Category

branding

Be Yourself, brand advocacy, Brand Experience, branding, Business, business intuition, Business-Of-One, competitive advantage

You Are Enough

I read this book titled Company of One by Paul Jarvis. It kind of helps me question the status-quo of the ‘growth’ status every company so ardently wants. The word ‘growth’ does sound competitive, aggressive and progressive – and seeing it from the lens of an a ‘company of one’ perspective gives me a new high!

Come to think of it – every individual, whether leading a team in a company to a company owner to a professional using his consulting chops to the hilt – we all are small business owners of our little ideas. 

But having a business intention that is predicated on commercialism and growth can [sometimes] overshadow our creation capabilities and [sometimes] limit our creative imagination to surface. After all, it’s all about maximising your evolution. We all want more commercial success when we work hard so to get there. 

This may sound contrarian, as I liken what the book says, ‘to never grow up, and why staying small is the next big thing for business’.

Now it doesn’t mean we can’t think valiantly and let our imagination be limitless. Instead, it’s about putting your gifts to use in a way that serves as a fuel for your customers/ audience to keep recommending you for your work.

It’s important to find your personal enough point – so that you feel free to operate as your best version. Knowing that being a business owner doesn’t necessarily mean racking more customers, or being in an acquisition mind-set to constantly thinking about how much money you’re making, can help you question what your growth inflection point is.

Plus: it is very difficult to operate as a solo business owner/ entrepreneur when our quest for getting more business is trite. We might have not figured out just yet as to why and how can we can get more business as a solopreneur.

And that’s why it’s crucial to find what you stand for, and what you can offer, but with growth that defines your upper bounds and unleashes your best potential.

So what does ‘you are enough’ mean in the context of being your company of one?

Here are some views that I align with – and you can, too:

  1. Thrive in your exist strategy. Says Natasha Lampard of the popular conference in the book: to focus on sticking around, profiting and serving your customers as best as you can. Loyally serving your customers over the long-term pays off massively than drifting in short-term money-making spiral that could dwindle if you are not offering the best customer experience. Maintaining real relationships that are rooted in trust, humanity and empathy gives you can edge over your other company owners to win and expand your existing customer base. Maintaining your brand image then gives you a sound social-proof when your customers become your brand champions.
  1. Choose customers that align with your brand. It’s certain that you might get knocked-down from some business deals and new business proposals. But some rejections can push you to determine which customers you’d like to do business with, and which customers you’d like to gracefully decline. Your customers are a reflection of how your brand values and serves in the longer scheme of things. So why miscommunicate or let ambivalence kick-in when you don’t quite find a fit with profitable customers? Look for purpose over profits – and in due course your purpose will strengthen your business valuation.
  1. Find your [brand’s] true north. Talking about self-awareness doesn’t sound cliche or passe. In fact, it pushes you to know what’s your DNA, how does it operate, and how it can be manifested in ways that carves your brand identity. When you find your values that speak your core [aka your truth]- the person you are and not always what you aspire to be – can differentiate your services from others. Staying small also brings you from a humble place of what your inner muse thinks in its contours of imagination and possibilities. And when these possibilities meet opportunities, growth occurs!

The crux is – as long as you have your brand chops in place and an idea that can generate curiosity in people’s minds, your work will never be stale.

You are enough! – to inspire and create a business of your dreams.

Be Yourself, Brand Experience, branding, business intuition, Career

Are you bringing your whole self to work?

Or let’s put it more fundamentally: are you fully self-expressed? Let’s say if you are bold in your expression – written, oral, professional – is it surfacing well for people to experience the real you at work?

Some of you may be humble and a bit subdued in your demeanor – but is your work persona blending appropriately with the organization’s culture and values?

This question kicks in at the right time, because as you’d know, globally, the workplace success hinges on people and culture.

Let’s first understand, what does it mean when a question like this knocks on your mind – bringing your whole self to work?

Isn’t it implied that we all are ourselves when we are working?

Not quite.

Here’s the way I see the answer: it’s about being the most real version of you: someone who could make quirks (better word, trying to improve every day), someone who could be vulnerable (and sometimes may not know the right answer to every question), someone who is humble (I like the way Adam Grant puts it, ‘humble narcissist’), someone who is naturally curious to reframe and redesign problems for better solutions, and someone who is courageous enough to take risks and hedge problems effectively with bold decisions and initiatives. But the most important facet of being your whole self is how well you define authenticity of your work approach, your personal brand and conversations.

I didn’t use the work moderate – as, in reality, we are in some way a bit extreme in the way our emotions engineer us to take decisions, personally and professionally.

While the answer sounds easy to write and fictionally digests in our imaginative mind, but how we actually put it to practice? How do we love our work and at the same time be true to ourselves for it to reflect in our career, communications and disposition?

Here are three ways you always strive be the real you, no matter what field/ career you are in.

  • Have a unified intention. Per the book ‘Book Yourself Solid’ by Michael Port, he aptly mentions about having conflicting intentions, which might hinder our growth in the long-term. For example, you might want to write a novel and please your spouse with its successful publishing. But in your subconscious your intent to write a book might conflict with how it will please your spouse and would await your spouse’s approval for it to be a ‘hit’ in your gut. So while you both intentions are noble but for it to gratify you, you have to holistically have an intention for the best interest of your book’s success. Which, then, would also please your spouse!
  • Purpose. Do what matters – consistently – and that defines your sense of purpose. Write your core strengths and go tunnel-like with them to create something lovable at work. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like some aspects of your job. To be candid: we never get an ideal job which we would truly define us at work. But we can always create what we love – and that is through cultivating our strengths of our work. And gradually, our strengths will begin to harvest a seed of purpose for also doing things that were not in sync with our areas of interest. The weight of purpose always trumps the dissatisfaction of overall work we feel when we are not quite ourselves.
  • Positive self-talk helps. What you narrate to yourself, consistently, is what you begin to display in your emotions, talks and work. And so, it’s very important to first treat yourself well before you begin to treat others, with care and empathy. Once you are comfortable with yourself, you naturally become comfortable with others as well. As a result, bringing your whole self to work would no more be tense, especially when you are aware of how you want to communicate with your peers, colleagues, and boss and people in general.

These are certain implied changes you can make internally – and you will be on your way to be the most productive, positive and purposeful in your career and life.

Brand Experience, branding, customer experience, performance

Performance Vs. Experience – What’s The Long-term Solution For Your Customers?

A lot has been brewing on the Web about what keeps your customers happy and satisfied. Companies work very hard to meet their business growth KPIs and are increasingly outcome-oriented so that their customers see some tangible, measurable results.

And a lot is skewed upon performance – it’s an action-oriented word, literally and figuratively.

Different stakeholders across business functions work together to create systems, processes, and technology for better collaboration to meet their customers’ business goals.

Which, as it turns out, is necessary to always touch the threshold of your customers’ expectations – after all, it’s all about managing customer expectations, if you want to be remunerated solidly for your services.

Since the global economy underpins more service-based offerings, how are we, as marketers and business owners, transitioning towards a more holistic imagery: of products, solutions, ideas?

Whether you are a salon owner, a dental clinic doctor,  a clothing retailer, a fitness coach running your own gym, a restaurateur, or anyone who is making a living by serving your set of customers – you are not just what you are, but you offer in your service menu: in a seamless, considerate, professional manner.

In a term, it’s customer experience, as a result of a seamless customer journey.

While being performance-focused makes you generally competitive enough to be pitted against your other industry firms, but exerting more on experience will make your solution/product deeper, immersive and consumable for your customers.

With that being said, here are some reasons why you should focus on customer experience than ever before, instead of pressing on the sometimes-stress-inducing word, performance, because:

You will be a coherent identity: a consummate brand. Aligning your experience with customer’s [both internal and external] journey – via effective content that espouses your company values, purpose and world-view, bold ideas – will collectively give you a solid foundation for business growth and long-term impact.

You co-create, instead of operating in functional silos and inadvertently competently with each other. Creating a customer experience that is predicated more on skills and talent – irrespective of the role and responsibility that you employees have – is the secret sauce to being collaborative and productive. Your customers can see through the consistency aspect clearly in their buying journey when they are employing your services in their business episode. Further, you foster creativity and create more agile teams that in sync with what your customers’ need(s) in their business context.

You are in a state of flow and not lurking on a number/ business goal deadline. As a matter of fact, when you are more engaged in creating something memorable for your customers, you solidify a deeper emotional and functional impact of your brand. Experience is the ultimate reward can give your customers when you feel you are part of their story: unique, personal and special in their own ways.

In sum: both performance and experience have their own significance depending on your customers’ journey. However, as Whitney Johnson mentioned in one of her podcast conversations with Tiffani Bova, ‘Experience is now the product, irrespective of what companies are selling’.

How are you doubling down on this tenet?

brand advocacy, Brand Experience, branding, Business, startup

The Role of Marketing in The New Age Startup Ecosystem

‘Startup’ is no more just a cute, fancy word. It defines hustle, pain, grind, resolve, commitment, to name a few euphemistic synonyms. Enter the Startupland and you get to greet so many like-minded and disruptive entrepreneurs, college dropouts, ex-McKinsey/ Bain/ BCG consultants joining the fray, among others.

There is a cutting-edge competition, even for the prospective hires, who are so eager to join startups even before there is a product/ market fit established in their business ecosystem. Part of the reasons: competitive equity compensation, more freedom to put your skills to work, more collaborative feel, chances of working with the founders from the scratch (most of the times), and developing your entrepreneurial skills by the side.

One of the most definitive roles that founders are vying to fill is that of a marketer. Naturally, when they are A/B testing their product fit in the market – and beyond – they would need some newness in the way it is presented in front of their customers. Per the seminal book ‘Entering StartupLand’ written by Jeffrey Bussgang, there are 3 stages where this startups’ growth graph fits in: Jungle (pre-product/ market fit), Dirt Road (post-product/ market fit, pre-scaling sales and marketing), and Highway (post-scaling sales and marketing). And all these three stages/ profiles namely – build it, sell it, scale it – necessitate great marketing and growth champs – people who can take the startup to the next level of customer obsession, business success and people growth.

In order to maximize your startup’s evolution, here are 5 ways your marketing hire plays a crucial role to establish your startup’s presence in the market.

A startup marketer:

  • Creates your brand’s manifesto. Your marketing person is also the chief brand officer of your startup. He helps in building, developing and defining your company’s brand persona, values and culture that best resonates with your internal and external stakeholders. The foundational principles and brand philosophies are created by this person after seeking the management/ founders buy-in. And this brand manifesto is an independent staple, regardless of how your marketing complex evolves over a period of time but is as relevant as the founders think and act as per what is outlined in this branding manual/ document.

 

  • Identifies your buyer persona(s). Subsequent to the first point, your startup brand marketer determines the relevant buyer persona(s) – semi-fictional representation of your ideal customers based on market research and real data – as per HubSpot. Naturally, a brand is created and marketed to a specific set of audience aka your potential customers – and their (positive) brand perception adds a layer of confidence to the marketer’s branding approach. Plus: the marketer further validates the brand effectiveness by identifying what kind of customers are going to be using your product/ solution in the market.

 

  • Steers you clear with the product roadmap and adoption for different stakeholders. The marketing person plays a crucial role in planning and strategizing the product roadmap. [It] is created to cater to different stakeholders in/ of your startup – be it for engineers, sales, customers, prospects. Your product roadmap communicates the strategic direction for your product. And so, in the first few stages of your startup’s evolution, your startup marketing person/ team aligns your internal stakeholders towards common growth KPIs for product performance based on your audience.

 

  • Elevates your customer experience journey. Every customer counts. Every customer experience brings value, which, then, is engineered to improve the buyer’s journey. That’s where marketing is constantly analyzing what customers are saying about your product/ solution. By studying the details/ nuances of how your brand’s emotions and functional benefits are communicated to your customers and how they feel about your offering, the marketer strives to improve the overall customer experience. Further, once the customer experience enhances, your few customer success stories – a repertoire of customers who help you in cross-selling and upselling, thereby making a business case of retention – come to fruition.

 

  • Hires and develops your startup’s first few brand custodians – and content. The first product ninja, growth hacker, brand specialist, content marketer – all these new roles are key to build brand advocacy for your startup. And all of the hiring responsibilities rest upon the marketer- especially when the marketing budgets are not that pronounced, new ways of showcasing your startup’s product/ solution capabilities fall under the aegis of the marketer’s work. Which is why, creating content is the most [cost] effective way of meeting customer acquisition and customer retention goals, especially when you are a new-hatched startup.

 

Over to you.

Hello founder(s), what does the role of marketing mean to you and your startup(s)?

 

brand advocacy, Brand Experience, branding, Business, competitive advantage

Think Retention: Your Brand Is Sorted

New customers. New leads. New business. Sounds synonymous, right? In a way, when you are in an acquiring mindset – you are all in for anything that turns gold.

And why not? Commercial success is important for any business to sustain. You onboard more employees – people who can carry the baton of your company’s brand in the business ecosystem. And if they are treated well, they would be your best internal customer advocates.

While acquisition mindset is the constant for your business to grow, retention mindset will help your business to thrive and sustain in the long-term.

Come to think of it – if you flounder with your existing customers, you will feel the aching pinch on a bigger scale than you would when you are not acquiring new customers.

Now, business is the engine that needs to be nurtured well, but it’s your brand that essentially captures the mind space of your customers and stakeholders, even when things go awry in your market.

So where does the retention mindset fit into this context?

A few takes, in various connotations:

  • Your customers need you more than you think. They have an innate understanding of your brand before they chose to do business with you. Chances – and possible bigger ones – are, they have read you visually, emotionally and logically about your brand and then deduced a decision to make you a part of their growth, collectively. They want more nurturing and constant assurance to keep up with their business challenges.
  • Upselling and cross-selling are always simpler with your existing customers than is it is when you are in a pre-screening round for you to qualify, and be qualified, by your prospective customers.
  • Retention of your brand, in the form of value systems, persona, and purpose, over a period of time shapes your audience’s perception of your brand’s existence and doesn’t dilute in a jiffy.
  • Your aspirational growth is balanced by the operational excellence when you have to keep up with the business maintenance tasks. Hence, retention slowly seeps into your culture and responsibility areas.
  • Further, retention implicitly empowers you to treat all your existing and new customers with care and precision in order to provide a seamless customer experience that they have never experienced before.
  • And lastly, retention helps you connect with your stakeholders in a deeper form: as you duly respect how others accept your brand, thereby creating an unspoken bond of trust, empathy, and compassion.

Remember: as they say, ‘customer retention is the biggest acquisition lever’ – and rightly so.

Over to you.

How are you widening the retention space of your brand in your customer’s mind?

Chime in!