Tag Archives: business

Warning: To be human is to love a good story.

Story

“We want to create value for you by sharing marketing tips and timesavers” – O’C&K.

10 steps to start telling your story right now.

Why do businesses and so many marketers continue to ignore the fact that customers are human and like a good story?

Do you think I’m stretching it a little when I suggest that your customers, or prospects (people), want to see, hear and understand the real you?  They want to know your story. I don’t believe that they want to hear you broadcast how good you are or how much they need your product / service. Do you know why? Because you are not talking to them in a natural way and they see no value for themselves, in your corporate blurb.

I alluded to this in a previous post, but I believe that it is worth reiterating here. Treating people as humans is a business requirement and not just a casual option. In fact have you noticed that your colleagues, your employees and even your online followers are all human also? Not only that, but they all have one other thing in common, they want brands to relate to them in an interesting way that brings them benefit.

The way that businesses can do this is quite simple to understand but a little bit harder to put in place. Our tips and timesavers below will outline some ways that you can start to make your brand more human with storytelling.

Once upon a time ……

It is true that for brands to break through the ‘noise’ today, they need to be more interesting and relevant. I read recently that ‘friend of mine’ awareness is replacing the traditional marketing measurement of ‘top of mind’ awareness. This reinforces the power of word-of-mouth and also the way that purchasing decisions are being influenced. A friend’s advice is an emotional one and usually acted upon. So if brands are to make any inroads into building relationships with customers, they must connect with people in the way that a friend might – through emotion.

The main way of doing this is by telling a story.

‘Once upon a time ….’ is one of the most emotionally charged string of words, ever. From when we were babies, we always tuned into what comes next after those magical words. Brands have to start telling and stop selling. People in general want to know more about you but will only listen if it is interesting and relevant, to them. How to achieve this from a business point of view, is by revealing a story theme within the guidelines of a clear communication strategy.

Think about it, a brand is really an amalgamation of stories anyway. The ideal would be for you to pull these stories together into a theme and proactively manage them. Of course, if you don’t tell your story, others will and it may not be a positive version.

Topics you could source internally might include:

  • the added value offered by your brand,
  • various audience experiences,
  • your employees,
  • the rationale behind your identity and your image,
  • what others say about you.

In fact, why not allow your stories ‘fit in’ with those of other people. Even better – become a hub for the sharing of ideas and conversations. Give people a face, a voice, a platform to be heard.

When discussing this point with some of O’C&K’s clients, they often say “but we don’t have a story to tell, that’s why we advertise”. Our answer is that every brand has a specific story to tell which should be told because it is the one thing that your competitors cannot replicate. And from a sales point of view, people connect with stories not products.

For instance, the original iPhone was sold as a life changer about how people could connect rather than a pocket computer. What Apple Inc. did was to make the customer (you and me) the hero of their story. Whatever you might think of Apple they definitely changed our lives with the smartphone.

If you decide to start telling your story however, it must be your authentic story. Not some aspirational place where you want to be. Let people know who you are – across all communication, online and offline. Be consistent and constantly thinking about ways that you can add value to your customers.

Brands that I am interested in are ones that I learn from, I laugh with or I love what they do for others. Of course business values are great but I find that they are all similar – have a look at a company’s values page on the next few websites that you visit and you’ll see what I mean.

To me, it’s kind of obvious that businesses need to connect more with people through personal values which means getting emotional, however strange that may sound. I guess social media can help us in this regard. It gives us the opportunity to talk directly to, or listen to, customers. Even a simple ‘thank you’ on twitter can go a long way. As I have always said to sponsees – ‘try to over- deliver on a personal level with a sponsor’. In that way renewal of a sponsorship contract is more probable, nine times out of ten. It’s all about the personal touch.

Tips and Timesavers.

The real trick here is not to focus on your own story, your own campaign, new services or your achievements. Talk about why people’s lives will be improved as you strive to achieve your vision, not how you’re going about it. Tell stories that make people laugh, make them sad or make them mad.

Here are some tips to start you on your journey:

  • Brainstorm with your team. – It is important that you know who and what you are before you can start connecting with your audiences. What is your culture?
  • Determine your audience. –  ID, research and prioritise your top 2/3 audiences. What different requirements have they and what tactics are required for you to satisfy them.
  • Focus on the relationship that you want to build. –  Be a human and have a personality.
  • Don’t interrupt your audience. – Speak in their language and be part of their story.
  • Listen to their story and provide value. – Your story must be of benefit to them in some way.
  • Get your team to be social. – Everybody on your team is a potential curator of stories.
  • Get your audience on board. – By connecting with their emotions they will buy into your story.
  • Leverage different mediums. – Find out where your audiences are and go ‘play’ there.
  • Be human all the time. – Show pictures of you and your team – doing ordinary stuff.
  • Plan it. – Have an editorial calendar, a social media policy and measure impacts.

Telling your story – a science or an art?

If you don’t see yourself as a storyteller, an external professional can help you to encapsulate your company’s story. The downside of not doing this is that your communication with people is going to be unfocused and less effective. Also, don’t waste time trying to set-up multiple channels of communication because, once you have determined your audience, the channels will select themselves.

Adam Weinroth, CMO, OneSpot has provided us with an interesting infographic on the science of storytelling.

The human element of storytelling is to ensure that your team and your audience are sharing compelling content. If that content is aligned to your brand promise and vision, it will be relevant and useful to all parties.

By the way, don’t allow the thought of writing the content to put you off – you can outsource this element also. The important thing is that your internal team is operating like a newsroom and is focused on your communication strategies.

Having a human brand means that you keep in mind that your customers and employees are human too. Humans like stories and are always looking for value in them. That value may be educational, entertaining or simply an alignment with their beliefs. Go on, tell us, what’s your story?

If you have any other tips or timesavers please leave a reply below. If you’d like to receive similar content, just subscribe by clicking through the pink button, on this page.  Of course if you want to get in touch, leave your details and perhaps we might meet for a chat, cheers.   Jim – O’C&K

 

Ways to build a desirable brand

Your brand name in lights

“We want to create value for you by sharing marketing tips and timesavers” – O’C&K.

A desirable brand emanates from a customer’s positive experience.

There is plenty of evidence out there to prove that when brands are managed pro-actively, they can become valuable assets for a business. What I want to chat about in this post is how you might arrange the building blocks of a desirable brand so that it appeals to potential customers. Let’s face it, people tend to pander to their desires. It must follow therefore, that they ‘desire’ particular brands or else they wouldn’t remain as customers or offer repeat custom. So, if  their positive experience of your brand is making them think, feel or act differently, then you have found the holy grail of business – a loyal customer ready to become an ambassador for your brand.

Many company owners will admit that growing their business, on a day to day basis, is a challenge that requires their ongoing attention. That, in itself is fine but in this unprecedented era of customer power, it is far easier for customers / prospects to ignore you, than ever before. As a result, owners are being forced to change from being focused on their business to being focused on their customers. This might not be an easy transition for most but, if they’re not being smarter about marketing, they might well end up having a great business which no one knows nor cares about.

Balancing the energy required to make a brand customer- focused and to make the business profitable is not easy for a business owner. One option is to outsource if you don’t have the in-house experience. Whether you decide to outsource some of ‘the energy required’ to professionals or decide to do it alone, in this post I want to outline an audit process to help you. Based on our own set-up experience in O’C&K, I believe that there are 4 basic areas you should consider initially; –  yourself, your audience, your competitors and your desirable brand experience.

Knowing Yourself

Whether you are an existing business or in a set-up situation, something must have spurred you into action originally. It may well be an incident in a previous employment, a monetary need or a passion that you have always wanted to explore. You might simply be basing your business idea on particular strengths that you have amassed or inherited. Whatever the motivation, try and visualise how it might be infused into your brand. When attempting this, one thing to be conscious of is the personality trait that your business ‘idea’ will require – if you don’t match personally, join with somebody that does. If you’re lucky, your personal story can be brought to the brand, to make it more human and interesting. A ‘beating the odds’ story, your training, your experience, specific talents, your personal background are all good places to start. Ask yourself, does your experience ‘fit’ with the brand you can visualise.

For instance, between Aidan and myself (O’C&K), we have at least 50 years practical experience in the communication business. Aidan specialises in creative concepts and marketing management and I my background is in creating and implementing sponsorship and corporate giving programmes. It is these specialities that we are building the O’Connor & Kelly business around. Initially, when discussing our projected brand personality we had to determine what makes us unique, what our core beliefs that will make our brand desirable, our commitment, whether we could incorporate our hobbies and what emotions people attach to us, individually. It was only after this ‘soul searching’ that we could agree on the actual service we could offer, the goals and the message.

Knowing your Audience

Here is a list of characteristics that you might use to build a profile of your audience. Gender, age, generational values, income levels, where they live, marital status, children and their interests. If they are online, any blogs they read, websites they visit, TV shows they stream and social media activity. It would be great if you could determine career / education levels. Only face to face contact may be able to determine the following, but it can be researched if they are active online – know their frustrations, their hopes, why they might need your service, where they ‘shop’ and is there anything that you have in common with them already.

Knowing your Competition

There will always be someone in your niche that offers the same service or something similar to you. All you have to do is know who they are. When you do – then just apply the same questions to them as you did to yourself (see above), to determine how much of a competitor they really are. For example, how do they describe their offering, is it the same in price and quality? Are they better at something, are they chasing the same audience, is their identity professional and are they online? What is their marketing activity like, their tone, their colours and their style? Are you hearing anything about them from your audience, are they catering already for the same need that you have identified and in your opinion, are they a desirable brand?

Knowing your brand experience

I have said in many posts to this blog previously that branding is way more than a nicely designed business identity. In our most recent post, here, it was emphasised that it is the participant’s experience before, during and after an event that drives return business. Similarly, it is the experience that your audience encounters which creates the ‘desirability’ of your brand. You must build the goodwill if you want WOM promotion by your customers.

Tips and Timesavers.

Here is a sample checklist of some elements that may form part of your planned brand experience:

  • being accessible – opening hours include being online.
  • keeping your word – doing what it ‘says on the tin’.
  • making them feel special – delivering more than they expect.
  • helping people – being informative and a good citizen.
  • being honest and gracious – seeking feedback and acting on it if appropriate.
  • having fun – looking after the customers that ‘look after you’.
  • being accommodating – being consistent and reassuring

Only when you have decided on your values etc. and what your customer is going to experience, should you embark upon creating a business identity and how it will be used. More than likely you will employ an outside agent (you should) to do this, and O’C&K are very well equipped to help you with this should you so decide. Basic elements would include a logo, an ID package (design style, colours etc.) and a web presence. Please resist the urge to go overboard with the design element and bear in mind that you will probably be adapting to your audience as your business grows.

Two final things, 1) give your brand a face and preferably one that is recognisable, be that yourself, an employee or a mascot and 2) infuse everything you’ve decided upon under ‘knowing yourself’ above, into your brand. We have a guide, here, on our website that might be useful to you when planning a marketing strategy.

When all is said and done, a business that delivers a community- like understanding that, ‘we are all in it together’, will be seen as an authentic and desirable brand to do business with.

If you have any other tips or timesavers please leave a reply below. If you’d like to receive similar content, just subscribe by clicking through the pink button, on this page.  Of course if you want to get in touch, leave your details and perhaps we might meet for a chat, cheers.   Jim – O’C&K

 

A brand proposition is a good place to start.

brand quality

“We want to create value for you by sharing marketing tips and timesavers” – O’C&K.

Really good brands provide a sense of belonging.

The very first thing that we in OC&K try to establish with our new customers is whether or not they are clear and specific about who the brand is meant to serve, how it does it and why do existing customers find it relevant, to them.

Allow me to put this in a checklist; we try to determine if the client,

  •  really knows who the brand is and why it exists
  •  is clear what the brand represents
  •  is structured to serve customers (communication / operations)
  •  is clear as to how they want to be perceived (vs how they are perceived)

Answers to the above questions help us to determine whether the brand is living up to its promise and whether it is being used to facilitate decision making. We get a feel for whether public perception is really a reflection of what the brand is and if it is a fair statement about the brand’s beliefs.

Operations vs marketing.

We have found that many business owners aren’t comfortable in this area. They usually spend approximately 70/80% of their time ‘running’ the business and “don’t have time for marketing stuff”. At the very least, we try to enforce the notion that a critical aspect of their brand development is that of their brand proposition. There are many different names for this out there, so let’s just say a brand proposition should cover a) who is the audience, being offered value, b) what is that value and c) why their brand is unique. Why this brand proposition is so important is that many SMEs have very similar goals and business objectives, the only differentiator being the industry.

If a business is established for a while, it probably is doing a lot of things right but if it wants to, not just survive but differentiate itself and become a great brand, it must have a solid brand proposition. Who wants to be a great brand? I wrote in my last blog that 70% of customers buy from brands because of the way they are made to feel – well, the thing is, great brands provide a sense of belonging, and even meaning, to people’s lives. And guess what? Such brands don’t just appear – they are built from the ground up being focused, offering solutions and being different, in the eyes of the public. So if you have already had a stab at brand positioning or are going to try it for this year’s planning, we at OC&K can help you – if you need it.

Tips and Timesavers.

On a related topic, more and more of late, clients have being asking us how they can start to build their brand online. Such a topic should be the content of a blog post in itself, but I will outline a few pointers below that may be helpful. Whether you do one or all of them it’ll still be much better than just jumping on Facebook or Twitter, because someone told you to do so. We are delighted when SMEs ask about this because it is a sign that they are taking their brand proposition seriously.

  1. If you don’t have time to write a blog, read others and comment on them.
  2. Find out where your online audience is. (there are many tools for this)
  3. Find influencers (and competitors) for your area of expertise and follow them.
  4. Share content that reinforces your area of expertise.
  5. If you have a website or blog – provide customers/prospects reasons to subscribe.

To finish, I hope you’ve gained some insights from the above. The fact is that a brand is a way for people to remember how you made them feel and why they will tell others about you. The proposition is all about you – the owner. It’s your vision after all so think about the big picture of your values and your goals. Constantly think about your customers – what are they looking for? What are their goals? Once you have a brand proposition you will have a roadmap of where you want to go with your customers, and that needs to be crystal clear. Wouldn’t you agree?

If you have any other tips or timesavers please leave a reply below. If you’d like to receive similar content, just subscribe by clicking through the pink button, on this page.  Of course if you want to get in touch, leave your details and perhaps we might meet for a chat, cheers.   Jim – O’C&K

 

Networking to attract the action.

“We want to create value for you by sharing marketing tips and timesavers” – O’C&K.

Would you be happy with an 80% success rate?

Of course, not everybody loves walking into a business networking event as a stranger or standing at a trade show stand or even attending a breakfast meeting as a member of an association, but guess what? It is essential to building and growing your business. And yes it does take skill and experience to feel confident in these situations, but it’s amazing how a little careful planning will help you to gain those all-important business leads (or whatever your objectives are).

Attract + Action.

I read a blog lately where Woody Allen was quoted as saying that ‘80% of success is showing up’. Now while I actually do agree with this sentiment, I believe the remaining 20% is as, if not more, important as the 80%. From experience I know that your task will be made a lot easier if you prepare a little before, during and after the event. Interestingly, recently I read a blog that broke the word ‘attraction’ into two parts – Attract and Action – (I apologise to the author for not being able to credit them, as I just cannot locate the blog). They pointed out that we must first attract what we are looking for and then just as importantly, take the appropriate action in order to get what we set out to achieve. The point is – who wants just 80% success. No one else can do this for us, we must take action ourselves to attract what it is that we want. So referring to Woody Allen’s quote – showing up is indeed action but it’s not enough on its own. We must take the action by attending, of course, and then make ourselves attractive to our prospects.

Tips and Timesavers.

Here are 10 pointers that might help with the attraction element:

Before the Event

1. Choose the event wisely and set objectives.

2. Scope out individual attendees (and their company’s website) and prepare your elevator pitch.

3. Dress for success.

During the Event

4. Get the lay of the land and look for the influencers.

5. Study name badges in general and be friendly.

6. Be curious and be open yourself to questions.

7. Don’t sell too hard so listen more than you speak.

8. Keep cards handy and keep mingling.

After the Event

9. Make notes and follow through promises (e.g. social media).

10. Be professional with follow ups (they’re not your friend – yet).

Let’s face it, real-life networking events aren’t likely to go away anytime soon – people enjoy connecting with each other, in person. Remember everybody at that event has something to offer somebody and that includes you. Be attractive and go that extra 20%.

If you have any other tips or timesavers please leave a reply below. If you’d like to receive similar content, just subscribe by clicking through the pink button, on this page.  Of course if you want to get in touch, leave your details and perhaps we might meet for a chat, cheers.   Jim – O’C&K