How to manage your brand in an unpredictable digital economy

After the internet era, with a new flat world, CMOs need to think about how messages are interpreted across different markets to account for differences in geography, culture, language and especially variances in distribution. An easy concept, but hard to implement.

If you look back 100 years ago, brands were very product focused, then they become customer focused so communication & promotion strategies talked about what it meant to the customers. In the world of social media, its customers talking to other customers about the brand and thus you risk losing control of the message unless there is a very strong brand community such that customers are transferring the message in the way that the CMO wants. Unless the CMO positions the brand in a very strong way and understands its DNA, you run the risk of detrimental or vague things being said.

Sustaining an Advantage

The ideal approach is to plan the DNA for the long-term but its hard to predict what the world will look like even a day later, how competitors and suppliers respond and so the brand is constantly evolving in its space. The way around that is to:

• constantly monitor positioning,
• listen in on the customer voice,
• keeping the brand fresh,
• analyze what the competition is doing

To do all this with flair is to be market aware; there’s a lot of metrics in brand valuation and marketing professionals need to defend budgets with finance counterparts and to do that understanding the brand value is key and what the customers are saying underlying exposed statements. Allowing customers to use metaphors and pictures (non verbal communication) to express their feelings about the brand and what it represents is also a new outcome attainable from social media. The key components in achieving the consistent voice is the brand positioning so figuring out:

• frame of reference
• competitive set
• point of difference
• emotional and personal characteristics

The last point is critical. If you have a target user in mind, it helps hone in on one communication strategy and sharper focus so while everyone may own an Apple, the target user is someone who codes or designs for a living. This in no way limits who might buy the brand but provides a clearer vision of what that brand is. There can be no better guide than a very clear positioning and image for the brand. Research from Stanford’s Jennifer Aaker identified five brand traits: sincerity, excitement, competence, sophistication and ruggedness. If you have a brand voice within Facebook, is it a consistent voice that’s going and that’s another way of thinking about the personality of the brand.

Brand Building Challenges & Solutions

The first challenge is that it’s expensive and justifying the expense. Another challenge is change; the competition, market and finding a way to stay relevant within that change and so one of the mistakes my clients make is not thinking of themselves as a global brand leaving them limited in their vision & message. Keeping the brand modern, relevant and responsive (customer needs, market forces). Social media can be a great advantage in overcoming these challenges, with inexpensive community management measures for instance. There’s no stronger recommendation for a brand than one customer to another and an authentic message. On the other hand, brands have little control over the online communities.

Brand management principles that companies need to adopt is having customer focus, understanding them & how they think about the brand on the path to purchase. The second component to think about is your brand relative to the competition (positioning – simple, quick & compelling). The third principle is measurement and having a brand report with metrics identifying brand health and the outcomes communication or paid initiatives have in steering the conversation in a positive direction. Finally its important to think about how the brand can be used to launch more products and into different markets so instill a consistent communication mechanism – how to use logos, color, advertising, tactics for staying fresh.

A strong global brand that follows these guidelines enjoys instant recognition, has the ability to launch line products under itself, has high awareness, has high recall for a specific utility (Search=Google, Photocopy=Xerox), so a strong brand with a long-term and global approach gifts itself an enormous advantage.

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5 WeWork Members You Need to Know

Love beauty products? Then you’ll want to know more about Soko Glam, which recently sponsored its second annual Pop-Up Charity Sale at WeWork Nomad. All the featured products were handpicked by co-founder Charlotte Cho, author of The Little Book of Skincare. All proceeds benefitted Caring Kind, a nonprofit focused on Alzheimer’s and dementia.

WeWork Paddington member Jamie Gray recently had a brush with royalty. His company Buddy Burst―creator of eco-friendly promotional products―partnered with the global charity INTBAU by giving out its signature Seed Sticks at the organization’s World Congress. After the event, Gray was invited to present the product to the Prince of Wales at his private residence, Clarence House. Charles, founder of INTBAU, is a big fan of sustainable products.

Based in Denver’s WeWork Union Station, Inversoft has launched Passport, a modern identity and user management system. Passport helps manage features such as login, registration, security, password management, and more, helping free up developers to focus on their core product. Congratulations, Inversoft!

In Montreal, WeWork Place Ville Marie member James Stephan-Usypchuk of JSU Solutions knew that 2016 was going to be a big year for his company, but he didn’t realize just how good. When they tallied the numbers, revenue had grown 250% over the previous year. He wrote about his company’s tremendous growth―and what he learned from it―in this article on LinkedIn.

Vimbly, an activity booking platform based at WeWork Empire State, just launched its iOS app. Use it to find out the latest and greatest things to do in NYC.

Photo by Lauren Kallen

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11 Entrepreneurs Reveal How They Measure Success

Whether you’re a scrappy startup, an established corporation, or somewhere in between, figuring out how to measure your success is incredibly important. With more and more startups hitting the scene, and as more entrepreneurs and freelancers decide to go it alone, learning how to measure that success is a skill everyone should have.

We asked WeWork members how they measure success in their own businesses, and they gave us some great insights on what success looks like to each of them.

Question: Other than sales, how do you measure success?

Getting insights from users

If it's early on, any insight you get from your early adopters is just as valuable as conversions. Sales will come when you learn enough from your users to iterate, or pivot, and refine your product offering or message.

Gauging my team’s morale

Your team’s morale, passion, and shared vision. If a team can get excited over potential, and work hard without necessarily getting paid immediately, I feel like that's a metric for being well on the right track.

Asking ourselves the right questions

I judge our progress, not our ‘success,’ because we're still evolving. We have a simple test that we do: Do we still believe in our fundamental hypothesis and vision? Are we closer to realizing that vision than we were yesterday? Are we having fun? Are we solvent? If we can answer yes to those four questions, then we should keep going. Otherwise something needs to change (or if we're insolvent we need to start interviewing).  

Paying attention to key metrics

Ways of measuring the success of a startup other than sales can vary exponentially from company to company, industry to industry, business model to business model, and even from one geographical region to another. That being said, there are a number of key metrics that all startups should be factoring in when measuring their success: scalability; valuation; client satisfaction levels (the number of positive reviews versus number of clients); employee number growth; employee satisfaction; social media following; new markets entered; financial runway (the longer the better); and number of successful funding rounds versus valuation achieved.

Balancing work and play

For me, success is being able to have fun at work and the freedom to go skiing. In order to be successful, I also need to be creative. My business needs to help other people and I need to have pride in what I do. I'm a big skier and outdoor enthusiast. It kind of goes with Chris Remus' blog Just Rolling With It, but he's a road cyclist and I mountain bike down cliffs.

Understanding the big picture

Voluntary engagement is a sure sign that supporters are authentically excited about the brand. When I'm excited about a brand I'll “buffer” them, meaning share them from my social sharing dashboard to multiple networks.  When people respond to a hashtag or call-to-action for your brand or campaign by using it on social media, you've done something right. If supporters attend your events, it's a sign they are genuinely interested in your mission, message, or what you have created or designed. While each of these are measured in any number of ways, only brands that understand the big picture will be able to use this interest as a leap in the right direction.

Knowing how you got the sale

I measure by repeat/renewal clients and referrals—that shows me I am offering quality services. The sale is fine, but it is more about how I get the sale that I like to measure.

It’s all about retention vs. return

Other than sales, we measure our success by retention versus churn—how many customers are using our service and for how long versus customers who decide to leave. It's important to understand why customers choose to stop using our service: Is it product related? Is it related to support or technical issues, or are they not using the product correctly and not getting its full potential?

Realizing size doesn’t always matter

How engaged a startup’s social media network is can prove to be a key metric. Note that I did not mention size, because a startup can have 1,000 followers or even 100,000, but it only matters if those followers are engaged and active brand ambassadors.

Remembering passion is important

A lot of smaller startups are at a stage where they're hyper-focused on gaining user traction and engagement on their respective platforms. From my perspective, that's only a fraction of the factors contributing to the success of a company early on. I feel that laying a strong foundation within your team and having a shared passion for wanting to create something bigger is where the actual success comes. If you have this internally, it will translate to the overall growth of your company.

Knowing great ideas take time

One should not forget that if you are early to the market you might be working on something that, while it has great prospects in the future, simply might not be on a mass audiences' radar. Think Facebook, AirBnb, Uber, Snapchat. Only a decade ago one could not imagine that we would sleep in strangers' beds, call friends via Facebook video, or broadcast our lives using filters and stickers.
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Away from the Crowds, This Diamond Guy’s Business Sparkles

Neil Press has had a lot of jobs in his life, from snowboarding instructor to hedge fund recruiter. It turned out that diamonds were his real passion.

“I’m a diamond guy by trade,” says Press. “I do ‘privates,’ which is what they call private showings in the industry. People come to me looking for that perfect stone.”

He looked at other office spaces, but then a cousin mentioned a coworking space called WeWork. He looked at several buildings before he decided on an office at WeWork Grand Central.

“My wife and I were super interested as soon as we heard about WeWork,” says Press. “It turned out to be ideal for us.”

Others in the industry might wonder why he didn’t find a spot for AlyseRyan in New York’s crowded Diamond District, where more than 2,600 independent retailers compete for customers along a single block of 47th Street.

“I will tell you, most people in my business wouldn’t consider this a good spot,” Press says. “I disagreed with that, obviously. I don’t need a storefront. I need a place where it’s just me and the client—nobody coming in the door, no interruptions.”

When he’s seeing a client, he’ll often reserve a conference room. There he’ll unpack a leather bag filled with the tools of his trade: a variety of tweezers, magnifying glasses, and a gauge that measures the stones down to a fraction of a millimeter. They’re all displayed under a wand-shaped jeweler’s lamp.

And then come the diamonds, shimmering under the bright light. If the client will wear the stone, he might place the diamonds directly on their hand, slowing what they’d look like set in a wedding ring.

What’s missing is an army of salespeople hovering nearby. This is the opposite of a hard sell. There’s no push for the big sale.

My business is all referral based, so I want to make sure that the customer is comfortable with what he’s purchasing,” says Press. “My job is to make sure everybody’s happy.”

He’s planning a move in the coming months to the newly opened WeWork Tower 49. (“Even closer to the Diamond District,” he confides, “but it maintains the intimacy and privacy that clients appreciate.”) In the meantime, he’s enjoying being around entrepreneurs working in a lot of different industries.

“It’s invigorating being around all these young and innovative people,” Press says. “And a lot of them might end up being future clients. They’re probably getting married at some point, right?

Photos by Katelyn Perry

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Why You Shouldn’t Take Business Personally—Except When You Should

It is easy for me to rattle off the reasons I decided to start a PR firm 12 years ago. At the time, it made all the business sense in the world: I had spent years leading public relations campaigns and I was looking for the next challenge. I had (and still have) ambition to continually improve at what I do. So there were certainly career-oriented objectives.

There were also professional reasons. The healthcare industry was, at the time, still nascent and under-serviced in terms of public relations. I had experience in the space, and so it became a natural fit to launch forward to fill a niche. When I started Pascale Communications, I was reasonably certain I could succeed.

These are, I think, very good reasons to start a business. But the real reason I wanted to be an entrepreneur? Simple. One word: Passion. When you love what you do, it is easy and natural to want to excel, to stay engaged, and to be creative. For me, I loved the notion of connecting companies with their customers, of engaging the public, educating, and telling important stories.

When people say, “it’s business, don’t take it personally,” I think they are mostly right. Yet, there are certain aspects of owning and operating a business that may be OK to be personally invested in. You should take pride in your operations, the company should reflect the values you espouse, and if you do not expose yourself a little bit, you may miss connections with people you work with as well as growth and learning opportunities.

Of course, starting a business and growing it are two vastly different disciplines. I’ve already stated that some degree of passion is a great precursor to getting your dream out of your head and into the world. But once it’s there, and now that it’s tangible, how do you foster and grow that vision into something even greater?

Below are 5 quick tips I offer to business owners facing this question. In truth, there is no universal formula for business growth, but being guided by passion, and taking a personal interest in the success of your endeavor, are good first steps.

1. Get Outside Your Four Walls. Be willing to speak and spend time outside of the office promoting what you do—be a judge for awards within your industry, speak on a panel, participate at annual conferences and tradeshows, author articles that have great insights into your industry in the appropriate publications, etc. Work with people that respectfully challenge you and bring different perspectives … brainstorm continuously, and not just with those who agree with you. Getting outside your four walls means challenging yourself and your preconceived notions while exploring whether you can do things differently.

2. Up the Ante. Encourage your team to adopt and invest in new products, services, and processes. Know what works and what doesn’t. Always be on the lookout for new programs or platforms that have the ability to challenge and change the way you benefit your clients/customers. Efficient workflow increases profitability and opens new avenues for strategic growth. But it also has to be the right fit, meaning that technology (services, processes, products) that is added without an objective in mind is a waste of resources.

3. Talk the Talk. Let your “fans” (meaning happy clients/customers) do the talking for you. I always end every new business meeting with, “who cares what I say really … talk to those we’ve worked with!” Let the work speak for itself. If you want to diversify business or grow an existing client base, there’s nothing like good old fashion word of mouth.

4. Get Feedback. Do a survey. People love to hear what others think. Ask clients why they like working with you and your team, then use their ideas and quotes on your digital channels and marketing materials. The people you work with, and for, have the power to generate a lot of buzz about what your company does well if you give them the opportunity. Of course, getting feedback is also an excellent way to get outside your four walls.

5. Be Your Biggest Advocate:“PR” yourself, your team, and your company. No one will do it for you. Take advantage of any opportunity that positions your team as experts and thought leaders in their respective areas. This a great way to not only engage your current client/customer base but attract new leads; it also does wonders for retention and morale if people within your organization are recognized—but it has to be authentic!

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