Why Establishing Your Brand as an Authority is a Top Goal

With every piece of marketing collateral you create, you’re essentially trying to accomplish two key goals. Yes, you’re always trying to inform members of your audience about the products or services that you offer – or the ones that you’re about to launch. But at the same time, you need to do something much more powerful. Something that, if executed correctly, can help guarantee that yours is a brand with the ability to stand the test of time.

You need to establish your brand as an authority – not just in the context of what you have to offer, but within the larger sense of the industry that you’re operating in. If this isn’t already one of your top goals, it should be for a number of essential reasons.

The Power of Brand Authority

To better understand the importance of brand authority, consider the following two statistics. According to one study, 45% of your brand’s image (meaning what people think and feel when they encounter it) can ultimately be attributed to both what you say and how you say it. More importantly, the same study revealed that 54% of people don’t trust brands at all.

The most critical thing to understand about this is that brand authority is not something that you can give yourself. The majority of people who don’t trust brands don’t do so because the brands told them not to – it’s because those brands failed to live up to their promises one too many times. It’s because they didn’t have anything to offer beyond a sales pitch. It’s because those brands weren’t able to connect with their audience in an emotional, raw, and ultimately genuine way.

Because those brands failed to understand that brand authority really has to do with your larger reputation – it’s that kernel of trust that you don’t give yourself, but that others give to you.

It’s also not something that you’re going to be able to build in a day. It’s less the product of one major move and more about a series of smaller ones. It’s something that grows slowly, every time you choose to partner with a charity on community outreach or make your presence known at some type of local event. It’s something that grows inside your audience every time they see a piece of collateral that isn’t just a product spec sheet, but that offers true insight and information in a way that helps them even if they don’t make a sale.

When built properly over time, it’s also something that makes it easier than ever to not only keep the customers you already have satisfied but to bring new ones into the fold as well. This will invariably translate into a sense of “when the time comes and I do choose to make a purchase with this particular brand, I can rest easy knowing that it is money well spent.”

In the End

Ultimately, establishing your brand as an authority should be a top goal because it allows you to become more than just the products you sell or the services you provide. When your customers have a question, they come to you for the answer. When they want to learn more about a related topic, their first thought is to go to you for the education they seek. When you do launch a new product or service, they’re interested in what you have to offer because there is a level of trust that exists between you that they don’t have in other relationships.

This is why brand authority is so important – because it lets you become more than “just another company” and provides you with a level of authenticity that can take a standard audience and turn them into a loyal army of passionate advocates before you know it.

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The Magic of Dialogue

Who doesn’t love a great conversation? There’s something compelling about swapping stories, sharing hurts, and multiplying joys as we connect together each day. Companies are finding the catalyst to true connection often comes through listening.

Marketing and editorial strategists Michelle Horowitz and Kendall Meade believed so strongly in conversation that they launched an entire online platform called InTELLects to grow real-life interactions that promote conversation, creativity, and community:

“I’m energized by making connections and asking people deeper questions,” says Michelle. “It’s how I learn, and it’s how I grow.”

InTELLects features notable leaders, thinkers, and change agents, building a community of mentors and offering users the chance to ask questions – any questions – to grow the collective conversation. The co-founders believe authentic discussions pave pathways to clarity, grow existing communities, and instigate this new universal truth: “ask, and you shall succeed.” InTELLects is promoting a paradigm shift that’s moving companies away from “shoving a sales pitch” and toward authentic customer engagement.

The Critical Surfing “Slow Down”

In today’s complex ecosystem, marketers are realizing that consumer engagement (or return on EXPERIENCE) is a long-term, holistic measure of a customer’s encounter with a brand. Engagement includes any action a customer takes to connect with a company: downloading an app, participating in a forum, or referring products to friends. Engagement brings significantly greater return than website traffic, as researchers report that attention span in “surfing” is typically less than nine seconds per page.

How can we slow people down? Horowitz says asking questions is a wonderful place to start.

“True engagement stems from building a place where people can honestly learn, share, and engage,” she said. InTELLects believes that real conversations transcend the noise and forge emotional connections.

Through digital channels, today’s entrepreneurs have powerful tools to create highly personalized relationships. While community forums have been around for ages, expanding social networks like LinkedIn Groups and Google+ Communities offer a chance to connect with customers and ask questions that can build emotional connections that last. Recent data shows that 68 percent of audiences spent more than 15 percent of their time reading the comments section of a story – revealing the allure of dialogue to build powerful community connection.

Growing the Conversation

As you seek to build your own “conversational opportunities,” here are a few questions to consider:

1. What does your target audience connect with?

2. What questions do they have about your product?

3. What is their favorite feature of your business?

4. Where can you proactively predict what they want to stay ahead of the design curve?

5. What educational or training gaps could your company offer on their behalf?

6. What are some practical questions you could pose to gain insights in these areas?

Need ideas to get you started? Grab your team and brainstorm how you might:

  • Host a contest
  • Promote customer achievements on your own social media page
  • Allow your VIP customers to co-create content
  • Host webinars or events
  • Make someone your “brand ambassador” for the month
  • Allow users to have fun, like the Reddit community did in its season-long Fat Tire experience

As technology barrels ahead, one of our own goals is to keep people at the forefront. Whether it’s online forums, beautifully handcrafted printing, or just the face-to-face interactions we have with you every day, we believe nothing trumps relationships. We enjoy hearing about your own questions and ideas, and we look forward to serving you this year. Let’s keep talking!

7 Reasons Why Data is Important for Your Business

In 1854, the idea of clean sanitation in London was generally non-existent in the urban setting. There was no such thing as running water; average people had to get their water supply daily from a local street hand pump. As a result, pests and disease spread quickly, which was the case with a cholera outbreak in London’s Soho district at the time.

Focus In on the Problem

At first, no one could quite figure how cholera was infecting people, and the common thought blamed vapors or people’s breathing. John Snow, a doctor already well established in London circles and practice, focused on a hypothesis that cholera was spread by shared water. However, many of the other doctors and officials thought a water-borne disease idea was a silly concept.

Because the authorities at the time needed convincing with greater evidence and the local cholera epidemic was spreading and killing more and more, Snow devised the idea of taking already known data and combining it with a local map. He already knew from public health records who had become sick with cholera and died as well as their home addresses. Snow mapped their locations in relation to local water supplies.

Interpret the Results

By creating the spatial relationship, Snow was objectively able to display that the cluster of cholera infections in 1854 was within close proximity to one water source – the Broad Street Water Pump. Using this information, Snow then convinced the local city authorities to remove the pump handle, making it inoperative. With the source gone, the cholera infections soon died down, and Snow’s hypothesis was supported.

Business Lessons You Can Glean

So how does John Snow’s smart use of existing data teach us valuable lessons about managing a business? There are 7 gems to glean from his example:

  1. Business data is all around us and can be used for far more than just one purpose if we open our eyes to see how it can be used.
  2. Data behaves in trends and patterns which, frequently, can help make solid business predictions about what is to come.
  3. A company needs both access to its data regularly as well as the right tools to make the information valuable and useful. Too often businesses have one or the other but miss their opportunities because no one has connected the dots so to speak.
  4. Staff need to be trained to think outside the box. The reason Snow was successful was due to the fact that he didn’t follow traditional convention. He asked “why.”
  5. Management has to be willing to listen to alternative options based on good data. London city authorities were locked up in old-fashioned ideas about cholera until Snow showed them obvious connections of disease spread.
  6. Data comes in lots of different shapes and forms. Standardization is key to allowing useful data to be pulled across different operations. Snow had to combine public death records, maps, stories, and authority information in one combined grid to make it useful.
  7. Keep it simple, stupid. Snow didn’t transform his data into an archaic medical thesis. He produced useful information on a simply everyday map that everyone could understand quickly and easily.

Existing business data can be a gold mine for marketing and business strategy if companies are willing to actively take advantage of what they have. That requires an open mind, good skillsets in data interpretation, and a management team that can act quickly on opportunities as they become apparent.

A Single Red Feather

It was a brilliant start to a lasting legacy. Conference organizers work hard to stage successful events, helping worldwide professionals network in meaningful ways, with long-lasting benefits. One international conference intentionally introduced certain attendees online before their event. But there was a problem. How would this cohort take their connection offline in a sea of 8,000+ people?

Perhaps a simple, visible strategy would work: these participants placed a single red feather in their name badge. Red feather attendees committed to seek each other out in friendly, approachable, non-threatening ways. By the close of the conference, curiosity and goodwill drove hundreds of new people to request a red feather and to join this informal circle of friends. Why? Because everyone needs a great network to lean on!

Collect Relationships, Not Just Business Cards

Networking is important! A recent LinkedIn study revealed that 70 percent of people in 2016 were hired at a company where they had a previous connection. But while 80 percent of professionals consider networking to be important to career success, 38 percent said they find it hard to stay connected to (or in touch with) their network.

How can you grow or maintain your personal networking tree beyond online networks like LinkedIn or Meetup? It doesn’t have to be difficult! Even simple steps like participating in webinars, attending conferences, volunteering your time locally, or actively following and commenting on your alumni newsletters can forge and strengthen connections. As one Cornell MBA reflects, “the concept is to stay connected even when you don’t need to, so when the time comes for that extra spark, your network will be able to ignite you on your path.”

Beyond the enjoyment networks bring, a web of professional relationships can be leveraged for great gain. As you strengthen bonds with a specific pool of people, you can enhance the quality of your services, increase customer retention, and gain important contacts and sales opportunities that you might never have accessed otherwise.

While many of us dread the idea of traditional networking, we often forget that building alliances is about collecting friends, not business cards. Remember, your goal is to come to know and enjoy people. If you’ve chosen relationships wisely, it should be fun to learn from others, gain management ideas and advice, and to spur on another’s profit and performance. As you and your colleagues update and encourage one another, the hope is that, ultimately, you’ll become each other’s salespeople!

Local Business Networks Bring Life

Another natural way to overcome networking barriers is to intentionally sow into local business relationships. Local business networks are a refreshing antidote to the isolation we often experience in today’s culture. A thriving local business community helps each of us because it empowers us to grow in our goals, to access important relationships, to collaborate on custom solutions, and to bring inspiration or motivation on the days we need it most.

The Best Employee Benefit

“Quality is much better than quantity.
One home run is much better than two doubles.”
– Steve Jobs

The Best Employee Benefit

Work is life, and life is work. While most people wouldn’t say work defines them, employment certainly influences the pleasure or pain we experience. The average individual will spend more than 90,000 hours working in their lifetime. But we’re not necessarily enjoying it. Up to 80% of people are dissatisfied and 40% of people say their job is “very or extremely stressful.” Since work is a fundamental part of our existence, shouldn’t we seek to enjoy it more?

Millennials seem to think so; in fact, 60% of 2015 grads would rather work for a company with a positive social atmosphere even if it meant a lower paycheck. People are recognizing that today’s best jobs include not only great salaries and benefits but also a positive experience of fun and fulfillment. When employees are energized and engaged, they produce higher quality work. Keep in mind that over 80% of employees in Fortune 100’s “Best Companies to Work For” said they work in a fun environment!

Bringing More Joy to the Job

A recent experiment by the University of Warwick tested the effect of fun on workplace productivity. Organizers randomly selected 700 individuals and showed them a series of 10-minute comedy clips or provided them with refreshments. After verifying that these opportunities brought a feeling of “happiness,” employee productivity was tracked through various tasks. For those with happiness triggers, productivity increased by an average of 12 percent. In some cases, it rose as high as 20 percent! For a business to thrive, an enjoyable workplace is essential, so how can we bring more joy to the job?

“Customers will never love a company until its employees love it first.”
–Simon Sinek, author of “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action”

The physical environment is a critical component. An Arcadis study of 2016 Trends in the Workplace found that “staying well at work” was a primary focus of companies seeking to keep their employees happy and healthy. This included prioritizing work areas that were physically safe, aesthetically pleasing, psychologically nourishing, with several fascinating tips on how to craft well-designed workspaces which have a positive effect on mood, well-being, and productivity.

From birthday bashes to walking meetings and break-time trivia competitions, employers are also injecting more fun into each day. Manisha Priyadarshan, from Sparks experiential marketing, said employees should look forward to coming each day, so one of their core company values is, “work should be fun.” Here’s what that looks like at Sparks:

  • “We run a program called “Mix & Mingle”: employees selected from different departments have lunch and get to know each other. We also run a program called “Food4Thought”, where employees can learn more about Sparks over lunch by hearing presentations from people in each department.”
  • “HR runs a program called “TedEd”: an hour-long live session including a screening of a Sparks-relevant Ted Talk followed by a round-table discussion.”
  • “We have bimonthly “Flash Contests” to inspire people to think about our company’s codes, i.e. send a story of a time when “the client’s problem was your opportunity.”
  • “We’ve hosted a number of fun events: Chili Cook-off, Halloween Party, Holiday Party, Valentine’s Cupcake decorating, Mini March Madness, Earth Day, and Summer BBQs.”
  • “We have recently implemented a Bring Your Dog to Work committee, where a select panel of dog owners and dog lovers will help decide which employees’ pets would make great workday partners by spending a day at the office.”

Looking for more ideas on employee recognition or workplace rewards? Give us a call!