Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Exploit Your Brand To The Fullest

A brand goes beyond a company name and tagline. It is a complete personality or set of values, sometimes even a story line, along with repeated visual, auditory and behavioral elements. When you decide to invest in creating a brand, follow these guidelines to ensure that you get your money's worth:

1. Be distinctive. You'll land your company in expensive legal hot water if you attempt to steal or encroach on another company's identity. Apart from legalities, you tend to get the most bang for your branding buck when you generate a powerful contrast with competitors' images. Do something different.

2. Repeat, repeat, repeat! The more times your slogans, logo, stories, colors, themes, values and other elements come before your intended public, the greater their effect. Normally, if you have XXXXX dollars to spend this year spreading awareness of your brand, you're better off creating thousands of small impressions than spending it all on one blow-out event.

Think of the radio and TV ads that sing in your head while you're trying to concentrate on something else. No matter how catchy those tunes, they wouldn't do that if you heard them only once. The same goes for the world's most creative bank logo. When prospective customers also see that image on magnets at their friends' houses, on tote bags at the day care center, on thermoses in taxicabs and on the uniforms of the local softball league - then it's really starting to make an impact.

3. Be consistent. Branding works best when you use the same colors, the same musical theme, the same company name and the same symbols in all company materials and environments. The store shouldn't be called "O'Reilley's" on T-shirts and "OReilleys" in the newspaper ad.

Sounds obvious, but even powerhouses like IBM have neglected this rule. In the early 1990's, IBM had several hundred different logos and slogans circulating. In mid-1994, it laid down the law on which identity elements were authorized and which prohibited. Partly as a result, in 1995 IBM rose to the position of the world's third most valuable brand from position number 282 the year before.

4. Be persistent. Those within a company will be tempted to change the image of a brand way before it's time to do so. Never modify or update a central element of a brand just because you're tired of it. If it's working, it can continue working for decades.

Since the 1880's, Ivory soap has successfully called itself "99 44/100% pure." Marlboro has linked itself with cowboys since the 1950's - and the brand has a current value of around $13 billion. Betty Crocker has changed her hairstyle, but she's been wearing red and white since her first appearance on food products in 1921.

5. Don't water it down. A brand must stand for something and must be linked with something specific in the minds of your public. When Packard, which had been America's top luxury-brand car, suddenly announced in the 1940's, "Now everyone can afford a Packard," the company slid into deep trouble. Cadillac picked up buyers who'd previously wanted the cachet of a Packard.

6. Evolve as necessary. Brands may need to mutate when they're perceived as misrepresenting a company that has changed or as out of step with the times. A dramatic example is the updating of Betty Crocker, who lost the original gray flecks in her hair over time and changed from homey-looking to dressed for success to more informally attired as society changed.

With bank mergers now epidemic, it's crucial to try to keep brand equity going. When one bank does not simply swallow the other, designers have come up with elegant new combinations of old identity elements -- one color from company A and one from company B, one syllable from each, a new shape incorporating symbols from both banks, etc.

7. Protect it. Registering a trademark gives you a measure of legal exclusivity on your brand identity, including sometimes even a color scheme, a product's look and feel or an interior decorating scheme. Even so, you may need to police unauthorized usage of your brand elements by searching out offenders and sending cease-and-desist letters. Contact an intellectual property attorney for details.

Don't let your brand name degenerate into a generic term. "Aspirin" used to be a brand name, as did "Escalator." You may feel flattered that people are using your product, service or company name to stand for its entire category, but when that kind of usage becomes widespread it can open the door to competitors having legal license to trade upon the investment you've made in injecting that name into people's minds.

Four Good Ways To Guarantee Repeat Business

At the backbone of every successful business is the repeat customer. While it is great to get referrals, it is important to realize that a referral may result in an interested individual taking a look at a business or store, but by and large curiosity rarely translates into sales. On the other hand, a customer who already knows what to expect, who understands your way of doing business, and who comes back for more is an almost guaranteed sale! Yet in a day and age when customer service is virtually and certifiably dead – have you ever approached a store employee only to have the person shrug her or his shoulders and tell you it’s not their job? – it becomes harder and harder to entice customers or clients to come back.

Nonetheless, here are four ways to guarantee repeat business:

1. Be careful whom you hire. He might be your Cousin Betty’s favorite nephew, but if his attitude leaves something to be desired he will be more of an albatross around your business’ neck than an asset. Business and family sometimes do not mix well, and it may become rather awkward if you have to fire your kid sister, but the bottom line is simple: whoever is working for you is representing the business, and this representation needs to be made in such a way that the customer will love to come back. Personable, kind, and polite service are a must!

2. Know your business just a little better than the competition knows theirs. If you are a carpet cleaner, you will want to keep up with the latest and the greatest innovations. Think of the termite companies that have since time immemorial tented homes in order to eradicate termites with poisonous gasses. The new innovation was orange oil and most companies simply scoffed at the idea – until one or two companies took up the challenge and learned all there was about this new product. These companies are now running circles around the competition and repeat business is guaranteed!

3. Treat your client or customer well. Friendly customer service, superior product or service, and a personalized attitude to the business are a must. Yet so is the ability to apologize and rectify a situation that might have gone wrong. If you are a dog groomer and instead of giving the Bichon Frise its special Bichon cut, you went ahead and mistook it for a poodle and gave it a poodle do... While this is a big oops, the fact that you are not charging for the service, but instead will make weekly appointments at the customer’s home to even out the cut as it grows out; with complimentary nail clippings and shampoos to boot will go a long ways to ensuring that this customer likes the way you correct a mistake. The odds are good she or he will come back.

4. Last but not least, do not nickel and dime your customers. Many businesses have taken to charging late fees, electricity recovery fees, fuel fees, and a host of other surcharge, fees, and other sums – all of which leave the customers with a bad taste in their mouths. Instead of allowing yourself to follow this questionable business practice, make sure that the price you quote is the price you charge, and rather than trying to keep posted prices low by not factoring in your operating costs, incorporate them in your prices even if this makes you a bit more expensive. When consumers realize that you do not charge extra fees they will love you!

Managing A Small Business Can Be Tough but rewarding

Running a small business is tough because the buck  stops at you for absolutely everything. The difference between success and failure can be a fine line. A small mistake in the first two years can knock a small business owner for six whilst a large new customer can propel you very quickly to new horizons.

Small business owners need to deal with all aspects of the business from book keeping, marketing, innovation, distribution, finance and customers that refuse to pay. Large companies have a separate department for each of the above tasks.

If you make a mistake in your record keeping the Inland Revenue comes knocking on your door. They work on the rule that you have read all their pamphlets and do not class ignorance as a defence. What a bunch of losers!

Countless sleepless nights, arguments with bank managers, disputes with suppliers and angry customers can all lead to stress overload.

And this is just the start, especially if you have gone into business with a friend! Make sure that everything you have agreed on is in writing so that further down the road there are no disputes about what was agreed. Better still do not go into business with a friend!

The first couple of years are the hardest as most banks have very tough lending criteria for small businesses. Do not hesitate to change your bank manager or even your bank if you are not getting a sympathetic response. Not all banks are the same. Some even offer free banking for the first couple of years!

Having a good accountant who will not start billing you the second you call, can help a lot. If you have friend who also happens to be an accountant then this could prove invaluable. Do not be scared to change your accountant or lawyer at the start. Building the right relationships at the beginning is critical.

Another problem small business face is absenteeism. If one member of staff is of ill it can reduce the entire workforce by fifty percent! It's a great idea to have someone you can rely on as a backup. Another great idea is to possibly take on two part timers rather than one employee. They can both act as back ups for each other.

It's important that you plan your growth. Obviously we would all like to see really good growth but if a business grows too fast it can lead to disaster. In some cases you might have to rein it until cash flows allow for another spurt.

Factoring your debts - where a finance company pays you upfront 80% of any outstanding invoices and then does the job of chasing payments can really help here.

Never be afraid to change tracks if the something is not working. If you are selling products that are not making you money - change direction. If you have a customer who takes up too much time for very little profit - dump him. If you have a supplier who keeps letting you down - find a new one. If you have an obnoxious employee - find someone else now before you waste too much time training the wrong person.

Be creative and always on the lookout for that special idea, promotion material or something different to get your customers talking about you.

Once you have run your own company successfully and got used to making your own decisions, it can be very exhilarating & chances are that you will never work for someone again.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Courting the Millenials

Recruitment of top notch young talent who can enter your work force and provide that kind of long term growth potential and can only come from a smart and productive staff is always a challenge. One of the big reasons any business works to keep its public image high and to project the concept that they are an employer of choice is to recruit the best and the brightest from the youth ranks.

Young employees bring a lot to a business that can compliment an older work force and make the business much more vital. Younger employees are savvy to the wants and needs of their peers. So instead of trying to guess how to market to the current generation of 18-28 year olds who are the age segment with disposable income, by keeping such employees on staff, you have the inside track to the priorities of the current generation. Further youthful employees are often optimistic and out to change the world. Their sense of mission and belief in the system as a means to make the world a better place results not only in a better morale internally but in business philosophy that shares those values.

The tendency to name the upcoming generations can be a bit trite but it helps in knowing who the target group for recruitment are. And that group of youthful future employees that will be hitting the job market in the next few years has been dubbed “the millennials”. And despite the traumatizing events of world terrorism, war and the decay of the environment, the millennials come to you with that youthful enthusiasm and desire to make a big difference in the world that sets them apart from previous generations.

To lure the brightest minds coming from the nation’s colleges, some rethinking of what we put in front of these young people is in order. They are not leaving academia strictly with the objective of making a lot of money. So to turn the head of youth workers who can make a change for the better in your business…
  •  Don’t just make the potential job about money or your recognizable business name. The reputation of the company can be as much a negative as it can be a positive. The millennial recruitee will look past the sign on the building at what the company is really all about.
  • The millennial is more internet savvy and wants to use modern technology to accomplish business goals. It’s in our best interest to facilitate that goal because it will keep us in touch with the marketplace.
  • Corporate culture is an important factor for both recruiting and retaining good employees from this generation. Millenials are looking for a business climate that is creative, able to change when new things become available, highly accessible upper management and responsive.
  • Corporate values mean a lot to the millennial crowd. That means that those high minded values printed on posters and plastered all over the Human Resource department have to actually mean something. By demonstrating that the business lives up to its ethics and values, that will appeal the idealistic side of youthful workers.
  • The values that the business supports must reflect a modern attitude toward diversity and “going green”. If you walk a millennial around the office during his or her interview, they will notice the recycling bins scattered about. They will notice the diversity of culture and race in the employee mix.
  • Be prepared to recruit from various disciplines. Even if you are recruiting for a financial services function or some other specialization, keep your mind open to recruiting students with a focus on liberal arts or teaching. These millennials can be trained to the specific job and they bring a fresh approach to the job description that comes from their college area of focus.

These are things that might take time to change if the corporate culture is behind the times. But it’s worth the effort to start now to attract the kinds of workers that mean long term growth for the company. By doing some serious analysis on how up to the date the business is, you can begin to affect change now so by this time next year, you will be in better shape to court the millennials.

The Importance of Transferable Skills for Graduates

Transferable skills can be defined as those skills or abilities that can be applied equally from one job to another. They are skills that graduates have gathered through volunteer work, sports, hobbies, community work, and can be used in their new careers. The importance of transferable skills for graduates cannot be overstated. There is a growing demand from employers, for strong graduates with desirable transferable skills.

In this day and age, employers expect graduates to not only have knowledge of their area of study or expertise, but to have the inherent and learned ability to adapt to the new working environment they will be joining, bringing exceptional communication skills, the ability to lead and be led, and the proven ability to function efficiently and effectively.

Transferable Skills and Education
Education does not mean simply to impart knowledge, but to contribute to the holistic development of the student. Skills, such as communication skills, planning skills, and multi-tasking skills, among others, are known as transferable skills, and are also alternately called ‘key skills,’ ‘generic skills,’ or ‘core skills.’

In the ever-changing employment market, there is an increasing need for graduates to move away from the conventional market, as there is a diverse range of jobs for them. They need to perform efficiently as soon as they take up their new appointment, utilizing the many transferable skills they may have picked up during their education. Today’s work environment strongly endorses the transferable skills in a graduate seeking employment.

There is research going on to identify the type of transferable skills that are required by graduates. The scope of the research, among others, includes:

• Identifying transferable skills valued by employers.
• Ascertaining the importance of transferable skills when recruiting graduates

While recruiting graduates, ‘transferable skills’ is a more sought after factor as opposed to academic record and relevant work experience. Developing transferable skills that would be an asset in a work environment is a major concern for graduates. In the fast-paced work environment, employers are looking for graduates who can fit into their organizations; can add value and learning quickly.

More and more organizations and employers are looking to employ graduates, who not only are experts in their career field, but also are competent in other realms of the business world including communication, networking, team building, and career management.

Some of the transferable skills, which employers look for, are:

• Delegating responsibility
• Dealing with crises
• Attending to visual detail
• Assessing and evaluating own and others' work
• Time management
• Multi-tasking
• Presenting written and oral material
• Handling complaints
• Keeping records
• Coordinating activities
• Planning and arranging activities
• Utilizing specific computer software
• Training or teaching others
• Motivating others
• Identifying and managing ethical issues

Organizations with affirmative recruiting objectives will recruit earlier, even before the end of the academic year, allowing them first pick in graduates

Crisis Management: The Most Basic Of Needs

Crisis management is something that every individual needs to consider. Whether you are preparing yourself for a crisis situation or if you are responsible for a school full of children, it is necessary to be prepared. There are excellent resources to help you do this and it also helps to take a good look at your individual situation. There are many types of crisis management situations and we will discuss that here.

Business Related Crisis Management:

• Public relation crisis: Could you be involved in negative publicity? It could destroy a company. Preparing for it is necessary.

• Financial crisis: Probably the most important type of crisis management that is needed has to do with money.

• Strategic crisis: What if the company is no longer viable? What would you do?

In these cases, you will want to prepare your company or business to handle any such situation. You will want to prepare plans to handle the immediate and long term needs of the company. The planning is necessary in every business out there.

International Crisis Management:

In this case, mostly dealt with and by government agencies, there is a strong need for preparation. The what if’s need to be decided upon long before there is a problem. Most government agencies have crisis management teams that are continuously updating as need for their information and strategies for protection.

School Crisis Management:

Most schools have an obligation to protect their children through crisismanagement. What would happen if there was a fire, a tornado or some other disaster? What if there was a bomb threat? Now, there are also crisismanagementstrategies developed for dealing with violence and gun fire. You will also find that most schools havemanagement plans in place for unwelcome visitors as well as a death or other emergency a child may experience.

At Home:

It is necessary for families to have crisis management plans in place as well. You will find that these are necessary in helping families to find a way out of problems such as natural disasters, fires and robberies. Dealing with violence, bombs, and even just an emergency in general is necessary.

Preparation is the key to the best laid crisis management plans.