How to Use Customization to Gain Customers

How to Use Customization to Gain Customers

Coca-Cola is a brand built on scenes of enjoying life together.

Coke has worked tirelessly to promote not only its product, but the message behind it: that sharing, or gathering family and friends together, brings happiness. “Enjoying a coke” is the message in every ad, every culture, and every medium Coke communicates through.

The company’s 2014 "Share a Coke" campaign was one of its memorable marketing initiatives in history. That summer, Coca-Cola removed its iconic logo on 20-ounce bottles and replaced them with 250 of the country’s most popular names. Consumers were encouraged to find bottles with names that held personal meaning and to share them with others or post photos online with the hashtag #ShareaCoke. Within the first year, more than 500,000 photos were posted. Consumers ordered over six million virtual Coke bottles, and Coca-Cola gained roughly 25 million Facebook followers.

A Distinctly Personal Experience

What did Coke tap into that prompted this momentous reaction?

In part, it was the desire for a personal experience. For teens and millennials, personalization is not just a fad, but a way of life. Today’s consumers place a high value on self-expression, individual storytelling, and staying connected. Coke powerfully aligned playfulness, fun handheld products, and customization in a campaign for the ages.

In today’s global economy, consumers are more aware of product options and of what other people are buying. Subsequently, they’ve become more demanding about the products they purchase. Deloitte Global found that 36 percent of consumers expressed interest in purchasing personalized products or services and one in five were willing to pay 20 percent more for these options. Customization gives companies an edge in cosmetics, clothing, food prep, and toys, to name a few.

Personalized offerings add costs to the manufacturer but frequently result in higher profits because of:

  • A price premium associated with the benefits
  • More loyal, satisfied customers
  • Greater word of mouth because of the increased satisfaction and the “surprise factor” associated with an unexpected range of options
  • Enhanced customer experience via creativity and individual expression
  • Precise taste matching and less need to compromise

How About You?

Do your customers value experience and self-expression? How could you offer this more in your products or services?

It may be as simple as engraving someone’s name in a glasses case or upgrading products with matching accessories. French cosmetics brand Guerlain started offering customizable lipsticks by allowing clients to choose their own combination of case and lipstick color. Customization allows brands to grow consumer engagement and solidify brand loyalty, which is especially powerful in younger markets.

Forbes offers several talking points for firms considering customization:

  • What are the incremental costs associated with the customization options and how will they impact profitability?
  • How many options are necessary and what’s the incremental benefit as the number increases? What price premium will consumers be willing to pay?
  • Which customization options will be the most incremental to maximize sales? A research tool called a TURF (Test of Unduplicated Reach & Frequency) Analysis can help you assess.
  • What level of logistical, operational, and labor complexity will this involve? How often should customization options be updated?

Charlie Gu, CEO and co-founder of marketing agency Kollective Influence, says one budget-friendly customization strategy is the “module” approach. Instead of creating a product from scratch, businesses can offer several component options that can be mass-produced and easily assembled:

“Give customers choices, and then let them choose—customization within a framework,” he advises. “It doesn’t actually require any customization of the actual product. The consumers are essentially just picking their own color, but to them, it feels totally customized.”

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Why Developing Good Leaders is Critical to Your Business’ Success

Why Developing Good Leaders is Critical to Your Business’ Success

Regardless of the type of business you’re running or even the industry that you find yourself operating in, everyone knows that quality leadership is essential. It’s equally essential for you to realize that leadership doesn’t begin and end with whoever’s name is on the door. Experience goes a long way, but the type of raw, natural talent necessary to become a good leader isn’t something that can necessarily be taught. It’s something you’re born with.

That’s why when you do recognize that you’ve got the makings of an excellent leader working with you, it is imperative that you do whatever it takes to help cultivate and develop that talent whenever possible.

Identifying Good Leaders

First thing’s first: not everyone working for your company has the makings of a good leader, regardless of how you currently feel about them. According to one recent study, only about one out of every ten people have the talent necessary to rise to this status. That means that spotting a candidate isn’t something that is just going to happen every day.

When you do see someone with the qualities of an excellent leader, you’ll know it. They’re usually the first people to arrive and the last to leave. They’re the people who keep a consistently cool head under pressure and who naturally seem to help elevate the rest of their teams to the level where everyone involved is doing their best work. They work incredibly hard for seemingly no reward at all because they just don’t know any other way to go about their day.

When you see someone who fits that description, make a note of it. They’re probably going to be running your business one day.

The Development Process

Once you have identified one of these fabled "good leaders," the first thing you have to do is support them in any and all ways that you can. Never be shy about feedback, even when it’s critical in nature. The chances are high that they’re the type of person who welcomes constructive criticism anyway. Don’t just tell them what they’re doing correctly; make sure they know what they can do to improve and, more importantly, how they can do it.

Next, challenge them whenever possible. Don’t throw your growing leaders into the proverbial deep end of the pool to fend for themselves, but don’t allow them to simply spin their wheels either. Challenge and adversity are two important qualities that make all of us stronger. Little by little, this person will start to grow and evolve in front of your eyes and your business will become all the better for it.

Looking Towards the Horizon

Finally, remember that good leaders are an investment in the future of your company. Good leaders don’t just help in terms of collaboration and more substantial productivity. They’re also innovation creation engines at the same time. By taking the time to develop the good leaders in your midst today, you’re going a long way towards guaranteeing future success for your business.

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Brochures: An Incredibly Effective Marketing Tool

Brochures: An Incredibly Effective Marketing Tool

Sometimes things become trends for a reason. Case in point: brochures. Brochures are still incredibly effective marketing tools. Why?

Because Brochures Have Versatility to Spare

Brochures are the perfect supplementary tool to give to someone to clue them into more information about your product or service WITHOUT having to rely on the internet. Did you just come across someone at a trade show or other event? Give them a brochure. Did you just have a walk-in that you weren’t expecting but don’t have time to dive into the deep details you need to make a sale? Give them a brochure.

Any good salesperson can tell you that the number one rule of marketing is "always be prepared," and a brochure allows you to do precisely that.

Because It’s A Marketing Tool in More Ways Than One

Another one of the most important reasons why brochures are still incredibly effective comes down to the many ways in which they can be used beyond straight selling. Yes, this is a great way to give someone a big portion of information about your products or services… but a brochure also makes your contact information readily available. It works a lot like a business card that way, only going above and beyond what a business card can do on its own.

Because of The Power of the Hard Copy

Finally and perhaps most importantly, brochures are effective marketing tools for one reason above all others: they exist in the real world. They’re physical. People can hold them in their hands, or give them to friends and family members.

Customers prefer having something that they can hold rather than reading information from a company website. Some people even so far as to print the information they want from your website so that they can digest it at their own pace (at the cost of their printer ink).

Nobody is saying that gorgeously designed websites aren’t exactly that – but a brochure is a perfect way to take all that information you already have and bring it into the realm of the physical. Not only that, but brochures and other types of print marketing will immediately allow you to stand out from competitors who have switched to primarily digital materials – another benefit that is too powerful to overlook.

These are just a few of the many reasons why brochures aren’t going away anytime soon. If you didn’t get to create as many brochures as you wanted to during the last year, 2018 would be an excellent time to start.

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Visuals Need a True Narrative For Maximum Effectiveness

Visuals Need a True Narrative For Maximum Effectiveness

Human beings are visual learners, which is part of why visual communication is so effective (and important). Whether you’re talking about a B2C or B2B situation, marketing presentations allow your message to transcend the world of more straightforward marketing tactics and take on a whole new potential audience at the same time.

Case in point: according to one study, people only tend to remember about 10% of what they hear just three days later. If they receive the same message when paired with relevant visuals, that number jumps to an incredible 65%. It makes sense, then, that 37% of marketers said that visual resources like presentations were one of the most important forms of content for their business in general.

However, presentations are NOT necessarily a silver bullet, and you shouldn’t treat them as such. Without a strong narrative at the core of your marketing, in general, it’s far too easy to get lost in fluff that ultimately doesn’t matter – affecting the impact on your audience as a result.

What’s in a Narrative? Quite a Bit, It Turns Out

Call it whatever you’d like – a narrative, a central idea, the main thesis, etc. Every campaign needs a straightforward idea (preferably one that can be summed up in a sentence or two) at the start of it all, acting as a solid foundation from which everything else is built.

For the sake of comparison, let’s look at the power a simple narrative brings to the table regarding another visual communication medium: filmmaking. The movie "Star Wars" from 1977 is one of the most successful films of all time. It spawned billions in merchandising sales, one of the most successful franchises ever, and even led to the $4 billion acquisition of LucasFilm by Disney a few years ago.

But "Star Wars" isn’t really about crazy aliens, amazing spaceships, thrilling outer space battles and all of that other stuff. At heart, "Star Wars" is a simple and relatable narrative: a young boy who grew up on a farm dreams of a better and more exciting life, so he jumps at the chance to join the Rebellion and travel the stars.

It’s not any more complicated than that. Every single scene in the movie reinforces that narrative in some way. It all relates back to that simple idea.

Simple and Effective

Your marketing needs to be the same way. Whatever idea that you’re trying to convey or message that you’re getting across, it needs to be A) stated up front, B) as short and as simple as possible and C) relatable in some way. As long as you have those three elements, every other decision you make with regards to content needs to refer back to it, and your marketing will soar.

Having a strong, true narrative (and identifying it before you begin work) keeps you focused. Without a true narrative at the heart of it all, you’re left with marketing that doesn’t really justify its own existence.

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Cash Flow and Marketing: What You Need to Know

Cash Flow and Marketing: What You Need to Know

Cash flow is important in the lifespan of any business, but one of the key things to understand is that it’s about more than just "money in versus money out." It’s a valuable look into the bigger picture of what you’re doing, and by having a handle on this aspect of your finances, you can take advantage of business opportunities when they arise.

First, you need to understand how every element of your business relates to this cash flow concept, including marketing. To that point, marketing has a very specific relationship with cash flow that you’re going to need to be aware of moving forward.

Hone Your Budget

Yes, it’s true that marketing costs can often seem unpredictable. However, working hard to hone your marketing budget can make these unexpected situations easier to deal with.

To get started, sit down and think about your upcoming marketing efforts in relation to your other expected cash inflows and outflows. You can’t afford to throw just anything at the wall to see what sticks; you have to be more precise than that. Create a realistic marketing budget (that includes room for experimentation if needed) that is proportional to the rest of your expected business expenses and revenue streams.

It’s All About That Return

What matters most? Return on investment. For this, focus on the metrics that provide you the context necessary to understand your marketing efforts.

Essentially, stop thinking about marketing ROI as just "how many sales did that last campaign bring in?" and don’t be afraid to break things down on a more granular level. Start looking at metrics like your customer acquisition cost. If one of your campaigns was aimed at increasing more traffic to your website, start breaking things down based on metrics like "time spent on site" and "conversion rate."

It’s important to know how your marketing collateral is performing in terms of overall sales and revenues, but in terms of your cash flow you need to dive deeper than that. As long as you’re able to A) show that your marketing is giving you something in return, and B) you can identify exactly what that something is and when it occurs, you know where the value of every marketing dollar rests.

This, in turn, will give you the context necessary to understand marketing’s affect on cash flow and vice versa. When you know that "X action will pay off in Y way after Z amount of time," you suddenly know the impact that every marketing decision you make actually has and when that impact is going to occur. This makes long-term cash flow projections not only easier to make but more accurate as well.

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3 Gems for Small Business Owners from Jack Ma

3 Gems for Small Business Owners from Jack Ma

At a recent business leader meeting put on by American Express, Jack Ma from the Alibaba Group was the guest celebrity speaker. The reason why was that Mr. Ma was invited to share a bit of his wisdom and advice, particularly to small businesses. American Express has been maintaining a campaign of supporting and driving sales to small businesses to help them grow nationwide.

A Little Bit of History

Jack Ma did not come from well-established roots like, for example, President Trump. Ma was born and raised in mainland China, competed against thousands of others for a rare spot in the Chinese university system, and could not find regular employment many times. Then, with a spare moment of luck, he was exposed to the internet and realized nobody had catered websites to the Chinese. From there, his success took off, most notably with Alibaba.com.

Simple Gems of Advice

In his speech, Mr. Ma focused his advice to small businesses on three points:

  1. He advised business owners and those considering the venture to find out why businesses fail. Schools typically only teach success stories, but it’s critical to know what causes some people not to succeed to avoid the same mistakes.
  2. Business owners should listen carefully to their next-door neighbors. They are, literally, average consumers who can tell a business owner a library of secrets about what a consumer actually looks for when shopping. The problem is, people tend to avoid their neighbors thinking they’re too nosy. It’s an opportunity missed.
  3. Small businesses should “fix the roof when the sun is shining.” It’s an analogy that essentially means a business owner should be making changes and additions when things are going well. When things are rough, or there’s a major challenge, it’s not the time to be spending energy and money on fixes. Get to a good point again before thinking about changing operations or adding to costs.

Get Out of the Weeds

A lot of what Mr. Ma provided in his speech may seem like common sense for small business owners, but it’s hard to focus on thinking strategically when one’s head is buried deep in just trying to make it through the day. This is why his advice is so important; it reminds business owners to take a moment once in a while to get their head out of the weeds and think in terms of running a company again instead of momentary crisis management. In Ma’s opinion, smart and successful business owners are looking, learning, and timing their decisions with the best opportunities. And, they are not ignoring the best sources of business lessons when they become available.

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Boost Happiness Without Stress: How to Stop Multitasking

Boost Happiness Without Stress: How to Stop Multitasking

Have you ever felt as though you’re not as productive as you’d like to be, even when it seems as though you’re working all the time? Perhaps the problem is not the number of hours that you’re working, but instead, the focus that you’re bringing to each particular task. Studies have shown that multitasking can be incredibly bad for our brains, and is truly a way of doing more things incompetently instead of getting more done! If you’re always checking Facebook, waiting for your email inbox to ding like one of Pavlov’s dogs, or getting interrupted by physical visitors at your desk, you’re not going to be as effective and efficient as you’d like to be. The outcome? More stress — and that’s something we can all do without!

Your Brain on Multitasking

Did you know that your brain is incapable of multitasking? It’s true, and what your brain is doing when you think you’re ultra-productive is pinging back and forth between tasks at a high rate of speed. The problem is that things often get lost in translation or fall between the cracks of our mental map, making it tough to figure out where we were in a task we abandoned a few minutes before. This "epidemic of distraction" (as some researchers label multitasking) is incredibly prevalent in modern society and starts at a very young age. The cognitive overload that we suffer as a result of multitasking can cause headaches, poor sleep, a feeling of being overwhelmed, and even depression.

Dangers of Multitasking

It’s not too strong of a word to say that multitasking is dangerous to our brain because it is. This negative practice has been shown to decrease creativity and cognitive control, and lead to serious memory problems. The more you include multitasking in your daily work, the more likely you are to become distracted easily over a longer period. Think about it: if you’re training your brain to be looking for the next distraction constantly, then are you likely to be able to focus well on one task? Probably not. Even something as seemingly simple as glancing at your phone as you’re stepping off a curb can be dangerous to your health for a variety of reasons. If you’re fortunate enough to be out of the way of oncoming traffic, your gait may be affected by your distraction causing a serious fall on the unstable or uneven ground.

Practicing Mindfulness

One of the best ways to overcome a tendency to multitask is to create mental space for yourself to focus on one task at a time, also known as mindfulness. Try stopping yourself when you start to become distracted. Put away everything else on your desk or computer, close programs (don’t minimize them!), and create a space for yourself to think and to breathe.

Don’t let yourself fall into the trap of feeling like you need to work at double speed — and multitask — to get everything done. Instead, take a break and focus on getting the most out of each busy day. When you’re able to concentrate on one task at a time, you’ll find that you’re getting a lot more done and staying calmer in the long run.

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