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  • Valcort DNA

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  • 12 tips for making your vendors partners

    When we look at vendor transactions, the language isn’t particularly warm, and it usually doesn’t describe a relationship in which everyone is valued and comes away whole and satisfied. “Companies use vendors to provide services” “Service providers fill customer orders “ Valcort’s #30 Key to Business Growth calls for a much different kind of relationship:  Work to build strong, long-term partnerships with your vendors to help them reduce their costs, to grow and prosper to serve you even better. Sounds great, but how do you do this. Here are 12 quick tips to start on a journey that will require care and vigilance. Salesman showing product from a tablet to a happy client who is looking at device in an office indoor  
    1. Hire a vendor who shares your values. When you’ve already established an agreement with a vendor and they demonstrate behaviors that are contrary to your core values, it’s not likely to be a long or trusting relationship.
    2. Hire a vendor who understands and supports your vision and mission. Take the time to communicate your vision, mission and goals, and where you plan to take your business in the future. Invite their suggestions on the role they can play in achieving these goals. A trusted vendor will likely have unique insights into the industry and offer helpful feedback you won’t find anywhere else.
    3. Research potential vendors’ reputations and offerings by connecting with colleagues in your professional network. Get feedback from the vendors’ past clients; find the details behind the case studies they present.
    4. Understand what you want to accomplish. Be specific in defining and documenting your requirements, as well as the goals of the projects your bringing to a vendor.
    5. Develop effective internal relationships. Strong partnerships with multiple departments, such as IT, finance, and the senior executive team create alignment and build the foundation for long-term agreements.
    6. Look for vendors who take the time to listen to you and absorb your requirements. Then have them explicitly demonstrate how your needs will be met.
    7. Be as transparent as possible. The piece of information you withhold may prove critical. Your transparency can ensure alignment
    8. Understand that it isn’t always about money. Let your budget be your guide, but request creative solutions from vendors that allow you to accomplish your goals within your allocated amount.
    9. When mistakes happen, don’t point fingers. Problems are inevitable. Your vendor relationship will be strengthened if, instead of finger-pointing and assigning blame, you work to clarify the situation and take steps to ensure the same issue doesn’t crop up again.
    10. Refer a trusted vendor to others. When your vendor is contacted by a prospective customer that you referred, their loyalty to your business becomes even stronger. This is a concrete way to show your appreciation for their services and it’s likely they will return the favor at some time in the future with a referral.
    11. Pay Your Bills on Time. Just like you, vendors, product manufacturers, and wholesale distributors depend on prompt payment for goods and services. For vendors working on thin margins, cash flow is essential. When you consistently pay on time and respect agreed-upon conditions, you demonstrate appreciation for their contributions and your business rises to a “most trusted” status in the vendor’s eyes.
    12. Assess everyone’s progress as the partnership evolves. Go step-by-step together. The relationship could be a long one, so you both want to get it right.
    Businesses that see vendors as partners rather than just another operational necessity gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Because of the relationship they’ve developed, they can depend on vendors to come through in times of increased customer demand and to offer the best pricing arrangements available anywhere. In these situations, everyone wins.
  • Leveraging assets for growth

    In these columns over the last few years we have been discussing, information pills one by one, mind the 35 Keys to Business Growth. There are five of these keys, or practices, in each of the 7 VALCORT disciplines.  We are now down to the last 7; one in each of the VALCORT disciplines. Here are all five of the articles on leveraging assets for growth What people believe matters #2:  Know what customers, distributors, shareholders, vendors and employees believe about your company. For product success, make what people want  #9:  Develop only products and services that are high priorities for current and future customers. 7  Steps to employee greatness #16:  Have a process  to identify each employee’s interests, skills and strengths and then use them effectively to accomplish your company mission. Questions that help your business grow  #23: Regularly evaluate your products and services, as well as your company’s strengths and weaknesses, to identify new, faster and better ways to meet the needs of your customers  12 tips for making vendors partners  #30: Work to build strong, long-term partnerships with our vendors to help them reduce their costs, to grow and prosper to serve us even better.
  • Vision and the North Star: Certainty in Uncertain Times

    Rising moon over river Casting about on the open seas or escaping a hostile force through an unmarked wilderness, viagra approved your circumstances can change dramatically by the minute. To head confidently in the right direction, sick you can focus on the North Star for your bearings and to make the decisions that will bring you to safety. It’s similar when you are guiding your business in ever- changing, even perilous, times. Everything may be shifting, and to survive and thrive you may need to change directions or products or personnel or strategies. At the same time, you remain focused on your North Star—the enduring values that provide your foundation, and the vision that is tomorrow’s beacon. Values and vision are the steady hand, the beacon, for business growth in changing times. Today, we look at a Values & Vision Key to Business Growth:  #29: Be flexible and make positive and competitive changes whenever needed to achieve your mission and vision. It may be that corporate flexibility and openness to significant change will be necessary to stay on track to achieve your vision. While change is inevitable, unexpected or significant change will often be met with stubborn resistance. In their book Leading At A Higher Level, Ken and Scott Blanchard identify six predictable and sequential concerns people have when they are asked to change. By taking the time to address these concerns, you can improve the odds of your next change initiative being successful.
    1. Beat communication breakdown: People don’t want to be told the change is good until they understand it.  Leaders should share information as plainly and as completely as possible. In the absence of clear, factual communication, people tend to create their own information about the change, and rumors become facts.
    2. Get personal: Once information concerns are satisfied, people will want to know how the change will affect them personally. The following questions, even though not always expressed openly, are common: What’s in it for me to change? Will I win or lose? People with personal concerns want to know how the change will play out for them. They wonder if they have the skills and resources to implement the change. These personal concerns have to be surfaced and addressed. dissipate.
    3. Plan your action: If leaders address the first two concerns effectively, people will be ready to hear information on the details involved in implementing the change. Leaders should be prepared to answer questions such as: What do I do first, second, third? How do I manage all the details? What happens if it doesn’t work as planned? Where do I go for help? How long will this take?
    4. Sell the change:  After implementation questions are answered, people tend to raise impact concerns. For example: Is the effort worth it? Is the change making a difference? Are we making progress? Are things getting better? Be prepared to share early wins and proof that the change is making a positive difference.
    5. Collaborate smartly: With some evidence that the change is moving the organization in the right direction, momentum starts to build. At this stage, leaders can look forward to questions such as: Who else should be involved? How can we work with others to get them involved in what we are doing? How do we spread the word?
    6. Refine for success: Once a change effort is well on its way toward complete adoption, leaders can expect to hear others begin asking about how the change can be refined. For example: How can we improve on our original idea? How do we make the change even better?
    To achieve your vision, you may need to lead change in your organization. Are you ready?   
  • Valcort’s 35 Keys to Business Growth: Values and Vision

    If you are new to The Valcort Group, dosage you may not know that our consulting strategy is easy to find—it’s our Gold Advice: Values Risesname. Valcort is an acronym for the 7 disciplines that drive, visit this site guide, viagra 60mg and measure business growth. V-A-L-C-O-R-T V -- Values are the foundation, for the values we hold drive the choices we make V – Vision is the power of shared values, shared hope for the future, and shared commitment to get there. A –  Assets and associations are the tools to create interest and difference, deliver unique value and leverage for growth L –   Lens of market.  A focused lens requires understand of (1) customer values and frustration, (2) competitors and their strategies, and (3) champions and advocates. C –  Vital creative is a compelling, engaging, clear message. It must be true, unique, and it must relieve a frustration. O –  Outreach is the way you push your message and unique value into the market. It includes direct sales and indirect marketing R –  Relationship engagement at every point of contact. Based on share values and shared vision, relationship is a personal connection that fosters interdependence, and creates commitment for mutual benefit. T –  Tracking trending. Measuring delivery on the promises made, tracking and trending is the catalyst for change, innovation, and demonstrating trust. In these columns over the last few years we have been discussing, one by one, the 35 Keys to Business Growth. There are five of these keys, or practices, in each of the 7 VALCORT disciplines.  We are now down to the last 7; one in each of the VALCORT disciplines. Here are all five of the articles on driving values and vision throughout your organization.  The Importance of a Vision Statement #1. Have a motivating and achievable vision statement that drives critical business decisions. Reinventing the Mission Statement #8: Have a mission statement that is easy to understand with clear benefits for employees, customers and vendors. How Clear Customer Focus Can Prevent a Crash Landing #15 Have a clear, customer-focused approach to your business that drives important business decisions. Lift the Fog: Leadership Values as the Key to Growth #22 Have a clear understanding of your leaders’ values and beliefs, and how they impact relationships with employees, vendors, and customers Vision and the North Star: The Importance of Certainty in Uncertain Times #29: Be flexible and make positive and competitive changes whenever needed to achieve your mission and vision.
  • Conversations on Business Growth

    financial graph on technology abstract background 35 Keys to Business Growth from The Valcort Group There are many ways to grow a business. And with history as a guide, no rx we’d say there are many more ways to fail. We have ideas on both how to succeed and how to avoid the pitfalls. We start with 35, pill and you can find links the first 28 below, cialis 40mg with the final seven to be featured this year. We call them the Valcort 35 Keys to Business Growth. They represent our comprehensive view of the most important disciplines that companies and organizations will master if they are to consistently succeed. To help you review the discussions to date, we’ve provided below the links to the articles on the first 28 disciplines.
    1. The Importance of a Vision Statement
    2. What People Believe Matters
    3. Listen (to the Voice of Your Customers)   
    4. Why Selling Your Products is a Bad Idea
    5. Making the Best of Customer Touchpoints
    6. An Earful of Change
    7. Do You See a Trend?
    8. Re-inventing the Mission Statement
    9. For Product Success, Make What People Want
    10. Increasing your Margin and Moving Pianos
    11. Wings, Beer, Sports and the Art of Perfecting Your Value Proposition
    12. Executing Mind Shaping Media Campaigns
    13. Building Trust-Oriented Business Relationships at Every Point of Contact
    14. Value Matters. Measure It
    15. How Clear Customer Focus Can Prevent a Crash Landing
    16. 7 Steps to Employee Greatness
    17. Are You a Victim of Organizational Drift?
    18. Get the Message?
    19. Reaching the people most important to your business 
    20. Influencing the Influencers through Communication
    21. What Difference Does It Make: The Importance of Tracking Customer Response
    22. Lift the Fog: Leadership Values as the Key to Growth
    23. Questions That Will Help Your Business Grow
    24. Secret Spy? Conduct Competitor Research
    25. Speaking the Right Language? The Importance of Customer Profiling
    26. Are Your Employees Your Best Advocates?
    27. Answer the Door: Winning the Customer Inquiry Exchange
    28. Pay Attention: The Importance of Tracking Marketing Results
  • Pay attention: The importance of tracking marketing results

    Paying attention is important. In many ways. Identity security, page for instance.Young Boy Looking Through Binoculars Hiding in Grass Identify theft affects a staggering 7 percent of the population annually, website like this according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, and totals more than $25 billion annually in financial losses to the U.S. economy. Due to its emotional impact and resulting behavior changes, identity fraud can have an influence upon the overall health and economy. Many victims report a general loss of trust, and a lack of confidence in a “system” that had been unable to help them recover after the crime. Their future decisions, including decisions on what to buy, from whom, and how much, are influenced by being a victim of identity theft. Most of us have left ourselves vulnerable in many ways, but the biggest problem is, we are not aware of the extent of the problem or how to protect ourselves. The need for vigilance can apply to many disciplines, including corporate expenditures on sales and marketing. Even here we can find similar vulnerabilities caused by not paying attention to potential loss and waste. The intents are not nefarious, but millions of dollars are wasted because we’re not taking time to determine if our marketing is making a difference. Avoid the drain on your revenues.  #28 of Valcort’s 35 Keys to Business Growth reads: Understand the impact of your advertising, marketing and sales efforts on your company’s revenues, profit, and customer loyalty. The best way to do this is to relentlessly track results, and then make the changes necessary to improve performance. We’ve gathered some tips, with thanks to the Young Entrepreneur Council: Check them out.
    1. Low hanging fruit. There are a lot of easy ways to monitor effectiveness of your efforts: How many leads generated? Twitter followers, or webinar attendees. How many page views did your latest white paper garner? How many sign-ups resulted from your latest Twitter contest? How ‘engaging’ was last week’s webinar?
    1. Content tracking: Now that high-quality content has so many benefits in the marketing world, it's important to track all its different uses. For example, when you share specific pieces of content, use Buffer to track it. Or, when you send someone an email that includes a specific type of content, use HubSpot or Infusionsoft to track the results. It can be as simple as tracking the clicks on your recent post.
    1. Acquisition channels: Track every acquisition channel through which users register. This includes blog posts, press, organic search, paid ads, and partnerships. Review the data weekly. It shows which channels convert the highest, generate the most loyal users, and more. This data signals on which channels to "double down" efforts, and which to let die.
    1. Google analytics: Use Google Analytics to focus on the ROI of Adwords marketing campaigns. Constantly optimize spending based on customer acquisition cost.
    1. Check the rates: Think about the goals of your marketing and analyze data like open rates, click-throughs and social performance of content and formatting. Use this to shape email marketing strategy.
    1. Track stack: Use a stack of marketing trackers such as Segment.io, Marketo and Salesforce.com. You can use Geckoboard to make the data available to anyone iny our company and display it on screens around the office.
    1. Salesforce: Use Salesforce.com to track productivity of marketing efforts, which are segmented into a variety of categories like campaigns, lead types, company types and more. Marketing really is the top of the sales funnel, and with Salesforce.com, you can create and share several dashboards and reports to use across the team.
    1. Customer lifetime value: Customer lifetime value (LTV) is a great way to reveal the quality of customer segments. Segment customers by referral source (ad campaign, social network, etc.) and look at their LTV. Just because an ad is converting doesn't mean it will bring in high-LTV customers. Word of mouth and social network referrals lead to customer LTVs that are often worth several times more than the ones that come from ad campaigns. Conversion rate can easily become a vanity metric, but focusing on LTV will help build a long-term business.
    1. Data collection: In marketing, the most important data are those that show if creativity is delivering. These numbers are called dollar productive activity (DPA) metrics, such as how many calls/emails/meetings occurred and how many of those activities converted into a closed deal. There's a distinct difference between being busy and being effective. From these metrics, you can see if your activity is effective. If calls are working better than emails, adjust. How many calls does it take to close deals?
     
    Read more of Valcort's 35 Keys to Business Growth Valcort 35 logo  
  • Answer the door. Winning the customer inquiry exchange

    Restaurant service bell vintage with bokehSuccessful customer impressions begin at the front door of your business. That front door these days is often an email in-box, nurse a Website inquiry, here a cell phone call or text, cost a Tweet, post or comment. Or it might be someone actually at your front door! Don’t miss the opportunity to make that first impression.  #27 of Valcort’s 35 Keys to Business Growth reads: Assure that every inquiry that comes into your company receives an appreciative, supportive response and a quick solution that builds trust and confidence with the customer. If you’re like me, when you think about your own customer inquiries, your mind goes to situations when you’ve been the customer and your call for help or information has been tortuously long and ultimately unpleasant (the last two that come to mind for me are calls to the IRS and to my health insurance company.  Hours of waiting!) There are many examples of what NOT to do. But how can you be best-in-class in your responses to inquiries, complaints, and comments? When customers contact your company, they have expectations. They expect their query to be addressed. They expect a solution to their concerns and an answer to their questions. And they expect it fast. According to a one study, 47 percent of customers trying to connect to businesses through online tools expect a response within 24 hours of initial contact. Many anticipate a response within 8 hours! This goal isn’t always feasible, but focusing on fast response times is vital to maintaining a high standard of customer service. Here are some tips on calls, emails, Web and social media:   1. Make calls a pleasure Your phone representatives are certainly at the front door of customer service, entrusted with the demanding task of pleasing and appeasing customers. They need to be versatile and equipped with a strong skill set to handle the complexity of the job. Here are ten customer service skills agents should master to deliver the very best service from Vocalcom.com.
    • Customers may be frustrated when they make contact, so patience is certainly a virtue every agent needs to have. Give customers a chance to explain their situation in full and never react negatively to an unhappy customer.
    • Timeliness is critical in customer service. Agents should be swift in responding to inquiries and prepared to switch to another channel if a case needs more attention. Deliveries and additional tasks should be handled promptly, while brands should provide customers options such as callbacks to further ensure efficiency.
    • Clear communication.Strike a balance between giving thorough answers, using a professional vocabulary, and being conversational and approachable all at the same time. It’s no easy task.
    • Empathy. It may seem dramatic, but empathy is among the most important customer service skills. A frustrated customer needs attention and reassurance, but even satisfied customers need attention. For example, simply acknowledging concern for timeliness (quick delivery) and relevant promotional offers (not sending too many or unwanted marketing messages) shows consideration and respect for customers.
    • Knowledge about products and services. Among the essential customer service skills is simply possessing the knowledge to discuss products and services. Agents need to receive thorough training to better understand what the company offers, and they should be updated regularly on company developments.
    • Positive attitude.No matter how upset a customer might be, agents must keep a positive attitude. Using positive language that reflects confidence in finding a solution will reassure a customer and encourage sustained loyalty in the brand.
    • Attentive listening.If a customer wishes to explain a situation in detail, agents need to be willing to listen. In addition, customers may not necessarily accept the solutions an agent has to offer or have questions about them, so attentive listening is critical to showing respect for customer opinions and offering them the best eventual solution.
    • During customer service exchanges, agents must be organized at all times to deliver timely service. This means being able to navigate efficiently between different windows in a CRM database as well as switching channels when necessary.
    • Of the most essential customer service skills, adaptability to changing situations is crucial. Agents need to be ready to handle varying customer demands, possible technical issues, switching to other channels, and the like.
    • Willingness to go the extra mile.Customers appreciate great service, but they love a gesture that shows real appreciation for their business. Agents who go the extra mile often win over customers.
      2. Make emails sing for you. Did you know that 41% of companies do not respond to customer service emails. Nine out of ten don’t acknowledge or inform the customer that an email has been received. 99% of companies do not follow up on customers to see if they were satisfied with the response. Only one in ten companies can answer questions in the first reply. Four out of 10 companies do not have an email address or phone number clearly visible on their website. What does it all mean? The majority of companies are failing to meet customer expectations! To respond to all customer support emails, SuperOffice.com recommends that companies:
    • Start out by setting up rules in your customer service software, to allow you to automatically forward a request to the correct department.
    • When a customer asks a question, don’t ignore it. If you ignore your customers, they will ignore you and eventually shop elsewhere.
    • Set up an auto-responder in your customer service email client, and in the acknowledgment, use an email templatethat includes customer support working hours, a unique ID for tracking the request and supporting links to a self-service knowledge base or online FAQs.
      3. Be a social media maven. Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have evolved to become more than emergent platforms for marketing and advertising. Increasingly, they are also valid and important channels through which consumers solicit and receive customer service. According to Nielsen's 2012 Social Media Report, nearly half of U.S. consumers use social media to ask questions, report satisfaction, or to complain—and a third of social media users prefer "social care" to the phone. You need to be a social media rock star. But how? Zendesk.com provides a guide with some best practices for providing great customer service through social media. Highlights:
    • ·Be where your customers are
    One of the first challenges to providing great customer service over social media is determining where to focus time and resources. What social media sites are frequented by your customers?
    •  Listen to what your customers say
    Monitoring social media is a first step, listening is equally important from a customer service perspective. When participants in a 2012 survey from Oracle were asked what was most important when visiting a company's social media page, 43 percent responded that they were looking for a direct response to their question.
    • Track and manage volume
    Depending on the volume of social interactions your brand generates, and the size of your staff, your ability to keep track of social inquiries may be made easier by a customer service platform that can integrate with social media and turn posts, tweets, and direct or private messages into tickets.
    • Speed of response is critical.
    "Live help" typically refers to phone or chat support, yet in the customer's mind, social media is a gray area that more closely straddles the line between chat and email support. There is the potential for help to be instantaneous if social media is constantly monitored, but more likely, help will arrive hours later. Several studies have found that the majority of customers expect a response over social media within the same day.   4. Provide online self-support. When millennials run into technology problems, their first response is to pick up their phone — but not to make a call. Rather, the device is often used to search for ways to solve the issue online, without having to speak to a customer service representative. A recent survey found that 73 percent of consumers want the ability to solve problems on their own. Many companies are taking advantage of interactive mobile apps where customers can view bills, manage their account and change their service options directly through their smart phone. Mobile apps also allow for proactive customer interaction through push notifications, informing customers of approaching data overage or indicating when a monthly bill is ready for review almost instantaneously. Empowering customers to manage their accounts and solve issues saves both the customer and the company valuable time and frustration.   There’s someone at your door.  Answer it.
  • Are your employees your best advocates?

    Would you recommend that a friend seek employment at your company?Young Business People Collaborate. This is one of the questions we include in our organizational survey of employee satisfaction and values, more about conducted as part of our VALCORT strategic study. It’s an important question that can provide a revealing look at an organization’s health. In terms of corporate advocacy, it's the low bar. If your employees wouldn't enthusiastically recommend your company to friends, it's a big, waving red flag. For your team, those who know you best, should not only trust your company with friends, they should be your strongest advocates.  If not, something is out of line. The diagnosis of the breakdown of internal trust may consider many issues of leadership, internal communication, promise-keeping, and shared values. But today, we look at this important work of equipping of employees to be advocates. It’s #26 of the Valcort 35 Keys to Business Growth: Equip all employees, vendors, and representatives with advertising and promotional materials, and encourage them to promote your company to customers at any time. Foundational to achieving this goal is to be certain not only that employees and representatives have the tools and materials, but that they are motivated to promote the company. To do this, employees need to be comfortable with and empowered by their knowledge about the brand. Only when advocates sincerely believe in the brand can they do it justice. It’s being recognized that involving your employees as your company advocates can be a strong element in marketing. Consumers trust others like themselves more than high-ranked company executives or celebrities who are paid to promote the brand. The Edelman Trust Barometer, an annual global credibility survey of 30,000+ people, has showed repeatedly that in the eyes of consumers, regular company employees have more credibility than companies’ highly ranked executives. The best way to make your employees your greatest advocates is to show them how great your company is.  This always starts inside your company walls. Here are six great ways to strengthen the role of employees and representatives as brand advocates:
    1. Share the story. Clearly define the company brand to employees. For employees to significantly help the company’s marketing efforts as brand ambassadors, they need to know exactly what it is that they are promoting. Take time to teach your employees about what you do and why it is different or unique. The more they understand, the more passionate they will become and the more they will spread the word about your brand.  Gallup surveyed more than 3,000 employees about their company’s brand. Only 41 percent said they knew what the brand was or how it was different from competitors’ brands. If employees are expected to become advocates for their company, they must fully understand what the company stands for and how to present that to the world.
    1. Build a culture of shared values: Invest in the company culture and take time to develop the company vision and values. Employees are more likely to champion the brand when its values are clearly defined and resonate with their personal values. A culture-based brand must also stay true to its values. It's hard for an employee to advocate for a brand if what they see in day-to-day operations is contradictory.
    1. Make sure employees feel valued: The more interest you take in your employees, and the more you reach out to them, the more they will become interested in the company and your brand. Show your employees that they are critical for the company’s success; employees need to feel valued and taken care of in order to confidently and enthusiastically advocate for the brand that stands behind them. Ask employees what they need. Seek to understand what they need to learn, and then provide them with that learning.  In a 2014 American Psychological Association survey of more than 1,500 employees, 91 percent of employees who felt valued said they were motivated to do their best for their employer, compared to just 37 percent of employees who did not feel valued. Furthermore, 85 percent of valued employees said they’d recommend their workplace to others; only 15 percent of non-valued employees would. Employees who are happy working at your company are more likely to promote your brand.
    1. Give employees tools and training. Involving employees in brand promotion means they will be called upon to use skills that they may not already possess. Companies can provide the necessary training and increase employee engagement in advocacy programs by having employees train one other on the strongest skills. By giving employees the right training and tools, companies can make it easy for them to be brand ambassadors in any situation. Starbucks is one company that does this well. It not only offers its employees an appealing benefits package, it also invests a considerable share of the company’s budget into educating and training their baristas. The company sees that if it helps employees learn more about the brand and company values, employees will take care of the company.
    1. Engage and involve employees: Employees who are actively engaged in your brand will be excited about the company's growth and development. Giving your employees a say in the direction of your brand will invest them in the brand identity. Listening to your employees' ideas for improvement or promotion strengthens their loyalty to your brand.
    1. Help employees go social: Encourage social media advocacy. In today’s marketplace, not taking advantage of what social media has to offer is equal to forfeiting the game in which consumer loyalty and spending is the prize. Although many people have Twitter and Facebook accounts, not everyone is an expert on using them for business purposes. Social media is the fastest way to reach your consumers.  Adobe – with its 334.820 Twitter followers, 256,569 Facebook followers, 30,356 Instagram followers and 11,000 YouTube subscribers – knows the value of their employees as brand ambassadors. More Adobe employees share information about the company and its products on Twitter than any other brand in the world, which is reflected in the fact that 20% of Adobes subscriptions are generated through social media platforms.
  • Speaking the right language? The importance of customer profiling

    An important part of great marketing is speaking the right language!
    America tongue language open mouth. Studio shot.

    America tongue language open mouth. Studio shot.

    If you know who you are trying to reach with your sales and marketing messages, discount the next step is to figure out what language they speak. No, viagra not if they speak English, generic Spanish, Chinese, Russian or French. That’s important, of course, but for the purposes of this discussion, we’ll assume you have that figured out. This principle is #25 of Valcort’s 35 Keys to Business Growth: “Creative advertising, public relations and promotions speak to the customer in a language they understand. It is engaging, consistent, and clearly communicates the unique value you offer.” The language questions we’re thinking about: Do they speak millennial? Do they speak Deep South? Do they speak techie, or sport, or music? Determine this by creating customer or prospect profiles. These are mini character sketches of various audiences, including things like age or age range, gender (if that matters to your product), geography, ethnicity, income, likes and dislikes, emotional struggles, habits, political persuasion, faith group, pastimes, frustrations. The language differences within the U.S. aren’t as easy to figure out as you might think. Check out this fascinating article with 22 maps showing how different Americans pronounce different words.  Here’s one of my favorites, simply because it's a bone of contention in my home.  Check out the divide on the right word to identify a “sweetened carbonated beverage.” everyone-knows-that-the-midwest-calls-it-pop-the-northeast-and-west-coast-call-it-soda-while-the-south-is-really-into-brand-loyalty.jpg                       Building profiles The best way to build profiles of current customers is to interview them face to face or on the phone. To determine prospect characteristics, you may have to make some assumptions based on product and past sales data. And then test the assumptions. Surveys can help you, too – such as a poll of frequent customers. But don’t forget to look at the actuals. It pays to know what they’re doing, not just what they say they are doing. By language we mean not just the words and language style people use, but also the methods or tools that need to be used to reach different profiles and demographics. Quicksprout has a nice cheat sheet on the ways different demographic groups consume content. Here’s just a taste: Best ways to reach baby boomers:
    • Facebook. The majority of baby boomers have a Facebook account. Targeted ads and relevant content will catch their attention.
    • Content marketing. Baby boomers consume a lot of content, so content marketing will be effective. Be willing to invest liberally in content marketing of all varieties—it’ll bring the biggest ROI.
    • Email. An active email marketing campaign is always important and will be effective in marketing to this demographic.
    Best ways to reach Gen-Xers:
    • Digital video. 79 percent of Gen-Xers download or stream video online at least once per month. Video holds appeal across generations, but Generation X seems particularly attached to it.
    • Twitter. 8.5 million use it regularly. Don’t give up on finding these people on Twitter.
    • Blogging. Content of value will help you reap rewards when it comes to this demographic. Keep a laser focus on their pain points and aspirations, and deliver with your content.
    • Educational content. Gen-X is recognized as an educated generation with higher high school graduation rates than previous generations. More than 10 percent of this generation are actively pursuing continuing education.
    Best ways to reach Millennials:
    • Mobile marketing. Everything is about mobile. If your marketing isn’t mobile first, it’s ineffective with or invisible to this generation.
    • Social media. Go deeper than just Facebook and Twitter. Find the niche networks where your target audience hangs out.
    • Influencer marketing. Whether it’s a social media friend or a well-known influencer within a niche, Millennials respond to peer recommendations.
    • The on-demand video revolution is changing the style and consumption of video marketing. The authenticity and real-time nature of Periscope, Snapchat, and other video platforms appeal to Millennials.
    Great Creative Once you have all of this figured out, it comes down to great creative, making sure that:
    1. The graphics and language are engaging
    Graphic design in its purest form is the art of persuasion. It takes only a few seconds for individuals to feel a sense of connection to a brand, logo, or design. Engaging creative elements are crucial to your business and to meeting objectives of your marketing program.
    1. The messaging is consistent
    Having a consistent message across all marketing channels should be a priority for any business and marketing team. Lean heavily on two or three related messages that resonate with your target audience
    1. The overall communication clearly presents your unique value.
    People won’t ever buy from you if they don’t even understand why they should pay attention to you. They’ll pay attention to you only if you present your value proposition, which Kissmetrics calls ”the most persuasive reasons people should notice you and take the action you’re asking for.” You don’t have to be the best in every way. But if you’re the best in at least one way, you’re the best option for the people who value that feature. Something must make you the best option for your target customers. Otherwise, they have no good reason to buy what you’re selling.
  • Secret Spy? Conducting Competitor Research

    Womans eye peeking through a keyhole concept for curiosity, <a href=try stalker, price surveillance and security" width="271" height="196" /> It’s not difficult to find the opposite of customer-centricity. I found it while traveling in eastern Europe late last year, where many businesses still—after 50 years of official communism followed by 25 years of capitalism—haven’t discovered the value and competitive advantage of good customer relations But you don’t have to travel to former totalitarian states to experience horrendous customer service. If you’re attempting to solve a problem with your phone, insurance policy, satellite service or even the IRS (to name a few), it’s often difficult to find a number to call, and if you find one, you're likely to experience a long wait to talk to a human being. Why aren’t more company’s recognizing the opportunity to establish unique value by making it easy for customers to get a rapid response and friendly treatment? The market share that would increase because of this extraordinary relationship-building at a primary point of contact would certainly more than pay for the staff necessary to provide this service. Do you find yourself asking this kind of question as you experience customer service snubs? How about your company? Have you identified the areas where your competitors are falling short, or where they are succeeding in their effort to capture and service new customers? We have recognized that it is a great benefit to be inquisitive about your competitors. #24 of the Valcort 35 Keys to Business Growth is: “Monitor your competitors’ marketing and sales efforts and identify their strategies, messages and methods to capture more customers.” How can you key an eye on your competitors?   A few suggestions:
    1. Sign up to receive your competitors’ email or newsletter – Many companies make it easy for just about anyone to sign up and receive email newsletters. Most link to a signup form on either their website or Facebook page. A good way to receive a competitor’s non-newsletter emails (such as their signup or purchase confirmations, lifecycle series or other transactional emails) is to sign up for a free trial, or make a small purchase to be classified as a new customer.
    2. Explore your competitors’ website – Visit competitors’ websites to see what they’re doing right and what they may be doing wrong. For example, if you’re unable to find certain vital pieces of information such as contact info, a simple way to sign up or make a purchase, it may give you some insight into what you can capitalize on for your own website.
    3. Give them a call – Calling your competitors’ customer service or sales line can provide insights on the way your competitors do business, especially if you and your competitors sell over the phone. You can find out how firm their pricing structure is and whether they throw in incentives to close a sale. The best part of this competitive analysis strategy is that you can basically ask them anything you’d like to know while you’re on the phone with them.
    4. Look at competitors’ digital marketing efforts.
    For instance:
    • SpyFu: A resource to research what keywords and Adwords your competitors are buying
    • Google Trends: Stay on top of the latest in your industry, comparing [his company] to others, and seeing where people who come to [his] site go
    • Google Alerts: keep alerts for yourselves but also for all of our competitors to know what they are up to," says Mohnot.
    Here are more tools to do this.
    1. Like and follow on social networks – ‘Your competitors may have a separate Twitter account for customer support, monitor all tweets to and from that account closely. You’ll see what competitor products people are having problems with. Use feedback from competitors’ customers to find weaknesses in their products. This will help you discover missteps to avoid in your own products and which features tend to confuse people. Like’ your competitors on Facebook, connect with them on LinkedIn and follow them on Twitter. Many companies release special promotions on their social networks, so if you don’t see their pages or profiles, you won’t be aware of their social media strategies.
    2. Attend a conference. Attending industry trade shows and conferences—as well as joining industry associations—can be a great way to learn about who your competitors are and what they're offering, says Amy Lewandowski, who heads up marketing at online retailer, PepWear. "We attend these conventions anyway so we make sure to visit competitors' booths while we are there and observe their interactions with customers, pick up literature, and check out the quality of their products," she says. "I am always shocked that most of them never visit our booth."
    3. Conduct a survey. If you're interested in getting a comprehensive report of all the players in your industry, you might consider conducting a survey. "A year or so ago, I hired someone to e-mail several of our competitors and ask them the same questions about their services," says Jeff Huckaby, CEO of RackAid, an IT management business in Jacksonville, Florida. "We looked at price, response time, how the sales request was handled, etc. By doing this, we learned how to clearly differentiate our sales process from that of our competition." While Huckaby says he learned a lot from the process and plans on doing it again, he does have one caveat: "I am a big fan of outsourcing this. You don't want to run into someone you were spying on at an industry conference."
    These are just a few of the tactics for finding out more about your competitors and their effort to capture and retain customers, and there is much more to say about each of these. It’s time to become a secret (or not so secret) spy! We can do this for you. It’s what we do!  Give us a call or send us an email. We’d love to help.  (The Valcort Group, 630.587.6000, info@valcort.com)
  • Questions that will help your business grow

    Recently, stomach we worked with a respected manufacturing company that was concerned about multiple years of urban informatization and network technologyflat growth in a thriving industry. They believed that their products were chosen because they were of the highest quality in the category, but they could not figure out why they weren’t growing. We worked with the company’s leaders on a thorough VALCORT strategic analysis, and as we asked questions of both internal stakeholders and customers around the world, the situation became dramatically clearer. As they addressed concerns and opportunities, it’s clear they are on a path toward accelerating their growth. To grow your business, you have to ask the right, hard questions about your company and your products. Questions such as:
    • Why do people do business with you?
    • What do you do so well that it draws customers to your products and services?
    • What is causing people to leave you and go to a competitor?
    • Would customers say your relationship with them is exemplary?
    We recommend that you regularly evaluate your products and services, as well as your company’s strengths and weaknesses, to identify new, faster and better ways to meet the needs of your customers [#23 of Valcort’s 35 Keys to Business Growth]. This recommendation has three dimensions. First, you need to evaluate. Stop, think about, and develop a reliable tool to grade your products, your services, and other assets, and how they contribute to the strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to your company and its viability and growth. You’re probably familiar with the SWOT analysis, a good organizing tool for this evaluation. A SWOT analysis is an organized list of your business's greatest strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. We use it in our VALCORT business transformation process as a launching point for corrective action. Second, do this evaluation with regularity. It will not be effective unless the measurement is repeated at least once a year. You can’t evaluate your products and business strengths and weaknesses, tweak a few things and not come back to the exercise for many years, with continuous tracking of your most pertinent standards. Only a predictable, regular appraisal will contribute to a valuable calibration of goods, services and practices. Third, focus on how your business practices and your products meet the needs of your customers.  This is an important clarification that hones the SWOT analysis and evaluates through the prism of customer satisfaction. Going through this simple exercise will put you on a path to growth, as you focus on the key issues that may be delaying your progress.  Give it a try!
  • Lift the Fog: Leadership values as the key to growth

    As an employee, physician customer, try investor, or a competitor, what is the most important thing you can learn aboutLight House a company?  If you said profitability, market share, operating margin, or the direction of their industry segment, you’d be hitting on strong factors impacting the company’s financial health. But I’d suggest that what you should study mostly intently are not these metrics, but rather the values of the company’s leaders. That’s why we begin our in-depth management and marketing study of a company, with a long in-person and personal interview with its CEO. We really want to get inside his or her head…and heart…to learn about the experiences and forces that contributed to development as a person and a leader. Few people are going to have the opportunity to sit and talk to a chief executive, but to really know the core of a company, we need to do our best to get to the core of its people. This is important because values--deeply held beliefs and motivations--drive every decision people make.  They are embedded in the soul of who we are.  They are connected to the deepest corners. Values as motivators and drivers, for example, might be security, or desire for recognition, for health, for seeing those we care about thrive.  It could be about living well and making a difference in people lives. These values are always the real drivers in our decision-making, and show up in how we spend our time, money and influence.  Some are at the core, impacting what job we take, where we move, school, lifestyle and the like.  Things like family and faith are in this category. They impact even the most insignificant choices we make today, like what you had for breakfast, who you text, what you wear, and who you will hang out with tonight. We advise our clients to be certain that they have a clear understanding of their leaders’ values and beliefs, and how they impact relationships with employees, vendors, and customers (#22 of 35 Valcort Keys to Business Growth). It is vital because to build trust with a company, a person must share the values of its leaders. When values and motivations become aligned, trust increases.  When values or motivations are suspect, trust erodes. The values we hold drive the choices we make. Have you ever made a new acquaintance and just hit it off, and next thing you know, you’re talking about very personal things?  You’ve most likely uncovered values you share or hold in common -- some common interest, a hobby or deeply held values like kids, sports, family, faith. Sharing values is common.  Even thieves trust the values of other thieves.  Recall our beloved Johnny Depp character Captain Jack Sparrow in the blockbuster movie Pirates of the Caribbean.  He says, “Me, I’m dishonest, and you can always trust a dishonest man to be dishonest. Honestly, it’s the honest ones you have to watch out for.” Values build trust Values are the bedrock of trust with another person.  When you share values you connect on a deep, personal level.  The more values you share, the more opportunities to build deeper trust and enjoy the relationship.  If you have shared values, you already are likely to trust that person.  More importantly, you are well on your way to a long lasting, strong, deep trust relationship. Trust sells product Because trust is crucial to healthy relationships, it is sometimes assigned to the “soft” category of business impact.  Actually, earned trust is perhaps the most powerful force in building strong teams, selling products, and keeping customers.  Customers don't buy from people, or companies, they don't trust. When a brand is trusted, customers will buy more, try related items, and pay more for your products.  In many ways, trust is the essential currency of commerce. And the road to trust begins with shared values. As you are looking at a company--your company or one you have your eye on--look deep for the values of its leaders.  Do you share values? This may be the most important question you can ask, and answer.

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  • What difference does it make? The importance of tracking customer response

    Valcort’s 35 Keys to Business Growth#21 We have specific, this web consistent ways we collect data and track customer response to every advertising, diagnosis marketing and sales effort. We use this information to measure our marketing and sales efficiency and effectiveness. urban informatization and network technology For more than 10 years we have been asking executives to rate their companies’ performance in each of 35 best practices. One that is consistently troublesome to companies large and small is #21-- tracking customer response to sales and marketing efforts.  It’s a thorny problem. Companies faithfully measure production, profit margins, overall sales, and many other metrics.  But ask them how well an advertising campaign is doing, how effective their marketing is, or if their reputation is getting better or worse, and most company leaders are vague, fuzzy, uncertain, even mute. Most companies simply don’t spend the money or the time necessary to measure response at a granular level, even when they spend a good deal of money to communicate. Why is that? Here are a few reasons:
    1. We don’t understand some marketing measurements. It’s not that we don’t see marketing as important. We just don’t recognize the value of marketing measurements, and readings on public attitudes and inclinations can be hard to come by.
    1. We think it’s expensive. Sometimes we believe that in order to measure marketing we will need to shell out a massive amount of cash. This is rarely the case. Tracking marketing campaigns can be affordable and customized to meet specific needs. We may spend thousands of dollars every year on advertising, but do we really know how much business it is driving – if any? By tracking our marketing, we will know more about how effective these campaigns are and where we should invest our marketing dollars to maximize ROI. Here’s the real question: What is more expensive? Measuring marketing or throwing away thousands of dollars on campaigns that aren’t producing results?
    1. We don’t know what to track. As far as marketing is concerned, we often don’t know what we should be measuring. We understand the importance of advertising and attracting new customers but we have no idea how to gauge the success of our efforts.
     
    1. We don’t know what tools to use. Learning about the latest marketing options is important, but having an understanding of the tools that measure marketing is also necessary. Using the right tools can help us conserve advertising spend and optimize results.
      How to track the effectiveness of online marketing campaigns There are several steps that are involved when it comes to tracking the results online campaigns. Here are some examples of the way many companies do it these days.
    1. Plan the campaign and how you want to track it.  As with anything that we do that is related to business, or all of life for that matter, it needs to start with a well thought-out plan. Once the marketing campaign is planned, decide which methods to use to track its effectiveness.
    1. Define the channels you want track. To measure the success of a campaign, divide marketing-derived online traffic channels, such as:
    • Direct – potential customers that find your business without being directed there by other parties. An example of this is a person that saw your web address on a print ad and typed it into their web browser to get information about your product or service.
    • Referral –potential customers that find their way to your site via a third party, but not a social media site or a search engine. Maybe your company will give the third party something like a referral bonus for this or you have an agreement to have links to each other’s sites on your individual websites.
    • Organic –people who find your company through search engine such as Google. They generally were looking for a type of product or service your company offers, but they were not specifically looking for your company.
    • E-mail –people that came to you through such things as an e-mail campaign that you conduct.
    • Paid – potential customers that come to you as a result of an ad campaign that you paid for such as a print ad in a newspaper or an ad on a web content site.
    • Social –people who found you while surfing through social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook (and dozens of others).
     
    1. Define the online measurements. Here are some measures that are relevant to marketing strategy.
    • SEO Position – For years, many businesses have been obsessed with site ranking but that is starting to change as search engines like Google are constantly changing the way searches are done when using them. But SEO position is still very important.
    • Pay-per-click ads – This is best done by what is known as ‘Dynamic Number Insertion’. It is a code that is imbedded into a webpage that will help you to track conversions from all of your tracking resources.
    • Measuring the Effectiveness of Your Social Media Marketing – All of the major social media sites have built-in analytics that helps you track the effectiveness of your posts and other messages that you put on them.
    Tools Here are some of the most popular tools that can help you track the effectiveness of online marketing campaigns. Google Analytics Kissmetrics Marketo RapidMiner   How to Track Offline Marketing Campaigns If you place ads in print magazines or newspapers, have a commercial on TV, pass out brochures or pamphlets, exhibit at conferences, have a billboard on the side of the road, or utilize vehicle wraps, then you may already be struggling with measuring your offline marketing results. Here are a few easy ways to track offline promotions.
    1. Phone call tracking -- Put different phone number on each campaign communication, and track incoming calls. Call tracking services allow you to determine which ad or campaign is driving phone traffic, and forward calls as necessary. Firming up this end of the process will help you stop losing leads due to response delays, and will enable you to be everywhere and still at work.
    1. Custom Landing Pages -- One of the best ways to track your offline promotions online is by using custom landing pages specifically created for your offline marketing campaigns. By creating custom landing pages, you can focus on the main goal of the ad and target it toward the audience type that would be coming from your offline marketing campaign.
    1. Redirect Domains -- Another way to track your offline promotions is by using domains specifically created to redirect visitors to custom landing pages on your main website. Make the domains memorable.
    1. Direct Traffic -- Measure direct traffic in Google Analytics, which shows the visitors who could not be traced to other online sources, such as search engines, social networks, or other referring websites. The downside to this approach is that your website is always receiving direct traffic from people who bookmark the site or maybe just type it directly into their browser’s address bar.
      The most important step is the first one.  Get started in your efforts to measure the success of your marketing and communications. The things we measure are the things we improve. It is only by clear tracking and collecting data that we have any idea if we are getting better or worse. Tracking can help us spend that time in better ways, more consistently.   __________________ Valcort 35 logo small
  • Influencing the influencers through communication

    Valcort’s 35 Keys to Business Growth: #20--“Have strong communication with people who can influence iStock_000080994891_Mediuma buyer’s decision, adiposity based on addressing a buyer’s most important needs.” Think about your last major purchase.  As a business owner, ampoule it may have been a piece of equipment or a building. As a home owner or a parent, page you may have just purchased a new set of patio furniture to prepare for summer, or a new bicycle for your 10-year-old. Whatever it may be, you did not make the purchase in an information vacuum. Even if you made a somewhat quick and seemingly impulsive decision, it is highly likely that your decision to buy and your choice of what to buy were both made on the basis of a long stream of communication. Whether or not you are aware of it, that stream of facts, impressions, stories and emotion influenced your decision. When you’re in the business of selling to customers, whether they are consumers or business-to-business, filling that communications stream is a key to growing your business. The goal is to “influence the influencers,” people who influence your customers’ decisions.  To do that, answer these questions:
    • Who influences your customers at the level of their most important needs?
    Understanding who influences your customers is part of any good marketing strategy. Consumers look for trustworthy individuals to educate them on a purchase. These influencers come in three general categories:
    1. Positional Influencers are the inner circle around a customer who directly impact purchasing decisions. Such as a family member or a trusted friend.
    1. Expert Influencers are authorities or subject experts in a specific niche or industry. People depend on them for information and advice, and they can have great influence on purchasing decisions.
    1. Vicinity Influencers are incidental connections, such as co-workers or neighbors who are in the right place, but may or may not be directly connected to the customer, and still have to earn trust.
    • How do you reach influencers with critical messages about your offering?
    After targeting the groups and individuals who are likely to influence your customers, determine how you are going to reach them with your communication and messages. Here are a few ideas:
    1. Watering holes of expert influencers
    If you're looking at establishing B2B influence, go where expert influencers go.  This might be an industry conference or trade show. Every industry has its own set of watering holes where you really need to be seen to merit mention.  Find the best way to establish a presence, from sponsoring a noticeable event to becoming a conference speaker.
    1. Crank up social media
    Social media changes every day, so you have to pay attention.  Here are a few tips for the top three social media for connecting with influencers:
    • Network on LinkedIn:
    LinkedIn is one of the most important social networks for getting noticed by influencers, especially if you’re marketing B2B. Here’s what you do:
    • Search for your chosen influencers using the search box.
    • Search for your keywords on LinkedIn to find influencers.
    • Send these people a LinkedIn connection request. Tell them how you know or know of them.
    • Follow their LinkedIn company page and then like and share their posts.
    • Join LinkedIn groups they belong to. You can reach out to people directly when you are members of the same group.
    • Engage on Facebook
    Facebook is a great social network for both B2B and B2C companies to build a following. It allows you to get in front of a targeted audience for your business. Tips:
    • Search Facebook for your influencer and keyword or phrase to find out who is important in your industry.
    • Like their personal profile and/or company page. If they like you back from their personal profile, message them with a call to action.
    • Like their content and then comment on and share their posts. Post a message to their page about how much you like what they have to say, but avoid being promotional. Also, consider giving them a positive review.
    • Join a Facebook group they belong to and engage with them.
    • Search for the pages they like and like those pages. Also, consider running a like advertising campaign where you target people who like them.
    • Interact on Twitter
    There a several online services to help you find influencers in your sector and build your community.  They all charge a fee for service, so you’ll have to make a commitment to this strategy.
    1. Build relations, as in relationships
    Hunt for the people that you can build a relationship with who will carry the message and credibility with them. There are a lot of ways to address this challenge, but building relationships always begins and ends with shared values, building trust, and delivering on your promises at every point of contact.
    1. The usual suspects
    Don’t totally lose the traditional. There is still an audience for traditional marketing, such as targeted print and digital advertising, trade show presence, well-placed articles in the right media outlet, and direct mail.  As one marketing leader writes here, companies are still using traditional methods and channels for several reasons, but the most important reason is that they still work.   Regardless of the mix of tactics you choose, it’s hard work to create a communications process that will reach influencers.  But it can be one of the most important tools for growing your business. _______________________ Valcort 35 logo
  • Reaching the people most important to your business

    The easy part of marketing is to state a crisp, hospital sensible plan for success: Whether we have a product that williStock_000063044479_XXXLarge be of interest to 10 or 10-million people, the most important task we have is to identify who those people are and how we can reach them with an effective message in the right context. The difficult part is answering each component question of that formula.  Let’s take a look at these questions. 1.  Who are these people? Identify the potential customer groups broadly, then methodically narrow to the different targets who are most likely to respond and most likely to use your product or service. Recognize that each group is likely to have slightly different characteristics, including the benefits we will provide and the way they engage us as a supplier. Our goal is to find ways to identify who these people are so that we speak to them directly. This might sound pretty obvious, but too often we assume that what we offer the world has universal appeal and that our audience is “everybody!” As much as we would all like to believe that, it is really never true and that notion can keep us from reaching the right people.
    • Characterize: We want to identify the factors that can be used to create a better connection between customers’ potential needs and what we offer. For starters, are there some demographic points that you can used--such as age, gender or geography--to begin to refine who the best recipients are for our products? How about criteria that matches a prospect’s beliefs, opinions, attitudes or intentions with your marketing message?
    • Cull: Next, eliminate the people for whom an offer won't be relevant or important. With these people out of the mix, we can now focus our marketing messages to reach the remaining people who are most apt to be interested and willing to take some sort of action when they come in contact with our marketing message.
    2. How will we communicate with them? What’s the best way to reach your target audience?
    • Identify the best channels to use to communicate with these people. There isn’t one right answer on the best channels we should use reach a target audience. For example, a local business looking for a local audience isn’t going to need to run a nationwide online search campaign to reach its target audience. Instead, it might rely on an ad in a local directory or even a small local newspaper to get best results.
    • Start by thinking about how our target audience gets information. What channels do they use? Television? Radio? Newspapers? Webpages? Online search campaigns? We want to make sure that when our target consumers are learning about the world around them that our messages are part of that information stream.
    3. What’s the most effective message? We need to figure out how we can fan sparks of interest into a flame, a lasting supplier-customer relationship.
    • Focus on solutions: Customers are looking for solutions. And the best solutions address pain points and frustrations.
    • Have a crystal-clear message: Write so you can’t possibly be misunderstood. Graphics can get attention, but don't let them overwhelm your marketing to the point where your message isn't being communicated clearly.
    • What's in it for the customer?: Standing out from the marketing clutter will always be a marketer's challenge. Starting with fundamentals will help us break through. A great example -- Holiday Inn Express advertised that their motels had the "number-one customer-rated showerhead." Holiday Inn discovered through consumer research that good showerheads were important to their target market, so they communicated that message directly to them. We can listen and read all about the features of a Holiday Inn Express, but hearing about the number-one customer-rated showerhead speaks to something all visitors want. What's in it for them? A superior shower.
    4. Do these people want to do business with us? How do our prospects make decisions—positive and negative? People make choices that are consistent with their values.  While we certainly want to promote our brands and services in a positive light, we also need to be willing to identify with our customers. While it is helpful to look at our brand through the eyes of our customers and the filters they bring to the relationship, perhaps the biggest mistake we make is seeing these people as drastically different than we are.  Frankly, we’re not that different.  We all make decisions about a product, a service and who you’re going to do business with essentially the same way. We make choices on the basis of our values. We will connect most easily with others with whom we share values, because this builds trust.  And trust is the essential  currency of commerce. When people trust us, they can listen to our messages about our brand and about the benefits our product and services.   ____________________ Valcort 35 logo smallThe Valcort 35 Keys to Business Growth. Over many years and hundreds of client relationships and strategic marketing opportunities, we have established the Valcort 35 Keys to Business Growth, best practices that build trust, align values with products and practices, and create organic growth. We are exploring these 35 practices, one at a time, on these pages. Find them all, as they’re introduced, here.

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