As I’ve written before, “Brand” and “Branding” are words tossed around in a variety of ways. For small and mid-market companies, the vast majority of what’s thrown around about branding is crap.
I’d like to highlight the portion that isn’t. To begin that journey, I ask: Do you really understand what your brand is, and the power behind it?
I’m always looking for new ways to help owners and executives of growing SME’s understand that, and recently I came across a branding study designed to guage the power of a brand. I’m a big fan of Marty Neumeier, and since his firm was behind the study, I looked at it closely.
The Brand Impact Study highlights four important attributes to determine a brands power. These four attributes are valuable for any executive looking to expand sales, margins or both. They are:
- Do the right people know who you are?
- Do they have a positive, meaningful impression of your business?
- Do they consider your business relevant?
- Do your prospects position you as a problem solver, or merely a solutions provider?
- Do they view you as someone to engage with while they’re figuring things out, or after they’re ready to issue an RFP?
- Does your target audience understand your value proposition?
- Do they acknowledge, understand and value the difference your bring to the market?
- Do your prospects understand your impact ?
- Do they understand, and can they articulate the consequence/cost of not doing business with you?
Strength in these four areas – with the right prospects/customers – is the definition of a powerful brand (even if most people don’t know who you are). Keeping these four components at the top of your mind when developing your marketing and brand strategy will go a long way to accelerating your growth and protecting your margins.
The comedic approach taken by a number of insurance companies is not working, according to USA Today. While I admit that I find the Farmer’s Insurance commercial entertaining, it hasn’t even tempted me to think about buying anything from them.
As I’ve written many times before, being different should never be the focus. Today, it’s not even enough to be different and better; instead, you must be different, better and relevant. The problem with most traditional marketing approaches is they do nothing to make companies, products or services relevant.
The article highlights the changes Nationwide Insurance, among others, is making to their advertising campaigns.
“While the World’s Greatest Spokesperson helped boost brand awareness for the first time in over a decade, the two-year campaign couldn’t stem eroding market share — off 9% since 2009 — even as Nationwide was pouring more and more money into advertising. Last year alone, Nationwide hiked annual ad spending more than 35% to more than $200 million.”
How do you like that?! Increase ad spending by more than $70 million dollars and lose 9% of your market share. Where is Sergio Zyman when you need him?
If this isn’t proof that awareness means nothing, I don’t know does.
Growing your business today require more than awareness; it requires engagement. It requires bridging the chasm between your marketing and sales efforts and building a system that focuses on creating meaningful conversation, rather than just making claims.
The failure to radically change this approach will continue to cost businesses – large and small – millions in lost sales, profits and equity value.
I love simple graphics that tell big stories. As I was reviewing some of my article archives, I came across this graphic from Marty Neumeier on The Dynamics of Different and Good. It’s about as simple and insightful as you can get.
I often remind small and mid-market business executives that being different should never be the goal, instead, it’s different and better. Yet, as this graphic explains, achieving the goal is the beginning of the journey – it’s not the end! When you achieve “difference” going to market becomes difficult. The market resists because it’s not used to it, and as a result your sales and marketing strategy must educate and influence your market. (For a deeper dive into this subject, watch my 25 minute video on the subject.)
What equally interesting and critical is the failure to achieve this goal results in the appearance of an easier path to the market. The market (and those whose opinions you seek before going to the market) respond more positively to what they’re familiar with. The challenge is that there’s little to no growth on that path, and lots of price pressure.
Market resistance is a part of the game. Don’t avoid it, embrace it.
I’ve been working on a project for one of my clients that has allowed me to spend a significant amount of time reviewing company websites (I’ve probably reviewed a couple hundred in the last two weeks).
There are two things that have shocked me:
- There are still a lot of small and mid-market companies that pay little to no attention to their web presence. They’re sites are old, clumsy, look bad and offer nothing of value. It’s amazing, because I’m sure they wouldn’t let their employees look as disheveled as their website.Your customers and prospects will all come across your website at some point, and if it doesn’t it isn’t reasonably strong, it will harm your sales efforts dramatically. It doesn’t cost that much to develop a reasonable site, so if yours isn’t up to par, please fix it.
- The bigger shock is just how difficult it is for a prospect to reach out to begin a discussion.
It’s this second point I want to focus on. I lost count of just how many sites have three methods to connect:
- A “Contact Us” page
- The choice to email either info@ or sales@ the company.
Put yourself in the shoes of your customers and prospects. How special do you feel reaching out that way? Why don’t we just ask our prospects to put a big, fat “Sell Me” sticker on their foreheads?
I’m not saying don’t have a contact page, or even email addresses like these; but, please – PLEASE – give your prospects a comfortable path to connect and engage with you. For example:
- If you have a blog (especially if it’s multi-authored) make it clear who’s writing the posts, and how could someone connect with them.
- If you’re highlighting a product/service, give them a name and a real person’s email address that they can connect to. We live in a noisy world, give them something personal.
- If you’re going to list your leadership/management team, let people know how they can connect with them, in some means other than sending an email to an info address.
Making it more comfortable for your prospects to connect or engage with you and your company will reduce their fear and increase your lead generation.
I was discussing the importance of developing an effective marketing cultivation and engagement system with a client recently. As we were laying out the path and approach, my client said something that struck me.
“Doug, this is a really good model and I definitely want to do it. But, I don’t even have good collateral material. My brochure is out of date, I have no fact sheets on my products; and I really think I need to take care of that first.”
It struck me because I realize that’s probably what a lot of people think. While the concept of content marketing (the basis of an effective cultivation/engagement process) is old news for me, it’s still something foreign to the vast majority of small and mid-market B2B companies.
As we share in our on-demand webinar Making Marketing Work, an ineffective or non-existent cultivation/engagement process restricts the effectiveness of your sales effort by 30 – 70%. This means that you must sell twice as hard without such an asset.
So, I thought I’d share my advice to him with you.
The very best piece of collateral you can have is content that challenges, educates and provokes a customer. Content that enables them to learn and do a better job.
While a brochure or fact sheet enables you to tell your prospect that you’re a rock star, a cultivation and engagement asset enables you to demonstrate it.
Does this mean that you shouldn’t have a corporate brochure, fact sheets and other collateral? Not necessarily (though as long time readers of this blog know, I’m not a big fan of traditional brochures). But, if you’re looking to drive sales, improve business performance and separate yourself from your competition, you’re far better off building the content first.
The trends are not good when judging the effectiveness of small and mid-market B2B sales efforts.
- According to recent purchasing surveys, as many as 40% of organizational buying processes are ending in a “no decision.”
- A recent research project done by the Wall Street Journal demonstrated that on 37% of salespeople were actually effective, and a comprehensive research project done by The Sales Research Council shows number worse than that.
- Margin and pricing pressure continues to mount on businesses, even as we emerge from deep recession.
- Finding good salespeople is tougher than ever.
Most companies continue to struggle to find a successful growth formula that will work in the short-, mid-, and long-term. There are, however, a few businesses that have transformed the challenges before them into a significant advantage over their competition. They’ve developed new ways to shorten the sales cycle, bypass competition and grow margins.
These companies understand that their sales process is the most powerful leverage point available to their business. Companies that are able to materially shorten the sales cycle enjoy huge advantages over their competitors.
- They need less money or capital to grow.
- They are able to capture more revenue without adding people.
- They enjoy a significant cost advantage.
- They’re margins and profits are substantially higher.
Shortening the sales cycle should be a key objective for every growing company. Yet, only about 5 – 10% of small and mid-market B2B companies are able to do so consistently.
Make sure you’re one of them!
Join us on May 23rd at 2pm EDT, as we share the secrets to shortening your sales cycle in our latest webinar.
In January 2010, I wrote a blog post asking if BlackBerry was a dead product walking. In the post I put forth the theory that BlackBerry’s envy of Apple’s customers was one of the primary reasons for the decreasing performance of the company.
In the last year the story of BlackBerry’s failure is well known. The failure led to management shakeup where the co-CEOs and founders left the company and a new CEO was put in charge. Yesterday, he announced that BlackBerry, for all practical purposes, is giving up the consumer market and is focusing on their more traditional markets of businesses and enterprises.
While this was certainly the primary recommendation I made almost 15 months ago, my question now is, “Is it too late?”
Apple, Android and others have all continued to advance their technology, build deep emotional connections with their customers and to exploit the Blackberry’s missteps. I certainly hope RIM’s decision, and the implementation/execution of the strategy works for BlackBerry.
I think it’s good for the world that there is a strong BlackBerry out there to provide competition for the Apples of the world.
This book review originally appeared in Baltimore, Washington and Philadelphia SmartCEO Magazine February 2012 issue.
Anyone whose followed my columns, blog or speeches, knows what a fan I am of Apple and it’s late-CEO Steve Jobs. So, it was with great interest that I downloaded Walter Isaacson’s biography of him.
Isaacson, author of several great biographies, is a fabulous writer and does a great job of providing an enticing narration of Jobs’ life in an historical context. Reading the book left me with three key insights that I hope to take into my business on a regular basis.
It’s About Execution
The myth about Steve Jobs is that the underlying causes of his success are his imagination and creativity. While Jobs certainly is strong in both areas, it was the ability to maniacally focus on execution that led to Apple becoming the most valuable company in the world.
Jobs, more than anything, was a managing editor. He could certainly conceive of technology that didn’t exist before; he wasn’t rare there. His ability to see what didn’t belong and to force his highly creative designers and engineers to stay focused on fewer projects and to bring out the essence of each product are what made Apple foundationally different.A great example is the myth that Jobs merely ripped off Xerox’s graphical interface in creating the Mac. While Jobs’ discovery at Xerox PARC did a lot to inspire the Mac, Isaacson does a great job chronicling how Apple’s execution is what enabled success.
The Goal Can’t Be Profit
When you look at companies like Starbucks (in their heyday), Apple and Facebook, you quickly realize that product is a byproduct, not a focus in itself. As Howard Schultz shares in his autobiography Pour Your Heart Into It, Starbucks’ aim was to make a great cup of coffee and provide a special experience to its customers. By staying focused on that, a great company (and tremendous wealth) was built.
I truly enjoyed reading about the genesis of the iPod, the product most responsible for launching Apple into the stratosphere as a consumer products company. Isaacson documents the inside story how Apple brought the iPod to life, and how Microsoft reacted.
Bill Gates, CEO of Microsoft at the time, realized what a game change the iPod could be, so he invested in what ultimately became one of Microsoft’s most high-profile failures – the Zune music player. One of my favorite quotes in the book is when Jobs says:
“The older I get, the more I see how much motivations matter. The Zune was crappy because the people at Microsoft don’t really love music or art the way we do. We won because we personally love music. We made the iPod for ourselves, and when you’re doing something for yourself, or your best friend or family, you’re not going to cheese out. If you don’t love something, you’re not going to go the extra mile, work the extra weekend, challenge the status quo as much.”
You Have to Break Rules
When I consult with companies who desire to accelerate their growth by breaking through their growth barriers; I caution them that the fundamental challenge is making the appropriate changes to the business without killing the unique dysfunction that makes them what they are. Too often consultants come in, apply their “rules” and take away the uniqueness that made the business effective.
Steve Jobs succeeded his way. He was control oriented, famous for berating employees (and friends), was aloof and moody. Apple, beloved by its customers, is not a particularly engaging firm. They don’t tweet and don’t really listen to the customers all that much.Simply put, if I made a list of the consensus rules for management and growing a company in an interconnected world – Apple and Steve Jobs would violate most of the rules. And it worked for them.
The biggest insight I gained from reading Steve Jobs is that his way worked for him. It probably wouldn’t work for anyone else. The key is to learn from what he did. Then make it work – our way.
It’s probably the great Jobs legacy – to succeed, we must leave our mark.
This book review originally appeared in Baltimore, Washington and Philadelphia SmartCEO Magazine May issue.
Two of my absolutely least favorite marketing terms are: differentiate and brand. The reason I hate these words is because they are both results that a whole bunch of marketing agencies and advisory firms turned into means so they could both make the process insanely complicated and therefore charge ridiculous fees for it.
My distaste for these words is
far more than merely semantics. My problem is that when companies focus on differentiation and/or branding, in the traditional sense, they are focusing on the wrong things. Both words cause you to focus either internally or on your competition; neither of which are effective for driving profitable growth in today’s hyper-competitive times.
Why Differentiation Is Not Enough
I regularly advise CEOs to stop differentiating, and instead just be different. In working with thousands of small and mid-market companies (and studying thousands more companies) I’ve observed that the only companies that spend significant time on differentiation strategies are the ones that aren’t different.
Think about it. If your business is different, how difficult should it be for someone to realize that? How hard should you have to work to “differentiate”? Companies that are different are differentiated, those that aren’t – are not.
In my experience, I’ve seen what happens when differentiation becomes the focus of company executives. They stop focusing on the critical questions about their customers and what really matters to them.
Instead their center of focus becomes the competition. They start asking, “Is this our unique selling proposition,” rather than, “What would absolutely delight the people with whom we want to do business
Without meaning to, they commit the very sin they were trying to avoid – they start feeling and acting just like every other company. They quickly become what I call a “Me-Too” company.
The Problem With Branding
Don’t get me started on branding (okay, too late). The biggest myth in marketing is the idea that businesses can brand themselves or control their brand – they can’t! Business don’t control their brands, their customers do!
The problem with branding is very similar to the problem
I have with differentiation – the questions branding leads executives to answering are bad questions.
Branding isn’t something companies do to their customers; it’s something customers do to businesses. It’s not about telling your story; it’s about having our stories understood.
Branding isn’t about logo’s, brochures, ad slicks, and any of the other trivial things that businesses do in an effort to “re-brand.” Rather, it’s about ensuring that that what your business is, is what it is supposed to be. It’s about delighting your customers and creating meaningful experiences for everyone that comes in contact with you. Far more than merely being liked, branding is about being valued.
If Not Differentiating or Branding, Then What?
For the last five years I’ve been sharing my discovery about the fundamental difference between great companies and non-great companies. I’ve learned that great companies have mastered five simple rules that others have either ignored or failed to master. I call these The Five Unbreakable Rules for Creating Demand.
Summarized these rules state that the key to creating a great company (and anyone can do this) is to focus – manically – on who your customer is and how can you delight them.
It’s as simple as this:
- Great companies know who their
customer is – and who they are not. They never confuse the two.
- When you are delighting your customers, you don’t have to worry about differentiating anything – your customers will take care of that for you.
There is probably no greater example of how to do this than Apple. In the 3 Acts of Apple they have delighted a core group of customers so deeply that they achieved a cult-like status, they’ve failed to delight customers and nearly went bankrupt, and in Act 3 they returned to delighting customers and are the single best performing company in the last 15 years.
While I try not to review the most popular books in the business space in this column and instead try to highlight authors and books that readers of SmartCEO may not be as familiar with, I’ve decided to make an exception.
Guy Kawasaki was there for Apple’s first act, heck, he was Apple’s Chief Evangelist. Since he
left Apple he’s been delighting a core group of customers. He newest book Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions is an absolute must read for anybody in business.
From their first sentences in Chapter 1, “The world will not beat a path to your door for an insanely great mousetrap. In fact, the great the mousetrap, the more difficult it is to get people to embrace it …” Kawasaki enchants readers with simple how-to’s to stand out, resonate and build great businesses.
So stop differentiating and start enchanting.
There, I finally said it. Branding is crap! Sure, it might be fine, even important, if you’re Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Proctor and Gamble, etc. While I’m at it, the whole idea of Top of Mind Awareness (TOPA) is crap too! Maybe if your competing for the 2 second purchase decision of what laundry detergent you’re going to use then all that stuff matters. But – and this is a big but – if you’re a small or mid-market company selling products or services to other businesses (large or small) stop worrying about your (Capital B) Brand or top of mind – trust me, your customers and prospects have far, far more important things on their minds than thinking about your company.
A great brand is a result of being relevant, important and delighting people. It’s not a logo, an icon or an exercise. As I’ve said hundreds of times – your brand is what others say you are, not what you say.
I’m writing this post because it’s making me sick seeing how much money small and mid-market B2B/B2G companies are spending on useless “branding” exercises.
I’m working with a potential client who currently has 20 clients that his company works with. Success for him is adding 2 – 4 solid clients/year. He just spent more than $20,000 to “assess the market and his brand.” Here’s the problem – HE DOESN’T HAVE A “BRAND”! And that’s okay.
He’d be far better off taking the $20,000 and investing it in building an effective marketing asset; and so would every other B2B company.
The problem I have with branding is that it puts the focus in the wrong place – twice.
- First, it places the focus internally on you, rather than your customer. Great companies look outside, not inside.
- Second, and worse, it looks at the world as it is, rather than as it could be. As a marketer, I’m not particularly interested in what customers think today. I’m interested what you want them to think, and the actions you can take to increase the probability that they’ll think that. And you can’t ask customers what they want – as Steve Jobs says, “It’s impossible to ask people what they want, when what they want is around the corner.”
It’s your job to figure out what they want – and then to focus maniacally on making that happen. If you do that, you won’t have to worry about your brand – you’ll have too many people wanting to work with you to have the time.
In June 2007, I took Ted Leonsis and the Washington Capitals leadership team to task for introducing a new jersey as a “brand awakening” for the Washington Capitals. I wrote that, “if you want to strengthen your ties with current fans and attract new ones, you only have to do one thing – PUT A BETTER PRODUCT ON THE ICE. ”
Well 3 1/2 years later, Leonsis and crew have clearly proven that they already knew what I was talking about. Leonsis took a last place hockey team, in a football-crazed town and turned them into the hottest ticket in DC, having sold out more than 100 games in a row.
Leonsis has since taken over the Washington Wizards and Verizon Center, after majority owner Abe Pollin passed away. The Washington Post has a fascinating story about how Leonsis is turning those organizations around as well.
It’s not only interesting if you’re a sports fan, it’s down right instructive if you are trying to grow your business. I highly recommend you read it.
Here are the three points I found more valuable and instructive:
- Leonsis and crew are maniacal about looking at everything from the customer’s viewpoint. Leonsis spends time with them, and no detail is too small. Whether it’s adding cupholders to the urinals, making sure the pizza is hot, or checking the new packaging on nachos, Leonsis’ crew is on it.
- They know who their best customers are and they cater to them. They allow them to participate and really feel like owners.
- Leonsis realizes that you can’t game your way to success. The Wizards (and the Capitals before Leonsis) were notorious for giving tickets away so that the arena looked fuller than it would have been. Leonsis realizes that this just penalizes those who pay full price (pay attention, discounters). Although it can make the arena look empty, Leonsis says:
I don’t ‘dress up’ the arena. I don’t believe in that. We don’t do it with the Capitals. So some nights, it looks like our attendance is down, yet our revenues are way up because you are not giving away free tickets. We will make the Wizards a hot ticket because Washington is a fantastic market. If we can build the team around the right players who can play the right way and get results, we will sell it out.
It would do many business leaders well to follow Leonsis’ example.
Verizon Wireless and AT&T are in an ad war right now. First, Verizon came out with their “There’s a map for that” ad promoting their cell coverage while insulting AT&T’s. Then AT&T sued Verizon and lost. After that, AT&T fought back by hiring actor Luke Wilson to sling mud about Verizon’s network – and back and forth they go.
At the end of all this, the net result will be that both AT&T and Verizon will have spent hundreds of millions of dollars and the negatives towards each company will be heightened, causing consumers to like each company less. My bet is little to no market share will actually shift as a result of this.
The easy reaction to this is to sigh and mutter, “What a waste!” While this would certainly be a very reasonable response, there is an instructive lesson and huge warning sign for growth oriented companies.
When companies fail to consistently create value – and by extension create demand, competitive pressures become increasingly intense. The challenge that both AT&T and Verizon Wireless have is that neither of them does anything particularly special. While Apple, Google, Palm and other handset makers continue to innovate and search for new ways to delight customers, AT&T and Verizon Wireless are left fighting over who’s 3G network is better. I wrote about this six years ago: “We are better” value propositions don’t work.
The Warning Sign
This entire ad war reminds me of political campaign and negative campaigning. When you play the competitive game I call Demand Fulfillment, you are increasingly vulnerable to competitive attacks and mudslinging. The solutions focus of demand fulfillment makes compelling differentiation virtually impossible. Features and benefits become commodities. Developing new applications become increasingly expensive and risky. Because margins are tight, companies desperately search for quick hit tactics that can “have an impact.”
What’s the quickest, easiest tactic? Insult the competition. Sure, we all know that we’re not supposed to say bad things about the competition (that’s what I was taught in sales training), but politicians proved years ago that scaring buyers voters about their opponent had far more immediate impact than building themselves up. Of course, if the company being insulted is vulnerable to competition, they must fight back, and before you know it millions (or for small businesses – thousands) of dollars are wasted on inane messages, rather than on developing deeper understanding and connections with core customers.
Companies that create demand are increasingly immune from competitive pressures. Their maniacal focus on their customers – and solving their customers problems – give them a competitive-free like status. So long as they continue to build deeper relationships with their customers and desired markets, attacks from competitors have no impact.
The lesson for every company, even especially those companies in difficult markets, is to stop playing the traditional game. If you do, the AT&T – Verizon Wireless war is your future.
Start creating demand. Determine the results your customers want, help them understand the problems they don’t understand that are preventing them from getting those results, and sell a new solution. Don’t tell me people won’t pay more or do different things in this market, because I know that will. It’s your choice!
So, what are you going to do differently to create demand?
I’ve written before, and often said, that a brand is not what you say it is, it’s what you’re customers, stakeholders and people who come in contact with you say it is. The point is that you don’t control your brand any more – the market does. The best you can do is contribute to the conversation. (BTW, I am by no means the first, nor the most highly qualified to make this point, it is fast picking up consensus.)
Much has been written about Apple and the power of it’s brand. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a huge (HUGE) Apple fan. In December of 08, The Simpsons, spoofed Apple in the opening of their show. It’s worth looking at because a) it’s tremendously funny and b) it provides a great insight to branding.
I haven’t sparked as much conversation with a blog post or observation as I did with my recent post McStarbucks in quite some time. My employees, my friends, and my clients have all analyzed, taken issue with and empathized with the post. One client summed the feelings up best when he said, “Yeah, I guess I just don’t want to believe that [the points made in the post] because I’ve been such a fan [of Starbucks].”
The most frequent (and at times aggressive) question I’ve gotten in response to the post is simply, “Okay Doug, what should Starbuck do?” It’s a great question and one that I’m going to attempt to answer.
Before I get to my answer, let me state for the record that I focus on and immerse myself in the world of small and mid-sized business enterprises. Further, I focus predominantly on B2B and high-end B2C providers, so Starbucks (being large and retail) is out of my wheelhouse. I’m taking up this challenge for three reasons: 1) because it seems like a fun thing to do, 2) I think some of the thoughts can stimulate ideas within the base of companies that I work with, and 3) my mom taught me not to say anything negative if I couldn’t come up with a better alternative.
One final caveat – Starbucks started going down the wrong path several years ago. The issues they’re dealing with are complex and simple, one-line solutions won’t do anyone a lot of good. So take these ideas in the context they’re intended- to provoke thought.
- As mentioned earlier it took Starbucks several years to get into this mess, so the first thing I’d do, if I ran Starbucks, is realizing that it’s not going to be a couple of months to get out. Starbucks violated the trust of core customers. Trust building takes a long time, and it takes even longer to rebuild.
- I’d look at the roadmap Steve Jobs created at Apple (point of clarity – I’d look at it, I wouldn’t copy it). Apple was where Starbucks is. They violated the trust of their core customers and almost lost their franchise as a result. What did Steve Jobs do when he came back? He cut. But, he didn’t cut for cutting’s sake – he cut to get back to the core. The primary focus of Steve Job’s first 90 days as CEO was to review everything in the product pipeline and cut the number that they were going to focus on. I don’t have the facts with me, but I recall he cut from 22 to 4 (2 for the business/design market and 2 for the consumer market). Jobs told Wall Street, employees, and fans that Apple was going to get smaller before it got bigger again. Apple has maintained that focus and has rebuilt their franchise to one that is stronger than ever before.Starbucks can do the same thing, but they have to get back to their core – “the coffee experience,” or “the third place.” They’ve got to get back to those who can love them the most – coffee lovers. If they want to expand the market, start catering to tea lovers (I realize they’ve started doing this). Create battles, rivalries, whatever; but get back to the lovers. Starbucks is not going to fix this without feeling the real pain. It appears to me that they’re trying to fix things without pain.
- If you want cut prices, don’t cut the prices of your core offering – coffee (and maybe tea). Here’s an idea – cut the price of wifi. Make it free for anyone visiting Starbucks – whether they have a T-Mobile account or not (or whichever provider they are using – I haven’t been there to hang out in a while, so I don’t know).
- Make it fun, enjoyable and/or useful to hang out there. My experience at Starbucks of late can be summarized as: loud, chaotic, dirty and congested. Clean the place up and keep it clean.
- Reduce the offerings, don’t increase them. Here’s a general rule – increase in good times; decrease and refocus in bad times.
- Appreciate and love your customers. Not with discounts (I’m worth more than a $2 cup of coffee) or “frequent buyer” programs. Just make me feel appreciated and loved. I used to love the fact that when I went to my local Starbucks, I didn’t have to give them my order – they knew it. Today, I’m happy if I can get eye contact and a genuine, authentic statement from a “barista.”
- Cut the number of locations by 1/3 and focus on making the remaining 2/3 great – and I mean great. Anything less than great from Starbucks is not going to be enough to turn the tide. By the way, get rid of (or rename) the in-store kiosks in supermarkets and other places – the service there is horrible, the people aren’t trained and it destroys the brand.
- Focus, Focus, Focus. Decide how you are going to be defined and focus manically on that. What is Starbucks today anyway?
- Stop worrying about the competition. I’ve heard Howard Schultz refer to Dunkin Donuts and McDonalds more in the last three months than he did in his entire first go around as CEO.
- Get back to having fun. I don’t get the sense that Starbucks is having fun and that makes me less likely to go.
There you go, 10 quick ideas. What do you think? Do you want to add some more? Take issue with any of my suggestions? Let’s hear it.
An excellent post from Rick Liebling at Eyecube on the philosophy of The Brand Called You. His take – the idea is dead. Now the focus is on “The Brand You Build.” How do you do that? By doing what a brand was always supposed to do – create unique value. Liebling’s take is dead-on accurate – it’s well worth the read. (BTW, if you scroll down the comments you can see my take.)
So ask yourself – are you creating unique value?