Thursday 21 March 2019

Time for a Checkup? 10 Tips to Kick-start Company Growth in Uncertain Times

Spring time is the perfect time for a brand check-up! How is yours performing? 

Written by Robyn T. Braley  

What shape will your business be in by this time next year? Is there risk? Is there reward? 

What steps can you take to make this year the best it can be in spite of economic or political circumstances?

With unpredictable global economies and uncertain political decisions, many leaders lack the confidence needed to make forward-planning decisions. In many situations, they can only operate their companies based on what they know today! Reviewing past performance histories doesn't help because we are in uncharted territories. 

While we all hope for a better tomorrow, we can only control what you can control today.

Don’t get me wrong, we have clients whose businesses are excelling and setting all-time sales records in the midst of difficult times. But we also have clients who are struggling and have even gone out of business. 

I've written about survival strategies before. Whatever your circumstance, it's never a bad idea to review your brand and marketing performance. Is there a different way to look at your situation? 

1. Begin from Where You Are

A mentor of mine shared this simple but profound truth. ‘Begin from where you are!’ It sounds simplistic, but when you think about it, it makes sense. 

Today you KNOW you have a PROBLEM or OPPORTUNITY. You know that you do or don't have the tools needed to address it. It's that simple. 

Can you MOVE forward based on what you know today about your realities as they are right now? 

  1. What is the problem or opportunity!
  2. What are your strengths?
  3. What are your weakness?
  4. What do you know for certain?
  5. What DON'T you KNOW that you SHOULD?
  6. How will you address that?
  7. What is your plan?

2. Brand Audit

A brand is a precious thing to waste. In the hurly-burly of doing business it is easy to become distracted by an immediate problem and totally miss the big picture.  

Where are the gaps? I’m always amazed at the number of times I find holes in branding or marketing programs that seem obvious to me but are completely missed by the owners. They are quickly revealed through asking a few simple questions and doine some quick research. 

I advise hiring a brand specialist. A third-party expert will see things you don’t see and highlight things that you don’t know but should. For a few hundred dollars you will gain insight into where you are, where you need to go and what you need to do to get there.

This morning I had breakfast with a highly successful businessman who was frustrated by the lack of commitment by others in a volunteer organization. In an hour we analyzed his situation, identified many right decisions he had made and outlined a way to move the project forward. Sometimes that’s all it takes.  

3. Guerrilla Strategies

Let's assume you have no money. What you have is a big idea and the will to bring it to life and thrive. 

Or, you may have ample budget but have discovered that doing the same old things in the same old ways have only brought disappointing growth. You don't know which way to turn.

Are you using all of the time-tested (FREE) tools at your disposal? Notice the word FREE is in brackets. 

I have heard many "Guerrilla Experts" talk about getting FREE advertising through generating a media story about your company. Another is to place a scary looking clown on a street corner flipping an arrow pointing to your store to attract attention.. 

These aren't FREE. They are smart PR ideas but they are not FREE. You have to do the work of finding the right media contacts and packaging your story to submit it too them. Or, you have to find a clown. 
Another idea is to park an old car in front of the insurance broker or autobody shop with a huge bolder crushing the top. You must buy an old wreck of a car, find a bolder, transport both to your business and find a way to drop the bolder onto the roof. 

However, it could work! Here are some ideas for advertising messages.
  • Rock on! A classic bar featuring classic rock music
  • We're crushin' it! A trendy vineyard
  • Wrong place, wrong time! Insurance broker
  • Need a little help? Autobody
  • Rock of Ages! a Church
  • The Burden Lifters. A Counselling Agency  

Here are six other guerrilla tactics. 
  1. Take engaging head-shots of yourself and team. Use them with all social media and other platforms. First impressions matter.
  2. Update your website. Don't have one? Create a 2 or three page site using an online service
  3. Create an email list including existing customers, potential customers and circle of influence. Send regular updates.  
  4. Sponsor a relevant event. Offer services in exchange for a sponsor package that includes a chance to schmooze with attendees. 
  5. Practice telling your story and contact local service clubs asking for speaking engagements. Make it interesting and include personal stories.
  6. Note Networking below.   

4. Online Presence

Having a strong online presence is central to your marketing initiatives. Do you need an online brochure website? An ecommerce site? What about a website with secured access that is the centre for employees to access on a daily basis? Ya gotta’ have an up-to-date website. Ya just gotta! These are questions to ask. 
  1. Is it mobile responsive?
  2. Is it engaging?
  3. Is the content relevant?
  4. Is it easy to navigate?

5. Video

Engaging videos reach through a TV flatscreen, desktop monitor or mobile device to demand attention. A video can tell your story in a single minute and eliminate 10 pages of documents. 

It doesn't have to be expensive. We've shot videos using late model phones for clients with limited budgets However, it has to be produced in the right way.  

  1. What story do you need to tell?
  2. What product do you need to show? 
  3. What plant capacity or process do you need to show?
  4. Is the content relevant and meaningful?  

6. Photos

Dynamic photos are the engines that drive online, traditional and face-to-face marketing. Photos that tell stories make the old adage true. A picture is truly worth a thousand words.

  1. Do your photos look professionally created?
  2. Do they offer insight into your brand?
  3. Do they portrait the "right messages" about your staff and what they do?

7. Social Media Presence

Does your company have a social media presence? If not, why? If you feel social media isn’t relevant to your business, take an advil, aspirin or Tylenol and lay down until the feeling passes.

Today’s customer fully engages with the online platforms of their favorite brands. They are checking Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube and other social media platforms. Companies off coupons and special offerings. 

Your customers may be reading comments by other customers on social media sites you've never heard of. Potential customers may be rejecting your product based on information that may be completely false? Or, is it? .  

  1. Do you have social media for business accounts?
  2. Is the content relevant?
  3. Do the images and stories advance your company brand?  
  4. Is it up-to-date?

8. Employees Equipped

Do your employees fully understand your brand? Do they have the tools -  websites, videos, brochures, manuals, teaching – that enables them to better tell your story? 
  1. Do you have a sales methodology?
  2. Do you Is your sales team up to snuff? Are they motivated? 
  3. Are your prices right?
  4. Have client needs changes?

9. Networking

Do you take advantage of networking opportunities? Do you encourage your team to network? I network like crazy! I never go anywhere without my business cards. The trick is to go where potential customers are - but I've found them in unusual places like weddings and funerals. 

  1. Write a 3 sentence elevator speech so you and your team are using the same terminology to describe your company
  2. Do you dress right? Act right? 

10. Take Care of Yourself

This should be at the top. Entrepreneurs are hard driving people. But sometimes, they drive so hard they ignore relationships and drive people - family, employees, friends - away. 

  1. Find a coffee shop or a place of solitude where you go to think!
  2. Send an email to a friend for no obvious reason
  3. Surprise your spouse with a date night
  4. Plan a get-away for the entire family
  5. Join a service club like Rotary
  6. Announce a coffee room treat at 3:00 with cake and coffee just to say thankyou.
  7. Reduce or eliminate overdoing of things like alcohol, food, swearing or not caring 

What do you think? Do you have proven tips? I want to hear from you. Please comment below.  

Robyn T. Braley is a brand specialist, writer, and speaker. He is also a media commentator and Rotarian. Robyn is the President of UniMark Creative which does website design, video production, media services (editorial and advertising), and graphic design. He speaks at business conferences and also blogs about branding. 

Contact Robyn

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