How to Make 2011 Your Best Year Ever

Throughout 2010, we consulted with over 30 brands – most small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) like ourselves. And, from this experience, we’ve determined that if brands follow the following seven marketing strategies in 2011, they’ll succeed big time.

Here are our Big 7 Steps to Marketing Success in 2011:

  1. Clarify your marketing message to something memorable and meaningful
  2. Look for ways (and do it) to cost effectively promote yourself (Web, Social, PR, Media)
  3. Do something remarkable (Innovate)
  4. Craft and execute a 3-part marketing plan (so many SMEs lack one). The first part of the plan is an acquisition plan; the second part is a retention plan – retain/build existing business; and the third part is a win-back plan to regain lost business
  5. Build a comprehensive customer database and treat different people differently
  6. Look for ways to make your business easier for customers to do business with you
  7. Provide a unique, value added quality experience that makes your competition irrelevant

When you roll the dice with these key marketing steps yell, “7 come 11” and trust me, you won’t “crap” out next year!

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AMA Pittsburgh Marketer of the Year

Stephen Wayhart, BrandMill, Albert K. Mastantuono, PhD - Chairman of the Board ACS - Greater Pgh. Unit, Leanne Schepner - Corporate Development Director - ACS, Dan Catena - Communications Director, Western PA Region - ACS, Nicole Burke - Corporate Development Specialist - ACS, Stephanie Spezialetti & Carly Neal BrandMill

Last week at a lovely holiday luncheon at LeMont, we were proud to join our friends and marketing partners from the American Cancer Society, Western PA Region who were recognized by the Pittsburgh American Marketing Association as the Marketer of the Year in the Non Profit category for 2010.

We’re proud of BrandMill’s ACS affiliation, leading its Marketing Committee, providing public relations guidance and launching its first Social Media Marketing efforts via Facebook. And, we look forward to continuing to help them in their fight to fund cures for cancer.

It was a great way to end the year and a great follow-up to our recent award.

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10 Ways to Build Brand Trust

If you’re looking for a way to truly build your business in a uniquely profitable way, put a plan in place to build customer trust in your brand.

I say unique, because when you consider this chart, you’ll see that many industries are not highly trusted. This online U.S. Harris Poll was conducted on November 8 and 15, 2010 among 2,151 adults 18+.

Trust in a brand (personal or business) is the keystone of all relationships. By doing the right thing/s, you an earn a person’s trust, but it’s easy to lose it – and you can lose it quickly – practically overnight regardless of your past reputation.

Here my 10 ways to build trust:

  1. Be authentic – be real
  2. Lead with integrity and humility
  3. Be honest, don’t lie and always tell the truth
  4. Be objective, fair and consistent in your actions
  5. Don’t gossip – respect people in their absence
  6. Keep your promises by doing what you say you’re going to do
  7. Don’t take people for granted – anticipate needs, don’t just react
  8. Be open and transparent on your dealings and provide clear information
  9. Always do your best and give your engagements everything you’ve got
  10. Be a Servant Leader by putting others best interest ahead of your own

If you follow these 10 ways to build trust in your brand, “they (your customers)” will come again and again.  Trust me.

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Take it Easy on Your Customers

Two things happened to me over the past two days that made me question how easy we all are in conducting our business and how ridiculously absurd retailer practices are at times.

Yesterday, I had dinner with some old friends at a quaint family owned and operated Italian restaurant. The restaurant menu, had seven specials listed with no descriptions – just the entree name – and no prices. However, the rest of the menu had full menu descriptions and prices.

The server simply passed out the menus and offered no detail or prices. I wondered why the owner (and others too) refused to put more detail on the ‘special menu.’ So, when we asked for the pricing and description of some of the entrees, it certainly slowed down our order and sped up our frustration.

There is no benefit to the guest by not including feature prices or menu descriptions.  In fact, there are several potential customer negatives such as:

  • ‘Sticker Shock’ when you get the bill
  • Shame/embarrassment for having to ask

Now, there should be no shame in asking about prices, but you could find it embarrassing to ask if/when you’re on that first date, with important clients, well-to-do friends etc.

Why restaurants follow this practice is way off base to me and has no upside except to trick customers into paying more. It’s a bush league practice and should stop.

My second experience involves my soon to be ex wireless carrier Sprint.  I’ve been a Sprint customer for nearly 10 years when the company first started in the PCS business. In fact, I helped launch the brand in Western PA and Western NY.

Yesterday, I had a contract with Sprint through May (5 more months), but this morning I accidentally dropped my phone into a toilet – yes, but a clean one! Needless to say, Blackberries don’t float and do not work after such a dunking!

So off to the Sprint store to get a replacement. After spending a few unplanned hundreds of dollars on a new phone, I was required to sign 2 year extended contract because it’s a new phone – my service plan did not change! What insanity! I question the legality of such a practice – and you can count on the fact that I’ll pursue a challenge starting tomorrow.

Is it any wonder why Sprint’s stock has been in the toilet like my Blackberry was this morning? Note: I loved my Blackberry – just don’t care for my Sprint service. And, I care less about it a lot more today than I did yesterday.

So the easy lesson to learn today is that you need to work harder on being easier to do business with your colleagues, vendors and clients.  When you consider the success of many of today’s superstar brands such as:

  • Apple
  • L.L. Bean
  • McDonald’s
  • Starbucks
  • Zappos

..being “Nice & EASY” is definitely a key reason for their success – so remember…easy does it!

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American Cancer Society Marketing Award

L-R - Stephen Wayhart, ACS RVP Glenn Callihan, Carly Neal

At a recent volunteer appreciation dinner given by the American Cancer Society’s Greater Pittsburgh Unit, BrandMill was recognized with a special Marketing Program Award.

As part of BrandMill’s commitment to the communities in which it conducts its business, the Pittsburgh based marketing consultancy, provided a pro-bono service to lead and create the American Cancer Society Western Region’s (now East Central Region) Facebook Fan Page.

This is the Region’s first foray into Social Media Marketing and it will help it to more cost effectively promote its programs, services and special events throughout Western Pennsylvania. BrandMill will continue to offer other Social Media Marketing consulting services for the Region.

For several years, BrandMill Managing Partner Stephen Wayhart was a Board member and most recently has been the chairperson for the Unit’s Marketing Committee.

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A Thankful and Giving Marketing Strategy

On this special day, make a commitment to not leave your “Thanks & Giving” at the table – take it with you and spread its core message of “thanking and giving” throughout all you do in your business and personal life.

Thank and give…give and thank. Plan for it, create unique and fun ways to do it. Then, just do it and rinse and repeat along the way.

If you repeatedly give and thank, your brand will grow, your relationships will grow and your happiness will grow. I guarantee it.

Take some personal time today and throughout this weekend to kickstart your holiday marketing plans, with more than just a “Black Friday” short term sale and thinking. Move toward a more long term strategic way of thinking about putting into practice a “White Sale” of giving more added value to your employees, customers, family, friends and the less fortunate in the communities in which you do business.

If you do, I assure you that people will return your favors by working harder for you, buying more from you and enthusiastically spread your good word.

And, don’t think for a moment that these disturbing facts don’t negatively impact your business and life – so, look for ways to do your part to help eliminate these ridiculous statistics:

  1. One out of seven Americans lives in poverty
  2. The percentage of Americans in poverty is the highest in half a century
  3. Over 59 million Americans have no health insurance
  4. More than 1 million children went hungry last year
  5. Children under 18 make up 27% of the homeless population
  6. Families with children are the fastest growing group of the homeless population, accounting for about 40% of the people who become homeless each year
  7. 38% of the people already homeless are families with children
  8. 50% of homeless women and children are running from domestic abuse
  9. Of all homeless men 40% of them have served in the armed forces
  10. Children under the age of eighteen are 27% of the urban homeless population
  11. Companies that make things no one really needs are doing well in this recession which means the poor are growing in numbers and getting poorer while the rich are getting richer
  12. The total cost of hunger to American society is about $90 billion a year. In contrast, it would only cost about $10 billion to $12 billion a year to virtually end hunger in our nation. And, how much do politicians waste in taxpayer dollars? In defense spending?

Keep in mind, these statistics are for the U.S. a “developed” country, but we all know it’s far worse in other countries and we’re all related and impacted by what’s happening in the smallest corners of the world.

So today, when you’re adding a second helping of stuffing to your turkey plate, remember today’s message and this commercial and commit to thanking and giving.

Have a blessed day and holiday season.

P.S.: Enjoy this Wall Street Journal article, Thank You. No, Thank You – Grateful People Are Happier, Healthier Long After the Leftovers Are Gobbled Up.

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Five Thanksgiving Inspired Brand Building Tips

Here are five ways to use this Thanksgiving holiday as inspiration to build a better brand for yourself and/or your company.

  1. For starters, take the word apart ‘Thanks’ and ‘Giving’ and use both themes as part of your marketing mission and messaging for the next 12 months – not just this week.
  2. Call/visit as many customers, team members and vendors/partners this week to thank them personally. Cards/emails are OK, but try calling first. If you don’t reach them, leave a message saying how appreciative you are of their business and partnership and how much you’re looking forward to building a better relationship in 2011.
  3. Send thank you cards, but make sure you sign it with a special note even though your card may have a message.
  4. Commit now to being a better partner inside and outside your company by giving better value going forward and put a special appreciation process in place.
  5. Champion a cause for your brand and become part of the fabric of the community in which you do business. You can give lots of things such as your time, money and expertise. The most successful brands make money of course, but they also dramatically improve the lives of others and their employees. Here’s a link to ideas to help the homeless and for the hungry you can ‘Take the No Kid Hungry Pledge” here. Did you know that that nearly one in four children struggles with hunger? And, did you know that every $5 the federal government spends on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps) generates $9.20 in local economic activity? Read more here in the Washington Post about how you can help end childhood hunger.

Throughout this Thanksgiving and holiday season, work on improving the unique value that only you can provide. Gift giving isn’t a terrible thing, however offering genuine thanks, appreciation, added value and truly giving of yourself is the true essence of this holiday and season – and a gift you can give to others that will reap you and them many future blessings and rewarding relationships.

P.S.: One last tip – OK 3 more:

  1. Always bring something – wine and a covered dish is nice
  2. Help with the clean-up
  3. Learn a great toast or two such as one of my old Irish favorites:

“May all that you wish for, be the least you get…
and may the best times you’ve ever had, be the worst you’ll ever see.”

THANKS FOR READING AND
HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO YOU AND YOURS!

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Brand Building In a New York Minute

I’ve posted in the past about how important speed is to your business success and it’s never been more true in this always on 24/7 world we live in.

To see real speed up close and personal, visit New York City as I did last week. The Big Apple has a unique pace all its own and you sense it as soon your plane touches down at JFK.

On my flight, I read where the Empire State Building will mark its 80th anniversary in April, 2011. The 1453-foot, 102 floor icon – the world’s tallest skyscraper for 40 years – was an engineering miracle when it opened for business in April, 1931 and still rocks on today.

For a lesson in speed, check out the ESB story and you’ll discover that the building frame rose more than a story every day and no building like it has matched that rate of ascent to date. General contractors Starrett Brothers and Eken, the best skyline builders of the day, built the ESB in a record 11 months and it was a marvel of modern engineering – a 1453-foot, 103-story testament to the ingenuity of man. Again, this was 80 years ago!

The contractors, SB&E started with nothing but courage, determination, expertise and vision. They had no existing equipment or materials that would be match this huge never been done before task. Their success was achieved through pure will, insight, creative logistics and a super skilled and well managed labor force.

To build a better business in 2011, think of ways to improve the speed of your business and when you think you can’t go any faster think of the Empire State Building!

For a fascinating book to pump you up fast read Building the Empire State.

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The Priory Hospitality Group

Grand Hall Front EntranceThe Priory Hospitality Group (http://www.thepriory.com) properties consist of the Priory Hotel a 24-room European-style boutique hotel on Pittsburgh’s North Shore rated the best in Pittsburgh by Zagat Survey® (fifth edition); Pittsburgh’s Grand Hall at the Priory (http://www.pittsburghsgrandhall.com) located adjacent to the hotel and situated in the former St. Mary’s German Catholic Church, which offers a breathtaking space for weddings, banquets, parties, charity events and gatherings of all types; and the award-winning Priory Fine Pastries (http://www.prioryfinepastries.com) custom bakery. In addition, it is a leader in the revitalization effort of the National Register District of Deutschtown.

For several years, BrandMill has served as a marketing consultant and coach for the Priory and the following are a few of the ways we have built its brand image and record level sales despite a poor economy:

  • Recommended that all future branding efforts be harnessed underneath the Priory Hospitality Group banner and that John Graf be positioned and highlighted as the leader of this family owned and operated hospitality brand,
  • Created a unique sales funnel reporting system and sales travel path to increase closing ratios
  • Built an email marketing system that earns open and click through rates far above industry averages. The system now utilizes video – driving open rates to record levels
  • Built a Social Media Marketing platform via a Blog, Facebook, YouTube and future Twitter executions
  • Earned considerable press coverage for the brand
  • To profitably build sales in the winter, developed a record breaking Winter White Wedding sales and marketing concept
  • Built a new website for Priory Fine Pastries, increasing website hits, search engine traffic and overall web visibility tremendously
  • Built Priory Fine Pastries a Social Media Marketing platform via Blog, Facebook, Twitter and Flickr

Through competitive shops and industry research, led Priory Fine Pastries’ development of a new product line of bigger and better pastries, cupcakes, cookies and cakes wrapped into its 5th Anniversary.

Press Coverage

November 24, 2009 – Priory Fine Pastries celebrates 5 years of business with the biggest cupcake in the city
June 19, 2009 – The Priory hotel on Pittsburgh’s North Side making plans to expand

June 2009 – Accidental Innkeeper, John Graf, Makes the Priory a Stand-Out Pittsburgh Hotel
December 1, 2008 – First mates: Weddings for military couples may be rushed but don’t lack class
June 12, 2007 – The Priory Hotel: A Perfect Pittsburgh Wedding Reception

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10 Profitable Groupon Marketing Tips

I’ve been a fan of Groupon since one of our Pittsburgh restaurant clients launched the city’s first promotional campaign. And, I’ve become a bigger fan since other hospitality clients have achieved success and after discovering that Groupon founder Andrew Mason is a Pittsburgh (Mt. Lebanon) native – you go guy!

If you read the marketing trades you’ll find some complaints about the lack of profitability of using Groupon as a marketing tactic, but I’d bet that those complainers were not prepared to take advantage of the popular loss leader strategy.

Here are ten profitable Groupon marketing tips.

1. Say “NO” if you’re below. Below average that is. In short, you do not want to feature your brand in a Groupon campaign if you don’t “bring it.” That is, if you sell lousy food (even marginally or mediocre OK), have poor service etc., you do not want to do Groupon! If you do not “deliver the goods”, Grouponers may simply put you out of business earlier than you would normally through negative reviews online etc.!

2. Get buy-in to prevent crying. Far in advance of your scheduled launch, talk through the campaign pros/cons of Groupon with your staff. Get their buy-in early on and clearly explain why everyone needs to be engaged in this huge loss leader effort and why you’ll need all hands and minds on deck to flawlessly execute the campaign. Tell them, “what’s in it for them!”

3. Map your cap. Cap the total number of deals you provide to Grouponers. This creates urgency and protects margins since the offer deadlines are long. Plus, you need to make sure you can handle the traffic.  Sure you want to make short term money – you always do – but your eyes need to be on the prize of repeat business!

4. Don’t wreck your average check. Make sure your deal/offer does not match you average check/purchase to allow for upsell and add-on sales opportunities. And, a lower price tag protects you as well on total customer acquisition costs. Keep in mind that you’re earning around 1/4th of what you’d usually make in an average sale which means you’re losing 3/4ths on virtually every sale.

5. Don’t laugh – add staff. Trust me – make sure you add staff to handle increases in store traffic, phone calls and web hits during and after the sale. You’ll need it!

6. Right your Website. It’s highly likely that your Web site has never seen the kind of traffic it will see on your Groupon day. Make certain your brand’s value proposition is clear, meaningful and relevant throughout your Website and especially on your home page because it’s going to get pounded. And, fix your typos, broken links etc., – net, clean it up! Also, monitor your Groupon comments on your “game day” and answer questions there as well on your social media channels.

7. Up-sell, cross sell and do well. Train your customer facing personnel to up-sell and cross-sell and guide all Grouponers to more profitable add-ons. However, make sure you have lots of exciting ones to offer too.

8. Train to explain. Carefully review (and test their knowledge) your Groupon procedures and rules of the game with all team members so they in turn can explain the campaign to customers, friends and family. You need to do this crucial step to ensure viral communications and no surprised/unhappy customer experiences. Make certain everyone is happy to take Groupon customers and consider putting someone in charge to answer escalated questions and make on the spot decisions to satisfy customer concerns.

9. Retain and gain. Since Groupon does not give up its email database and/or the contact information of customers who take advantage of your offer, it’s critical you have a system (recording system and/or additional incentive for customers/staff) in place to capture valuable new customer contact information (e.g., email addresses, mailing addresses, cell phone numbers, birthdays etc.,). You’ll also want to track your success with regard to add-ons, average check/transaction, redemption rates,  repeat business and more to determine your success and key learnings should you do it again – consider a customer survey too!

10. Show how to WOW now. A ton of your Grouponers will be new customers (and might be bringing other new customers in with them) and may be unfamiliar with your unique value proposition, but you have a great – maybe once in a lifetime – opportunity to WOW them, make them repeat customers and spread your good word. Make sure you take advantage of this opportunity. Be a servant leader and SERVE lights out!

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