The Sharing Economy – It’s a Mindset, Explains Image Marketing Consultants
Technology has made The Sharing Economy Possible.  For example, smartphones facilitate finding out about a room to rent for two nights in an apartment in Stamford, Connecticut.  However, at its core and where businesses can profit and nonprofits can enhance their brandnames and fundraising, The Sharing Economy is a mindset. In its cover story on The Sharing Economy, THE ECONOMIST  (subscription required) hammers that this way of conducting transactions gives access to just about everything to just about everyone.  On a commercial level, Zipcar brought that maintream in college towns.  Students had access to cars to run errands or take day trips without the resources or responsibility of owning a car.  More recently Airbnb gives tourists access to great lodging at a much cheaper rate than traditional hotels do. How can you leverage the sharing mindset to generate better outcomes for your enterprise or nonprofit? Here are three tips: Collaborate. You have down cold how students get admitted to elite educational institutions.  The neighbor’s public relations firm has the resources to prepare the application materials and coach the interview process.  Put that together and you both can be more successful, without having to “own” any additional lines of business.  The additional payoff is the partnership can expand the brand identities of both. Be more opportunistic than strategic.  You might not have planned to lease the back of your hair salon to the psychic whose space flooded.  But you do.  Soon enough you’re passing on customers to each other.  The local paper covers this match.  Eventually, you both need more square footage. Parachute in and help.  Networks often are built on the pooling of different assets.  At the top of the list are information, skills, and contacts.  The new solo lawyer can’t attract clients.  You tutor her on how to market, re-do her website for organic search (SEO), and bring in your friend who was busted for a DUI as her first case.  As her practice flourishes, she refers business to you and others on your network. How much you can gain and give through The Sharing Economy depends on how much of a shift you can make from the status quo to out of the box ways of approaching individual and organizational success. Kate Sirignano invites you to a complimentary consultation for your “Sharing Economy” inititiaves, partnerships, marketing, public relations, special events, and social media.  Please contact kate@imagemarkingconsultants.com, 203-404-4868.
Businesses Have to Place Smaller Bets, Hammers Image Marketing Consultants

 “How could we have ‘bet the ranch’ on a marketing campaign we didn’t test enough?”

That kind of regret is typical of businesspeople who find that they have made a major mistake.  They are shocked that it happened.  Their confidence has taken a hit.  And they want some bulletproof guidance on how they can avoid such errors in the future.

The reality is that businesses always made mistakes, sometimes big ones like when Coca-Cola introduced “New Coke” and Ford manufacturerd the Edsel.  What is different now is that businesses have less of a margin for error so the resources that mistake consumed are highly visible on the balance sheet.  Also, competition is more fierce, eager to take advantage of a stumble.  In addition, there is the fear of not being able to bounce back.

Because of the severe consequences of mistakes for businesses, hands-on managment experts such as Reid Hoffman, cofounder of social network for professionals LinkedIn, recommend placing small bets, not investing too much in any one initiative.  In his new book “The Start-up of You,” Hoffman confirms the uncertainty of the marketplace of the 21st century.  There are more unknowns than knowns out there. Businesses, at best, are handed lots of pieces of the puzzle.  It will take time, a lot of false starts, and a lot of course correction to put the pieces together.  Therefore, it is downright reckless to assume that any one venture will pan out.

Smart businesspeople, shows Hoffman, currently test out their hunches in launching a new company, determining pricing, configuring marketing approaches, and training the sales force in relatively small steps.  Frequently, they simultaneously have several of those small initiatives, for example in marketing, going at once.  They will select the ones which work and toss the rest.  The expense can be peanuts.

Kate Sirignano, founder of Image Marketing Consultants, invites you to a complimentary consultation for your marketing, public relations, partnerships, special events, and social media needs kate@imagemarketingconsultants.com 203-404-4868.

Marissa Mayer’s on the Money about Power of Being Eyeball to Eyeball, Explains Image Marketing Consultants

Marissa Mayer, Chief Executive Officer at Yahoo, has created a global controversy by her ban on telecommuting.  She contends that innovation mandates people collaborate in person, eyeball to eyeball, not via digital devices.  Research backs up that, yes, working alone in one’s home office does boost productivity but it is a constraint on the bubbling up of new ideas.  We at Image Marketing Consultants agree in the power of human beings joining together in person. One of our special areas of expertise is special events.

What we find, special event after special event, is that human beings need to get together, in the flesh, where they can interact with each other, cell by cell.  The power of that kind of interaction has been confirmed by researchers in the field of mirror neurons.  We influence each other directly.  The professional who’s a type of Idea Factory will set in play the creative thinking of all the others there.  The professional who’s known as The Implementer will start the ball rolling on how to test out the ideas.  The professional who’s The Connector will get members of the group to sign up for tasks.

Mayer’s decree will continue to be controversial.  But there’s no question that there is a surge in demand of people finding ways to get together.  Here at Image Marketing Consultants we are receiving increasing requests to plan and oversee special events.

Kate Sirignano, founder of Image Marketing Consultants, invites you to a complimentary consultation for your special events, marketing, public relations, partnerships, and social media kate@imagemarketingconsultants.com, 203-404-4868.

Your Narratives May Be Holding You Back, Warns Image Marketing Consultants

There was a business which positioned itself as the best friend of the frugal.  Its mission statement described how it pulled out all stops to supply the budget-conscious with the best quality at the best price.  The enterprise did well.

Then a relative who had studied design introduced into the chain upscale merchandise ranging from Coach-like pocketbooks to hand-crafted earrings.  Those sold like hotcakes at premium prices.  Yet, the business considered stopping the line because it conflicted with the mission statement.  In short, what the business said about itself or its narrative was getting in the way of more revenue and profit, with not a lot of heavy lifting.

As the economy keeps changing and organizations find themselves with new challenges and opportunities, their narratives can be holding them back.  They might have adopted a risk-averse stance, for example, in hard times.  Now that times are better for them those narratives about staying the course are constraints on growth.  A bakery whose story is about total indulgence is hesitating in introducing heathy desserts.  A writing firm which has been serving small business and promotes that in all its marketing material feels it cannot bid on larger accounts.

In short, your organization’s story about itself or its narrative can have more negative impacts than any competitor might.  Here are four tips on how to break the hold of the past on your present:

Identify your narrative and determine if it still is accurate. Remember that everything changes.  You organization is continually reconfiguring itself and you might not have realigned your marketing materials, including the mission statement, to what is really happening now.

Calculate the risk of adding or deleting elements from your story. You might be considering adding “luxury you can afford” to your identity as an ecommerce company providing the best bargains of the web.  The risk could be reduced if you phase in the phrase, along with the merchandise, “Including some luxury items you can afford.”  Consumers are more apt to accept change that is introduced in small bites.  Ask for feedback on the addition or deletion. Consumers love to express their opinion.

Conduct small experiements. Even a mom-and-pop business can do test marketing.  All that takes is to conduct small experiments which do not disrupt the rest of the business.  For instance, the bakery can restrict one shelf to healthy desserts and promote them in a muted way. If that turns out to be too quiet a launch, then the counter person can offer complimentary samples to customers and an employee dressed like a vegetable or fruit can distribute flyers about the introduction in the neighborhood.

Host a special event, all the better with partners. Stage celebrations to include consumers in what’s new which stays. Special events are becoming increasingly in demand because Americans, after so many tragedies and disappointments in the 21st century, want to come together and enjoy being with each other.  Also, they are weary of digital connecting.  The bakery which is grossing one-third of revenues through healthy desserts can orchestrate a celebration in the neighborhood.  The theme can be taking care of ourselves.  That can be done in partnership with other healthy players such as the yoga studio, gym, farmers’ market, and chain drug store.

Kate Sirignano, founder of Image Marketing Consultants, invites you to a complimentary consultation on your positioning, marketing, public relations, partnerships, special events, and social media kate@imagemarketingconsultants.com, 203-404-4868.

Scandal! – 5 Tips from Image Marketing Consultants on Managing Crisis

There is the old saying in media: If it bleeds, it becomes the lede.

Media have always highlighted the ugly underbelly of a society.  With such brutal competition in that 24/7 space, no one should be shocked that the shocking dominates even more.  What might have been a simple embarrassment to an organization several years ago now could be framed as a front-page scandal.  So, yes, expect that the media will grab hold and run with when a person in or associated with your organization “gets into trouble.”

That might be a key executive who is arrested for driving with intoxicants.  Your celebrity spokesperson is accused of domestic violence.  The head of the partnership you put together has been charged with embezzlement.  Here are tips from Image Marketing Consultants on how to manage these incidents.

Realize that this happens all the time.  Being under the media spotlight has become the “new normal.”  Because it happens all the time, you must have a crisis management and communications plan which provides details about what to do and what not to do. This must contain input from legal counsel.  America is the land of lawsuits.

Don’t be premature.  Before the organization does or says anything the facts must be in and must be double-checked.  Was the celebrity spokesperson actually arrested or were the authorities merely called to the house?  Once the facts are verified, then you proceed cautiously in developing your position, releasing information, and then providing ongoing updates.

Filter all release of information through one contact. There are many constituencies to provide information to.  They range from employees and investors to media and local authorities.  Those communications must be approved and released through one central contact.  That keeps your response consistent and avoids worsening the situation by rumors.  It also protects you legally if there are to be lawsuits. Legal action can keep the alleged incident on the front page for years.

Apologize or provide appropriate verbal gestures.  Standard communications procedure is to provide an “I’m sorry” if one is at fault in any way or has created a situation in which there has been a misunderstanding.

However, that is not the only communications ritual that has become part of good public relations. For example, if someone has died and, even though the organization is not liable, offer a sincere expression of sadness.  Empathy is mandated.  Organizations are supposed to act human.  In the court of public opinion, organizations are now “people.”

Get on with business.  Scandals are disruptive because they can distract organizations from doing what they should be doing, be that selling pizza or delivering social services.  After you take care of what you should be taking care of during this crisis, move the organization back on task.  Remember leadership and good management are often noticed during crisis.  Although the situation is stressful, how it’s handled can enhance the brand, convert to added revenues and funds raised, and provide boosts to careers.

Kate Sirignano, founder of Image Marketing Consultants, invites you to a complimentary consultation on crisis communications, public relations, marketing, partnerships, special events, and social media kate@imagemarketingconsultants.com, 203-404-4868.

 

Layoffs: 3Tips from Image Marketing Consultants on Managing RIFs

Economists from JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley forecast that GDP (Gross Domestic Product) growth will “rebound” this first quarter of 2013.  However, that doesn’t mean that organizations will not continue to lay off employees, that is conduct a Reduction-in-Force (RIF).

RIFs have become the “new normal” and not only for cost efficiency.  As your products/services,  market conditions, and technology keep changing so might manpower needs.  For example, you are closing down your physical office and becoming an ecommerce business.  Here are tips how to manage that RIF to protect your brand, prevent customer/client flight, and maintain positive community relations.

Tell the story of why this is necessary for the business.  The deep economic downturn has conditioned all constituencies to accept layoffs as a restructuring must.  Explain in detail how the changes will strengthen the business. If you predict eventual growth which can create jobs in the future, say that.

Identify the right mediums at the right time to tell this story to employees, vendors, customers/clients, investors, community leaders, and regulatory agencies.  For employees,for example, in-person conversations are the best approach.  If you are a public company, all material information must be released to all investors at the same time.

Make effort to place employees within or outside the organization.  There may be jobs within your organization employees can fill or you may be able to contract with them for just-in-time assignments.  On the night a Connecticut political leader lost the election, in his televised concession speech he appealed to employers to hire his staff.  That positioned him as a selfless hero.  It can enhance your brand.

Keep constituencies up-to-date about your progress. Layoffs are tricky business because they can send the signal that the organization is in distress.  That’s exactly why you must disclose in detail in a timely manner the results coming from the new approaches.  For example, what technology have you been able to purchase with the funds freed up from manpower expenses?

Kate Sirignano, founder of Image Marketing Consultants, invites you to a complimentary consultation on your communications, marketing, partnerships, special events, and social media kate@imagemarketingconsultants.com, 203-404-4868.

 

 

Selling – Image Marketing Consultants Explains Why You’re Not Closing

Your product or service has received wonderful reviews.  Your marketing people have gotten you in front of prospects.  But, you’re not closing those sales.  Image Marketing Consultants identifies what tends to go wrong and how you can prevent lost sales.  Here are five of those situations.

Not treating sales as separate process. Selling is where you are interacting directly with the prospect.  It is not marketing.  It is not product or service design.  The focus and skills are very different.  That’s why organizations which have the resources establish a sales force.  They are the front lines who are not attached to all that has led up to the sales call.  If you can’t afford a sales unit, then clear your head of all the other things which you usually think about in the business and devote your full attention to getting that sale.  Nothing else matters.

Not pulling out all stops identifying prospect’s needs.  Most needs are not obvious, perhaps not even to the prospect.  That’s why the most important part of the sales process is to gently ask questions.  The prospect may enter your retail operation with the intent of buying one suit for a board presentation.  However, what she really needs is a wardrobe makeover in order to appear more trim and youthful.  The salesperson who invests the time in finding that out winds up with a homerun that day and long term customer relationship.

Not doing a trial close. The purpose of a trial close is to get a feel for how the process is going.  You gently check if the prospect feels good about the product or service, the price, and other terms and conditions.  Then you ask for the sale.  When the prospect balks or simply doesn’t buy, then that’s an opportunity to reframe what you’re offering.  Some salespeople then ask, “What will it take to get this sale?” or “What’s keeping you from buying?”

Not leading prospect to point of purchase.  Most prospects need the nudge to go through that final door in the purchasing continuum.   That means, you have to, in some way, move them along.  Some salespeople do that by asking if they prefer the leaf or the shell pattern.  Others assume the sale by recommending add-ons such as a smartphone carrying case.  The bottom line on this is to be alert to where the prospect is and, if stuck at point of indecision, have tactics to move the sale to completion.

Not giving the exit signal.  Research shows that salespeople who respect their time generate not only more sales but also more revenue per sale.  If prospects remain trapped in indecision, then salespeople have to signal that they are ready to exit.  Frequently that in itself puts the prospect on a buying track.  When heading toward the exit sign, let the prospect know that the door is always open, although not necessarily with those terms and conditions.  Sometimes the prospect will realize those terms and conditions are great and buy right then.

Kate Sirignano, founder of Image Marketing Consultants, invites you to a complimentary consultation on your sales, marketing, public relations, partnerships, special events, and social media kate@imagemarketingconsultants.com, 203-404-4868

Nemo: What Business Did Smart, Explains Image Marketing Consultants

Nemo, the storm which hit the Northeast Corridor hard, was a crisis.  And it’s before, during, and after a crisis that businesses can have breakthroughs in revenue, profits, branding, and relationships with employees, customers, the community, law enforcement, and more.  We at Image Marketing Consultants noticed some best practices.

Having crisis plan/communications in place.  All constituencies, be they customers or employees, knew what to expect and do, no matter what could go down in the weather event.  The multi-dimensional message sent through comprehensive crisis planning was we care and we manage well.

Giving customers easy access to what they need.  Right in the front of the store, a CVS along the shoreline had not only shovels but a variety of choices, clearly marked with affordable prices.  This is one-stop shopping for whoever would have to dig out.  No one had to go off to other stores to find an appropriate shovel and compare prices.

Figuring out the right incentives.  One 24-hour call center had to be staffed, of course.  If it wasn’t fully manned, customers would likely not contact it again.  It provided attractive incentives, ranging from monetary to ritzy overnight accommodations, for employees to show up and stay as long as needed.   One manager had suggested simply providing lots of free food.  Fortunately she was ignored.

Thanking everyone in the loop. By time the storm ended early Saturday, businesses were using their social media networks, phones, and homemade signs expressing gratitude to those who had pitched in.  A plumber who had braved the snow to fix the employee restroom in a 24-hour facility was celebrated as the Hero of Nemo 2013 on the intranet.

Crisis seems the new normal in 21st century.  Those businesses which become skilled in navigating it will develop a unique kind of competitive edge.

Kate Sirignano, founder of Image Marketing Consultants, provides complimentary consultations on marketing, public relations, partnerships, special events, and social media kate@imagemarketingconsultants.com, 203-404-4868.

 

Sweet Spot – That depends, reminds Image Marketing Consultants

Valentine’s Day reminds us of the power of the “sweet spot.”  In romance when human beings aim for that sweet spot and hit it, there can be breakthroughs in relationships, ranging from healing to engagements to marry.  However, those who operate businesses often find that what they aimed at in their promotions doesn’t turn out to be the sweet spot.  The results of the campaign are disappointing.

Why does this happen?  We at Image Marketing Consultants find there are three major reasons why promotions fail.  Here they are:

Not enough research into customer needs. The cardinal rule of sales is to invest the most time in finding out what the customer needs.  At a car dealership it might be high gas mileage because of a long commute, not so much price.  The salesperson who keeps pitching price will not get that sale.

Not enough choice. If you read those credit cards offers coming in snail mail you will notice the proliferation of choices.  You can choose a shorter period for a balance transfer at no interest rate or a longer period for a low interest rate.  Reward points can be “spent” in a growing number of ways, including applying them back to pay off part of the monthly balance.  Without these choices, prospects might just toss the sales literature in the trash.

Wrong tone.  As lovers know, how something is said is everything.  The tone of business communications keeps shifting, sometimes in subtle ways.  After the wild west days of the rhetoric used in social media, communications have become more subdued.  Morever, there has to be a different tone for diverse target markets.  That’s why some companies have separate Facebook brand pages for diverse products and demographics.

Kate Sirignano, founder of Image Marketing Consultants, invites you to a complimentary consultation for your marketing, public relations, partnership, special events, and social media needs kate@imagemarketingconsultants.com 203-404-4868.

When Your “Superdome” Goes Dark – 6 Crisis Communications Tips by Image Marketing Consultants

As all the world knowns, part of the Superdome went dark during the Superbowl.  And the leaders and managers at organizations like yours began wondering what would happen if their own version of a “Superdome shut-down” took place.  The first step in managing that kind of crisis – and it is a crisis – is to have your Crisis Communications Guide completed and continually up-t0-date.

In itself that plan restores a sense of order when bad things happen because everyone in the organization knows what to do, how, and when.   Here are 6 tips from Image Marketing Consultants on putting that Guide together:

Define “crisis.”  The freezer going off in a food establishment is a crisis.  So is a choking guest.  Another form of crisis is an unexpected snow storm which starts to roar outside as patrons are starting to eat.  Listing examples of crisis reassures everyone in the organizaton that leadership is in control.  Therefore there is trust in the process.

Indicate who’s in charge of what. In emergencies, human beings need leadership.  Specify who’s accountable for what, in what order should they be notified, and the contact information.

Establish one spokesperson.  All information should be given to that representative who is the only point for release of information.  No one else should comment to anyone else.

Release information as soon as it is available and has been verified. Constituencies, ranging from the media to investors, will view you as credible if you ensure they receive accurate informaton as soon as you have it.  Use all mediums for this real-time disclosure.

Be generous.  When the electronic cash registers went down in a supermarket, that event had been provided for in the crisis plan.  Check-out clerks had hand calculators and provided a percentage discount for the inconvenience.

Thank all constituencies. Acknowleging the role of others in resolving the crisis is a key public relations initiative.  It creates the platform for cooperation during the next unexpected incident.

Kate Sirignano, founder of Image Marketing Consultants, provides complimentary consultations on all your communications and marketing needs, including public relations, partnerships, special events, and social media kate@imagemarketingconsultants.com, 203-404-4868.