Nine Resolutions To Build Your Brand and Your Business
by Phillip Davis
After the wild ride that was '08, many business owners are asking themselves just where to invest their time, energy and money in the new year. From dealing with hundreds of business owners each year, here are a few suggestions . . .
1. Listen More.
For many businesses and industries, this past year was more than a bump in the road -- it represented a fundamental shift in the way their goods and services were bought and sold. Your customers are looking for the same things you are, ways to operate more effectively and efficiently. When was the last time you called your best client and asked what he or she needed most? How about a survey on your web site which asks the visitor what information and products were most helpful and which were least? The one constant in business is change, so make yourself a student of change. Be there for your customers and they will be there for you.
In good times, lots of things work. We may have ventured into a number of areas, products, services and offerings simply because they added to the bottom line. Now is the time to revisit your company's brand image and ask "What do we really stand for?" If you can't sum it up easily, then you've become scattered and diffused. And customers will sense that. A good test is to ask yourself what one word do you really "own?" For instance is it price, quality, service, selection, etc. If you had to pick one word, what would it be, and how do all your products line up with that word. If something doesn't fit, it may be time to focus and streamline so you can truly stand out.
3. Keep in touch.
Most of us fall into the trap of the 80/20 principal, where 80 percent of our income comes from 20 percent of our clients. But we don't spend 80 percent of our time serving them. Instead we respond to emergencies and complaints and the "squeaky wheels." This year, make it a point to spend time with the clients who love your services. It will remind you of what you are good at doing. And it may help you let go of other accounts that are hard to please, drain your energy and provide little profit. Take a moment to write a love letter to your best account and tell them exactly how much they mean to you and how much you value their business. You'll be amaze at what happens.
4. Blog, blog, blog.
If you haven't started a blog, do it. This is one of the most effective and affordable ways to market. It only "costs" you your time and by doing so, you give the world a taste of your expertise. Don't be afraid you're giving away the store -- those who really want your talents will want you all the more. Those who just needed some helpful information will appreciate and perhaps refer you to others. Google also loves blogs. Since starting the Tungsten blog, I now receive more traffic to the blog site than my main Tungsten Branding site, which has been supported by years of articles, press releases, and paid advertising. Blogging is great karma, so share the love.
5. Look for alliances.
Go to your competitors (yes . . . competitors) and vendors and create referral sources. Chances are that very few companies really do exactly where you do. After all, you probably tell potential customers all the time how you are different from all the companies in your industry, so you really are not in direct competition. I have gone to a number of companies in the naming and branding business and asked them if they would send clients my way that weren't a fit for them. And I reciprocate with clients that are outside our scope. If you really know yourself, your company, and your niche, you will be fearless when it comes to asking for business, because you'll know your real customers and you won't fear "losing business."
6. Build a platform.
You know a lot about your business or you wouldn't be in it. So in addition to blogging, write expert articles and submit them to the various article directories for distribution. Make it known on your web site that you are available to be interviewed on your subject of expertise. Query editors of major publications with ideas for stories for their audience. One article I wrote for Entrepreneur.com has produced a steady lead flow for a number of years. It also led to other reporters seeking out quotes, such as TV Guide, Inc.com, and others. This takes time, but it's one of the best long term investments and it cost little to nothing except your time.
If you solicit your clients' feedback, it can spawn all sorts of new ideas that can better serve them. Often in down economies the emphasis shifts to purely internal cost containment. But in times of accelerated change, opportunity abounds. Find a way to make your customer's life easier and you'll likely find a new revenue stream.
8. Be Present.
Rather than "surviving" trying times, why not take this as an opportunity to reflect on your life and your business and make needed changes. Most of the time we live in a reactive mode, simply responding to external stimulus. If you've been through more than a few business cycles, you'll remember that "boom" times come with their own baggage . . . not enough good employees, increased wage demands, struggles to meet deadlines, etc. If you are not at peak capacity, then use this time to invest in yourself and your company. Lay out a more meaningful, rewarding and congruent path for your firm. Make a decision not to be all things to all people and focus on what you do best, and work for clients that energize and inspire you. Treat this time as the gift it is.
9. Nurture the Bright Spots
Somewhere in your business, things are going well. These things are often overshadowed by the dark clouds of media reporting and declines in other areas of your business. But take stock of what is working. You might find some clues to what's emerging as new solutions and revenue streams. Acknowledging the good also keeps your frame of mind in check, and allows space for opportunity. Of all the assets you own, your own attitude is perhaps the most valuable of them all. Guard it well and you'll build a better brand and a brighter future.
Phillip Davis may be contacted at http://PureTungsten.com Phil@PureTungsten.com
Phillip Davis is president and owner of Tungsten Branding, a naming firm specializing in brand creation, product naming, tag line development, corporate identity and comprehensive brand repositioning. Phil's client list includes PODS, TeamLogicIT and Coghead.com to name a few. His complete client list and company naming philosophy can be viewed at http://PureTungsten.com