business decisions

Decisions, Decisions...

Business owners are continually faced with decisions. Some of them are about the work we do – and those are typically easy because they rely on the experience and knowledge that made us business owners in the first place. But some decisions – the ones surrounding business growth and industry change, for example – are bigger. And, often not as easy.

Right now, I’m excited about expanding Relish. We recently expanded the team to include new senior talent. And we’re completing plans for a physical expansion and renovation that will add 1,500 square feet to our office space and some much needed flexibility to our individual and collaborative capabilities. Construction is scheduled to begin in a few weeks (fingers crossed!).

On one level this decision has been terrifying. I’m working with some pretty big numbers here. But we wouldn’t have this opportunity without the success we’ve generated – both for ourselves and our clients. Exciting, yes! But, sometimes the leap from “Should we?” to “We should!” is hard to take. So, how do you cross the chasm?

When I’m faced with major decisions, I seek comfort in process. I look to experts in various, related areas – and I seek their candid advice. I look for people who have perspective and knowledge in areas where I don’t have expertise. I have a business coach. I have financial advisors. I have a legal team. They provide information and insights that help me gain a valuable perspective on the business of Relish. How does our growth trajectory match up with other companies of our size and in our industry? How have other leaders dealt with the challenges of expansion? And, what can I learn from their failures as well as their successes?

But factual information is only half of what I need. The other component has to come from my own strengths and intuition – the ability to recognize that little voice in my heart – or sometimes in the pit of my stomach – that says, “Yes. This is right.” Or, in some cases, “No, not yet.” Then, I triangulate the intuition with the advice and the data, which usually gives me a pretty clear picture of what to do.

Finally, once the decision is made, I go for it. I don’t believe in second guessing. After all, what’s the old saying about being bold? You have to trust in your ability to make the big leap; it’s impossible to cross a chasm in several small steps.


discipline

The Thrilling Power of… Discipline?

Today, I had an inspiring meeting with my financial planner. We had a very stimulating conversation that helped me make some important (and exciting!) decisions about the future of Relish. Six years ago, my primary focus was on delivering superior work for my clients and fostering great relationships along the way – both with clients and with the professionals I worked with. I certainly didn’t imagine myself being as engaged as I am by things like investments, cash flow and P&L statements.

Okay, it’s not those specific business components that have me so energized. It’s the discipline of financial planning – and what a powerful force it can be for the business. In the beginning my financial objectives were pretty simple: don’t spend more money than was necessary to get the work done. Pretty soon, I began to think ahead three months, six months, then a year. And, I started to consider how resources – like staff and vendor relationships – aligned with the business goals. All the while, I measured the financial distance between where we were and where we wanted to be.

Actually, the discipline of financial planning is a lot like the discipline of brand development. You start with specific objectives – what does your brand need to communicate, reinforce and do for your business? Where, how and under what circumstances will people experience your brand (online, in print, in person)? And, of course, how far are you from where you want to be? From there, you work with a professional to establish guidelines and metrics to take your business forward toward your goals.

In both cases, it’s all about the same things: Defining what you want to achieve. Developing the strategies and ideas that will help you get there. Measuring impact against objectives. And, partnering with right professionals who can help you get where you want to go.


content strategy

The ABCs of Content Strategy

In 1996 Bill Gates famously declared, “Content is king,” predicting that the breadth of information on the Internet would grow to enormous proportions. He also anticipated that many companies would jump into content production with both feet.

Nineteen years later, Gates has been proven right on both counts. There is no limit to the amount of information that can be found on the Internet, and companies are putting more resources towards creating and marketing content, which raises the question, “To what end?”

In a recent Fast Company article, Rebecca Lieb, formerly of Altimeter and now Vice President of Content Marketing at Teradata Marketing Systems noted, "Seventy percent of companies are operating blindly, without a documented content strategy to guide them. They are throwing stuff on Facebook, creating videos and white papers because all the cool kids are doing it.”

Creating content can be a great business strategy setting a company apart as a thought leader and reinforcing its core brand. But is also has to be tethered to concrete business objectives and to the overarching brand strategy. That’s where a lot of today’s businesses are failing.

Think about it. Companies think strategically when developing both their business plans and their brand strategy – carefully evaluating them against key metrics and making sure they work in concert together. Yet, content is often created on an ad hoc basis in response to a single event or a trending topic.

content marketing goals infographic

A well thought out content strategy helps bring a brand to life. To ensure that the content you create is reflective of your brand and reinforces your business goals objectives, keep these ABCs in mind:

  • Always plan! Don’t be guilty of churning out content for the sake of churning out content.
    • Just as for any other business strategy, determine the objectives for your content and how you will measure success.
    • Keep your audience in mind. Always be able to answer these questions: How will this content be most useful to the reader? What data and insights does it provide them?
    • Make sure your content positions you as a leader in your area of expertise.
  • Brand it! Make sure your content reinforces your brand.
    • Ensure that all images and graphics match your branding.
    • Incorporate key organizational messages.
    • Think about how the content reflects your brand to differentiate you from others in the same space.
  • Choose channels wisely! Where you publish is just as important to strengthening your brand as what you publish.
    • Consider where your target audience hangs out online.
    • Determine the leading online information hubs for your industry and/or areas of expertise.
    • Monitor metrics to track how effectively your content meets defined goals and objectives.

Don’t create content reactively. Think it through and sync it to your overall business and brand strategy.


Hermes Creative Awards

Earning Top Marks

We delight in bringing creative ideas to life that help our clients build their brands and motivate customer action. When we do it well, we like sharing that work with our peers for the opportunity to garner even more recognition for our clients and their excellent marketing teams.

Recently, our client collaborations earned top awards including several prestigious 2015 Hermes Creative Awards in marketing. These included two Platinum awards, three Gold awards and one Honorable Mention on behalf of clients Kimberly-Clark, KPMG, Silverton Mortgage and Goren Marcus Masino & Marsh. In addition, Global Business Excellence Awards presented Relish with its 2015 award for Outstanding HR Initiative for our employer branding work for Kimberly-Clark, and the International Association of Business Communicators/Atlanta chapter recognized us with a Golden Flame Gold award for our work on behalf of McKesson.


remote desktop sharing

Remote Desktop Sharing Reaches New Levels

Remote desktop sharing is becoming more accessible from the smaller devices we carry with us day to day.  This accessibility makes it possible to remotely interact with and through web pages  – which will very likely change the way we play… and work.

OK, so you can access and share your computer desktop using TeamViewer.  So far, that’s been the best way to connect remotely.  You can even connect using an Android phone or iPhone and remotely control your desktop.  There is also an app called Chrome Remote Desktop that allows TeamViewer-style screen sharing between computers through the Chrome web browser, although I cannot connect through my smart phone.  This is a great start, but there are other remote access capabilities that are available.

Currently, there are a few apps that allow you to stream content to your AppleTV or Smart TV through specific channels.  ZappoTV or iMediaShare Lite, both free apps, allow you to browse specific channels using your smart phone.  These channels include YouTube, CNN, TED Talks, Crackle and more.  You can also share your own video, music and photo galleries, wirelessly, on your TV.

Using the Chrome browser, Google now allows you to sync your browsers from one device to another, simply by signing in to your account.  This means that all your settings and data, such as bookmarks, apps, extensions, themes, etc., are the same on whichever device you are using, be it a laptop, smartphone or desktop computer.  The useful side of this feature is that these settings are securely stored in your Google Account so that you cannot lose them if something happens to your device (like the time my phone fell out of my shirt pocket…. into the toilet!)  In addition, changing the settings on one device will change the settings on all your others when you sign in using Chrome. The cool side of this feature is that you can sync tabs between devices. The next time you have to run to a client meeting, simply sync Chrome on your phone to your account. Then you can open on your phone whatever tab you left open on your computer back at the office. Get to another computer, sign in using Chrome and re-sync to open that tab there.  You don’t have to save the link, email it to yourself, or even bookmark it.

OK, now the candy.  The examples above may be only the start.

There is now the capability to control what goes on in your browser with your smart phone using some of the latest HTML5 capabilities.  The Chrome browser is the first to really embrace some of this technology.  Google has released a game called “World Wide Maze” that you access through your computer’s Chrome browser, but control through your smart phone’s Chrome browser.  By going to chrome.com/maze, you can turn any web page into a maze through which you roll a ball by tilting your smart phone!  The game uses some HTML5 technology which is not available in other browsers, yet.

While the gaming possibilities are clear, there are collaborative possibilities in this technology as well, from artistic workspaces (see Plink http://labs.dinahmoe.com/plink/ in Google’s Chrome browser for a musical example) to online forums and conferences.  I could also imagine online presentations that are controlled remotely through a smart phone or other device.

P.S.  Just for fun, if you like the trendy Harlem Shake videos, you can now get your favorite web site to do the Shake:http://hsmaker.com/


dream customer

Who is Your Dream Customer?

Often, our clients come to us because they’re looking for a strategic branding campaign. In an earlier blog, I talked about our five-phase Brandfluence™ process for developing a brand, and I discussed the phase we call the Brandfluence™ Session. One of the things we do at this session is to take participants through an exercise designed to help them mutually agree on who their dream customer is. The exercise results in a portrait that helps define the values, needs and expectations of this target audience.

The portrait aids us when we sit down to develop your Brandfluence™ Plan. We use it to frame the branding campaign’s key messages and marketing activities and to ensure that the campaign stays on target.

Here’s a sample “dream customer” exercise that we we picked up from Braid Creative & Consulting. Give it a try and see what you come up with:

My dream customer values____________but loves_____________.

A stress or fear they might have is___________________________.

They often trust others who________________________________.

What makes them a loyal fan is_____________________________.

Something that might happily surprise them about us is_________________________.

Other favorite brands of theirs are__________________, __________________ and________________.

We should make them feel________________________________________________.

Of course, the exercise works best in the total context of the Brandfluence™ process and the Brandfluence™ Session. Because if you only do it by yourself, it doesn’t mean as much as when you’re in a room with your colleagues and us, and we can all discuss what you’ve come up with and create a Dream Customer to whom all of you can relate.

As always, send me your thoughts and questions. I’m an email away at pam@relishmarketing.com.


Corporate Branding and Thought Leadership Marketing Agency Atlanta, GA

A Simple Definition of Branding

Just for fun, I recently typed the word “branding” while on Amazon’s website. Believe it or not, there are 10,000 books on the subject. I then went over to Google, and a search returned more than a billion results. So, it’s no surprise that so many people aren’t quite clear on what Branding really means or what a branding campaign is. And, without that clarity, how can you know the path to take?

Although I can't claim to have read all 10,000 books, I have read and thought a lot about the topic and have planned and implemented branding campaigns for many organizations in my 30+ years of experience in marketing and PR. Each campaign is different and uniquely customized for the particular organization, whether for profit or not-for-profit, whether a service provider, manufacturer or government entity. At their core, though, each campaign begins with an understanding of what strategic branding really is.

Here at Relish, we have four simple definitions that should help. But first, here’s what branding is not. Your brand is not a catchy name or tagline or a beautifully designed logo. Nor is it getting your name in the paper or getting a great article every few years.

Now for those definitions:

Your brand is shorthand for who you are and what you promise to your target audiences, or stakeholders.

Your brand identity is the mental picture your stakeholders have of you. It embodies their experiences when they engage with you as well as what they derive about you from your name, logo, tagline and marketing messages.

So it follows that your brand gap is the all-too-often difference between your brand and the brand image held by your stakeholders.

Finally strategic branding is the process of closing the gap between who your organization is and how it’s perceived through the eyes of your stakeholders.

A successful brand is:

  • Authentic – based on the reality of your daily operations and the stakeholders’ experience
  • Memorable – simple and clever enough for stakeholders to understand and remember
  • Relevant – aspects that matter to your stakeholders
  • Distinctive – helps stakeholders differentiate you from your competitors

In other words, there are a lot of things you can do that will help create your brand. But your brand is not only what you say, it’s what your stakeholders believe.