on consumer behavior has cultivated thirty years of trusted relationships with stakeholders at Fortune 500 companies who want to fully understand their marketplace.

     




    5 Crucial Ways to Improve Business Fitness

    Business Fitness

    Susan Parks, Freelance Blogger

    With a trade war raging in China and concerns about a global economic slowdown growing, many small business owners are left wondering what to do.

    Do they stay the course, investing for growth and bringing on more staff? Or do they rein it in and take a more cautious approach?

    As it stands, the economy is humming along. However, for some, confidence is starting to waiver. The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index declined 3.2 points in January to 101.2, the lowest reading since the weeks before the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The index polls small businesses on their plans for spending and hiring and any weakness could be a forewarning that pain may come, requiring business owners to ensure their business fitness is in optimal shape.

    Businesses need to be in top shape not only to handle potential business interruptions but more importantly, to weather them. That means ensuring the organization is primed to achieve the maximum profits with the least amount of outlays. If that sounds difficult or impossible to you, check out the following five ways to accomplish it:

    1. Reduce Costs

    Small business owners know all too well how to do more with less. After all, many are operating on shoestring budgets as they grow their enterprises. In order to protect what they already have, they must run a lean business and keep costs to a bare minimum. When you add potential business hiccups to the mix, the phrase “doing more with less” takes on a whole new meaning. The good news is that there are ways to cut expenses, which is the first step in maximizing your business fitness. Here are three examples:

    • Everyday Expenses. Whether it’s the costs of supplies from wholesalers or the expenses associated with running an office, those outlays can quickly add up if left unchecked. That’s why it is important for business owners to keep a regular eye on expenses and be willing to constantly shop for a better deal. The last thing you want to happen is to find out after years of using a specific vendor that you could have gotten it much cheaper from a rival. Plus, cost-cutting strategies can run the gamut, from headcount to advertising.
    • Real Estate. Office space is one of the biggest outlays for business owners who are not operating in their home. Whether they are paying a mortgage on a commercial property or paying rent, businesses shell out a lot of money to house their staff. Unless you operate a storefront or warehouse, chances are you can get by with a smaller space. Curbing that ahead of a potential downturn can go a long way in improving your business fitness and positioning the business when growth resumes.
    • Outsourcing. Giving up control can be hard for a business owner but when looking to reduce costs, it can be a huge money and time saver. The Internet makes it easy to outsource certain business tasks. For instance, services are available to help with everything from payroll to customer relationship management. There are also a host of more traditional outsourcing companies and freelancers who can take care of the busy work for your business.

    2. Streamline Operations

    Every business owner wants to have a lot of smart policies and procedures on the books. Without them, how can they ensure control and confirm that everyone is following the proper protocols? But sometimes, those processes and procedures can bog a business down, wasting time and money in the process. In times of growth, a business owner may not even notice these questionable policies on the books. However, when money is tight and time is constrained, those policies could come back to haunt them.

    To prepare for any future challenges and to improve your business fitness, let go of those processes and procedures that aren’t working and replace them with more cost-effective strategies, being mindful of those steps that save time rather than create more work.

    Determining which policies should go in the heap can be challenging, particularly if you are the person that came up with them. To ensure you aren’t hanging on to ineffective processes just because you thought it was brilliant at the time, have your workers weigh in. They are on the frontline following those processes and procedures and as a result, they know which ones work well and which ones are a waste of time.

    3. Train Your Staff Regularly and Efficiently

    Most businesses focus on training their staff when they come on board and then outside of the annual review, they do very little in the way of retraining. And that’s even true for businesses that experience constant changes. Smart business owners understand the importance of staying on top of evolving industry standards and training their staff accordingly. For instance, this could mean staying abreast of every trending social media platform or offering the latest payment system — and training their staff to use them effectively. Without any training, employees will make mistakes that can cost a business a lot of money or worse, harm its reputation.

    To avoid any of those unthinkable scenarios and to prepare for any changes that come your way, pledge to train your workers consistently and for every new process. The more your employees learn, the better they will be at their jobs. That will eliminate frustration and enhance productivity — ultimately boosting profits for your enterprise. Not to mention, it can breed loyalty. For example, if you have a vested interest in your employees, they will be more committed to you. When times are tougher, they won’t be too quick to jump ship if you are forced to freeze salaries or cut hours.

    4. Maintain Laser-Focus on Customer Service

    If your philosophy is “the customer is always right,” you are much likelier to succeed in business. After all, customers are the lifeblood of any operation. Without them, there would be no business to operate. That’s why it’s important to remain laser-focused on customer service in good and bad times. When business is booming, the more customers you retain the better and when business is suffering, you’ll be thankful for their loyalty.

    When focusing on customer service, make sure to meet your customers wherever they are. For example, if your customer base is predominantly on Twitter, try to respond to any tweets as soon as possible — they will appreciate the immediacy of your response. If your customers prefer to communicate by email, ensure you respond daily when dealing with complaints and concerns. In this fast-paced, technology-driven society, people welcome a business owner who goes the extra mile. Even sending a coupon on a customer’s birthday can go a long way in boosting customer service.

    Make sure that the love of the customer is weaved into the culture of your organization. It should be part of the mission, emphasized during the onboarding process and frequently during training and retraining. After all, if your employees aren’t providing top notch customer service, your business will undoubtedly suffer.

    5. Embrace Technology

    Cloud computing, chatbots, digital payments, and social media can be very scary, particularly for business owners who aren’t that tech savvy to begin with. But just because technology frightens you doesn’t mean you should avoid it. Technology can do a lot for businesses — from cutting costs by moving operations to the Cloud to reaching new customers by running ads on a social media platform.

    Technology is designed to streamline operations, freeing you up to run and grow your enterprise. If it seems daunting, take baby steps. Embrace just a couple of applications or new marketing ventures and take it from there. Make sure to learn how to use the technology or platform — and teach your staff to do the same — before going live with anything customer-facing. You want any novice tech mistakes to happen behind the scenes and not in front of your customers, many of whom have grown up with a smartphone on their hip.

    Final Thoughts

    Maintaining a fit business doesn’t mean embracing everything under the Sun. Instead, think of it as picking and choosing the strategies that work best for you. Just like people benefit from a healthy lifestyle, businesses can benefit from ensuring their operations are fit for the race. For instance, that could mean cutting costs out of the equation or implementing new technology in an effort to grow. Either way, the idea is to have a well-oiled machine that can thrive when times are good and continue operating in strength when times are bad.

    Are you a business owner? What strategies have helped you keep your competitive edge?


    About the Author: Susan Parks is a freelance contributor and journalist based in San Diego, California. She writes and reports on topics related to personal finance and careers. When not working, she splits her time between the beach and the hiking trails.

     




    Take Your Values Off the Walls…Display Them in the Halls

    Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.

    A sales manager read an article about his company’s refusal to deal with any country where “under the table” money was part of the negotiation process. He circled the article and wrote the words Right On! in the column, and mailed it to his CEO. The attached note said: “I’m proud to work in a company whose values reflect my own.”

    Webster defines value as “a principle, standard or quality considered inherently worthwhile or desirable.” The root is the Latin valor, which means strength. The best values serve as a source of strength for an enterprise or an individual. And as leadership effectiveness moves from control to collaboration, the key to bonding people to the goals of the organization automatically becomes the intangibles – trusting relationships, emotional attachment, and shared values.

    Strong, shared values turn an organization into a kind of hologram, in which every part contains enough information in condensed form to describe the whole. An observer can see the entire organization’s culture and ways of doing business by watching one individual — whether a production-floor employee, the receptionist at the front desk, or a senior manager. There is a consistency and predictability to their behavior that customers, suppliers, partners, and other employees can count on.

    Achieving this kind of integration takes much more than the crafting of a values statement. That may be where leaders start — but it is only a beginning. Values must be integrated into processes, policies, and organizational behavior before they become tangible – a shared understanding of “how we do things around here.” And that takes an enormous amount of time, focus and effort. It also takes a focused leadership strategy.

    Here are six tips to consider when creating such a strategy:

    1) Walk Before you Talk

    When a company wants to highlight any core value – we’ll use collaboration as an example – I recommend holding back all official communication until members of the executive team fully understand how their behavior is currently perceived and how they might have to change in order to model the candor and inclusion they want from others, until there is a system developed (or at least in the works) for teaching collaborative skills to employees, until there is a process in place for training managers as collaborative leaders, and until there is an appropriate shift from individual to team accomplishments in reward and recognition programs.

    2) Tie Values to Business Goals

    All core values need to be connected to strategic objectives. With the value of diversity, for instance, leaders need to present the business case – explaining why diversity is not only the right thing to do, but also why it’s crucial to the organization’s success. Diversity should be positioned as a positive force for bringing in new ideas, fresh perspectives, better customer service (especially as the customer base also becomes more diverse) and more effective problem-solving potential.

    3) Paint a Picture of Values in Action

    People need to see how values actually operate in their day-to-day experience. If the organizational value is work-life balance, leaders need to identify specific behaviors that demonstrate this kind of balance. Better still, they need to find organizational examples where the company’s objectives are well served by a flexible work arrangement – and tell those real-life workplace stories.

    4) Develop the Corporate Mechanisms that Bring Values into Reality

    3M allows scientists to spend 15 percent of their time working on whatever interests them, requires divisions to generate 30 percent of their revenues from new products introduced within the past four years, has an active internal venture capital fund, and grants prestigious awards for innovations. I don’t know if 3M has a formal “values statement,” but I know what they value.

    5) Create Linkage

    Ultimately, the leader’s role is to create linkage between the organization and its employees. And this goes beyond making sure that everyone knows where the company is headed, what’s expected of them and how their contributions fit into the overall strategy – although all of those concepts are vitally important. True linkage, the kind that bonds committed employees to the success of the organization, comes when there is a deep connection between the values of the company and those of the work force. As a leader, the most effective way of developing this powerful connection is to encourage employees to clarify their own personal values and to see how they fit within the values of the organization.

    6) Track Your “Values Alignment”

    Leaders who utilize a “Say/Do” survey to periodically monitor employee perception can make sure that the organization stays on track. Such an inquiry identifies values that have been integrated into organizational behavior – and shows where gaps still exist. Typical survey questions are: “This is what our values state. What actions do you see us taking that are in alignment with our values? What behaviors are out of alignment?”

    The right strategy has the power to turn your organization into a hologram – to make its values come alive!


    About the Author: Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D., is an international keynote speaker and leadership presence coach.She’s a leadership contributor for Forbes, the creator of “Body Language for Leaders” (LinkedIn Learning’s top video course for the past 3 years), and the author of “The Silent Language of Leaders: How Body Language Can Help – or Hurt – How You Lead.” For more information, visit her website — https://CarolKinseyGoman.com



    Counterpoint: Limos Can Be Safer Than Ride-Hailing

    Editor’s NoteWe recently sat down with Howard Gogel, Board Member of Limousine Association of New Jersey (LANJ) and Executive Director of Be Safe Rides and David Bakare, President and Owner of Executive Coach Builders in Springfield, MO to get their insights on the state of the ground transportation industry. 

     

    Counterpoint -Limos Can Be Safer Than Ride-Hailing

     

    Dignitaries and celebrities wouldn’t be driven in limousines if the vehicles were unsafe. While the horrific limo crash in upstate New York is still under investigation, the stretch SUV was an anomaly.

    Roughly twenty-years ago, the vehicle was a Ford SUV. Then, it was modified by a third-party. The driver didn’t have the needed Class B commercial driver’s license to transfer more than 12 –people in the vehicle that failed Department of Safety (DOT) inspections, had a faulty suspension, chassis and braking systems, and was not Quality Vehicle Modified (QVM).

    How do Stretch Limos Differ from Other Livery Vehicles?

    It’s important to differentiate stretch vehicles from other types of limousines, such as, SUV’s, Lincoln MKT Town Cars, Cadillac XTS, Cadillac Escalade, and Chrysler 300’s which must be compliant with the same federal safety regulations that apply to conventional vehicles,” said Howard Gogel, Board Member of Limousine Association of New Jersey and Executive Director of Be Safe Rides.

    Federal crash data compiled by The Associated Press shows there were seven limo crashes in 2015 and two in 2016. There were just 12 crashes involving large limos in the five years for which the agency has released statistics.

    Twelve people were killed in limo crashes in that span, 2012 through 2016. Over the same period, 171,508 people were killed in 157,451 crashes involving all types of vehicles reported The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. – Associated Press, October 2018.

    “Ford and General Motors make their Lincoln MKT Town Car and Cadillac sedans. Custom limo manufacturers make stretches which are heavily regulated. Stretch limousines are far and few between. Last year, there were roughly 500 stretch limos on the road,” said David Bakare, President and Owner of Executive Coach Builders in Springfield, MO.

    A 25-year industry veteran, Bakare says his vehicles must be evaluated by Ford Motor Company and adhere to Quality Vehicle Modifier (QVM) standards including engineering, manufacturing and quality control. Compliance standards include all applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Standards (FMVSS), Ford and Lincoln industry guidelines, annual facility inspection and review, and a commitment to continuous improvement

    Currently, the policies in-place coincide with the on-going changes of the QVM program and of the conversion industry. The following provides a general overview of the QVM program requirements for new applicants and related conversion information for the Lincoln MKT Town Car. Complete conversion information is contained in the latest QVM Limousine/Hearse Builders Guide: Special Vehicle Engineering Commercial Vehicles.

    For 2018-2019, Ford QVM Program Qualification Requirements include, but are not limited to the following:

    A Prospective QVM Applicant Must:

    • Submit a written request stating their desire to be considered for QVM program approval with detailed information
    • Provide vehicle model, length, seating, doors, weight of driver, passengers and luggage
    • Proposed product design, compliance, purpose, intent, supporting data, group and crash test data
    • Undergo on-site inspection, six-month inspections, calibrations, mandatory probation period, wheelbase extension length, fuel system, frame extension, exhaust, suspension, tires.

    Seat Belts Save Lives

    Another issue is many people don’t wear seat belts. Seat belts dramatically reduce the risk of death and serious injury. Seat belts prevent drivers and passengers from being ejected during a crash. More than 3 out of 4 people who are ejected during a fatal crash die from their injuries, states the Center for Disease Control and Prevention Motor Vehicle Safety (CDC).

    Of the 12- people killed in limo accidents between 2012 – 2016 (the most recent years available excluding the Schoharie crash), federal data show they were not wearing seat belts, said Russ Vader, spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

    2 On Your Side investigated New York state laws in regards to seat belts in limousines. New York State occupant restraint laws say that a limo is considered a livery vehicle. In livery vehicles, it is the law that you must wear a seatbelt in the driver or passenger seats.

    The Federal Motor Vehicle Standards

    All cars in the United States must meet the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). Once a conversion company adds weight to the original vehicle, the former FMVSS tests are void, and the company must conduct new tests to prove its limousines meet federal standards.

    The conversion company becomes the manufacturer of the vehicle known as Ford Qualified Vehicle Modifier (QVM) and the General Motors Cadillac Master Coachbuilder (CMC) programs.

    For consumers and business executives, ground transportation choices include subways, buses, bikes and ride-hailing app-based companies like Uber, Lyft, Via, Gett and taxis. Other options are SUV’s, Lincoln MKT Town Cars, Cadillac XTS, Cadillac Escalade, and Chrysler 300’s (which can be used as “limos”). Each service has its pros and cons.

    Subways and Buses

    Subways and buses are overcrowded, have delays, can require standing which is difficult for people with injuries, handicaps and the elderly. Spectrum News NY 1 reports: Of the 472 subway stations in the city, only 118 of them are considered accessible stations.

    Nolan Ryan Trowe, a member of the disabled community says the city isn’t made for disabled people. He’s had to ask police officers to help him down the stairs with his wheelchair in stations that do not have elevators.

    Also, nearly one-third of subway cars are more than 30 years old. While subways and buses can take longer to get to a destination, these services are typically less costly. However, the MTA is proposing fare and toll hikes in January 2019.

    The MTA has laid out two options, the first of which would keep the base fare for subway and bus rides at $2.75 but would more sharply increase weekly and monthly passes. The second option would raise the base fare to $3 but would add better bonuses for passes. As for commuter rails (LIRR and Metro North), fares would also be going up about 4 percent.

    The MTA is also suggesting increasing bridge tolls by double the usual hike, 8 percent, to fund capital projects. They are proposing both 4 percent and 8 percent increases, as well as a reduction of E-ZPass discounts.

    A final vote is expected in January. – Eyewitness News ABC7NY, December 2018. 

    Cycling

    Similarly, bikes are impractical for people with handicaps, older people, and during the winter months. Also, they can be dangerous in large cities. More than half of all road traffic deaths are among vulnerable road users: pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists. –World Health Organization, December 2018. But, cycling is good exercise, fun, and a way to make extra money by delivering food.

    Ride-Hailing App-Based Companies

    Ride-hailing companies are unregulated, drivers are misclassified as contractors rather than employees, use their own cars which are not for commercial use. Insurance and liability vary per state and there’s no central source to research. Accidents are the drivers’ responsibility with little oversight.

    In, “When Your Boss is an Algorithm,” Algorithms manage what we do as passengers, by controlling and manipulating the information we have about the price and location of available cars. There are nearly a million active Uber drivers in the United States and Canada, and none of them have human supervisors. It’s better than having a real boss, one driver in the Boston area told me, “except when something goes wrong.”

    When something does go wrong, Uber drivers can’t tell the boss or a co-worker. They can call or write to “community support,” but the results can be enraging.” – The New York Times, October 2018. But, they’re convenient, abundant, available and all you need is an app.

    Taxis

    The requirements to become a taxi driver vary per state and city of residence, as well as the company for which they work. Drivers must submit their driving history report, receive criminal background checks, and in some states, pass a chauffeur’s licensing exam, undergo written and drug testing.

    But, fleets are often in bad condition, have minimal legroom, and may only have $100,000 in liability insurance. Many drivers barely speak English. Generally, customer service is average. But, they’re easy to hail and are less expensive than ride-hailing services throughout many cities nationwide.

    “When I can find one, a taxi is my preferred mode of travel. But in May, the base fare rose to $2.50 from $2. Every tick of the meter (one-fifth of a mile) will cost 40 cents, up a dime. A trip to JFK from Manhattan will run $45, an increase of $10. The new JFK fare is nearly the same as what a private car service would cost. Suddenly, the comfort of a Lincoln Town Car is that much more tempting.” – New York Magazine, May 2018 (Fares are rising again in 2019).

    Limousine Providers

    Limousine companies have strict regulations, including in-person interviews, fingerprinting and background checks, drivers are employees and receive worker’s compensation, unemployment and are required to pay state and local taxes.

    Employers must abide by the Department of Labor Laws which includes minimum wage law. Federal law requires each vehicle to have $1.5 million in liability insurance. All providers are licensed by the state, local and federal agencies which includes and operating license from the local town or state government with a federal I.D. number. While safe, they can be expensive.

    Requirements to become a professional chauffeur vary by city and state. In general, prospects must meet state’s minimum age requirements, undergo a background check, have no criminal record, a clean driving history, obtain a chauffer’s license, apply for a commercial driver’s license, and complete on-the-job training.

    Limousine-related casualties are rare and when they do happen it is typically due to passengers not wearing seat-belts or the limousines not being QVM-certified, as was the case with the tragic accident on October 6, 2018.

    Most vehicle crashes, and most transportation-related injuries and fatalities, are caused by human errors. The answer to making your next venture safer is to make better decisions by putting safety front and center. — HG.org (a large network of independent law firms to make law, government and related professional information easily and freely accessible to the legal profession, businesses, and consumers.)




    Lessons Learned from 2018 ‘s Biggest Communications Crises

    Lessons Learned from 2018 CrisesJulie Talenfeld, Founder and President, BoardroomPR

    They say a person’s character is measured by how they respond to adversity. In that sense, public relations and communications crises are a measure of a person’s or company’s character.

    From the White House to the coffee shop to the friendly skies, 2018 provided many examples of people and organizations responding to crises of their own making.

    POTUS, Tesla and Papa John’s made the top 10 list. Let’s review how they fared.

    Some leaders lack filters. Tesla founder Elon Musk discussed his company’s possible valuation and was publicly rebuked by federal regulators. Papa John’s founder John Schnatter used the N-word on a conference call and resigned as chairman. President Donald Trump and his press team seemingly pivot from crisis to crisis, whether it’s breaking news or a controversial tweet or alleged lie. When an organization’s leader is the face of the brand, its ship rises and falls with every utterance. CEOs and presidents often are mavericks. But they should empower communications teams to train executives about messaging best practices and implement a quick and effective response when the wrong message is spoken. Grade: Low

    Starbucks cools hot water. Earlier this year, an employee at a Philadelphia Starbucks called the police to report two black men in the store. The police arrested – and later released – the men, who had been waiting on a friend. An “ashamed” Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz personally apologized, accepted responsibility, and closed 8,000 Starbucks locations to put 175,000 employees through racial bias training. The cost? Millions of dollars. But as Schultz said, “We’re better than this.” Grade: Outstanding.

    United’s not-so-friendly skies. In November, United Airlines was hit with a $10 million lawsuit by a former NBA basketball player, Eric Murdock, who is black, accusing a white flight attendant of “race-baiting” when she didn’t allow him to switch to an exit row seat on a July flight. The flight attendant then allowed a white passenger to take the seat. Security was called to escort the player, and another woman who supported his claim, from the plane. Neither were charged. In a statement to media, United said it has “zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind.”

    In March, two dogs died in separate incidents resulting from United employees’ loading errors or wrong passenger instructions. United’s leadership apologized to the owners, and in the case of French bulldog puppy, Kokito, that died in an overhead bin, assumed “full responsibility” and repaid passenger fees. But in seemingly siding with its crew and offering refunds as an almost kneejerk remedy, United did little to quell social media uproar.

    This is the same airline that in 2017 had a seated passenger dragged off a plane to accommodate traveling employees, and ordered two teenagers off a flight for wearing leggings.

    Human errors happen at a company with 88,000 employees (it’s noteworthy that United attendants and gate agents days before the dogs’ deaths received compassion and customer service training). Some noted that leadership did what was required, but accused executives of lacking empathy in their response. Caring in public messaging and even embracing the “customer is always right” ethos, except for the most egregious instances, can go far in winning over the public’s – and pet-loving public’s – opinions, and business. Grade: Satisfactory

    How can your organization make the grade in crisis communications in 2019? Whether dealing with a CEO, one of thousands of employees worldwide, or the President of the United States, try to put a plan in place for how and who will respond, and how the team will react, to crises that emerge.


    About the Author: Julie Talenfeld is the founder and president of BoardroomPR, one of Florida’s largest integrated marketing agencies.  Learn more at www.BoardroomPR.com.

     

     




    The Power of Differentiation Marketing: How to Stand Out, Even If You’re Not Particularly Unique

    The Power of Differentiation Marketing: How to Stand Out, Even If You’re Not Particularly Unique

     

    Al Shultz, President / Creative Director, Al Shultz Advertising

    Let’s say you’ve got a meeting tomorrow morning with a hot new prospect, a guy who knows nothing about you. With no more clues than that, I can tell you the number one question on his mind…

    “What makes these people different?”

    Basically, he wants to know how you differ, if at all, from your competitors. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re a small business or a large enterprise; the bottom line question is always the same. It’s all about differentiation.

    Where does the power of differentiation come from?

    As human beings, we’re all hardwired to pay more attention to “what’s different” and pay less attention to groups of things that are all the same. Perhaps it goes back to primitive times and the caveman’s need to be able to spot his next meal when it was trying to hide in the foliage. Regardless of its origins, differentiation plays a vital role in the way our brains process information — and also in the way we form preferences.

    And that’s where things start to get interesting.

    From having studied and practiced differentiation marketing for over 30 years, my agency has observed that a product’s differentiation frequently leads to its increased preference in the marketplace. This is not necessarily intuitive or “fair,” but here’s a simple explanation of how/why it works…

    First, a product/service that has something different about it tends to get noticed more than its competitors. Over time, as people take more notice, they become more familiar with it. And as familiarity increases — voila! — preference for it tends to automatically increase, as well.

    Now, of course this won’t work if the product/service is obviously terrible or a clear-cut loser. But for the average, decent, workable product/service (probably 70-80% of what’s on the market), the progression from differentiation to increased attention, to increased familiarity, to increased preference can be pretty predictable.

    Differentiation has long been one of the big guns in the consumer marketing arsenal. But, B2B and small business marketers tend to be a lot less familiar with it. So here are some guidelines to help you start putting differentiation power to work in your marketing…

    #1. Critique your competition

    Remember: the goal is not just to be different — it’s to differentiate yourself from the competition. Focus on your top two or three competitors, the ones who presently take the lion’s share of your available business. Learn everything you can about them, but focus on the big picture: How and where do they market themselves? Study their ads, brochures, presentations, etc. Do they just overview everything they offer, or do they consistently focus on specific differentiating claims or benefits? And, most importantly, is their attempted differentiation gaining any traction in the market?

    To answer that last question, have a third party talk with some real customers and ask low-key but leading questions: “Is there something special that stands out about Competitor X?” “Do they have a specialty or an overall advantage — or disadvantage?” “Overall, how do you think they might rate on a 1-to-10 scale?”

    If possible, speak with at least ten people. Don’t pay attention to isolated comments, but if you hear similar opinions coming from several different people, listen up! Because that’s probably what your market thinks about those key competitors — and that’s what you’ll need to differentiate from.

    #2. Assess your available opportunities

    Next, you’ll need to take an equally careful look at your own company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats — otherwise known as a SWOT analysis.

    But never rely just on what your own people think. Have a third party talk with some of your current or past customers, and also with some non-customer prospects. Ask them the same questions that were asked about your competitors.

    After studying the competition and your own capabilities, you’ll have a much clearer view of some differentiation possibilities that might be available to you. In choosing what to build your differentiation on look for important customer-valued benefits that may be missing or not focused on in your competition’s offerings.

    But be wary of areas in which a competitor has an established strength. For example, if most of the customers tell you that Competitor A offers fantastic customer service, it would be unwise to try to build your differentiation upon superior customer service — even if you believe yours is better than theirs! You’ll have a far better chance of success if you base your differentiation on an “available” position, one in which you have little or no competition going in. 

    #3. Cut out the generic selling and start differentiating

    For differentiation marketing to work, you need to get your message right and you need to repeat it. So hone your differentiation message until it’s clear, and then be consistent in getting it out to your market just as frequently as you can.

    And resist the urge to go back to “generic selling.”

    You know what that is because you’ve heard it a million times: “Buy our stuff, it’s great.” “We’ve got lots of terrific features and benefits — just check out our bullet points; see if there’s something there that interests you.”

    The problem is, your sales prospects have heard it a million times, as well. Both from you and your competitors. So it all just goes in one ear and out the other. It’s dismissed as the gratuitous marketing blah-blah-blah that it in fact is.

    In differentiation marketing you need to cut out the generic and meaningless fluff and concentrate on conveying two primary messages: 1. Here’s what we can do for you, and 2. Here’s what makes us special, unique, one of a kind.

    “But we don’t have any real differentiation!”

    Many companies make the mistake of believing they don’t have any real differentiation. Often that stems from the false notion that differentiation has to be based on some clear-cut, measureable superiority.

    It would be great to have that, of course — but it’s absolutely not necessary

    Differentiation does not require superiority. Just look at the huge differentiating advantage UPS built just using the color brown. Or look at all the bottled water companies, who differentiate by name, shape and design of bottle, place of origin and more. Or GEICO, whose little green gecko differentiated them from all other insurance companies.

    Differentiation can be built upon the business name, logo and tagline, obviously — but also upon company history, lifestyle, company policies, uniforms, location, founders, pricing, guarantees, give-aways, durability, purchase terms, product shape, ingredients, components, production methods, geographic or regional connections, cultural or ethnic connections — and literally thousands of other factors.

    The ways to differentiate are limited only by your imagination. Just make your differentiation strong, clear and memorable — and repeat it consistently, everywhere you can!


    About the Author: Al Shultz is President / Creative Director of Al Shultz Advertising, a full-service agency that has specialized in B2B differentiation marketing for over 30 years. The agency focuses specifically on small to mid-size technology and industrial companies, across the country and around the world. Al has taught B2B differentiation marketing seminars for many years and is writing a book on the topic. Contact him at al@alshultz.com or (408) 289-9555.

     




    How to Create 4 Kinds of Content that Gets Shares and Attention

    Susan Young, CEO, Get in Front Communications

    Have you ever played the “guessing game” with a child? It can begin as something lighthearted and fun. Then in a matter of seconds, it turns awfully frustrating.

    One day, my nine-year-old daughter came rushing home from school, bursting with the question: “Guess who I saw today???!!!” I was thrilled that Stephanie was excited–versus her younger brother who practically crawled in the door each day complaining: “Nothing good happens, except at lunch.” Groan 

    Of course, when I started thinking about who Stephanie may have seen, I immediately thought of 2 million possibilities. How could I guess, I had no CLUE as to who she may have bumped into.

    Besides, it was 4:00, no dinner plan in sight and I still had lots of work to do. I tried desperately (OK, that’s a stretch) to smile and guess….I mentioned a few names and, of course, I was wrong. The frustration grew. Both Stephanie and I were quickly feeling exasperated about the “guessing game gone bad.”  It wasn’t fun any longer. I was getting annoyed and so was my nine-year-old.

    I didn’t like the guessing game with my kids, and even though some years have passed, I’ve learned in business –and in life—that “winging it” —isn’t always a great approach. Guessing about cash flow, #content and customer service only brings confusion and overwhelm.

    Look, I’ve been in business 18 years. A plan is a valuable tool.

    That’s why I’ve been listening to conversations and posts about content marketing and strategies. Many people say they’re feeling overwhelmed about HOW to create timely posts that get people’s #attention.

    Let’s take the guesswork out of content so you can have a workable plan that’s easy…and frees up your time to do the things you enjoy.  Yes, work can be fun.

    You know I’m “no-nonsense” so let’s cut to the chase. I love content creation (#newshound) and you…well, you probably don’t. That’s why I want to share my shortcuts and tips with you in a Facebook Live mini-class. This is a 40-minute session (yes, you can spare 40 minutes for a plan!) that’s free.

    Join me on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018 at 1:00 PM Eastern and I’ll show you: “The 4 Kinds of Content You Should Be Using to Grow Your Business—But Probably Aren’t.”

    Wondering where to get more info? Don’t bother guessing, details are here.

    https://www.facebook.com/events/1978513725775359/

    Let’s plan to meet on Facebook on Sept. 20. #nomoreguesswork. Click here for info. 

    PS: Want to get started on content immediately? Download this free Cheat Sheet: 25 Blog Ideas You Can Use Ways Right Now (good for any industry and niche!)




    4 Keys to Using Competitive Media Intelligence to Your Advantage

    4 Keys to Using Competitive Media Intelligence to Your AdvantageTamsen Huver, Director, Western Region, Strategic Partnerships, PublicRelay

    Understanding your competitive landscape is almost as important as managing your own brand. As we witnessed first-hand with the Equifax data breach, the entire industry was dragged into brand crisis mode. While you may not have a line of sight into a crisis this extreme, having a good grasp of the key players in your industry makes you smarter about how you manage your own brand.

    For instance, today, many companies are proactively taking stances on key social issues and making pushes to improve on diversity and inclusion, lessen their footprint on the environment and much more. And for publicly traded companies, the ESG (environmental, social, and governance) movement has become an important pillar of investing. Competitive intelligence is key here to understand the position your peers are taking or not talking on these issues. You also need to know how your key audiences are reacting to your messages for these key issues.

    Regardless of what industry you are in, you need specifics to really understand your position in the market and find where you stand vis-à-vis your competitors. Competitive insights will help you build or revise your strategy and take advantage of weaknesses in your competitor’s positioning and messaging.

    So how do you get started? Here are 4 steps to help you glean intelligence about your competitors:

    Define your competitors

    List out your competitors and define what insight you want to learn about them. It is very important that your comparison analysis is performed on key data points that you also gather for your own brand. For example, if you analyze your own coverage for topics that include Innovation, Corporate Social Responsibility, and Workplace Environment, you would gather the same data about your competitors.

    Measure to set your baselines

    You’ll want to answer questions like these: Are there topics where you are dominating the conversation? What is the sentiment used when discussing your brand versus competing brands? Are there authors writing about your competition but not you?  And are there differences in the quality of outlets covering companies or issues, the amount of social sharing of content, or the syndication and reach of the coverage?

    Implement a data-driven strategy

    Now that you are collecting the right information, it is time to assess your weaknesses and opportunities on a regular basis. Are your competitors getting more influencer pick up for their CSR initiatives, are they growing positive SOV for their customer service? Use data to justify assigning more resources to focus on improving strategies that bolster underperforming brand drivers or boost categories that are doing well.

    Use insights to drive decisions

    Over time you can become more predicative about your messaging. You will be able to see trends in your coverage and that of your competitors. This will help you quickly identify anomalies and dig in deeper to see the underlying causes that might help you take advantage of competitor weakness.

    For more guidance on tracking your competitors, download our Eguide.