Dallas Business Consultant Elijah ClarkDallas Business Consultant Elijah Clark

Don’t try to do everything

One of the biggest business mistakes I have ever made was trying to do everything myself. I wore the hats of the marketing department, sales, customer service, collections, technical support, developer, graphic artist, etc.

I understand that you may want to save money or may simply not have the financial support to hire someone else to complete additional task. However, do what you need until you can get help and then get the help. If you have to cut your pay temporarily to hire a project manager while you handle sales, you will be grateful in the end. Else, you’ll drain yourself empty and never have the time to do what you love.

Do yourself a favor and focus on what made you love the idea of being a business owner in the first place.

The Follow-Up

Providing the customer with a price isn’t the final step – obviously. You still need the potential customer to make the purchase. Because many businesses don’t like to think outside of an immediate sale, they often fail to implement follow-up procedures that pay off after an estimate. They give up after a few emails or calls. Remember: Persistence is key. If you understand your customers’ journey, you know that this is all a part of the decision-making process. Now, you just need to give potential customers the information they need to make the final leap.

To help with your follow-up, create a process for your typical sales cycle armed with information on average close rates and the time it takes to complete a deal. With a customer relationship management program (CRM), you can define these stages and easily keep track of progress. Map out what information you will send at each part in the process. Consider creating an email series that checks in on the customer every few weeks and reiterates how your business can help. Send the proposal with an invitation for an in-person meeting, visit, or phone call the following week to continue the momentum of the conversations. Tweak the messaging of your emails to determine what resonates with prospects. You’ve gotten this far. Don’t fail at the follow-up.

Building Trust. Trust takes time. When you are sending marketing material to a potential customer, there just isn’t always time to create a trusting relationship. But there are things you can do to prove you are credible, which is a step in the right direction. Credibility starts with a good reputation and a good design which inspires confidence in the viewer. When designing, follow modern design standards and practices to create a clean, easy-to-read campaign. In addition, marketing content full of misspellings and poor grammar can be a red flag for customers. It says little for your business’s ability to pay attention to detail and reduces your credibility as a professional organization. Finally, you need compelling testimonials or case studies that showcase the results you can deliver, the type of working relationships you have, and how you solved problems for previous customers.

 

Personal Branding

Important of organizational branding
Brands are often an organization’s most valuable asset. A strong brand can generate a loyal consumer and positive sales. It is the responsibility of the marketer to create a brand that consumers view as positive and valuable. In order for the brand to be valuable to the consumer, it needs to simplify the decision making process and reduce the risk for the consumer. Positive branding can influence consumer behavior. Having a strong brand will result in better earnings and profit performance, which will generate greater shareholder value for the organization.

Personal brand in 21st century
Personal branding is important within the 21st century. Many hiring organizations research employees on the Internet and find unsettling information that could have been prevented by the individual had they monitored their personal brand. Personal branding can have a tremendous affect on how an employee, celebrity, or public figure is viewed. A negative brand can cause job loss, rejection, or public humiliation for individuals. To create a successful personal brand, individuals can research their name online to find and remove negative information associated with them. In addition, they could enhance their current online presence and create content that promotes their best assets. Furthermore, individuals could promote their brand by having peers and organizations recommend and bolster their positive skillsets to others. This can be done by networking and creating friendships with industry influencers.

Branding process
The term personal brand was first introduced in an article by author Tom Peters in 1997. The process was developed to help individual’s use critical thinking and analytical reasoning to enhance their career planning. Within brand credibility, third-party endorsements have a tremendous affect on generating credibility for individuals as well as businesses, which assist with spreading positive brand awareness. Individual branding is different in that it requires a positive attitude and relationship building. Unlike business branding, which recommends posting a social ad or banner on a webpage, billboard, and in magazines, personal branding requires networking. Networking can be done via social networks, local group meetings, and events. In addition, during these networking sessions the individual needs to be likable and must present good character.

Branding involves creating, maintaining, and enhancing brand awareness. Marketers can purchase advertising targeted at audiences based on behavioral indicators and key performance indicators. This method is often used in online social media spaces by large brands. This practice does not differ based on the type of product or if that product is a person or an intangible asset. In addition, endorsements help enhance consumers’ attitudes and behaviors toward the brand. Attitudes toward the brands message have an impact on the consumers’ purchase and behavioral intentions. To promote the brand, marketers could invest in advertising, which is a more general means of communication for promoting the brand.

A perfect example of marketing based on consumers’ brand attitude and publicity is the beats headphone brand. The brand was introduced without a large budget and focused on building credibility through celebrity and word-of-mouth. As the consumers accepted the credibility as positive, they spread word about the product as being a commodity to those interested in owning the popular brand. With the help of social promotions, celebrity credibility, industry targeted publicity, and brand messaging; the brand has developed into a multi-billion dollar company.

Marketing-oriented publicity enhances positive and negative cognitive responses of a buyer. A positive cognitive response enhances the brand messaging for the consumer, which has an impact on their purchasing decision. Consequently, a negative attitude and cognitive response toward the brand messaging reducing the likelihood of a consumer purchasing.

A personal brand is a presentation of an individuals unique skills, knowledge, experience, and expertise that make the individual memorable to other. These unique assets influence employers to hire and professionals to want to work with individuals. In order for individuals to expand their social brand and generate brand awareness, they can start by creating or cleaning up their social media pages. On social media pages individuals should not post anything that they don’t want employers to see. This includes both text and images. In addition to social media pages, individuals should create digital portfolios and personal websites. The benefits of these are that employers can easily find websites and it allows the individual to present themselves in favorable conditions.

In addition to creating and enhancing the personal brand, the individual should always monitor their brand activity. For instance, the individual can google their name and see what content shows. If the content is something unfavorable, they should contact the content poster or website and ask for it to be removed. Or remove it themselves if they have access.

Impact of Reviews on Marketing Objective

Customer engagement is critical when working to develop brand awareness and increase sales. Negative customer reviews affect small businesses significantly more than larger businesses. Consequently, depending upon your business size, customer reviews may not always have a significant influence on your profitability. Additionally, reviews, whether positive or negative, do not have a significant influence on customers familiar with your business. Similar to a tree in the forest, a review alone is not going to gain or lose new business for a client, but can help to sway a potential customer to make a decision either way. Engaging with customers is a strategy recommended by marketing agencies to create a competitive advantage by building relationships with customers. If the objective of your business is customer acquisition, retention, or brand awareness, then customer reviews can affect your marketing strategy development.

Because of social media, customer feedback and reviews can quickly reach a broad audience and have an immediate effect on the success of your business’s marketing efforts. Due to the popularity of the internet, you can analyze and predict customer behaviors by using social networks and review-based websites. Your business should spend marketing dollars wisely, so gaining more reviews is not always as important as generating brand awareness through other reliable methods of marketing. Your marketing strategies should focus on relationship building with customers to better develop successful strategies for increasing customer loyalty and sales. However, you are likely not effectively accomplishing your marketing objective if you are receiving a significant amount of negative reviews.

Blogging Strategy

A blog or weblog covers a mixture of what is happening in the daily life of your business as well as new and upcoming events. A blogging strategy can be used to help determine how to engage with online users and generate website traffic. When designing your blog, be sure to create it so that it increases brand awareness and attracts readers.

Other benefits of blogging include:

  • Googleloves it! Blogs are great for increasing website indexed pages, and Google places value on websites with a high volume of indexed pages.
  • Customers can remain current with the status of your business events and updates. Additionally, a blog can define your brandas authoritative and help your business be seen as professional and knowledgeable.

Keys to Effective Team Leadership

Nearly 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies use some form of team-based structures within their daily operations to help in organizing work (Magni, & Maruping, 2013). A majority of employees are involved in teamwork as a part of their daily job duties and responsibilities (Magni, & Maruping, 2013). Leaders are responsible for broadening and elevating team members’ goals as well as creating team confidence (Ishikawa, 2012). The leader is also responsible for managing team conflicts, building relationships, engaging members, and taking responsibility for projects (Barnwell, Nedrick, Rudolph, Sesay, & Wellen, 2014). Leaders have a considerable impact on team members’ attitudes toward their jobs, team climate, and performance (Ishikawa, 2012). Team members must learn to self-direct and execute multiple tasks concurrently (Barnwell, Nedrick, Rudolph, Sesay, & Wellen, 2014). A team leader should begin management by setting a meeting with team members and have them introduce themselves to one another. This will allow members to build relationships and get to know one another on a personal level and in a comfortable setting (Barnwell, Nedrick, Rudolph, Sesay, & Wellen, 2014). As a leader, my role would be to establish a team that can work efficiently to satisfy stakeholders, customers, and team members (Barnwell, Nedrick, Rudolph, Sesay, & Wellen, 2014). I would build my team based on their strengths, and past performances. Conflict in time management and task priorities can affect the task schedule (Barnwell, Nedrick, Rudolph, Sesay, & Wellen, 2014; Ishikawa, 2012). Without proper leadership, there could be concern of power struggle within the group as new stronger members would likely take the lead role and potentially ignore the lower status individuals’ suggestions and ideas (Barnwell, Nedrick, Rudolph, Sesay, & Wellen, 2014; Hoch, & Morgeson, 2014). I would need to not only manage the needs of the team, but also of the individual members.

Within a team setting, team members should be able to react effectively to unanticipated, non-routine, and unstructured situations in order to achieve team objectives (Ishikawa, 2012). To manage an effective team, the leader should create a structure that allows for good and efficient communication, shared responsibilities, and proper goal and time management. Sharing leadership task can help build trust and cooperation among team members. By sharing task, members gain strength, motivation, and encouragement (Hoch, & Morgeson, 2014; Ishikawa, 2012). Time is paramount within a team setting. Being able to overcome barriers by reacting to task, unexpected issues, and delivering positive results are essential to achieving efficient outcomes (Ishikawa, 2012).

Project teams are composed of individual team members who have varying viewpoints. This is heightened in virtual teams where members are from different locations and with different cultures, beliefs, interest, time separation, distance, and standards (Barnwell, Nedrick, Rudolph, Sesay, & Wellen, 2014; Ishikawa, 2012). To keep up morale for virtual team members, I would have to remain in touch on a regular basis and build rapport with team members. It would be my responsibility to motivate members via telephone calls, and video conferencing, which could help decrease member isolation (Barnwell, Nedrick, Rudolph, Sesay, & Wellen, 2014). When working in a virtual team, culture and diversity can affect how the team functions (Barnwell, Nedrick, Rudolph, Sesay, & Wellen, 2014). Leaders interacting in diverse teams will be more susceptible to volatile relationships because of potential cultural misunderstandings. This is because diverse virtual team members can hold very different assumptions about mental modes and social interaction (Ayman, & Korabik, 2010; Barnwell, Nedrick, Rudolph, Sesay, & Wellen, 2014). In a virtual setting, the leader should create and manage clear goals, considering virtual team members are better led when goals and direction are clear (Barnwell, Nedrick, Rudolph, Sesay, & Wellen, 2014; Hoch, & Morgeson, 2014).

Virtual teams may have an issue of technology in addition to communication barriers (Balthazard, Waldman, & Warren, 2009; Barnwell, Nedrick, Rudolph, Sesay, & Wellen, 2014; Ishikawa, 2012). Having strong technical skills allows the member to minimize the need of outside technical assistance. Virtual team members should have high self-esteem so that they can support themselves through motivation and limit disrupting the other team members (Barnwell, Nedrick, Rudolph, Sesay, & Wellen, 2014). Reaching individual goals can be daunting, so being goal oriented will allow members to motivate themselves to go above and beyond when necessary to achieve their objectives (Barnwell, Nedrick, Rudolph, Sesay, & Wellen, 2014). Virtual teams and projects create increased response time for demands, greater productivity, and the option to work around the clock (Barnwell, Nedrick, Rudolph, Sesay, & Wellen, 2014; Ishikawa, 2012). However, team members who are located more than 50 feet away from one another, have a significantly decreased frequency of communication (Ishikawa, 2012). Being near one another, creates better circumstances for team members to communicate about issues that affect projects (Balthazard, Waldman, & Warren, 2009). Communication is a significant factor in team environments considering it is essential in helping gather information (Balthazard, Waldman, & Warren, 2009; Ishikawa, 2012). To overcome barriers, the team leader should influence members to have good technical skills, high self-esteem, be goal oriented, and not be afraid of friendly debate and admitting to mistakes (Barnwell, Nedrick, Rudolph, Sesay, & Wellen, 2014).
Credits

Ayman, R., & Korabik, K. (2010). Leadership. American Psychologist, 65(3), 157-170. doi:10.1037/a0018806

Balthazard, P. A., Waldman, D. A., & Warren, J. E. (2009). Predictors of the emergence of transformational leadership in virtual decision teams. Leadership Quarterly, 20(5), 651–663. doi:10.1016/j.leaqua.2009.06.008

Barnwell, D., Nedrick, S., Rudolph, E., Sesay, M., & Wellen, W. (2014). Leadership of International and Virtual Project Teams. International Journal Of Global Business, 7(2), 1-8.

Hoch, J. E., & Morgeson, F. P. (2014). Vertical and shared leadership processes: Exploring team leadership dynamics. Academy Of Management Annual Meeting Proceedings, 1607-1612. doi:10.5465/AMBPP.2014.96

Ishikawa, J. (2012). Transformational leadership and gatekeeping leadership: The roles of norm for maintaining consensus and shared leadership in team performance. Asia Pacific Journal Of Management, 29(2), 265-283. doi:10.1007/s10490-012-9282-z

Magni, M., & Maruping, L. M. (2013). Sink or Swim: Empowering Leadership and Overload in Teams’ Ability to Deal with the Unexpected. Human Resource Management, 52(5), 715-739. doi:10.1002/hrm.21561

Brand Strategy

To say that you need a brand to be successful is inaccurate. The laundry mat or embroidery shop up the street do not have a brand and they are doing very well. Whether you need a brand is dependent on the goal of your business. For example, if you are a service based business, or simply have a business that is in demand, then having a strong brand is not needed considering customers will seek you out and already know what they want, how they want it, and at what speed and price they want it. Think, where does the local school purchase its school buses? Have you ever seen a school bus manufacturer advertise their brand on television or at local events?

You do, however, need to have a brand if you have significant competition and if you have a niche product which requires educating customers. The goal of a brand is to provide customers with reasons to purchase your product or service over the competition. Without a solid brand, it makes marketing and customer acquisition expensive and time consuming.

A brand gives your business its unique character – its look and feel, voice, and identity. Without its image, Nike is just one more shoemaker, and Macy’s is simply another retailer. A good brand should have a foundation based on value and customer engagement. The brand should represent the mission of your business and hold relevancy to your customers.

— For more lessons like this, purchase your copy of Act Like a Business: Think Like a Customer by Dr. Elijah Clark from all major bookstores. —

Security Breach and Ethics

As a healthcare patient, I feel that the privacy of my personal information is a major concern. Organizations should focus on making ethical decisions when handling patient information in regards to implementing effective security and privacy measures (Haag & Cummings, 2008). Many organizations including healthcare spend thousands or millions of dollars on securing patient privacy and protecting data against breaches and hackers (Farahmand, Navathe, Sharp, & Enslow, 2005). It is the responsibility of leaders and management to understand and influence ethical practices which relate to privacy and security threats (Haag & Cummings, 2008). Security breaches have the ability to disable the functions of a business and pilfer confidential consumer information such as healthcare information, social security numbers, and passwords (Tran & Atkinson, 2002). In addition to potential loss in revenue, breaches also create consumer distrust, and negatively affect brand reputation (Farahmand et al., 2005).  The risks associated with breaches such as loss of confidentiality, integrity, and availability, should cause organizations to be aware and active with threats that generate concerns (Halliday, Badenhorst, & Solms, 1996).

 

Suggested Readings

Farahmand, F., Navathe, S. B., Sharp, G. P., & Enslow, P. H. (2005). A management perspective on risk of security threats to information systems. Information Technology and Management, 6(2–3). doi:10.1007/s10799-005-5880-5

Haag, S., & Cummings, M. (2008). Management information systems for the information age (Laureate Education, Inc., custom ed.). Boston: McGraw-Hill/Irwin

Halliday, S., Badenhorst, K., & Solms, R. (1996). A business approach to effective information technology risk analysis and management. Information Management & Computer Security, 4(1). doi:10.1108/09685229610114178

Tran, E., & Atkinson, M. (2002). Security of personal data across national borders. Information Management & Computer Security, 10(5). doi:10.1108/09685220210446588

E-Commerce

E-commerce and online transactions account for billions of dollars in sales activity. While e-commerce is a good opportunity for your business to expand online, it could be overwhelming if your business is not prepared for online growth. Initiating your online store is like opening a second location, so you will need to hire new employees and a new technology team to help manage the new location. Additionally, your online store will require top-notch security measures, privacy resolutions, and excellent customer support. You will need to define and understand your new online customer group which will be very different from those ordering by phone or shopping in-store. If your customers are within an older demographic group, you could find yourself having to create and market your new business service to a new user group from scratch considering disruptive technology is often influenced and adopted by younger demographics.

The benefits of e-commerce are based on the efficiency of the automated system. Benefits include a decrease in overall production and transaction costs if implemented properly which can help resolve business concerns regarding the budget. Ample stock inventories, proper notifications, timely delivery dates, and excellent customer support is key to achieving e-commerce success.

A drawback of e-commerce versus brick-and-mortar businesses is that with e-commerce sites it is difficult to generate a sale through user interaction with the business. To partially resolve this issue, you can implement a chat system and monitor the effects of your e-commerce strategies by using activity and traffic tools that monitor users visiting the website.

Customer Marketing

Purpose of Marketing

Without marketing, your business is taking the risk of losing customers and revenue. Think of your brand, website, or artwork as a resume. You spend hours or days writing, designing, and editing it to perfection, not to mention the years of enhancing and refining your background with experience and education. After you’ve culminated and perfected your resume, what next? What’s the next step to ensuring that you land that dream job? The appropriate response is to send your resume to employers. In the context of business, that’s called marketing. You must market yourself to win the job. A terribly unattractive resume sent to potential employers has a higher probability of landing a job over a superb resume sitting in a drawer. Without marketing, you will waste time and money creating a great brand that never gets noticed.

Customer Marketing

If your marketing strategy is not structured on the purchasing needs and wants of your desired customer, you are missing the mark in marketing. An effective campaign is one that influences customers to make a purchase. The secret is to build trust and positive brand awareness through attractive and targeted marketing. Additionally, the campaign should aim at solving the customer’s hesitation to purchase. As customers make purchases, a trend will develop, outlining likes and dislikes based on what sells and what doesn’t.

A Hesitant Customer. All customers experience some hesitancy before making purchases. They don’t simply walk into a store or view a website and make a purchase without thinking about it. How long they hesitate is where you should focus your marketing. For example, a product discounted with a “One day only” stamp will make the customer spend less time debating the purchase because of the urgency of the deadline. If you want a today purchase, you should try marketing your product or service so that it positively influences the customer to decide and act quickly.

As a business owner, you have the responsibility to provide customers with the information they need to make a purchase. If presented effectively, the information you provide customers can persuade them to believe they need what your business is selling, even if the product is outside of their immediate desires or needs. In this sense, information used within your marketing efforts are responsible for shaping the needs and wants of your customers. The implication is that, through marketing, you can capitalize on your customers’ internal weakness and persuade them to make a purchase.

A customer purchase is often based on one of three factors; (1) whether the product or service will help the customer be more productive; (2) whether the product or service can satisfy the things or people the customer cares most about; or (3) whether it fulfills a desire or need.

When marketing, you should understand how your product can solve your customers’ problem or situation. If you know your customers’ habits, likes, or dislikes you can market based on how your product will fit into their lifestyles. From there, the customer will be less hesitant to make the purchase and will have a solid answer as to why they need your product.

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