Dallas Business Consultant Elijah ClarkDallas Business Consultant Elijah Clark

Social Brand Development

As humans, one of the ways we build relationships is through the stories we tell; why else do we catch up with our friends, right? In business, it’s no different. You want to create moments between your business and your customers. Those willing to share the experiences of their founders, customers, and staff can reap the many benefits that storytelling offers. It shifts the focus a little from what you do and talks about why you do it. The story of your brand is as individual as you are, and it needs to tell your audience who you are and why you’re doing what you do. It is where your manifesto comes to life, giving your audience context for your business and a chance to connect with what is important to you. After all, people buy from people.

Your brand is often your business’s most valuable asset. A strong brand can generate loyal customers and positive sales. The brand should be seen by customers as both positive and valuable. For your brand to be valuable to customers, it needs to simplify the decision-making process and reduce any perceived risk for your customers.

Social Media Branding. The personalized brand for your business should include a presentation of your unique benefits, knowledge, experience, and expertise that help make your business memorable. These unique assets influence customers to make a purchase and professionals to want to work with your brand. To expand brand awareness, start by creating, or cleaning up, your online presence and social media pages. On your social media pages, you should not post or subscribe to anything that does not enhance your brand. This includes both text and images. In addition to social media pages, you should create digital image galleries and a website showcasing the best of your brand.

Qualitative or Quantitative

Determining whether to use a qualitative or quantitative method is really dependent upon how you desire to collect your data and what is important to you. A qualitative examination technique assesses why people behave a certain way. Furthermore, the strategy aides in discovering boundaries that influence thinking by breaking down points of interest and gathering information from in-depth sources (Šalkovska & Ogsta, 2014). A qualitative examination produces findings that are regularly not conclusive and are exploratory in nature. The advantage of this kind of study is that it gives alternative research to further decision making. A quantitative methodology utilizes information in view of raw information and statistics. The research technique frequently uses experiments and segments to gather information (Šalkovska & Ogsta, 2014).  A quantitative methodology is similar to qualitative concerning the examining of individual practices. However, a quantitative methodology uses structured information to shape a hypothesis and conclusion (Šalkovska & Ogsta, 2014). Unlike quantitative, a qualitative examination is non-measurable. Furthermore, a quantitative exploration produces detailed information that contribute to in-depth comprehension, while a quantitative examination produces information based on populace and generalized information.

Additional Readings

Šalkovska, J., & Ogsta, E. (2014). Quantitative and qualitative measurement methods of companies’ marketing efficiency. Management Of Organizations: Systematic Research, (70), 91-105. doi:10.7220/MOSR.1392-1142.2014.70.7

Transparency in Organizations

Transparency is defined as the availability of group specific information to those outside of the group (Bushman, Piotroski, and Smith, 2003). Organizational transparency is when the organizations information is produced, gathered, validated, or disseminated to outside participants (Bushman, Piotroski, and Smith, 2003). Transparency can allow for businesses and individuals to get speedier feedback on products and services (Bennis, 2013). Stakeholders have a right to information concerning the company, brand, and potentially stocks. Transparent organizations allow for stakeholders to gain proper insight into the workings and issues that are relevant (Dubbink, Graafland, & Liedekerke, 2008). Transparency is beneficial for companies in that it helps them to distinguish themselves from similar companies by enhancing innovation (Dubbink, Graafland, & Liedekerke, 2008). Being transparent and informing consumers and partners of important business aspects can be seen as an ethical approach (Dubbink, Graafland, & Liedekerke, 2008). For a leader, being transparent creates trust, honesty, accountability, and responsibility (Dubbink, Graafland, & Liedekerke, 2008). Morally, transparency is important considering it can affect personal integrity, attitude, and organizational commitment (Dubbink, Graafland, & Liedekerke, 2008).

An example of a transparent organization is the travel agency, which moved from traditional travel agencies to online digital offerings. As an online organization, prices, reservations, itineraries, suppliers, and competitive disadvantages became transparent and disrupted traditional sales and business (Granados, & Gupta, 2013). With technology and the internet, business transparency is crucial and business leaders need to understand the power in which transparency enables loyal followers (Bennis, 2013; Dubbink, Graafland, & Liedekerke, 2008). Using digital networks as a transparent company generates sales for new and potential consumers who desire unbiased information and offerings from all vendors (Granados, & Gupta, 2013).

Complete transparency, however, has its setbacks. Companies could lose freedom, secrets, and privacy because of this. Being transparent could conflict with leaders’ moral principles (Dubbink, Graafland, & Liedekerke, 2008). If companies are transparent, consumers can gain knowledge and shared information about products that are available (Dubbink, Graafland, & Liedekerke, 2008). Digital transparency also effects competition as businesses can view, compare, and match competitor prices to their advantage (Granados, & Gupta, 2013). Full transparency may distract consumers and stakeholders from focusing on more important items and information (Dubbink, Graafland, & Liedekerke, 2008). If a company desires to become transparent, it should respect the freedom of both stakeholders and individuals (Dubbink, Graafland, & Liedekerke, 2008).

 

Credits

Bennis, W. (2013). Leadership in a digital world: embracing transparency and adaptive capacity. MIS Quarterly, 37(2), 635-636. Retrieved from http://misq.org

Bushman, Robert M. and Piotroski, Joseph D. and Smith, Abbie J., What Determines Corporate Transparency? (April 2003). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=428601 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.428601

Dubbink, W., Graafland, J., & Liedekerke, L. (2008). CSR, Transparency and the Role of Intermediate Organisations. Journal Of Business Ethics, 82(2), 391-406. doi:10.1007/s10551-008-9893-y

Granados, N., & Gupta, A. (2013). Transparency strategy: competing with information in a digital world. MIS Quarterly, 37(2), 637-641. Retrieved from http://misq.org

Crisis Management

Case in point: After the launch of the Fitbit Force, a wrist-worn product that tracks fitness activity, 1.7% of more than 100 million users began developing skin rashes where the device was being worn. CEO James Park, responded almost immediately to the news, delivering an apology and initiating a product recall with a full refund for all of the devices. Later, test results showed that users were likely experiencing allergic contact dermatitis which is an itchy rash and caused largely by a substance that comes into contact with the skin. The likely cause of the rash, in these instances, was users not properly cleansing the area of their skin beneath the device, which was very often worn all day, every day. The Fitbit Company could have easily blamed the rash on user error, but instead decided to take full responsibility and issue a recall. Instead of dealing with customer backlash, due to the company’s timely, and proactive response, the company continues to do well, having maintained their integrity in the marketplace as well as the trust of their customer base.

At the other end of the spectrum, Kryptonite, a leading manufacturer of bicycle locks, had a crisis in 2004. After an internet video had surfaced of a user hacking the well-respected company’s lock, many more videos and complaints began forming. The videos showed how the lock could be easily unlocked by jamming it with a plastic pen. Kryptonite eventually did address the situation, but weeks later, with a product recall and an explanation that the issue dealt with all types of cylinder locks including those associated with vending machines and some automobile ignitions. Because it took the company an extended period of time to respond, customers and the media continued to smear the company’s brand for days. This led to a loss of customer trust and a near irreparably tainted brand. Beyond the cost of the recall, millions of dollars have been spent to rebuild the company’s reputation.

When dealing with a crisis, the focus is centered on brand trust and risk. A crisis should be addressed through direct contact whenever possible as in the case of Fitbit where users received an email from the CEO about the recall versus the use of mass social media. It is also important to recognize that media outlets and third parties have the capability to either preserve or damage customer-to-brand trust. Consumer relationships and widespread brand trust are essential during a crisis, and your business cannot afford to neglect the element of the media if you want to retain customers. Marketing strategies during a crisis should also project that your company remains adaptive and is present during the crisis.

Educating = Satisfying

Not all customers will understand the details of your product or the necessities of your service offering. It’s important that you help educate your customers on your product and changes in the market relevant to your business. While you may not want to move away from your original contract, your competitors will try and attract your customers by introducing new tools, methods, and trends. To prevent your customers from moving to a competitor, you should setup and attend regular weekly or monthly meetings with your customers and go over what it is that you are doing for them and why. When asking your customers what they think about the quality of your product or service, don’t be surprised if they ask about new technologies or trends and why you aren’t using those methods. If you aren’t aware of new changes or innovations, you should inform the customer that you will look into the technologies and present your findings to them.

Privacy and Data Management

There is a growing concern from customers that their privacy and personal information is being digitized and sold without their permission. The concern is that credit cards, billing details, and other private data are bought and sold across the marketing industry between businesses and organizations to use as soliciting tools. Customers agree that the lack of organizational ethics when collecting information is morally wrong. The debate amongst customers and businesses is that both parties feel they own the information. Businesses believe that they have the right to use the information any way they choose to help better their organizational goals and to produce better marketing services. Additionally, the organizations that purchase the user information feel they own the data because they purchased it. If the results show that your company is being unethical by confusing or misinforming customers on how their private information is used, you should work diligently to resolve the confusion by making privacy details clear.

Security Breach and Ethics. You should focus on making ethical decisions when handling customer information in regards to implementing effective security and privacy measures. Many organizations, including healthcare corporations, spend thousands to millions of dollars on securing patient privacy and protecting data against breaches and hackers. It is your responsibility as a leader to understand and influence ethical practices which relate to privacy and security threats. Security breaches can disable the functions of your business and pilfer confidential customer information such as personal contact information, social security numbers, and passwords. In addition to a potential loss of revenue, breaches also create customer distrust, and can negatively impact your brand reputation. The risks associated with breaches such as loss of confidentiality, integrity, and availability should cause you to be aware and proactive with threats that generate concerns.

Common Interest

In a relationship, it’s important that you have common interests. It’s hard to keep a relationship moving forward if you have nothing or little in common. Factors that customers consider when entering a relationship with your business include the business’s reputation, niche, work ethics, communication, customer service, and if your business has the resources to meet their needs.

Customers select you for a reason. In the initial meeting with your customers, you should try to determine that reason by simply asking, “What is it that you want from me or my business in this relationship?” or “Why did you decide to meet with me today?” Additionally, ask yourself what you want from your customers and always outline that during the meeting. Don’t just focus on the product or service benefits that you offer, but also outline your unique processes in achieving results.

Terms of Agreement. Once you decide on how the relationship should move forward, write it down and make it clear. Just because you understand your terms, does not mean that your customer has a clear understanding. If you are selling a product on a website or through a physical location, you should have important terms mentioned multiple times during the course of business, in contracts, and on your website. Furthermore, educate your customers to prevent confusion about the terms. If you can create a solid and mutually rewarding foundation with your customer, the rest of the relationship will be smooth.

Effective Communication. Many customers will discontinue business with you simply because they are confused about something or misunderstand your contract. Effective communication is key to a healthy relationship. As a representative of your business, you should be involved in, and dedicated to, the satisfaction and growth of customer relationships within your business. When working with customers, know why the customer selected you in the first place. Keep sight of customer goals and pursue those goals relentlessly to satisfy your customer. Chances are your customers have a good reason for wanting to work with your business or purchase your product or service. Ask what that is and why, today of all days, they chose to make the move.

Most customers already believe they know what they want, very often they do not want your opinion, and want only for you to provide them with the product or service requested. While this is often ok, you should still try and understand what they are trying to achieve, or you may end up with poor reviews and an upset customer who feels they wasted their time. It all comes down to staying focused on the goals of the customer and the strategies for achieving those goals. Two primary questions to consider asking customers when attempting to understand their goals include:

  • What is your goal for using or purchasing this product or service?
  • What results are you expecting by using this product or service?

Asking these questions will help demonstrate a genuine concern for your customers and they will, most often, appreciate your sincerity.

Handling Negative Reviews

Review Credibility

Knowing the platforms on which customers prefer to express their views, and on which readers of those reviews are most likely to visit, is essential for effective online management.

Review Websites. Review platforms including Yelp, Amazon, Angie’s List, TripAdvisor, and more heavily influence consumers when researching desired products and services. Unfortunately, these sites, and others, often end up authorizing unauthenticated reviews and manipulated reviews on their websites which could unduly damage the reputation of your business. For instance, the Yelp platform contains an algorithm that automatically determines which reviews are “most useful” without actually authenticating the reviews. This is because, like many other review sites, Yelp has no verification process in place to validate whether the reviewer actually participated in any transaction with the business in question, which enables fraudulent reviews by Yelp users and business competitors. After analyzing the writing style of reviewers and the effectiveness of manipulated reviews through sentiments, readability, and ratings, researchers have determined that 10.3% of products were subject to online review manipulation.[1]

Negative Reviews

Review credibility is important, particularly in situations where reviews falsely or purposefully misrepresent a situation. Your business should develop an appropriate response to counter the effects of negative word-of-mouth (NWOM) communication. How your business responds to NWOM is crucial in terms of limiting the negative effects to the business.

Sensory marketing helps to identify and comprehend the senses and influences of marketing engagement in light of customers’ perceptions, behaviors, and judgments. How your business reacts to NWOM is critical in determining whether your business can recuperate from the negative reviews and feedback. While positive reviews do have an influence on customer decision making, one negative review from a disgruntled customer generally has a more significant effect on overall product ratings. Conversely, negative reviews have less of an influence when contrasted to a vast majority of positive reviews.

While you may be aware of the effects of customer reviews, do not succumb to the temptation of generating fake reviews to help promote your products or services. The drawback of manipulated reviews is that they could unduly damage the reputation of your business. Respond to customer reviews in a timely and effective manner as they influence customers’ perceptions of your business. Your business should place a priority on responding to both positive and negative reviews. Don’t ignore negative feedback, as from an overall brand perspective, negative reviews have the potential to hinder brand awareness by creating customer doubt which can decrease leads and referrals.

 

[1] Fan, Y. W., Miao, Y. F., Fang, Y. H., & Lin, R. Y. (2013). Establishing the adoption of electronic word-of-mouth through consumers’ perceived credibility. International Business Research, 6. doi:10.5539/ibr.v6n3p58

Articles and Press Releases

Another form of marketing includes article writing, press releases, guest posting, and video blogging. Consider attending local group events to link up with blog writers and journalists to see if there is an opportunity for you to work together. By attending these events and getting to know local writers, you can build a list of contacts for both writing and distributing your content. You can also find local groups using many resources including Meetup.com, BNI, conferences, trade shows, and by simply asking friends and colleagues for suggestions. In addition to local distribution methods, you should look to distribute your releases within e-mail newsletters, RSS feeds, and using social media networks. Your business should not only release news of big events and happenings within the company, but should also share stories of awards, conferences, products, and other unique marketplace events and activities.

Locations and facilities

Your Location Matters

Most online only businesses operate in an online space so a physical location may not be needed. However, your location still affects your business’s marketing efforts even as an online company.

For example, if your company is located within the state of Texas, but seeking to do business in New York or another, you need to make certain that your website addresses the concerns of each target customers’ location

Things to consider:

  • Is your location/website convenient (address / online address)
  • Is it consistent with your brand image?
  • Is it what customers want and expect?
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