Branding Beyond Logo

National LogosEarlier this week, adweek released it’s list of Best-Perceived Brands of 2013.  According to the website, the list (which included national brands like Amazon, Ford and V8)  is created by asking people if they’ve heard anything negative or positive about the brand.

While looking at these logos, I noticed a few had a level a business model that included a level of customer service.  Two particular examples are Lowe’s and Walgreens.  Both companies are traditional brick and mortar businesses that sell products to people and hire a staff that must provide customer service.

This line of logic is a strong reminder that “Branding” goes beyond just a logo and successful branding is more than a pretty logo and eye catching commercials.

In order for a successful service-based brand to succeed, a business must focus on the staff it has.  A business can have a strong brand if it provides the team with product knowledge, customer service skills and company culture.

Product Knowledge

Homer dohEver walk into a store, ask a cashier about a certain product and get an answer similar to this:

I don’t know.  I just work here.

Drives you crazy, right?

Or have you ever been to a restaurant, asked the waiter about something on the menu and get the answer:

I don’t know.  I’ve never tried the salmon.

Drives you crazy, right?

It is impossible to train your staff to know every question that a customer can ask, but you can at least equip them with enough knowledge to know the basics.

  • Know What You Have: Educate your staff on your products and/or services.  If you’re a restaurant owner, make sure your staff tastes all your food.  If you own a pharmacy, make sure your staff knows the layout of the store and where products are located.
  • Create Study Notes: Be sure that your products and/or services are listed somewhere in writing so your staff can access it in case they need help.  For example, the bank I work at provides a list of services on our Internal website, our external website and printed brochures.

By providing the right training to your staff, you not only prepare them to answer customer questions, you are strengthening your brand and building a strong foundation for repeat business.

Customer Service Skills

jerry_brown_crossed-armsIn addition to product knowledge, your staff also needs to know how to communicate to people.  If you have a knowledgeable team member, but they are a complete jerk to people, odds are you will not have repeat customers and your brand will be tarnished.

  • Soft skills: The last thing you want is to make your customers think they are not welcomed at your place of business.  Make sure your staff understands the importance of making people feel welcomed.  Making eye contact with people and smiling are just two easy examples of soft skills.
  • Courtesy: Simple acts like saying, “Thank you” and “My pleasure” go a long way in service.  Think of the last time you had a positive interaction with a customer service rep, and I bet you the customer service rep used at least one of those two phrases.

These two steps may sound like common sense to you, but not all people are wired the same way and may need some guidance.  By making sure your team has a great set of customer service skills, it will add value to your brand, which will have a positive effect on your company’s success.

Know the Culture

toy robotBe sure your staff understands your company culture.  I’m not suggesting you create a group of robots who say and do everything the same way.  Instead think about a band; everyone is performing the same song, but they have individual parts that make the song complete.

  • Purpose: Be sure your staff knows the purpose of your company.  Some organizations call this their Mission Statement; while others may call is a Company Vision, but whatever you call it, make sure your team knows it and understands why it is important.
  • Goals: Set goals around the purpose of your company and make sure the goals will lead to your company’s success.  This will allow buy in from your staff and they will know they are part of the bigger picture.

Creating a strong culture that focuses on the success of it’s customers and staff will translate to strong profits for a company and lead to a strong brand.

All of these steps sound easy, but they are not.  If they were easy, there would be an infinite number of successful brands.

What brands do you like and why?  Have you ever had a bad experience with a company that has made you stop using a brand?


Direct Mail: SMH

confusedA coworker recently gave me a copy of what a competitor sent his spouse in the mail.  To say the least, we had a good laugh after looking at the business card and the four pages of inconsistent sales pitches.

Beyond the laughter, it did get me thinking about direct mail marketing.

What is successful direct mail marketing?

Yes, there is a level of target marketing that goes with it, but when you move past creating a mailing list, what can be done to improve the message?


TargetsBe consistent not just with your message, but how the overall presentation looks.  For example, a four page direct mail piece should be printed on the same printer instead of having two of the four pages were printed in color, while the other two pages, which should be printed in full color, are printed on a black and white printer.

Here are other points to consider in consistency.

  • Branding: It may sound silly, but if a direct mail piece doesn’t look and feel like it came from your company, then you need to go back to the drawing board. The before mentioned direct mail piece had 2 distinctly different bank logos for the same bank.  Two logos!
  • One Messenger: The competitor’s letter had a business card from a sales rep, an introductory letter from a Vice President and an additional sales letter from an Executive Vice President.  Why not create one piece that contains one contact person?  That way there is one point person who can help measure the success of the mail campaign.


RelevanceIf you have done all the work narrowing down a target market for your direct mail, you should make sure sure the mail piece is relevant to your target market.

Signatures Count

When you are sending a letter as a direct mail piece, the signature is an important part of the letter.  A proper signature ends the letter on a good note and adds a level of humanity to the advertisement.

  • Lose the Top Executives: Unless your CEO or top executives lives in the community, chances are people don’t care if they sign a direct mail piece.  Forget the CEO and executives and use your local senior staff member.  That way people can relate to them and put a face to the name and, more importantly, to the business.
  • Real Signature: A low quality digital copy of a signature doesn’t cut it anymore.  It looks cheap and gives the wrong impression.  If your direct mail piece is a formal letter, then it needs to include a real signature. It’s proof that you took the time to at least sign it and shows a good attention to detail.

Clear Call to Action

A direct mail piece should grab the readers attention quickly and have a call to action that is easy to understand.

  • Simplify the Message: If it takes more than two pages to explain your message, then there’s a problem.  Keep it simple and quickly explain the message.
  • Spell out the Call to Action: A direct mail piece should not only sale a product or service, but also needs to let the reader know how to purchase the product or service.  Clearly state who to contact and how to contact them.

In closing, remember, a little extra planning and proper execution can go a long way.

Have you ever received a direct mail piece you really liked? What did you like about it?

Marketing Recipe

chili ingredientsFor the past few months, I have been soaking up different types of chili.

It started on Sunday November 3rd, when my son Max and I attended our first chili cook off together to help support Second Harvest Food Bank.  The fun continued in December when my wife Jennifer and I all attended a chili cook off in Lenoir City.  During New Year’s Eve, my friend Joel (a.k.a. Home Cookin’ Hunter) served up some venison chili cheese dip.  And with the cold weather we have been experiencing, I’ve been cooking some of my own chili.

All this chili got me thinking how marketing and chili are very similar.

An effective marketing strategy is not a one shot deal; rather an effective marketing strategy is the efforts of several actions focused on one goal.  Just like a good chili isn’t just one ingredient, but several ingredients.

Know who you’re cooking for (Target Audience)

Fire ChiliI have a friend that always makes really spicy chili; no matter what.  It’s so hot I worry when he has children that their taste buds will be scorched beyond repair.

In marketing, it’s no different.  If you want to attract a certain audience, be sure to sale to that certain audience.

The Office Manager Incident

In 2007, the bank I worked for launched a new Remote Deposit Capture (RDC) service.  This service allows business to deposit checks at work by using a scanner.  After doing our research we created a target market based on different local business owners in a variety of industries.  To market and sell the service, I would conduct a joint call with the bank’s commercial lenders and, before the call, would confirm with the commercial lender that we would be speaking with the business owner.  Since the business owner was THE decision maker, it only made sense to meet with them and discuss the benefits of the service.

One afternoon, I went on a sales call with a commercial lender who waited until we reached our destination to inform me that the office manager, not the business owner, would be meeting with us.  The commercial lender pointed out it was too late to reschedule and that it, “didn’t make that much of a difference.”

After presenting the service to the office manager, she said she would not recommend this to the business owner because it would reduce the time she would be out of the office.  In other words, it wouldn’t justify her two and a half hour paid lunch.

So know who you’re cooking for, or you both may end up getting scorched.

Know Your Ingredients (Marketing Channels)

spicy pepperBefore adding too much spice to a chili, be sure to know the effect it will have.  Some peppers have spice that will hit you up front, while other peppers have a back end heat.  I learned this the hard way with my very first batch of chili.

When marketing to your customers, make sure you use the right tools to reach them.

The Health Savings Account Issue

In 2005, the bank I worked for put together a team to create a Health Savings Account (H.S.A.) product.  It made since because the bank also had an insurance agency and we could create a referral system between the bank and the insurance agency.  While putting together our advertising campaign, a Senior VP and our ad agency decided it would be “fun” to create promotional buttons that our tellers would wear that said, “Ask me about H.S.A.”  When I questioned them about it, I was out voted and told not to worry because it would bring in a lot of referrals.

Did it bring in a lot of referrals?  No.

Why?  Because an H.S.A. is a specialized product that can only be used if you have a High Deductible Healthcare Plan (HDHP).  During that time, the majority of people did not have an HDHP Insurance plan.  The bank wasted money we could have used somewhere else.

So know what ingredients you use, or you may end up getting scorched.

Have you created a great chili or marketing campaign you’re willing to share?

On a side note, check out the Home Cookin’ Hunter on facebook.

New Customers vs Top Customers

While walking into the gym the other day, I noticed a new advertisement:

Join Us New CustomerGyms are notorious for offering crazy discounts for new customers, especially during January.  Truth is, they are not the only industry guilty of this.  Shoot, I’m in banking, which is also an industry known for giving things away to new customers.  When I first started in banking, people kept asking me when we will be giving away free toasters.

But instead of wasting time, money and other resources on non-customers, why not focus on your customers? If something is in it for your current customer, then they will do most of the marketing for you.  For example, if my gym offered a rewards or referral campaign, then I would most likely refer people.  Why?  Because at that point, there is something in it for me.  That may sound selfish, but it’s human nature.

When you build a campaign around your current customers, it can also benefit your business. How?  Think about the tools you use for marketing.

  • Direct Mail: Believe it or not, direct mail is still out there.  Think of the list time you purchased a mailing list.  If you already have a customer data base, that’s money you are already saving.
  • Email Marketing: Creating an opt-in marketing list is a great way to make sure you stay in contact with your customers.  The best part is, you can get the email at the beginning of the relationship when you are collecting the rest of the customer’s information.
  • Branding: Not necessary a physical tool, but it takes time to build a brand.  Your current customers have already established a connection to your brand, so you can cut back on the “Honeymoon” phase (along with the Honeymoon cost).

So when creating a campaign start by focusing on your customers.  Here is a quick way to remember to keep your customers in focus.  It’s easy as A-B-C and 1-2-3.

abcLearn your ABCs

Segment your customers into three groups: A, B, and C

  • A Customers: These are your top customers.  They’re your most profitable customers, they bring you all their business and refer their friends.
  • B Customers: A list that consist of customers who are just barely outside the “A” bubble.  They may refer you customers, but you may not have all their business.
  • C Customers: People who take up all your time, complainers who cost your company money, etc.  You know who I’m talking about…

123Create your 123s

Create a three point plan for each group, or at the very least, for your A Customers. Here’s a quick 123 example using the A Customer list.

  1. Find out what your A customers think about you and promote it throughout your company.
  2. Get the A customers to recommend you.
  3. Reward your A customers.

From there, you build action plans and marketing campaigns based on each number.

So when creating a campaign, ask yourself: What’s in it for your current customer?  If you have a clear answer, then you are going in the right direction.  If your answer is lacking clarity, then you may want to go back to your A-B-Cs and 1-2-3s.

By the way don’t get me wrong, I’m not upset with my gym as a customer; I’m upset with them as a marketer 🙂

What experience have you had with businesses who offer special incentives for new customers?  If you are the new customer, do you stay around after the special incentive ends or do you switch companies?

What if you are already an established customer with a business and you see they are advertising a special for new customers; does it bother you?  Do you stay with the company or do you take your business elsewhere?

Company Culture: What’s Your Game Plan

Do you know your company’s culture?  Is it a game plan for success?

Vince-Lombardi-Teaches-St-007If the answer to your first question is “Our company doesn’t have a culture,” then consider this: whether company does or doesn’t have an organized culture, there is a company culture.  That type of culture has a staff that does to work everyday and “wings it.”

A football team doesn’t just go onto a field and “wing it,” they come up with a game plan.  Successful teams create a strategy to win time and time again.  The strategy is based around an overall culture.  Should businesses be any different?

Vince Lombardi, one of the most successful NFL coaches, had a quote that summed up the culture he built with the Packers.

Build for your team a feeling of oneness, of dependence upon one another and of strength to be derived by unity.

A company’s culture should focus on growing business while fostering a positive and motivating work environment for the staff.

Drawing Up Plays

game-planOnce a company decides what its culture should be, it needs to create a game plan that supports the culture.  A game plan can consist of different components ranging from vision/mission statements, company values, and action plans (both short-term and long-term).

Football is no different, once a culture is decided, a team creates plays that mesh with the culture.

Playing Offense: Sales and Service

In football, you got to score points to win games.  In business, you got to close sales and keep customers to stay alive.

A strong offense requires a football team to establish a strong running game.  When a team has a successful running game, it opens up passing plays and allows an offense to run on all cylinders.

How does this translate to business?  Think of the running game and passing game as sales and customer service.

  • If customer service is lacking, then the moment a your company earns a new customer by closing a sales deal, the customer will be lost due to poor service.
  • If your company gives great customer service, but never ask for new business, then your company cannot grow and be profitable.

Successful companies know that customer service and sales goes hand in hand.  Since all businesses and people are created differently, you first need to know what your customer base looks for in great customer service.  Once you find that out, you can draw up strategies focused around that and tie it back in to your company culture.

Playing Defense: Operational Support

Depending on the size of your company, there may be certain members of the staff that doesn’t interact with customers on a regular basis.  In a way this section of you company are your defensive players.

  • Accounting Department: Watching what the company purchases while making sure the company is in the black instead of in the red.
  • I.T. Department: Protecting the company from viruses and providing strong computer networking infrastructures.
  • Human Resources: Making sure your staff is properly prepared to provide customer service.

Though these departments don’t interact with customers directly, it is important that they understand the company’s culture and more importantly how their departments contribute to growth of the company.

Motivating Your Team

Lombardi with TeamCoach Lombardi was a strategist, but also understood the importance of motivation.

Coaches who can outline plays on a black board are a dime a dozen. The ones who win get inside their player and motivate.

Your company can have the best products and services in your industry, but if you do not have a motivated staff, your company is worthless.  Motivating a team takes communication and accountability.


In order to motivate your team, you have to communicate with them.  Communication isn’t just telling them what their goals are and waiting for them to come to you.  It takes a little more than that.

  • What motivates your team? Find out what motivates your staff.  In order to do this, you have to open up and listen to them.
  • Set goals.  Set appropriate goals that align with your company’s culture and reward your staff based on their motivation factors.

Once you have established these two points, you can then continue motivating by creating an environment based on accountability.


Holding a team accountable doesn’t mean only meeting with them when they fail.  An organization that excels in accountability provides a team with information on how to achieve, praises an individual or team when they succeed and coaches someone when they fall short.

  • Praise: Publicly acknowledging a job well done by tying it into the company’s culture and the individual’s motivational preference.
  • Coaching: Private session on how an event or project went, what went well and what could be improved.  The goal of this is to correct an issues may hurt future future performance.

When you are searching for ways to motivate and creating an environment of accountability, you have to walk a fine line.  For example, you cannot come across as a micro-manager to someone who does performs better with little supervision.  This creates a workplace that demotivates and possible leads to good people leaving your organization.

By combining effective communication with an accountability environment, you create a team that is empowered and capable of great performance.

Do you have a game wining company culture?  How do you provide great service to your customers while motivating your staff?

Where Have You Been?

Question MarksOn New Year’s Day, while attending an annual brunch hosted by my good friend Dave May, another good friend, Dave Lewis, made the comment, “Are you still blogging?  I haven’t seen any recent post.”

While explaining to Dave why I haven’t been blogging two things came to mind:

  1. Since moving to Knoxville over 5 years ago, I have came to know several people named Dave/David.
  2. Has it been that long since writing a post?

It’s true, there hasn’t been any writing lately.   There are a few new post that will go live in the days to come, but instead of just jumping back in the route like an automated program, I thought addressing the absence of writing would be a good start.  Which got me thinking: what have I been doing?

  • Keeping up with Max
  • Spending time with Jennifer
  • Running from time to time
  • Work
  • Reading
  • Light traveling
  • Watching football
  • Lots of playing Madden on the Xbox

I’m not saying life got in the way of blogging, it’s just blogging wasn’t a priority.  I had choices and blogging wasn’t one of them.  There are two activities that could have been reduced to make time for blogging, and if you don’t know which two I’m talking about, maybe you should take a look at your own activities.

For now, I’m writing again and the goal is to find enough balance so that I don’t have to write a quick post about an absence.

So for those few (very, very few) readers out there…

Im back Frank Costanza

It’s 2014 and time to start anew.  Sorry for the absence.  Hopefully I’ll be able to produce material that’s enjoyable and informative.

What have you been absent from lately?  Was it worth it or do you miss it?

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