Marketing Made Simple(r)

Can you think of a time in your life when you went from being completely unaware of a product or service’s existence to absolutely having to have it and wondering how you ever lived without it? Likely, this transition from not even knowing it existed to being a purchasing customer and raving fan, was in part, the result of good marketing.

A Practical View of Marketing

There are numerous perspectives on what marketing is and what it is not. Technically, a textbook answer exists, but we prefer to frame this concept considering what we have learned about growing businesses for many years.

At its core, marketing is about building awareness, creating interest and need, and influencing a potential customer to act.

Marketing is often confused with advertising, branding, and sales. Although these are all very closely related topics, there are some key differences to keep in mind. Advertising is more focused on mass exposure through paid channels, often about a specific sale or talking point. Branding is more focused on how the company represents itself and the impression people have when they think about that company. Sales is more focused on the actual process of selling products/services, either through transaction or consultation. While marketing may include advertising and branding activities, it generally deals with the overall effort to make people aware of your products/services, create interest and build trust, and ultimately lead them to a purchase through your organization’s sales process.

You can market a business, a product or service, and even yourself. In most businesses (especially small to mid-sized), all three can be equally important because customers will decide whether to buy from your company based on your business and its people, your products and services, and you!

Why Marketing is Important

Let’s take a 20,000-foot view over the basic structure of any organization for a moment. There are four major functional areas within every business. Marketing is the first of these functions, along with sales, delivery, and support. If we think of this as an order of operations issue, you have to market before you can sell, and you have to sell before you can deliver your products and services, and you have to deliver (including production) before there would be any need for support. In the opposite way of thinking, you can’t sell your product/service if people don’t know about it (through marketing), there is no point in producing the product or delivering the service if it hasn’t been sold (through sales), and there is no point in supporting something that doesn’t exist (delivery).

No marketing means no sales, which means no production/delivery, which means no revenue, which means no business. The success of a business draws a straight line back to its ability to market well.

Pause for a moment and think of a large, popular brand with a variety of products (maybe shoes, clothes, appliances, vehicles, insurance, etc.) and quickly think of all the places you have seen or heard of that brand in the past month. Maybe you saw a commercial on TV or heard them mentioned on the radio… maybe there was sponsored content that popped up on your Facebook feed… maybe you saw an ad for that brand on a website that had nothing to do with that product… maybe a friend or relative mentioned it in a conversation… maybe you got a flyer in the mail…

There are seemingly endless ways to be marketed to. In essence, these brands are simply trying to grab your attention to make you aware of them, help you realize how much you actually want/need them, and remind you of this until you finally become a customer.

As small or mid-sized business owners, the same is true! Our goal at the highest level is to make the right people aware of who we are and what we do at the right time and in the right way. Our goal is to help them see and understand that our product/service is essential to them – to their success, survival, happiness, etc. The better job we can do with this, the more likely they will come to a buying decision.

Understanding Different Types of Marketing

There are three major areas of marketing to consider and they all have different purposes and characteristics, so let’s discuss each.

  1. Branding is the first area of marketing. This is the part of marketing that refers to your image and includes your logo, colors, fonts, and overall visual style. Traditionally, the definition of branding could be this simple, but let’s expand our thinking to the bigger picture. We tend to think of this from a larger perspective, which includes how your team answers the phone, how customers feel when they interact with you and other people in your business, how clean your fleet of vehicles is, the uniforms you wear, even the personal hygiene of your employees, etc. All these things reflect who your business is, what your business does, and what your business stands for… which makes up your brand.
  2. Targeting is the second area of marketing. This is the part of marketing that includes identifying the people who are most likely to buy your products/services and then delivering a message to move them through your sales funnel as quickly as possible. Like the other two areas, this one should be very strategic and very purposeful. In today’s world, some of the most effective and trackable targeting campaigns are done on a digital platform (i.e. Google Ads, social media ads, geofencing, retargeting, etc.).
  3. Nurturing is the third area of marketing. This is the part of marketing that a lot of companies (unfortunately) forget about or put at the bottom of their list of priorities. The idea of nurturing is primarily focused on your existing customers. Do not forget about this group of people! They have already determined that your product/service is worth having and that your company was the best way to get it. These people likely already know and trust you and are by far the people most likely to buy your product/service again or recommend it to someone else. Take care of these people by staying in touch, making sure their needs are met, and being present. This assures them that they made the right choice in working with or buying from you and makes them even more likely to buy again or recommend you to a friend.

Common Marketing Mistakes

Earlier, I mentioned the importance of reaching the right people. Who are the “right” people? Well, they are the ones most likely to purchase your products/services, and therefore should become your target audience for certain marketing efforts.

Unfortunately, businesses waste a lot of money doing what I call “guess-marketing”. This is when business owners with expertise in areas other than marketing simply throw money toward advertising options and hope something sticks.

They often don’t know if it’s capturing the people who are most likely to buy the product/service and so they are likely missing the mark and wasting dollars.

If you’re reading this saying “that’s me,” please know that you are not alone. Business owners are rarely marketing experts and therefore lack the knowledge and understanding needed to market strategically. There is simply too much to know and understand. Some common mistakes business owners make include:

  • Falling into the trap of buying whatever is being sold to them. So, if the radio company comes knocking, suggesting radio ads, that is what the business owner will do. If the billboard company comes to sell a billboard, they will buy a billboard.
  • Having a higher comfort level with a certain type of marketing because of previous experience with that channel and only sticking to those marketing outlets. What is most familiar is not necessarily the most effective.
  • Trusting only the suggestions of others to build a plan. Unfortunately, just because a certain type of marketing activity comes recommended by a friend or colleague, doesn’t mean they understand your business, market, and goals (and the best way to accomplish them) well enough to make an appropriate recommendation.

We want to be able to make sure marketing dollars are going toward something that will get the proper return for the business. Make sure your marketing decisions are rooted in strategy and purpose, so you don’t waste your time and money on guess-marketing.

The Need for a Good Marketing Plan

A good plan is useful for any major functional area of the business, including marketing. A plan makes people aware of specific goals for their area of the business operation and how that ties into the overall business strategy for growth, along with details about who is going to do what and when.

As with other good plans, the marketing plan should be customized for your company, taking into consideration many factors, especially your company’s business growth objectives and sales goals. Ideally, your marketing plan will be created in light of the strategic plan and sales plan for your business, which together answer questions related to a wide variety of topics including products, services, markets, opportunities, prospects, customers, buying habits, competition, trends, product development, goals, resource levels, etc. Without a good plan, the marketing effort will likely be a series of guess-marketing activities, i.e., throwing stuff up against the wall and hoping something will stick.

A good marketing plan is important because it:

  • Helps you build healthy awareness about your organization
  • Creates opportunities for and increases sales
  • Avoids confusion among customers and prospects about who you are and what you do
  • Gets you on the right path to ensure you are making wise investments in your business

If you put together having the right reasons to connect with the right audience with the right message through the right channels at the right time, you will be one step closer to having a marketing strategy that works and helps to grow your business.

For more information or help on this and other topics, contact our team.


Clarifying Thoughts on Leadership

Defining Leadership

A quick internet search for the definition of leadership will reveal that it means “the act of leading a group of people or an organization” or “the state or position of being a leader”.

So, what does that mean?

Practically speaking, we can think of leadership simply as the ability to get things done, either on your own or through the cooperation of others. This implies that a leader knows what needs to be done and is capable and willing to either do it or work with other people (subordinates, peers, superiors) who are capable and willing to get it done.

Leadership is Not Authority nor Management

This working definition does not reference authority nor management, i.e., a leader does not necessarily have to hold a position of authority or management within an organization. A leader may be someone who is able to get things done individually or collectively with others, while not having a management position or title. Conversely, a person having a title and position of authority within an organization may not be able to get things done either individually or collectively with others. This person may be in a leadership position, but their behaviors do not reflect those of a leader.

So, to be clear, leadership is not the same as…

  • Authority, which denotes having the right to make decisions, have control, give orders, and force others to comply with your commands.
  • Management, which denotes directing and controlling a group of people and operations, as well as other resources within an organization.

We Love Our Customers by Hockenberry Management Consulting

Leadership Styles

We should not confuse the act of leadership with styles of leadership, or the way in which someone leads. While several styles have been identified, let’s consider three examples.

  • Some people in positions of leadership display an autocratic style where they assume they are smartest, know the most, and have the answers and therefore believe its best if people just do whatever they say without questioning decisions and instructions.
  • Some people prefer a democratic style where they get input from other people, asking for opinions, often generating a collection of ideas from which decisions are ultimately made and people know what to do.
  • Some people operate with a laissez-faire style where they may seem quite uninvolved, allowing employees considerable freedom to think and act on their own, without providing much direction.

It might be tempting to assume that leaders consciously choose a style and adopt it for themselves, but it’s probably more accurate to believe that the styles pick the leaders. In other words, leaders, being people, have certain values and beliefs that determine how they think, make decisions, behave, and treat others. So, people in leadership do what they do because they are who they are, and these style labels are ascribed to them by others.

Characteristics of Leaders

Likewise, we should not confuse the act of leadership with the characteristics of individual leaders. Consider this: Would you rather work with a person who is…

  • Honest or dishonest?
  • Kind or mean?
  • Generous or stingy?
  • Decisive or uncertain?
  • Humble or arrogant?
  • Knowledgeable or clueless?

This list of personal characteristics could go on and become quite long. However, it’s important to distinguish between these qualitative descriptors of individuals and leadership itself, which involves getting things done either individually or by working with others.

To be sure, styles of leadership and individual characteristics matter significantly and will have a bearing on the degree of success one may have in a leadership role, i.e., the degree to which a leader is able to accomplish goals and tasks through the cooperation of others.

Essentially, the success of a leader is supported by their personal style and individual characteristics, but they are not definitions of leadership nor measurements of that leader’s success.

The Value of Leadership

Of course, every business and nonprofit organization desires people on their management team to be good leaders, having the ability to get things done and influence others in a positive way to do the same, while managing their area of operational responsibility, along with other resources.

To appreciate the value of good leadership capabilities within the management team, just imagine a past personal experience, or perhaps a current one in your company, where a person with a management title or position of authority did/does not possess good leadership skills. Yes, most of us have had this experience and know how many problems can occur when this is the case.

On the other hand, imagine working for a leader who knows what needs to be done, communicates that effectively, shares the workload appropriately, provides encouragement and support as necessary, and then gives credit (fairly) for a job well done. This is a much more motivating scenario.

Effective Leadership Teams

So how do you build an effective leadership team within your organization? The answer depends on the situation, and every situation is unique. But here are a few thoughts that might be helpful as you consider this very important question.

It has been said that organizations rise and fall on their leadership. In other words, leaders affect everything within your company, including the planning, the people, the operations, the customers, the culture, etc. which means they affect the outcomes as well.

If you intend to fill a management position, or any other key position requiring leadership ability within your company, consider the following:

  • Leadership starts with a person. So, make sure there is a process for identifying and selecting people who already have the personal characteristics you desire in your leadership team. This means you get what you want, and they don’t have to become somebody they are not.
  • An individual’s personal characteristics will heavily influence their leadership style. So, make sure there is a process for identifying and selecting people who have demonstrated a leadership style that is consistent with your company’s values and culture.
  • Leadership involves the ability and willingness to get things done, either individually or by working with others. So, make sure the process includes a way to identify people who understand this, possess a track record for getting things done, influence and work well with others, and demonstrate the attitude necessary to be a member of your management team.
  • Even the best leaders need to continually learn and grow. So, make sure there is a solid training and development program for your leaders. This should include opportunities to increase knowledge (both job-specific and leadership knowledge), which is necessary to perform the job and lead effectively. It should also include opportunities for personal development, keeping in mind that leaders are people, and people must grow in order to remain vital to your organization and effective as leaders.
  • Focus on being the best leader you can possibly be, as you work to build an effective management team. Most managers desire to be effective leaders… and they want to be on a team with other good leaders… and most of all, they long to report to someone who is a great leader.

The subject of leadership deserves our focused attention because it’s foundational to organizational success, impacting every aspect of your business or nonprofit. The ability and willingness of leaders to get things done, while influencing others to do the same, affects how well your organization performs and grows. So, let’s take steps to equip our businesses with the types of leadership they need and give our employees the leaders they deserve.

For more information or help on this and other topics, contact our team.


Now is the Time…

A message from Jeff during the COVID-19 pandemic, April 2020…

Dear Clients & Colleagues,

Now is the time to focus on innovative business strategy and proactive marketing.

It has been a strange several week period for businesses and nonprofits alike, and much has been said about the importance of leadership during these challenging times. It is true that effective leadership is essential, given the need for re-evaluating situations and circumstances, making necessary adjustments, and then making things happen. Of course, leadership can only go so far without other people, processes and plans in place, not to mention customers who want to buy your products and services.

Many factors contribute to business performance and growth, but two areas of particular importance right now include strategic planning and proactive marketing, along with increasingly creative sales initiatives. If we’re not careful, we’ll find ourselves merely reacting to overwhelming circumstances which appear to be beyond our control. And often times during a crisis, right when we must be most effective as leaders, it becomes most difficult to think strategically about growing a business. Further, when so much around us seems uncertain and sales are down, any attempts to proactively market the company and its products and services are often put on hold.

Actually, it is during such times that it’s most important to devise a solid business strategy and marketing plan, keeping in mind the need for both short- and long-term objectives. It might not be as easy as it would have been otherwise, but it is necessary. We can’t be like the proverbial ostrich and bury our heads in the sand until the scary thing goes away and it’s safe to come back out and continue operating as usual. It may not be “as usual” again for a long time, and maybe never will be.

Be encouraged though. Now is the time to take action by thinking strategically about how to improve key areas of performance, market more intentionally than ever, grow your business as much as possible under the circumstances, and become better positioned for future growth when the situation returns to “normal”, whatever that may look like and whenever that may be. Regardless of what it is and when it occurs, you and your company will be ready.

We’re here to help. Remember, initial phone consultations are always complimentary.

I look forward to talking with you soon.

Sincerely,

Jeff


Customer Experience: Let’s be Intentional

The word “customer” has become a key term in business meetings across the globe, the topic for many published books, and a focal point for wise leaders ready to lead their businesses into the future. While there are numerous ways to think of customers, for the sake of this conversation, let’s simply define the term as any person or entity receiving, consuming, or experiencing an organization’s products or services. We could also discuss both internal and external customers, but for now we will focus on the external customer of a business organization.

The fact is… no organization can survive, let alone thrive, without customers.

Why customer experience matters

Since we know that businesses are dependent on customers consuming products and services, we must realize that the experiences a customer has with a business matter tremendously.

Take a moment and remember the last time you ate at a restaurant. Remember the experience of arriving at the restaurant, being greeted (or not) by a host/hostess, interacting with your waiter/waitress, receiving and eating the food, paying the bill, and leaving the restaurant. Which parts of that experience are easiest to remember?

My guess is that the best and worst parts of that experience are your clearest memories. Maybe you had a fabulous server who predicted your every need, but the food was cold. Maybe the host/hostess was rude, but you were given chocolate or mints with your bill. Each of these individual situations contributes to your total experience at the restaurant and determines how you would rate your overall experience and form an opinion about this restaurant.

Can you see how your personal interactions with the business directly influenced your opinions about it? You’ve made conclusions about the restaurant based on your experience with the facility, people, and product. This is important because you may share these opinions and conclusions with others and ultimately influence their opinions about that business.

A customer’s experience with an organization helps to determine whether they will return to buy again and whether they will persuade others to interact with or steer clear of that organization.

How customer expectations are changing

At the same time, we must recognize that the customer’s expectations are constantly evolving. Once upon a time, when customers interacted with organizations, their expectations were relatively simple. This is no longer the case.

Let’s break down the example of going to a restaurant to eat. Customers of the past would have expected to enter a moderately clean facility, be taken to their seat by a host/hostess, have their order taken, receive their food exactly as they ordered it, pay their bill, and leave. While this doesn’t seem too far from the expectations of today’s customers, let’s look closer.

Today, customers would expect to enter a very clean facility, be greeted happily by a host/hostess who would accommodate their seating requests, meet their server who would remarkably remember their order and anticipate their every need, receive their food order exactly as they ordered it, receive their bill and thank you gift (chocolate, mints, etc.), and be thanked for coming as they walk out the door. While some of these expectations may seem excessive, if they weren’t met, customers would very likely be less than impressed with their experience.

Customer expectations go beyond the basics. People want an experience that is simple and memorable. This may look a bit different for each business, but the bottom line is that people want to be the center of the story – to be valued, heard, taken care of, respected, etc.

Hockenberry Management Consulting - Customer Experience - People Walking

Why every customer impression matters

If we dissect the concept of customer experience through the lens of human behavior, we notice that when people first interact with or are introduced to your brand, they form an impression about it. First impressions are critical for setting the tone for the rest of their experience with your business. From those impressions, people will form opinions or patterns of belief that determine what conclusions they will eventually make about your business.

Given the quality of their experience, the customer will draw concluding thoughts about what the business does, who they are, and ultimately if they are a business worthy of supporting.

Through the impression and opinion stages, the business’ goal must be to shed a positive light on itself by helping the customer find success. Whether that success is having a pleasant experience while eating a good meal, finding all the items they need in the store, or getting a good deal on a new car. The better the business supports the customer and informs them of the “goodness” of the organization, the more likely they will be satisfied and walk away with positive conclusions about the business.

How customer experience drives business growth

One of the most important aspects to your business’ growth is the experience that customers have with your brand. Their experience will determine their opinions, whether they return and continue to engage, and whether they encourage or discourage others from engaging with your business. Customers who have their needs and expectations met by your organization will become loyal and help drive growth for your business by returning and referring their friends.

The reality is that “customer experience” is happening even if we are not aware of it, and whether or not we are being intentional about designing it well. It can contribute to repeat and referral business if designed well, or it can cause customer fall-off and poor reviews if not done with intention.

Once you understand the mindset of the customer and cater your business’ interactions with them to reflect what the customer wants and expects, you have a much better chance of meeting and exceeding their expectations and gaining loyal customers… and we know that loyal customers who become raving “fans” of your business will help to drive growth for your business.

How to design customer experience

A common way of thinking about customer experience is to consider how presentable and polite your employees are to customers. Please realize that customer experience goes far beyond the concepts of customer service. Customer experience begins the first moment an individual becomes aware of your organization and continues to expand as they personally interact with your organization.

Their experience is not about one single interaction, but rather many smaller contacts, interactions, and moments of exposure to your business, which informs their thoughts about who you are, what you do, and how well you do it.

This experience must not be left to chance, which is why we must be intentional about designing it. To design something is to create with purpose (my definition for the sake of this discussion).

When we look at your customer’s experience with your business, we must create each step with intention and purpose, with the goal of making their experience positively memorable.

In its simplest form, designing your customer’s experience requires mapping out all the moments where that customer will likely interact with your brand, identifying the key moments from that experience, and working to make each critical point in the customer journey impactful.

For more information or help on this and other topics, contact our team.


The Search for Improved Organizational Results Hockenberry Management Consultants

The Search for Improved Organizational Results

Do you want improved results from your business or nonprofit organization? Of course, your answer is probably “yes,” so the more challenging question is… how do you do that?

Improving your organization’s performance is easier said than done – especially since it can be difficult to know where and how to get started. Let’s take a bird’s eye view of some possible starting points.

3 CORE BUSINESS PROCESSES

In every organization, there are essentially three core business processes – strategy, management systems, and operations. Let’s briefly look at each.

Strategy… the process of determining the direction in which your organization will move toward.

Management systems… the processes utilized to hire, develop and retain a qualified workforce.

Operations… the processes utilized to market, sell, produce, and deliver your organization’s products or services.
Theoretically, the better aligned these processes are, the better the organization will perform, leading to improved results. Achieving this kind of alignment is not easily accomplished, but when successfully aligned, the organization and its members reap the benefits, and the customer is better served.

3 FOUNDATIONAL FACTORS

Achieving improved results in your organization’s performance depends on your ability to continually improve the execution of these core business processes, which is largely dependent on three foundational factors. Let’s consider each.
Leadership… one could effectively argue that leadership is cause and all else is effect.

Culture… the environment in which business takes place and work is accomplished is often the result of chance, yet culture has a significant influence on how people think and behave, which affects individual and team performance, ultimately impacting organizational outcomes.

Systems… the ability to develop, repeat, and improve effective processes across the organization.
Without effective leadership, a healthy culture, and a systems approach, the business processes of strategy, management systems, and operations are hindered and possibly jeopardized.

In addition to understanding organizational performance dynamics as outlined above, it is equally important to remember that organizations are comprised of people. Therefore, your business or nonprofit’s ability to achieve improved results is dependent on each individual member’s performance. So, let’s briefly look at a few key individual performance factors.

3 INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCE FACTORS

Positive behavior change, which leads to improved individual results (which impacts organizational outcomes), is enhanced by several key factors.

Goals… people are generally goal oriented, needing direction and wanting purpose. It is best when this direction originates from organizational leadership.

Knowledge… the information we acquire through the process of learning.

Skills… the ability to apply knowledge in the appropriate situation.

Attitude… all intentional behavior is preceded by thought. Attitudes are habits of thought. If we expect to change behavior in a positive manner and achieve improved results, we have to change the way we think.

8 QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER

If you want to get better organizational results, begin by asking yourself these questions.

1. How good is our strategy and is it being executed well?
2. Is our management system helping or hurting our cause?
3. Are employees really on board with our mission and vision?
4. Are operational processes contributing to success or detracting from it?
5. Are customers satisfied and loyal?
6. What affect does our leadership have on the organization?
7. Is our culture conducive to achieving our mission?
8. Are we leveraging process improvements across the organization?

The answers to these questions will begin to tell a story (that you may or may not like).

The next, and most important, question is… what will you do about it?

For more information or help on this and other topics, contact our team.


Leadership Problems Are Solved by Hockenberry Management Consulting

The Challenge of Leadership

Have you been to a bookstore and noticed how many resources are on the shelves focused on the topic of “leadership”?

 

How many have you read, hoping to acquire some new method, quality, or technique that would help you meet the challenge of leading effectively within your organization? Each resource addresses the subject from a different angle, but few of these materials really get to the heart of leadership.

Getting to the heart of leadership with hockenberry management consulting

Leadership is arguably the most significant issue in companies today.

 

In their book, “Improving Leadership Effectiveness”, Fiedler and Chemers state “The quality of leadership, more than any other single factor, determines the success or failure of an organization.” Tracy supports this view in his book, “The 100 Absolutely Unbreakable Laws of Business Success”, by writing “Leadership is the most important single factor in determining business success or failure in our competitive, turbulent, fast-moving economy.”

Is there room for improvement within your company’s leadership? Martin and Mutchler, in “Fail-Safe Leadership”, share that if one or more of the following conditions are present, the leadership in your company may be failing.

Here are some of the items from their checklist: 

1. excessive meetings
2. preponderance of consensus-driven decision making
3. lack of personal accountability
4. time consuming and/or meaningless performance evaluations
5. communication problems
6. personality conflicts and/or power struggles
7. difficulty keeping employees motivated
8. unacceptable results
9. time management problems
10. micro-management
11. duplication of effort
12. high staff turnover
13. fear of making decisions
14. reactive rather than proactive thinking
15. failure to meet quality standards
16. chronically sagging sales

At least a few of these conditions exist in most organizations, so the question is what to do about it. To answer that question, we must start by defining leadership.

The Characteristics of Leadership by Hockenberry Management Consulting

If asked to think of a great leader from your life experiences and describe what made/makes them a great leader, what would you say?

 

Most people would describe personal qualities and characteristics of the person. What’s most interesting is that there are several characteristics that would be consistent across different people’s answers, but there are also unique characteristics that made each great leader different. Some are outspoken… some are soft-spoken. Some are conservative thinkers… some are risk takers. Some are highly educated… some are not. Etc. What is the common thread among great leaders? Is it that they get things done and achieve results?

When considering how to develop leaders within an organization, a decision must be made.

Do you take certain people and try to teach them qualities and characteristics that you think make a great leader, and then hope for results? This would be considered a competency-based model of leadership development. Do you define the desired results, and then grow people as well as processes within your organization, to ensure that those results are achieved? This would be a results-based approach to leadership development. Do you utilize some combination of both models?

Developing Leaders Within Your Organization by Hockenberry Management Consulting

The answer to that question depends on several factors.

One thing is certain; if you are not effectively developing leaders within your organization, you are likely functioning at a competitive disadvantage, or soon will be. So, the question is… what will you do to develop leaders in your organization?

For more information or help on this and other topics, contact our team.