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As marketers, understanding the basics of brand management is imperative. Brand management is the strategy and analysis behind how the public perceives your brand.

It is a challenge to stay true to your product, mix it up with the consumer insights about the brand, and to ultimately come up with the right formula for your brand’s perception.

To illustrate, I’ll use the data and insights I’ve gathered for an Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) Campaign I designed for a (fictional) airline company.

This data and the details about the airline are examples to help you better understand this concept.

Know Your Product Truth

Product truth is the basic essence of your product. It is the need your product answers. As the brand manager, you should know the intrinsic value and overall makeup of the brand you manage.

After all, how can you sell something you don’t understand? Here are a few sample questions you should be able to answer: Why should consumers buy my product? What is the main competitive advantage that sets my product apart from similar products? What need does my product satisfy?

I’ll explain more using the IMC campaign I’ve created for our airline brand.

All airlines have a similar job – to transport a passenger from point A to point B.

So the main challenge is we want to set our airline apart from the rest. First, we identified the niche we wanted to target. Since we were able to identify early on that we are a luxury airline, and not a budget airline, our main competitive advantage is that our airline provides luxury, premium services to its passengers. We provide gourmet snacks, unlimited champagne onboard, and VIP customer service. Usually, a vacation starts when you reach the destination right? But we want our passengers to immediately relax and enjoy, the moment they step on our plane.

Usually, a vacation starts when you reach the destination, right? But we want our passengers to immediately relax and enjoy the moment they step on our plane.

I have formulated a statement to encapsulate this truth:

Airline XYZ is a leisure airline that provides premium customer service throughout a convenient and stress-free journey.

It is on point, states what the brand is, what need it answers, and the competitive advantage the brand has that sets it apart from its competitors.

Defining this truth for your brand is just the first step. Next, you need to integrate it with how your customers perceive your brand.

How to Manage a Brand

To know how customers perceive the brand, we’ve ‘conducted’ research to understand what their insights are about our made up airline. Here are some of the findings:

Even though the airline brand is the newest in the market, 60% have awareness of the brand
46% fly with our brand because of its premium customer service
92% of those who have not tried our airline brand are willing to try

We wanted to measure the level of awareness the consumers have of our brand. And, at least 60% of polled consumers had heard of our brand! As a new airline, with competitors who have more than 10-40 years in the market, this is a good measure of how well the brand can penetrate the airline industry.

46% of the airline’s passengers choose to fly with us because of the premium customer service that we provide. This is consistent with the product truth stated above – that the airline brand provides premium customer service.

Another promising consumer insight is 92% of the respondents are willing to try the airline, which is very reassuring, and motivating, to say the least. It also poses a very good metric of how well the market can be penetrated.

Now that we know how the public views our brand and how we want to portray our brand, we need to put these two together.

Formulate a Clear ‘Big Idea’

The Big Idea is the product truth + consumer insights. Based on the product truth and consumer findings above, we can then come up with our Big Idea that should be the driver behind how we portray ourselves.

Airline XYZ takes you to your dream destination through a guaranteed stress-free journey.

Our big idea states what our brand is, and combines that with how the market perceives it. This Big Idea will then be mirrored in all marketing communications, and should consistently be conveyed in the product positioning, and messaging.

Roll Out Cohesive IMC Recommendations

The Big Idea will then be rolled out to various communication channels where the target audience is. Based on the initial research, the target market’s media profile are in the tri-media, and new media channels. Traditional advertising media should be included—print, tv, and radio, together with new media channels such as social media, and online digital marketing activities.

Traditional advertising media should be included in this—print, tv, and radio, together with new media channels such as social media, and online digital marketing activities. Both old and new channels should echo the same, consistent message.

What is Brand Fascination?

Formulating an integrated marketing communications for a brand, like the one I laid out here, requires extensive research. A proper and effective strategy should also be employed. One good measure is to assess how your product or service is most likely to captivate customers is through brand fascination.

If you can find a way to make your brand fascinating by hooking people’s attention so they can’t stop thinking or talking about your brand, then you have a massive competitive advantage in a crowded marketplace.

Marketers must realize that, as Sally Hogshead says, “Being different is better than being better.” The brands that are most successful are those who are different. That difference is the greatest competitive advantage you can have.

Source:  https://www.searchenginejournal.com/manage-a-brand/163942/?ver=163942X2

Categorized in Business Research

There is a common belief in the angel and venture capital community that you put your money on the best team, rather than the best idea. Thus the top priority of every entrepreneur who wants funding should be to build and highlight their “dream team” of co-founders, executives and advisers, to attract the biggest and best investors. Solo entrepreneurs rarely find an investor.

In my angel investor mode, I often find myself flipping to the “management” section of a business plan, even before I read the solution description and opportunity. Imagine my lack of excitement if that section is missing, or it’s basically a list of names and titles that I don’t recognize. To win, you need to tell your best story and highlight how the team hits any and all of the following points:

1. Prior entrepreneurial wins and losses.

Building a startup business is not the same as corporate executive experience, so prior titles in a big business may actually be seen as a negative. On the other hand, having failed in an earlier startup may be an advantage, if positioned properly, and some learning is evident. Focus on prior results, not titles.

2. Business credentials and functional coverage.

If your team has a depth of expertise in software, that won’t help you get funding for a new hardware solution. Even if your product is a technological marvel, I look for balanced strength on the team in finance, marketing and operations. Fill in gaps with expert advisors to make it whole.

3. Team members have investor relationships.

Investors talk to each other and they love warm introductions to up-and-coming entrepreneurs. Investors are usually smart business people who love to be asked for guidance and direction, before they are asked for money. Do your networking with investors well before the funding pitch.

4. Executives exude confidence and energy.

Investors all know that the startup road is long and hard, so they look for people who have put and will continue to put “skin in the game” -- time, sweat equity, and money. They look for passion and optimism and more importantly, the willingness to listen, learn and get things done. 

5. Able to communicate on every level.

It starts with having a vision and an ability to get the message across in your elevator pitch, in a written business plan and one-on-one with potential investors. Fundable entrepreneurs have to feel comfortable talking and listening to engineers, financial people, marketing and especially customers.

6. Relish the challenges of problem solving.

Startup leaders have to be relentlessly resourceful in overcoming obstacles and competition. Investors look for “street smarts,” or examples that didn’t come from a school book or a corporate process. When pitching to investors, weave in real-life stories of your best past creative solutions.

7. Not afraid to make a decision.

Investors are wary of “equal partners,” who may jeopardize a timely decision. They want to see decisions based on logic and backed up by emotion, rather than the other way around. They want to hear what you learned from the last economic downturn and the last funding shortfall.

Ironically, investors see funding opportunities correlated to past successes, rather than future success dependent on funding. Thus, it’s more important to highlight what you have done that demonstrates your team’s potential, rather than talking about how great it will be in the future. Investor focus is on facilitating the scaling of a startup, after you have proven the business model. 

If you are new to the entrepreneur funding game, like Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin were back in 2001, it pays to bring in a CEO such as Eric Schmidt to find investors, who was well-known to the investment community for his accomplishments at Sun Microsystems and Novell. Now, of course, Page and Brin have that same credibility with their successes at Google.

Dream team startups rarely just happen -- they are the work of a diligent entrepreneur, who understands personal strengths and weaknesses and are not too proud to ask for help and offer a chunk of their startup equity in return. Even if you are not looking for external funding, the same team principles apply, since you are your own biggest investor. Build your dream team early.

 

Source:  https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/276933

Categorized in Business Research

When it comes to startups, if you’re not growing…you’re moving backwards. No matter how good of a product or idea it might have , a business will not succeed without sales. While investing in Facebook ads, capitalizing on SEO trends and writing great content can help bring in sales, your revenue comes from closing big deals.

Closing large deals requires much more than a few cold calls and sales tactics. The deals are bigger, and therefore the requirements and scrutiny are also higher process.

So how does a startup position itself to close deals with the biggest companies in their space? Here is a list of factors that will help you quickly improve your business development efforts and close B2B deals with big companies.

1. Reach out by every means possible.

A warm introduction is the best way to reach a contact but we don’t always have that luxury. Luckily, social media searches can help you get in front of your contact.

Use LinkedIn to search the name of the company and the words that describe the title, role or division of the person you need to meet. Include words like “venture”, “innovations” and “new technologies,” as those teams can be responsible for onboarding new technology. Send a personalized invitation.

Another successful trick is to search for alumni from your university who work at the same company. Ask them for an introduction to the right person or department.

2. Build a product they can trust with their brand.

The best companies cannot afford to tarnish their brand. They avoid taking chances on a product that they don’t trust. You need to pass the “trust” test.

To do this, start with a product of superior quality and value. There’s no way around this. Do not compromise on any part of the production quality or user experience while developing your product.

My friend Andrew Thomas, co-founder of SkyBell and one of the top entrepreneurs in the Internet of Things industry, has closed deals with the biggest brands in their space, including Honeywell, Amazon, Nest and Alarm.com. While positioning their video doorbell product, Thomas found success by over-sharing a commitment to their brand.

“We explicitly stated how serious we regarded their brand and worked with their quality control teams to affirm our product quality.” His advice, “prove to them them that they can trust you with their brand.”

Related: PageRank Is Dead. What Marketers Need Now Is Trust Flow.

3. Ask questions and listen.

Sales boils down to our ability to quickly gain information about the prospective partner and their needs. The best way to do this is by asking good questions and letting your prospect do most of the talking. Asking questions leads your prospect to tell you what they want, how they want it and when they need it. Then you can frame your responses to accurately address their needs. It’s far better than trying to “pitch” them on your product.

It sounds simple, yet produces results. The key is to truly listen to them. Resist the urge to always focus on what you’ll say next. Also, don’t interrupt or speak for them. This helps you build strong rapport based on trust and respect – and helps you be more likable. 

4. Create a vision built on mutual purpose.

At big companies, decisions are made by many people of various authority levels in multiple divisions. Success requires that you not only sell your contact on your product – but that you are so clear in defining a value proposition that your contact can then sell the idea to other key people in their organization.

How do you do this? Co-create a vision built on mutual purpose. Work with your contact to define the value proposition in the present and future – with the most amount of clarity possible. Business partnerships work best when your contact owns the solution as much as you do. 

5. Don’t sign a deal that harms you.

It’s easy to get carried away when you’re working with the biggest companies in your space. The volumes are bigger, there are more users and the orders tend to have more zeroes. It’s harder to say, “No.” This is something that hurt our company badly. We are in the credit card payments space. We landed a major client in our first few weeks of launching our company. We eneded up losing money because we weren't sure of everything we were doing. It almost dragged us under.

Resist the temptation to say “yes” to everything. It will do you no good to over-extend yourself and go out of business, which is common with these types of deals. Sometimes it’s the deals you don’t do that are the best decisions you’ll make. 

Here are some common land mines to consider:

Exclusivity – Unless 1+1 = 3, avoid granting a partner with exclusivity for certain markets, timing, features or product.

Ramp-ups and lead times – Define a ramp-up schedule to pace your delivery of product and define lead times to properly manage your manufacturing. Big companies can “kill you with kindness” by ordering large amounts of product that you can’t fulfill in time.

Consignment – If you have hardware, consignment is rarely a good idea. You want firm purchase orders before you go build large volumes of product.
Profitability – Unless you are funded as a high-growth customer acquisition model, don’t take a loss on product sales just to placate a big partner.

6. Be patient.

Closing deals with big companies can take a long time. There will be many times when the deal loses momentum. Remain patient and keep a long-term outlook. “We all think we're persuasive, but sometimes there isn’t much you can do for a deal except be patient, polite and present,” says Thomas.

While times are slow, you should reach out every four to six weeks to provide an update. Send emails with news, press coverage, awards and anything else that will keep them excited about your product. While this may seem annoying, it keeps them in contact and aware of everything you're doing.

Effective business development efforts bring in the revenue and strategic positioning you need for long-term success. A business development leader must be willing to prospect, handle rejection and keep going. They must create trust with their counterparts and create a vision that results in profitable outcomes for both sides – and then get both sides to act on it. The success of the business depends on it. 

Source:  https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/277144

Categorized in Business Research

Let’s start with the difference between a business partner and a co-founder.

There are no real strict rules here but this is generally how I look at it. A co-founder implies that they started from the very beginning with you. Maybe you collectively came up with the idea. A business partner may be someone that joined at any time, even after the business has already been going.

Usually business partners are people involved with the business on a level that they help make major decisions, and get an equal share depending on how many partners are involved. Co-founder could be the same or could be someone that get less than an equal share depending on their exact role.

Sometimes those two roles can blend and the difference between the two is not really the point of this article, so I will be referring to both as business partner from here out.

1. Don’t become partners with a mirror image, instead find someone that compliments you

A business partner should usually be someone that can do things that you can’t. That way as a team you can tackle more things before you need to go and hire someone.

People often make the mistake of finding mirror images of themselves. I prefer to hire mirror images of myself rather than partner with them. And my business partners are people that have strengths that make up for my weaknesses, and vise versa.

There could be some exceptions in certain businesses where a mirror image of yourself might work, but in my experience that’s usually not the formula for success.

2. Weed out the lazy people that don’t want to work

When you are initially looking for a business partner, understand that a lot of people are all talk. They will talk and talk but never actually roll up their sleeves and do anything. This isn’t always a bad thing, but make sure you know what you are signing up for.

In fact, make sure you spell it out too. Generally people draft up “operating agreements” that explain the roles of each person, whether they get mutual shares or not, and what happens if things go wrong. It’s important to have this for handling disputes. You can hire a lawyer to handle this or go to a site like LawDepot.com and find one mostly pre-drafted.

I’ve encountered a lot of businesses where they didn’t realize until after they started that one of the partners was not the “hands on” type, and in a bootstrapped startup scenario that can be extremely detrimental.

Often times you need to partner with people that will do whatever it takes to succeed, and ready to roll up their sleeves. And if they don’t do anything or live up to their end of the bargain, they are out.

3. Avoid money disagreements by spelling it out ahead of time

Disputes revolving around money are usually the most common. Figure it out ahead of time exactly what the plan is there and who gets what. Make sure that everyone has to work to get paid.

Also decide on how the company plans to use it’s money to grow. Avoid partnering with people that want to pay all of their friends, unless their friends happen to be the best people for the job, and then still be weary.

Make sure to put everything in writing.

4. Be cautious when mixing business with pleasure

I would admit that most people I partner with in business are or become personal friends as well. That’s not necessarily a good thing, it can be both good and bad.

The good is that it can deepen your bond with that person and when things go well, it’s a lot more fun to be working with that person who may now be your friend.

As a friend, you may feel the urge to tell them a little bit more than you would strictly a business partner.

If there’s a dispute of any kind, it can make things messy. If you have opened up to that person about personal things going on in your life outside of business, they can often times throw them in your face later.

I’ve made that mistake many times and opened up to business partners about other things that I was involved with outside of that business, and they came back to throw them in my face.

If you are an entrepreneur that is involved in many business projects, it may not be appropriate to share everything you do with your business partner. It could create resentment or look like you aren’t focusing enough, when in reality it may not be the case at all, just their perception or fear.

5. Handle disagreements before they become major problems

Inevitability you will come to a point where you disagree on something. Having a reasonable way to handle those disagreement is vitally important.

Compromise is the name of the game here. When something is not that big of a deal for you but your partner feels adamant about going a particular direction that you may not 100% agree with but can live with, that’s when you can compromise.

The trick is ensuring that you have a business partner that mutually respects you, so that when you feel strongly about something and they don’t, then they agree to handle it your way.

6. Roles may change in time, have an understanding of what happens if a partner drops out

People lose focus and it’s not uncommon for someone to drop out and do something else instead. Sometimes entrepreneurship is not for everyone and they want to do something else or can’t take the heat of being an entrepreneur. It’s ok, not everyone is cut out for this. I don’t know anyone personally, but some people love 9-5s, having 8 bosses, daily TPS reports, and printers that don’t work to complain about to get them through the day.

The last thing you want to do is pay someone a salary or percentage if they drop out and stop working, if that wasn’t the original intended deal.

7. Having a business partner is not always the right move

Sometimes you don’t need a business partner, plain and simple. A business partner can be a great thing, but as you can see form this post, there are also a lot of things that could go wrong.

If you have enough funding, it may make more sense to start the business yourself and hire people instead. That gives you ultimate control and less potential for disputes or disagreements, since in a 1 man show you are the ultimate authority.

Conversely, if you don’t have enough funding and you need someone else to put in sweat equity with you, then a business partner might be a great idea.

Here are some of the key takeaways:

  • Avoid partnering with a mirror image of yourself unless you have a very good reason for it.
  • Avoid lazy partners.
  • Agree on matters relating to money beforehand and make an agreement.
  • Be cautious when mixing business with pleasure.
  • Be willing to compromise and let your partner be right or do it their way sometimes. Demand mutual respect.
  • Know what happens if someone drops out or doesn’t do their end of the bargain, spell it out in writing.
  • It’s not always the right decision to take on a business partner.

Source: http://www.influencive.com/7-tips-will-help-find-perfect-business-partner-startup/

1. Don’t become partners with a mirror image, instead find someone that compliments you

Categorized in Business Research

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