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Developing a Local Brand – 1 September 30, 2008

Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, Local Brand Development, Marketing Buzz.
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If you want to find a local business that has found the gold that lies in branding a business effectively, just look around you.  Do you know of a business that has been around for a long time and is still very successful?  I’ll bet you do.  It could be your local deli or maybe a local tailor who’s been around for what seems like forever.  Local businesses with a strong brand appeal are businesses who have seen all kinds of economic conditions and still keep going.  The people who build these kinds of strong local brands have the ability to keep their eye on the branding ball.

The Big Dogz have long understood that building a lasting business requires laying a foundation of branding the endures because it endears customers to their products and/or services.

What are they doing that most businesses are not?  Here are a few of my observations:

  • They pay attention to the details.  They take no customer for granted and extend themselves to the point that customers instantly recognize the value they get from purchasing their products or services.  They not only know your name but they learn more about your likes and dislikes over time.  If they make a mistake, they attend to it immediately and make the customer whole or better.  They are not in the transaction business; they are in the relationship business.
  • They provide an ‘buying experience’ that is well-above the norm.  People don’t just go there to shop, they go there with the intent to ‘live’ through the experience of shopping.  Have you ever been to Stew Leonards?  Grocery shopping there is an ‘experience’ that reinforces their local brand.  Started in 1969, it has revenues over $300mm with just four stores!  Most importantly, they have done exceedingly well despite the growth of mega-grocery stores and severe competition from national chains.  Why?  Because customers value the ‘experience’ that Stew Leonard provides them each time they come.  It’s a local brand that stands for more than just a place to buy groceries.  Oh, and they aren’t the cheapest place in town either but they continue to thrive just the same.  Want to learn more about Stew Leonards?  Go to www.stewleonards.com

Local brand development is another way to create lasting market differentiation and beat your competition into the ground.  Stay tuned for more on local brand development!

Performance feedback September 22, 2008

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Coaching, Diagnosing performance problems, Fixing performance problems, Management, Performance issues.
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p5130012.jpg Most of us are familiar with the adage, practice makes perfect. And, most of us would be wrong! The Big Dogz know that it is feedback that makes perfect and that practice makes permanent. There are two types of feedback that you provide to an employee. The first of these is behavior feedback — that is how an employee is behaving. You generally do not give behavior feedback unless the behavior is affecting an employee’s performance or the performance of others. If the behavior is not affecting performance, you may consider asking permission to give behavior feedback. It is like giving someone advice.

 

The most common type of feedback you give an employee is performance feedback. Not only do you not have to ask permission to give this type of feedback, it is your responsibility and obligation to provide this feedback. Here are a few fundamental principles about performance feedback:

 

  1. Feedback is always linked to an objective. It is about a specific result you have asked the employee to achieve.
  2. Frequency of feedback is dependent upon the performance level of the employee. When performance is low, feedback is more frequent.
  3. Feedback is most effective when it is balanced. This does not mean you give them the classic “feedback sandwich” — something good, something negative and something good. Most employees know that traditional management training recommends this approach — and they flinch when the manager gives them positive feedback because they know the “but” is coming. By balanced, I mean give positive feedback as often, if not more often, than you give corrective feedback.
  4. Timeliness of feedback has a direct correlation to the motivational value and the learning associated with the feedback. The closer you provide feedback to the actual result, the more effective that feedback is.
  5. Effective feedback is consistent. That means when you give feedback, you follow a repeatable process and your employees know what to expect. In fact, after a few iterations through your feedback process, they will be able to do it themselves. Here is such a process:

 

         State the objective and get the employee to agree that is their objective.

         Ask for their observation on how they are doing

         Give your observation of specific data related to the objective

         If this is corrective feedback, ask, “What are you going to do?” Stay away from “What can we do?”  You want them to own the action plan

         If the feedback is positive, then pursue how you could leverage this accomplishment for more visibility or opportunity for the employee.

         What help do you need from me

         Offer suggestions on how they can accomplish the objective

         Get them to summarize the action plan

         Set follow up meeting to discuss progress — to give them more feedback

         Ask them if there is anything else you they to know

         Encourage them

 

The Big Dogz know that by following this or a customized process like this one, your feedback skills will grow and you can help your employees become “perfect”.

 

Using the Inc. 500 for Strategic Advantage – 2 September 19, 2008

Posted by David Dirks in business strategy.
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I want to start a business and want to use some of the best models in my industry.  Where can I find them? 

Answer:  The Inc. 500.  Find the industry listing and carefully review each company listed.  Questions to ask yourself for each company you review:

  • What is it about these companies that makes them qualify for the Inc. 500?  What are they excelling at that allows them to create opportunities to grow profitably?
  • What are the major trends that show up as you review all the companies in the category?  What are the key drivers of the industry based on what you see in the Inc. 500 list?
  • Is the growth organic (growth based on internal investment in the business) or synthetic growth (growth built on acquisitions)?
  • What is their story?  How did they grow?  How long have they been in business?  If they have a website, you can usually find their ‘story’ on the ‘About Us’ page.
  • How have they positioned their company brand?  What is the image they want their customers to use when they think of them for products and/or services?
  • What business concepts can I adapt to in my area?  Is anyone else in my geographic area offering these kinds of products and/or services?  If not, why not? 
  • What has been the trend in their latest news or press releases? 
  • What can you find out about them by Googling their name?  This includes each of the officers of the corporation.
  • Do they have a blog?  What are they saying on their blog?  What are others (i.e. customers, etc.) saying on their blogs?  Blogs can be a key way to get a read on the latest issues that a company is concerned about and/or dealing with.  It’s also a great way to see how people outside of the company interact and the types of dialogue that develop in a company blog.
  • How do they utilize their website?  Sales? Product info?  Industry-orientied content?  Do they keep it up-to-date? What are they emphazising on their homepage? 

If you’re considering going out on your own, the Inc. 500 listing is a great way to garner some valuable and usable insights.  This kind of ranking process offers those who are willing to invest some time a strategic way to determine what kinds of businesses might be on the short list of consideration. 

Have an opinion on this?  Please feel free to respond to this blog!  Or, if you treasure privacy, feel free to email me directly at dirksmarketing@gmail.com

Leading globally September 14, 2008

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, business strategy, Management, Team basics.
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p5130012.jpg Having problems leading a global team, or even a remote team in your own country? The Big Dogz know about leading global teams. Everything you know about leading teams that are co-located with you applies to global teams as well. All those things you do to create a vision that excites, objectives that are SMARTER,  an environment where people can choose to be motivated and a high performing team that achieves extraordinary results. Yes, all those things are also done with global teams.

 

The Big Dogz know that special attention must be paid to four specific areas to effectively lead a global team. These four areas are:

  1. Time
  2. Patience
  3. Technology
  4. Culture

 

Time is probably the most important aspect of leading a global team. As the leader, you must be aware of the time zone differences and specifically what time of day is it for your team members. Some folks are more productive in the morning, some in the afternoon and some in the evening. Asking your team to perform extraordinary results outside their prime time can result in underachievement. Another element of the time aspect is that it will naturally take longer to accomplish the same thing remotely as it does to accomplish that thing locally. Too many leaders fall into the trap of “I can do that announcement in a 10 minutes meeting here, it will take me 10 minutes on a global conference call — this is a recipe for disaster!

 

Since everything takes longer in global teams, the leader must have more patience. It is fine to ask for the same type of results in the same time period as local teams produce, but you will be frustrated and your team will think less of you. In other words, you will lose personal power! Expect the best, but do not show your frustration when you can not achieve your goals in the same time period. How do you demonstrate patience? If you are asking this question, you are not demonstrating patience. Be more relaxed with your global team and develop repeatable processes that will accelerate the results you expect. The first time you ask your global team to accomplish a result, they will try hard, but it will likely take more time and resource that you estimated. Learn from your interactions and set realistic expectations.

 

Global leadership is impossible without technology. Be aware of the latest in technology, especially video technology. Having meetings using a service like Live Meeting or Webex does wonders for getting clear understanding. Using webcams is becoming more prevalent for having face to face meeting across the globe. The effective use of voice mail, e-mail and team websites can make a huge difference in the effectiveness of the global team. The key is to match the technology to the communications. Use voice mail and email for the transmission of facts or announcements. Conference calls with Live Meeting for team problem solving is an effective technology selection. For sensitive face to face situations, use video conferencing or webcams.

 

Not everyone is like me is a principle that applies to the global situation. Wherever you are in the world, there is a culture around doing business. And, everyone where you are thinks that this culture is the best in the world! Well, it may be, I am not going to argue that point. I will tell you that others think as highly of their culture as you do of yours. When you are operating globally, you must create a team culture that is accepted by all members of the team. There will be a predominant culture based upon the country of origin of the company. In British Petroleum the core culture is British. In Toyota, the core culture is Japanese. You get the idea. The Big Dogz know that you must honor and acknowledge the local culture or you will not be successful. Find out key beliefs and practices of the local culture and incorporate them into your global team culture.

 

Off shore outsourcing and global teams was supposed to make us more competitive and more effective. If you do not follow these guidelines, global teams can become a huge headache for you rather than a solution to your global problems.

Beating A Recession – 4 September 6, 2008

Posted by David Dirks in Recession: How to Beat It!.
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When firefighters have to fight a forest fire, they often start other fires that help to burn off tinder and contain the original fire within a boundary before it burns itself off.  At first, it sounds odd to start a fire to put out a fire but that’s what it often takes to beat one down.  I believe the same thing should happen when the economy slows down and what worked before suddenly doesn’t have any impact on your ability to create sales or profits.

One of the best ways to beat a recession is to join it.  I mean from a product or service point of view that is.  It means finding and/or creating products and services that your customers and potential customers will find attractive when things are tight.   Tougher economic times force people to look for alternatives that will provide them with what they need at a price they perceive they can afford.

Fight a recession by creating recessionary products and services.  Bundle them in such a fashion that your price seems very attractive for the value your customer is getting in return.  And you can do it without giving away the shop, which I never recommend doing.  Discounting is for losers.

Here are a few ideas to demonstrate what I mean.  I just picked a few random businesses but the strategy is the same regardless of your business.

•    Getting the best mileage you can squeeze out of your car is clearly a priority when gas is double or triples what it was per gallon a few years ago.  With an economy slowing and people fearful of losing their jobs, keeping your car in tip-top shape to last a few years longer is critical.

For the retailer who sells car accessories or the garage mechanic in town, now is the time to create products and services that will appeal to people who find those services valuable and attractive.  Why not package a special “Mileage tune-up” that allows you to diagnose all the key areas of a vehicle that can drag down mileage?  You could create a diagnostic checklist that you could then use to up sell the necessary products and/or services you need to help the customer improve their mileage.  Bundle into     that service package as much value as you can.  Maybe it’s a “50 Point Fuel Efficiency” diagnostic that you can create at a price point for that makes it attractive against what it would cost to have them leave their car in less than good working order.

Or how about hosting a seminar at the shop that gives people tips on how to increase your mileage on their own?  How about a workshop for first time drivers that helps them understand what, how, and why regular general maintenance pays off in the long run?  Think of these workshops as ways to promote traffic to your     shop, educate your current customers and create new ones.

•    A CPA firm could look at creating a similar diagnostic tool that enables them to market it as a value-added way to help businesses identify ways to reduce costs.  What are businesses worried about when business slows?  They are worried about these kinds of things:  Am I bleeding money that I don’t know about?  How can I insure I have the right financial tools and data to make the key decisions on wide range of day-to-day business issues?

When times are good and profits are rolling in, those good times cover up a lot of mistakes.  Recessions can show a business just naked it really is.

The point is this:  create and bundle services that are attractive to businesses that want to survive to make it back to the ‘good times’ again.

•    When things get tight, people take longer to make a decision about whether to buy this or that product/service.  People don’t want to be sold…they want to be informed and educated.  Do it in a way that gives them a real business edge, and you’ll see the sales come.

Like a famous men’s clothing retailer says, “Our best customer is an educated customer” or something to that effect.  Create seminars/ workshops that offer your current customers deep and valuable content.

Don’t make it a sales seminar.  Nothing turns people off faster than a business education seminar that is really a sales pitch in disguise.   Educate them on what they need to know to be more effective at doing A, B, or C.  Demonstrate your expertise and ability to deliver results.  And provide this instruction for free.  Hire a marketing or advertising agency to help you put together a first-class seminar/workshop.  Don’t make it a bad looking PowerPoint shlockfest.  When someone leaves, they should feel that they’ve been well fed with solid information.  That creates the kind of goodwill you’ll need to leave a positive impression on them.  Then and only then can you can ask for the sale and have any reasonable chance to get one.

•    Don’t get into a price war.  Lowering prices to seemingly appeal to cost-coconscious buyers is a fast way to go out of business.  Yes, people pay more attention to price but they pay more attention to how that service or product purchase makes good economic sense in the short and/or long run.  Bundling products or services in a way that says to the customer:  “You get much more value for the price than anywhere else.”  For those that are just chasing the lowest priced deal, let them go elsewhere.  Let them go fight it out on E-bay.

Whatever your area of expertise, you need to think outside the norm and create products and services that help consumers deal with slower economic times and come out ahead.  Fight fire with fire and provide them with bundled services/products that make sense and appeal to the economic times we’re in.  In the long run, you’ll keep sales growing, earn profits, keep your current customers, and even make some new ones along the way.