Kelly Borth

As anyone in business or sales will tell you, first impressions are everything. Initial judgments are made within four seconds, and finalized within 30.

As business owners, we’re concerned with the image we’re sending our target markets, how employees represent our companies and how potential customers perceive our offices or stores. Studies have shown that first impressions are hard to shake — even if a person’s later experiences with a company contradict it.

Have you thought of your website as a first impression of your business? It’s increasingly becoming the first interaction potential customers have with your business. In fact, 75 percent of Web users admit to making judgments about a company’s credibility based on website design alone.

There are many ways to improve your company’s website and deliver a credible first impression online:


Create visually appealing design

Design matters. The visual appeal of a website has a major influence on a company’s credibility and a person’s first impression. Ensure that the design is consistent with off-line branded materials. Use your brand’s color pallet and typography.

Be sure that the font is appealing and easy to read, and support your message with photos and images. Your website should have a recognizable, organized layout that remains consistent.

Utilize user-friendly navigation

A user needs to be able to easily understand where to find the specific information he or she is looking for. Your website’s navigation should be clear, visible and consistent throughout. You also should incorporate a visual cue that tells users what page they are on.

But, don’t offer too many choices in the navigation bar — this overwhelms users, who will quickly leave. Try to keep it under 10 choices.

Develop quality content

The information on your website should make both search engines and your target audience happy. You have about 20 to 30 seconds to capture users’ attention before they leave the page. Your content should be thorough, concise, current and organized efficiently. It also should be grammatically correct.

To drive more traffic through search engines, use your company’s keywords when they make sense and properly label all images. Remember that search engines typically can’t read text in images or dynamic programming like JavaScript, so avoid placing critical information in those items.

Improve design functionality

About 40 percent of people will abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load. A slow loading time is often because of oversized images. Reducing the file size and compressing the images can fix this.

You also should ensure the website experience is virtually the same on any browser. Today, it’s necessary to have a mobile website compatible on phones and tablets. Mobile searches increased 400 percent over last year, and mobile Web usage is expected to exceed desktop by the end of this year.

Responsive design will arrange your content so it displays nicely — no matter the size of the screen.

Your website establishes a strong and lasting first impression on potential customers. When you incorporate appealing aesthetics, user-friendly navigation, quality content and design functionality, you create a better first impression.

Having a well-designed and well-built website can grow your business. So, make a great first impression and enjoy increased traffic and potential customer leads.

 

Kelly Borth is CEO and chief strategy officer for GREENCREST, a 23-year-old brand development, strategic and interactive marketing and public relations firm that turns market players into market leaders. Borth has received numerous honors for her business and community leadership. She serves on several local advisory boards and is one of 30 certified brand strategists in the U.S. Reach her at (614) 885-7921, kborth@greencrest.com or on Twitter @brandpro. For more information, visit www.greencrest.com.

LinkedIn: http://bit.ly/SBN_KellyBorth
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GREENCRESTMarketing
Twitter (company): @GreenCrest
LinkedIn (company): http://www.linkedin.com/company/68562?trk=pro_other_cmpy
Blog: http://www.brandproblog.com/

Typically, if I ask this question to a group of business owners or salespeople, I get a deer in the headlights reaction and an answer that is vague at best. Why is this? We want to grow our businesses and reach our sales goals, but we have no clear path for how we are going to develop that growth.

Sure, we have our typical marketing stuff such as forecasting sales from current customers, attending trade shows, conducting webinars, advertising, scheduling email campaigns and generating Internet leads. This is all good, but with a prospecting plan, it could be so much better.

You might say, “Well my salespeople came up with their sales numbers, so they must have a plan.” Are you sure? Do you know what it is? Is it aggressive enough? Does it include new business development? Your future growth is in their hands. Why leave it to chance? 

Getting started

Make succeeding at sales a part of your company’s culture. Make it a habit by having an action plan and make it fun by rewarding the right behavior and celebrating successes.

Understand and document your company’s prospecting process. Break it into bite-size steps based on what has been working best.

Use the practices of your top sales producers to set the stage for the rest of the team. Each salesperson should reference his or her past sales metrics to guide the amount of new business activity that needs to occur to result in actualized new business.

Once this is known, you can begin to narrow in on exactly how many prospects are needed in the queue.

Do you already have a list of viable prospects or are they suspects? A suspect is a name and email address obtained from a list. A prospect is a company that has an identified need and the potential to buy from you.

If you are starting with a list of suspects, the sales plan will need to start with a prequalification process to net a list of viable prospects. 

Make it a habit

Establish a selling habit and use time efficiently by planning prospecting activities to occur at the same time each week. Plan calls and emails for the best times to reach prospects. Prepare mailings or letters and sales administration work during times prospects are typically not available. Use multiple techniques in your company’s prospecting process: phone, mail, email, case studies and so on. 

Circulate and be visible where prospects hang out

Include networking events, referral requests, social media and other sales-related activities into the plan. You want your salespeople to hang out where your potential customers are present.

Make it a part of your prospecting process to ask for referrals. Invest in relationship building for the long term. There is not always an immediate opportunity, but with an honest and focused effort, it will come. 

Prepare your marketing arsenal for ready position

Have your opening statement ready. Have your voice mail message ready. Have your follow-up email ready. Know the questions your sales team needs to ask. Have relevant examples and success stories ready to share.

 

Planning for the results you need to achieve your sales goals will assure you will reach them. Managing the prospecting process will help assure your organization is executing on plan.

 

Kelly Borth is CEO and chief strategy officer for GREENCREST, a 23-year-old brand development, strategic and interactive marketing and public relations firm that turns market players into market leaders. Borth has received numerous honors for her business and community leadership. She serves on several local advisory boards and is one of 30 certified brand strategists in the U.S. Reach her at (614) 885-7921, kborth@greencrest.com or on Twitter @brandpro. For more information, visit 

LinkedIn: http://bit.ly/SBN_KellyBorth
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GREENCRESTMarketing
Twitter (company): @GreenCrest
LinkedIn (company: http://www.linkedin.com/company/68562?trk=pro_other_cmpy
Blog: http://www.brandproblog.com/

There’s no question about it, when a customer sings the praises of a particular product or company, people listen. It is more believable than a company touting its own message. The popularity of social media and review sites has proven this to be a powerful marketing truth. People believe and trust what other people have to say before they will believe what a company says about itself. Welcome to the 21st century.

Tuning up your marketing to include real-life customer experiences can enhance your credibility and believability. This can be a mix of customer success stories, testimonials, sharing customer feedback through surveys, encouraging customers to post reviews or submitting customers as references.

In any event, the idea is to get your customer’s voice singing in harmony with your messaging, to reinforce what you are promoting and confirming your organization’s credibility. 

Share success stories

Case studies or success stories are a great way to demonstrate the net benefit customers have received from your products or services. They typically take on a format of describing the customer scenario or problem, defining the solution your company implemented and the positive end results realized by the customer. They can include statements from the customer or the company.

Once developed, success stories can be integrated into a myriad of marketing activities.

Use them as content on your website, post them to your blog and social media, use them in email campaigns, submit them to trade publications and local media for publication, and format them to use as a prospecting tool. 

Use customer testimonials

Testimonials can be powerful in articulating a satisfactory experience with your company. Using testimonials strategically can demonstrate the depth and breadth of your organization and establish trust.

Like success stories, testimonials can be incorporated into any marketing vehicle. Use them on your website, include them in advertising, format them on a leave-behind prospecting piece, add them randomly in your email signature, post them to your blog and social media, use them in proposals, feature them in reception areas, etc. 

Share statistics from surveys

If part of your recent or ongoing marketing is to survey your customers to determine levels of satisfaction or other information, you could benefit from sharing the results of that information in marketing your company’s products or services.

If your survey showed that a large percentage of your customers find your company easy to work with, share that information across your marketing venues.

Promote customer reviews

Consumer-oriented businesses can benefit from receiving positive reviews on social media sites such as Yelp, Google+ and others. Promoting reviews from customers can be a great way to obtain a positive buzz about your company or its products.

Social media posts can be influential, utilize this information to market your company. 

Ask customers to serve as a reference

Having a list of customers who would take a call from a prospect to serve as a reference can be a great way to win business. It shows confidence that what you have done for your customers has been a positive experience. It demonstrates transparency and implies a high-level of satisfaction. 

Is your customer’s voice present in your marketing? If not, you could be missing out on some great opportunities. ● 

Kelly Borth is CEO and chief strategy officer for GREENCREST, a 23-year-old brand development, strategic and interactive marketing and public relations firm that turns market players into market leaders. Borth has received numerous honors for her business and community leadership. She serves on several local advisory boards and is one of 30 certified brand strategists in the U.S. Reach her at (614) 885-7921, kborth@greencrest.com or on Twitter @brandpro. For more information, visit
www.greencrest.com.  

To learn more about GREENCREST, like its Facebook page www.facebook.com/GREENCRESTMarketing and follow on Twitter @GREENCREST

With Kelly Borth on LinkedIn www.linkedin.com/in/kellyborth

So much of sales and marketing is understanding what customers really want and need from vendors and suppliers. Many times we feel that in order to obtain loyalty we need to invite customers to play golf, have open houses or entertain them over dinner or at sporting events. While these actions certainly reflect an investment in customer relationships, they do not make the list.

In preparing for this column, I reached out to 35 business-owning members of Vistage and the Women Presidents Organization for input on what they need from their vendors. Their insight speaks volumes and is a good reminder of how to best nurture customer relationships. Here are their top 10 preferences in order of ranking. 

Be responsive, honest, trustworthy and transparent

Be available when needed and resolve problems or issues openly and honestly. Respond quickly. Give customers your time and attention when it counts and be thorough — this demonstrates that customers are an important asset to your business and a valued relationship.

Be upfront and tell customers about any problems before they find out or something escalates out of control.

Use proactive and meaningful communication

Communicate often, but respect your customers’ time and don’t barrage them with meaningless communications.

When it is critical to your customers’ business, over-communicate. Stay in touch with customers to show that you are proactively thinking on their behalf and present them with ideas that will improve their business.

 Provide quality products or services

Do a great job and do it right. Give customers what they are paying for, deliver value and do it in a timely manner.

Deliver stellar customer service

Provide service, service and more service. Don’t let your customers down, and if something unfortunate does arise, provide alternative solutions with enough time to resolve the situation.

Offer competitive pricing and value

Respect customers’ budgets and provide a fair price that reflects the quality of the product or service. Provide customers with a recognizable value for the expense incurred. Always work to improve the value you are delivering. 

Understand customers’ needs and what’s important

Demonstrate to customers that you are a team member and a partner in their business. Value your customers’ interests. Be there for the long term and help your customers make good buying decisions based on their needs, rather than what you have to sell.

Be a solutions partner

Be a partner in creating solutions by being proactive. Your customers want you to do more listening than talking. Take the time to have a thorough understanding of your customers’ needs and come back with solid solutions that demonstrate you have thought beyond the initial discussion to find the best solution.

Do what you say you will do

Customers need to rely on quality, dependable and timely products and services.

Deliver when promised

Deliver products and services when you promise them and follow through. Be forthcoming when you cannot do so.

Listen and demonstrate an effort to be a better vendor

Care about the relationship by listening to your customers’ needs and/or pain. Ask them how you can improve the relationship and respond accordingly or formally tell them if you cannot. Be the better half of the relationship. Be engaged. Be positive. Be results-oriented. ●

Kelly Borth is CEO and chief strategy officer for GREENCREST, a 23-year-old brand development, strategic and interactive marketing and public relations firm that turns market players into market leaders. Borth has received numerous honors for her business and community leadership. She serves on several local advisory boards and is one of 30 certified brand strategists in the U.S. Reach her at (614) 885-7921, kborth@greencrest.com or on Twitter @brandpro. For more information, visit www.greencrest.com.

 

 

As a marketing professional, I have consistently been involved in helping companies plan celebrations and communications with customers, employees and media during milestone years. Whether a company is celebrating 10 years or 100 years in business, it is a special time and an opportunity to be recognized for business longevity and best practices.

There are many ways to leverage a milestone year. In all cases, how you celebrate should be fun and consistent with your company’s brand. Here are some things you might want to consider for your business. 

Determine a promotional time frame

It is not unusual for a company milestone to be promoted six months in advance and continue six months following the milestone year. 

Develop an anniversary logo

Develop a special logo or adapt your current logo with a reference to the anniversary year. It is also common for companies to continue to use some form of that logo past the milestone year, sometimes as a standard part of the company’s corporate identity or logo and sometimes as a tag line.

Incorporate the logo on the company’s website, stationery, email signatures, social media sites, brochures (sometimes best done with a sticker) and other marketing and advertising materials. Also make it visible in all company office.

Ceate an anniversary theme

Creating a theme can be a fun way to tie-in a special anniversary message. The theme can play off the milestone year such as, “100 Ways We’ve Led the Industry,” or emphasize a competitive advantage such as, “Emerging Through Innovation.” Incorporate the theme in all marketing and employee communications. 

Document the company’s history

Creating a company timeline, incorporating archive photos and sharing tidbits of the company’s history can be fun ways to engage employees and social media contacts. Once documented, this information can reside on the company website and be incorporated into employee manuals and the on-boarding process. Another idea is to produce an anniversary video or a company history coffee table book. 

Celebrate with employees

Commemorating company milestones with employees builds pride. Companywide corporate and family events, commemorative shirts, hats and other items with messages of thanks go a long way. 

Celebrate with customers and vendors

Communicating the company’s milestones by mailing or delivering commemorative gifts. Planning celebrations such as open houses or plant tours and simple letters of thanks are great ways to involve customers and vendors. 

Share your story with trade and local media

A company that reaches a milestone year is not necessarily newsworthy to most media, but if you can tie in that message with what the company has done over time, now you are talking about something that might catch the attention of a reporter. Also, look to organizations like the Columbus Chamber or the Conway Center for Family Business — both of which recognize company milestone years. 

Be philanthropic

Giving back to the community in some way can also be a memorable way to share your milestone with all audiences. Choose a cause that your company is passionate about. Make a commemorative contribution such as 100 volunteer hours, 50 meals or a cash amount that ties back to your milestone year. 

So, don’t let a milestone year slip by unnoticed. Have some fun and celebrate these wonderful achievements. ● 

Kelly Borth is CEO and chief strategy officer for GREENCREST, a 23-year-old brand development, strategic and interactive marketing and public relations firm that turns market players into market leaders. Kelly has received numerous honors for her business and community leadership. She serves on several local advisory boards and is one of 30 certified brand strategists in the U.S. Reach her at 614-885-7921, kborth@greencrest.com or on Twitter @brandpro. For more information, visit www.greencrest.com.

LinkedIn: http://bit.ly/SBN_KellyBorth
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GREENCRESTMarketing
Twitter (company): @GreenCrest
LinkedIn (company: http://www.linkedin.com/company/68562?trk=pro_other_cmpy
Blog: http://www.brandproblog.com/

 

 

 

The end of Q3 and the beginning of Q4 is an optimum time to begin the development of a marketing plan to kick-off in 2014.

The following 12 steps to developing an actionable marketing plan are the same ones I have used throughout my 35+ years as a marketing professional. If you want to grow your business and get your company's name established within your market, this is the place to start.

A well thought-out marketing plan will put things in perspective and serve as a guide to achieve your goals.

1.         Research to knowas much as you can about your customer, competitors, the industries you serve and trends that may be game changers for your business. It is important that your business remains relevant.

2.         Define your goal and what you want to accomplish. Be as specific as you can down to the number of new customer relationships needed, customer retention rates, growth by market segment and so on. 

3.         Know your company's strengths and weaknesses. Conduct a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis so that you can weigh your strengths against those of your competitors to uncover your competitive advantages. Analyze your weaknesses to determine where you may fall short and vulnerable to your competition. 

4.         Develop a competitive position that defines your niche and positions you within your marketplace. Know your unique brand and create a competitive advantage that is memorable and has the ability to make you standout. 

5.         Objectives in a marketing plan identify obstacles you need to overcome in order to achieve success. It might be things expanding market share, greater geographic footprint, developing new products, more market recognition, streamlining or identifying new processes and so on. 

6.         Define your target market. Where is the growth you need going to come from? If you did a good job defining your goal, you will have a great perspective on what will drive future growth. Understanding market share, industry growth sectors and customer share will drive how you need to target market. 

7.         Plan your strategies. Define the vision for establishing and owning your competitive place in your industry. This is your argument for how you will succeed. Just don’t get tactical during this part of the plan. 

8.         Define your tactics. Notice that this is step number 8 and not step number 1. If you have done a good job with steps 1-7, defining your tactics will become very clear. 

9.         Establish a timeline to guide the implementation of your plan of action. Make a list of all the tactics or action steps and prioritize them first quarterly, and then monthly. 

10.       A marketing budget is necessary to drive business growth, and every company should have a defined marketing budget as a part of their business growth plan—period! 

11.       Tracking will help you to determine which tactics are working and which are not.  Couponing, surveying call-ins, traffic counts, percentage of sales increases, number of inquiries and web-driven leads are some of the common forms of tracking. What you may discover is that marketing made the phone ring, but sales suffered because internal execution was a problem. It's important for you to know what's working and what's not. It is equally important to understand the science of marketing — pulling out too soon can be pouring money down the drain. 

12.       Defining performance milestones and measurement guidelines to evaluate the degree of your plan's success monthly or quarterly will help you avoid taking action prematurely or waiting too long.

A marketing plan is the key to successfully growing your company. Invest quality time in planning, and it will pay off! 

Kelly Borth is CEO and chief strategy officer for GREENCREST, a 23-year-old brand development, strategic and interactive marketing and public relations firm that turns market players into market leaders. Kelly has received numerous honors for her business and community leadership. She serves on several local advisory boards and is one of 30 certified brand strategists in the U.S. Reach her at (614) 885-7921, kborth@greencrest.com, @brandpro or for more information www.greencrest.com.

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In nearly every marketing conversation, I am asked how to measure return on investment. It is a fair question, but the answer is not always simple to address. 

ROI, and equally important return on opportunity, are measured differently for most companies and are calculated on factors that are specific to each organization.

Here are some considerations for formulating ROI and ROO:

Establishing marketing goals — Know the marketing outcomes you desire. Are you trying to generate leads, build exposure, get the phone to ring, grow market share or retain customers?

Also keep in mind that marketing goals and sales goals are different. If direct human interaction is not a factor in the sale, they could be the same. For most, this is not the case. Marketing creates the opportunity and sales books the order. They are different disciplines.

Make your marketing goals measurable — in other words, be specific by stating percentage of growth, number of leads, degree of increase in market recognition, increase in market share and percentage of retention.

Understanding tracking — Determine tracking methods for what you want to measure. If you want a hard measurement of increase in market recognition, you can establish a benchmark by implementing before and after research surveys of how well-known your company, product or brand is in the marketplace.

Sometimes tracking can be easy, such as the number of leads generated from Internet advertising or an email campaign. Other times, unless we train customer service and sales representatives to ask how that prospect heard of us, we may never know where that opportunity came from.

Tracking percentage of growth and increase of market share require that we understand current measures as well as the sales team’s impact on the overall result. We need to understand what result we are looking for so the marketing campaign can direct prospects to do what we want to measure.

Calculating investment costs — Determining the cost of advertising, creative development, printing, postage and so on is easy. The more difficult factors are what else you are including in that calculation such as technology costs, staff cost and sales cost including sales tools such as brochures and websites.

Understanding all that you want a return on is a big factor in measuring and managing the expectation for return. Typically the more you factor in, the longer it takes to anticipate a return.

Determining profitability — Cost of goods sold is the typical calculation for understanding what it costs you to produce a product or deliver a service to a customer. How quickly a company will see a return is based on how much gross profit is derived from the sale.

Another consideration is the lifetime value of new customer. If the sale of your product has the potential to generate future maintenance or service work, add-on components, replacement parts, reoccurring revenue and the like, then your return can more readily be met by factoring the lifetime profit your company realizes from acquiring a new customer.

Factoring the sales cycle — What is the typical time frame from when a lead is generated to when a sale is booked (signed, sealed and delivered)?

How quickly you will get a return on investment is largely based on how quickly you can book the new business. If it is a long sales cycle, you may want to engage interim measurements or milestones to ensure your return is on track.

So, what should you be measuring? There are numerous ROI and ROO measurements — I could easily name 25 off the top of my head. You need to determine which are most important to your organization. Choose no more than a handful so that your team can easily manage the tracking and measurement.

Kelly Borth is CEO and chief strategy officer for GREENCREST, a 22-year-old brand development, strategic and interactive marketing and public relations firm that turns market players into market leaders. She has received numerous honors for her business and community leadership. She serves on several local advisory boards and is one of 30 certified brand strategists in the U.S. Reach her at (614) 885-7921, kborth@greencrest.com, @brandpro or for more information www.greencrest.com.

 

 

 

Media relations opportunities have greatly expanded. With nearly all publications having a print and online version of each issue, e-newsletters that get distributed daily or weekly, blogs and information repositories on the websites, a reporter’s need for quality information to share with his or her readers is insatiable.

What hasn’t changed is a reporter’s desire to convey a story with a degree of exclusivity. Reading the publications you are targeting and understanding the audience from the reporter’s point of view will help you create unique storylines for publications.

Information sharing

Send reporters your case studies, white papers, product releases, research results, photographs and videos. Be sure your content is reliable, appropriate and factual — that rule isn’t likely to ever change, nor would we want it to. You want to be a respected resource and in good standing with the media. Be accessible to reporters when they call — this means as soon as possible and within the same day. If you don’t know the answer to a question, either offer to find the answer or refer them to someone who can provide it. It is a team effort — you need them and they need you.

Optimizing content

Optimize your content for online sharing with live links to images, videos, more in-depth research reports, product information and the like. This helps reporters with their due diligence and the same holds true for readers.

Mobile technology demands an easy, reader-friendly linking strategy that keeps the viewer engaged. Whether a user is using a computer, tablet or phone, the information you submit should provide links to the depth of information readers need. Use online distribution service bureaus to get your information to interested parties.

Accessible information

A best practice that I have always encouraged is the creation of a company press kit. Providing a factual document on the company reduces the amount of research and time a reporter may need to spend. It also improves the margin of error by giving the reporter a factual document to go by.

A company press kit should be easily accessible online along with images of founders, products and other helpful graphics. Reporters work on tight deadlines so anything you can do to minimize their time in telling your story, the better.

Create your own content

One of the biggest changes the Internet brought to the public relations profession is the ability for businesses to publish information of its own. Today, businesses can start online publications, which generally begin with blogs and enewsletters and include social media such as Facebook, Google+ and Twitter among others.

Web and social media sites are repositories of information about products or services, success stories, white papers, press releases, videos, PowerPoint presentations and so on. Limiting access to this information hinders online engagement.

Instead provide a snip-it or synopsis of unrestricted information to enhance trust and engagement before requiring personal information for full access. Add social media sharing buttons to your sites to make it easy for people to share your information within their social media circles.

Open communication

Having and maintaining relationships with reporters is still important. Consider the media as you would your most influential client. It takes effort to get noticed and once you do, the courtship has only just begun.

Stay in touch and keep media contacts “in the know.” They may not always be interested in what you send their way, but they will appreciate you keeping them informed.

Kelly Borth is CEO and chief strategy officer for Greencrest, a 22-year-old brand development, strategic marketing and digital media firm that turns market players into market leaders. Borth has received numerous honors for her business and community leadership. She serves on several local advisory boards and is one of 30 certified brand strategists in the United States. Reach her at (614) 885-7921, kborth@greencrest.com, @brandpro or for more information, visit www.greencrest.com.

 

 

A merger or acquisition is a sensitive process for all parties involved. Misinformation can abound, egos can be bruised, and business relationships can be damaged. One major cause of problems for companies entering a merger or acquisition is rumors and misconceptions that are allowed to run rampant through all levels of employees and stakeholders, as well as communities surrounding the businesses.

Employees, customers, vendors, community members and other key audiences hold specific interests in every company. To facilitate a smooth transition, companies must provide clear and concise information about the merger or acquisition to all stakeholders.

Implementing a transparent communications program ensures that all interested parties understand exactly how the deal will affect them. Without transparency, stakeholders begin to lose confidence. Flawless response time and a defined communication strategy are crucial to effectively ease any concerns.

Precise planning and messaging

Companies must prepare to beat fast-paced rumors months ahead of a merger or acquisition becoming imminent — especially with the speed information travels in today’s tech-savvy world.

Nothing is worse than having your employees find out about a major change in their company from an outside acquaintance. Why didn’t anyone at work inform them? Will they lose their jobs? These concerns should be addressed long before the rumor mill kicks into action. This takes proactive planning.

Initiating a proactive strategy will uncover communication considerations impacted by a merger or acquisition such as employee, key customer, investor, vendor and media announcement strategies, the company name, updating or merging of websites, and a host of other things.

“Key messages” that contain useful and comprehensive information should be prepared well ahead of time, with planned face-to-face meetings with those most affected by the deal, a detailed implementation timeline, and a plan for 11th-hour changes are essential to create a smooth transition process.

Internal communications

When announcing a merger or acquisition, it is imperative to provide accurate information and to avoid making promises that cannot be kept. If management takes the time to discuss the deal’s benefits and drawbacks, employees are more likely to respond positively instead of resisting change.

Employees expect straightforward and honest information about what the deal means for them. Anticipate questions that may arise and have a solid answer for each. Regular updates should be communicated through management, question-and-answer sessions, staff meetings and company news vehicles. The announcement to your staff must be a top priority — even ahead of key clients. But if planned properly, the announcement can hit all stakeholders within a matter of moments.

External communications

You may want to meet with key clients in person. A global announcement can be distributed via email within minutes of a staff announcement to not only clients but also other interested parties. A personal letter can always follow. But don’t stop there. Be sure to reinforce the benefits of the merger in all communication going forward.

Vendors will also be concerned about how the transaction will affect contracts, tax and credit information. A post-announcement letter can address these concerns and include any changes to important information.

Print and electronic media outlets are powerful tools and should be used accordingly. One designated spokesperson should be available at all times to speak to reporters. Communicating with key media outlets during a merger or acquisition offers a means for publicizing a company’s name change and launching new market and/or services announcements.

The perfect mix for internal and external communication plans involves implementing communications quickly, utilizing all available communication routes and delivering consistent, clear and accurate messages. Companies that make communications plans a priority during a merger or acquisition will emerge from the process as an organization that stakeholders, employees and the media can trust. ?

Kelly Borth is CEO and chief strategy officer for Greencrest, a 22-year-old brand development, strategic marketing and digital media firm that turns market players into market leaders. Borth has received numerous honors for her business and community leadership. She serves on several local advisory boards and is one of 30 certified brand strategists in the United States. Reach her at (614) 885-7921, kborth@greencrest.com, @brandpro or for more information, visit www.greencrest.com.

Maintaining a culture aligned with brand requires constant effort to keep it in sync. So if this is what you are hoping to achieve, remember it is not a road trip you can cross off your bucket list — it’s a journey for the life of your organization.

So how do you get started? Let’s begin by reviewing some travel tips. As CEO, you don’t need to do all of the driving, but you do need to lead the charge and keep the journey on track.

It will take you longer to get there than you think. It will require ongoing resources: time, training, communication and celebration, even at the expense of short-term profit.

Define your brand

What is your brand? You need to know what “living the brand” means for your organization. If you are not sure if you have a clear brand position, start with a brand discovery. It will be well worth it. Your brand is already alive within your organization — it is a part of its core. You just need to uncover it. Defining the brand and making it the company’s primary focus helps clarify for employees what is brand behavior and what is not.

Conduct an employee survey to determine what beliefs exist within the organization that will either help or hinder you in achieving the brand culture you are seeking. What will emerge from this survey are alignment gaps that will need to be addressed.

Employees want to believe their company has a meaningful purpose. They want to know their job is important. They want to make a difference. Employees need to feel a sense of pride and ownership in what they do and they want to understand their personal connection with the company’s brand and its customers. When this exists, there is a natural excitement and passion for their work because it has purpose.

Conduct an organizational assessment to determine how brand is being conveyed at every touch point within the company. Again, what will emerge from this assessment are brand delivery gaps that will need to be addressed.

Employees who interact with customers on a regular basis will play a lead role in delivering the brand, but it will require all employees to adopt brand behavior in order to truly deliver the brand effectively. It has to become a part of the company culture to succeed.

What long-term delivery requires

Delivering on the brand for the long term requires priority, organizational structure, and ongoing communication and monitoring. The importance of brand focus needs to remain top-of-mind. It must constantly be reinforced by the CEO.

To become a part of company culture, brand delivery needs to be woven into the company’s operating procedures — including hiring for the beliefs and core values that drive the desired brand behaviors.

Senior leadership needs to have the authority to make changes or remove any barriers that prevent employees from delivering the brand promise to customers. Financial as well as strategic decisions will need to be made to continue to deliver a high impact brand experience as technology and social patterns change.

It will take an internal team to monitor brand delivery, manage associate training and plan the celebration of successes.

When culture aligns with brand, customers notice and become more likely to interact with your company and recommend it to others. The best time to start the journey is now. ?

Kelly Borth is CEO and chief strategy officer for Greencrest, a 22-year-old brand development, strategic marketing and digital media firm that turns market players into market leaders. Borth has received numerous honors for her business and community leadership. She serves on several local advisory boards and is one of 30 certified brand strategists in the United States. Reach her at (614) 885-7921, kborth@greencrest.com, @brandpro or for more information, visit www.greencrest.com.

 

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