Situation: A CEO wants to increase brand awareness for her company and its primary service. The objective is to increase the client base and drive revenue growth. They have identified their primary growth opportunity and differentiating advantage. What else should they do? How do you increase brand awareness?
Advice from the CEOs:
What is lacking is a clear vision, path, and marketing plan. These are prerequisites to deciding either the solution or hiring a high caliber individual to execute the plan.
What steps are involved?
Survey 20% of current clients. Ask “why did you choose us?”
Develop the tools to track and show clients service performance online.
Use these same tools to show company performance online.
Tune messaging to potential clients to highlight demonstrated service performance.
Play elite – as the company’s name and reputation grow, clients should aspire to being accepted as clients.
What is unique about the company’s ability to manage and extend the longevity of clients’ key assets?
How well prepared are potential clients to manage this on their own?
How does the company help potential clients to manage and extend the life of those assets?
Once there is a clear plan, fine-tune the internal focus of the company to align with the plan.
Increase involvement in communities where potential clients are found.
Host seminars and webinars on relevant topics.
Evening seminars in locations that potential customers congregate – existing clients attend and bring a friend.
Focus on referrals from existing clients – with a reward – a free consultation.
Look for non-competing service providers who can be good referral sources.
Make it easy for potential clients to switch. Use mass-marketing to spread the word with a multi-tiered approach to different segments of the target market.
Situation: A company has established market leadership in an emerging market. When you innovate in a niche, focusing on early adopters, eventually you run out of early adopters. The challenge is broadening the appeal to a larger mainstream customer base. How do you cross the chasm from early adopter to mainstream?
The challenge is both messaging and cultural.
In messaging, you must support the new norm. This means convincing the customer that if they are not with you, they’re being left behind. You need to demonstrate that your established, proven solution is the new norm.
The cultural challenge is maintaining a culture of innovation and attracting the right talent while becoming a mainstream company. An attraction to new talent is that you are cutting edge – changing the world. This aura is critical to a start-up. You must maintain this innovative culture as you become the market leader.
How do you overcome these challenges?
Finding people who’ve been there and done that increases the odds in your favor. We hired a marketer who had helped take SuccessFactors through the same transition.
Hire for excitement, energy and enthusiasm. Quickly remove new hires that turn out not to fit.
Maintain a freedom to fail atmosphere. You need people who will take risks, but who will also step back and quickly change direction when the risk isn’t productive.
Decision-making speed is a great advantage of small companies.
Create an organization that celebrates innovation.
We have “Hack Days” when employees are free to work on projects of their choice. A new product that brings business audience targeting to social media came from a Hack Day project.
Keep everyone informed. We have company-wide daily stand-ups. Individual updates are quick – 30-45 seconds. This fosters open communication and awareness, and surfaces issues before they become problems.
Weekly, we send out full disclosure emails including key financial metrics, successes and failures.
Monthly we have executive-only stand-ups. These are longer, but updates are quick and focus on progress to goals, as well as next month’s goals.
Situation: A mid-sized Company is more than three decades old. The challenges are modernizing operations and updating company culture to keep pace with customer expectations. They also need to diversify into new growth markets. Can they change the culture of the company without losing key people?
Let people know that you value them. Consistently express your appreciation for what they do for the company, and don’t blame them for not being perfect. For them to be willing to grow as company culture changes, they need to feel safe – to understand that a change in culture does not mean the loss of their job.
Give employees consistent face time. Ask questions and seek their solutions instead of proposing your own. Involve them through collaboration. Tolerate the fact that their solutions won’t be exactly like yours.
Pick your battles. Select what you want to change and conserve your emotional capital. Think about what’s important and what’s not before you intervene. Let minor issues slide as long as they don’t impair schedules or performance.
Maintain an open door to all levels of the company. However, when an employee comes in with an issue or complaint, defer judgment to their manager. Never undercut your managers.
Your most important strengths will be patience and understanding. Stay mindful that change can be threatening, particularly if employees find it hard to see the big picture. Keep your themes and messages simple and repeat them as often as necessary to keep everyone focused.
Situation: IBM and others established the value of preaching FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) within their marketing campaigns – “choose IBM, the brand that you can depend on, because who knows what others will actually deliver.” Is it still worthwhile to use FUD, or are we better off emphasizing the positive benefits of our services and keeping our image positive?
Advice from the CEOs:
When considering whether it is better to sell the time that your system or product is “up” or the time that it is “not down,” you need to understand your customer’s perspective.
If they are cautious and skeptical, then FUD may work. If they are positive and upbeat, then they will more likely respond to a positive, upbeat message.
Match your marketing message to the attitude of the key decision makers within your customer companies. Learn their hot buttons during ambassadorial visits.
Companies sometimes use FUD when they sell “the future.”
Being “in”: if you haven’t got our product/service you won’t be with it!
Insurance companies sell protection from the unknown.
Mix the message. Sell the positives, with an appreciation of the cost of the negatives to reinforce the positives.
Be the “Mr. Goodwrench” of your marketplace. Educate and reinforce.
Consider positive health care analogies in your marketing:
Rapid Response – mimic messages from urgent care.
The value of maintenance programs – mimic messages from wellness programs.
Develop metrics to substantiate what your customers are hearing from your message.