Crush Competition with Consistency

Compete

Crush

Top of mind awareness doesn’t magically happen when you throw money at billboards and large ad placements. It’s more complex than that. Top of mind awareness starts with brand consistency.

We’re not saying that a large budget doesn’t contribute to some marketing success. But even companies without money to burn can make themselves memorable. And the easiest way to start being memorable is by being consistent.

 

What Brand Consistency Is

Let’s break down what brand consistency is word by word.

First, what is a brand? It’s mainly two things: your company as a whole, and the promise that it makes to customers about your service or product.

Secondly, consistency is when a customer sees two or more examples of a company’s marketing and easily recognizes (without being told) that every piece belongs to the same business.

If your marketing is consistent, then customers should be able to identify your work or brand in any form or format.

 

Common Ways Brands are Inconsistent

Also note that big companies aren’t immune to inconsistency – it may actually be more common in older, larger companies than it is in new, small businesses.­

Companies that have been around the block a few times have had more time to redesign, recreate or entirely change their branding since their inception. That can cause small details, like a business card or the vinyl on a company car, to be pushed aside for later until they’re forgotten.

Businesses both young and old fall prey to inconsistency. The following are the most common branding missteps we see companies make across their print and digital marketing.

  • Stretched logos
  • Multiple logos
  • Inconsistent colors
  • Different fonts

 

Successful Companies are Consistent

Consistency breeds recognition. Recognition eventually turns into top of mind awareness. Top of mind awareness translates into increased sales and fiscal success.

Inconsistency can lead to your company conveying multiple, different messages or lead to no message being conveyed at all.

Customers shouldn’t have to work to understand what who your company is or what it does. And guess what? They won’t. Those potential leads will walk away without a second thought.

Brands that get it right care – they know that a brand is a huge asset that should be nurtured and managed.

Consistency = Recognition = Increased Sales

Inconsistency = Confusion = Stagnant Sales

 

Consider how your brand comes across to your customers and to people who don’t work with you yet. Do they understand your company and its message?

 

How Your Profit and Loss Report Should Correlate to Your Marketing

Money

Money

 

Profit and loss seem to be relatively cut and dry concepts. Electric bills and rent payments are losses. Payments for services rendered are gross profits.

While you may not be able to make money from your electric bill expenses, your company can make money by spending it on developing the right strategic marketing plan. If that’s not the case, then you have problems.

 

Marketing Should Be a Profitable Expenditure (or you’re doing it wrong)

Marketing can be thought of in terms of expenditure. Additionally, it can be thought of as an investment versus an expense.

Take Sarah’s Sample Company for example. Sarah’s fictional company’s 2014 gross annual revenue was $23.6 million.

In our example model, Sarah’s Sample Company spends a little more than 8 percent of that gross revenue, which translates to $1.9 million, on marketing.

Assuming that Sarah’s company made that investment, it should have then made more $1.9 million in profit from marketing by the end of the fiscal year. Here’s a simple profit and loss report that demonstrates Sarah’s increased profit.

 

Consolidated Statements

of Income Data:

2013 2014
Revenues $ 21,795,550 $ 23,650,563
Costs and expenses:
           Cost of revenues 8,621,506 8,844,115
           Research and development 2,793,192 2,843,027
           Sales and marketing 1,946,244 1,983,941
           General and administrative 1,802,639 1,667,294
           Contribution to Google

Foundation

Total costs and expenses 15,163,581 15,338,377
Income from operations 6,631,969 8,312,186
Impairment of equity investments (1,094,757)
Interest income and other, net 316,384 69,003
Income before income taxes 5,853,596 8,381,189
Provision for income taxes 1,626,738 1,860,741
Net income $   4,226,858 $    6,520,448

 

 

Yes, it’s Hard to Measure

Measuring the profitability of your company’s marketing is difficult. It will bring you varying numbers of customers each quarter, and putting a set dollar value on generating qualified leads is close to impossible.

And no, getting a positive ROI (return on investment) in the early stages of your marketing probably isn’t going to happen.

But think about this – doesn’t closing a lead into a customer normally take time? And as that customer stays with your company, don’t they spend more and more money over time?

That’s the point of marketing. Investing in it brings in leads that are more likely to buy your products or services than traditional advertising will. Over the lifetime of a client, your company will see larger and larger numbers in profit.

 

Constantly Evaluate Your Results

Good marketers should evaluate the results of every dollar spent. On the flip side, successful business owners should be on the same page with their employees. So, ask your sales team these two questions after every step your marketing team takes.

 

1.) Is selling our products and services easier because our marketing is sending you more qualified customers?

2.) Are you spending your time more efficiently now that you’re talking to more people seriously interested in buying our company’s products and services?

 

Once your sales team starts to give you positive answers to those questions, you will begin to see positive results in your sales numbers.

 

 

Taking Risks ≠ Risky Business

 

What’s the first feeling you have when you hear the word “risk”? Is your stomach flipping? Do you immediately become anxious and worried? Do you think of the one time you gambled and lost?

Caution: Growth-Stunted Business Ahead

We’re taught from a young age to be careful. Caution is now automatic, a characteristic instilled in us from the time we started walking.

It comes from a different time. Risk used to mean that we might get carried away by a pterodactyl if we went outside when our parents said not to. While the specifics have changed, we are still taught to avoid risks.

Look both ways before crossing the street. Don’t run at the pool. Stay away from dark alleys. Don’t take candy from strangers.

As we grow up, these decisions become bigger and the potential for failure is much scarier. So, we always carefully weigh the risks versus the rewards.

Caution is inherent, but can be overcome.

We understand. Taking risks with your company and your livelihood is scary. But if you want your company to fulfill its biggest potential you need to take risks. Run faster than the pterodactyl can fly.

 

Not All Risks are Reckless

Logically, it no longer makes sense to bring our fear of failure into today’s culture.

The chances that you are the only business doing your specific type of work are slim to none. If business owners choose to do nothing and completely avoid risk, you won’t move forward. Your company needs to stand out and to do this, you must take risks.

Before, when you thought of the word “risk,” did you feel some excitement underneath the anxiety? Risks are adrenaline-inducing, and this adrenaline can help overcome even the biggest obstacles. Don’t discount intimidating opportunities just because they make your heart race.

 

Scenario Best Case Worst Case
a. You hire a new person, but don’t have quite enough work for them yet. The workload picks up and they become a valuable, efficient team member. The workload never picks up and they’re forced to become part time, or they are let go.
b. You start a new department or branch of your business. Your expanded services are a hit with both your existing clientele and new customers, and your profits skyrocket. It tanks and you lose time and an affordable investment.
c. You take a potential client out to lunch. Your choice of authentic Italian cuisine is their favorite and they become a client. He or she is allergic to most Italian seasoning, only orders a salad and you still pitch your company’s services.
d. You make a big investment on updated equipment. Production and efficiency increase, and your employees appreciate your investment in their work. The new equipment only does the same thing your old equipment did. But, now you have an updated warrantee and greater peace of mind.

 

 

So What?

The definition of insanity is “doing the same thing you’ve always done and expecting a different outcome.” So make the choice to make a change!

Don’t be left at the end of the day asking yourself, “What if?” Instead, adopt the “So what?” mindset and push your business to be its best.

So What?

The definition of insanity is “doing the same thing you’ve always done and expecting a different outcome.” So make the choice to make a change!

Don’t be left at the end of the day asking yourself, “What if?” Instead, adopt the “So what?” mindset and push your business to be its best.

 

Is Your Business Driving with No Destination?

Drive

 

Does your business have a plan? No, not hopes and dreams. We’re talking about an actual plan. Have you written out a document on how you are going to reach your goals?

Without a plan, you are driving your business with no destination in mind. And without a destination, you will get lost.

Foundation of Your Plan

The foundation of any business plan should start with an assessment of what assets it already has in place – namely, its people and teams.

The fundamentals of your business are your legal, accounting, IT and marketing teams. Does their work clearly portray their knowledge of their roles in your company’s master plan?

If you can’t answer that question with confident yes, that’s OK. We’ve broken down a few examples of what that should look like within each team.

 

You Shouldn’t Have to Learn Legalize

If wading through legal red tape takes up a large part of your time at work, then there is a problem. Chances are that you haven’t clearly communicated what your legal team should be doing past the current week. This is poor planning, and it’s costing you time and money.

Your legal team is cashing checks, and you’re wasting your own time trying to get their job done.

Your legal team should be ahead of the game at all times. With a thorough understanding of your business plan, it should be no problem to develop contracts, agreements and non-competes before you need them.

Check the Numbers

Accounting professionals and CPAs are there to make your life easier. But they need instruction from the boss just as much as anyone. Together, you should look at your company’s past results to forecast its future.

For example, President John Smith wants to compare his company’s efficiency with the pay raises he implemented at the beginning of the fiscal year to see if it increased.

But without John’s input, his accountant wouldn’t know to show him that. And John would never know if his goal was realized.

IT Saves the Day

Does your company have a plan if its headquarters burn down? Will you lose all your information and work? When employees leave, is the data they worked with secure? When hard drives inevitably crash, do you lose time because nothing was backed up?

Thinking about these responsibilities and delegating them to your IT team ensures business security in times of stress or trouble. Being proactive today saves you money tomorrow.

Marketing

Unless you’re already working with us, your marketing might look like this: a woman from the local newspaper drops by and sells you a special on ad space. The billboard company calls you and sells you a space by the freeway.

A few months later, you review your profits and losses and freak out about how much you spent in marketing. And what do you have to show for it?

If you had hired a marketing agency that knew what it was doing, you would know exactly what you had to show for every penny.

 

What To Do Now

After you have written out your business plan and educated all of your employees on their roles, implement it. Set an end date for each goal, and review if your procedures were effective on those dates.

Customers aren’t going to jump in with a company if they don’t know where the road will lead them. And, the first step to customers knowing where your company is going is for you to know where it’s going.

 

Are You a Goal-Setter or a Daydreamer?

Daydream

 

When we meet with a potential client, our early conversations quickly turn into discussions of goals. Prospective clients often confuse their goals with dreams, speaking in broad terms about things they want to happen. But, they don’t know how to achieve them.

Think about your own business goals for a moment. Do they sound like this?

  • “We want to grow.”
  • “We want people to know how good we are.”
  • “We want to make more money.”

If any of these sound familiar, then this blog is just for you! We’ll discuss how to turn your dreams into a reality by setting real goals for your business.


An Important Distinction

The difference between having goals and having dreams is simple. Goals are measurable and trackable. Dreams aren’t. Goals produce a result; dreams don’t. One requires work; the other only needs your imagination.

Goals have a structure with underlying objectives, tasks and strategies. They can be enacted in the real world where they can be measured and adjusted if necessary.


Turning Dreams into Reality

Let’s take a look at the list we created earlier. How do you turn these vague dreams into real goals? We like to use the SMART assessment, which is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable goals with a Realistic Timeline.

  • We want to grow. Think about this phrase using the SMART acronym. How can we turn this dream into a goal?

We want to grow our annual revenue 15 percent by the end of the next fiscal year. Now, we’ve attached a timeline and an achievable, specific amount that can be measured.

  • We want people to know how good we are. We can do this by aiming for at least 10 percent of our business to be referred customers within the next two years.
  • We want to make more money by setting aside 10 percent of our annual budget to invest in strategic marketing and decreasing customer service support response times. That way, we bring in new business while nurturing the customers we already have. This attaches real dollar amounts with measurable strategies.


Be a Visionary

These goals all involve the investment of time and money into your business. Dreams won’t take your business to the next level, but goal-setting will. Having a vision for your company and dreaming about the future are two different things. So, do you have a vision?

 

 

3 Reasons Your Company Doesn’t Need a Website

oops!

How do you make the internet work for your company? Oh, the rabbits we could chase with this topic. So let’s get more specific: your company’s ignored website.

When was the last time you looked at it? Better yet, when was the last time you utilized it as a lead and customer-generating tool?

Your website is a large part of strategic marketing and needs constant attention. If you aren’t going to give your site the attention it needs to be that tool, then you should have a single page that has your name and phone number smack dab in the middle of it.

The purpose of your website is to educate and entice potential clients and nurture your existing clientele. So ask yourself, is your current website fulfilling its purpose?

If the answer is no, you’re missing out on potential customers. Worse, your website might actually be driving them away. Websites that are hard to navigate, include spelling mistakes or have outdated content, repel potential leads.

Do any of these characteristics sound like you?

 

  1. You’re Internet Apathetic

You might realize that your website and marketing are important, but not enough to pay someone else to take care of them inside or outside of your company. You update information when you can, but you’re running a business and have better things to do.

This type of business owner doesn’t realize that websites are necessities. Websites are 24/7 marketing tools, regardless of the effort you put into them. So, by ignoring that huge part of your marketing strategy, you’re closing your company off from the billions of internet users that could be potential leads.

 

  1. Your Company is “Fine the Way it is”

If you don’t want to grow, then go ahead and ignore the moneymaker that your website could be. By all means, be stagnant. It takes effort to expand your reach and influence. But, not everyone wants to put forth effort.

Customers don’t want to work with companies that are merely “fine.” They want to partner with the exceptional businesses that have the desire to continually be better.

In this day and age, a part of being better is your public image. Your public image is your website.

 

  1. You Want to ‘Kind Of’ Do It

When business owners want to commit to only pieces of a strategic marketing plan, there is a problem. You’re in or you’re out. And again, customers want to do business with companies who are all in.

For visual learners, think of the scenario like this: you can only tap into your business’ potential by getting on top of a 20-foot building. You obviously want to get there, right? If you do, then only allowing someone to give you a 10-foot ladder would be pointless.

Embrace marketing and internet marketing wholeheartedly, or there’s no point in wasting your time. See aforementioned one-page website with your name and number listed.

 

A professional and informative website will only help your business. Evaluate yours today through a potential customer’s eyes. Ask yourself, would you do business with your company?

 

Innovations Insights: What is a Brand?

Insights

It can get easy to mix up the terms “marketing” and “branding.” So what’s the difference?

What is a brand?

As a business owner, do you ever hear the words branding and marketing and wonder what the difference is?

Innovations Insights: What is a Brand?

Whenever you hear that a company has a strong brand, do you automatically assume that their brand is strong because they do a lot of advertising?

Well, it’s really easy to get both of those terms mixed up.

Sometimes, it’s a lot easier to start with what a brand is not. It’s not a logo. It’s not a color or a character, like a duck or some other fun mascot.

 

It’s really just a promise.

It’s a promise that you make to your customers about your service or product.

An example is Nike. Nike’s brand promise is to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world. By the way, to Nike, everyone is an athlete.

 

Establishing your brand is the first step in marketing.

In order to create your brand promise, think of 3 easy steps.

  1. Number one: Make it measurable. When FedEx says it will have your package there by 10:30, we know at 10:31, they slipped.
  1. Make it mean something for the second one. When eTrade, the do-it-yourself investing website, screams “INVESTING UNLEASHED,” we all know what that means.
  1. For number three, get everyone on the same page. Does everyone on your team know your brand promise? Can they say it in simple words? Can they say it to each other? Can they tell clients what it is?

A simple conversation around the water cooler can answer this question and shed a lot of light on your brand.

Now that you know what a brand is, learn how to market like one.

 

Innovations Turns 15

Birthday

 

We wouldn’t say that Innovations is old … It’s experienced.

We have seen a lot throughout our decade and a half of practice, and as a result our company has grown and bettered itself every day.

But why does it even matter?

We’ve Seen Ghosts of Businesses Past

We were in business through the downfalls of iconic brands such as Circuit City and Hummer.

In 2007, Circuit City fired 3,400 of its highest paid employees. While that decision isn’t the sole reason Circuit City is no longer around, it certainly played its part.

Hummer vehicles boasted a trendy appearance and a horrifying 10 miles to the gallon. By 2010, the brand proved that edgy looks can’t compensate for outrageous gas mileage.

Thanks to seeing these lessons unfold in real time, we remember to constantly push our own creativity, value our team and focus on building quality work for our clients.

 

We’ve Ridden the Tidal Wave of Technology

Since our inception coincided with the beginning of a new millennium, it’s only right that Innovations has grown up with technology.

Our company saw the creation of the Apple iPod and iPhone, and watched as VCRs and floppy disks were replaced with DVD and players and USB flash drives, and then by Blu-ray players and digital storage.

Innovations also saw the rise of social media that have shaped our current culture. We were putting in hours before anyone had ever heard of Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Now, our team uses all of them daily!

 

Practice Makes Perfect

No, we’re not saying we’re perfect. But you get the idea. The Innovations team has the knowledge and skills to handle anything our clients throw at us.

Our company has weathered the tests of 15 years – specialty clients, technology shifts and minor scrapes included.

After 15 years, our agency is healthy and intact.

After 15 years, our team is still excited to learn about new software, technology and better ways to grow our clients’ businesses.

After 15 years, we are still the best marketing partner for your company in the business.

 

How Marketing and Advertising are Different, and Do You Really Need Them?

 

It’s a commonly held belief that marketing and advertising are the same thing. Or, maybe you think that marketing is just advertising in more updated places, like on the internet.

Either way, you’re wrong.

Either way, you know that your business needs advertising, or marketing or whatever those advertising people are calling it nowadays. Right?

Wrong, actually. Let us walk you through it.

 

Things Have Changed

Someone in the journalism industry once explained it this way. Even the age-old practice of selling newspapers has dramatically changed. Instead of readers going to newspapers to get their news, now the newspapers go to their readers.

Now, that model affects almost all businesses. Consumers are no longer happening upon random advertising and calling up businesses they see plastered on park benches.

Consumers do business with companies that go out of their way to meet the consumers where they are.

 

Advertising vs. Marketing

We regularly hear the same objections from business owners such as, Our business is different than most businesses.

To business owners or managers, this can mean a couple different things.

The first explanation is that they think their business is too complicated to be marketed effectively. The second is that they don’t consider their business to be a typical company, so they don’t think they should use traditional advertising methods.

These beliefs come from a misunderstanding of what the difference between marketing and advertising is, and the belief that marketing companies do the same things as advertising companies.

That integral difference is that the marketing industry is customer-centric instead of business-centric. Advertising is the opposite.

Advertising can play a role within a marketing strategy, but it’s merely a piece of the big picture.

 

You Need Marketing

You think you need marketing because everyone else is doing it. But do you know exactly what that investment is getting your company?

Business-savvy companies want to track their investments and have a positive ROI (return on investment) attached to every penny they spend.

However, many business owners still believe that their marketing dollars will never have a positive ROI. This is another instance of not differentiating advertising from marketing.

The truth flips all those stigmas on their heads!

Strategic marketing plans can track exactly what companies are getting for their money. It could be in the form of increased website traffic, or an elevated sense of consumer respect for their brand that translates into more qualified leads.

Don’t just advertise your business. Market it.