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.


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!


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


Social Media Marketing Presentation

Yesterday, I was honored to give a Social Media Marketing presentation at the Pennsylvania Restaurant Association’s Western Chapter’s Harvest Your Profits Fall Summit (click here to download presentation). The presentation certainly had a restaurant, hospitality focus, but it’s applicable to most any retail industry.

Having worked in hospitality and restaurant marketing for over 20 years, it’s close to my heart because it’s one of the toughest, yet most gratifying industries. If you’re looking for leading edge marketing, look no further than the folks in the hospitality industry because the great ones know that they need to “bring it” every day – the successful ones know that they’re only as good as their last meal!

You got to love people with that kind of attitude and passion – it’s contagious – and a BIG reason I love working in the industry.

And, you got to love the people who volunteer their time and expertise to associations like the PRA and staffers such as Heidi Howard. They selflessly work hard to help move the hospitality industry forward  to make it better for themselves and their customers and at the same time defend it against government controls – many of which are unconscionable efforts to blatantly rob them (e.g., crazy drink taxes) of their hard earned money.

My thanks to PRA Western Chapter president Steve Musciano of ARAMARK and his board for inviting me, Susan Sansale, owner/operator of the beautiful venue The Chadwick (and incoming PRA Western Chapter president) for hosting the event and super organizer and board member extraordinaire Murrie Emamzadeh for orchestrating a super event!


New iPad Wine List Rocks

I got my new iPad back in May – a moment in time I’ll always refer to as my “Christmas in May” and am having a love affair with it.

Sure there are things about the iPad that I wished it had, but the positives outweigh the negatives.

When I started to play with the iPad, I started to think thought long and hard about how we can apply it to improve our client’s business.

We do a ton of hospitality marketing work and this past summer, one of our great clients, Kevin Joyce owner of The Carlton Restaurant in Pittsburgh had closed his restaurant for two months for a much needed remodel after 25 years in business.

Kevin called me to go over some new ideas to kick off the new restaurant with a bang –  especially since his reopening was scheduled to take place on Wednesday, August 18 – opening night of Pittsburgh’s new Consol Energy Center with a concert by Sir Paul McCartney.

One of my first thoughts, was what could we do to:

  1. Reaffirm the fact that The Carlton has the biggest and best wine lists (15+ year Wine Spectator Award winner) – Great Wine is a big USP for the restaurant
  2. Complement The Carlton’s new 450 bottle wine library – the restaurant’s soul
  3. Showcase the fact that The Carlton offers the best wine dinners in Pittsburgh

In a snap, we thought, “Create an iPad Wine List to replace The Carlton’s 45 page paper wine list.” Using an iPad wine list would create a “halo” effect of flawless contemporary execution of the Carlton’s 45 page paper wine list and separate them even more so from the pack of restaurants they compete against.

As an aside – I know I may be biased, but I think The Carlton i the best restaurant in downtown Pittsburgh and I thought that fact to be true long before I started working for them…anyway…

Instinctively back in May, we Googled “iPad wine list” and could not find any U.S. restaurant using iPads for menus, but we found a great story about an Australian restaurant that swapped out its menus for iPads.

Kevin and I must have been doing a “Vulcan Mind Meld” at the time, because when we called him, he said he saw the Aussie story  and was ready to rock.

Our iPad wine list is not as aggressive as the Aussie menu – we prefer to walk before we run with the wine list first then potentially move to the food menu – but I can tell you that the iPad has significantly improved The Carlton’s brand image of Pittsburgh’s premier dining and wine establishment and improved wine sales too – customers love it!

We’ll soon cut a brief video explaining how the wine list works, but know these things:

  1. The iPad can be used to help lift your business
  2. Look for products and/or service executions that create brand “halo” USPs
  3. It’s better to phase in technology improvements to your business to flawlessly execute and gain an immediate WOW from your customers before someone else comes along and steals your marketing thunder and you look like a market follower and/or a “me too” brand**
  4. Great clients make great marketing firms

**Note: In the time we started to work on and launch The Carlton’s iPad wine list, there have been major news articles about iPad wine lists in use at Central Park South Gate restaurant (7.2.10),  Bones in Atlanta (9.13.10), III Forks in Jacksonville (8.11.10), but hey The Carlton had the first iPad wine list in Pennsylvania! More news to come as we continue to improve our iPad wine list effort.


Always Aim to be the Best

We work with clients of all shapes and sizes – from struggling start up moms and pops to thriving market dominating multi-million dollar enterprises.

Recently, we were blessed to be introduced to Steve and Jen MacBride, a young married couple and co-owner/operators of The Archer’s Edge (TAE) in Oakdale, PA.

We assisted in their Grand Opening this past Saturday on National Hunting and Fishing Day.

Check out this news segment of The Archer’s Edge featuring Steve and reporter Kelly Frey of Pittsburgh’s WTAE-TV (ABC affiliate) which will give you a good feel of the place.

Pretty good priceless PR for rookies – we’re so proud of them.

Proud because they deserve it. Proud because they “bring it.”

I’ve only known the MacBride’s for a few weeks, but I was impressed by them from the start and their desire to do great things.

I’m always surprised and saddened to visit businesses that simply just go along with the flow doing mediocre work and have no processes in place to “WOW” you. It’s all so boring, average, mediocre, dangerous and unnecessary.

Steve and Jen WOW you. Here are a few ways they WOW me.

  1. They have a ton of enthusiasm and passion for their new business, because they love archery and their enthusiasm is contagious
  2. They’re resilient because of their love of archery. They experienced a boatload of unfortunate and unforeseen challenges prior to launch, but their passion overrode all of them
  3. They “bring it” – enthusiasm, attention to detail, passion, excellence to their work
  4. Their goal is to be THE best archery center in Pittsburgh – not one of the best

I’m not a hunter and our business with TAE will not finance my retirement, but I’m a HUGE fan. Sure we’ve helped them a bit along the way with their PR and Marketing and will continue to offer our services. However, because their aim is to be the best (and they have plans to be), their future looks to b a bright one. We’re big fans and we will bust our tails to help them achieve their goals.

Great clients like the MacBrides make great marketing firms like us (we’ve got their back now) and when you build that kind of relationship everyone wins!

Always aim high!

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it you will land among the stars.”
– Les Brown

“A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s heaven for?”
– Robert Browning

“If you reach for the stars, you might not quite get one,
but you won’t end up with a handful of mud, either.”

– Leo Burnett


A Renaissance in Marketing is Needed

A Renaissance in Marketing is needed today..a rebirth!

When the Renaissance swept through Europe from the 14th to the 17th centuries, scholars followed the humanist method in study searching for realism and human emotion in art. And, today we marketers could learn a great deal from those old Renaissance scholars.

It seems like we’re on to something with Social Media – and I remain cautiously optimistic – but, where are all of the Masters today?

If you’re looking for a chance of great success, wow about stepping up and assuming the position?

My team and I are trying our best.

To succeed today (and be able to sleep peacefully at night), Marketers need to work harder in our field of art and embrace ethical and meaningful marketing communications and public relations. We need to create brand stories with integrity, character, authenticity, transparency, guts, and real value with flawless execution – net – we and our clients need to be walking our talk.

I’ve had the privilege of meeting some Renaissance Marketing & PR Masters such as Harold Burson, Aaron Cushman, Bob Dilenschneider and Al Golin and I have studied the works of Marketing and PR Master Strategist Al Ries and several more, and sadly it seems to me that there’s a lack of “people coming off the bench” and/or on deck ready to take their place.

It seems to me that there’s a lack of breakthrough effort, hard work, enthusiasm, guts, class and grace these days in marketing and in lots of professions too.  It’s sad.

For years, I’ve been a big fan of Edelman PR’s success and I love their whole ethical approach to business and look forward to their annual Trust Barometer.

There’s a good reason why Edelman PR rocks and why they’re the Mac Daddy of PR firms today and the biggest independent in the world. It’s the legacy of Dan Edelman.

Dad Dan Edelman rocks – still at 90!

And, he’s left a great legacy with his kids who lead the firm today. Check out this this link to an Ad Age Article about Edleman and his video interview with Rance Crain below – love the comment about enthusiasm and focus.

I can “smell” through the video that at 90, this guy would have my back, has a ton of integrity and class and would do everything it takes (in an ethical manner) to drive my business forward.  And, he’d be honest with me and nicely “call my baby ugly” and give me solid recommendations to improve my baby’s looks.

Can you smell it too?

Work on being a Marketing Renaissance Master…we need you!


How Do You Wow

In 20 days at noon, on July 2, 182½ days of the year will have elapsed and 182½ will remain before Jan 1, 2011.

Now is a great time to take a hard look at your marketing systems to see what’s working, what’s not working, what needs to be improved and what needs to scrapped.

That’s exactly what my team and I are doing.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve picked up a few significant pieces of business (believe me, I’m not complaining – we’re blessed) that have required us to more carefully analyze our systems and processes, clients, staffing, quality of work and more.

One of the “more” things we’re reviewing is what has led to our success and how we can refine our systems to not only do a better job for our brand, but also a better job for our clients.

It’s so easy to get caught up in busy work and daily tasks thinking you’re accomplishing things, but at the end of the day you find yourself majoring in minor things without focusing on game changing work along with better planning and performance based processes. Bottom line – you need to block out your time with high value activities!

Our fixed costs, staff and management hierarchy are low, small and flat by design, but with this sudden influx of new business we’re still working hard to clean up our act before considering adding new staff, equipment and even more business.

Here’s a list of our 20 questions to improve our business focus. The list is not necessarily in order and/or exhaustive, but all apply to People, Resources, Innovation, Marketing, Operations and Finance:

  1. How can we improve upon keeping our promises
  2. How do we make our company a more fun and enjoyable place to work
  3. How can we attract high quality people who are proud to work with us
  4. Does everyone have the tools and experience they need to be successful
  5. How do we make our unique selling proposition more unique, meaningful and easier to demonstrate and communicate
  6. How can we reduce costs without impacting our performance
  7. What kinds of clients/industries should we target
  8. What clients should we keep
  9. What clients should we fire
  10. What should be on our “to don’t” list
  11. What are the three key things we can do to improve our client’s business
  12. How can we speed up our efforts to quickly build our client’s business
  13. How can we more effectively surprise and delight our clients
  14. How do we create happier clients willing to provide glowing testimonials
  15. What products and services should we stop offering and/or improve upon
  16. What new products and services (or enhancements) should we be offering
  17. How can we improve cash flow, collections and profitablity
  18. What processes can we automate and systematize to improve performance
  19. How can we better measure every sales action, marketing channel and map every touch point to determine our cost per lead, sales potential and length to close
  20. What are we missing or failing to do with regard to people, resources, innovation, marketing, operations or finance to more profitably build a better business for ourselves and for our clients – what’s holding us back

So there you go – 20 questions to ask yourself over 20 days – one a day!

However, throughout your 20 day journey, here’s the thing to keep in mind.

Net – the big question we’re working on if you boil all 20 questions down into one is simply, “HOW DO WE WOW!”

We’re working on it and know it’s a marathon, not a sprint, but how do you wow?

I’m interested in knowing.


$6 Google AdWords Campaign Lands Dream Job

For anyone looking for a new job (pay attention college grads) or trying to get that next big sale and running into a roadblock because you can’t get the attention of a key decision maker, check out this brilliant job search strategy by copywriter Alec Brownstein.

  1. Brownstein used Google AdWords to target Ad Agency Creative Directors on Madison Avenue in New York
  2. He bet 15 cents per click that these Creatives were no different than the rest of  us self absorbed people who Google ourselves
  3. What the CD’s saw when they Googled themselves was a personal ad from Brownstein – BRILLIANT!
  4. Young & Rubicam offered him a job!

Note: Brownstein’s Google Job Experiment YouTube video has been viewed over 500,000 times!  Rock on Alec!


American Idol’s One Big Marketing Lesson

I’ve never been one to watch much TV and running your own company doesn’t leave you much time at all, but I’ve found myself tuning in to American Idol a lot. Love Siobhan, love Crystal’s talent too, but too much cocky attitude for me. Lee’s my fave guy…OK that’s enough. Oh yeah, I’m into it big time.

What’s been driving my nuts about this show is this over used contestant quote that seems to arise every time someone’s performance tanks, “I had fun…I was just trying to have some fun with it.”

Are you kidding me?

I don’t care if you’re on American Idol’s stage, your high school’s stage or a kindergarten school stage and you have non-speaking role as a tree or a rock  – you have to bring it!

Have fun later counting your money or bowing to a genuine applause.

And, if you’re in it to win it – you better be or don’t waste everyone’s time – listen to the judges (or in business your customers, sales receipts, food critics etc.,). It’s amazing to me how few of these kids actually listen to the judges who have been around the block a few times. They’d rather pay more attention to the over the top audiences who give everyone a standing “O” whether the rock or not.

These are the same Little League parents who give trophy’s to every team regardless of where they finished. Thanks Mom and Dad!

BTW – Do you notice how the word “great” is used so many times – not just on AI, but generally speaking? Ugh!

When these AI kids tank and say, “I had fun,” (when it’s clear the judges and I didn’t have any fun at all) I just want to reach through my TV and slap them. I’ve been waiting for one of the judges – Simon or Ellen would be perfect – to say, “Well we’re not having fun listening to you, so STOP IT!

These “having fun” kids are choosing songs they feel are safe simply because they’re afraid to fail. Are you like them in business?

Put another way, instead of trying to win…they’re trying not to lose…they’re not giving it their all and leaving everything out on the stage.

Note:  Similar to the NFL’s “prevent defense” – I hate it – worst scheme ever designed – that’s another post.

If these kids gave their performances everything they had – and not be afraid of failing –  there would be less tears because they knew deep in their heart they gave it their very best and they’ll sleep better at night.

Live with no regrets.

It’s certainly been true for me. And, I see it in business every day with the lack of breakthrough ideas and vanilla milkshake task mentality efforts.

A few months ago on one of the world’s biggest stages – the Winter Olympics – if you paid attention to sports like downhill skiing, you’ll see that those who really pushed it and got on the edges of their skis either broke world records or crashed – there’s no in between – but both kinds of skiers probably slept well at night knowing they gave it their all.

Breakthrough, WOW performances are always a delicate balance between “edgy” efforts and crashes – both are memorable!

However, if you’re just trying to have fun, boring and in middle road – I guarantee that you’ll get run over!

P.S.: One more thing.  Notice how the judges often say, “I think” which is weak language. Instead of saying something like, “I think that was your worst performance ever.” Say, “That was your worst performance ever.” Much stronger and effective use if language.


Why You Should Outsource Marketing

In the past 20 years, business process outsourcing such as accounting, distribution and more became (still is) increasingly popular.  Advertising has been a widely accepted outsourced service, but what about outsourcing marketing?

In my experience, most brands have super marketing teams that excel in execution and creativity.  However, these crack teams are pulled in so many directions that they lack the time and skill or expertise  to think more strategically or analytically.

Over the last few months, our firm has participated in a lot of new business meetings and one of the key questions that eventually bubbles up is, “Why should I outsource my marketing?”

With the speed and sheer amount of radical changes in marketing (social media, mobile etc.), media fragmentation, economic challenges and more, marketing outsourcing is an attractive strategy to employ to cost effectively stay ahead of the marketing curve and your competition.

Here are 10 reasons why you should outsource your marketing.

  1. You’ll increase a laser like focus on your brand’s core competencies
  2. Corporate personnel can redirect their efforts in other business building areas
  3. You can immediately take advantage of world-class talent and specialized services
  4. You will gain an objective point of view and reduce bias
  5. Your overhead and payroll will decrease which will free up capital
  6. The amount of political corporate control will be reduced
  7. Your pace of positive change will accelerate and you’ll be more flexible to meet market changes
  8. Profits and overall business unit value and performance will increase
  9. You will improve productivity, product quality and service levels
  10. And, you’ll gain an immediate significant competitive edge

Certainly, your success is dependent upon choosing the right marketing partner and welcoming them as a true integrated partner. Start small with easy to manage projects and watch your business profitably grow.  Selecting a capable, trustworthy, enthusiastic outsourced marketing partner could be the final piece of your sales building puzzle.