One of the 101s of Marketing is Branding, and today we kick off a series of tips with it, followed by these topics (one each day):
- Building Relationships through Solution and Consultative Selling
- Marketing Objectives vs. Actions: Identifying Where the Discrepancies Occur
- Online Strategy
- Promotion Best Practices
- SOP Development
- Social Media Training
- Global Strategy Conversation
- Strength From a Marketing Team
- Business Development: An Honest conversation
- Trade Show Strategy Revisited
- Product Inventory Management
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Fiber Optic Center (FOC) has always advocated for our customers using our knowledge and experience to find the right solution for their issue. Our job is to make sure we have the best industry suppliers covering all their needs.
We have achieved providing solutions with intense technical sales, getting in front of the customer, and relaying information. As we continue to do so, aggressively, we are aware that customers must also search more ferociously for solutions and, in response, FOC has new marketing plans to ensure we remain the leading findable resource for our targeted audiences.
In 2018, FOC is expanding our strong marketing foundation to include a new FOC Co-Op Marketing Program with options for supplied material consultation and development, dedicated supplier landing pages, technical content and investment in new product management systems.
When entering into a Co-Op Marketing Program, focus on the basics will lead to success. I find that many fellow marketers feel that talking about the ‘basics’ is taking a step backwards for them but the foundation on anything you are building determines the project’s success so I believe taking the time to secure the foundation is always advantageous.
Though a basic marketing objective, branding is the one that everything is built on. We, as companies, but also as individuals, constantly have active branding whether it is ‘actively’ being worked on or not.
Be aware of your branding and that it is never achieved and checked off as complete. It can change in a moment. As a marketer, it is challenging to control the branding of your business because perceptions are developed many places outside of your campaigns. Sources of branding include: phone trails and amount of time spent getting efficient results, interactions with customer service managers, interpretation of conversations with sales representatives, and overall navigation experience of your website. I consider personal lessons when approaching business branding. The first is that your brand mirrors what you ‘put out there’.
Preparation is Key
In recent years I have been surprised by how unprepared business colleagues have been in different situations. I come from the training that every call, every meeting should be thoroughly prepared for. Research can set you apart for all the things listed below on this list. Current technology provides great opportunities to learn. You can Google it, you can YouTube it, you can Wikipedia it….. I do not wish to date myself too much here but not long ago, we only had printed resources in certain physical locations, like libraries, for the majority of information. Now it is at everyone’s fingertips and usually multiple sources within one’s reach to be educated. No excuse to not be prepared.
It is not possible to embrace the branding process until you are comfortable ‘knowing yourself’. Practicing objective learning is crucial for a clear starting place. Beginning questions include:
- What do you ultimately want / need to do?
- What has shaped you to date?
- How do you want to shape yourself if different?
- What do you need to change?
Being honest about where you are at currently and how you operate can be a significant head start.
Know Your Audience
The need to know your audience applies to every part of life, and certainly every profession. It is really about empathy. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes or business chair and really think about what they are challenged with. Consider these factors:
- What are their objectives (not yours)?
- What challenges do they face when approaching those objectives?
- What solution are they looking for (how can you benefit them)?
- How do they feel/how does their personal life impact?
Having this knowledge allows you the first steps to build a relationship and meet objectives.
A well-known sales style is Relationship Selling. I have heard many stories and examples of the best sales people who really knew their customers as humans, not just sales. They knew their customer’s spouse names, children’s’ names, birthdays, interests. Some would keep a ‘Rolodex’ with all this information written down and others had the skills to remember it. Either way, the customer on the receiving end felt known and cared for. We could all learn a great lesson from the pages of Relationship Selling books because it is not only for selling, it is for living. Practice empathy, listen – really listen, have relationships, and think about what you are hearing and seeing. We use the three steps to evaluate:
- Relate. After you have your basic listening and empathetic skills sharpened, focus on establishing loyalty. Loyalty is earned. If you consistently operate by your values and integrity, you will earn loyalty. ‘Filing’ information in your ‘confidential mental folder’ is an important practice and when coupled with the discipline on when to appropriately share or not share information, is a business changer.
- Respect. Evaluate how you and your team displays respect. One simple and powerful sign of respect is time. Understand that time is valuable and an investment. Treat it as such. Be early or at the very least on time for phone calls, meetings, deadlines.
- Connect. There is not an easy ‘trick’ to truly connecting to others because it is all based on genuine connections. One tip I heard in a sales training long ago that still resonates is to use a person’s name. Humans like to hear their own name. It creates a personal connection. Of course, the social awkward person who make a mental note to use someone’s name and overdoes that can reverse the effects but for the most part, using a person’s first name throughout a conversation – when done from a genuine connection initiative – can strengthen the relationship. I like to note here that if you are like Nemo’s friend, Dory, and suffer from short-term memory loss or just cannot get names right, then do not even attempt this. Getting someone’s name wrong is much worse than not using one. This circles back to know yourself, weaknesses and all.
Use Communication to Impact Branding
Social media has made us work and communicate faster. It all feels like a race to get the word out. Be careful. Take the time to think about what you put out there. I often say “Immediate Gratification Impairs” – Plan, Have Patience.
Writing is an Art that shapes your brand. Do not underestimate this. A few quick and obvious tips:
- Limit/do not use of slang (not everyone finds this hip or trendy)
- Check and double check grammar and spelling errors (without trying to be prejudice, people make unconscious judgements about others intelligence based on these factors)
- Awareness is key. Metrics alone do not give you the information you need about your branding. It is not only the active audience who are liking and commenting who see your branding. Many silent audience members have their own opinion about what you publish.
- Consistency creates brand.
Another important thing to consider when writing is attention spans. There are many people in the world, regardless of what position they hold in a company, who cannot comprehend written information beyond a few sentences. It is so prevalent in our country’s business culture, there is a two sentence rule. The two sentence rule is simply that…. when corresponding through emails, get your point in the first paragraph. Beyond that, you might lose them. When asking questions, make it clear by numbering or highlighting what you expect to be receiving a response to. Clear communication leads to less frustration on both ends. Again, know your audience
Positivity is underrated. In a world that displays a decline in patience between humans, making positivity a priority can create a big difference and make you stand out. Choose your words carefully, listen and consider others, and take the time necessary to show compassion, consideration and kindness. I have a note on my bulletin board that says ‘Smile’ (before you pick up the phone) from my previous days working in sales and business development departments. It changes your tone and energy level.
Professionalism is an Art. Most of us have been mentored with the ‘dress for the job you want, not the job you have’ lessons. It is true that the fastest way to be recognized for the goals you are striving for is to begin accomplishing them. The college student who dresses in business ‘blues’ for his presentation when it is not required and stands out in a sea of university sweatshirts and casual attire, stands out. Giving a higher level of communication, effort and consideration to others in business does the same. Stand out.
Demand Personal Integrity
Having a standard of values that you carry throughout each day changes your business and branding for the better. I make a conscious effort to apply my personal values to every decision I make each day. Regardless of how that consistency will personally impact me, maybe in one situation I wind up with more work or in another situation I will not get my short term goal, I do not waiver from my value system of right and wrong.
At FOC, our hopes are that we can make an even greater difference for our partners, suppliers and customers with best practices in marketing objectives, methods, goals, and cooperative opportunities.
With our marketing consultation expertise, we have developed effective ways to engage daily with our target markets, experiencing growth of audience as a direct result of our product centric, responsive design website, push and pull marketing campaigns and technical content. FOC will continue to strengthen and share best practices & strategy resources.
Additional resources from the FOC team include:
- FOC technical solution content: http://bit.ly/29WTvgn
- Glossary, Acronyms, Military Specifications for Connectors: http://bit.ly/2a2EFn8
- Q&A Resource: email technical questions to AskFOC@focenter.com
Here are the links to this full Marketing Blog Series:
- FOC Marketing Tip 1: Branding Matters
- FOC Marketing Tip 2: Building Relationships through Solution and Consultative Selling
- FOC Marketing Tip 3: Marketing Objectives vs. Actions: Identifying Where the Discrepancies Occur
- FOC Marketing Tip 4: The Dilemma of Online Strategy
- FOC Marketing Tip 5: Promotion Best Practices
- FOC Marketing Tip 6: SOP Development
- FOC Marketing Tip 7: Global Strategy Conversation
- FOC Marketing Tip 8: The Roles of a Marketing Team
- FOC Marketing Tip 9: Trade Show Strategy Revisited
- FOC Marketing Tip 10: Product Inventory Management and a quick snapshot….
- FOC Marketing Tip 11: Business Development: An Honest Conversation
- FOC Marketing Tip 12: Social Media Navigation
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