What's Your Story?

Posted by Tom Smith on Wed, Mar, 28, 2018 @ 09:03 AM

What's your story?


Whether you’re a B2B, B2C, or not-for-profit organization, you need a story to help people remember where you came from, what you stand for, and your commitment to providing an outstanding customer experience.


People remember stories better than they remember features and benefits, numbers, or product facts.


Stories are a great way to add emotion to your brand. Emotion is important since more than 90 percent of the decisions we make have an emotional component to them. Organizations need to consider the feelings they want to evoke in their target personas when developing their brand story.


I worked for the largest professional services firm in a large vertical industry. I researched the history of the organization and came up with a powerful two-minute story that would help clients and prospects understand everything the company offered and why.


None of the employees wanted to use the company story because they were focused on selling only their particular services. This company suffered through the recession when it could have had a much larger portfolio of business from clients and prospects who understood everything they had to offer and how those other parts of the business could help their company through the recession.


I also did work for the largest health insurer in my home state. We created a series of emotionally-driven testimonials that drove down negative perceptions by 39%, increased positive perceptions by 18%, and doubled inbound leads.


Stories can be retold by customers and prospects across any media channel. In fact, stories from customers (i.e. testimonials) are more powerful than those told by the company and create a greater emotional connection to the brand.


How do you create your brand story? Ask senior members of the organization:


  • How did the company get started?


  • How has it evolved as the market has evolved?


  • How has your brand story evolved with your company?


  • What is the company most proud of?


  • What’s the most extraordinary customer experience the company has provided?


Stories are powerful tools for empowering and engaging employees. Consistency builds trust. Inconsistency builds confusion and distrust. Your employees need a compelling story to tell when someone asks who they work for and your employees need to tell the same story regardless of if they’re in sales, finance, or production.


Ideally your brand story will communicate the vision, mission, values, and strategic positioning of your company exemplifying what makes you “different and better” in a consistent and compelling way.


So, what’s your story?


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Tags: emotional connection to the brand, trust, connecting emotionally with customers, vision, mission, values, strategic positioning, brand platform

Insights on Design from the October, 2013 edition of FastCompany

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, Oct, 15, 2013 @ 06:10 AM

Great design accelerates sales
The October edition of FastCompany magazine is always my favorite ().  It's the "Annual Innovation by Design Issue." This is the 10th edition of the design issue.
I'm not a designer, I'm a marketing strategist.  However, I fully appreciate the power of design and am saddened by the lack of respect given to the importance of design in creating an emotional connection to the brand.
Following are 18 takeaways I found to be very powerful, along with a couple of my own:
  1. Apple gives up 20% of it’s floor-space for its Genius Bars.  Can you imagine the initial discussion with a retailer to give up 20% of their floor space for something that doesn’t directly produce revenue?  Without Genius Bars, would Apple stores have the highest revenue per square foot of any retailer? – Michael Kramer, former CFO, Apple
  2. The best designers can determine opportunities to improve the user experience.

  3. You can’t design for the world, you have to design for the person. – Deborah Adler, Owner, Deborah Adler Design (#)

  4. The trick to improving design is to be there, on the ground, and seeing it being used. – Deborah Adler, Owner, Deborah Adler Design

  5. It’s no longer sufficient to create a product, a service, an experience, or a lifestyle that’s merely functional.  Today it’s economically crucial and personally rewarding to create something that is also beautiful, whimsical or emotionally engaging.  – Daniel Pink, Author, A Whole New Mind (#DanielPink)

  6. We’ve become accustomed to how corporations brand products. That lives in our minds and psyche – and when they’re doing something slightly different, we don’t pledge our loyalty as easily. – Scott Thomas, Design Director, Obama Campaign

  7. Branding is so important.  It’s more than just a logo mark or typeface, it’s a holistic idea that people recognize. A level of consistency is fundamental to our loyalty and understanding. – Scott Thomas, Design Director, Obama Campaign

  8. Sharing ideas isn’t scary, it’s the way of the future. – Ben Kaufman, Founder, Quirky (#benkaufman).  This is consistent with idea that the Internet rewards those who share and penalizes those that do not.

  9. Done properly, design harnesses the pure emotion of the brand. – Alexander McQueen, Fashion Designer (#worldmcqueen)

  10. If you’re possessed by focusing on the customer, and you’re possessed by making improvements and you can demonstrate that by making, by drawing, by shaping – you’ve got half the thing done. – John Hoke, V.P., Global Design, Nike (#nike)

  11. It’s important to have a culture that doesn’t punish you if you make a mistake.  It’s part of the innovation process. – Mauro Porcini, Chief Design Officer, Pepsico (#i). This is consistent with my belief that you should make mistakes early and often, just don't make the same mistake twice.

  12. Market growth alone doesn’t give you enough tailwind.  You need to create your own.  The way to do that is by designing products for consumers that wow them. Not just the way they look, but that every aspect of what they buy delights them. – Indra Hooti, CEO, Pepsico (#pepsico)

  13. First you need to engender trust. You need to create an experience that’s beautiful, that creates emotional connections with people and connotes quality. – Neil Blumenthal, Warby Parker (#)

  14. Confusion leads to distrust.  Distrust results in people not buying. – Tom Smith

  15. You don’t know what’s going to work. You can’t go and build the final product.  You have to build the prototype. You don’t know how people are going to use something. – Michael Bloomberg, Mayor, New York City

  16. As we better understand users, we need to adapt.  Actually it’s not just adapting, it’s visualizing what users don’t know they need yet, where they will be in a few years. – Marcos Weskamp, Head of Design, Flipboard (#)

  17. We were trying to get emotion as an outcome, as opposed to utility. That’s a core attribute of the design at Apple. – Tim Kobe, Co-Founder, Eight Inc. (#timkobe)

  18. When asked what beauty means for Google, they’d eventually settle on an answer that involved the idea of simplicity, and, deeper than that, invisibility. – Google Design Team (#google)

  19. In all of these efforts, Goggle’s aesthetic aim is clear: to disappear.  The most beautiful Google experience is the one you never notice. – Google Design Team

  20. Thoughtful design doesn't just enable our habits; it pushes us to improve behavior, making us more economical, reflective and responsible. -- Margaret Rhodes, FastCompany

  21. To improve day-to-day hardships, designers must do what cold clinical solutions do not; treat those in need as regular customers, whose emotions drive decisions. -- Margaret Rhodes, FastCompany 
With the explosion of social media and mobile, it is critical to ensure that your design is consistent with your brand platform across all channels so there's no confusion among your prospects or customers.
Just because you have a computer with a graphics package, don't think you can do this yourself.
Invest in great design to create a more powerful brand -- one to which your customer will become emotionally connected.
Click Here for an Evaluation of Your Website


Tags: emotional connection to the brand, earn your customers trust, alignment, connecting emotionally with customers, innovation, integrated marketing, brand platform

12 Steps to an Integrated Marketing Communications Plan

Posted by Tom Smith on Mon, Sep, 23, 2013 @ 06:09 AM

Consumer insights on the brand platform

The Brand Platform: The Foundation of a Cohesive Integrated Marketing Communications Plan

  1. Why a Brand Platform?
  • A brand platform will align the company’s goals and aspirations with its resources and capabilities
  • A brand platform sends a message to everyone in the company
  • It should be: 1) short enough to remember; 2) simple enough to understand; and 3) powerful enough to inspire -- employees and prospects
  1. The Brand Platform
  • The merger of the company and its products as a single entity
  • The defining elements of our brand’s existence, guiding how we deliver value at all points of human contact
  • The brand platform must capture the essence of a company clearly in touch with its: 1) customers; 2) business environment; 3) equities and competencies; and, 4) potential
  1. The Brand Platform Structure
  • Why Do We Need a “Vision”?
  • Most companies operate in a highly dynamic market
  • A fundamental principle of dynamic optimization is to specify the desired end-state at some future time, and work back to see how to get there
  • The “Vision” is the desired end-state the company would like to achieve in the future
  1. Everybody on the Same Page
  • The corporate brand and the product offerings should be the same
  • The company should emerge publicly as an organization with its culture, values and products in absolute alignment: 1) one brand; 2) one value set; 3) one promise; 4) one face; and, 5) one voice
  1. The Construct
  • A vision is a description of something in the future, in terms of the essence of what it should become
  • It articulates a realistic, credible, and attractive aspiration for the brand
  • It is a condition that is better than the condition that now exists
  • Coca-Cola:  “To put a Coke within arm’s reach of everyone on the planet.”
  • NASA:  “Be first to put a man on the moon.”
  • Henry Ford: “To build a car his own workers could afford to buy.”
  • Sense of the possible (not the probable)
  • Aspirational, but attainable
  • Visualization of the destination
  • Unique
  • It’s not a theme line
  1. Why a Mission?
  • A mission is a statement that defines the purpose of the organization
  • It defines that purpose in terms of something outside the company, beyond profits or market position
  • If executed, pursuit of the mission will lead to realization of the vision
  • Henry Ford: “To pass on to the motorist who buys our products, every efficiency possible, in the production of automobiles, from modern methods of procurement, manufacture, and assembly.”
  1. Key Considerations Defining the Mission
  • History and culture of the institution or organization
  • Current preferences of the management and owners
  • Resources of the institution
  • Distinctive competencies
  • Business environment and competition
  1. Core Values:  A Definition
  • The unwavering principles that guide how we conduct business, make and sell products, and especially how we steward ongoing relationships with customers and prospects
  • McDonald’s:
    1. Quality
    2. Value
    3. Service
    4. Cleanliness
  1. Types of Core Values
  • Acquired vs. current:
  • What are we that we need to keep?
  • What are we not, that we would like to be?
  • Functional vs. emotional


  1. Possible Core Values

Accessible                          Aggressive                   Caring

Confident                           Conservative                Creative

Customer focused              Different                      Entrepreneurial

Fair                                   Family oriented                       Fast

Friendly                             Honest                         Independent

Innovative                          Leader                         Mature

Passionate                         Professional                 Responsible

Stable                                Swift                             Trusted

  1. Strategic Imperatives
  • Once the fundamental platform strategies are in place, the question becomes what operating strategies we must follow to manage the company against the strategy
  • Examples:
    1. Product must be easy to use, intuitive and require little to no customer support
    2. Sales efforts must embrace solution selling versus focusing on individual tools or initiatives
    3. Product must be improved to be acknowledged as world-class
    4. Invest in gaining competitive insight into prospective customers
    5. Cultural shift from a product provider to a broader view focused on enabling customers to achieve their goals
  1. Positioning:  A Definition
  • competitive tool with which a marketer: 1) Distinguishes a brand within a competitive frame of reference; 2) Registers its benefits and associations as a competitive point of difference; 3) Appeals to the wants and needs of a worthwhile target market; 4) The long-term positive differentiation of the brand from it competitors that is meaningful to consumers
  • Pepsi-Cola:  Pepsi is the cola that is most in style today because it has the taste “with-it” people prefer.
  • Volvo Automobiles:  Volvo is the automobile that provides peace-of-mind to drivers concerned about the safety of themselves and their passengers.

What other elements do you use to create the foundation for an integrated marketing communications plan?

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Tags: alignment, vision, values, strategic positioning, core values, brand platform

Identify, and Live, Core Values to Accelerate Sales

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, Aug, 27, 2013 @ 06:08 AM

core values accelerate sales


The third element of the brand platform are core values.

Prior to the internet and growth of social media, I don't think companies gave their core values a lot of thought.

However, today you better walk your talk or risk getting called out on social media.

What are core values?  My definition is, the unwavering principles that guide how we conduct business, make and sell products, and especially, how we develop and maintain relationships with customers and prospects.

What do you need to consider when developing your core values?

  • What values do we have now?
  • What should we keep?
  • What are we not that we would like to be?
  • What are functional?
  • What are emotional?
McDonald's core values are: quality, value, service and cleanliness.  Pretty generic. It would be interesting to know how well their employees know, and agree, with these values.
Tony Hsieh built Zappos around 10 core values that employees live by and the company constantly reinforces internally and with customers:
  1. Deliver "WOW" through service.
  2. Embrace and drive change.
  3. Create fun and a little weirdness.
  4. Be adventurous, creative and open-minded.
  5. Pursue growth and meaning.
  6. Build open and honest relationships with communication.
  7. Build a positive team and family spirit.
  8. Do more with less.
  9. Be passionate and determined.
  10. Be humble.
A lot of companies have core values but don't "walk the talk." Their values sound more like what you'd find in the boilerplate of a press release or the "About Us" page of a website.
You might learn about them on day 1 or orientation but after that, it's just a meaningless plaque on the wall of the lobby.
Zappos believes in having core values employees can commit to. Zappos hires and fires employees based on their core values.
If you're willing to do that, you can build a company culture in line with the brand you want to build. You can empower your employees to be brand ambassadors inside and outside the office.
What other firms do you know, or work with, that are "walking the talk" with regards to their core values?
Tomorrow I'll cover strategic positioning.
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Tags: accelerate sales performance, alignment, integrated marketing, core values, brand platform