Alignment and Values

Over the past few weeks, I have been posting about Alignment. I wrote a lot about making sure that the messages that customers received were consistent and consistent with your Brand. I want to make sure that the what is being communicated is an accurate reflection. Values are the key here. What do you believe about your business? What problems do you solve and how do you solve them? How do you make decisions? How do you deal with challenges and conflict? All of these questions and more come from a place of value. Value represents what you believe and how you act. It is this that people that you come in contact with will take away from any interaction. As it is said, Actions speak louder than Words.

So, how do you display your Values? You do so by being authentic in your communications and actions. People will react to authenticity. If you keep having to fake your way through conversations, that will come across to those you meet. It is why you can not overcome an objection that you believe in. Your prospects will see the truth and act accordingly.

So, when you build up your message you need to be authenitic and bring your values to light in what you are doing. Almost any message can be made to work, but someone elses message will not work for you. Bringing all this together means that you will choose naturally to align things. Of course, this gets to be a problem as you include other people whether they are employees, partners, prospects or customers. You will have much greater success with people that are aligned with your Values as well. Which is why it is important to understand which Values are important to your work and workplace. Not every Value is important at work nor are they all worth bringing to the workplace. There are hot button topics that do not matter at work and it is fine to keep them separate. It does not mean that you should not have them, just that you need to be clear that they add nothing to your business.

This means that you should have a relatively short list of Values by which your business will operate. These need to be clear to everyone involved in it. The biggest challenge will be with employees and partners. They will often agree with your Values externally but not internally. There will be challenges that they present to your Values to see if they are true and authentic. It is at those moments where you get to decide whether these Values are real.

One of my past employers called together a management meeting at which we were told that the number one value of the company was being ethical. Within a week, I was told to evaluate a supplier and I let the team know that one of the senior members of the supplier was a convicted felon. I was then promptly told that this was not important and to continue the evaluation. As you can guess, I decided that being ethical actually did not matter to this company.

So, align your company with your values. Make sure your values are the way you want your business to run and then run it that way. This will build your Brand with all the people you meet.

Have a great day!

Jim Sackman Focal Point Business Coaching Business Coaching, Executive Training, Sales Training, Marketing

Change Your Business - Change Your Life!

Alignment and Simplicity

One of the problems that I have seen with clients is that they often don't see the complexity of the messaging that they send out to their Customers, Prospects and Partners. The complexity itself makes things difficult for others to see the value in their work. So, how to fix it? Well, the starting point is the old Elevator Pitch. There is a lot of disdain for these short messaging format. But in this context it has a purpose, how to keep your message simple. The simpler and clearer what you say is the better off you are. If you need to make a long sales pitch, you have to ask yourself how differentiated you really are. If the benefits of what you do are that hard to understand, how much on top of the priority list will you be.

In case you don't know, an Elevator Pitch is what you might tell someone about your business in an Elevator ride. Generally this is considered 1 minute or less with 3 ideas maximum to be communicated. Have you done this for your business? If not, it is the place to start. What would you do to communicate the important elements of your business in that short time what would you want your Customers, Prospects and Partners to hear?

Once we have those messages, you can then look at the rest of your marketing with those message as the backbone of what your communications is. Does your marketing align with your Elevator Pitch? If not, why not? Get back to basics and communicate those primary messages first. Often times I see marketing material written for those that are already in the business that the client is in. The language that is used is "Inside Baseball". That means that people are confused on what is meant by what the material says. Clients are often not aware that they are doing it. This is a perspective thing. What is necessary is an Outside - In perspective. In other words, from the perspective of the Customer. This is often a challenge for people that have worked in their business for a very long time. They can't get outside their box. In many ways, this is the best reason to engage outsiders. They can give you the perspective from outside the business without any prejudice, especially if they have not spent significant time within the industry.

So, even though that Elevator Pitch may never be actually used it becomes the best method of simplifying your message. There is one more element of this simplicity and that is repetition. People get your message through repeated contact. This is one of the primary goals of Alignment. Every contact that you have with a Prospect or Customer delivers the same message. Remember they are not inside your business every day to hear your message. They need to receive it regularly.

Have a great day! Jim Sackman Focal Point Business Coaching Business Coaching, Executive Training, Sales Training, Marketing

Change Your Business - Change Your Life!

Alignment and Customers

Last week I posted about Communications and Alignment. I think that internal communications is very important. This week I want to provide a thought about external communications. In particular, Communications with your Customers. Now most folks want to talk about Communications with new prospects and customers. I want to focus on the other end of the spectrum. Do you have an effective plan to communicate with your existing customers? Any Marketing or Sales person worth their salt will tell you that it is easier to keep an existing customer than it is to land a new one.

I had a client that I was discussing their Unique Value Proposition (UVP) with a few weeks back and I posed the following question, "Have you asked your best customers why they hire you?" The intent of that question has a multitude of things that can be derived from it. In this case, the client was unclear on his UVP and I need to explore that with him. Since he has an ongoing and growing business, he is doing many things correctly. So, there is an academic exercise around Messaging that can be done. But to help push things along, why not find out what you are doing right already. Once he has talked to customers, he and I will sit down and see what he feels about the answers he has gotten.

This particular client works in a way that uses referral marketing with his client base. In fact, his business is built on that as a primary marketing channel. So, I asked him if he sends "Thank You" cards to his clients and includes a Business Card for them to hand out? Which he off implementing.

That is just one case and involves a particular client of mine. Everybody is different and needs to have a different communications plan with existing customers. The question that I have to ask you today is if you have looked at the alignment of these communications with your Brand and Messaging? It is just as important or perhaps more important than the messages that you send to your prospects. I saw a post that week that talked about Marketing Messaging on websites needed to be turned towards your existing customers. I disagree with that strongly. In many cases existing clients will not be visiting your website except to get phone numbers or location information. Specific customer offers they are likely on Landing Pages or Customer Portals that existing customers go to. Your main website is more a place for prospects than customers because of that.

So, in the end it is pretty simple. Have you looked at your UVP and seen if your customer communications is in line with it? I am sure you have with your prospect communications. This might be the easiest way to grow your business. If you had a higher rate of customer retention or greater spending by return customers, it might be the best way to grow!

Have a great day. Jim Sackman Focal Point Business Coaching Business Coaching, Executive Training, Sales Training, Marketing

Change Your Business - Change Your Life!

Your Branding Message: Wrapping it All Up

So, we have taken a look at the last few week on the broad impact that a Brand Message can have on Your Business. I want to go back and align things to ensure that there is clarity for my message. I will start with Your Brand which is: Your Unique Value Proposition (UVP) as viewed by Your Ideal Client. Also, recall Your Brand Message is "The Promise that You make to Your Prospects on becoming Your Customer." Those are my organizing principals here. It is all about the message that you communicate.

Looking back up the chain of logic, this means that you must be clear on both Your UVP and Your Ideal Client. Without understanding these two items, you are likely to have a problem in creating Your Business. You will spend resources trying to sell products and services to prospects that are not the best fit. I see this all the time in businesses. They spend considerable energy and money trying to close on prospects that are not the right fit. There are plenty of reasons for that, but the biggest is not knowing who you want to sell to and why they will want to buy.

Looking down the logic chain, Execution comes into focus. Are you and your employees meeting the Brand Promise every time? If not, then you have to change that. This is what Brand building in the real world is all about. Meeting and exceeding the expectations of your customers. You made them specific promises and now it is time to follow through on them. That is what will build your reputation and thus your Brand.

Along with Your Brand are all the ways that you promote yourself. Are these ways compatible and positive for Your Brand. These promotions have to align with what you want both Your Brand and Your Brand Message say about you as well as your products and services. To be clear about promotions and promoting, I do not mean Coupons. I mean Marketing in whatever form you choose. That can be anything from Referrals to Telemarketing. You need to Assess whether this fits with your Brand.

For example, this is a Marketing piece for me. If you read what I write and like it, you are more likely to consider hiring me and my firm to work with you. I am writing in the form of providing Education and Information, but I hope you all realize that there is more to me than just the writing. My job is to apply the principals that I have given you (and others) to You and Your Business. If I help ensure your success and growth, then we both win. I get a client and hopefully a friend. You get to achieve your goals and hopefully make a friend as well.

So, how does Blogging fit with my Brand Message? Well, for me it is all about giving you tools. There are many parts of Coaching that I can't really do in a Blog. But there are some things and that is all about making you think about Your Business and how you will achieve Your Goals. If even one person gets thoughtful about what they do and why they do it, then this post is more than worthwhile.

Have a great day!

Jim Sackman Focal Point Business Coaching Business Coaching, Executive Training, Sales Training, Marketing

Change Your Business - Change Your Life!

Your Brand Message: In Practice

I had a couple of opportunities last week to discuss Branding with clients. I thought it might be useful to talk about real world challenges that Small Business Owners face. Both of these examples come from my view that Brand and Brand Messaging has to do with Execution in the Business. The first example comes from a firm in the Marketing Business. This is a Business owned by a Couple and they are the primary actors in the Business. We are working on re-positioning the Business to serve a higher end clientele. The challenge is that the more technical of the partners comes from a background and experience that is contrary to the kind of Brand they want to develop. This has caused some customer confusion and loss of potential business. I wanted to give them some concrete steps on how to make a change.

As usual, I fell back to Automobile companies. They make such wonderful examples in Branding because of the variety and breadth of examples. I asked the person to describe to me someone dispatched from the company to deal with a car issue. In one case, the car was a Rolls-Royce. In the other, it was a VW Bug. He gave a description of the different people that would show up. I pointed out to him that neither was right or wrong. They simply were and that is okay. The two people they described were very different and we talked about the differences.

Next, I asked them about some companies that they respected in their business. I got some answers and asked how my clients differed and how they wanted to work within their business and what image they wished to project. I think the client got it at that point. They get to project any image that they choose. But they do get to choose it and they need to be consistent about it.

Later, I met a client in the Construction Business. They had the problem that many of the employees did not demonstrate the same values that they did. We talked about that. I started by suggesting that he make sure that all the employees know what his differentiation is. This is all part of his Brand Message to prospects and clients. If his employees are not clear on the Brand, then they need to be as they are customer facing on a regular basis. We went through the exercise of going from the Lead Generation from following through on the Brand Message all the way to their paychecks. I hope to hear positive results at our next meeting.

I hope seeing Branding and the Brand Message in action helps. Everybody has challenges and with just a bit of effort we can make things much clearer and better for our customers.

Jim Sackman Focal Point Business Coaching Business Coaching, Executive Training, Sales Training, Marketing

Change Your Business - Change Your Life!

Sonoma County: News and Notes

I continue my earnings reviews this week with taking a look at Enphase. I know some of you would expect me to review Cyan this week. But with the buyout in the news, I want to wait a week to let that settle down and see how that proceeds. So, that will be next week. Enphase is still experiencing rather massive growth. Top line Revenue in Q1 was $86.7M and is about 50% year over year growth. The company experienced a loss in Q1 of $3.2M. Both of these numbers are worse than Q4 numbers. That is to be expected and if you take a look back at Enphase you will see this dip in Q1 each year.

In Financial Language, this is called Seasonality. What this means is that there is a normal rhythm to the purchasing of products. Many businesses go through this and Enphase does do to Winter. If you are tracking a stock for a company with Seasonality, it is often best to do Year over Year comparisons not Quarter over Quarter. In this case, you will learn more comparing to Q1 2014 than Q4 2014. The best way to see if a stock has Seasonality is to look at results from the past and see if there is a pattern to Revenue that repeats annually.

Now the company took quite a hit in the market today and we need to explore why. The most likely reason is a downgrade by Merrill-Lynch. I do not have access to their notes behind the change, but ML did downgrade Enphase to Underperform.

On a more macro level, there are ongoing challenges in the Solar Business. These challenges are not new but there are some changes in the Solar Market itself. In general, there is a lot of investment in various forms of Cleaner and Renewable energy. This means that there is a lot of pressure on different kinds of solutions and there is significant downward price pressure. This means that Enphase must continue to reduce product costs on a regular basis. But none of this is new and should not be a new issue for investors.

If there is anything new, it is new competitors entering the new businesses that Enphase is just going into. In fact, Tesla is going to be a competitor in the Solar Energy Storage business. People are unsure of how reception of these new initiatives. One of the mistakes that the Enphase Executives make on the call is to use the same words all the time to describe the reception of these new products (they are being well received). It sounds to the ear as if these are perfunctory statements and not genuine representations of the reality. I am not saying that the company is not being truthful. I am saying that it sounds wrong and investors are detecting risk that may or may not be real.

Anyway, Enphase looks to be prepared for ongoing growth. They are still matching expenses to profit to maximize growth in a break even business. This strategy is a market share land grab and is normal for this kind of company.

I hope to see many of you tomorrow at the Santa Rosa Business Showcase at the Wells Fargo Center. Jim Sackman Focal Point Business Coaching Business Coaching, Executive Training, Sales Training, Marketing

Change Your Business - Change Your Life!