Friday, October 26, 2007

Ten Tune up Ideas to Accelerate Your Business

By John Maver
Maver Management Group

Strategic plans and business plan are living documents that are meant to provide guidance for company and personal activity. They should reflect the best thinking of the company’s leaders. It is important that the plan not be put on the shelf but used effectively.

It is also important to do a tune up on your plan from time to time. Not necessarily to start from scratch although sometimes that is also necessary if things just aren’t working or there is a dramatic change that affect your company. The tune up gives you a chance to revisit the basic elements upon which your strategic and business plans were build. A six month and no more than 12 month check up and tune up is required. It will keep your plans fresh and current and more importantly will get them actually used and understood.

Here are some tune up ideas.

Know your customers
· Who are they
· What are their needs
· What are their objectives and goals
· What is really important to them
· How can you help them beyond just your product

Know your company
· What are your core competencies
· What are your weaknesses
· What are your vulnerabilities
· How good are your people

Understand and articulate clearly your company's core purpose core values.
· This is what will attract your customers and employees.

Know your competitors
· Who are your key direct competitors
o What are their strengths and weaknesses as seen by your customers
o What are their strengths and weaknesses as seen by you and are able to exploit
· Who are your indirect competitors
o What are their strengths as seen by your customers

Have clear objectives –
· Reach and dream.
· Quantify them

Develop the right strategies
· Capitalize on the learning and conclusions from the above analysis

· Be choiceful
· Assign resources

Develop clear actionable metrics
· Use them to measure progress and make better decisions

Assign owners and timing
· Responsibility and accountability

Use it.
· Make the plan available and clear to everyone in your organization
· Cascade it down through the organization so that everyone's activities are aligned to the corporate plan.
· Provide the development programs so your people have the skills to execute the plan
· Upgrade the organization to focus on higher quality people.
· Tie the rewards and recognition directly to the plan objectives and metrics.

John Maver
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management Group Consulting

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ten Ways to Strengthen Brand Equity

By John Maver
President of Maver Management Group

When the brand is a company, it is led from the top down. The CEO is the brand manager. Others have responsibility for different facets of the brand but ultimately, leadership of the company rests with the CEO. He must be zealous in guarding the way the brand is handled, positioned and utilized. One or two simple errors can destroy years of building and the CEO must remain ever watchful. It is easy to get distracted by the daily pressures, fires, and routine. Set aside time to rise above it all and specifically review your current activities to strength and protect your company brand equity.

Spend the time to decide on the right strategy – one that flows from the values of the company and creates real and lasting differentiation from your competitors. This speaks to the Core Purpose and Mission of the organization. It also reflects the tone the company wants to have in its positioning. If you have created the right strategic plan this will be easy to determine. You do have a solid strategic business plan don’t you?

Tighten the focus. Hone the brand message. Focus on qualities that set up barriers to entry. Drive to the core values and competencies required to deliver the promise. The stronger the differentiation and the stronger the brand image the higher the barriers to entry and the more loyal customers will be. Give them a reason to be proud loyal customers.

Don’t underestimate the power of symbolic communications. Visuals can have dramatic effect. Corporate brand design is important. The image gets set in your customers or clients’ minds. They come to associate you with that image and you want it to be a positive one. Think about a company. What image pops into your mind? If there isn’t one then the branding isn’t done very well.

Always set realistic expectations . . . then build a consistent track record. Under promise and over deliver. For public companies this means hitting the quarterly numbers. For private companies it means hitting the expectations of your stakeholders.

Credibility is built by public relations and executive interaction with the customers, particularly when there are few customers. They love to feel important and if you want your brand to be important it all starts with you and them. Advertising can help support and reinforce the brand position.

Educate employees on brand values and the brand promise . . . and then educate them again. There is significant synergy that can be gained from clearly outlining the company's strategy and then clearly communicating it to all employees. This harnesses resources and focuses attention on the key elements. The beauty of a simple strategic plan is that it clearly communicates to all employees not only the direction and positioning of the company but how you are planning to get to the objectives.

Make certain that all of your operation is consistent with the positioning and images. They must be driven throughout the total operation so that the image portrayed is consistent with that desired. For example, if part of your image is dependability, you want to insure that phone calls are returned promptly. It is more than the product that must be dependable.

Pay attention to the little things. There are so many elements that factor into the perception of the brand and having one or two small ones out of place can undermine the whole branding.

Building a great brand is a journey that is never finished. A brand is a living, breathing thing. It changes with the evolution of the company, the industry and the customers on a daily basis. The objective and basic positioning should virtually never change but the execution and fine tuning may change depending on the circumstances. Major brands and company positioning have been built and refreshed for many years with the same basic promise.

John Maver
Maver Management Group Consulting
(925) 648-7561

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Extending Brand Equity

Extending Brand Equity
by John Maver
Maver Management Group

As the old wise marketing guru said “Branding is the Essence of Successful Marketing”. Brand equity is a precious gem. While not particularly rare it can be very valuable. So how do you tap into this treasure? Here is how to make this article really pay off in gold for you. Take a piece of paper and write down your brand name(s) on it at the top. As you read this article think about the principles and see how you might apply them to your brand. Don’t look for the perfect match, just try it out. Put a checkmark on the ones that apply to you.

This is not a football story despite the headings even though the season is in full swing. It really is about pragmatic and effective ways of extending your brand equity. In some ways all products have a brand equity. The key is to identify it and then fan the flames so it ignites into a very profitable fire of profitability. It can bring with it very loyal customers who are willing to pay a premium to purchase your product. Once you have it you will want to use it to your maximum advantage and I’ll discuss several ways of doing this

Line Extensions, Flankers, End Arounds and Umbrellas
Extended use
This is the most obvious. You keep the same product name and form but use the product in a different usage area. The best example is Cow Brand Baking Soda. It is used in baking. Every new housewife gets a box as part of her bridal package and that box stayed with her until she died. Cow started promoting the product as a deodorizer in the refrigerator. Open a box and change it every 6 months. Sales skyrocketed and the brand stayed alive. Now it is used in toothpaste and many other areas as well.

Line Extensions
A line extension is defined as a product in the same basic category with the same basic end use as the parent brand. It may be in a different form than the parent. This is different than an extended use. Tide Powder laundry detergent and Tide Liquid are great examples. Procter & Gamble eventually converted all their effort from trying to establish a new brand, Era, to compete with Wisk, to making Tide Liquid a success. It has paid off and the company has a dominant market share of over 60%.

A flanker is a new brand, which uses an existing brand name to introduce into a different category than the parent brand. Examples are Clorox liquid bleach, Clorox Clean up, Clorox toilet bowl cleaner and others.

Crest dentifrice is a good example of all of these. Did you know that there are 21 forms of Crest toothpaste? They cover extended use (breath freshening, gum health and whiteness) and line extensions Kids toothpaste and sensitive teeth in paste, gel and even drops at one point. They get you from your first tooth to your last. Customer loyalty remember? It is even better if the flanker can be used as part of a system with the parent brand. Crest Toothbrushes – Crest Complete and Crest SpinBrush go with Crest toothpaste.

This is where you use a common overall name for different product with different uses.

Symantec changed Norton Antivirus into the Symantec suite or family of brands. It fits well with both the consumer and the institutional or business to business market. It is all about security.

The Ultimate umbrella This where you establish your brand well enough that it becomes synonymous with the generic. Here are a couple of examples.

Name a fast food restaurant - McDonald’s right? You will also note the branding and while hokey still serves to reinforce. McFries, McShakes

Name a facial tissue, - Kleenex started as a facial cream remover in the 1920’s. Most people no longer refer to tissues as tissues they are commonly known as Kleenexes.

Name a place to go and have coffee -Starbucks. Peets and Seattle’s Best are trying to overcome this huge hurdle. And Starbucks is now sending out many, many flankers.

The Sleeper, End around or the Borrowed Equity.
This is where you take a known brand equity and use it to support your brand because in doing so it increases the value of your brand. The lending brand is willing to do it because it increases the value of their brand too.

Dell computers - Intel inside. Intel is a master at it. It has taken a computer component and made it a mainstay. People consistently pay more for products with Intel Inside. And now Microsoft is doing it too. They are lending their “platform” and name to others for a fee.

In consumer products, Lays potato chips has borrowed the KC Masterpiece branding. It sets them apart from just BBQ chips. And for KC Masterpiece, it is free advertising, bulk product sales and a licensing fee.

Restaurants do it all the time. The bottle of Heinz catsup is the most obvious. Outback Steakhouse claims to use Hershey’s chocolate. Do you think this dessert is any chocolatier or better in some way because of Hershey’s? Of course you do and not only does it improve the quality image of Outback it also allows them to sell the dessert for more.

The low carb craze continues in the US and Atkins leads the way. It is more than just a diet. It is a way of life and Atkins is selling a lot of flankers. And others are jumping on the Atkins bandwagon. Applebee’s has Atkins entrees

Trades with a Draft Choice
Here are some others. You all know the power of Mr. Clean. One of the all time great advertising personalities. Econo Lodge has traded for Mr. Clean and is transferring his branding and using it as the standard of clean for their motels.

I have some personal experience with this. Clorox to brand the bathroom. In highway rest stops, people and women in particular want to stop at a place that is clean. Clorox is synonymous with germ free and so we branded the bathroom. Turns out we were able to increase sales at the rest stop by 23%. Clorox decided to go in another direction and Mr. Clean followed through.

There are many examples of extending brand equity. What ideas did you write down that you can you use right now to build your brand and increase your equity? Want some help? Contact me. I can help you extend your brand’s equity to accelerate your business growth and jump start the effects.

John Maver is President of the Maver Management Group. They provide business acceleration consulting to companies that enables the companies to jump start not only their planning but the results. Their success has eased the pressures on the executive team, helped them make their numbers and allowed them more time for thinking and less putting out fires and just plain doing.

John can be reached at:
(925) 648-7561