Build Your Reputation

One of the most important assets a company has is its reputation. A firm with an above average reputation can achieve and sustain an above average return on assets…

A good reputation pays off in a number of ways. It can:

Add to the psychological value of products and services in terms of customer trust – when it is difficult to quantify the quality of a service, consumers rate the company with a good reputation higher than those with a poor reputation.
Increase employee job satisfaction – good company reputations have the knock-on effect of increasing the degree of employee job satisfaction.
Provide access to better quality employees when recruiting – after all, most people would rather work for a respected company than one with a shoddy reputation.
Support new product introductions by reducing the risk perceived in the eyes of customers.
Act as a powerful signal to your competitors. For example, companies gain a reputation by how they react to the actions of competitors.
Provide access to the best professional service providers – to boost their own reputations, the best retailers seek to stock the products of the best manufacturers.
Allow a second chance following a crisis. For example, thanks to its reputation, the market share of Arnott’s Biscuits bounced back despite the product tampering crisis earlier this year.

Poor reputations on the other hand can be dangerous to business health:
Many bosses claim that bank managers don’t like their company and overestimate its commercial risk. A lackluster reputation is often the cause.
Journalists tend to scrutinize companies with a poor reputation and remind readers of a history the company may prefer was forgotten even when a story is upbeat.
Customers are more anxious and price sensitive about products and services from less well-respected companies; poor (external) reputations tend to breed poor employee morale and so lead to the possibility of industrial dispute.
So there are good reasons, both operational and financial, for managers to enhance the reputations people hold of their companies.

Building blocks of image

What do we want to stand for? The answer to this question lies in three issues. The first involves analyzing what the product offers to customers and then communicating why it is unique and what it can deliver.

For example, the Swatch watch company hangs its image on providing “fashion that ticks”, the Department Education is in the business of providing “education for life” (life skills and skills for the rest of your life) and computer giant Apple focuses on making personal computers which allow people to enhance their skills, captured in the famous slogan “the power to be your best”.

Being able to clearly and succinctly distill the essence of your offer to customers is important. However, it is equally important to state exactly what it is you offer to employees – the second issue. Employees, like customers, listen to WII-FM radio – “what’s in it for me?”. Your organization’s formal policies (performance appraisal scheme, pay levels, work practices), organizational culture (informal practices, fun and work rituals) and expectations (rewards for past behavior, vision statement) combine to form the package you offer to employees.

The third part of the question of company image involves ethical contribution. US editor Daniel Gross believes “the ethical heart of business is service to others”. A good example of this is US-based chain Wal-Mart discount department stores. Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton offers low paid rural Americans more choice and quality for less cost than ever before. Do customers want this? Yes. Are employees proud to provide this service? Yes. Does the community value it? Yes. Can competitors easily match it? No.

Generally, the companies with the best reputations offer the best value (benefits minus the cost) to their internal and external stakeholders – it’s that simple.

What drives corporate reputation?

There are two sets of factors which combine to create the reputation an organizations projects. But only one set is under the direct control of managers and can be considered as levers to engineer change. The other acts either as a constraint on or opportunity for achievement. The controllable factors are: vision; organizational culture; strategy; formal policies; products and services; employees; and advertising and promotion.

The uncontrollable factors are: competitors’ actions and reputations; country and industry images; and media attitudes towards your industry and organization.

Many companies have a weak foundation from which to build a good corporate reputation because there is a poor match between their vision, strategy, organizational culture and formal policies. Human resource people sum up this problem in the saying “people do what is inspected, in preference to what is expected”. For example, if your appraisal scheme for employee performance rewards cost-cutting and your vision statement applauds customer service, employees will always give cost-cutting preference, regardless of how important customer service is to a good image. And in such cases a policy rethink is inevitable.

A company’s product and its promotion are also key drivers of corporate reputation. Both customers and employees are equally interested in the value of what is offered. This is especially true for advertising, where employees are increasingly being labeled as advertising’s “second audience”.

If we focus on customers, then at least four factors drive the perception of a company’s reputation: the perceived value of the offering; customer perceptions of employees (for example, are they customer focused); what other people and the media say about the company; and whether the company is part of a respected industry, a factor which includes the reputations of its competitors. Research suggests the most important of these factors is the perceived value of your products and services.

Stamp out stupid practices

Nearly every company has some practices which needlessly upset customers and employees. Some classics include: using lawyers to talk to valued customers. For example, the application forms for both Qantas and Ansett’s frequent-flyer schemes contain some heavy-handed terms and conditions. These leave the impression that the airlines don’t trust their most valuable customers;
for the last few holiday periods, petrol companies have raised the price of a liter of petrol by up to five cents. And during any week the pump price may vary by over five cents per liter. This doesn’t instill customer confidence in the petrol companies’ pricing policies.

In the scramble to attract customers and employees, some companies offer newcomers a better deal than that received by existing, loyal employees and customers, with the obvious effect on morale. The point is that stakeholders quickly loose confidence in a company they think is either wasteful, greedy or stupid, or which they think discriminates among similar types of people, has power over them or simply doesn’t trust them. The only way to identify these detrimental practices is to periodically sound the opinion of each group of important stakeholders.

Communicating stance with internal and external stakeholders

A critical element of a corporate reputation is positioning the company to stand for something important, deliverable and unique. Most companies fail the unique part. When this happens, both customers and employees tend to focus on price. If a company’s offer is not significantly different from others, then why shouldn’t customers buy the cheapest and employees be more concerned about wages?

The advertising slogans companies use and sometimes their name are often used to communicate their positioning:

3M – “innovation”

Ford – “a better idea”

Sharp – “sharp minds, sharp products”

Charmin – “squeezably soft”

And some slogans work as well with employees as customers. For example, while Nike’s “just do it” campaign urges customers to buy the product and not be a couch potato, it promotes employees to be proactive.


“One of the most important assets any organization has is its reputation.”

What does your company stand for? What do people think of when they think of your business, product or service? What do they think of when they think of you? When people think of Apple Computers, they: “Think Different.” When they see Charmin, they think: “Squeezably Soft.” BMW is, “The Ultimate Driving Machine.” Pepsi is the “New Generation” and so on.

Entrepreneurs and small business owners can also differentiate themselves with this kind of branding strategy. In fact it is even MORE important for smaller organizations to set themselves apart. Particularly if they are competing with the BIG GUYS! Remember, your customer’s perceptions of WHO you are is all the matters to them. Who you really are is quite meaningless!

Often times your reputation is wrapped up in what advertising guru, Bill Bernbach called the “unique selling proposition.” What sets you apart from the crowd? What do you do that no one else does? For me it’s “Providing answers for your small business.”

How can I back that up?
We hold Small Biz seminars and classes in marketing for entrepreneurs and business owners.
Every Monday night I teach the Dales Carnegie Sales Advantage Class in Long Beach. (our web site) has over 300 pages of articles for the entrepreneur and small business owner.
I do a weekly radio show that focuses on educating small business owners.
We offer a free small business success manual that provides answers to small business challenges.
We email our “Small Biz Update” to over 1000 subscribers every month.
We provide answers to our clients and members in the form of coaching and consulting sessions
We consistently communicate our unique claim and branding message in every promotional message employed. It is in our web site, in our brochure, on our business cards and even in the conversations we have with people. I don’t know anyone that offers the same combination of services that wrap around providing “answers for small business owners.”

Now remember, this is not a Mark Deo commercial. The purpose of my yammering on about how spiffy I am (NOT!) is merely to demonstrate how YOU can develop your own branding message and unique selling proposition.

THINK….. How are you different? What is unique about your company, product or service? What do you do to support that uniqueness? How can you consistently communicate that branding strategy?

If you’re interested in learning more about reputation, branding and the unique selling proposition go to the web site at

Brochure Development

What are you going to promote? 

What is your objective? Are you going to promote your whole company or a specific product or service? Think of your brochure as an extended business card, a price list, a promotion for a special offer or a company announcement of new products or staff.Who is your target market? Who are you aiming the brochure at? Is it for a general audience or a particular segment? This will dictate to a certain extent the concept of the brochure and the way you write the copy. Be mindful as to when you can and can’t use industry jargon. Remember, a brochure should be as informative as having you or your sales representative being there. Always put yourself in the readers’ shoes and think about why they would want to buy or use your services. What’s in it for them? Promote the benefits and of course the features.How long is the brochure going to be valid for? Is this a one-time special offer or seasonal promotion? If there are time limits, make them very clear and highlight them.What sort of design do you want? Does your company or product/service lend itself to an elaborate design or do you only need a simple one? Creativity in marketing has to straddle both the freedom and creativity of art plus cool-headed business acumen. Therefore, you don’t always have to try for the world’s glossiest and most creative in order to sell your product or service.Do you want to use color? If so, it may involve film work which could add to the cost but it can also effectively convey certain ideas. Typefaces are also important as they give your words a voice. Once again, be careful not to use a typeface that is difficult to read or doesn’t fit the image of your company. When it comes to paper stock, be sure to choose one that fits the budget and conveys the image you want. Believe it or not, paper look and feel can convey certain impressions about your company or product/service.What are the legal constraints? How well do you know the Trade practices Act? Ignorance of the law is no excuse. It may not necessarily be your customers who complain. It may very well be your competitors who may take action if they don’t like what you say or imply in your brochure.What kind of response are you looking for? Do you want customers to phone, write, fax, call into a shop or have a sales representative visit? If so, don’t forget to clearly outline what you want them to do and provide a facility for them to do so easily. Make your coupon easy to fill out, bold up your telephone numbers, etc. Or is your brochure an image piece, designed to create an impression of who you are?Your budget? Obviously, this will dictate the level of design, color choice and paper stock used. Remember, you don’t always have to spend a great deal. Investigate your options- a black and white brochure may appear classier than a full-color brochure in some instances.The final checklist Take some time to check and re-check your brochure. It’s not a bad idea to have someone from outside your company to read the draft. It’s better to find problems or errors at draft stage than to find them after the brochure has been printed.
If you are using photos, make sure they are in the right place and are around the right way.Re-check that your telephone and address details are correct.Don’t forget to code the coupon if you wish to track responses.
Cost and time estimates. There are a multitude of factors that affect the timing and costs of producing a brochure. These can range from whether you are producing the brochure yourself or whether you are using an agency down to the number of brochures you are printing, the design and paper stock. A brochure could take anything from a few days to a few months to produce. The costs can range from under 100 to thousands of dollars.Need help? If you need someone to help with writing your brochure, there are many direct marketing agencies and copywriters who can help. If you like, they can even arrange to have your brochures printed.If you need help designing or preparing your copy for printing, talk to a graphic designer or typesetter ? They may also have a link with a printer. In terms of software, there are a number of desk top publishing packages available ? Some word processors now even offer a brochure compilation facility. The most flexible and powerful of these are Quark, Photoshop, and Illustrator.Printers are relatively easy to find. Shop around for both price and service. Also consider using a commercial printer with a four color press for four color jobs. Using a 2 color press can cause registration and color accuracy problems.

Develop A Marketing Plan

One of the greatest needs of managers of business is to understand and develop marketing programs for their products and services. Business success is based on the ability to build a growing body of satisfied customers. Modern marketing programs are built around the “marketing concept,” which directs managers to focus their efforts on identifying and satisfying customer needs – at a profit.
Marketing continues to be a mystery to those who create it and to those who sponsor it. Often, the ad that generates record-breaking volume for a retail store one month is repeated the following month and bombs. A campaign designed by the best ad agency may elicit a mediocre response. The same item sells like hotcakes after a 30-word classified ad, with abominable grammar, appears on page 35 of an all-advertising shopper tossed on the front stoops of homes during a rainstorm! The mystery eludes solution but demands attention. Your marketing results can be improved through a better understanding of your customers. This approach usually is referred to as the marketing concept. Putting the customer first is probably the most popular phrase used by firms ranging from giant conglomerates to the corner barbershop, but the sloganeering is often just lip service. The business continues to operate under the classic approach – “Come buy this great product we have created or this fantastic service we are offering.” The giveaway, of course, is the word we. In other words, most business activities, including advertising, are dedicated to solving the firm’s problems. Success, however, is more likely if you dedicate your activities exclusively to solving your customer’s problems. Any marketing program has a better chance of being productive if it is timed, designed and written to solve a problem for potential customers and is carried out in a way that the customer understands and trusts. The pages that follow will present the marketing concept of putting the customer first. Marketing is a very complex subject; it deals with all the steps between determining customer needs and supplying them at a profit.
The Marketing Concept The marketing concept rests on the importance of customers to a firm and states that: All company policies and activities should be aimed at satisfying customer needs and profitable sales volume is a better company goal than maximum sales volume. To use the marketing concept, businesses should: 1.             Determine the needs of their customers (Market Research); 2.             Analyze their competitive advantages (Market Strategy); 3.             Select specific markets to serve (Target Marketing), and; 4.             Determine how to satisfy those needs (Market Mix). 5.             Market Research  In order to manage the marketing function successfully, good information about the market is necessary. Frequently, a small market research program, based on a questionnaire given to present customers and/or prospective customers, can disclose problems and areas of dissatisfaction that can be easily remedied, or new products or services that could be offered successfully.
Marketing Strategy Marketing strategy encompasses identifying customer groups (Target Markets), which a small business can serve better than its larger competitors, and tailoring its product offerings, prices, distribution, promotional efforts and services towards that particular market segment (Managing the Market Mix). A good strategy implies that a business cannot be all things to all people and must analyze its markets and its own capabilities so as to focus on a target market it can serve best.
Target Marketing Owners of small businesses have limited resources to spend on marketing activities. Concentrating their marketing efforts on one or a few key market segments is the basis of target marketing. The major ways to segment a market are: 1.    Geographical segmentation – developing a loyal group of consumers in the home geographical territory before expanding into new territories. 2.    Product segmentation – extensively promoting existing best-selling products and services before introducing a lot of new products. 3.    Customer segmentation – identifying and promoting to those groups of people most likely to buy the product. In other words, selling to heavy users before trying to develop new users.   Managing the Market Mix There are four key marketing decision areas in a marketing program. They are: 1.    Products and Services 2.    Promotion 3.    Distribution 4.    Pricing  The marketing mix is used to describe how owner-managers combine these four areas into an overall marketing program.
Products and Services Effective product strategies for a business may include concentrating on a narrow product line, developing a highly specialized product containing an unusual amount of service.
Promotion This marketing decision area includes advertising, salesmanship and other promotional activities. In general, high quality salesmanship is a must for small businesses due to their limited ability to advertise heavily. Good yellow-page advertising is a must for small retailers. Direct mail is an effective, low-cost medium of advertising available to small businesses.
Price Determining price levels and/or pricing policies (including credit policy) is the major factor affecting total revenue. Generally, higher prices mean lower volume and vice-versa, however, small businesses can often command higher prices due to the personalized service they can offer.
Distribution The manufacturer and wholesaler must decide how to distribute their products. Working through established distributors or manufacturers’ agents generally is most feasible for small manufacturers. Retailers should consider cost and traffic flow as two major factors in location site selection, especially since advertising and rent can be reciprocal. In other words, low-cost, low-traffic location means you must spend more on advertising to build traffic.
Marketing Performance After marketing program decisions are made, owner-managers need to evaluate how well decisions have turned out. Standards of performance need to be set up so results can be evaluated against them. Sound data on industry norms and past performance provide the basis for comparing against present performance. Owner-managers should audit their company’s performance at least quarterly. The key questions to ask are: ·      Is the company doing all it can to be customer-orientated? ·      Do the employees make sure the customer’s needs are truly satisfied and leave them with the feeling that they would enjoy coming back? ·      Is it easy for the customer to find what he or she wants and at a competitive price? How to Develop a Marketing Concept Source: Managing a Small Business Unfortunately, there is still a misunderstanding about the word marketing. Many people, including top executives, use it as a sophisticated term for selling. Marketing representative is commonly used in ads to recruit salespeople. Actually, marketing is a way of managing a business so that each critical business decision is made with full knowledge of the impact it will have on the customer. Here are some specific ways in which the marketing concept approach differs from the classic, or sales, approach to managing a business. ·      In the classic approach, engineers and designers create a product, which is then given to salespeople who are told to find customers and sell the product. In the marketing approach, the first step is to determine what the customer needs or wants. That information is given to designers who develop the product and finally to engineers who produce it. Thus, the sales approach only ends with the customer, while the marketing approach begins and ends with the customer. ·      The second major difference between the sales and marketing approaches is the focus of management. The sales approach almost always focuses on volume while the marketing approach focuses on profit. In short, under the classic (sales) approach the customer exists for the business, while under the marketing approach the business exists for the customer. The marketing concept is a management plan that views all marketing components as part of a total system that requires effective planning, organization, leadership and control. It is based on the importance of customers to a firm, and states that: All company policies and activities should be aimed at satisfying customer needs. Profitable sales volume is a better company goal than maximum sales volume. In order to conduct a successful marketing concept program you must be able to answer the following questions: What type of business are you in (manufacturing, merchandising or service)? What is the nature of your product(s) or service(s)? What market segments do you intend to serve? (Describe the age, sex, income level, and life-style characteristics of each market segment.) What strategies will you use to attract and keep customers? 1.    Product 2.    Price 3.    Place 4.    Promotion 5.    Persuasion (personal selling) What is your unique selling proposition (USP)? Who is your competition, and what will you do to control your share of the market?