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Useful tools, tips and strategies to help your business learn, develop and expand.

4 Strategies for How to Strengthen Your Brand Equity

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How much is your brand worth? The concept of “brand equity” is an important one for business owners to consider carefully. Unfortunately, most business owners do not yet fully understand it – let alone know how to strengthen brand equity effectively for their business.

Here I’ll explain a few strategies on how to strengthen your brand equity, developing a strong brand to ensure that you occupy a positive space in your consumers’ minds and maintain positive growth in your business.

The term brand equity is one which speaks of the inherent valuation of the brand in the consumers’ minds. Your business’ brand equity is made up of all the associations, emotions, and experiences which people think of when exposed to your brand. The stronger a bond which consumers have with your brand, the higher your brand equity is. Only with strong brand equity will you be able to be the business which makes people camp outside of your stores for days waiting for the release of a new product.

Your brand equity can be strengthened or degraded through any aspect of your business, from your communications, to product performance, customer service, or even your brand name. Furthermore, developing strong brand equity is a significant task for all businesses, as it is what allows your brand to be considered by consumers in the first place during a purchasing decision. So here are 4 ways in which you can ensure your business is focused on the right sort of brand equity development.

1. Quality Products and Services

Your market offering is the backbone of your whole brand, so ensure that you are able to deliver a quality product to your consumers, otherwise it is highly unlikely that you will get a repeat purchase from them.

This may seem like an obvious tip; however businesses in all industries fall for the trap whereby they release products for the sake of appearing as if they are innovating. If you release a product in the market which isn’t fully tested and not of high quality, this can be the easiest way to erode your brand equity.

Ensure that any product or service you bring out into the market brings something new to your business’ portfolio, rather than just bulking it up.

2. Competitive Analysis

A strong brand which occupies a positive space in the minds of consumers is one which is adaptable to market shifts as well as one which offers something new into the market.

In order to be such a brand, ensure that you are always on the lookout for industry trends and your competitors’ activities, as you need to ensure your brand operates in a unique space of the industry, and is not one which merely follows in the footsteps of others.

Targeting a niche is an effective way for brands to build their brand equity as you are meeting a specific need which no one else currently is. This exudes innovative thinking and understanding of your consumers, which are key to a strong brand.

3. Consistent Brand Image

One of the most important aspects of your brand is the image which you are communicating to your consumers. Once you have been able to understand the market and know your place within it, you need to communicate that in a consistent and engaging manner.

Your brand strategy is developed by a number of aspects from your brand name, to your social media posts, pricing, and your products, to name a few. If you are operating within the premium segment of your industry, ensure that your products and retail channels reflect that, with highly refined and targeted brand messaging and communications.

Set your brand image from the get-go and shape your business accordingly. One of the greatest examples of maintaining a strong and consistent brand image is Apple. Every touch point consumers have with the brand expresses their brand – imagination, simplicity, and understanding consumer needs. From their easy-to-use products, to highly navigable stores, and their communications strategies, everyone knows what the Apple brand stands for.

It is all about consistency. Once consumers see that you know where you stand in the market and are confident with your own image, they will begin to believe it as well.

4. Listen to Customers

As your brand equity inherently resides in the minds of your consumers and audiences, it would be extremely wise to actively listen to their needs and wants.

Ensure that you give your consumers as many channels to give their feedback as possible. These types of messages will help you understand your brand’s strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for growth; which is the most valuable information you could ever receive as a business.

 

Understanding your brand equity and how to develop it is important any stage of business growth. You must be able to capture a positive appearance in your consumer’s minds if they are to become repeat customers, or become a part of your referral strategy at any level on the ladder of customer loyalty. Then you can strengthen your brand and actually, seriously, grow.

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4 Questions for Developing Your Brand Strategy

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What does the word “brand” mean to you? It is one that is often bandied about, but what it actually is and why you actually need one is something which does not get discussed enough.

In its most basic form, your brand is all of the functional and emotional connotations which consumers have of your business. It is the love people feel for Apple, the safety people feel when in a Volvo, and the joy from each McDonalds Happy Meal.

These associations are why having a strong brand is so important to the success of a business. Business coaches will tell you that to get a loyal following (and make more sales), you must illicit a strong connection to individuals (because target markets don’t work).

In the example of Coke it is the difference between selling bottles of sugary carbonated drinks, and giving people happiness.

No matter what stage your business is at, it is important to consider the effect of your brand on your business. Use the questions below to review and develop your brand.

1. What is your business environment?

Before you start developing your own brand, you need to understand the competition and the marketplace. You need to build a solid understanding of the options which your consumers have in the marketplace and from there you can figure out the niche that you should be focused on dominating.

Then you can question why you are running your business – Are you there to challenge the status quo and just be another standard option, or have you identified a niche which has yet to be discovered? These are the first questions to answer in a brand development strategy.

2. What are your core beliefs?

This should encourage you to narrow down your focus and specialise in a single aspect of your product / service offering. What is it that your business will never compromise on?

Just like BMW’s engine quality and performance, you need to know what key idea your business will revolve around. And once that has been established, your branding begins.

Core beliefs should permeate your whole business, no matter how large or small. This does not just mean the sales and marketing messages, but it is also the team you are working with. If your employees do not share / understand the business’ beliefs and core values, you are likely to face serious difficulties in nurturing your brand.

I have seen this in many companies while business coaching in London, where the team they have hired are not fans of the offering, so they cannot pass on any enthusiasm to the customers. This is why we developed a powerful 4-Hour Recruitment Process that lets business owners not only reduce time wastage in recruitment, but also ensures they hire the right kind of superstars to help them further the business and develop the brand.

3. What gives you your edge?

In other words, what is it that you bring to the table which your competitors do not? What is your “Unique Selling Proposition” or USP?

This competitive advantage is the manifestation of your business’ core beliefs. This is the reason why your customers prefer to buy from your brand rather than any other.

However, when choosing the competitive advantage that you will highlight, there are two things to be sure of first:

  • Firstly, are you sure that you actually can deliver on your promise of competitive advantage? Many businesses make claims about the superiority of their offering, which they are unable to deliver. This can critically damage any work you have put into your brand strategy. Make sure you do not make promises to your customers which you cannot keep.
  • Secondly, is the edge you have actually meaningful to your customers? Your customers won’t care if your car brand has the best sounding horn. When shaping your competitive advantage, choose wisely, and make sure it is relevant to what your audience wants, otherwise you are wasting your time.

4. Who is your target audience?

One of the most important features of creating a successful brand is knowing your ideal audience and catering to their needs. You need your ideal customers to care about your core beliefs and competitive advantage as much as you do.

This is how companies like Apple are able to connect with their consumers at such a deep level – they know who they are talking to. You need to identify that specific person you are talking to – your marketing avatar – and then every message you create should be directed to that person. Businesses operate within their own niches, which means that understanding your specific customer-base is critical.

 

When you talk about your business’ brand, make sure you understand what that actually means. Your brand is so much more than the products and services you are selling; it is what permeates from your employees, to your offerings, and into the minds of your consumers. To be successful, choose your brand wisely, own it, and deliver your brand promises.

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Don’t Take Your Next Big Order

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When you are presented with a different opportunity – the next big order where you are being asked to do something that is not your expertise, but is possible for you to do – it is tempting to just say “yes” when it could make you a lot of money. And if the contract was going to give you a serious profit, why would you not say yes, right?

Let’s say you run a catering company and are meeting with a prospective client who promises you your next big order. For the past few years you have made a name for your company catering for corporate functions. You have a team of about 10 chefs and waiters specialising in savoury finger food. It has been a slow winter with not too many functions to cater for, but now you are meeting with a couple about catering their wedding for about 100 people. You are used to catering for that number but this wedding is a sit-down affair, and what’s more, they want you to do dessert as well.

You have not done this before. You would need to change your entire menu and train your waiters in table service. However, business has been slow with only 4 functions to cater for in the past 3 weeks and only 2 more booked for the next month. So even though it will require a change, you probably think that you need to take the job in order to keep the business from going into the red. It seems like the best option to just say “yes” and get on with it. I would not blame you – but I also would not think that that is a good idea.

In business, especially if you are planning to eventually sell your business, establishing your niche can be one of the best ways to establish a stable and long-term profitable business. When you niche, you become amazing at what you do – and become an “expert”. When you are positioned as an expert, people find it easy to remember and recommend you for what you do. People will find it easy to describe your business when it is well defined. If you offer more generic services, people are less likely to immediately think of you when they hear of a job opportunity that you might be good at.

Going back to the catering company, if you have been doing stand-up corporate functions for years and are then given a networking event for 150 professionals eating finger food, you know exactly what you are doing. You know what food is best served when, and your waiters have been trained to know exactly when to present food and how to present it so that the attendees are impressed with the catering quality. Your processes are in place so it will be a piece of cake, pardon the pun. You know how to do this, and you know how to do this well. Your reputation will get a boost and the host and attendees are now likely to recommend you on to others for catering other similar events.

However, if you take on the wedding job, you are taking a massive risk on your reputation. The processes you have been using so far will need to change and your staff retrained in a whole new way of serving food. You cannot be confident of the outcome, no matter how much you trust your chefs and waiters to do their very best. In any industry word travels fast and a botched job can easily become a black mark that travels with you and could be lethal to the future of your business.

When you turn down the jobs that do not fit your processes or niche you will start to be recognised as a provider for that niche. When that happens, you will start to get more recommendations and a growing reputation from which you can build your business – and a reputation that will drive up the value of your company should you eventually wish to sell the business.

However, you should also not be relying entirely on recommendations and word of mouth to get your big clients. Here are 5 great ways for you to systemise your approach for finding big clients without waiting around for it to happen. Counter intuitively, when you turn down “big” jobs outside your niche, you can find yourself tracking down and winning “big” jobs within your niche, simply by being able to leverage your expertise when approaching them.

While some entrepreneurs find the idea of sticking to a specialisation constraining, if you are looking to create a business that can perform and grow without you, it is really important to become great at that one thing.

The bottom line is choose a niche and stick to it – no matter how “big” the order outside your niche may be. Short-term gain may not be good for the long-term end goal.

Want to understand more of these concepts?

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4 Tips to Kickstart Your Social Media Strategy

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With every year that passes, there seems to be a growing divergence between small businesses and multi-national corporations. In today’s world of brands boasting billion-dollar marketing budgets, there is one equaliser. It is an avenue often ignored by small businesses, but which could be generating sales and encouraging much more engagement with their customers.

That equaliser is Social Media.

Many business owners believe that Social Media is a waste of time, too complicated or just not right for the industry they are in. However, these reasons have all expired in today’s digitally reliant world. The truth is, almost any business can benefit from using Social Media. It is not a matter of IF it can work, but rather, a question of HOW to make it work.

Below are a few tips that any business owner can use to kick-start their Social Media strategy.

1. Pick the right channels.

This is the first thing that you should be thinking about when beginning your strategy. When using the term “Social Media”, it does not merely relate to Facebook any more; the online landscape is more fragmented than ever before. Picking the wrong Social Media channel is akin to forgetting to tie your shoelaces before a 100m sprint; you are setting yourself up for failure. The right channels, picked for the right business, can really go a long way to achieving your business goals. For instance, a Café could run a very effective Facebook page.

However, if they did a bit of research, they would probably find that Instagram is a channel where they would get greater leverage, as this is a channel where photos are shared most widely – especially photos of food. On the other hand, a recruitment agency would find LinkedIn a much more powerful channel to spearhead their online campaign as it is primarily a professional network and a large number of people on LinkedIn are either looking to network or find a job.

2. Be authentic.

This is the main advantage of a small business. Your customers want to know that there is a real, living, breathing human behind the keyboard, and behind your business. One of the best ways to do this is to include your team. Your employees are the faces of your business, as well as the cogs that help it run smoothly.

Your staff should portray the personality of your business because this is what customers enjoy engaging with. For instance, Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium, London’s first cat café, uses Social Media to introduce their customers to the café’s most loved employees, their rescued cats. But if you decide to give your employees access, be wary that they do not misuse the accounts. There needs to be guidelines in place for when and how employees can use the business’ social media accounts.

3. Listen & respond.

This is often the forgotten aspect of social media marketing. Most businesses post on Facebook and Instagram once or twice a week and leave it at that. You need to show your customers that you care about what each person has to say about your business. If your customers ask you a question, answer it, if they post a photo of your products on Instagram, re-post it. These simple gestures go a long way to managing relationships with your followers and creating a stable base of loyal customers.

One aspect of Social Media that many people are scared about, is negative feedback. If someone posts a negative review of your business, do not ignore or react negatively to the review. Rather, see it as an opportunity to change someone’s image of your business. In fact, many of these nay-sayers can become your most best customers, if you respond correctly.

4. Resist constantly selling.

Social Media, when used correctly, can be a very effective selling tool for your business. But at its core, it is about relationships and communication. When a business uses their Social Media accounts to bombard their followers with their products and sales pitches, it can be seen as desperate and annoying.

You should have a mix of content. There needs to be some that showcase your products, but others need to convey your business’ personality. Share news stories that are relevant to your industry, or photos that make you laugh. Do not underestimate the strength of emotions in selling a product.

The content that make your followers laugh, smile, or even cry, can make them feel more connected to your business. As soon as this positive connection is made, it sharply increases the likelihood of a follower online buying from you offline. If you have ignored or disregarded Social Media as a part of your wider marketing strategy as a small business, then you are missing a large opportunity.

The tips we have presented above are not the be-all and end-all of Social Media marketing, but they will go a long way to help you kick-start your business’ online presence. Social Media should be an important part of your business strategy, but it is only one part of your growth strategy.

You need to have an overall business plan that outlines how much your business will grow, in what timespan, and most importantly, the actions required to achieve that growth.

Need help specifically with marketing?

business strategy consultants londonAs a small business owner, it can be hard to keep up with the latest in marketing technologies and trends. We now have a digital marketing-specific course at a highly discounted rate open for booking right now. Click on the button to find out if MarketingCLUB could be useful for you!

How Do You Define Sales?

What are the first five words that come to mind when you think of a sales person? If the five words that consistently come to your mind are negative – guess what – you probably do not like sales because of your negative beliefs about it.Ultimately, almost every business will need to consider sales and marketing in some form if they are going to become successful, no matter what the business owner’s belief about sales.

My job as a coach is to help you succeed. Sometimes, this is through techniques and strategies or implementing some simple actions, such as helping your sales team to ask the right kinds of sales questions or ensuring that you hire the right kind of sales people.

Often however, it requires a shift of mind-set, not just actions. In this video, I explain how we define sales here at The London Coaching Group, so that we, and our clients, are operating in the right mind-set:

Prefer to read rather than watch and listen? No problem – here’s everything I said in the video as text:

Hi this is Shweta from London Coaching Group. What I want to talk about today is Sales.

What is Your Definition of Sales?

Now you know very well that every business needs good profitable sales to move forward. At the same time I’ve come across some very interesting reactions and responses to the word sales.

When I ask business owners “What comes to your mind when I say sales?” than actually think about it for yourself – what comes to your mind when I say sales. I’m sure you thought about that.

I’ve got some very interesting responses from people – it varies from saying cheesy, pushy, money, helping people to having an agenda – you can see,  right, the whole spectrum of responses here. Now look, the fact is what you think about sales pretty much reflects on your sales team and on the performance of your company. And whether it’s good or bad, whatever it is, let’s go back to the fundamentals.

Sales is an Educational Process

If you think about what is the core purpose of having a business – for any business what is the core purpose. It is actually about providing solutions to people.

So adding value and getting value in return. And therefore if sales is the mechanism, is a way to reach out to our prospects, to actually sit down or interact with them to help them with their needs and requirements, then actually sales is an education process to help your prospects to make the right decisions for themselves.

And with that definition why would we not like sales? Why would we not reach out to people to help them to actually provide them with the solution that they need? In fact, you know what? I would love to know what is your definition, what do you think about sales and how do you work in your business with your team with this concept.

So I’m sure can leave a comment right under the section which you’re seeing. I would love to hear from you and meanwhile make sure you work with the right concept and leave your team with the right essence. 

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Blue Skin and Pointy Ears – The 6 Essentials to Identifying Your Avatar

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When the film ‘Avatar’ was released, the concept of a ‘representative’ quite quickly entered into popular language – and to such an extent that most of us when we think of the word would probably still immediately associate it to the film. What remains lesser known is that an ‘Avatar’ is a key concept in defining a business’s marketing strategy. One of the most important stages in any business’s marketing strategy is to identify who you are targeting – very precisely.

While most business owners usually know the answer intuitively, they are still not focusing closely on this as a component of their marketing strategy creation. I’ve found that following a step by step process to defining an ‘avatar’ for your business, invariably leads to greater clarity and a more focused marketing strategy. The most common first question I get from my business coaching clients when we start this process is, “How do I identify the target market?” or “How do I identify the target audience?”

The mistake they are making here is that they are thinking of whom they are targeting as a “target market”. As I have explained before, target markets don’t work. The first thing you need to do is think of targeting a person not a target audience. This target person is what we call your “avatar”. The next question is, “Well, how do I select this target person or avatar?” This is a valid question, and actually requires more structured thought than you might initially think. There are  6 essential qualities you should be identifying in your avatar to ensure that you are targeting the right person for your business.

1. Sees the Benefit & Relevance

On the loyalty ladder, the person that you are targeting should be your raving fan. Whatever the problem is that you are solving, you should solve it for this person and you should be the best solution that this person can think of. This is actually the most important thing. If your avatar loves you and what you do, then everything else becomes easier. They will convert more easily, they are more likely to come back again and again – every step after this becomes really easy. So focus on this one first.

2. Easy to Reach Out To

Your avatar should be someone that you could easily get in touch with. For example, if you provide cleaning contract services you could choose a target person who is the head of operations in a good-sized corporate company, or you could choose the person in charge of operations at a school. Which one do you think is easier to reach out to? It would probably actually be much easier to contact someone in the corporation – they are in a position that is designed to be contactable. You have to carefully consider how difficult it is to actually get in touch with your potential avatar, and factor that into your decision.

3. Receptive to Marketing

Your target person should also be receptive to the marketing you use. Going back to the cleaning contractor example, while it is easier to get in touch with someone at a corporation, they are less likely to be receptive to marketing. Corporate heads have marketing constantly thrown their way, while a school is less likely to get as much and will probably be more receptive. Sometimes, your avatar may not be that receptive to your marketing – that is ok. The point here is to compare between your different avatars and, ideally, choose one that is more receptive.

4. Have a Relatively Short Sales Cycle

This is another one that is more about comparison than absolute value. You want someone where the time to go from lead to purchase is minimised. You may ask, “How short is a short sales cycle?” and really, that depends on your business. What you need to focus on is choosing the target person among your choices that has the shortest sales cycles.

5. Built-In Repeatability

You want your target person to be the kind that buys from you over and over again. This may not be the case for every business – some services are one-time only. However, with most businesses, it is a waste of your marketing spend if you are incurring all costs to get a lead and they are only buying from you once. Your marketing budget should be an investment, not a “spend” – and so when you make that investment, you want it to give you as much return as possible by increasing the number of transactions that a single converted lead makes. This increases the lifetime value of your contact, which decreases the acquisition costs – and this is a critical part of creating an unlimited marketing budget.

6. Good Spend Value & Margin

Is your customer coming in and buying products or services from you that actually deliver value? Are they buying your products that actually have a high margin? Or are they only purchasing your peripheral products rather than your core ones? Do they only buy from you when you give them offers or put things on sale?

Remember, you should be segmenting your customers not just to identify their value, but also to determine how you approach them. Your target person should be a raving fan – which means they believe in what you are doing and are willing to pay for the quality products you are creating. Often, as we run through the above 6 essentials for choosing a strong avatar my business coaching clients often say, “Ok, let me create my avatar.” But here’s the key lesson: You do NOT need to create your avatar from scratch.

Your Avatar is Already a Customer

The exercise I do – both with my clients and for myself – is to take the list of customers and go through them one by one. Categorise them and assess them based on these 6 essential qualities. Make sure you choose customers you like. Would you want to have a coffee or a drink with them? You should be fond of your avatar, and they should be – I will say it again – your raving fan. I can guarantee you, if you do not skip this step and tightly identify your target person, you will be amazed at how easy it is to set your marketing strategy.

Writing your content, defining your channels, figuring out the design of your website or marketing material – all these decisions will become so much easier once you know exactly who your avatar is. Your Avatar may not necessarily have blue skin and pointy ears, but as you define your marketing plan, you should be able to clearly visualise them and understand what would and would not work for them. You should be able to place yourself in their shoes – walk around a bit – and understand what does and will drive their decisions.

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