Think Coca Cola and you’ll probably be thinking red and white. Starbucks and you’ll have a bit of green, whiff of coffee and young people serving you with a smile. These two are great examples of how a brand can impose itself into your psyche without you even realising it. And that’s the holy grail of branding for even the smallest of companies.
Whether you own a small boutique in the Dubai Mall, or are an accountancy practice serving the whole of EMEA, do you know what your brand stands for in the minds of your customers? Do they instantly think of your logo? Or something more intangible, like your great/poor customer service?
Getting your branding right is a key part of your marketing efforts. So the first step is to find out what your brand should stand for, and then discovering what it actually means right now to your customers. The two points could be further apart than you imagine.
A brand isn’t just your logo (although with Coca Cola that’s often the first thing people think about). It is how people perceive your business, how they feel when your business name is mentioned. If you’re a restaurant it will be the food you serve, but also the experience they have while eating in your restaurant.
Understanding how people feel about your business gives you the ability to change aspects of your customer facing business. You can enhance the positives and make necessary changes to the negatives. A little market research should bring back the answers to how your customers feel about your company. And its how they experience your business, not what you think you are doing, that matters to a customer.
The main questions you need to ask customers are:
Do you deliver on your promises?
The online society allows customers easy access to other companies who offer the same products and services that you do. This is why it’s essential a customer feels their demands are satisfied when they choose you over another provider.
Are you offering the right product/service?
No industry exists in a vacuum. What was desired and needed ten years ago could be outmoded now. Do your customers feel your products and services are still relevant to their lifestyles or business needs?
Is your brand easy to understand?
Do your customers know what you stand for? You may feel saying that “accountancy services” should cover it, but do you specialise in certain areas? As a boutique do customers immediately think of you when they want a new dress, or do you offer a confusing range of clothes, jewellery, home wares and knick knacks that make them likely to visit another store instead? Understanding how your customers make decisions will help you position your company more easily in their minds.
Is your business easy to recall?
Unless you are the only company in the world selling one particular item, you have to distinguish yourself from the competition. It’s very difficult, and expensive, to become the market leader, the Coca Cola of your industry, but having a well-designed brand and a reputation for being good at what you do, will help keep your company’s name at the forefront of people’s minds when they need the product/service you sell.
Do your customer’s feel emotionally engaged?
Do they love your product/service? Is there a particular salesperson who makes their day when they get in touch, or serves them over the counter? Is your presence on social media making them happy, or annoying them? Emotional engagement can take many forms, so ask your customers what it is about your business that makes them happy. And, of course, what doesn’t!
Discovering what your customers feel about your business will help you understand what your brand stands for in the world outside. But don’t forget your employees. Ask them the same questions – their experience of working for you will help you gain a more rounded understanding of your brand.
When budgets are tight it’s hard to see how to spend those valuable marketing dirhams wisely. But effective marketing is possible; you just have to be smart in your planning.
Discover your USP
If you don’t know what differentiates your product or service from the next guy, then how do you expect your customers to?
You have to have a Unique Selling Point. Something that makes you different, a way of doing business that makes you stand out from your competitors. Identify your USP – then use it in your marketing. Push it to the front of people’s minds; get people to understand why your company’s way of doing business is worth buying into.
Research the market
A small marketing budget means spending time researching the best place to spend you money. A scattergun approach will yield poor results and you’ll have no concrete method of measuring those results.
Even the international corporations use marketing analytics to better understand their marketplace. Knowing how to market a product effectively is worth the time spent researching.
For example, if you are selling a new type of dumbbell that is slightly more expensive than average weight equipment, you need to know which location is going to be more receptive to the higher price. Get out and have a look around, go online and check the prices there. You’ll quickly build up a profile of which streets, cities and online areas are best for your premium product.
Understand your customer
If you don’t have a clue what your customer wants, how can you sell them your product. Or rather, do you firmly believe that your product or service is so ground-breaking that people will instantly see the benefit of it?
If you can’t think like your customer, get out there and ask them. Not all, just some, the ones you want to buy from you would be a good start.
Tell a great story
In marketing it’s all about the story. Tell a great story and people are more likely to buy your product. Even cheap products need a little bit of a story, even if it’s about why cheap is good. A premium product needs a really good story: where the ingredients have been sourced, how long it takes to mature, how much more effective it is for smoothing wrinkles, etc.
Get the story right and you’re half way there.
Invest in good design
People react consciously and unconsciously to the design of a product, website, point of sale merchandising. You may not be able to afford a good designer on your payroll, but it’s worth investing in a good freelance to get your new product or service off the ground.
Choose your staff carefully
When you are marketing on a tight budget you need to hire well. Think about what attributes you really need to make your marketing team smarter and more adaptive. Do you need someone who is great at analytics, SEO, copywriting, strategy, or all four?
When you’ve been given a qualified lead, it’s your job to make sure the initial phone call doesn’t lead to a dead end. How to turn a qualified lead into a sale is one of the hardest hurdles in a salesperson’s job. Yet if you follow the simple rules below, your chances of success will increase significantly.
Remember that the person on the other end of the phone hasn’t spoken to you before, and instinctively doesn’t trust you. If you jump in and immediately turn on the sales speak, the qualified lead may well just put the phone down on you. So let an element of chat enter the conversation. Take the time to show the person on the other end of the line that you are a human being as well as a salesperson.
Guide the conversation
Whilst you need to get personable, you don’t want to the conversation to turn to non-business topics. You may find you both love Nadel, but you need to steer the conversation towards how your product can help their business, not who won a recent tournament.
Don’t be aggressive
You have to keep the conversational tone light. Don’t start being aggressive. Not only will they end the call quickly, they may even make a complaint to your company. You will have lost the sale and possibly receive a reprimand.
It may be that the qualified lead has been looking forward to your call. They could very well have already recognised that they need your service or product. When you call them, don’t just launch into your sales patter, listen carefully for signs that they are ready to buy. If you just plough through your script, you may put them off, so take it slowly, listen carefully, and be flexible enough to follow their lead.
Don’t make false claims
Remember that turning a qualified lead into a sale doesn’t give you the right to make up stats, claim your product or service can do something it can’t, or lie. You may be found out straight away and you’ll lose the sale there and then. Even if you do get to the point where you’ve made the sale, the customer will eventually find out and probably won’t order from you again.
Don’t be too pushy
This is a little like aggression, but probably wont get you in as much trouble at work, but might lose you the sale. A potential customer knows you are on the phone to make a sale, and they’ve agreed to the call so are willing to listen to what you’re offering. But they don’t want to feel that you are forcing them to buy something they may not need. Assess their needs honestly. If they really don’t need what you’re selling today and you are honest, they will have more respect for you. Push beyond the point where they feel comfortable and you will lose out.
Ask lots of questions
Make the effort to really get to know the person’s business and what they need. This is a two way street. You will benefit from really knowing how their company works, what their problems are and how you can help. They get the reassurance that you are genuinely interested and not just after a quick sale regardless of their needs.
Remember, a qualified lead can become a sale, but only if you don’t scare them off in the short time you have on the phone to them. Be responsive, respectful and listen carefully to what they are saying.