How to Build Trust in Brand You

Regardless of your political party affiliation or candidate preference for the USA Presidential election, I’m sure you’d agree that most voters will choose the man that they trust to be the best qualified and able to get the job done for the country.

Trust is critical to brand success and it is a dangerous deficiency for lots of brands as evidenced by the Gallup poll below.

Note that only 18% of those surveyed highly trust business executives! Building trust is a great way to differentiate your brand and bulletproof it!

The lack of brand trust is the basic reason for the success of customer/brand review brands such as Angie’s List, Consumer Reports, TripAdvisor, Yelp and more!

Gallup’s 2011 Trust Poll

Here for 15 ways you can start to build more trust in your brand today

  1. Be authentic, real, open, honest, kind and considerate
  2. Be consistent, competent, capable and deliver results
  3. Have integrity – do the right ethical things regardless of the consequences – even when no one else is watching
  4. Keep your promises – keep your word – walk your talk – honor your commitments – follow through – be on time
  5. Honor people in their absence – don’t talk behind backs or gossip
  6. Keep confidential things confidential
  7. Communicate your vision, values and expectations as clearly and fully as possible, but be open minded and flexible to change
  8. Create win/win shared goals with your customers and team
  9. Be present with people – actively listen to them
  10. Play no favorites – treat everyone special
  11. Criticize actions not the people – don’t judge
  12. Be understanding, compassionate and forgive and forget mistakes
  13. If you fail or make a mistake, admit to it and fix it, then fix the process and move on
  14. Own problems and take steps to fix them – don’t hide – be visible – be reachable
  15. Be generous and give without any strings attached
In short, keep your word and ‘show and tell’ – provide proof – ust like you did in Kindergarten to get the teacher and kids to like you and your ‘Show and Tell’ presentation!
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How to Build Brand Likeability

There are quite a few marketing lessons you can learn from the USA Presidential election race.For example, how to improve your ‘likeability’ can get you elected and/or have someone repeatedly buy from you.

Likeability is defined as, ‘The property that makes a person or brand likeable, that allows them to be liked.’

Trust and proof that you can deliver on your promises is #1, but all things being equal – especially when you compete in an industry with lots of alternatives – likeability is a key for brands to breakthrough the clutter.

Here are 10 ways to improve your likeability factor

  1. Be nice, kind and considerate
  2. Be giving and help others selflessly
  3. Be happy, positive and optimistic
  4. Be complimentary
  5. Be passionate and have empathy
  6. Be humble
  7. Actively listen
  8. Have good manners,
  9. Control your emotions
  10. Follow the ‘Golden Rule’
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Have a Happy Father’s Day Every Day

My father died in 1999 and not a day passes by without me thinking of him – he was the best – a good man – and he was my best friend.

He might not be living, but he’s not dead to me.

He knew full well how much he meant to me and how much I loved him. I knew he loved me deeply too.

I was sad when he died, but not devastated because we had nothing left unsaid between us – we had no arguments – just pure love, joy and respect between us – he prepared me well.

When he was living, we talked often, we hugged often, we told each other we loved each other often – we were always connected.

We always knew where we stood together – for we always stood together in the light, in trust, in promise, in hope – in good times and not so good times.

Every day with my Dad was Father’s Day – a day of celebration – and I still celebrate him in many ways each and every day – in prayer, reflection, conversation and more.

If you’re not taking time to thank your Dad (living or in heaven) every day you’re missing a great opportunity to lift his spirit and yours by staying close, staying connected and being happy with your blessings.

It’s OK to have a process – once a day, week etc. – card, email, prayer etc. – just do it – and do it now and again and again. – make it a goal to ‘Have a Happy Father’s Day Every Day.’

This outlook and process is easily transferable to business as well.

For example, how often do you thank your clients, employees, partners, vendors in a meaningful way?

Do they know you care?

Do it now – put a process in place – keep it going – before it’s too late.

You don’t want to be ‘that guy/gal’ who says, if I only would have taken the time to…

Here’s a Father’s Day Gift for you.

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You Don’t Need a Dog to Get Loyalty

And, you don’t necessarily need a loyalty program for your business!

I’m sure you’ve heard the an old saying, “If you want loyalty, buy a dog!” And, I agree!

Working for years in retail marketing, I’ve never been able to wrap my head around the long term benefits of loyalty programs.  Granted, American Airlines frequent traveler program – the “MacDaddy” of all frequent buyer programs (however, I remember S & H Green Stamps too) – did wonders for them. And, certainly a ‘loyalty’ program might make sense when two or more brand choices are similar, but my argument in this situation is that these brands aren’t working hard enough to establish a unique point of ‘value-added’ differentiation.

My argument for years about loyalty programs is that practically all of them are loosely based on extortion principles. And, brands would be far better off if they worked on creating unique points of differentiation (e.g., Southwest’s “Bags Fly Free”) resulting higher performing goods and services they could drive their own loyalty.

Southwest airlines has a frequent flier program, but they look at that initiative as a ‘greens fee.’

If no one else has one in your competitive set, then why start one?

Apple is a perfect example of a company that gets brand loyalty. I’m an extremely loyal Apple computer owner (along with millions of other people), but their prices are higher than their competitors and they have no loyalty program.

Here are 7 ways to drive brand loyalty

  1. Sell great products that add value to people’s lives
  2. Deliver lights out service
  3. Be dependable and trustworthy
  4. Be nice – be caring
  5. Play nice
  6. Follow ethical business practices
  7. Be part of the fabric in the communities in which you do business (get involved)

It’s nice to see some research to support my loyalty marketing experiences and beliefs over the years too.

For example, a survey of 1,000 adults (here’s a brief recap) from British agency 23red found that:

  • 91% of shoppers consider brands impact and contributions to the local community, the environment etc. when purchasing goods or services.
  • 74% of those surveyed are interested in a brand’s ethics before deciding to buy

However, brands must be sincere about their ethics and community involvement.

Here is a report of another survey that found discovered that when “average customer satisfaction increases over time, there is less incentive for a company to offer a loyalty program.”

Now, you might say, “That’s common sense!”

Then, I’d say, “You’re right, but why are so many companies offering loyalty programs and where’s their common sense?”

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30 Ways to Wow Now

When was the last time you were truly ‘WOWED?”

I bet you remember the moment because it probably doesn’t happen to you often. And, I’ll bet you’ll agree with me that there’s a depressing lack of “WOW” in the world today!

Merely doing satisfactory things for satisfied customers, friends or family is a ‘greens fee’ today.

However, to make a long lasting impact in your relationships – personal or professional – you have to really ‘bring it” these days. It’s the best way to get others to remember you and to spread your good word to others.

And sadly, the majority of us do not.

We do the least required to get along and wake up wondering why our relationships ended. I suggest that a lot of relationships break up because of a lack of wow and mutual appreciation.

How do you wow?

I find that it’s best for me to practice and plan to wow. What works best for me, is to bake a little wow into my marketing processes so I don’t forget about how to wow.  That is, I work hard to review my tasks in front of and behind me, to see if I have any wow opportunities and then take steps to take advantage of them.

Here are 30 ways to you can wow people now and get ahead in your life.
  1. Say “yes” often
  2. Guarantee results
  3. Be quick to respond
  4. Inspire others to action
  5. Be kind, nice and courteous
  6. Add value to someone’s life
  7. Smile and maintain eye contact
  8. Find ways to surprise and delight
  9. Send handwritten thank you cards
  10. Offer options instead of mandatories
  11. Anticipate others needs and satisfy them
  12. Provide individualized customer service
  13. Be in the moment, focused and actively listen
  14. Write notes when taking input and directions
  15. Have manners – say ‘’please” and “thank you’
  16. Be enthusiastic, optimistic, happy and pleasant
  17. Be sincerely grateful and humble with your successes
  18. Prove your concern with an exacting attention to detail
  19. Be welcoming, approachable, reachable and hospitable
  20. Follow-up regularly to build relationships – reach out first
  21. Be organized, clean and stress free – a welcome, caring refuge
  22. Reward friendship and loyalty with unexpected acts of added value
  23. Get feedback after your actions and provide service “after the sale”
  24. Find out what’s been bothering someone and customize your solution
  25. Be calm, understanding and accept responsibility when you fail or lose
  26. Do ‘remark’able signature work with the basics and in any encounter
  27. Be trustworthy – keep your promises and respect others in their absence
  28. Keep your promises – in fact, underpromise and overdeliver
  29. Freely share insight and knowledge
  30. Always follow the “Golden Rule

Do you have any to add?

I’m far from perfect, that’s why lists like these help me.  Try just 2 or 3 this week and I’ll bet you’ll see an immediate positive impact in your relationships.

Sure, these wow tips might be common, but like most common things they work and they’re easily overlooked, forgotten and opportunities become lost.

Remember…“To do a common thing, uncommonly well, brings success.” – Henry John Heinz – yeah…that Heinz!

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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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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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How To Profitably Raise Your Prices

In your price increase or decrease discussions always remember this old marketing truism, “Price is only an issue in the absence of value!”

In these tough economic times (and even in good times) so many of us are afraid to raise prices primarily because we know in our hearts that we’re not offering a clear value and unique experience.

If you want to profitably increase your sales, you can start by offering some WOW and then make sure enough people hear, understand and can easily act on your offer!

No matter what times we live in, people do spend money.  Sure, shoppers may be a bit more wary and discriminating during down-times, but when you offer true, visible, demonstrative and meaningful value, you can make more money and be more profitable selling your products and services at higher prices.

Pricing is a skill and an art that requires some planning and testing. You might gain some short-term market share and sales with discounts, but it could take you years to gain back your competitive positioning. And, if you are a luxury brand you could lose your brand identity while competing on low prices and turn your brand into a commodity.

I’m certainly not a fan of taking advantage of customers with higher non-justified pricing, but there are win-win ways to build profits for companies and build customer satisfaction at the same time.

Here are just some of the ways you can increase your pricing. Some good…some not so good.

Change package/serving size. CPGs do this a lot by reducing the package size a bit and related price, but your cost per ounce and/or pound increases.  How does that make you feel when you discover you’re paying more for less?

Bulk/Bundle/Combo pricing/Price a la carte. Pricing your goods or services a la carte is a good way to increase prices and then show some extra value when a customer chooses to buy in bulk (think cable companies, McDonald’s combo meals, ride all day packages at amusement parks).

Raise grandfathered prices. You can rationalize a price increase message to your ‘pioneer’ customers because ‘costs do go up,’ but if/when you do raise prices on these folks, you need to recognize your customer’s loyalty with a little extra added value to soften the blow.

Raise prices for new customers. A much easier way to raise prices instead of a general price increase across the board.

Schedule a price increase. This helps prepare your customers and carefully inform them of the reasons why you’re increasing their cost of doing business with you.

Offer performance based guarantees. Providing performance based assurances on your higher priced products is a great way to justify higher priced goods and services.

Add a little extra value. Again, adding a little extra makes your offering a little bit better and helps people more easily digest price increases.

Be different – be unique. The very best way to sell your offerings at a higher price. In fact, add a guarantee and a little extra value and you’ll become a much admired and desired triple threat.

You can be a unique necessity or discretionary product or service too – it is profitably achievable.  When you strive to be the Apple, Disney, BMW of your industry you’ll be able to command your price and see your profits soar.

I guarantee it!

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L.L. Bean’s Powerful Guarantee

Guaranteed. You have our word.

How much clearer can you get?

What a powerful customer service guarantee!

Here’s the body copy from L.L. Bean’s Website:

I’ve been a huge fan of L.L. Bean for years and became an even bigger fan last Friday.

L.L. Bean Field Coat Saddle

Last week, I was getting my favorite coat out of my closet for Fall – an original L.L. Bean Field Coat in Saddle – and making my plans to head to my alma mater Kent State’s homecoming.

Suddenly, I realized that I’ve been wearing this Field Coat (created in 1924) for nearly 15 years! I love it and there is still absolutely nothing wrong with it – it’s a terrific coat – but I’ve been wearing this jacket to homecoming every year!

I went through some old photos and proved it!

L.L. Bean Field Coat Stone

So, I went online and decided to get a new Stone Field Coat which is better than my old one and about the same price that I paid years ago! It’s a fantastic coat, but what amazes me about L.L. Bean is how they’ve stayed true to their roots and excelled as a private, family business.

If you’re trying hard to build your business the right way and need a little hope, grab a coffee and read L.L. Bean’s fascinating, refreshing story – their principles when they were small are the same as they are today when L.L. Bean remarked,

“I do not consider a sale complete until goods are worn out
and customer still satisfied.”

From my experiences, I’m not surprised that L.L. Bean was once again the first place winner (tops 3 of 5 years) selected by shoppers in the annual NRF Foundation/American Express® Customers’ Choice survey back in January.  According to shoppers, the top ten* retailers for customer service are:

  1. L.L.Bean
  2. Overstock.com
  3. Zappos.com
  4. Amazon.com
  5. QVC
  6. Coldwater Creek
  7. HSN
  8. Lands’ End
  9. JCPenney
  10. Kohl’s, and Nordstrom (tied)

I know it’s hard for small to medium sized businesses to sometimes wrap their heads around the successes and lessons to be learned from larger brands, but you can learn a ton from L.L. Bean’s commitment to customer service, satisfaction, quality, systems and innovation.

Go online and buy something from L.L. Bean or even better, call in an order and you’ll be WOWED!

I GUARANTEE IT!

P.S.: Here’s a great interview from L.L. Bean’s president Chris McCormick about L.L. Bean’s customer service secrets.

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