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Emineo Media Miami Herald SCORE Miami Dade

Miami Herald Small Business Makeover: Roy’s Delivery Service

Emineo Media Miami Herald SCORE Miami DadeHada Grullon is a bulldog — a tenacious, talented, self-made woman who turned an idea into a thriving business called Roy’s Delivery Service. Her company, which has been around for 20 years, delivers just about anything, but its core business is handling deliveries for the medical industry. Every day, Roy’s delivers human organs, blood, tissue, radiology film, sensitive documents and other specimens to doctors and medical facilities throughout South Florida.

Grullon’s clients include Jackson Memorial Hospital and University of Miami Hospital. “For our medical clients like hospitals and medical centers, we must deliver within a certain time frame,” Grullon said. “Most often, it’s 90 minutes depending on the distance and under an hour in most cases. But if we are on a hospital campus delivering from one building to another, it could be as little as eight minutes to get a blood sample to a doctor.”

Organs being delivered by Roy’s are transported in coolers to ensure safe delivery for the patient depending on it for survival.

“We have been very fortunate because we have done a very good job for our clients,” said Grullon, who recently opened a second office at the University of Miami Science and Technology Park near Northwest 19th Street and Seventh Avenue in Miami to be closer to her medical clients. “I’ve had medical clients who have asked for organs to be delivered to hospitals at 3 o’clock in the morning. That is the small part we play in saving lives every day.”

The makeover

The business: Roy’s Delivery Service, at 13190 SW 134th St., Ste. C-203 in Kendall (www.roysdelivery.com), specializes in delivering organs, blood and other specimens for medical clients. Founded in 1994, the business is owned by Hada Grullon.

The challenge: Getting a handle on how to expand the business in the medical industry.

The experts: SCORE Miami-Dade counselors Orlando Espinosa, co-founder of Emineo Media, has more than 25 years of experience in branding and social media; Carlos Blanco is an entrepreneur and consultant who specializes in growing companies; and Oscar Rospigliosi is the former CEO of medical device company and has over 20 years’ experience in business.

The makeover: In less than a month, the SCORE team developed an expansion plan for Grullon. They showed her how to handle operations by relinquishing control to a dedicated operations manager, develop a website and build buzz. They also helped Grullon with a plan to grow the business.

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Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/07/06/4218818_miami-herald-small-business-makeover.html#storylink=cpy
Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/07/06/4218818_miami-herald-small-business-makeover.html#storylink=cpy

Miami Herald Small Business Makeover: Roy’s Delivery Service – Business Monday – MiamiHerald.com.

emineo media orlando espinosa score miami dade leonard Riforgiato

Miami Herald Small Business Makeover: Heywood Wakefield

emineo media orlando espinosa score miami dade leonard RiforgiatoFor Leonard Riforgiato, the path to small business ownership began in the 1990s with an abandoned company trademark and a passion for antiques.

After selling heirlooms and collectibles in storefronts around South Beach for decades, he turned his attention to Heywood-Wakefield, a vintage furniture brand his customers were buzzing about. Founded at the turn of the last century when two still-older furniture companies merged, Heywood-Wakefield incorporated unique designs and a creative use of bent wood to produce durable and stylish beds, chairs, night stands and other pieces designed for the home. Prices range from $540 for a bar stool to over $1,500 for a bed.

“I got interested in Heywood-Wakefield by accident,” Riforgiato said. “I noticed that, over the years, a lot of people came into my stores asking for vintage Heywood-Wakefield furniture.”

He researched the company, unearthing a trove of information. Heywood-Wakefield chairs and other now-iconic pieces had been made in Gardner, Mass., since 1897, continuing until the late 1970s. Gardner, with a population of 20,000, is the self-styled “Furniture Capital of New England”; in 1983, the Heywood-Wakefield Company Complex, where the well-known furniture was originally made, was added to the National Historic Register.

The company’s lineage impressed Riforgiato. “Once I found out the trademark had expired, I saw an opportunity to keep the brand alive,” he said. “I purchased it, kept the Heywood-Wakefield name and decided to go into the furniture business making these amazing pieces that people loved.”

That was back in 1992. Today, nearly 22 years later, Riforgiato no longer sells Heywood-Wakefield furniture in showrooms, instead operating solely online from his home in Miami. “The cost of operating a showroom became quite high over the years,” he said. “Real-estate costs were going through the roof, so I decided to use the power of the Internet to grow the business without having a brick-and-mortar building to show the furniture.”

Riforgiato was so passionate about the company’s history that he continued to produce Heywood-Wakefield furniture in Massachusetts. He began production in Gardner in 1992, but in 2011, he moved to a factory in nearby Winchendon.

With annual revenue of nearly a quarter of a million dollars, Riforgiato estimates that his company sells over 200 pieces of furniture per year. Relying heavily on client referrals to drive sales, he spends more time making furniture than he does on marketing it. He wanted to take the offline conversations his customers were having and bring them online in hopes of increasing sales.

To find answers, Heywood-Wakefield turned to the Miami Herald for a Small Business Makeover to help him figure out how to best incorporate tools like social media and a revamped website into a growth plan. The Herald, in turn, brought in Miami SCORE, a nonprofit organization of volunteers who have been successful entrepreneurs. SCORE volunteers use their business acumen and provide mentoring services to small business owners free of charge, putting them on the road to success. SCORE identified three counselors to turn Heywood-Wakefield’s online marketing around.

The SCORE team included Orlando Espinosa, co-founder of Emineo Media, who has over 25 years of experience in branding and social media. He has also led training programs for entrepreneurs both in the U.S. and abroad. Rosi Arboleya, a consultant and creative director at Perpetual Message, a local marketing company, has over 30 years of experience working in the advertising and marketing space. Her expertise is in Web development, social media and developing online marketing campaigns. Frank Padron is a consultant who specializes in digital marketing, online branding and SEO. He has over 20 years of experience working in digital and works with We Simplify the Internet (WSI), an Internet marketing firm in Coral Gables.

After the first of three meetings with Riforgiato, the counselors identified several issues with Heywood-Wakefield’s marketing strategy. One of the company’s immediate problems was a lack of exposure on social media. Another factor impeding sales was the company’s website. It wasn’t very user-friendly and couldn’t handle e-commerce, so customers weren’t able to buy Heywood-Wakefield furniture online. Heywood-Wakefield wanted to take the online plunge, but with a limited marketing budget of just a couple thousand dollars and orders to fill, it seemed daunting.

“Many times, small business owners are so busy running all aspects of their companies that they tend to place a low priority on things they don’t know about,” Espinosa said. “So, suddenly things that seem important to company sales like social media and online marketing are put on the back burner because the company is unsure about how to approach it.”

The counselors all agreed that by incorporating social media and a few tweaks to his current website, Riforgiato could see a significant increase in annual sales. To accomplish that goal, the SCORE team had the following advice:

•  Revamp the website

“It’s time for Heywood-Wakefield to step it up a notch in terms of its online presence,” Espinosa said. “First and foremost, the homepage needs a redo.”

For quick recognition and brand reinforcement, Espinosa recommended the Heywood-Wakefield company logo should be placed on top left of page. “The company logo was in the footer of the site way at the bottom,” Espinosa said. “But it really should be at the top. It should be one of the first things a customer sees when they log on to your site.”

Next, Espinosa suggested adding social media buttons for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others on the top right-hand side of the page for easy access. “Heywood-Wakefield does have a Facebook page,” Espinosa said. “But you can’t find it from the website. Adding social media buttons to the right of the page will make it easy for customers to connect with the brand online.”

Arboleya reminded Heywood-Wakefield that incorporating better photos into the site would increase customer engagement and time spent on the site. She recommended that Heywood-Wakefield replace static images with a product slideshow. “Heywood-Wakefield has beautiful furniture that is really compelling visually,” Arboleya said. “They need to showcase that through animated slideshows that get the customer interested as soon as they log on.”

Padron encouraged the company to track its customer engagement online using analytics. Using information gathered through analytics, Heywood-Wakefield will be able to build a long-term online marketing strategy that works. “Google Analytics provides insights into campaigns,” Padron said. “And it helps you analyze visitor traffic. Heywood-Wakefield needs to find out if analytics are on their current site.”

The SCORE team recommended using WordPress for the new website. “For easy updating, SEO and content management, WordPress sites are best,” Padron said. “With WordPress, you get the control to make quick do-it-yourself updates easily.” The team also encouraged Heywood-Wakefield to add e-commerce to their website. “The ability to make a purchase online would be a game-changer for the company,” Espinosa said. “Right now, when customers are ready to make a purchase, they have to call Heywood-Wakefield and go through the transaction with a live person.”

•  Create a blog

Because of Heywood-Wakefield’s rich history, engaging customers by posting about how the company started, where it is now and where it’s going can provide great content for a blog. “A blog for this company could be a really fun thing,” Arboleya said. “The company can post tidbits about its history, pictures of vintage pieces and share videos on a blog written by Mr. Riforgiato. He is the man behind the brand, and a blog is a great way to introduce him to the world.” The SCORE team also recommended that Heywood-Wakefield share information on industry-specific websites and forums with a link back to the blog. “Blogs are also a great way of generating interest in the latest design trend or product,” Espinosa said. “Use it to incorporate content with Facebook and email marketing. It’s also perfect for cross promoting with blog sites such as Retro Renovations.”

•  Develop branded e-blasts

Heywood-Wakefield doesn’t have a regular form of e-communication with clients. The SCORE counselors recommend that Heywood-Wakefield consider developing a branded e-blast that can be distributed weekly or monthly. “Like any business, Heywood-Wakefield wants to be top of mind for your customers,” Arboleya said. “Reaching out to them with things that can make their lives better like a sale, an interesting bit of history or even a new slideshow of pictures is a good way to stay in touch.” Espinosa said not to send e-mails too often, such as daily, and to use creative subject lines.

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Small business makeover: Social media strategy boosts online furniture business’ chances for success

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Countries that block Social Media

On Thursday, the Turkish government blocked the country’s access to YouTube, after banning Twitter earlier this month, in an effort to quell anti-government sentiment prior to local elections on March 30. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan says that social networks are facilitating the spread of wiretapped recordings that have been politically damaging. The YouTube block reportedly came about after a video surfaced of government officials discussing the possibility of going to war with Syria. The government officially banned Twitter after the network refused to take down an account accusing a former minister of corruption. Twitter is challenging the ban and a Turkish court overturned it on Wednesday, but it’s not yet clear how an appeal might play out.

Turkey is hardly the first country to crack down on social unrest by going after social networks. There are at least six other countries currently blocking Facebook, YouTube, or Twitter in some capacity (see map below), and many more have instituted temporary blocks over the last couple of years. Here’s everything you need to know:

socialmediamap-emineo mediaChina: China blocked Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube in 2009. The Twitter and Facebook bans took place after a peaceful protest by Uighurs, China’s Muslim ethnic minority, broke into deadly riots in Xinjiang. In September 2013, the government decided to stop censoring foreign websites in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone, a 17-square-mile area in mainland China, but these social networks are still largely blocked nationwide.

Iran: Iran has blocked Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube on and off (usually off) since they were banned in 2009 following Iran’s contentious presidential election.

Vietnam: Over the last couple of years, there have been widespread reports of Facebook being blocked in Vietnam. The block is fairly easy to bypass, and many Vietnamese citizens use the social network. However, in September 2013, Vietnam passed a law prohibiting citizens from posting anti-government content on the social network. Facebook did not comment on access in Vietnam.

Pakistan: In September 2012, Pakistan blocked YouTube after the site reportedly refused to take down an anti-Islam video that sparked protests in the country. The block has continued through March 2014, according to Google.

North Korea: Internet access is highly restricted in North Korea.

Eritrea: According to Reporters Without Borders, in 2011, two of the country’s major internet service providers blocked YouTube. Freedom House, a US watchdog that conducts research on political freedom, said the site was blocked in its 2013 report and notes, “The government requires all internet service providers to use state-controlled internet infrastructure.” Eritrea is routinely listed as one of the most censored countries in the world. Google does not include Eritrea on its list of countries in its transparency report that currently block YouTube, but notes that the list “is not comprehensive” and may not include partial blocks.

This data was compiled with help from Google’s transparency report, Twitter, and the OpenNet Initiative, a partnership between the University of Toronto, Harvard, and the SecDev Group in Ottawa. It doesn’t take into account countries where only certain pages or videos may be censored. The United Arab Emirates, for example, jailed an American citizen last year for posting a comedic video to YouTube—but it doesn’t block the entire network, so it’s not on the map. Additionally, Google and Twitter don’t list their services as being blocked in Cuba, but social networks there are difficult to access, in part due to cost barriers. 

 

Source Mother Jones

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Survey Shows Facebook Has the Most Potential for Small Businesses

As you develop a social media presence for your small business, where should you put most of your energies? If you’re like most businesses, Facebook ranks tops when it comes to both current ubiquity and future potential, a survey from The Creative Group reports.

Social-media-small-business emineo mediaMore than three-fourths (76 percent) of advertising and marketing executives polled in the survey say their company has an active presence on Facebook. In contrast, only about half report having an active presence on Twitter (52 percent), LinkedIn (48 percent) or Google Plus (48 percent).

The survey also asked which social media site has the greatest potential for business. Facebook beat out other contenders, cited by 45 percent of respondents—far ahead of second-place Google+ with just 13 percent of respondents.

What do the results of the survey mean to you? Three lessons stand out to me.

  1. If social media intimidates you, get started by creating a Facebook page for your business. In most cases—especially if your company sells to consumers, as opposed to other businesses—Facebook is the best place for beginners. In fact, for some small businesses, it may be the only social media presence you need (at least for now). With even seniors now feeling comfortable on Facebook, it’s far and away the most widely used social site—not only by business owners, but also by consumers.
  2. Don’t get complacent. While Facebook is currently the 800-pound gorilla in the room, it won’t always be that way. Keep your eye on up-and-comers like Pinterest and Instagram. While these sites capture far fewer users, if your business is highly visual—such as a boutique, home décor store or hair salon—these image-focused social sites could be huge traffic drivers. And don’t ignore Google+–even though many of its users’ accounts are rarely used, the power of the search engine giant means you can’t count Google+ out of the running. Spend some time every week keeping up with social media news and trends so that you won’t be taken by surprise when a new social media site springs up or an old one surges in popularity.
  3. Remember that social is a two-way street. No matter what social media site/s your business relies on, success at social media requires a different approach than pure advertising or even public relations. Instead of talking “at” your fans and followers, you need to talk with them. Use the power of social media to solicit their opinions, emotions and insights. The information you gain by holding a conversation with your customers can only improve your business in the end.

Source SCORE

emineo media niche

5 Ways to Find the Right Niche

One of the first steps in the business planning process is determining who your target market is and why they would want to buy from you.

emineo media nicheIt sounds simple, but do you really know what you are selling and to whom? Is the market you serve the best one for your product or service? Are the benefits of dealing with your business clear and are they aligned with those or your target customers?

If you aren’t sure about the answers to any of these questions then you need to step back and revisit the foundation of your business plan.

The following tips can help you be clear about what your business has to offer, identify the right target market for it and build a niche for yourself there.

Be Clear about What you Have to Offer

Sounds obvious, but more than just a product or service, what are you really selling? Think about it.  Your town probably has several restaurants all selling one fundamental product—food. But I’ll bet one sells drive-thru fast food, perhaps another sells pizza in a rustic Italian kitchen, and maybe there’s also a fine dining seafood restaurant that specializes in wood-grilled fare. All these restaurants sell meals, but they sell them to targeted clientele that is looking for the unique benefits each has to offer. What they are really selling is a combination of product, value, ambiance (or not), and brand experience.

So, if you are starting a business, be sure you understand why anyone would buy from you. What needs does it fulfill? What benefits and differentiators will you bring to the table that will help you stand out from the crowd?

Don’t Become a Jack of All Trades, use Strategy to Focus

One of the pitfalls of not defining what you have to offer is that you can quickly become a jack of all trades and master of none and this can have a negative impact on business growth.

Think about it from the perspective of a consumer. How often do you see marketing flyers promoting the service of a local handy man who claims to be an expert in everything from drywall installation to plumbing repairs, and so on? Now, this handyman may get some business out of his efforts, but he’d win a lot more if he specialized in doing one or two things well, building a reputation for himself, and fine tuning his marketing message.  This is why you need a strategy: it will focus you.

Identify Your Niche

The flip side of being a jack of all trades is finding your niche and playing to your strengths within that niche.  Creating a niche for your business is essential to success. For example, say you want to quit your day job and become a freelance writer. You know there’s a need in the market for a trustworthy, reliable, and consistently good technical writer – and clients are willing to pay a certain price point for that quality and value.

Now you could simply advertise your services on an online freelance marketplace, as many do, and hope to pick up any business from any customer anywhere on the map. But by identifying your niche and choosing to attract customers who will value your services, you will quickly build on that niche and be on the path towards business success.

Source SBA

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Getting Your Marketing Message Right

How do you describe your business to the world? What words sum up your brand identity and what you have to offer? Are you clearly explaining your business value?marketing-messages emineo media

It takes a little time and thought to get your marketing message right, which is why so many small businesses fall back on their “About Us” page or product descriptions to describe what they do and for whom. The problem with this approach is that this message is always about the business itself, and not about those you are trying to connect with – your customers.

Getting your marketing, positioning, and brand statements right is an essential step to building your overall business identity.  In marketing circles, it’s called the “marketing platform,” and here are some tips to help you get it right.

1. Understand Your Target Market and Niche

If you want to connect, you have to know with whom you’re connecting. For this, you need to determine your niche. Ask yourself what you are selling and to whom. Are the benefits of dealing with your business clear and are they aligned with the needs of your target customers? Answering these questions will help you focus your messaging and play to your strengths in that niche.

2. Think About Pain Points, Challenges, Needs and Desires

Every business, product, or service responds to a customer’s pain point: a need, a problem, a desire, or a challenge. How you address these “pain points” is critical to your messaging. For some businesses, like a plumber, for example, these needs seem obvious. For others, pain points may be a little harder to define. For example, an upscale seafood bar and restaurant in a suburban community may or may not be addressing a problem or pain point. But you can certainly weave a benefit statement around the fact that it’s helping residents enjoy a taste of big-city dining right on their doorsteps and meets an emotional need for good times close to home!

3. Tell People About your Product – Succinctly

Products are a key part of what you do, but they are not everything. Your product or service should only be a small part of your overall message.  Yes, it’s what you bring to your target audience, but you are offering more – customer service, agility, convenience, reliability, experience, etc. So consider all these issues in light of what they mean to your customer. What’s the “so what” factor? What benefit does it realize for them?

4. Add Proof Points

A proof point backs up what you have to say about your business. Think of it as a “don’t just take our word for it” statement. Proof points include customer quotes, success stories that you write, case studies, and references. They’re important because they show how your business has solved the problems of others. A few words or paragraphs can convey the customer’s challenge, the solution you delivered, and the results they gained.

This is a great exercise because it focuses you on the customer experience. Use these as stand-alone messages or incorporate the common themes you see into your messaging.

5. Figure out how you are Different

What makes you unique in your niche and to your target market? You’ve outlined your product and you know your customer, but how are you different from the competition? Try to tie those differences to perceived value – i.e. why should your customer care about what you do or provide?

6. Decide on a Messaging Platform

What you are aiming for is flexibility. You want to be able to slice and dice your messaging to suit your audience, your collateral, a promotion, or a sales pitch.

A common approach is to create 25-, 50-, and 100-word versions of your message. The shorter version can be used in advertising copy, elevator pitches, or sound bites in marketing materials. The longer versions give you more flexibility to add specific services, benefits, and value statements, backed up by proof points, about why customers should do business with you.

7. Use Your Messaging Consistently

Once you have your message developed, make sure everyone is singing from the same song sheet, from your sales people to your front desk and across your website and marketing pieces. The more your customers hear it, the more likely it will be to resonate and stick.

Source SBA

emineo media brand strategies

Principles of Brand Strategy

In a situation where you’re selling to multiple personalities, it’s best to first connect everyone on a common ground then articulate clearly what’s in it for each of them.emineo media brand strategies

The goal is to stimulate an engaging conversation that allows us to change perception, diagnose expectations and bring clarity to the dialogue.

That’s the essence of developing a brand strategy – the foundation of your communication that builds authentic relationships between you and your audience.

It is by defining your brand strategy that allows you to utilize marketing, advertising, public relations and social media to consistently and accurately reinforce your character.

Without defining the core strategy, all channels of communication can often become a hit and miss expense.

Here’s 12 brand strategy principles I believe to be the key to achieve business success.

1. Define your brand

It starts with your authenticity, the core purpose, vision, mission, position, values and character.  Focus on what you do best and then communicated your inimitable strengths through consistency.

There are many examples of companies acquiring other brands but only to sell them off later because they don’t fit within the brand and its architecture.

2.  Your brand is your business model

Supports and challenge your business model to maximize the potential within your brand. Think of personal brands like Oprah, Donald Trump, Martha Stewart and Richard Branson.

These individuals practically built their business right on top of their personal brand; everything they offer is an extension of their brand promise.

3. Consistency, consistency, consistency

Consistency in your message is the key to differentiate.

Own your position on every reference point for everything that you do. President Obama focuses on one message only during his campaign, CHANGE. BMW has always been known as the “ultimate driving machine.

4. Start from the Inside out

Everyone in your company can tell you what they see, think and feel about your brand.  That’s the story you should bring to the customers as well, drive impact beyond just the walls of marketing.

That’s example how Zappos empowers employees to strengthen consumer perception on its brand.

5. Connect on the emotional level.

A brand is not a name, logo, website, ad campaigns or PR; those are only the tools not the brand.  A brand is a desirable idea manifested in products, services, people, places and experiences.

Starbucks created a third space experience that’s desirable and exclusive so people would want to stay and pay for the overpriced coffee.

Sell people something that satisfies not only their physical needs but their emotional needs and their need to identify themselves to your brand.

6. Empower brand champions

Award those that love your brand to help drive the message, facility activities so they can be part of the process.

If your brand advocate doesn’t tell you what you should or should not be doing, it’s time to evaluate your brand promise.

Go and talk to someone that works at the Apple retail store or an iPhone owner and you’ll see just how passionate they are about Apple.  It’s a lifestyle and a culture.

7. Stay relevant and flexible

A well managed brand is always making adjustments.  Branding is a process, not a race, not an event so expect to constantly tweak your message and refresh your image.

Successful brands don’t cling to the old ways just because they worked in the past; instead, they try to re-invent themselves by being flexible which frees them to be more savvy and creative.

Here is an example: when the economy tanked this year automaker Hyundai came out with an assurance program that lets you return your car if you lose your job with no further financial obligation and no damage to your credit.

The results?

As of end of February, only two buyers have taken advantage of this program but it has boosted their sales by 14% year-over-year in Q1, only one of the two companies increased revenue while companies such as Honda experienced a drop of more than 30%.

Follow by that campaign in July, as gas prices expected to push higher during peak summer travel months, Hyundai came out with another program that guarantees a year’s worth of gas at $1.49 per gallon on most models.

8. Align tactics with strategy

Convey the brand message on the most appropriate media platform with specific campaign objectives.

Because consumers are bombarded by commercial messages everyday, they’re also actively blocking out the great majority of them.

Invest your branding efforts on the right platform that communicates to the right channels.

Television may be expensive but it has a broader reach, wider demographics and can produce instant impact.  On the other hand, social media may seem cheap but it takes time, resources and may not give you the desire outcome.

9. Measure the effectiveness

Focus on the ROI (return on investment) is the key to measure the effectiveness of your strategies.

Often times it is how well your organization can be inspired to execute the strategies. It could also be reflected in brand valuation or how your customers react to your product and price adjustments.

Ultimately it should resonate with sales and that means profitability.  But don’t just focus increasing sales when you could be getting a profit boost by reducing overheads and expenses as well.

Give yourself options to test different marketing tactics, make sure they fit your brand authenticity and aligns with your strategy.

10. Cultivate your community

Community is a powerful and effective platform on which to engage customers and create loyalty towards the brand.

In an active community, members feel a need to connect with each other in the context of the brand’s consumption.

We all want to be an insider of something, it excites us to tell people which community we’re part of and what knowledge we posses.

In many ways it’s our ego that prides us to be part of a sports team or a professional group.

Guess what car would members of the Porsche club consider first when it’s time to purchase their next vehicle?

Brand communities allow companies to collaborate with customers in all phases of value creation via crowdsourcing such as product design, pricing strategy, availability, and even how to sell.

11. Keep your enemies closer

Even if you have the most innovative, highly desirable product, you can expect new competitors with a superior value proposition to enter your market down the road.

The market is always big enough for new players to improve what you deliver better, faster, cheaper. Call it hypercompetition or innovation economics, competition could be good for you believe it or not.

It challenges you brand to elevate the strategy and deliver more value.

Just look at how the Big Three (automobile manufacturers General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler) got crushed in the past decade by competitions from Germany and Japanese.

Not only do their competitors make a better product, they’re more efficient doing it and command a higher brand loyalty.

In 2008, Toyota overtook GM while Honda passed Chrysler in US sales.

12. Practice brand strategy thinking

IDEO’s CEO Tim Brown calls design thinking “a process for creating new choices.

Essentially it means to not just settle for the choices currently available but to think outside the box without being limited.

This concept actually applies to your brand strategy creation process that I called brand strategy thinking.

It’s always easier to execute tactics than coming up with a strategy because it implies the possibility of failure.

It’s much faster to emulate what worked for your competitor than to come up with something original and creative.

But the truth is, that’s not you and it violates the first principle of brand strategy.  Brand strategy thinking is about creating the right experience that involve all the stakeholders to foster a better strategy.

Leverage the ecosystem that includes your employees, partners and customers to help you articulate your brand strategy so they sync together.

The take away: Having a brand strategy will bring clarity and meaning to your brand so you can focus on making, creating, and selling things that people actually care about.

Source

5 Tips for Using Competitive Differentiators to Build Your Business Brand

Are you effectively using competitive differentiators to stand out from the crowd and win customers? Can you or your sales team clearly explain to customers why your build-brand emineo mediabusiness is different from the competition and why this should matter to them (i.e. the “so what” factor)?

Here are some tips for incorporating your differentiators into your sales and marketing strategy.

1.  Examine Your Differentiators and What They Mean to Your Customers

Very few businesses can sell and survive on a price differentiators alone. And even if your business operates in a saturated and highly competitive market, there are always facets of your business that can make you stand apart from your competition.

For example, consider the service contractor market. If your customers live in a town, city or suburb, then there’s a good chance they have plenty of choice when it comes to painters, landscapers, plumbers and so on. And while price is important, it’s important to be clear on what else you have to offer.

How can you really help your customers? Are you consultative? Can you advise them on the best solution for their needs rather than always trying to upsell unnecessary work? Is there a product that would be a better fit for their needs than the one they’ve requested a quote for? Do you have a strong reliability record? Do you supervise all work? Are you a good communicator?

Then ask yourself what these mean to your customers – what is the “so what” of your approach? Is it money-savings, quality workmanship/products that will last, etc.?

This is just the first step, and you may find your differentiators vary depending on who your customer is and what they need. But the important thing is they are starting to emerge; next you’ll need to define these differences in the contrast to what your competition is doing.

2.  What is the Competition Doing and How Can You Sell Against Them?

To help refine your differentiators, it’s important to identify the differentiators your competitors are claiming for themselves. Competitive weaknesses are just as important as strengths, so try to uncover your competitors’ vulnerabilities too and where your strengths come into play against these.

Ask around, ask your customers and check online reviews (Google+ Local, Yelp.com, Angie’s List, Service Magic and community discussion forums). If you lose a deal, ask why.

3.  Which of Your Differentiators Matter to Your Customers?

What matters to you doesn’t always matter to your customers. Listen to your customers’ needs, survey them or post a poll on Facebook asking what they value about your business. Use what you find out to further refine your differentiators.

4.  Integrity Matters

One of the most important distinctions between small businesses and larger companies is the role that the small business owner plays as a brand advocate. As a small business owner, the reputation and success of the business hinges on you. So be true to your business values as you work to define and communicate your differentiators. Avoid glibness, have integrity and be honest. Be prepared to explain why you are better than the competition without walking all over them – define your positives in the light of their negatives and back up your claims with customer testimonials and references.

5.  Ensure Everyone is Singing off the Same Hymn Sheet

To help you really define your differentiators, write them down. Prepare an elevator pitch and consistent marketing messages that can be rolled into your web copy, emails, phone calls and so on.

Source SCORE

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7 Tips for Getting Your Marketing Message Right

How do you describe your business to the world? What words sum up your brand identity and what you have to offer? Are you clearly explaining your business value?

It takes a little time and thought to get your marketing message right, which is why so many small businesses fall back on their “About Us” page or product descriptions to describe what they do and for whom. The problem with this approach is that this message is always about the business itself, and not about those you are trying to connect with – your customers.

Getting your marketing, positioning, and brand statements right is an essential step to building your overall business identity.  In marketing circles, it’s called the “marketing platform,” and here are some tips to help you get it right.

1. Understand Your Target Market and Niche

If you want to connect, you have to know with whom you’re connecting. For this, you need to determine your niche. Ask yourself what you are selling and to whom. Are the benefits of dealing with your business clear and are they aligned with the needs of your target customers? Answering these questions will help you focus your messaging and play to your strengths in that niche.

2. Think About Pain Points, Challenges, Needs and Desires

Every business, product, or service responds to a customer’s pain point: a need, a problem, a desire, or a challenge. How you address these “pain points” is critical to your messaging. For some businesses, like a plumber, for example, these needs seem obvious. For others, pain points may be a little harder to define. For example, an upscale seafood bar and restaurant in a suburban community may or may not be addressing a problem or pain point. But you can certainly weave a benefit statement around the fact that it’s helping residents enjoy a taste of big-city dining right on their doorsteps and meets an emotional need for good times close to home!

3. Tell People About your Product – Succinctly

Products are a key part of what you do, but they are not everything. Your product or service should only be a small part of your overall message.  Yes, it’s what you bring to your target audience, but you are offering more – customer service, agility, convenience, reliability, experience, etc. So consider all these issues in light of what they mean to your customer. What’s the “so what” factor? What benefit does it realize for them?

4. Add Proof Points

A proof point backs up what you have to say about your business. Think of it as a “don’t just take our word for it” statement. Proof points include customer quotes, success stories that you write, case studies, and references. They’re important because they show how your business has solved the problems of others. A few words or paragraphs can convey the customer’s challenge, the solution you delivered, and the results they gained.

This is a great exercise because it focuses you on the customer experience. Use these as stand-alone messages or incorporate the common themes you see into your messaging.

5. Figure out how you are Different

What makes you unique in your niche and to your target market? You’ve outlined your product and you know your customer, but how are you different from the competition? Try to tie those differences to perceived value – i.e. why should your customer care about what you do or provide?

6. Decide on a Messaging Platform

What you are aiming for is flexibility. You want to be able to slice and dice your messaging to suit your audience, your collateral, a promotion, or a sales pitch.

A common approach is to create 25-, 50-, and 100-word versions of your message. The shorter version can be used in advertising copy, elevator pitches, or sound bites in marketing materials. The longer versions give you more flexibility to add specific services, benefits, and value statements, backed up by proof points, about why customers should do business with you.

7. Use Your Messaging Consistently

Once you have your message developed, make sure everyone is singing from the same song sheet, from your sales people to your front desk and across your website and marketing pieces. The more your customers hear it, the more likely it will be to resonate and stick.

Source SBA

Interactive Web & Social

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