Archive for the ‘Creative Process’ Category

WELCOME.

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

The site is made up of a variety of areas.

Below, I’ve reserved for blogs that I write from time to time.  The “Creative” slots indicate various clients and projects I’ve worked on.  As well, I’ve added the required experience information, normally known as a resume.  I can provide a lot more information….when you ask for it.

Let me know if this is what you expected, and we’ll go from there.

And thanks for the visit.

 

 

 

 

BLAND BRANDING

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

 

Every bank seems to have developed a web site.   Yet it’s a pretty bland world out there.

In general, many products and service industries are including a variety of images to support their claims.  But the banking industry has chosen to put together statements on their web sites, all saying essentially the same thing.  Using images that are weak and in no way underscoring the importance of differentiating themselves from their competitors.

Web sites have become the major source for sales and information to customers and prospects.  As branch activity continues to plummet, the web site becomes more and more important.  Videos.  News. Reminders.  Up-to-date information.  Colorful stories and pictures should abound. The marketplace is hungry for financial information.  This should be a go-to place for the latest news.  But for the most part, this isn’t happening.

Since the first step in measuring a brand is an assessment stage, banks need to learn from that information and keep their web sites active and interesting. Yes there is a cost.  There is always a cost in selling products and services.  But that cost can be measured against predetermined objectives involving profits.  Branding allows that to happen.

If nothing else, think of the last web site you were at that you can now recall.  It normally begins with those carefully chosen images that help to create something interesting and memorable.  And that has to come from building and supporting a branding statement.

That is one of the most important parts of branding.  Creating a unique image…one that stands out in the marketplace.

With everything else changing in the financial industry, it’s really important that the industry learn what the new tools are, and how to use them successfully.

Assessment is the first step in understanding the power of those tools.

“I’ve redesigned my web site. I can hardly wait to try all of those techniques used on the internet!”

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’ve seen how many newly designed web sites handle these new techniques.  Pop-ups.  Bright colors.  Wavy lines.  You name it, you’ve seen it. My advice…….go slow.

First, you need to have some guidelines to help you make these kinds of decisions.   “What do you mean guidelines?”               If you have established your brand statement in a thorough manner, you should have arrived at some “characteristics” as to how and what kind of an image you want to project.

Think about your place of business.  How do you act and behave when someone comes in.  Customers will judge you in two different ways:  Environment –  Busy?  Colorful?  Disorganized?  Focused?  Dark?  Orderly?  Messy?   Employees       – Busy doing other things? No acknowledgement?  Pleasant and gracious, and anxious  to assist?  Whatever the “real” atmosphere….it should be mirrored in the “virtual” atmosphere.  Of course with a redesigned web site, you’ve probably made some changes in how you want to be “virtually” perceived.  Well, make the same “real” changes.

Assisting a recent client in this activity, we had previously agreed on:  The virtual site should be similar in nature to walking into an actual office.  It should have the same look, feel, and sound.   The site should always enhance our Brand strategy.  These simple directions helped to make some really good decisions regarding what kind of messages and images should be used.  As well it helped to decide what kind of style and application of resources should be used.

Create some “Guidelines” that will help you the next time you have to make these kinds of judgments.  Consistent images and behavior will help to build the Brand that will build your business.

 


 

Merger. Acquisition. So what’s the new Branding statement?

Saturday, August 4th, 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Positive Brand Recognition, generated through the actions of employees, plus communications from the organization, add up to and are directly related to Profits.

Recently, I was talking with a person who works in an M&A group that focuses primarily on the financial industry.  I was seeking help in being introduced to the right people within the organization, in an attempt to discuss the importance of having branding strategies being a part of early-on efforts.

This person said outright, “Well, I have never heard of our organization recommending any branding types”.

I paused a moment, and thanked him for his time, and then sat for a while pondering what he had said.  I would think this linkage – organizational change and the need for communications – would be one of the most reasonable of associations.  Not the most far-fetched.

Consider an organization that is merging with another company: acquiring or being acquired.  What complications could come out of such an activity for customers?  And especially employees!

Without appropriate attention, you can expect an organizational culture clash.  The acquirer being the “winner”: the acquired, the “loser”. A key question should be “what are the employees of each of these companies suppose to do in regards to dealing with existing customers?”

Case in point:  Hewlett Packard and EDS.  If you know anyone in these organizations, you’ve learned of many occurrences of unpleasant situations.  Not what you would call friendly.

Where was the planning in how to make the new strategic plan truly effective?  After all of the reorganizing, what is the direction for employees?  What is the marketplace suppose to think?  If you are a customer, who are you suppose to work with?  Does this person have my best interests at heart?.  Are they more worried about keeping their job?  What is in this for me, as a customer?

If nothing else, this is a reminder to strategic planning and project management personnel in mergers and acquisitions organizations that Branding, a business strategy, is vital to the success of the new organization.  Any time and money spent to redirect the marketplace’s image of the new company will pay off sooner.  And better than later!

 

 

IMPROVE YOUR BOTTOM LINE. Change your logo!

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buyers are wary and judgmental. This is the time when you want to make certain that you continue to deliver the product and service that customers expect; those that can attract new business.

Some parts of the country are having a rough time with this economy.   And while doing little may be the mind-set for many organizations, now is the best time to do some assessing.   Back-to Basics, as they say.    For instance, answer questions like “What business are we really in?” and “What is it that we do better than our competitors?”  You need to find out now how you can help the organization take advantage of the upcoming improvement in market conditions.  Because it will happen!

So how will changing my name make a difference?  I didn’t say change your name; change the way it looks. (See “Logo” at Wikipedia.)

To give you an example of what this means to anyone involved in retail, drive along any strip mall or shopping center.  You’ll quickly realize how important your logo is. Most of these logos lose their identity because there is so much signage competition.  And since many are poorly designed and executed, it has led many developers to enforce strict signage regulations.  Developers try to bring customers to the area, adding “directionals” to the stores that customers are familiar with.

In changing the way your name is presented, you have a chance to give a better focus to who you are and what you do.  In the three examples above, you see that the name has not changed, but the use of color, placement and type style can give out subtle and very different signals  as to the kind of business Andy’s  might be. Add an appropriate symbol to be more specific.  It is important to make strong, focused assessments: color and font decisions help to better identify the customer’s desired service. As well, alterations of your logo give a signal to the marketplace that you’re bringing new value to your product and service.  Note J.C.Penney’s latest change!

An often overlooked and huge benefit of a logo change is the signal it sends to your employees that you are continuing to look at how you can improve your business.  You’re “keeping up”!  They will respond with enthusiasm and keener interest.  It will be a time when you can make improvements in policies and procedures which will help them better serve the organization.  Get them involved and it will be their change in attitude that will help to create a new and incredible difference.

Take some time and consider…when the market sees or hears your company’s name, what response would you want from them?  Then send me an email. Or give me a call.   It’s time to talk.

 

BRANDING – ASSESSMENT. First step in defining who you are!

Friday, March 11th, 2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The key to building a great Brand that drives new business reflects not “what you say it is.”  Rather, it is “what they say it is.”  They, being the marketplace.  You know.  Those people out there.  Your customers. Your prospects.

So how does a small organization go about finding the answers to “what they say it is”?

Big companies use a variety of marketing research techniques to answer a number of critical questions that will lead to a unique and precise Brand definition. For a smaller organization, there is less in-house expertise in understanding these values, as well as diminished budgets to support such activity.  But remember, consumers don’t think about size of company; they think about the value of the brand name and their reaction to it.

If you are such an organization, 25-100 employees, the cost of this kind of marketing research is probably out of your range.   However, a much simpler and reasonable consideration is having an experienced professional accomplish the task of “doing an internal Brand assessment.”

For Statton and Associates, the scenario goes something like this:

1.  A questionnaire is designed appropriate to the industry involved.  It covers many areas of the organization and will come to reflect the opinions of employees (regarding these areas.)

2.  A reliable cross-section of employees will be interviewed, taking about 30-45 minutes per employee depending on the extent and scope of their knowledge.  The interviews are kept confidential to provide a more open environment for collection of attitudinal information.

3.  After all of the designated interviewee sessions have taken place, a summary document is drawn which reveals a consensus of answers to each of the questions.  From this information a variety of conclusions can be drawn and translated into recommended action items.  These items first consider major internal issues and then focus on the parts of the organization that need to be discussed in order to develop a reasonable and believable definition for “Brand.”

4.  The entire process normally takes about 30 days.

This summary report is a major assist in setting guidelines for defining a brand and subsequent marketing and communications efforts.  The next blog “Branding a Web Site” may be helpful in understanding how this information directs the design and content of a site.

(Note: I often reference The Brand Gap, authored by Marty Neumeier.  If you want a focused, on-target, all-encompassing explanation of Branding, this is an excellent reference.  And a quick-read!)

 

Community Bank Marketing – 2011 “BRANDING” (Featured article in Bankers Digest – 15/11/10)

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

 

 

 

 

 

As the marketplace continues to vacillate from an ever hopeful increase in growth to a sobering recession, and with so many definitions of the consumer and business mentality unfolding, it seems important to review some of the banking issues that are at work in the marketplace.

Some working for you

- Your bank continues to maintain a level of trust in your local community.

- A customer can talk with an actual bank employee regarding their financial dealings with the institution.

- You’re convenient.  Probably just around the corner from your customer base.

- There is less “shopping” to do since most banks offer similar services

- Many of your customers will still come to you first when looking for solutions to financial situations.

- You can still engage your customers, and remind them of your value to their financial well being.

Some working against you

- In general, because of recent events in the financial marketplace, bank customers have less respect for the industry. (₁)

- You don’t have the attributes of a big bank; lots of convenient offices, the latest technology, delivery of service outside your “community” area, the ability to react quickly to a financial  need or situation.

- Customers are considering more alternatives to traditional bank services.

- The internet provides information and locations for new and varied offerings.

- Many banks have been bought out, or have failed.  And the future portends that this trend will increase.

- It seems as though banks have always complicated customer service with a lot of requirements necessary for regulatory compliance.  The future indicates that this will intensify.

- Customers don’t always understand bank regulations and procedures that require extra time on their part.

- The ability to customize services and price them accordingly seems to be an attribute of big banks.  They seem to offer more, for less.

- Savings rates are almost non-existent.

- Mortgages requirements are more stringent and require more time and a lot of paper work.

- Only the big banks seem to utilize and extend technological services.

- People are busier.  There is less time to think through their decisions.  They deal with organizations that they are aware of.

- Brands have become more important in the decision as to where to do  business.

- Customers don’t have to come “into” the bank.  ATMs, Drive-ups, and the internet provide service needs.  There are fewer occasions to interact with customers, inform them, and hear of their needs.

- Customers  tend to have more than one primary bank.  They are more prone to look for better service, better prices, specific services, and less hassle.

(₁) J.D. Power and Associates 2010 U.S. Small Business Banking Satisfaction StudySM

Because traditional Marketing practices take time and planning (and time is of the essence), a new approach should be considered, where Market influences become more of a strategic partner in spelling out a business plan for the bank.  This is where “Branding” plays a new and exciting role.

Branding has become one of the leading disciplines in a growing number of businesses.  It has a rich history in the consumer market and is now playing an important role in the business-to-business world as well.  It is not your logo.  Or your latest tag line.  Essentially, “it defines who you are, what you do, and why that matters.  It’s not what you say it is.  It’s what they say it is.” (Marty Neumeier – The Brand Gap)   You must have a clearer understanding of how your organization differentiates itself from the competition, and make certain these factors become a part of the perception of the bank…its image.

One of the best techniques in determining this new direction is to perform an Image/ Brand Assessment.  It will tell you what attitudes you, your employees, your customers, and prospects have regarding your Brand.  Basically, these are research projects that help to identity attitudes.  These attitudes play an increasing role in providing customers the service they want.  The primary value that such Assessments bring to the business plan is a clearer understanding of how such information can be utilized in dealing with customers, and attracting new business.  There are many benefits, notably:  you will have a more focused definition of customer service;  training will be have a clearer and more measureable focus;  promotions will be more direct and specific in their results;  and Communications will be more defined and predictable.

In summary, building a better “Brand” will help you to build a better bank.

GET ORGANIZED (Part 1)

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

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If you are a smaller company and beginning to think about the value of Branding, put Organization Chart at the top of your Review List.

I know, it would seem there are other subjects that should be addressed first. Shouldn’t it be Marketing and Communications issues that are upfront?

The reason to start here is the fact that employees are the key to delivering on the promises to the “outside” world.  Employees will make or break your efforts.  So it’s important that they understand how they work with each other and how the entire organization works.    That’s the purpose of a functional organization chart.  To display the various functions in the process and how they are linked together.  And in sync with what you want your organization to be known for.

I recently heard from some employees that they finally understood what management was trying to do.  And it came about through designing a new org chart which showed them how and where they were located in the process.

There are additional benefits:

When an employee leaves a position, you’ll know more about the function of that job rather than who the person was that filled it.

It’s easier to have employees provide a better job description of their responsibilities.  They are empowered by writing these descriptions.  And it becomes a better management tool for those who are responsible.

It is usually a time for the management team to talk to each other about what they are trying to accomplish.  It also results in a total revision of how all employees “see” the organization.

Once you’ve spent some time talking about the “inside”, you can then begin an intelligent conversation about the “outside”.

GET ORGANIZED (Part 2)

Thursday, December 10th, 2009


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You can have the most advanced marketing and communications efforts at work for you.  And if that’s true, you are in the marketplace making promises.  And to those issues we address “Organization.”

The Org Chart, as it is known, reflects a number of things.

First.  Small companies are usually successful because of their owners.  They work 24/7, know where everything is, what’s happening and can get it done when it needs to be done.  Unfortunately, there comes a time when one person doing everything defeats the growth process.  Everyone has to check in with the chief before it can be done.  And…if he or she doesn’t know it’s being done, well, you can count on him or her being upset when they find out.  Not a good thing.

Yes, of course there needs to be a chief, and there needs to be some indians.  As we say in the Navy, the Captain knows where we’re going……it’s the crew that will get you there.

Second.  Look out for the single line reporting system.  This is one long line of people with varying titles and tenure.  All reporting to one person.  This is a reward system that doesn’t do anything for the organization except soothe some egos.

Third. You will want to find out who is taking care of present customers.  This is a great time to find a place to be named “Service”.

Fourth.  If you’re looking for new customers, you call on the marketing and sales forces.  Who’s in charge here?  It is vital to know who is responsible for these crucial areas.

Fifth.  The chart should exhibit at least four basic groups:

A Management Committee – where is the company going, and how is it going to get there.   A Sales team – how do we find new business.  A Service team – how do we keep existing business.  A basic services group – they give the first three groups the resources needed to do their job.

If you don’t have an up-to-date organization chart, give me a call.                                         It’s the first thing that will get you headed in a new and successful direction.  Guaranteed.

No Deposit. No Return.

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

austin pics 002

Austin, Texas…has seen many ups and downs.  But this much admired community seems to always pull up their bootstraps and plow on.  This latest economic chaos (that continues to prevail)  hasn’t messed up their minds.  But it certainly has put a damper on all sorts of deserving community- focused efforts.

When the economy goes down, needs at the bottom go up.  When there are people being let go, there has to be a great amount of re-training for the next up-tick.  When the local government can’t cover old standby programs, then business has to pick up the slack.  When business is down, it is really hard to find someone to pick up the tab.

Let me mention one specific organization who is responding…Sklllpoint Alliance.

I’ve served them since January, and boy, have I learned a few things.  Since 1984 this small nonprofit group with big talents has been a leader in building dynamic partnerships between business, education and government, concentrating on workforce development.  They train the down-and-out in computer skills.  They give hope to those who have to start all over.  They encourage teachers to learn new methods of teaching.  They’re trying to keep more kids in school.  They’re focusing on new technologies like digital media, emerging “green’ industries, and the healthcare industry.

And how do they do all of this during these times?

With the help of organizations that give them support, both financial and sometimes more importantly, in-kind service. There are also many unsung individuals who answer with their time, talent and money.  This is just the surface story of how this organization keeps on going.  Keeps on helping.  Keeps on building.

Impressed? You should be. Though funds are short, they have worked hard to refocus their brand.  They’ve looked at their management process, and made some changes.  They’ve realigned their development efforts. They are not sitting still.  They’re performing.  When they’re so sorely needed.   Check ‘em out.  Go to their web site. www.skillpointalliance.org and learn about who they are and what they do.

And there is something else you can do. Choose at least one non-profit that you like.  And volunteer.

Or, if you’re a company, support your employees as a volunteer group, collectively helping their favorite nonprofit.

You are needed!

There is that old saying, “If you want to stay in the game, put something in the pot.”