How to Keep Your Brand Fresh and RelevantConsumers are a notoriously fickle species. What they absolutely love today will bore or annoy them tomorrow. That’s why no brand—however established and well known—can afford to rest on its laurels.

So says Michael Olguin, contributor to Inc. and president of Formula PR. Over time, he contends brands become stale and irrelevant “unless they reinvent themselves to be current.”

This re-invention can take many forms—a new marketing campaign, product innovation, or a radically different product value proposition.

“The first step is for brands to recognize their importance in this ever-changing consumer marketplace,” Olguin says.

Here are tips to stay fresh and relevant.

Keep Your Brand Fresh and Relevant

Look to the Horizon

The dynamics of the marketplace are always in flux, so it’s necessary to be prepared to adapt to changing circumstances and have a vision that encompasses what’s next on the horizon.

This applies even to world-class brands. “Even Apple, the brand that could seemingly do no wrong, is being questioned about its future innovation,” Olguin notes. Need we point out if the Apple brand is vulnerable, so is every other brand on the planet?

Find Out What Consumers Want

A common trap for popular brands is the belief their success means they know what their target customers want. Says Olguin, “This is a HUGE problem and it happens all the time."

Never assume you can think for your customers. Instead, make use of every communication platform at your disposal to ask them questions. Gather information through social media, research groups, surveys, etc., to stay on top of ever-changing consumer preferences.

Always Innovate

In the automobile industry, a high premium is placed on innovation. Doing something new—particularly something that anticipates changing consumer demand—marks a great opportunity for people to discover your brand for the first time, or re-energize those who are already familiar.

This doesn't mean abandoning what’s worked before. “However, the right kind of innovation can turn you into front-page news, which will ensure your brand stays relevant,” Olguin says.

Explore New Distribution Options

Knowing consumers buy online in greater numbers than ever before, can you devise ways to breathe new life into your retail distribution channels? What about creative opportunities to make your product more available to your target audience (straight to consumers, direct-response television)? Use your imagination to explore different options.

Never Say “We’d Never do That!”

The consumer buying process is utterly different than it was a decade ago, Olguin notes. “What made you successful then might be completely irrelevant today.” Don’t ignore someone’s idea about brand re-invention because “it’s something we’d never do” or because “it won’t work for our brand.” Consider all ideas with a “Why not?” attitude.

As consumer habits change, your brand has to change with them. The good news is, this effort can open up all kinds of previously unimagined opportunities for business growth.

How do you keep your brand fresh and relevant?

Managing Business Growth to Avoid FailureEvery business depends on growth to succeed. That's why CEOs and business owners focus so much of their daily efforts on how best to grow their enterpriseBut there’s also risk in too much growth—that's why managing business growth is essential.

Whether you define growth as making key investments, identifying and penetrating your core customer base, or scaling operations to see a profit, “growth is also about slowing down,” say Karl Stark and Bill Stewart, contributors to Inc. If your business experiences too much growth or it grows by acquiring the wrong type of customers, the result can be failure—just as surely as if there was no growth at all. Managing business growth takes some finesse.

Stark and Stewart are managing directors and co-founders of Avondale Strategic Partners, a Chicago-based advisory firm that focuses on growing companies. When strategizing about managing business growth for your company, they suggest keeping a few key factors in mind. (more…)

Identify a Customer's Needs for Better SalesA customer's needs and buying habits are often a mystery to sales teams, and the businesses they represent. But a recent study from the Rain Group identifies 10 things most customers want—a useful guide shared by Geoffrey James, contributor to Inc.

Businesses striving to meet a customer's needs must be very good at the following actions and processes.

 Offer Fresh Ideas to Customers

Customers wouldn’t need to purchase your solutions to their problems if they could come up with them on their own.

When they look to your business, it’s because they hope they’ll benefit from your fresh perspective. When you think about a customer's needs from that perspective, the fresh ideas funnel begins to flow.

 A Willingness to Collaborate

Customers are looking for a partner to help them achieve a goal. They’re not looking for someone to sell to them.

Be responsive to their concerns, and willing to work together on solutions. “Ideally, customers want you to be integral to their success,” James writes.

Be Confident You’ll Get Results

Unless you truly believe what you have to offer will help them reach their goal, customers won’t want what you’re selling. Part of your challenge is persuading them with the utmost confidence in your product or solution.

“You must make your confidence contagious.”

Listen to a Customer's Needs

Customers can tell when you’re selling  instead of listening.

It’s difficult to shut off your “inner-voice” and discard your well-crafted sales pitch, but unless you show that it’s all about them, customers will turn away.

Listen to a customer's needs and sales will happen...more quickly than anticipated.

Understand Everything About Customers

Your job is to understand a customer's needs often transcend the most immediate problem they face. Connect with them in a comprehensive way, not merely the narrow buy-and-sell formula.

As James says, customers must “understand how buying from you will satisfy their personal needs, such as career advancement and security.”

Help Customers Minimize Risk

When customers decide to purchase your product or service, they’re taking a conscious risk. Address this by clearly identifying what might go wrong, and how you’re prepared to ensure the problem won’t happen again.

Offer a “Compelling Solution”

Yes, customers continue to want a workable solution to their problem. But as James notes, “this is the ‘price of entry’ and not enough, by itself, to win in a competitive sales situation.”

Be Upfront About the Sales Process

The issues that matter most to customers, such as price, discounts, total cost, and add-on options, should be discussed in “plain and simple language.”

What does the potential purchase involve? How will it take place?

Customers do not want to be surprised by last-minute upsells.

Make a Personal Connection

A sale won’t happen if the two people involved don’t connect on a personal level.

The old truism still holds: Customers would rather buy from someone they like and trust.

Provide Value Unmatched

Customers will compare the price of your product with what your competitors offer. Unless they can see how the value of your offering is what sets it apart, they will likely buy elsewhere.

Identifying these ten qualities is a good first step. Becoming superlative at them is the necessary next step.

Which of your customer's needs can you identify?


Get to Know and Protect Your Vital Few CustomersWe have all heard the term “80-20 rule,” which postulates that 20 percent of causes drive 80 percent of results.

It is also called the “Pareto principle,” named for an Italian economist who noted that 20 percent of the people in his country owned 80 percent of the wealth.

Victor Ho, CEO and co-founder of FiveStars, and a contributor to Inc., believes there is a similar “vital few” when it comes to your customers. Armed with this knowledge, Ho contends, business owners can take a few simple steps to maximize their customer base.

Our company analyzed data from thousands of small businesses and our observation is that on average 20 percent of a small business’s customers drive over 72 percent of their visits.

By “vital few,” he is talking about customers who visited these businesses more than 10 times. These are the people who drive “the vast majority of visits and thus revenue for these small businesses.”

According to Ho, the implications of this analysis are three-fold. (more…)

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