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8 Secrets To Boost Your Brand -- And Your Sales
As children, we learned the adage, �It�s what�s on the inside that counts.� While that theory teaches a valuable lesson to youngsters, it doesn�t tell the whole story. As far as your business goes, there�s something else that matters just as much as your service or the quality of your product. It�s your image: how customers view your company.
Look at a few of today�s top corporations: Starbucks, Nordstrom and GE. Companies with stellar images illustrate that it�s not enough to be the best. Your customers must also see you as the best. Before buying from you, clients must view your company as one that:
� Understands their problem or need
� Is competent to help them
� Speaks their language
� Deserves to be trusted
You may fit that mold, but do your customers think so? If not, it doesn�t matter what the truth is. That�s because, to reach your potential, clients must hold the same opinion of your company that you do. But here�s the good news � you can significantly improve your image in 8 simple steps:
1. Assess your current image. You may also use the terms �brand� or �reputation.� In any case, compare how customers see you right now with how you want them to see you. Find out their honest opinions by conducting a survey or asking clients directly.
2. Put yourself in your customers� shoes. What do your clients really need or want, and how can you give it to them?
3. Speak your clients� language.
� In today�s world, you must stand out � or you won�t get noticed. The average person is exposed to 300 to 5,000 marketing messages per day. You have less than 3 seconds to catch their attention. Take yourself as an example: How many direct mail pieces do you actually open? How many newspaper articles do you read from beginning to end? People pay attention to what interests them, so make yourself interesting.
� Get rid of acronyms and jargon unless you know your audience understands them. Just because you comprehend it doesn�t mean they will.
� Talk in terms of problem/solution. Remind customers of their problem or need. Then show how your company is the solution.
4. Toot your horn loudly! Go ahead, it�s okay to brag. Tell customers about awards you won, notable accomplishments and testimonials from satisfied clients. Let them know about promotional offers, and give them advice in your field of expertise. Constantly communicate what sets your company apart. The more good your customers hear, the quicker they will forgive a rare bad experience.
5. Tell them until you�re blue in the face. It�s a hard truth � you are usually more interested in what you have to say than your customers are. Most clients won�t read, hear or understand your message the first time around. So emphasize your main points on multiple occasions. As a rule of thumb, if you�re tired of your message, it�s probably just starting to sink in with your customers!
6. Be consistent.
� Confirm facts. (You would be surprised how many people skip this step.)
� Use spell-checker, but don�t depend on it! Or you may end up with sentences like these (taken from actual communications):
o �Our massage treatments help relive your pain.�
o �I know judo, karate, jujitsu and other forms of marital arts.�
o �We proudly feature some-day shipping.�
o Typos can cause customers to question your credibility, so proof your materials carefully.
� Make sure the image your clients see in one vehicle (e.g., your Web site) coincides with what they see in another (e.g., direct mail). Notice the font, logo and colors. Most collateral should keep the same general look-and-feel.
� Remember, a beautiful home is not built in a day, and neither is your image. You must invest years of hard work to develop an admirable brand, so keep it up.
7. Give your customers a reason to interact. Communication is a two-way street, and clients who feel involved are more likely to be loyal.
� Reality TV typifies this concept. Have you (or your teenager) ever posted a comment on a TV show message board? You would be amazed at how invested viewers become in a weekly reality program. And interactive tools only enhance that loyalty.
� Another example: Many e-commerce Web sites now offer customer reviews.
� How could you incorporate interaction into your communications? Perhaps you should answer a �question of the month� on your Web site, or include a coupon with your direct mail piece. Use your imagination, and add �customer-to-company� communication to your plan.
8. Live up to your promises. Image is (almost) everything, but your service still matters. Don�t get so caught up in promoting what a remarkable company you are that you stop doing what made you that way.
Remember, your brand will make or break you. The opinions of your customers can mean the difference between failure and topping your revenue targets. Which will you choose? If you implement the steps shown here � while still offering your clients impeccable products and service � nothing can stop you. You�ll have customers for life!
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