Branding: The View from the Customer Perspective

Last week, I started this new story arc on Branding. I gave my definition of Branding and I want to expand upon that before I get to using the 7 P’s to analyze it. As I said, your Brand is your Unique Value Proposition in the Eyes of Your Customers and Prospects.

The first thing that I hope you understand is that this means it is not the messaging that you project but the messaging that is received that is important. Imagine some brands that have a strong connection like BMW or Apple. If you think about them they evoke a feeling about the company. Now do the same with BP. You get a feeling but it is not positive.

This ought to tell you the first point of Sales as it relates to Branding. Sales and Branding are emotional first and logical second. This has been studied many times and is part of the reason that work very strongly on their Branding message in Marketing.

The problem with that view is that Branding does not stop with Marketing. It starts there, but does not end there. Everybody within the organization is responsible for Branding. Let me illustrate so you understand. Take a look at the BP logo. Did the Marketing team do a bad job on it? I don’t think so. It has good colors and a symbolism with a flower design. The BP Brand issue is most notably what happened in the Gulf of Mexico. That had nothing to do with Marketing. But it is the value that we connect to the BP Brand.

So Brand has a lot more to do with the Execution of your Mission and Vision than it does with Logos and Letterhead. The latter are important but it is Execution of your Business that controls the outcome. This means that you need to connect all your employees with your Brand. Everybody needs to know their part in the creation of your Brand.

Branding becomes a Whole Business affair because of this. This has 2 major implications. Your Brand’s value is created by what you do. Start-up Businesses need to have Branding to create awareness of what they do. But a Start-up Brand has no value until the customers receive the products and services. The second implication is that your Brand is not the exclusive purview of Marketing. The Business Owner needs to be in charge of the Brand. The Business Plan needs to build the Business according to the Brand. This is a 360 view of Branding.

Next week, we start with applying Branding to the 7 Ps.

Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
Change Your Business – Change Your Life!
Business Coaching, Sales Training, Web Marketing, Behavioral Assessments, Financial Analysis

Net Neutrality Friday

I was thinking today that for some folks Net Neutrality is a hugely important topic. For others, it has not resonated. I really think about this topic as I blog about it as all the changes that have happened in the Communications Business since the Telecom Act of 1996. I am hopeful that you think about this post and say, “Yes, Communications Regulation affects my life.”

There have been many. The biggest has been the explosion of the Internet. I wanted to stop and take a second to remind us all how pervasive that the ‘Net has become in our lives. This blog for example could not have existed 20 years ago. The Internet existed but the World Wide Web had not yet taken off. Few people had access and searching the Internet was a chore. I post this on several sites including my own Website. I think it is amazing that an Entrepreneur like myself can have my own Website at a moderate cost. Something that you don’t have to be rich to own.

Think of the following companies: Google, Amazon, and Netflix. None of them would exist without the changes in our lives based around the Internet. Netflix, in fact, has been the driving force behind the public debate around this topic. But the topic has been around since about the time that Netflix was founded in 1997.

One of the example about how lives have changed has to do with personal banking. I am old enough to have had to cash my paychecks on Friday. For those not old enough, there was a big rush to get to the bank at lunch on Friday. If you didn’t, you couldn’t get your cash for the weekend. There were no ATM machines and almost all banks were closed on the weekend. ATM machines came out when I went to college. Then we got Direct Deposit. Now I have On-Line Bill pay (often with Electronic Invoicing) and On-Line Banking. I have linked my Business Banking Accounts with my Quickbooks On-Line account so that I can do my bookkeeping. I am a Merchant Bank with a dongle on my Cellphone. The money from my Merchant Transactions goes straight into my business checking.

Those are all changes that have happened since 1980 in a very narrow slice. Can you imagine us all going back to the days of checks and cash for everything?

So as we all debate about how we want this to work, I am hopeful that many of you will pay attention. One thing that I really want to impress here. In general, the mainstream press gets all the details wrong. There are complex (very complex) technology and policy topics here. I am very concerned that you will be given incorrect technical information. I am also worried about the FCC. To date, they have taken a very light hand to regulating the Internet. This policy has been massively successful. Before we ask them to heavily regulate the Net, let’s think about the consequences hard.

Have a great weekend!

Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
Change Your Business – Change Your Life!
Business Coaching, Sales Training, Web Marketing, Behavioral Assessments, Financial Analysis

Sonoma County: News and Notes

I am looking forward to my event tonight at Stout Brothers. I want to announce my next Event which is a joint Webinar with Roy Johnston of Johnston/Thomas. Roy and I will be talking about “Succession Planning: Create Your Future”. The Webinar will be held on 10/28 @ 9AM and you can Register HERE! Again, this is free of charge. Succession Planning is all about “Who is Next?”. If you are a Small Business Owner, why should you think about the next owner of your business. Do you want to sell it to family? How do you maximize your . If you are a Corporate Executive, do you have a plan to replace yourself so that you can reach the next stage of your career? These are typical questions in Succession. So, create your own next step – don’t wait for it to be forced on you.

I met with Dwayne Arakaki of Alpha Wealth Management a firm that helps people with Finanical Planning for their lives. Dwayne is also a specialist in managing 401(k)’s for businesses. We talked about that and I wanted to share a bit of that conversation.

Jim Sackman: Dwayne, what do you do for companies with 401(k)’s?
Dwayne Arakaki: I help them by providing them with setting up and operating their 401(k) funds for their employees.
JS: What makes you different?
DA: It is all about service. I recognize that a 401(k) is not the focus of a business owner. I ensure that their employees are serviced and that the company is in compliance with all the laws.
JS: Why is this important now?
DA: With the improving economy, it will be harder to attract and maintain employees. I can help companies make sure that the offerings that they have are competitive.
JS: That’s true about hiring, what about the compliance issues.
DA: We can ensure that the company is meeting the legal requirements to keep from being sued by their employees over their 401(k) programs. On top of that, we can evaluate their offerings and make sure that they are not being overcharged and have the right mix of choices.
JS: This sounds like a great way to keep employees happy and the bottom line secure.
DA: Yes, and we make it painless for the business owner.

So if you have a 401(k) program, I highly recommend that you contact Dwayne Arakaki of Alpha Wealth Management. He can make sure that you are doing the right things for your employees and your business!

Finally, I am offering an Annual Operating Plan (AOP) Workshop/Coaching Product. This is intended for businesses to create a plan for 2015. The product will be broken into 4, 60-90 minute Workshop on Vision & Clarity, Marketing & Branding, Financials and Strategic Initiatives. There will also be 2, 60 minute one on one sessions to document the AOP and a Dashboard. A Dashboard breaks the 2015 AOP into measurable objectives. Those measures allow you to understand where you are during the year against your AOP in an objective way. This way you can do more of what is working and change what isn’t. The classes will be held in Santa Rosa starting on October 30th. You can find out more information about this Workshop HERE!

Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
Change Your Business – Change Your Life!
Business Coaching, Sales Training, Web Marketing, Behavioral Assessments, Financial Analysis

Branding: My Next Story Arc

As I posted last week, I have wrapped up my story arc around Planning a New Business. I got that story to the point that can be managed in a blog format without getting into an individual business. That is one of the challenges with these type of posts. I need to provide information that is general enough to be valuable to many people. When I work with a business each one of these topics can lead to very deep conversations, but without a model business it is hard to create such depth.

I decided the next topic to address was a Marketing Topic. Branding is a hot term and many people want to brand various things including themselves. One of the challenges is that Branding is that defining it does mean the same thing as experiencing it as a customer. Wikipedia has a nice article on “Brand” which you can find HERE.

The problem with these definitions is that they ignore what I think is the truly important part of Branding. That is the customer or prospect. Brand projection is important through all the visible mechanisms that companies and people use. The reason that this is the focus is that Brand from that perspective is under control of the source of the Brand. But the value of the Brand is only in the eyes of the customer or prospect. This means that the Marketing Department does not have control over the value of its brand. All it can do is be the fountainhead of all the tangible aspects of the Brand.

So let me step back to my 2 part Definition of Brand as we start this series of blog posts. A Brand is:
– Your Unique Value Proposition (UVP)
– As Viewed in the Eyes of Your Customer or Prospect

This means that the value of the Brand and its essence is how it is received and not in how it is presented. Presentation is important but receipt is the fulcrum. The memory hooks that we use like Logos, Taglines and Names are all ways of reminding people of their relationship to your UVP. But it is the UVP that is most important. The goal is to link this UVP to the memory hook in such a way that the UVP is recalled even when it is unstated.

Now why is this definition of Brand so challenging? Well, that is what we are going to explore over during this series. My goal for this series is that it will provide you with thoughtful information about how to improve your Brand and make it work for you in your Business and your Life!
Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
Change Your Business – Change Your Life!
Business Coaching, Sales Training, Web Marketing, Behavioral Assessments, Financial Analysis

Net Neutrality Friday

One of the issues that people have with the way things are done today in the Internet Service business is the lack of competition. I want to address the causes of that and the implications that this has had.

Today, people are worried about the possible conflict between Content Owners and Internet Service Providers. I want to tilt this on its head as a discussion point for thought. From there, I will get to a bit of my history lesson. What do you think would happen if Netflix was going to deny service to all its customers on Comcast until Comcast changes its performance. Who would get the heat for turning this back on? My argument would be that its Comcast and take a look at what happens when Cable/Satellite company drops a major Television Channel.

But the driver that could keep everybody playing fairly is competition. The problem is that there is not a lot of competition and there is not likely to be a lot more in the future. If you recall Dial-Up Internet, you would buy Internet Service from a company that was often not your Phone Company. This separated what was termed your Access Service Provider (ASP) with your Internet Service Provider (ISP). The ISP was the company that actually provided you with your IP Address.

When the Telcos became involved in Internet Service, they decided to take over the ISP business. The way they did this is that they bundled the pricing as DSL came out. You bought your DSL line and you could get the ISP service with it for a very low price. So instead of shopping to someone like Earthlink or AOL, you would have your ASP and ISP be the same company. In fact this is so common today, that we rarely think about it the other way. But as an example, Earthlink still exists and you can have them as an ISP pretty broadly where your ASP would be your local Telco. The Telcos (and Cablecos) priced ISP service to such a commodity that it is the low value part of the business.

Their are two results here. First, nobody is starting a new company as a standalone ISP especially in residential service. There are companies that are standalone ISPs but they have existed for some time. This means that there is no new ISP competition evolving. Second, nobody wants to build new networks. In fact recently two smaller carriers have either spun off or sold their network assets. Networks are hard to build and maintain. They are capital intensive and take a long time to get an ROI.

Finally, let’s recall the Competitive Local Exchange Carrier aka the CLEC. This was the last time we tried to legislate competition into existence. This was not a success (like the Titanic was not a success). So let’s be careful before we assume we can regulate competition into existence
Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
Change Your Business – Change Your Life!
Business Coaching, Sales Training, Web Marketing, Behavioral Assessments, Financial Analysis

Sonoma County: News and Notes

To start with as a reminder I am co-hosting a Workshop on “Building an Integrated Marketing Plan” with N2 Publishing and Fuze (the Fuzeviewer Team). This workshop is being held at Stout Brothers on September 24th @ 5:30PM. Expect about 1 hour of presentations followed by about an hour of networking. I have a few spots available and the event is free! If you have any interest, contact me at jsackman@focalpointcoaching.com.

There are some interesting events coming up in the near future. First is offered by the Sonoma County Economics Development Board. It is an Economics Outlook presentation by Dr. Chris Thornberg. It will be held at the Hyatt on Railroad Square in Santa Rosa. I went to last year’s presentation and found it both interesting and fun. He hit one of the things that has been a highlight of this year – lack of single family home construction. If you want some general information about the Economy, this is the place to be. You can visit the EDB’s website for more information.

A different view on things will be the North Bay Business Journal’s Impact Sonoma Conference. These have a great list of speakers and panels on important industries for Sonoma County. This event will be held October 10th @ the Hyatt as well. It is a great chance to meet the owners of all kinds of businesses.

I am also asking people to take a look at the Professional Services Marketing Group – North Bay. They have a great conference coming up on October 16th at the Sonoma Mountain Events Center. Last year, the Keynote was delivered by a LinkedIn VP. The Conference is called “Ahead of the Curve” and is all about the forefront of Marketing. I highly recommend the group and the conference. Visit their website HERE to learn more!

Finally, I am offering an Annual Operating Plan (AOP) Workshop/Coaching Product. This is intended for businesses to create a plan for 2015. The product will be broken into 4, 60-90 minute Workshop on Vision & Clarity, Marketing & Branding, Financials and Strategic Initiatives. There will also be 2, 60 minute one on one sessions to document the AOP and a Dashboard. A Dashboard breaks the 2015 AOP into measurable objectives. Those measures allow you to understand where you are during the year against your AOP in an objective way. This way you can do more of what is working and change what isn’t. The classes will be held in Santa Rosa starting on October 30th. The . The cost for this product is $900 and for more information you can contact me at jsackman@focalpointcoaching.com

Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
Change Your Business – Change Your Life!
Business Coaching, Sales Training, Web Marketing, Behavioral Assessments, Financial Analysis