Entrepreneurship: How Deep is Your Love

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While attending an amazing entrepreneurship forum in Nashville, the evening entertainment took the stage during my learning and networking. They performed a cover of a classic tune, “How Deep Is Your Love”. In the spirit of creating value through connections with ideas and people, the song smacked me with the seriousness of niche marketing. Entrepreneurs famously talk about loving what they do. But, how intimately do they know their business, their industry, their competitors, and their advantage? How deep are their relationships and knowledge?

Relationships
Connective Marketing is a tactic that captures an organization’s ability to partner with like-minded stakeholders like customers, vendors, or charitable organizations to strengthen their branding influence. Connective Marketing focuses on leveraging relationships specifically for increasing marketing strength and results. It emphasizes the person to person connection so that both organizations can mutually benefit. The relationship depends on the personal connectivity because demonstrating cultural alignment is essential to the strategy’s success. The cultural alignment relies on more than common messaging, but demonstrating camaraderie and consistent behaviors among the parties. The relationship’s depth between organizations must be singularly distinct such that it is competitively difficult to duplicate.

Knowledge
Knowing each other’s specific area of expertise instinctively and deeply is the other step for presenting a defensible advantage. While subject matter expert is almost a cliché, the term captures the depth of understanding that sustains a competitive advantage. The most valuable asset resulting from superior knowledge is the ability to anticipate market shifts and opportunities. Marketplaces, preferences, and applications constantly change in all industries. Market leaders are organizations that take advantage of upcoming opportunities before others. Leveraging insight and resources among savvy professionals within collaborating organizations establishes a clear competitive advantage. Such unity matters toward maximizing the impact of interpreting market dynamics. Not just the public facts, but the intricate nuances.

A significant advantage resulting from attending conferences and interacting with other industry players is acquiring the latest niche information. Over coffee, lunch or happy hour, unique problems and solutions bubble up in casual conversation. Likewise, customers’ wish lists for future needs are part of the conversation. Last night’s wish for quicker delivery results in tomorrow’s decision to open a new hub in the office park where several customers and prospects cluster. Deep understanding in a particular business’ competitive niche anticipates opportunities and needs. Networking reveals that insight! Study the personalities and quirks, of competitors, vendors, and analysts in your industry. Entrepreneurial forums are perfect for gaining that edge. Bright people are looking to connect and show off their influence and intellect whenever they gather. Find your industry’s equivalent. And, listen. Dive deeply into the niche’s depths and complexities. Love the process. Position yourself to sing your own big hit!

By Glenn W Hunter
Principal of Hunter And Beyond

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The Re-Purpose of Marketing

Business Secrets

A prominent business speaker launched a conference with a gut-bursting “true story” in his opening remarks. After the speech a colleague approached him and quietly told him, “That was an incredible opening story, but I have heard it elsewhere, before. Did that really happen to you?” The polished speaker responded, “It was indeed a true story, I simply re-purposed it!” Recognizing the parallels between storytelling and marketing, the same great ideas are often presented in multiple contexts to achieve different goals. Honorable professionals would never steal an idea. But, a successful idea in one circumstance can very easily be re-purposed for another!

Branding
In a marketing campaign ideas, images and verbiage can be protected. But, owning a concept is trickier. Considering that a brand is not what you say, but what you deliver, great marketing results rely more on execution, than ideas. A brand is memorable and effective because it delivered. Consequently, when communicating marketing benefits for assorted prospects and customers, having multiple applications available maximizes effectiveness. For example, a retailer that crafts a social media calendar to communicate to millennial working parents can then use that tactic to drive traffic to a website targeting Type-A divorcees. The key to success is consistent marketing execution resulting in generating revenue growth for both channels.

Coordination
Another success characteristic of re-purposed marketing is introducing a specific tactic inside a different strategy. For example, the beer industry has recently experienced growth through the explosion of localized craft beers. Their marketing emphasizes localization. Then, mega-brewer Budweiser launches a campaign focusing on their localized, St. Louis roots. Nostalgic visuals in commercials coordinate with their classic images on their product to demonstrate that their story is relevant to modern trends while celebrating its long-established heritage. The product’s story has not changed, but its connection to a younger market segment has. Even social media as a modern marketing channel, has established, astute marketers like Disney promoting it’s classic characters, in conjunction with new video clips in their Instagram accounts. The coordination directly results in communicating with customers of several demographics and motivating future purchases. Whether the actual products are movies, vacations, or merchandise, the expected customer experience is consistent with the delivered message.

Nevertheless, execution makes the difference. When proven marketing ideas are re-introduced, their success depends on coordinating the current medium with the re-purposed message. Great ideas are valuable, but they are common. Effective execution is rare and unique. Consequently, execution creates value. The idea can be old, but the perspective must be fresh. Whether a marketing campaign involves a direct mail piece that used analytics to identify an incredibly narrow target niche, or a clever jingle with a 1970’s disco beat, customers must acknowledge that the images and sounds accurately create emotional connections. Ultimately, marketers must use all available marketing assets toward forming a lasting impression to benefit the product or service. The branding tools and messages are available. Deploy them effectively to communicate specific business benefits, and then use them differently for more value!

By Glenn W Hunter
Principal of Hunter And Beyond

 

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Personal Branding – Who’s With Me?

Who's With Me

“I can’t hear your words, because your actions are too loud!” A very pretty classmate in business school said this to me while complaining about her boyfriend. Considering that I was not involved with her, I was confused why she shared this with me. Eventually, I understood that she shared this point with me because she trusted me. I was trustworthy and compassionate in a culture of analytical cut-throats. I was there for her. That was my brand.

Branding is tightly aligned with marketing. It drives business growth by communicating value even before transactions happen. Branding is not what you say, it’s what you deliver. Regardless of the company, employer, or product, effective business development professionals present their personal brand. Consequently, personal branding represents, then demonstrates, an individual’s characteristics that reflect the organization. When successful, the resultant story communicates to three types of audiences.

Groupies
The easiest audience to engage is groupies. Consider that personal branding first reflects how an individual communicates beyond the organization or team. The personal connection precedes delivering goods and services. The good news regarding groupies is that they are passionate about the personal connection. The bad news is that they shift allegiances quickly. The target audience acts as a groupie when enjoying the individual’s cute characteristics. But, groupies are fickle. An affiliation with a low-cost solution attracts groupies. Unfortunately, when a better deal appears, their allegiance shifts. An effective personal brand reinforces consistency and credibility. Price can become less of an issue when the relationship provides more value than a lower price can save. To keep a groupie for the long-run, the brand needs to deliver a personally unique benefit. The marketing does not merely state the benefit. It clearly articulates superior value so that the buyer wants to be with the brand.

Advocates
The next step up the customer food chain believes that the offer features something specifically for the individual representing the customer. Theater tickets or high-end gift cards are often good enough to make an advocate. The challenge becomes, is this purchase in the best interest of the buyer’s organization? The advocate compromises the chance for a long-term relationship because the benefit clouds the exchange’s true value. When the seller realizes that the buyer may have slipped into an ethical gap, the brand now must start again in building a relationship… with the next buyer. Advocates facilitate progress to achieve a deal, but the personal brand still needs to deliver consistent, long-term value. Optimally, both sides work together to further their individual needs.

True Believers
These buyers achieve the highest level of customer relationships. True believers are customers because the brand consistently demonstrates value and long-term benefits. The customer connects because they believe wholeheartedly in the brand’s message. Credibility, personal attentiveness and integrity are hallmarks of creating a true believer. A great offer still must be made. The offer may even stretch credibility regarding quality and performance. Then, the offer is accurately delivered which reinforces credibility and the desire to extend the relationship. Ultimately, the customer wins and will continue to win because their belief in the brand has been properly rewarded.

All these types of customers can lead to business growth. But, effective personal brands successfully move down this list to generate true believers that lead to financial success. This level of loyalty can only be earned. Such branding credibility must be embedded throughout the organization’s culture and at every connection. Then, aligning marketing activities with professionals that demonstrate a worthy personal brand enables customers to get their full reward from the buying relationship. These customers willingly advance the brand’s strength through referrals, in addition to leading the seller’s storytelling. At this point, the brand successfully dictates who is with them. This strategy’s execution ultimately fulfills the profitable mandate of Walt Disney, “Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.”

By Glenn W Hunter
Principal of Hunter And Beyond

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Marketing for Fun And NonProfit

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Effective marketing always points toward telling a better story leading to more sales. To be sure, great storytelling and increased sales are part of marketing success. Additionally, awareness benefits an organization in several ways. Furthermore, marketing initiatives that successfully communicate a business’ attributes to their marketplace specifically benefit from more customers. Also, having the right partner to validate the business’ total value helps. Factor in that marketers simply have more fun. Then, the opportunity to do well and do good is irresistible. A clever solution is partnering with nonprofit organizations. Even marketers who cannot take their eye off the revenue line can see the advantages. What’s the downside of more legitimate prospects who want to connect with the business emotionally?

Market Connectivity
Marketing’s primary responsibility is communication with a business purpose. When communication extends beyond the company’s product or service into impacting a greater good, a more powerful story surfaces. Businesses often partner with nonprofit organizations to achieve super-sized impact in the marketplace’s consciousness. Awareness becomes both social- and product– driven. A classic example features popular five-kilometer (and longer) runs. A nonprofit organization in a specific community hosts the event in an area where they serve. Sponsors invest advertising funds on shirts and other paraphernalia for the event associated with the cause. The community’s local vendors prepare for the influx of hundreds, if not thousands of visitors, to their doorstep. Vendors benefit from the organization’s goodwill and the event sponsors’ philanthropic attention. And, deep-pocketed visitors invade the community for exercising, socializing, and shopping. Smart retailers are too eager to connect with and serve an influx of highly sociable, community-minded visitors landing on their doorstep.

Brand Improvement
The vendor still gets more! They associate with a spirit of social responsibility promoted by the event. Their brand benefits from an image of being compassionate and sharing common values with shoppers who arrive at the event. The closer that sponsors appear to the visitors, the greater the opportunity that sponsors have to demonstrate alignment with that specific audience. By affiliation these business’ brands speak loudly and clearly to prospects, plus established customers, that they are all kindred spirits contributing to the same community. Recognizing that “a brand is more than what you say, it is what you deliver”, successful local enterprises deliver a clear message of common values to new customers by associating with conspicuous local causes and events. The better brand is the one where prospects and customers trust it more because all parties find common, emotional grounds.

Doing business for fun and profit is an admirable goal. Doing business for fun with nonprofits is an outstanding way to extend one’s brand and experience business growth. But as with all branding, the business must exceed what it says, and deliver! Through aligning with community-based activities that help philanthropic efforts, brands deliver a compassionate and emotional connection to an enlarged target market. The result is better storytelling and stronger customer bonds. Now, watch the socially aware business do well, while they do good!

By Glenn W Hunter
Principal of Hunter And Beyond

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Service-Based Marketing

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Marketing works only when business strategy and execution work together. Ideas are great. Performance is better. And, performance is the manifestation of superior service. Nevertheless, consider that marketing is essentially communication with a business purpose. Communication requires a speaker, a message and a receiver. Representing the receiver, a target audience accepts information, or a message they like, then acts upon it. To make it easier to accept the information, the speaker and receiver reach some degree of mutual understanding, based on common perspectives, facts, or desires. The more the speaker can do for the receiver based on the message, the more successful the marketing efforts will be. Service-based marketing establishes communication that aligns messaging with execution so that customers get the satisfaction that they demand.

Manipulating Facts
Marketing spirals out of control when claims are no longer credible. Bad marketers recklessly throw money at business problems expecting someone to believe the message so that the seller can grab more business. Facts get warped. Such tactics promote greed and fundamentally undermine value. Professionals focused on getting the deal done regardless of consequences use this tactic. This approach is known as the Money Grab. It is insincere and inefficient. The seller’s resultant problem becomes always chasing new customers because the insincere tactics fail to deliver on promises, or generate repeat business. The brand weakens, customers churn, distrust prevails. Finally, opportunities emerge only for competitors who actually deliver on promises.

Authentic Relationship
Marketing succeeds when sincerity is core to the relationship. Clearly declaring value, followed by truthful execution creates an environment for repeat business. Equally important, credible marketing leads to referrals. Professionals typically want to project a personal brand of being knowledgeable and resourceful. A referral from a trustworthy professional circulates the marketer’s message from an objective source. Additional business is the result, which reinforces the marketing campaign’s purpose. This approach is known as the Money Hold. Great service has launched a profitable chain of events that secures additional business and consistent revenue. Clear communication of all parties’ success continues the positive momentum. Furthermore, delivering authentic service perpetuates credibility among all involved stakeholders.

Authenticity leads to longevity. Not every individual, business, or agency is a customer. However, servicing customers that meet established criteria, both culturally and financially, opens doors to sustained profits. But, the criteria must be established with honesty and integrity so that service providers can consistently hold onto desired customers. Because the marketer does well communicating expectations and execution, the seller benefits and the customer benefits. Successful sellers are authentically part of the community they service. Consequently, their service-based mentality drives their marketing success through the end user. Sellers that lead with a service mentality and empower marketers to tell that story, inevitably find success as a result of consistency in all business interactions.

By Glenn W Hunter
Principal of Hunter And Beyond

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Tell Me Your Story

business-storytelling

Everyone has a story to tell, but who really wants to listen? Successful sales professionals do! For business to transact successfully, questions must be answered. Consequently, questions must first be asked. A prospect that tells a story opens the possibility to share something personal, perhaps an individual problem, that invites dialogue. That step requires trust. Meanwhile, the effective listener wants to introduce a solution, one that creates value. Ultimately, business and personal relationships grow based on creating value. Furthermore, rewards are available to the individual that builds trust and creates value. Successful sales professionals tactfully ask about, and then listen to stories.

Communication 
The simplicity in storytelling coincides with its effectiveness. Proficient communication skills extend beyond hearing, and into understanding, and then to feeling. Skilled sales professionals can sell in environments upon getting answers to questions like, “What does it mean to your organization to solve this large problem cost effectively?”. Superior sales professionals probe the depth of problems beyond “cost effective solutions”. Questions like, “What does this mean to your individual reputation?”; or, “How does this obstacle impact the ultimate success of your signature project?”; or, “How does a successful choice ease your personal job security fears?”, personalize the importance of making a decision with a trusted, empathetic resource. The emphasis shifts to an option that is personally comforting, as well as professionally viable. Communicating in an environment of trust and emotional security is essential for reaching that point. Discerning where is that point comes from drawing insight out of the prospect by empathetically hearing his story. Product and industry intelligence reveals the smart choice. Emotional connectivity with sufficient knowledge seals the emotional bond creating confidence to say “yes”.

Listening
Effective listening fuels this successful process for the results that sales professionals want. Getting prospects to tell their story requires patience and confidence. The more pain that the story elicits the more welcoming the reprieve that the patient listener offers. Improving efficiency through a specific purchase satisfies an operational metric. Delivering a solution that clearly highlights the purchaser’s performance and managerial talent fortifies a career trajectory with the potential for incremental bonuses. Buying for better metrics checks a box. A purchase decision that improves one’s financial and career future is a better buy, all else being equal. Listening intently to the story the buyer shares enables the seller to position a solution that satisfies the most deeply felt issue. Again, sales success comes from creating value. Maximize value by addressing the most pressing issue that you heard directly through the buyer’s story.

The power of listening separates the order taker from the solution provider. Too many sales people want to tell their answer. Far fewer, more wildly successful, sales professionals insist that the prospect “Tell Me Your Story’. As a rule, a story has a protagonist, it has conflict, it has resolution. By asking, embracing the silence, and then listening, the seller allows the prospect ample opportunity to dictate the hero and the problem that the potential transaction addresses. The superior sales professional then accepts the opportunity to contribute humbly to the story by delivering the resolution. Listen patiently. Ask confidently. Storytelling fundamentals lead to successful sales results. Establish the narrative and close the deal!

By Glenn W Hunter
Principal of Hunter And Beyond

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Storytelling Or The Truth

marketing-storytelling

Storytelling and the truth is more accurate when the subject is marketing. Curiously, children understand effective storytelling at a very young age. Give them a chance to tell a story, they immediately look at the world as they want it to be. Children quickly become heroes; or in some cases villains! Regardless, their world vision involves them in the middle of the action. They are crafty, they are bold, and most importantly, they find a way! Children solve problems in their stories. Their heroism, creativity, and tenacity is everything to expect from a business titan. Unfortunately, they grow up.

Children
Grade schoolers who eventually become interns, or newly minted team members, or rising managers, routinely accept the moniker of children among new colleagues. As the new person, they start with some sort of story. For example, upon assuming business development roles, the children want to demonstrate their competence through their education, social connections, or personal charisma. Eventually, reality emerges. The successful maintain youthful exuberance and create the reality they see. Their storytelling sounds fantastic, but their confidence and knowledge is just strong enough that success perhaps is possible. Their story has a premise. It has conflict. It has resolution. To a customer, that sequence means they identified a need or want. Their creativity supersizes potential pain; the horrific experience that will happen if the need is not addressed directly. Then, the hero convinces the prospect that he has the solution to slay their monster. Next, he demonstrates superior business acumen and skillfully delivers. The resultant personal brand presents the necessary evidence to communicate a story that builds trust and credibility.

Professionals
The childlike mindset has birthed a professional who delivers results. Essentially, successful professionals tell stories that are fundamentally true. Furthermore, with additional success, they tell stories revealing how they want to see the world. They no longer report. They forecast. Then, other people get on board! As they become more confident and successful, their story then becomes a vision. The truth that is reported is less relevant, as the vision that they project reflects the team’s aspiration. Storytelling becomes the reality that they want. Then, it becomes the reality that the team works to build. Execute the process successfully and the new reality is called progress! Repeatedly deliver this vision’s specifications enough and it becomes branding. Find others to join the movement, either colleagues or customers, so that the entire organization benefits from subsequent successes. That is a great story.

But, someone has to tell the stories. Call them lunatics, dreamers, peddlers, entrepreneurs, or mavericks. However, when they accurately tell the story and create the reality for their customers, marketplace, and/ or industry, they will undeniably be called successful! Summon the hero inside, seek the challenge, solve the problem, and celebrate the victory. Storytelling for the successful professional projects a vision for the organization’s benefit that manifests through its execution. Who needs to grow up? To the victor goes the spoils. The good guys win!

By Glenn W Hunter
Principal of Hunter And Beyond

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