Branding Equity: What It Is and How to Build It

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Carl is a business owner who is experiencing firsthand just how much the internet has revolutionized the consumer buying process. It used to be that a simple look at your products’ features was enough to sway consumers to make a purchase. But now, it’s all about the brand. In fact, Carl’s brand has become his most valuable asset. That is why he is doing all that he can to build his brand equity and distinguish himself from his competition.

What is brand equity?

Brand equity is what your business is worth without its inventory. Or, more simply stated, it’s about how valuable your brand is in the eyes of consumers and the relationships that you have with your customers.

To build brand equity, you must leave a lasting, positive impression regarding your brand in the minds of consumers. Your products and services and their demand and usefulness, of course, play a role in how well you can satisfy your customers, but they alone do not generate brand equity.

Top Tips for Using Marketing to Build Brand Equity

The steps outlined below are not in any particular order. They are three examples of essential steps that Carl has used to build brand equity, and each of them is an ongoing process. You don’t build brand equity overnight, and then suddenly get to take a vacation. You must work at creating this type of equity on a daily basis just like Carl has done.

1. Release Information About a New Product

You can have a quality product that you know consumers will want to purchase, but they have to know about it first. This is why you should always distribute information about your products. Whether it be creating a product brochure or a how-to guide that goes into the packaging of a new product, you will want to provide as much detail as possible. In fact, Carl has found that the more in-depth and more detailed his brochures and how-to guides are, the more engaged his customers are.

2. Monitor Trends and Perform a Competitive Analysis

Building brand equity means you can adapt to changes as they occur, especially changes related to new trends that hit the marketplace. The best way to monitor trends is to keep a close eye on Google searches. You will also want to perform a competitive analysis to see how your competitors are keeping up with the latest trends. Chances are, you can benefit from employing many of the same tactics your competitors are using. Carl, for example, performed a competitive analysis and discovered three of his competitors were enjoying an increase in sales by offering seasonal discounts. Carl then went to a local print shop and had 1,000 business cards printed with a discount code on the back. Over the period of six months, the discount generated an eight percent increase in his sales.

3. Collect, Use and Distribute Customer Feedback

Lastly, since brand equity is all about how you appear in the eyes and minds of consumers, you will want to use their feedback and respond to it appropriately. Carl publishes his customers’ feedback in the brochures and how-to guides he creates. Customer testimonials have been proven to be a huge asset in generating sales.

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Every Extrovert Can Learn to Listen

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The Courage to Connect

When research professor Brené Brown opened up to a TedxHouston audience about shame, vulnerability, and courage, she had no idea her message would become one of the most wildly popular TEDx talks of all time (with over 24 million views). Brown has spent the last ten years studying the power of authenticity and empathy, and poses wonderful questions like these:

  • How do we embrace vulnerabilities and imperfections so we can live from a place of authenticity and worthiness?
  • How can we engage people in a way that makes them feel worthwhile, brave, and willing to commit to something bigger than just a project or deadline?
  • How can we choose courage over comfort, stretching our team to connect in ways that powerfully motivate everyone?

Every Extrovert Can Learn to Listen

Brown’s work hits home in the hearts of many who long for authentic relationships and want to see this come alive in their workplace. While there are many hindrances to open communication, one of the greatest barriers is simply our personality differences. Over half the population are considered introverts, but research shows that introverts make up only two percent of senior executives. Which gives extroverts a great opportunity to do lots of talking. But studies show that business leaders who prioritize listening are perceived as considerably more effective than those who dominate the conversation.

Invite Them to Engage

We all have room to grow, and great interactions begin with intentional listening. Here are three ways to quiet your mouth and open your ears as you seek to engage others in meaningful ways:

1. Start every meeting with a question.

Imagine yourself standing before your team with an invitation instead of a megaphone.

Seek to motivate conversation rather than charging into a meeting with a tight-fisted agenda. Opening your gatherings with dialogue can shake out the nerves and cobwebs of the entire team, sparking creativity and building interpersonal collateral. Increasing dialogue can catalyze more “green light” brainstorming and bring a fresh, life-giving dynamic to your entire company. When you formulate meeting agendas, push yourself to start with a prompt and to leave more tangible space for discussion.

2. Listen with action.

How can you show your teammates their insights really matter?

Often people are tentative about sharing constructive criticism, fearing negative repercussions or believing “nothing will really change.” Great leaders surround themselves with those who will give honest feedback, and they intentionally close the “listening loop” by following up with some sort of action. Close a meeting by thanking your team for their honesty, or sending personal e-mails telling them you valued their input. Make a list of things to look into, review, or change, and add timelines to these goals so your ideas aren’t lost in the weekly grind. Even if you can’t implement suggestions, make a point to tell people they are valuable and you have actually heard what they are saying.

3. Embrace vulnerability as a step toward courageous communication.

What do you do when someone asks you a question you can’t answer? Saying, ‘I don’t know” can be the most significant reply of all.

When you acknowledge your limitations, it opens the door for your teammates to step in and shine or to admit their own uncertainties or frustrations. Vulnerability can grow powerful partnerships and prompt growth in areas you hadn’t previously targeted. Ultimately, vulnerability builds engagement, which grows teams and enriches the atmosphere. Push yourself toward bold, transparent communication, and you may be surprised at the results. Brene Brown says it like this:

“Vulnerability is not weakness. It’s the most accurate measurement of courage.”

Ready to open a new pipeline of thoughtful teamwork and open communication? Be brave, be intentional, and sometimes . . . just be quiet.

Everyone Is Looking to Save a Dollar: How Discounts can Improve Your Sales Revenue

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Many businesses look at offering discounts as a method for losing money. But, what they don’t realize is discounts actually generate revenue and improve their brand equity. Let’s take a closer look at how discounts increase sales and can put you a step ahead of your competitors.

Improve Sales Revenue

First and foremost, discounts, whether they come in the form of online codes or paper coupons, will draw the attention of consumers to your business. They increase traffic and, most times, lead to a sale. Even better is that while customers are using their discounts codes on your website or in your store, they tend to look around at other products and services you have for sale, which can further boost your sales.

Spread Brand Awareness

By offering discounts, you are putting your company’s brand name into the minds of consumers. Even if consumers don’t come to your store to use a discount, your brand name will at least be implanted into their minds. Also, if they don’t take advantage of a discount, they may know someone who can and offer to let them use their discount code, which only expands your brand awareness even more.

Increase Social Media Fans and Followers

Everyone is out to save a dollar. When they come across companies that offer great discounts, they tend to look them up on social media and either hit the Like or Follow buttons. And if you’ve ever used social media, then you know that when one of your friends hits the Like or Follow button, it shows up in your newsfeed. When you offer discounts, you have the potential to greatly increase your social media fans and followers.

Build a Strong Reputation

Consumers really love purchasing products and services from companies that offer regular discounts, like military and senior citizen discounts. As you continue to offer these discounts on a regular basis, you will build a strong reputation for your company and showcase to the public that you are a socially responsible organization.

Clear Out Space for New Inventory

Have you ever wanted to bring in new products to sell but you didn’t have room because you had too much old inventory sitting around? One of the best ways to clear out this old inventory is by offering discounts. Having a weekend sale where you offer a 20% discount on the products you are trying to clear is an excellent way to:

  • Free up space
  • Increase sales
  • Spread brand awareness
  • Increase traffic to your store
  • Establish Loyal Customers

Your customers deserve a discount, especially if they do business with you on a frequent basis. This is why creating a loyalty reward program that offers returning customers a discount is essential to establishing long-term relationships with your existing customer base.

Meet Your Sales Goals

You know that to maintain a profit, you must meet your sales goals. Offering discounts may decrease profit margins for a bit, but they can most definitely help you meet sales goals to ensure you keep maintaining a profit. End of the season or end of the quarter discounts should be offered at least four times a year.

The Takeaway

Don’t be fooled into thinking that offering discounts are going to hurt revenue. It likely will do the exact opposite as well as bring several other advantages, like expanded brand awareness and the establishment of loyal customers.

Top 5 Ways to Create an Eco-Friendly Workplace

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Many organizations today are looking for ways to become more sustainable. While there are some pretty out-there options for going green, most businesses can find more moderate ways to reduce their overall impact on the environment. Improving the energy efficiency of your office is really only the first step as there are plenty of options such as rescheduling offsite meetings as a conference call and more. See how these eco-friendly workplace initiatives not only tell a great story for the public but also benefit your employees and other stakeholders.

1. Limit Disposables

Many offices have a shared kitchen or break room, and you might find them stocked with a multitude of plastic cutlery and plates. One quick way to make your office more eco-friendly is to limit the number of disposables that you use in the office. You can easily encourage staff to use coffee mugs instead of foam or paper coffee cups, spoons instead of stir sticks, and real silverware instead of disposable options. Getting everything washed up only takes a few seconds, but this small measure can have a dramatic impact in terms of saving our environment.

2. Ditch Bottled Water

One of the perks available in many offices is bottled water or other drinks. Water bottles are one of the key issues with overfilled landfills, and swapping from individual bottles to a filtered water system or larger bottles can make a significant difference in the long-term quality of life on the planet.

3. Use Recycled Materials

Whether you are updating some of your office’s interior or moving into a new place, look for ways to incorporate recycled materials in your office scheme. Using recycled materials allows you to reduce your carbon footprint and show your customers your commitment to doing something nice for the environment. Look for opportunities to recycle in all corners of your office — from using recycled paper for your business cards to upcycling older office chairs and furnishings.

4. Adjust Your Thermostat

Did you know that a single degree adjustment can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year based on the size of your office? Your employees are unlikely to even notice a small change of only a degree or two. You might be surprised to find that many of your staff actually appreciate not freezing in the summer and sweating bullets in the winter!

5. Update Your Appliances and Light Bulbs

Your appliances and light bulbs could be costing you money! That little red standby light that you can see on many electronics means that there’s actually a trickle of electricity pumping through at all times. Turning items completely off will save you energy.  Swapping traditional light bulbs for low-energy fluorescents is another eco-smart change!

Have you gained some inspiration for ways to make your office more eco-friendly? These easy tips are ones that — once you get in the habit — you’re unlikely even to notice are there. Some of the changes may even benefit your staff, and all will help make the world a better place to live both now and in the future.

Why Your Marketing Should Be Actionable Above All Else

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One of the traps that even seasoned marketing veterans often fall into involves crafting collateral that has far too much information for its own good. Marketing messages start out simple enough, but as brands continue to grow and evolve, the marketing messages do the same until it can be difficult to remember what that short, sweet, actionable idea was in the first place.

And if you think your marketing has lost focus, just imagine how your audience members probably feel.

When your marketing starts to suffer from a lack of direction, it starts to become much too passive. Thankfully, the solution is simple – strip away the noise and focus on the action of it all. This, of course, requires you to keep a few key things in mind.

What is Actionable Marketing?

Think about your marketing the same way you would something like a call-to-action. A CTA is effective because it’s clear and concise. It tells your readers exactly what you want them to do, how you want them to do it, and most importantly, what they’re going to get in return.

It’s a way for them to take the experience they’ve already had and elevate it to the next level by continuing their relationship with your people or your brand.

Passive marketing, on the other hand, does the exact opposite. People may see one of your flyers and become aware that your brand exists, but they’re not motivated to do much with that information. They certainly don’t know why they should care or what you can do for them that nobody else can. Passive collateral just… is. That, most definitely, is a problem.

To put it another way, every element of your collateral – from the color design of a flyer to every last word on a brochure – needs to be building towards the eventual action that you want someone to take. It’s like a CTA on a larger scale and rest assured, it pays dividends.

The Byproducts of Actionable Marketing

Actionable marketing requires you to target your audience. You need to know who people are, what demographics they fall into, what they like, and what they don’t like. You then have to address a specific need that they have and direct them to take your desired action.

If all of this sounds familiar, it’s because these are the types of things you should already be doing. Making action a priority simply allows you to double down on these efforts, allowing them to rise to the surface.

The real benefit of actionable marketing is precisely that – it creates its own momentum. It has an energy that passive content just can’t match. You can use that energy to create new opportunities for yourself, not only in terms of up-selling or cross-selling your products but also with regards to increasing the overall lifetime value of your customers.

Simply put, if your marketing content is active your customers will be, too, and that’s the type of opportunity you do not want to overlook.

5 Ways to Find the Strength to Try One More Time

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Have you ever wondered what it takes to become an Olympic athlete, a NASA astronaut, or a leader in a major organization?

The one trait that all of these individuals likely possess is persistence: the ability to get back up, dust themselves off after a fall, and keep trying. No matter your talent, regardless of your genius and irrespective of your education, persistence is often the trait that sets people apart from their peers in terms of their level of success.

Succeeding at anything in life requires a great deal of effort over a period of time — very few people simply decide to be the best at their craft and are able to do it without a battle. How do these individuals find the strength to try one more time . . . repeatedly?

1. Be Prepared

Planning for success helps you think through all of the reasons why someone would disagree with your ideas, and also gives you the bulletproof mentality that you’re prepared for any question that comes your way. Think of all the reasons why something won’t be successful, and then consider arguments against that point. Become your own devil’s advocate, and it will be that much easier to find a positive response and an open door for your next request.

2. Be Adaptable

Being adaptable provides you with the mental agility to not hide in a corner when you’re kicked to the curb. As Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle Corporation states:

“When you innovate, you’ve got to be prepared for people telling you that you are nuts.”  

You have to be willing to adapt your thinking and your processes and find a way to create change while not straying from your core ideas. You can’t listen to every naysayer, but you can look for the nuggets of wisdom that they share and use that information to your advantage the next time you try to move forward.

3. Be Confident

You may be surprised that confidence is not the first attribute we consider, but the reality is, you need to have a plan in place that you can trust and support before confidence will help you through to success. Confidence in yourself, your family, and your ideas — as well as a burning passion to make a change in the world — are what can help you continue on even when it feels as though there’s no path forward.

4. Do the Work

Unfortunately, there are few things in life that can replace hard work. Whether that hard work is from an athlete completing the same moves repeatedly for months or even years or a business leader who is told “No” more times than they can count, the ability to simply buckle down and execute on your vision is critical to long-term success.

5. Inspire Others

Perhaps one of the most rewarding things you will ever do with your life is to inspire others to be their best. Take the time throughout your life to inspire others. When you realize how many people you have impacted and how many are watching your success, it’s a lot easier to find the strength to try again in difficult times.

Finally, in the words of Thomas Edison: “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” Shouldn’t you give it one more shot?

Print Marketing Is About Selling Value, Not Services

A Satisfied Customer Is The Best Business Strategy of All

There’s a common misconception that far too many marketers have that needs to be put to rest once and for all.

A lot of people still seem to think that if you’re really going to carve out a stronger competitive advantage for yourself in an increasingly crowded marketplace, you need to make your services appear objectively better than everyone else’s. You need to talk about how your products are better, stronger, faster, longer-lasting, more cost-efficient, etc. All this to steal as much attention away from your competition as you can.

In truth, that is a myth. You shouldn’t be selling services at all. You should be selling the value that those services provide. In other words, the thesis at the heart of your print marketing campaign shouldn’t be “here’s what I can do that nobody else can,” but rather “here’s what I can do for you.” Mastering this approach requires you to keep a few key things in mind.

Everything Begins and Ends With Your Customer

The art of selling value instead of services is one of those situations where buyer personas come in handy.

When you begin to come up with a buyer persona for your ideal customer, you try to add as much information about that person as possible. But once your persona has been completed, you shouldn’t be asking yourself, “Okay, what do I need to tell this person in order to convince them to give me money?” Instead, you need to get answers to questions like:

  • What problem does this customer have and how do my services solve it for them?
  • In what ways will that person’s life be easier after their purchase than it was before?
  • What does that person want to accomplish, and how can I help make that happen?

Then, you work your way back to the products and services that you’re trying to sell, thinking about the problem and positioning yourself as the solution.

A Whole New Approach

This is one of those areas where specificity will carry you far. Think about the individual portions of your sales funnel and what someone needs to hear at each one to move from one end to the other. Use this “value-centric” approach not to convince someone that the time is right to make a purchase, but to give them the actionable information they need to arrive at that conclusion on their own.

In the end, there are probably a lot of other companies in your industry who do what you do – but nobody does it in quite the same way. That key thing that differentiates you from so many others is the value that only you can offer and what should be at the heart of all of your marketing messages.

Connecting Your Online and Offline Marketing Campaigns

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No matter the industry your business operates in, it is imperative to connect online and offline marketing techniques. Many entrepreneurs have found that the better they market themselves offline, the more well-known they become online, and vice versa. For now, let’s take a closer look at how you can connect your online and offline marketing campaigns to improve lead generation and increase your sales revenue.

Tracking URLs Is a Must

Many website development service providers provide a variety of automated analytics that are simple to use and easy to understand. When you market yourself offline through print advertising, it’s a good idea to make sure to use unique tracking URLs for the links you provide in your ads and direct mail. In doing this, your web analytics can track how many people are coming to your site via the URLs on your offline marketing. You’ll love being able to see how well your offline marketing efforts are paying off, and these unique tracking URLs enable you to do this.

Promoting Yourself Online to Attract Offline Customers

Tom is a freelance writer and the majority of his clients connect with him online. They perform a search for freelance writers, and they hire him through his website or one of the content creation platforms he is featured on. Still, there are several clients that he has secured via offline tactics, including direct mail, trade shows, and conferences. To boost prospective clients’ awareness that he is going to be present at these events, he uses social media. Posting on social media can educate your prospects about the reasons they should connect with you at an offline event.

Use Your Social Media Profiles to Boost Brand Awareness

Any offline marketing materials you distribute should include your unique social media profile URLs. When a person connects with you via social media profiles, this shows up in their news feed, which is viewable by their friends and followers. Tom has had numerous clients tell him they became aware of his services due to a friend following him on one of his social media profiles. When advertising your presence on social media on your printing materials, make sure to include an actual URL to each of your profiles. If you only include a social media logo, this doesn’t help them find you on each platform.

Provide Coupons In Person to be Used Online

When marketing yourself offline, such as through direct mail, or at a tradeshow or conference, make sure you include printed coupon codes. There’s a good chance the people you give them to will stuff in them their wallets or lay them on their desks once they get back to the office. Either of these places is a great place for your coupon code to be because it will give them a reminder of your brand and the services you offer. More so, it will entice them to hop online and visit your site to make a purchase using the discount code you gave them.

The Takeaway

No matter the industry you are operating in, connecting your offline and online marketing efforts is crucial. As your business grows, you will quickly see how the two of these interconnect with one another. More importantly, the more you integrate the two together, the quicker you will become an industry leader.

Don’t Throw in the Towel

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Down but Not Out

They say that the difference between baseball and life is perseverance. No matter how hard you swing in the batter’s box, three strikes always mean you’re out. But in the game of life, strikeouts are only assigned to those who stop trying.

Feel like throwing in the towel today? We all do sometimes. But consider the words of Thomas Edison, who made more than a thousand attempts before finding the right materials to create the incandescent light bulb:

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

Or find hope in the words of journalist David Brinkley:

“A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with bricks others have thrown at him.”

The Irrevocable Power of Attitude

While circumstances are often beyond our control, we all have irrevocable power over one crucial area: our attitude. Austrian neurologist and Victor Frankl considered himself living proof. His best-selling book, “Man’s Search for Meaning” (or: Nevertheless, Say “Yes” to Life: A Psychologist Experiences the Concentration Camp) chronicled his experiences as a Holocaust survivor, discovering that a fundamental human reality means finding hope in all forms of existence. Even the most brutal. Frankl said this:

“The last of our human freedoms is to choose our attitude in any given circumstances.”

Surviving or Thriving?

How do you move beyond mere survival? Whether it’s stress at home or disappointment at work, how can you equip yourself with a persevering attitude?

Angela Duckworth (professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania) was teaching math when she noticed something intriguing: The most successful students weren’t always the ones who displayed a natural aptitude but those who possessed an overcoming (or “gritty”) spirit. That grit – a combination of passion and perseverance targeting a particular goal – helped Duckworth develop a “grit scale” tool to predict outcomes . . .  like, who would win the National Spelling Bee or who might graduate from West Point. Duckworth found a “gritty” attitude beat the pants off things like your I.Q., SAT scores, or even physical fitness in determining whether individuals might succeed!

Here are a few tips from Duckworth on awakening passion when your willpower is dying:

  1. Discover and deepen your interests. If you feel like quitting, re-examine what really energizes or inspires you. Perhaps a depressed spirit can prompt you to consider a necessary life change.
  2. Commit yourself to a positive attitude. Duckworth says the difference between quitters and overcomers was largely how they processed frustration, disappointment, or boredom. While “quitters” took negative emotional cues as an opportunity to cut and run, gritty people believed that struggle was a chance for growth, not a signal for alarm.
  3. Look forward not backward (especially in the face of failure!). Resilience is the ability of people, communities, or systems to maintain their core purpose, even in the midst of unforeseen shocks or failures. Futurist Andrew Zolli, author of Resilience, Why Things Bounce Back, says grit is the combination of optimism, creativity, and confidence that one can find meaningful purpose while influencing surroundings, outcomes, and individual growth in the process. In other words – even failing doesn’t bring failure! No matter what you face, you can take heart that even setbacks bring progress and that even suffering has meaning.

Of course, the final factor in persevering power is the support of a strong community. That’s why we take pride in a thriving local business economy and we take pleasure in shaking your hand. Let’s continue to grow in grit as we run the race together this year!

How Has the Internet Changed Lead Generation?

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There is no denying that technology has greatly revolutionized lead generation, especially in regard to the internet. Gone are the days of having to cold call prospects and knock on their doors. Sure, these tactics still work, but business owners are continually finding ways for lead generation to be more cost-efficient and effective. For now, let’s take a quick look at how the internet has changed lead generation and the many reasons you need to be taking advantage of technology to expand your customer base.

Artificial Intelligence Technology Enhances Lead Generation

Thanks to advancements in artificial intelligence technology, you can engage with leads online like never before. In fact, you don’t even have to be the one engaging with them. An AI software program can do the engaging for you. Take, for example, if your website offers a chat feature. Before connecting the customer with an actual representative, artificial intelligence software can engage them in a natural-sounding conversation to determine which department the customer needs to be directed to.

Targeting Leads Has Become Incredibly Simple

When you distribute content, whether through direct mail print marketing or online, you need to have a specific target audience in mind. This target audience, of course, needs to represent people who are likely to be interested in the product/service you are selling. Thanks to the internet, it is now easier than ever to target leads.

It’s All About the Analytics

If you aren’t using analytics to track website visitors, you need to be. An easy-to-use tracking platform that is excellent for determining which pages on your site are performing the best is Google Analytics. There is a good chance the service provider that is hosting your site also provides some type of analytics to take advantage of. Regardless of the tracking tools you use, though, analyzing data on page performance can help you pinpoint which pages need to be further optimized and which ones need to be left alone. This enables you to improve time management because you can focus your attention on the pages that need improvement rather than wasting time on the ones that are already attracting quality leads.

Automated Email Sequencing

You want your emails to be as personable as possible to improve the odds of turning a cold lead into a warm lead, but you can’t accomplish this through a single email. Instead, you need to create an email sequence that is automated; this will engage your leads in a systemized manner and it allows you to warm them up to an offer.

The Takeaway

Your existing customers deserve your attention, but at the same time, you need to be focusing some of your operations on lead generation. Thanks to advancements in technology and the internet, it is now easier than ever to generate leads in a timely and cost-efficient manner. By deploying the four tips outlined above, you’ll be well on your way to capturing leads and improving customer satisfaction at the same time.