Author Archives: Chuck Sink

Turn the brand power ON!

A Different Approach to Branding

Startups build brand strategies into their business plans. Established companies review their brand strategy every few years and if needed, retool and rebrand to suit changing markets. It should be obvious that branding is an essential element in any successful business plan.

Some may think of branding as a time-consuming exercise and added cost on top of already expensive marketing programs. When talking about traditional branding strategies, they’re right!

Did you know…?

You can save time and money on branding while making your brand stronger at the same time.

Project-Integrated Branding

Branding is an effort that can be blended with a concrete initiative such as a new business card, brochure, ad campaign or website design. This makes sense because you can see the brand come alive in its first execution, even in the development phase.

Branding is always included!

If your website designer happens to be a trained and highly experienced brand strategist, then maybe you could expect branding or rebranding to be included in your web design project. Your branding strategy can be naturally integrated into the process rather than extra work added on to the job. This happens to be one of our firm’s key differentiators. If your brand identity is drab or outdated, we will help you improve its look and feel as well as its relevancy in any project we touch.

Is It Time for Rebranding?

Do you own or manage a small business? Does it make sense to hire a branding agency when you can work with a senior brand strategist in the design and launch of a new marketing piece?

See it for yourself!

  • How about a refreshed brand identity without paying for an expensive branding strategy? This client just got one and loves it! Click to experience their brand powered on!
  • Another client never asked for a brand strategy but did indeed rebrand their company just by hiring us to design business cards, truck signage and a new website.
  • And for another client, a new website design project morphed their brand into a completely refreshed image and identity in all of their other marketing communications.
  • We transformed a CPA’s brand from “bookkeeper & tax preparer” to “trusted CPA and business advisor” with a new website. The client described her experience this way: “Thanks for coordinating the website. It is by far the best one I’ve ever had, and it sends the right message about what my business is all about.”

Does your business look, sound and feel the way you want it to? Want to feel great about your brand?

Redesign your website, brochure or ad for the price you would expect to pay and you will receive a professional brand strategy review and upgrade.

Click to get started! Or, just call 603-345-7223 and talk with a senior brand strategist and web design expert.

Your Brand – Is it Real? Does it Matter?

Branding:  Strategic, Authentic, Understood, Implemented and Bought

Most brands fall short of complete authenticity. How about yours?

My company brand could benefit from a little listening, introspection and fine-tuning after 7 years of continued growth in the market.

Our brand made one significant shift from “great copywriting” to “high-quality small business marketing services” about 3 years after start-up. Now it’s time to realign our core strengths and value delivery with a consistently focused message strategy that includes provable, relevant differentiation. The work is underway and it’s very exciting!

Where does a brand strategy start?

Core strengths, core values and delivery track record should be at the heart of your branding strategy. Putting that realness about your people and products into the right words, images and sounds is what effective branding is all about.

Authentic brands are respected, believed and bought.

Start with the demonstrable. How true and accurate are your brand statements and marketing content when compared with what your clients experience in your deliveries?

You and your team, like any other group, know what you’re good at and not so good at. Stick to the “good at” or better yet, “the insanely good at” when differentiating your brand and building consistency into your ad and web content.

We suggest spending focused time, several hours or more, on writing an honest and clear positioning statement for the benefit of your customers and your entire target audience. There are some really great positioning exercises and writing formulas available. We help many of our clients with this vital exercise and the results speak for themselves.

4 Part Marketing Communication Strategy

I strongly recommend establishing an authentic brand identity prior to implementing any significant marketing campaign. Starting from there, the most basic way to assure that your marketing communications have a high degree of effectiveness is to use a proven 4-step process.

If you have done a comprehensive job on your branding strategy, then implementing this formula is much easier and works much better!

  1. Identify your target customers narrowly. These are people with money already in their budget, either now or in the future, for the kind of things you provide.
  2. Determine the best channels (media, salespeople, events) to reach them.
  3. Plainly state how you give them a better life and show evidence – visual evidence and testimonials.
  4. Show how to get it easily – buy now, try it free or learn how it works.

The best performing e-Commerce websites follow this formula consistently because it’s so logical and it works! We all know why. It’s the age-old value proposition followed by the call-to-action – all very simply stated!

Yet somehow, we tend to complicate our marketing messages by adding extra stuff we want to “be sure to include.” Being marketing savvy does not always include being thorough. Too much content injects potential distractions, pauses and stumbling blocks to sales.

Keep it simple and provide clear, smooth, short pathways to easy purchases of your most valuable products. It’s what our customers want! Isn’t that what you want?

Furnish Two Primary Marketing Assets!

Furnish Facts and Photos!

If you want your campaigns and promotions to succeed, furnish the two things every marketing team or agency needs to do a bang-up job. Facts and Photos. That includes video. Of course, money can make the second thing happen but the facts (differentiated customer benefits) in most cases are contained in your head and in the experiences of your customers. It’s crucially important to articulate the factual or authentic benefit statements that set your brand apart from others.

“A picture is worth a thousand words” and so true! To learn what’s even more important about pictures when it comes to your brand, hop over to my article on LinkedIn to discover the plain truth about your marketing images.

The Two Ways to Grow Your Business

There are countless ways to grow your business! And it probably takes more than two of them to succeed, so what could we be talking about here?

Growing a B2B business starts with a net new client premise. If you own the business, you’re probably thinking a lot about how to grow it and maintain steady growth. I bet you have a few key prospects in mind and are thinking about when you might call them. When one of them calls you, you’re giddy!

Don’t worry, this isn’t about cold calling vs inbound marketing.

During a recent meeting, my colleague Matt Barden from Industrial Marketing distilled business development down to its essence and I may be paraphrasing. “New business comes in two ways; making calls or getting calls. You call or you get the call.” In both cases, the sale is up to you. Simple maybe, and simple is what works! I can’t count how many cold calls I’ve received from marketing automation companies in the last year but it was at least 5 or 6 and they all tell me they do it because it works. Ironically, their services promise more warm leads with fewer cold calls.

As a potential reseller, I’m a good target for their calls so I expect and welcome them.

This is not about cold calling nor is it about getting back to basics.  Rather, you need to start thinking about having the data/intelligence to make really effective outbound calls and get well-qualified inbound calls as well. Then your firing on all marketing cylinders!

Create and Use Intelligence!

You can have realtime market intelligence coming from individuals at known companies that tell you when to call the prospect and what they’re interested in. At the same time, you’ll be receiving inbound calls and leads based on your strategic online campaign that’s bringing intelligent content to your target audience.

Hopefully, you’ll close more deals when that happens.

The Digital-Human Nexus

Here’s the crux of it all. Boatloads of people are online right now either searching for products and services related to your business or they’re passively educating themselves on personal and work-related topics. They really want to find that ideal solution online and when they find it, they want you, a human being to help them get exactly what they want.

Small companies that decide to step it up with integrated search and content marketing campaigns tend to up-level their businesses faster than they expect.

When you discover the abundance of the realtime, electronically-connected marketplace, you can’t wait to get your message circulating in it. You want to personally connect with all those business prospects who are online. You can actually witness the digital-human nexus and experience it with a voice conversation once your communications jump from the screen to the phone or a meeting place.

Moving Out of the Desert

If you want to move your brand from nowhere land to the bustling bazaar of daily commerce, you’ll need to make a modest to perhaps moderate investment in a couple of digital platforms that will support your organic website – the hub of your brand. Costs for these services have settled at reasonable rates and the tools work better than ever! The best thing? Everything is fully transparent, measurable and accountable. You’ll be in the know!

You can see your investment working (or not) without any smoke and mirrors.  In other words, your marketing team won’t be using dubious analytics and vague forecasts. They’ll be giving you qualified sales leads and you’ll be measuring new business results from your campaigns. You’ll know the real bottom line.

Double your Sales Pleasure!

Do you want to grow? Call or be called. Better yet, make great calls and get great calls too. When your campaign is set up and integrated, all you really need to do is have the conversations that close new business.

If you have questions about how this program can help you grow your business, feel free to call us at 603-345-7223.

Knowing When to Advertise

Advertising is like insurance. Many don’t know they need it until they really need it. And, after buying it prudently, wouldn’t go without it. The good thing about advertising is that, unlike insurance, you reap its benefits when things are going well!

So, why is there so much reluctance among some businesses to develop and maintain an effective advertising campaign?

Jumping into paid advertising, especially in an untried medium, is a scary proposition to a lot of small business owners who must dig into their own back pockets to help fund an effective campaign. Aren’t you reluctant to spend a significant sum on a service whose success relies on the whims of other people, in other words, isn’t predictable? That’s what advertising is but thankfully, those whims can be effectively harnessed into buying action if you play your technology, data, messaging and media cards right.

Your return on investment depends on a few simple factors – reach, frequency and relevance. These are the crucial elements of a campaign and if you put effort into all three, you should see a positive ROI.

After some experience, you’ll have the confidence to invest more as you begin to measure the results based on actual response rates. The great thing with digital is that results get better and better as you dial in your data-driven campaign to more qualified prospects!

When do you advertise?

Ask yourself a couple of questions.

  • Have traditional business channels like word-of-mouth, networking and direct sales taken a pause or lagged in bringing in enough new business?
  • Are you unable to devote sufficient amounts of time to develop your sales & marketing channels due to other business priorities?

These are key questions that should lead you in the direction of at least a test marketing campaign with a sufficient advertising budget to move the needle in revenues. Determining the campaign scope and duration depends largely on your sales cycle. The goal is always a profitable return on investment and you can accurately calculate the cost per lead and cost per sale in real dollars & cents.

How do you measure success?

Let’s say your average new customer takes about one month from an initial inquiry to placing an order. In as little as 60 days from a campaign launch, you should be closing on some new business and have a bevy of leads in your sales pipeline. Unfortunately, there’s no surefire way to forecast your actual advertising ROI until you have sufficient data gathered from the digitally tracked campaign. But you can begin to make educated calculations within the first 90 days in most cases.

Hitting Paydirt

After a few months of dialing in your messaging and target market based on specific interests, you will begin to have a throttle-like ability to manage business growth and it can be very profitable!

Digital advertising campaigns using Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and other platforms work fast because they actively find the people you’re looking for while those people are happy to see your ad pop up, answering their current need.

Campaign effectiveness and tracking accuracy are the two reasons so many corporate marketing budgets are moving out of traditional print and broadcast, which are expensive and hard to measure, to digital which can predictively deliver results when it’s professionally managed. That’s how advertising works in the 21st Century!

Quality Sales Promotion

Rat Race Selling Anxiety 

When I was a young, aggressive salesman, I worked my tail off to get new business and produced enough to be valued. I cold called like crazy, set appointments and made presentations day after day. It was a constant struggle, though, to sustain business growth as it ebbed and flowed in spite of continuous and mighty selling efforts.

Meet Richard

There was one senior guy on the team named Richard who had all the giant accounts and he just sat there on the phone discussing business and taking big, fat orders. Either that or he would meet with his clients at the plant and entertain them as they kept an eye on their work. I suspect they also enjoyed Richard’s company and getting out of their own office for vendor meetings with a trusted, high-quality supplier.

His cup runneth over!

The real kicker about Richard was this. In spite of his already abundant sales success, most of the new business inquiries calling in would ask for Richard, and it drove me nuts! He never cold called and he never had to bang the phone for appointments like the rest of us. The biggest and most profitable business just flowed to Richard.

I liked Richard and we became fast friends but I also envied his ability to take in lucrative business without seeming to compete for it. What did he have that the rest of us didn’t?

Over the course of time and even a few career moves, it finally became clear why Richard excelled. He understood quality and he never cut corners. While I was trying to figure out ways to lower costs or match competitive price quotes just to win an order, Richard was increasing the prices his clients would pay while at the same time adding value to the total package.

No Surprises!

The primary value that Richard added was quality-assurance. Richard’s clients knew that if they worked with him, they would get the best quality products available. No shortcuts, no surprises; just predictable high quality at a fair, negotiated price.

Meanwhile, the corners I cut in quality specs to compete on price were making some customers question the value they could expect from me in the future. It took me far too long to realize that not everyone wants more for less. I assumed price meant everything and I was trying to appease prospects I assumed were cheapskates.

Give back… to your competition!

True, there are plenty of cheapskates out there but in reality, there are lots of good people in the business world who understand what things cost. “You get what you pay for.” Those were Richard’s people! They knew that Richard understood the vital nature of high quality in manufacturing. When other people like them heard of Richard’s business approach and they needed our products, they called Richard, who else? And when Richard sensed cheapness or price challenges from a new business prospect, he would cheerfully (and wisely) refer them to competing manufacturers whom he knew would cut profits just to keep their machines running.

Be the person you would call!

The lesson here is that if you’re looking for more qualified sales leads, maybe you need to focus less on sales promotions and more on delivering premium quality to all your customers every single time you do business. Quality reputations can only be earned. If you’ve earned yours, go ahead and promote it!

Promote the one thing that separates your quality from the rest. Promote it everywhere you can.  If a prospect happens to see your company promotion and call you after also getting a referral, the sale is yours! And that was Richard’s secret to easygoing sales success. He promoted quality assurance and all his customers backed him up.

Make best-in-class quality your goal. Communicate what that really costs and clearly demonstrate its value. Then deliver the best quality consistently to build your reputation. Your marketing and sales efforts will work better as the quality seekers in your market find from you the really good stuff they’re looking for.

So first ask, is your stuff really that good?

Online User Experience: How much do you control?

There is only one place on the Internet over which you alone have control.

Every online platform except for one can modify, add to, or even ban your company messages. Your brand can be all over the place; Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Google, YouTube, directories, blogs, guest landing pages, etc.

You can maximize your presence in all these online media and the brand experience visitors have will be limited and in many cases disappointing. Why? Because these spaces don’t belong to you and you are being used by them, not the other way around!

The hard truth of social media marketing: Your company information and, very likely, personal employee information are actually the product of social media companies, sold through advertising to other marketers. Your data (which is cumulatively collected with each login) belongs to them as much as it belongs to you. And if you want more than 5 or 6 people to see your posts, you must pay to have it distributed, even to your own friends, followers and connections!

So where is this one place on the Internet that you control completely? Hopefully, it’s the one in which you invest the most time and money – Your Website.

Your own Company Website gets top priority in all matters concerning online marketing. You can totally customize the experience for your specific target audiences. Social platforms, search engines and other channels are fine for distributing Your Website content, but they are not where your brand resides. Metaphorically, you should be entertaining your customers right inside your Home rather than having a quick chat inside a Starbucks.

Content Marketing at Work

I suggest getting busy writing about how you solve specific problems better than your competition. Take pictures and shoot video! At a minimum, hunt down some appropriate stock images for your campaign messages (just know how to choose them).

My company website has been producing higher quality leads in recent months following a content marketing campaign that resides, guess where?  Right where your eyes are focused now. This blog.

Questions? Ask a content marketing expert at
Chuck Sink Link.

Lead Generation or Seed Germination?

Stop demanding leads!

Every business owner and salesperson wants qualified new business leads that they can close, add to the client list and so build their business empire. If they could reduce their time spent prospecting and just focus on closing more deals, business would be sooooo much better! But is that realistic? Probably not.

There are all kinds of lead generation programs out there that vary in firepower and sophistication. Most of them utilize a combination of digital platforms that, when integrated, allow you to target demographic and interest-specific audiences, and follow them around on the web and with emails. They include various levels of personalization, even to the point of feeling creepy and intrusive.

The B2B Marketing Reality

You can definitely increase your website traffic and generate inbound “leads” with a well-programmed campaign. Up to a point. There’s a point at which message saturation occurs and no amount of great marketing will deliver new customers when there aren’t a bevy of needy prospects in your market during your campaign. This is the reality of most B2B marketing!

You hit up the same finite universe of potential buyers with a drip campaign hoping some will just peel away from their current business relationships, open an account and place an order with you. But the real qualified leads are few and far between, so what can you do?

The Crux of Business Growth

Unless your messages are relevant to their thinking and well-timed to their needs, prospective business customers couldn’t care less about your drips and drabs following them around in browsers and delivered in emails. But when they’re ready for change, you need to have readied them to think of your brand first. So the question becomes, how do you maximize your current market share and position your company as the category leader when the market expands?

You build trusted relationships based on an authentic brand. And these relationships can begin with simple awareness and grow from there. Yes, it’s about branding again!

What do you do better than most if not all of your competition? Figure out how to make that fact resonate in every company message. Make it the foundation of your sales, marketing and PR. Don’t stray!

As your prospects notice the consistency in your value proposition and hear about your work in media or word of mouth, they might actually become excited about the chance to do business with you when the time comes. You may be unaware of any relationship brewing with your prospects as they are mindfully starting to develop a relationship with you. Then your phone rings and it’s them!

The B2B Marketing Bonus

Each new relationship offers additional marketing and sales momentum!

While B2B marketing may seem a bit humdrum compared with consumer or lifestyle campaigns, business clients tend to be much higher stakes customers who depend heavily on your services. The relationship is important because they are trusting some part of their business to your care, and as they grow to enjoy working with you and your team, your best form of advertising comes free; a testimonial, a kind word… a referral and another new client.

When you’ve been at this game a while, you realize that without a brand name – one that people in your market have reasons to talk about – your sales will remain flat. But if your company works hard on consistent brand awareness, sales growth becomes less of a challenge and more of a fulfillment – an answer to your market’s call.

Your Other Team

They Have Your Back

Loyal employee engagement shores up company strength more than perhaps any other factor. That’s why it’s constantly on every responsible executive’s mind. Your team must execute your business operations with a purpose or your product and service quality will quickly slide downhill. Following the slide, morale sinks and you’ve got deeper problems.

We all need people to show up each day with an eager willingness to collaborate, do their part and be mutually rewarded by our companies’ success.

You can read a lot about employee engagement in comprehensive HR literature as well as top strategic business books. There’s another kind of human engagement that’s almost as vital to your business as that of your key employees. How are your relationships with suppliers and contractors? How’s your supplier engagement going?

“You didn’t build that!” (LOL)

If your company is like most, you probably don’t manufacture every product component or implement every service you deliver to your clients. At a minimum, you probably rely on parts suppliers or subcontractors, whatever your company does. What if suddenly, a couple of them decided they didn’t really care about your business, maybe ran into some issues and ceased to serve your “account.” What if that’s all you and your team were thought of by critical suppliers, an “account?”

The people who run the businesses you partner with need to be solidly grounded and totally dedicated to their clients’ needs. Simply stated, their people need to care about your people. And your independent contractors need to follow your directions as if you’re the boss. You need strong, trusted relationships with your “vendors.” I try to refer to each of my suppliers as a “business partner” or else simply by their name, and my clients get to know me on a personal level as we work together.

We’re (independently) in this together!

Who can say their business runs smoothly every single day? We all know the answer! Whenever my company has run into production or communication problems, every one of my reliable “business partners” has jumped in with both feet through the thick of the issue until it was solved. I’m extremely grateful for my contractor relationships. If you happen to be one of the men and women contributing your talents to our premium marketing services, thank you!

When you are experiencing challenges together with your solution partners, and you sense real dedication and mutual trust among yourselves, that’s engagement!

Call it vendor engagement, supplier engagement or business partner engagement, it’s priceless, just like earning and keeping the quality work of your best employees. Always remember to nurture your relationships for better engagement – both inside and outside your company.

The Sanctuary of Business Life

I enjoy escaping the falsely portrayed world in the media by tuning it out and getting real. It’s really wonderful to get out in the real world and work with familiar people, collaborating on various endeavors with them. It’s nice to live in a peaceful and prosperous place where people work together every day to help each other out. This is what is normal.

Most people in this country get along great! What you see “in the news” is largely fabricated or distorted for ratings as well as political and personal agendas.

Shutting off broadcast news and social media gives you a much better and more accurate survey of reality, which is right where you stand. And hopefully, nobody else standing there hates you. If they do, they should probably seek some help for that.

My point is that the business world functions much better than the politically charged, agenda driven media world but is too boring to make headlines and lead broadcasts. Discord seems to sell, so many prominent media figures sow it as we see in much inaccurate, biased reporting based on opinion, groupthink and hearsay. Now, even entertainment reeks of politics as we keep hearing from former comedians on late night television.

In my opinion, journalistic standards have never been lower so it’s best to treat all initial reporting in most media with a high degree of skepticism or at least inquisitive curiosity.

We’ve heard the phrase, “If it bleeds it leads.” Today’s media rule seems to be, “If it makes them pissed, it tops the list!” What kind of journalistic standard is that? The lowest kind.

Time to raise the standards!