Steve Jobs was the master of spotting trends and the opportunities that go with them. He was so good at it that he could see trends when they were still in their infancy. This allowed him to create products that kept his company at the front of the waves of change and ultimately drove massive profits and stock growth for Apple.
While not many people possess the uncanny sixth sense that Jobs had, it’s important to spend time studying your industry and what’s happening at various levels, from customers to suppliers to competitors.
You need to recognize when the trend is pushing positive growth and when it’s not. The additional challenge is to know the difference between a trend and a fad. A trend is more long-lived and drives a lot of long-term opportunity, while a fad tends to burn out quickly. This isn’t to say that trends last forever, because they don’t. An important part of studying trends is to know when to jump off the wagon and find the next opportunity, because if you ride a trend too far, you may find yourself in a rapidly declining industry or an area of waning interest.
For example, Y2K was a fad. For those who don’t remember, the Y2K boom was caused by old computers that only saw years as two digits instead of four, and widespread computer issues were predicted if systems weren’t upgraded. A giant boom in computer consulting and sales resulted from this issue, but it was short-lived. The moment 2000 rolled around, the need for Y2K upgrades dried up.
The dot-com boom, which was partly fueled by Y2K, was a trend. For a number of years, a ridiculous amount of money was being thrown at any project that contained the word “Internet,” regardless of its business model or competitive factors. While it was active, there were plenty of online growth opportunities for businesses to take advantage of.
Those who recognized the trend were able to capitalize on it, and more importantly, those who recognized the end of the trend were able to cash out before it went bust. Not every trend will be as big as the dot-com boom, and depending on your industry, they may not be so obvious.
Finding and recognizing trends starts with studying your industry. You need to stay in tune with what’s happening with competitors and constantly read about not only your industry but related ones as well. Talk to suppliers and vendors to get their opinions as to what direction your markets may be headed. But the most important thing may be to have an open mind. Don’t assume that because something hasn’t changed for 20 years that it isn’t ever going to change.
With an open mind, you are more likely to recognize an emerging trend before everyone else has rushed to capitalize on it, putting you ahead of the curve. Once you are exploiting a trend, you have to be equally diligent to know when it’s going to end, and that’s done in a similar fashion to identifying it in the first place: Stay plugged in to your industry.
These are exciting times and change is all around us. Look for the hidden clues that can lead you to the next big opportunity, and never stop challenging your own beliefs. The CEOs who do the best over time are the ones who don’t accept the status quo.
Fred Koury is president and CEO of Smart Business Network Inc. Reach him with your comments at (800) 988-4726 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Social media tools provide an accessible and inexpensive way for businesses to expand their market footprint. But failure to protect and enforce intellectual property rights may quickly turn a great resource into a major headache, whether or not social media is part of a corporate marketing program, says Alexis Dillett Isztwan of Semanoff Ormsby Greenberg & Torchia LLC.
Together, social media and intellectual property pose internal and external issues. Internally, a business must monitor and control employee use of intellectual property. Given social media’s accessibility, problems can arise and grow rapidly. Imagine an employee prematurely tweeting about a new product launch or information never intended for the public. To reduce risk, businesses should establish a written social media policy that:
? Sets clear guidelines for appropriate topics to be posted on any media, including company and employee personal accounts.
? Identifies personnel permitted to post and the posting approval process.
? Addresses use of third-party trademarks or copyrights or names of individuals or competitors.
? Is clearly and regularly communicated and taught through annual training.
Externally, businesses should police unauthorized use of their intellectual property on social media sites. Defamatory comments can take on a life of their own. Businesses must also contend with trademark misuse or infringement, from someone using your trademark as its domain name to assuming your brand identity online, an aggressive practice called “brand-jacking.” To combat these challenges, businesses should:
? Monitor social media for use of company trademarks.
? Obtain formal protection for intellectual property, e.g., trademark registrations.
? Avoid overreaction; weigh impact of potential negative backlash online against severity of misuse.
? Consider availing itself of the social media site’s enforcement policies.
Alexis Dillett Isztwan, a member at Semanoff Ormsby Greenberg & Torchia LLC, concentrates on intellectual property and technology law.
Dolev Rafaeli stayed on course to define the new, post-merger normal at PhotoMedex by sticking his neck outWritten by Erik Cassano
It took three tries over the span of five years to make the merger of Radiancy and PhotoMedex a reality. So when the merger was finalized in 2011, Dolev Rafaeli was determined to make all aspects of it a success.
Rafaeli had been the CEO of Radiancy and was assuming the CEO’s position in the combined company — a manufacturer of medical treatments for skin conditions and other skin-related consumer products, which would carry the PhotoMedex Inc. name.
In terms of their history and DNA, the two companies had starkly different backgrounds. Radiancy, the larger of the two companies, was privately held, focused on consumer sales and had developed a presence in the international marketplace.
PhotoMedex was a public company, sold mostly to other businesses and was heavily focused on domestic sales.
From 30,000 feet, the companies were complementary parts, bringing different areas of strength to the table. The merger was a puzzle-piece fit. But at ground level, things were a little more complicated for Rafaeli and his management team.
“The biggest challenge, and the reason it took us five years to make it happen, was what you would call an HR challenge,” Rafaeli says. “Usually, when you look at mergers and acquisitions, everybody can understand the very objective analysis of numbers and the very subjective analysis of how things might look if we merge the two companies. The biggest challenge was, how do you get two teams engaged when at least part of the two teams thinks they don’t have a future in the company?”
Rafaeli had to combine two cultures from two different backgrounds, and once he had everybody on board, he had to set the stage for the company’s continued success or any momentum gained during the merger process would be lost.
In any large-scale change, alignment starts at the top. Nobody in the company will adopt the changes if he or she sees any type of negative or mixed reaction from those in charge. To that end, the management teams at Radiancy and PhotoMedex began the process of finding points of consensus nearly five years before the merger took place.
“We actually had known each other since 2007, so there wasn’t too much change in the transition for the management teams,” Rafaeli says. “We put together a project team that was running the two companies as if we were merged, about eight months before the merger happened. We were making decisions and considering things together, and we built our plan to make changes both before and after the merger.”
As the larger company, Radiancy had the majority of the resources that would be needed during the merger process, but since the combined company would be publicly traded and carry the PhotoMedex name, PhotoMedex served as the basic template by which the new company would be constructed. It was a matter, in many cases, of the combined leadership team creating operational alignment by building more efficiencies into the previously existing PhotoMedex processes.
“A lot of it happened before the merger was even consummated, so for example, we took apart all of the logistics philosophies in the old PhotoMedex but reassembled them based on the old PhotoMedex while using Radiancy’s resources,” Rafaeli says. “Since Radiancy was bigger, we had better costing to do things, resulting in a savings post-merger. We did the same thing with our insurance platforms, payment processing platforms, and with our PR and advertising companies.”
With an aligned leadership team creating aligned strategies, systems and processes, it became much easier for Rafaeli to bring the rest of the company’s workforce on board with the merger. An important first step was letting the company at-large know that no layoffs were planned as part of the merger.
“The scale and geographic diversity really required that nobody leave,” Rafaeli says. “We needed to keep all the finance teams that both companies had pre-merger. Each side had to learn what the other was doing and develop a way to combine the systems. We had to become SOX-compliant and handle a very coherent reporting system.”
In some areas of the company, the best solution was a combined one, implementing practices from both pre-merger companies. But in other areas, Rafaeli and his team decided to take an either/or approach to implementing best practices, aligning the company with one standard or the other.
“The operations team in both previous companies had two complementary sets of knowledge, and we had to merge the two of them in a way that took advantage of all the areas of strength,” Rafaeli says. “What happened was, we had the quality manager of the old PhotoMedex oversee the quality system of the combined company. The supply chain manager of Radiancy took over material supply for the whole company, because Radiancy was doing it more efficiently.”
It is crucial that you paint an accurate and complete picture of your vision for the post-merger company and that you do it early in the process. If you are going to create buy-in and subsequently create complete alignment throughout all levels of your organization, everyone has to know where they fit and what will be asked of them.
“We have very talented and experienced people, and we wanted all of them to stay and be engaged in the process of the merger and remain engaged post-merger,” Rafaeli says. “The important part there is keeping them engaged throughout the process of the merger.”
Announce your arrival
Even if you’re keeping the identity and product lines from both companies, as the relaunched PhotoMedex did, it won’t be business as usual for your customers. They’ll see a new company with a future in flux, which is why you need to connect with your customers and paint the same clear, accurate and candid picture that you did for your employees.
One of the ways Rafaeli and his team sought to announce the arrival of the new PhotoMedex and affirm the company’s identity to outsiders was through its marketing efforts.
“It was a very interesting process,” he says. “We took two companies — one that has the knowledge of how to advertise, and the other with knowledge of the business. One of our main business lines is in the area of psoriasis treatment, and the PhotoMedex people knew a lot about psoriasis and psoriasis treatment. They knew about the view in the market, the conditions of the marketplace, how physicians view it and the market’s view of that.
Through a unified effort leveraging the areas of expertise that now existed in the combined PhotoMedex, the company’s advertising specialists developed an advertising strategy based on the selling points of the company’s products.
“We had work sessions where we drilled down on the information,” Rafaeli says. “Because of what we sell, we deal with a lot of FDA regulations, so we have to be very regulatory-conscious in the way we advertise. Our quality and regulatory affairs manager oversees a lot of that.”
Advertising — especially in a time of change — is a risky proposition. You really don’t know how the market is going to receive the change until you see some reaction. You don’t really know what is going to appeal to customers. If you had a high trust factor between consumers and your product or service, you have no real way of knowing if that trust factor will survive a transformational change like a merger.
It’s a fact of business life that has been in the front of Rafaeli’s mind as he has watched PhotoMedex roll out its new advertising campaigns over the past year-plus. All you can do as a business leader is stick your neck out, observe the results, gather data and make adjustments.
“Because we’re so involved in advertising, we get questions about advertising from other businesspeople on almost a weekly basis,” Rafaeli says. “We tell them that they have to be very careful and diligent, because advertising can be a very, very risky business. You can go out and spend money, get no results and have no idea why you didn’t get results. You don’t know if it’s because you failed to choose the right targets or the right price point or some other factor.”
Early in the process, Rafaeli and his team decided to focus on a straightforward and positive approach to advertising. PhotoMedex ads can vary greatly in how the message is conveyed, depending on media and geography, but the clarity regarding the product and the company behind it are constant themes.
It’s an approach that has helped galvanize PhotoMedex’s marketing strategy and has helped to make the merger an overall success. The company generated $110 million in sales for the first half of 2012, with full-year projections of more than $230 million.
“Consumers can be exposed to hundreds of different types of ads every day, and many of them are either negative or misleading. They can try to tear down what the competition does, or promise results that they can’t deliver.
“But what I think is truly effective in an ad campaign is a straightforward approach that doesn’t create unrealistic expectations. And what an effective ad campaign really means is that when the need arises, you will trust our company. You will pick up the phone or go on the computer, and you will look for us.”
How to reach: PhotoMedex Inc., (215) 619-3600 or www.photomedex.com
The Rafaeli file
Dolev Rafaeli, CEO, PhotoMedex Inc.
Born: Haifa, Israel
Education: Bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering and master’s degree in operations management, the Technion — Israel Institute of Technology; Ph.D. in business management, Century University
More from Rafaeli on the advertising strategy of PhotoMedex: Our advertisements might look a little different, perhaps even awkward, to some people. We have an advertisement in a number of magazines where we show a woman shaving her face with a blade.
The reason we do that is, one of the products we sell is called no!no! hair removal, and we saw that one of the key drives for buying the product was female facial hair. There is not really any other solution to that besides a hair removal product. A woman isn’t going to put a razor blade to her face. And when we were testing this, we knew the reason we had bought and sold over 3 million units. We knew why people needed it, but we didn’t know how to convey the message.
We went about doing this very carefully, having clinical ads and physicians talking about it, and it didn’t work. So we decided to try something that might be perceived as awkward, having a woman shave her face. We put that on, and six months later, in a number of major magazines, you see our ad.
When it came to psoriasis, the key discussion also became, ‘What do we show? Do we show people with psoriasis? Or do we go to the other extreme, like ads for erectile dysfunction medications in the U.S.?’ Obviously, they’re not going to show anything like that in a literal sense. They show couples on the beach having fun and so forth.
We tested it in certain ways, and we ended up not showing the psoriasis treatment at all. People who have psoriasis know what they have. They don’t need to see it. People who don’t have and who will never have psoriasis don’t care to see damaged skin.
Align your management team.
Roll it out to the rest of the company.
Advertise with a direct message.
Natasha Ashton - How to overcome your social media butterflies and make this powerful force work for youWritten by Natasha Ashton
It’s no secret that some companies struggle with creating an effective presence on social media. Navigating the tightrope between overt sales messaging and empty musings is tricky; turn your fans and followers off, and they’ll abandon your page as fast as they can click “unlike.” Inadvertently create a controversy, and, well, the consequences can be ugly (not to mention cached forever, thanks to Google).
The simple fact that most social media is “free” does not mean that we, as business leaders, don’t need to invest in a strategy. While we all know what not to do, it’s much more difficult to create a road map for what will drive engagement across social media.
At Petplan, we integrate our company culture and brand values into our social media activities at every opportunity.
But we don’t just talk about ourselves — we share stories of our fans and family members and invite our community to join in the conversation. We don’t just give news updates; we create destinations that are rich with exclusive content that is truly useful to our community members.
With social media, the driving force behind our approach, as it is with everything else we do, is our core value: Pets come first.
Our approach seems to be working, both in terms of driving incremental traffic to our company and also in raising our profile in traditional media. Two months after creating our Pinterest presence, Social Media Delivered, a social media consulting organization, included Petplan on its list of top 20 companies globally using the site.
Content is king
Content is the currency of social media, so you need to make sure that every tweet, post and pin has value. What makes it worthwhile? If the information you are sharing enables your audience to act on your shared values, it’s worth posting.
For Petplan, that means delivering content that helps people provide the very best for their four-legged family members. It matters to them, and it matters to us — this synergy drives engagement and earns us those ever-important likes, retweets, shares and pins.
Don’t copy, complement
Many businesses make the mistake of putting exactly the same content on all of their social media channels, but this one-size-fits-all approach simply doesn’t work.
Each social media site has a distinct character and a unique audience who favors it; if you’re not playing to the medium, chances are you’re missing the message. Share industry and personnel news on LinkedIn, tweet breaking news and updates, post interesting photos and calls to action on Facebook, and pin your most engaging images related to trending topics on Pinterest.
Think of each channel as another facet of your business’s personality and tailor your content to that.
If you want to harness the power of social media, you need to make it easy for your audience to share — and easy for the content to be attributed to you. Optimize all your communication channels to include both “share” and “follow” buttons. Make sure your retweet widgets include your Twitter handle.
Use websites like sharethis.com to integrate social media into the content you produce. It will make your customer experience more meaningful and your social media standing more robust.
A solid social media strategy takes planning, time and a lot of attention, but if you invest the resources in building an effective presence, you’ll capture new customers, fans, friends and influencers.
Whatever you do, don’t forget the most important piece of the social media puzzle: analytics. Gaining quantifiable data gives you insight into social sharing behavior that will tell you what you’re doing right (and wrong!), reveal where improvements can be made and keep you on the path to becoming a brand powerhouse in the future.
Natasha Ashton is the co-CEO and co-founder of Petplan pet insurance and its quarterly glossy pet health magazine, Fetch! — both headquartered in Philadelphia. Originally from the U.K., she holds an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business. She can be reached at email@example.com.
An effective safety committee will lead to fewer workers’ compensation claims and reduce your company’s experience modification factor and premiums.
“With lower claims your company may be able to obtain quotes from insurance carriers with lower rates than you could in years past,” says Kevin Forbes, sales executive at ECBM. “Lower claims may also provide alternative sources for coverage, such as captive programs and retention programs for companies that can effectively control their workers’ compensation claims.”
Smart Business spoke with Forbes about setting up a safety committee and driving down your workers’ compensation costs.
What’s the goal when forming a safety committee?
Employers who form safety committees are attempting to reduce injuries and meet compliance requirements of federal and state regulations. However, the overall goal should be to enforce and expand current safety procedures and continue to promote the organization’s safety culture.
Safety committees also are an effective tool in analyzing and ensuring regulation compliance. Making sure your company guidelines meet Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) minimum standards in the facility, yard, on job sites and over-the-road is a key function of every safety committee. Training can be provided by outside, certified instructors, and then committee members are responsible for passing on their training and monitoring new procedures.
Does a safety committee give you an insurance discount?
Depending on what state you are domiciled in, credits may be available. Pennsylvania offers a 5 percent credit to any employer who qualifies. New York and Delaware also offer credits, but New Jersey does not. To qualify, the safety committee has to meet guidelines laid out in the state’s workers’ compensation manuals and become state certified.
What ingredients do you need to set up a successful safety committee?
To get the best results, any safety committee must have complete support and involvement from top management. And once procedures are implemented, they need to be communicated to employees, strictly followed and monitored for effectiveness.
The committee must meet regularly — typically once per month and at the same time for maximum involvement. Meetings shouldn’t always be in a conference room; some of the most effective meetings take place at job sites or on the factory floor.
The committee should be formed with volunteer members — management and employees — who show an interest in making the workplace safer. Since these individuals identify safety issues, develop new procedures and communicate them to the rest of the workforce, they should be from positions that will be directly affected.
Bringing on your insurance broker or risk manager as a member can be valuable. These individuals have the ability to analyze exposures and identify where the company is experiencing the most loss.
How important is employee buy-in?
Without it, the safety committee will never help create an effective safety culture. By getting employees who are leaders from each level in the organization involved, the views formed in the committee can be transmitted throughout the organization.
Typically, when employees see a company invested and committed to keeping them safe, getting their buy-in is pretty easy. Management should also encourage employee involvement and suggestions. Employees have a much better outlook on participating when they see their suggestions being taken seriously.
Are there any risks you should be aware of when establishing a safety committee?
Be sure to comply with the jurisdictional law that has been established regarding the creation of safety committees and follow the rules. Once the committee is established and the plan is in place, it’s imperative to continue to run the committee in line with the mission on which it was established, which will include accurate record keeping.
Kevin Forbes is a sales executive at ECBM. Reach him at (610) 668-7100, ext. 1322 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
BLOG: For more information about risk management, visit www.ecbm.com/blog.
External financing is typically the lifeline of a company, enabling it access to capital to purchase property and equipment, hire employees, and ultimately expand the business.
Commercial lending institutions provide the most common source of such financing.
“In order to get the most out of your lender relationship, the business owner or manager needs to understand what’s important to the commercial banker,” says Mark G. Metzler, CPA, director of Audit & Accounting at Kreischer Miller.
Smart Business spoke with Metzler about establishing a relationship with a commercial lender that will benefit your business.
What does a commercial lender look for in a banking relationship?
First and foremost, like most companies, the commercial lender is in business to generate a profit. Consequently, it’s imperative that the lender has confidence in the borrower’s ability to repay its loan. Therefore, in addition to evaluating the integrity of management, the commercial lender will look for a strong balance sheet and positive cash flow as indicators of the company’s ability to repay its obligations.
What else is important to the lender?
Lenders look at the experience and strength of management. In particular, they evaluate management’s ability to guide the company and execute its strategy. How has management been able to navigate through the recent turbulent economic environment? What are the backgrounds of the CFO and senior management? The lender will look at the company’s other business advisers, including its outside CPAs and attorneys, to help assess the company’s credentials. Does management surround itself with the right professionals? Lastly, the lender is interested in timely, open communication with management, sharing both good and bad news. The lender understands that projections and forecasts may change, but they don’t want to be surprised. The lender wants to know: What is management’s business plan, how has it historically performed and what are the key assumptions in the plan?
What should the business owner look for?
There are many options available to companies, and the business owner needs to evaluate a number of factors. First, who will be the company’s relationship manager and what is his or her experience? Remember, the relationship manager will be the one who presents the company’s case for extending the loan to the bank’s credit committee and monitors the company’s performance. The relationship manager plays a critical part and he or she should understand your business, its opportunities and threats, and potential capital requirements. Second, what type of financing is most appropriate? Options include traditional term debt, lines of credit, asset-based arrangements and SBA loans, among others. The size of the requested credit facility may help dictate the type of loan and banks that are suitable. Third, are there other services that you may need from the bank? For instance, if you have a global business, the bank’s foreign exchange capabilities may be important. Another business may be interested in cash management. Finally, because the company is often the business owner’s greatest asset, what private banking services are available to the owner individually?
What role do interest rates play?
Terms and conditions are always important, but we’ve found that commercial banks will be competitive for the right credit. Depending on the size and type of loan, the lender may be interested in collateral or personal guarantees. Obviously, companies with the strongest balance sheets and cash flows will generally obtain the best terms. While the lowest interest rate may appear to be most desirable, the experience of the relationship manager, the depth of service offerings and the commitment of the bank to your business are intangible factors that should not be ignored.
Do you have any recommendations?
Because your CPA works with a number of companies and has access to credit arrangements offered by various lending institutions, he or she is ideally positioned to guide you through the process and assist you in negotiating an optimal lending relationship for your company.
Mark G. Metzler, CPA, is a director, Audit & Accounting, at Kreischer Miller. Reach him at (215) 441-4600 or email@example.com.
Insights Accounting & Consulting is brought to you by Kreischer Miller
Michael J. Torchia, a managing member at Semanoff Ormsby Greenberg & Torchia, LLC, gave a seminar to executive clients on individual liability several months ago. “Even if some supervisors knew they had liability under a statute or two,” he says, “seeing their actual exposure to 12 or 14 statutes shocked them.”
“I don’t think business owners have any clue how vulnerable they are to being sued under various employment statutes,” Torchia says.
This exposure is prevalent in areas like discrimination cases, and wage and hour claims which include unpaid overtime, exempt and non-exempt employees, and independent contractor status.
Smart Business spoke with Torchia about individual liability and strategies for protection and avoidance.
How are executives vulnerable to individual liability?
Many state and federal statutes explicitly state an employee has a right to relief against the employer and an individual. Some simply define ‘employer’ to include certain individuals. Examples include the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law; Fair Labor Standards Act; Family and Medical Leave Act; Pennsylvania Human Relations Act; Pennsylvania Whistleblower Act; Immigration Reform and Control Act; and COBRA. There are also common law court cases allowing an individual to be sued under a variety of claims such as intentional infliction of emotional distress and defamation. Although incorporation helps shield individual assets — as opposed to, for example, a sole proprietor — the corporate veil does not protect individuals here because the statutes specifically allow action against them.
How far into management is the risk?
Generally, if an executive, manager or supervisor is considered a decision maker when it comes to employee issues, especially with regard to compensation, benefits or termination, there could be individual liability. In some organizations, that could be those at the ‘C’ level, president or vice president, but in others a secondary or middle manager could be individually liable.
What about executives who say, ‘I was following orders’ or ‘It was unintentional’?
‘Just following orders’ or ‘company policy’ may help, but is not an absolute defense. And whether the improper act was or wasn’t intentional is only relevant if the statute requires proving intent, bad faith or a knowing violation.
So, how can executives protect themselves?
At a minimum, managers, supervisors and executives should make certain they have adequate insurance. There are a variety of policies for individual exposure, such as employment practices liability, directors and officers, fiduciary liability, and errors and omissions. There are also lesser known policies that cover, for example, inadvertent disclosure of private information.
Another factor is asset protection. In Pennsylvania, assuming the executive is not already named in a lawsuit or under imminent threat of a claim, which could result in a fraudulent transfer claim, assets can be protected by putting a house, cars and bank accounts in joint names with a spouse. If not married, executives may consider increasing contributions to retirement accounts, which are not usually subject to collection.
How can executives and their companies avoid problems in the first place?
Training and education for managers, supervisors and executives — especially your decision makers — is key. They need to know how to handle all aspects of their supervisory duties, such as hiring, discipline, firings and employee complaints.
The company’s written policies should be consistent with the manager training and what is actually done day to day. Policy review and training should occur at least every three years, and sooner if there is turnover or changes in the law. Seminars and in-person training for middle managers is routinely overlooked or disregarded as unnecessary, but that it is one of the most important steps a company can take.
Most often decision-making executives, managers and supervisors are not trying to violate the law. However, with authority to bind the company, they can unknowingly cause liability to themselves or the business.
Michael J. Torchia, Esq. is a managing member at Semanoff Ormsby Greenberg & Torchia, LLC. Reach him at (215) 887-0200 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Insights Legal Affairs is brought to you by Semanoff Ormsby Greenberg & Torchia, LLC
When I meet with business-to-business and professional service clients to discuss their marketing strategies, one comment that consistently arises is “No one buys professional services through the Web.”
While that may be true — you don’t typically buy an accountant online as you would a product through e-commerce — how your brand is perceived most definitely will impact a prospect’s buying decision.
Decisions to work with professional service firms don’t happen overnight. They take time. And because of this, any B2B organization must ensure it is “seen” in the strongest possible light before the sale actually occurs.
In fact, it’s just as important to not lose prospective customers because your organization is perceived as weak or subpar as it is to convert a prospect into a client.
The simple truth is that you never know at any given time who is researching your brand and through what channel. Having a consistent brand message, whether they’re looking to engage you now or somewhere down the road, helps you to not lose them before they need your solutions.
To accomplish this, you must get your brand messaging across in a consistent manner across multiple channels.
So how do you that?
First, a solid marketing strategy must include a website that clearly articulates the brand message and value proposition of your services — and it has to be on the home page.
It also should include supporting content that allows a prospective customer to quickly understand who you are, what you do and why you’re different.
For example, let’s say you’re an accounting firm. Being able to articulate why you are the best at providing risk management solutions for clients can help you differentiate yourself in the marketplace.
Providing and highlighting content that explains your service, along with case studies and client examples that include measurable results, is a smart move. It allows prospects and site visitors to get a feel of what it would be like to work with you.
Additionally, your website should offer prospective clients an easy way to contact you — either through a phone number or a simple contact form that includes a name, email address, phone number and short explanation of the prospect’s business problem.
Beyond your website, other channels to consider include social media, which includes LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. In these social media channels, you need more than just simple company pages. Instead, you should offer visitors relevant and current content that consistently supports the brand message and your organization’s value proposition, along with company information and executive profiles. And it’s extremely important to continually be “active.”
Using the same accounting firm as an example, it could utilize consistent content around recent changes to government policies, updates on recent business wins or sharing a solution that helped one of its clients overcome a business challenge across all social media channels.
And when that information isn’t timely, something as simple as new hire announcements or employee promotions will show visitors and followers that there is activity within your brand — and your organization. It makes you “active,” which makes you more attractive to prospects.
Other channels to think about include mobile or tablet experiences, print marketing and event sponsorship. Every channel you can imagine should be used to express your organization’s brand message because there are always people watching.
So while your clients may not choose or buy their professional services online, they will evaluate your brand even prior to consideration. And while it’s impossible to measure what clients you may lose by not having this strategy in place, it is clear that a solid marketing strategy of this type can save you from losing consideration — even when you don’t know you’re being considered.
David Fazekas is vice president of digital marketing for Smart Business Network. Reach him at email@example.com or (440) 250-7056.
According to The Business Dictionary, attitude is: “A predisposition or a tendency to respond positively or negatively towards a certain idea, object, person, or situation. Attitude influences an individual's choice of action, and responses to challenges, incentives, and rewards (together called stimuli).”
The words that jump out as important in this definition are:
- Positively or negatively
In light of this, we can say that when we respond to things with a positive attitude, that response influences positive action in us and others. We can also say that the opposite is true.
We could end this article right now by simply saying – As a leader, manager or executive in business; do the former and not the latter. But if you are like me, I bet that you could use some “how to” examples and tips.
Here they are, six tips for having a positive attitude in business:
1. Keep an open mind. Always be open to the possibility that a life change you have refused to consider might be the key to transforming your life for the better.
This type of attitude impresses your colleagues. Why? Because most of them have been faced with the same challenge and chose to not change. Their attitude towards the change has been clouded with self-doubt and lack of courage.
When you are willing to keep an open mind, you are responding positively to the challenge of a life change that has the possibility of a great reward.
Be different than those around you. Be open.
2. Be proactive, not reactive. A reactive individual is at the mercy of change. A proactive individual sees change as a part of the process and takes action to make the best of it.
Having a proactive attitude requires work. You must be able to think ahead and anticipate. It involves being involved.
In business (and life) you cannot simply sit back and let things just happen as they will. In truth, you could, but that attitude is a negative response that influences negative action, namely, reaction.
Do a little mental work beforehand. Get in the game and be proactive.
3. Go with the flow. Present an easy, casual and friendly attitude that shows your flexibility, yet at the same time portrays your persistence in the face of obstacles and adversity.
This is not the negative “sit back and let things happen” attitude described above. Persistence in the face of obstacles and adversity is what sets it apart.
Having an attitude that is easy and casual, without stepping outside the bounds of proper etiquette and being friendly, is some of the best advice I can give to leaders in business.
Be persistent while going with the flow.
4. Think big. If you think small, you will achieve something small. If you think big, then you are more likely to achieve a goal that is beyond your wildest dreams.
When we allow ourselves to have an attitude that pushes boundaries and explores possibilities, we draw in people who have the same attitude. In other words, by thinking big we find big thinkers.
Want to have a team full of big thinkers? Want to have meetings where ideas are shared and positive plans are made? Want to grow leaders out of your team and promote them to new heights in their career? It all starts with your big-thinking, boundary-pushing, dream-inspiring attitude.
Go ahead – think big.
5. Be persuasive, not manipulative. Use your persuasive talents to persuade others of your worth. Don’t use it to convince someone that others are worth less than you.
Have you ever had a manipulative boss? Have you ever had a persuasive boss?
6. Enter action with boldness. When you do something, do it boldly and with confidence so that you make your mark. Wimping out is more likely to leave you stuck in the same old pattern and immune to positive change.
In the end it’s all about getting things done – with a positive attitude. As leaders, we need to be able to move and work with a certain sense of boldness. A boldness that inspires us and those around us to reach for new horizons in all we do.
It’s obvious, action is better than no action – but bold action that leaves a mark is what we should be doing in our life and business.
Do something and do it with a bold attitude.
Attitude really is everything in business. It is the force that empowers us to respond positively to the challenges we face on a daily basis. It allows us to enjoy what we do as we do it. It builds us and our teams.
DeLores Pressley, motivational speaker and personal power expert, is one of the most respected and sought-after experts on success, motivation, confidence and personal power. She is an international keynote speaker, author, life coach and the founder of the Born Successful Institute and DeLores Pressley Worldwide. She helps individuals utilize personal power, increase confidence and live a life of significance. Her story has been touted in The Washington Post, Black Enterprise, First for Women, Essence, New York Daily News, Ebony and Marie Claire. She is a frequent media guest and has been interviewed on every major network – ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX – including America’s top rated shows OPRAH and Entertainment Tonight.
She is the author of “Oh Yes You Can,” “Clean Out the Closet of Your Life” and “Believe in the Power of You.” To book her as a speaker or coach, contact her office at 330.649.9809 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website at www.delorespressley.com.