October 28th, 2011
Yes, it’s time for another orange peel.
I’ve been out and about again, in some familiar and some new environments. I’ve met a lot of wonderful people and learned about some incredible businesses and seen some terrific products. BUT, I’ve also seen some that are not ready for KISS and tell!
It’s very straightforward…Keep It Short and Sweet/Simple and tell the world about it. I say that somewhat tongue and check. The concept is indeed very straightforward, but for many, the implementation is lost. Perhaps it makes more sense for some to think of it in terms of return on investment (ROI). The bottom line is this, without user/consumer adoption of your product, there is NO ROI. Business users want to know what their return on investment is going to be and all consumers (B2B and B2C) want to know what value you are going to bring them. Value is different in the varying environments, for example, entertainment is not going to be of high value in the B2B world, but could be of utmost importance in B2C! So first and foremost is to know your target audience. And second is to keep the product or application very straightforward and easy to use.
Yes, in many cases, your product will solve a very complex problem. That is terrific! And, exactly what it should do. However, your product will only reach its full potential if that complexity is hidden from the user. After all, your product is intended to solve a problem for a user, so it is likely they are solving that problem in some other manner today. You have to prove that you will solve it better, faster, and potentially cheaper to get them to buy your product. Therefore, if your product makes their current nightmare even more ghoulish, rather than turning it into a dream, you’ve missed your mark and the biggest portion of your potential.
The same is true in your business proposition, your sales pitch, building your team, establishing your culture…you get the idea. When you KISS and tell, it’s straightforward, it makes sense, it’s easy to remember, and people buy in more quickly. It should not take you several hours to describe the value you can deliver for a prospect; you should be able to do that in a few minutes. Yes, it might take a lot longer to dig into the details of how that happens, however, you should be able to make a compelling case in short order.
So, KISS and Tell. Try it, you might like it!
August 29th, 2011
We all love Dr. Seuss and the Doctor had so many lessons for life and work that will likely live on forever. A graduation favorite, “Oh the Places You Will Go,” is applicable for many milestones in life, and I can never get enough of The Sneetches’ lessons for all. Dr. Seuss has such a wonderful way of forming characters and developing their personalities. It’s branded in the minds of the world forevermore.
What’s the persona of your business? Have you thought about it? How do you go out and speak to the world? Are you formal/informal? Are you fun or cutesy? Are you tough and rugged? Powerful or meek? Whatever the persona you choose for your business, it’s a critical step. It needs to match the products/services you offer. People buy/engage with people they like. Relationship matters most! The persona you take to market has a significant impact on clients/customers/donors you attract and the relationships you build, therefore on your success.
Digging in a bit deeper, is your persona reflected in your tagline, logo, colors? Is it consistent? Do you have a completely different identity on your website vs. at a tradeshow, in your blog/social media, sellsheets and other materials? Persona is not only style. Clearly a blog can be more conversational than perhaps a website or a sellsheet, but the persona should be the same. Not so sure of that? What about when you give a presentation or are talking in a small lunch meeting vs. when you are writing a proposal? Style different? Yes. Persona, no, or at least it shouldn’t be. Who I am does not change based on a verbal vs. a written statement, but one is typically more formal than the other. Ensuring there is consistency in the persona of your business is critical in solidifying your identity and building a powerful brand people will recognize.
Taking it one step further, when you spend time thinking about your business’ persona, it’s a must to think about your logo, tagline, messaging, how you present yourself…the full identity package. You become fluent in your brand and your business, a critical step! To do so effectively means identifying and exploiting your differentiators. When you are fluent in who you are (your business) and who you want to be when you grow up, your vision, your roadmap, becomes clear; it all works effectively together enabling you to build and leverage your brand quickly.
This fluency provides a solid foundation when you are asked unexpected questions or to consider new or different directions for your product or business. You may not have the answer, but you will have a solid understanding of that from which the answer must come. This fluency is very helpful in hiring new employees, ensuring they are a fit with your business persona. It also becomes an effective training tool for your team and onboarding new employees. The persona is how the vision comes to life. When the vision is clear for your whole team, they are empowered to constantly be working toward that common goal and your organization achieves greater success.
July 20th, 2011
In today’s world of social media, protecting and defending your brand and your intellectual property have traveled to new heights. In many cases, social media platforms, such as Facebook, automatically create pages for organizations that are mentioned within profiles that do not already have a page (or maybe they do, but someone spells it differently, abbreviates, etc., so a new page is created). This is not a stolen identity, however it can wreak havoc with your marketing and cause confusion around your brand. We’ve covered this topic previously in this blog. (Dueling Facebook Pages).
Increasingly however, we hear stories and encounter with our own clients where people/businesses, often that they know and work with, have deliberately “borrowed” they’re online identities. We see and read about it most commonly in channel and reseller type environments. This is the most unfortunate of situations and really does no one any good. We really wish we could chat with these perpetrators up front and help them establish an effective strategy for themselves, but some want to hear nothing of it—those we wish we could “shake awake” just a little, or at least scare with the legal side. They need it. This practice is at least unethical and in most cases, illegal. Let’s talk a little bit about the situation, then ways you can prevent this from happening to you by using some good standard business practices, and sticking to your guns.
Disclaimer before we get into details: Many (most!) reseller channel programs are fantastic! They are true partners, working together to drive sales and revenue for both parties. They would never consider such a practice! Influency Group is a proponent of solid channel strategies. Unfortunately in some cases this is not true and the rotten apple spoils the barrel.
What we have encountered are situations where partners take on the brand/product persona of what they are trying to sell in public venues. This would be like me being a reseller for IBM and telling the world I AM IBM, grabbing IBM URLs, setting up Facebook Fan pages for IBM and IBM products, creating a Twitter account with the IBM product name, etc. You can see how that does not fly. In fact, you’re probably scratching your head thinking, “who would do that?” Good question, but it’s happening more often than you can imagine. The big companies have lots of protections obviously (and in most cases already have grabbed the social media identities, whether or not they are using them), so you think that previous statement (me saying I AM IBM) sounds ludicrous. It IS ludicrous, but it’s happening quite frequently.
When a company who owns the brand decides to launch their social media strategy, troubles begin. They try to get the brand/product identities and find they are already taken. They do a little research to find that, lo and behold, a partner/reseller has already grabbed the identity and is marketing (or not) under this brand, representing themselves as the brand/product (sometimes well, sometimes not so well, which is another whole can of worms and misrepresentation). Doesn’t quite sound legal does it? In many cases it is not, and at minimum it is unethical. If your product/brand is copyright or trademark protected, you definitely get some protection there. However, it becomes a frustrating and difficult process to attempt to get these back. And in the meantime, the company is at a standstill with their social media marketing, and their relationship with their entire channel is an issue, putting their business at severe risk.
There is further damage done within a channel environment when other channel partners discover these pages/accounts and who is behind them. They lose trust and confidence in the true brand owning company and feel the channel is not treated equally, or they don’t want a potential competitor marketing the product for them, and certainly they do not feel (rightfully so) that leads generated through these environments will be distributed among the channel as they should be. They also often feel the company they are reselling for is not holding up to their end of the agreement with marketing and sales support activities.
We could go much further into this situation and the damage it causes across all areas of the business and the partner program, but I’m sure you can extrapolate for yourself. This is NOT a good situation, so what can you do to prevent it from happening?
There are many different levels we could cover, but let’s hit a couple basics.
- Be sure you have protected your brand IP (e.g., company name and logo, program names, product names and logo/identity, taglines, etc.) by registering service and trademarks with the USPTO. In many cases you can do this yourself, or hire an attorney to do it for you. Prior to branding, you should have a trademark search done (or conduct a minimal level yourself at the USPTO.gov site) to be sure you are not infringing on someone else’s rights. This is prudent as rebranding is very expensive, both out of pocket and loss of momentum. The organization that can establish first use will typically win this fight, which is very costly to enter into. Better to avoid it altogether!
- Be sure to explicitly cover appropriate use of intellectual property assets in your partner agreement. This should include logos and artwork, taglines, product and company names at minimum. It should include both what IS and IS NOT allowed, and include a statement that what’s not expressly covered within the agreement requires prior written permission.
- Once your brand/product name/tagline is established, grab the most common social media outlet identities in that name ASAP, even if you don’t intend to use them right away. In most cases you can set the privacy settings so no one can see them (since they contain no information and are not maintained, which can be a big negative as well), but at least no one else can claim them either. You may even want to consider these identities when naming a new product or developing a new tagline. See if it’s available within your social media outlets of choice and factor this into your decision making.
- Be sure to conduct regular searches on the most common social media outlets as well as search engines for your company/brand/product names. Try a couple different spellings with spaces or no spaces, and stay aware of what’s out there. Try setting up listeners or alerts to tell you when someone has used your brand/product name in various fashions.
Hopefully most of us will not encounter this situation, but what do you do if your identity is stolen? Most social media platforms have a mechanism for reporting this. They ask for various forms of proof, often including website URLs for starters and other materials as you proceed through the process. Hopefully you are able to talk with your “partner” and help them to see the light and the common good, and turn over these assets to you (and if so, IMMEDIATELY change all passwords, admins, email addresses, contact info, etc. on all of these accounts). Perhaps not however since they are of the character that would assume them in the first place. In some cases, I’m sure ill intent was not there and these partners were looking to drive sales and to help. If that is truly the case, they should have no problem turning over these assets and establishing themselves with their own identity (which ultimately is best for their business anyway!). You can explain to them that you marketing under your own brand and product serves them as well; you have a channel strategy so in doing so, you are building brand recognition and conducting lead generation for them as well.
If this does not work, there is always the legal route that typically begins with a cease and desist. Hopefully this does the trick, but if you found yourself dealing with shady characters and the above did not work, you might be in for more of a battle. Be sure to protect yourself using some of the basic methods above, and work with your corporate attorney, so if you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, the battle will be more likely to quickly go in your direction with those protections in place and your “partner” being in breach of contract. One final note, since you are the originator of the legal agreement with your partner/reseller, you are the responsible party. Which means, if you have left something out or it is ambiguous, you bear the brunt of that. There may well still be other legal protections, particularly if you have followed at least the basics listed above, but understand this is the case so be sure to cover yourself well and work with a great attorney.