Your Brand Message: What Quadrant?

I posted last week about how to start in constructing a Brand Message and what it means. This week I want to take a much deeper dive into what the meaning of the Brand Message is and the simple model of how you can start to think about it. This basically boils down into a typical Magic Quadrant. For those that are not familiar with this model, you can look it up on Wikipedia. In Brand Development, it is pretty simple. One one axis we have Perceived Value and on the Other is Volume.

People would love to have a High Priced, High Volume product. That is a premium product that lots of people want. I see the only group that seems to be able to get there are Automobile Manufacturers. They have done a great job of increasing what we think of as a baseline offering and making that a requirement for entry level vehicles (think about when power windows and power mirrors became “standard”). For most Small Businesses, they should be thinking about targeting a wide enough audience with an above average product to derive above average pricing. That would be a premium Brand for a Small Business.

However, you are not going to step directly to this position. The best way to think about this is do I start by making a reliable lower cost product (and drive volume – Commodity) or a highly sought after higher price product (and drive value – Boutique). This is the first choice you need to make as you think about your Brand. You can imagine that transition to where you want to be long term. For Commodity Brands, you need to move from being a cheap and cheerful supplier to one that also has higher end products and services. I have a friend working at Digikey (they are a catalog sales company for Electronic Components). She is working on a Service capability to allow Digikey to use its Supply Chain capability for some of its customers. For Boutique Brands, one needs to think about expanding its audience. That was the challenge for us at AFC. What could we do to make our product attractive to the Tier 1 carriers in the US. Could we find applications that our primary competitor could not do efficiently. If we could find them and turn them into volume applications, then we can take the product we developed for a high margin market and drive it in volume.

So, now we come back to a choice. From an advertising cost standpoint, it is generally simpler to go the Boutique route. Your will have a much more targeted Ideal Client base. This means that your Outreach can be smaller and more relevant to them. This approach leads to “lumpier” business as you will generally have fewer, but larger customers. So remember this is all a choice and it is yours!
Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
Change Your Business – Change Your Life!
Business Coaching, Sales Training, Marketing Consultant, Behavioral Assessments, Business Planning

Net Neutrality Friday

This week I want to circle back to what I think is a much bigger problem with Broadband in the U.S. than Net Neutrality. That is the availability, quality and cost of Broadband Access.

To me this is the first thing we need to solve in our Internet Service issues and I see our whole focus on Net Neutrality as getting in the way of this. Why? I think our regulators only have so much energy and that they will spend time now on defending Net Neutrality. There are suits that have already been filed and there will likely be more. I am not going to spend any time on those issues at the moment, because I want to call attention to this other issue.

I see regularly that many folks would like there to be “more competition” for ISP services. The problem is that to build a new network requires a very large amount of capital and an extended period of time. Google has built out a handful of cities and subscriber counts are not very well known. I know a lot about Verizon’s FiOS roll-out and that was an overbuild of their existing network. The bulk of that build took over 5 years and that was not over their entire network. Before the latest Frontier purchase of lines only about 1/2 of Verizon lines could get FiOS. Investors hammered Verizon for building FiOS as it was considered a waste of money.

And that leads us to our problem. How do we get more or better investment in building our High Speed pipes to residential customers? I think the only ways to get there are through either creating Broadband as a Universal Service or through Structural Separation. I will talk about both, but I think that until Net Neutrality dies down a bit we will see neither.

Universal Service should be a familiar concept. Today, it exists for Plain Old Telephone Services (POTS). Your local phone company is required to bring a phone to your home. It does not matter how costly it is. It is the law. We could create the same thing for Broadband. The large ISPs would scream bloody murder as they would be required to make sure that this service was available everywhere. There will likely be some subsidy by the US Government to help offset the costs. This might be in low cost loans or grants to help pay for the build-out.

The other mechanism is very unlikely to happen but would separate your physical access from your Internet Service. This is true for some smaller ISPs today. In general, they have to lease access to your home from the local phone company. But there is no reason that this could not be separated for both cable and telco. I actually prefer this solution as I think a number of Entrepreneurs would come up with interesting Internet Service packages. Now the Government would regulate the capability of the pipe coming into your residence, like they do with Electrical service.

Why do I think those choices are where we need to go? The problem is that the Service Providers need a reason to invest. They have so many places to invest, those unserved and underserved areas just never reach the level of getting attention. Government money comes with too many strings for the large providers. So, realistically the only way to get it done is through coercion.

Have a great weekend!

Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
Change Your Business – Change Your Life!
Business Coaching, Sales Training, Marketing Consultant, Behavioral Assessments, Business Planning

Your Branding Message – Bringing it to Life

We recognize that your Branding Message is all about the Value Promise to your Prospects and Customers. The Execution of that Branding Message is what your Customers attach themselves to. Today’s post is all about how we create Brand Recognition.

Brand Recognition is all about creating an Audience for your Brand. This means that before you have any Human Interaction with your Prospects that they have knowledge of what you do. It would be even better if your Brand conveyed to them some type of Value at that level, but this may or may not be true. Here is the problem. The large Brands we see today (especially in the Consumer Markets) spend large sums of money for this activity. Small Businesses do not have the kinds of capital to Execute the same strategy. So, what can we do?

Well the first place to start is with the definition of your Ideal Client. The reason is that the money you are going to spend needs to get spent effectively. The best way to spend those dollars is to focus them on the Prospects that will deliver you the most value. One of the problems for many Small Businesses is that they want this pool to be as large as possible. The owners reason that the more possible Prospects that they have the best chance in closing business. A more efficient way is to understand who you want to sell to and target your Brand at those Prospects as a priority.

The second point is to review your Brand Message and the promise that it makes. Does the promise have Value in the eyes of your Ideal Client? This is something very important and needs to be looked at from the outside in. One of the challenges that many businesses have is that they view their Value as they project it. Remember, it is the Prospect that has to perceive the value from the message. Remember that as you bring your message to the marketplace.

Third, you need to be consistent with the way your Brand Message is presented. This is the whole connection to your Logo, Colors and Tagline. The entire point of Audience creation is to have a number of touch points by which you reach out to potential Prospects. What the traditional Branding elements are intended to do is reinforce your Brand Message so that the appearance of one of the Branding elements causes recall of the Brand Message. One of the most important parts of this is consistency. Every time your Brand is seen or heard you want consumers to connect it to your Brand Message. This works best if the visual and audio representation of your Brand is constant.

So, that is a great way to start thinking about how to bring your Brand Message to Life. There is a LOT more on this topic yet to talk about!

Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
Change Your Business – Change Your Life!
Business Coaching, Sales Training, Marketing Consultant, Behavioral Assessments, Business Planning

Sonoma County: News and Notes

Just a reminder that I am going to be offering a new Online Program called the Green Belt Business Mastery Course starting May 7th. The target audience for this is businesses that would like to have a Business Coach but feel unable to afford 1 on 1 coaching. This is the first in a series of courses running from Green Belt to Black Belt as well as some specialty Black Belt Classes. If you are interested or know someone who might be, feel free to contact me at jsackman@focalpointcoaching.com for more information. You can also find HERE a document that shows the curriculum for the Green Belt!

Over the past week, I have gotten updates from my friends on the Real Estate side of our economy. I wanted to pass that information along here. First off, we still have an inventory issue in Residential Real Estate. There is very few homes for sale now. That is pushing prices upward and is starting to move homes out of the reach of the average resident. That will hold down further price increases, but there is not much coming soon to relieve pressure on the inventory. This, in turn, is pressuring rental rates upwards as owners capitalize on the tight markets.

On the Commercial Front, there is still reasonable availability for Office Space but the other markets are relatively tight. Again, there is not a lot of new construction going on so we will have to see how this impacts rates in the future.

Mortgage rates remain at all time lows and have the opportunity to go lower. There is money likely to come into the US throughout the rest of the year as a bastion against trouble worldwide. This is good news for continued low interest rates as well as for stock prices. The caution is that we are reaching territory that is probably not sustainable for the long term. So, it is time to do something about your portfolio and your mortgage. This time next year the situation may be radically different.

One other thing to note on the Construction Front. The Runway expansion at the Sonoma County Airport has been completed but no new flights have been added. I have heard that one reason is that there is a desire to expand and improve the terminal. The terminal is pretty limited in size right now and probably would not allow another airline to have their own space. So, I expect we might see something happen there over the next year or two.

Just a reminder if you are interested in visiting a great BNI group come visit us at Legends at the Bennett Valley Golf Course on Fridays just before 7AM. The “Best Networkers In Town” would be happy to have you visit. Great way to meet around 40 Business People here in Sonoma County. If you want any other information about this let me know. We provide Breakfast and you get to meet 40+ Business Owners. Ask yourself: If I do business with just one of those people, how much revenue can I make. You can find the group HERE!

Have a great day!

Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
Change Your Business – Change Your Life!Business Coaching, Executive Training, Sales Training, Marketing

Branding Message – How to Start

Last week I started this story arc with defining a Branding Message. This week I want to circle back to what a Brand is as I define it and then talk about all the messaging involved.

My definition of a Brand is your Unique Value Proposition (UVP) as viewed by your Ideal Prospects and Clients. That last bit is very important as I view a Brand as actionable. Your Brand is only as good as your execution against what your promise is. And that promise is your Brand Message.

Let me create a circle of this idea again so that you can see how it fits together. You define your UVP to describe what is important about what you do. You describe your Ideal Client to be clear on who your target audience is. You write your Brand Message as a promise about your Products and Services. You execute your UVP to deliver on your promise. When you do this, it builds your Brand.

Which leads to the first problem that I run into talking to Businesses. Your Brand Value is only as good as your weakest link. In a start-up, that is Execution. You can promise through your Brand Message anything you want and if you can’t deliver than it has no value. Actions speak louder than words and so Execution wins the day. Think about bad service at a Restaurant and how it colored your entire experience of the place. The food may have been wonderful, but you still are not going back.

But we are focused on your Brand Message here. That implies a couple of things. First that you make a promise to your Prospect. That is a promise of Value. The thought you should put behind your Brand Message is: “Is my Value promise meaningful to my Ideal Prospects and Clients?” I have seen plenty of Brand Messages that do not resonate with the only group that matters – those that are paying the bills.

Finally on this topic today, you have to come back to Alignment. Because Execution is such a big piece of the puzzle, you need to have all of your Team on board with your Brand Message. Otherwise delivery of your promise doesn’t happen and your Brand loses Value.

So, where to start is figuring out what that promise you are making is. And then make it happen.

Have a great day!
Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
Change Your Business – Change Your Life!
Business Coaching, Sales Training, Marketing Consultant, Behavioral Assessments, Business Planning

Net Neutrality Friday

The rules came out yesterday from our friends at the FCC. They are complicated and a long read and I am slogging through them. The place I want to start is where the rules say that they do not cover and that is Interconnection Agreements. In the vernacular, these are called Peering Agreements.

In the public view, this is where things all started. Comcast and Netflix. In the industry, it was based around the overturn of the last set of rules. But John Oliver and the broader public think of Interconnection. Now, I think the notion of Peering is a good one. In particular, the notion of a “peer”. The noun peer has a definition of: a person of the same age, status, or ability as another specified person. In the world of the Internet, it meant that traffic would flow between two entities and on about equal basis.

Just as a counter example, let me bring up the phone network. In the older world of the telephone, the company where the call originated collected the money. It passed along to all the companies involved in delivering the call to its destination any money owed along the way. That way the resources used to deliver the traffic was paid for on each step along the way. The Internet works differently (in general) here. The originator of traffic pays their service provider. Intermediate ISPs are not paid for traffic that transits their networks. As long as traffic is relatively symmetrical, there is no problem. It is a “bill and keep” model.

Along comes Netflix. People watch videos in bulk from Netflix and on Youtube (which is owned by Google). Netflix hired Cogent to create a Content Distribution Network and send out the requested videos to customers. This created a massive imbalance. Netflix was a huge source of traffic and almost none was being sent back. Many of the other large sources of traffic, like Google, have significant direct relationships with the major ISPs. Netflix did not and this caused a significant amount of tension, most notably with Comcast. Given the popularity of Netflix, this is what caused all manner of distress with the public.

But now, this kind of thing is NOT going to be covered by Net Neutrality. I suspect that we will see this being a problem again, but not for a long time. As I posted a few weeks ago, it turned out that Cogent itself was the cause of the problems seen by Comcast customers with Netflix. So, not regulating these agreements is probably the right way to go for now.

Now we can start talking about the rules as written and the other end of the problem: Universal Broadband Access.

Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
Change Your Business – Change Your Life!
Business Coaching, Sales Training, Marketing Consultant, Behavioral Assessments, Business Planning

Sonoma County: News and Notes

Just a reminder if you are interested in visiting a great BNI group come visit us at Legends at the Bennett Valley Golf Course on Fridays just before 7AM. The “Best Networkers In Town” would be happy to have you visit. Great way to meet around 40 Business People here in Sonoma County. If you want any other information about this let me know. We provide Breakfast and you get to meet 40+ Business Owners. Ask yourself: If I do business with just one of those people, how much revenue can I make. You can find the group HERE!

Normally I talk about another business or issue here. Today, I want to go over something new that I am doing. I am going to be offering Online Group Business Coaching starting with the Green Belt Business Mastery Course. The target audience for this is businesses that would like to have a Business Coach but feel unable to afford 1 on 1 coaching. This is the first in a series of courses running from Green Belt to Black Belt as well as some specialty Black Belt Classes. If you are interested or know someone who might be, feel free to contact me at jsackman@focalpointcoaching.com for more information.

I know one of the bigger questions about this is: What is a Business Coach and How does that help me? I get that a lot as people are confused by what I do exactly. But really, it is pretty simple. I do 3 things: Clarity, Enlightenment and Accountability.

Clarity is the place where Coaches start. I need to know what you want to achieve. As remarkable as this sounds, it may take some time for you to know yourself and be able to communicate it effectively. Once we know what you want to achieve – What your Vision is – we can hone it down to its essential elements. Without Clarity of Vision, then Change becomes impossible. I need the people that I Coach to strive and to get that kind of effort requires a Clear Vision of the Future.

Once we are Clear on what, then we have to Enlighten ourselves on How. With a Business Coach this requires the work of the Coachee to make sure that we have a Plan to meet our Vision. At times, this means that the Coach needs to bring new information to the table to help the Coachee to consider how to proceed. There are so many smart people who have studied Business that there are likely to be gaps in knowledge. The Coach helps bridge the gap and make sure that the plan can be achieved.

Finally, we have Accountability. It turns out Change is Hard. Ask anyone who has tried to take off and keep off weight or stop smoking. The third job of a Coach is to make sure that the Plan is being Executed. To keep the Coachee on the path and to help them make adjustments as required. Accountability conversations are sometimes difficult. But without somewhere there to help ensure that you are sticking to your Plan, then the Vision may not be achieved.

So, I hope that helps people understand Coaching a bit better. I look forward to hosting the Green Belt Business Mastery starting on May 7th.

Have a great day!

Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
Change Your Business – Change Your Life!Business Coaching, Executive Training, Sales Training, Marketing