What does it mean to take your business to the next level?

The office phone rang and I answered. The person on the other end said, “Hi, I’m Phil, and I’d like your help to take my business to the next level.” After a few basic questions, I asked Phil what he wanted to accomplish with his business. He could not answer that question.

So, I asked him, “What does the the ‘next level’ look like to you? Still he was not able to respond. Finally, he said, “Can you help me figure it out”?

The mysterious business elevator

Over the years, I’ve had lots of calls from executives and business owners who want to take that mysterious business elevator “to the next level.” Just the other day I read the following in a press release about the hiring of a new CEO for a breakfast restaurant franchise,

“Having a leader of [Name redacted] caliber and experience will allow us to take the brand to the next level. His particular expertise in helping founder-led, franchised restaurants realize their next stage of growth will be of tremendous value as we leverage the increasing popularity of breakfast-based concepts and attract new franchise partners to our family.”

Even in this press release there was no specificity behind the desire to elevate the brand and grow to the next stage. How can potential franchisees reading this comprehend where the business is headed?

If after a few years in business, you want to surge forward, increasing your business footprint or adding a new line of services, or increasing capital investments, but unless you’re specific, “taking my business to the next level” doesn’t mean anything to a marketing consultant.

How can you help your marketing consultant understand the next level?

In the marketing world, we work with quantifiable audiences and goals. We quantify who we want to receive our messages, where they will find or consume our messages and how frequently we expect they will engage with our messages. So we need to be precise.

You, too, should be precise when consulting us. We rejoice to hear goals such as, “I want to increase my Facebook page engagement 20%,” or “I’d like to gain 10 new customers per month for my warranty service.” This laser-focuses us on your business development goals and allows us to begin honing an audience segment. But to get that focused, you need customer insights.

Customer insights — what are they and where to get them

It’s not simple to arrive as these numbers. You need to track your sales trends by customer, period, service, and product. This implies you have the type of data system to allow you to retrieve this insight from either a CRM system or at least a POS system.

Some industries use loyalty programs to help them get data on a segment of their customers who have opted-in to a loyalty / rewards system. Grocery stores love loyalty programs for this very reason. They provide incentives to customers which cause them to use loyalty / rewards cards and the company then has a meta understanding of their purchasing/shopping behaviour.

In my career I’ve established loyalty programs that allowed us to identify our best customers and get more insights on their frequency, recency and preferences. We could identify those who dined infrequently and incent them to dine more.

Restaurants are generally able to pull up metrics such as how frequently particular entrees are sold and cross reference that with daypart/time. This type of insight can help spot the dogs on a menu or the upward trends in taste preferences. This alone can help identify market segments for a restaurant.

If your company does not have a CRM system or way to extract the data, what do you have? Sales associates. They are a real gold mine when it comes to customer insights. They know about issues and customer satisfaction. And they often have insights into new segments or uses for your product.

Sometimes growth can simply be stopping or reducing the customer churn. Everyone loses customers. It happens. But if you’re not staying level, then you’re declining. Your sales associates and customer service staff ought to be able to help identify the reasons for customer churn.

Ultimately, the best way to grow customers is to provide simply amazing service, so that no one wants to leave you. High customer satisfaction comes at a cost. It implies that you have high quality products and services and are constantly refining or improving every aspect of what you do and why you do it.

So next time you want to take the magic business elevator to the top, stop and determine what all the floors are between you and the penthouse.

Still need help to determine what the next level is?

Here’s a template you can use to be more specific regarding next level growth when you’re going to talk about your marketing with a consultant.

Quantifying the Next Level – A strategic approach to identifying what you’re going to accomplish.

This is not meant to be an exhaustive planning document. This is an outline to comprehend where you want to go and what is required to get there. Obviously greater planning of every component must be undertaken. What would you add to this? Leave your comments below.

Step 1: Identify the Goal

Over the next _____ (months/years) our company will grow. Specifically we will:

 

  • Add ____ (number of ) customers for ______________________________ (service/daypart/segment) and we will expect these customers to spend $00.00 per person per ____________ (week/month/quarter/year).

OR

  • Increase our top line sales by ________ percent

OR

  • We will open ____ (new storefronts/add new sales outlets/distributors)  in ________ (locations).

OR

  • We will increase customer satisfaction after the sale by ___________ percent. We will measure this using our customer survey.

OR

  • We will increase customer retention from __________ (months/years) to ___________ (months/years).

Step 2: Outline Your Strategy

Our strategy for accomplishing these goals will be:

Enumerate and outline exactly what will be required to accomplish this growth. Include all necessary components and their expected cost.

  • Personnel
  • Bricks and mortar
  • Technology
  • Capital
  • Training
  • Raw Materials

Photo by andrew welch on Unsplash

Leaders must speak with one voice, have coordinated, unified message

Avoid confusion with a primary spokesperson

Have you ever heard that there are two sides to every story? Or multiple ways to answer a single question? No doubt you have. There are multiple perspectives for every situation. In life this can be good. When it comes to your business’s reputation, multiple perspectives and answers can be problematic if they do not mesh.

The goal when interacting with members of the media is to avoid contradictory information delivered by multiple individuals. If several sources give differing information to a media representative and these are used in a news story or online piece, how does the public know which information is correct? This inconsistency will lead to issues with credibility and can be damaging especially if sources offer contradictory thoughts or facts about a situation. The solution to minimize information confusion is to have a single person responsible for delivering information to members of the media.

Who communicates a message or speaks for your business?

When it comes to your business, it is always preferable to have a single person act as your company’s designated spokesperson and official media contact for your company. Your dedicated spokesperson must be media savvy, understanding how to interact with journalists accurately and communicate transparently.

For a small business, the designated spokesperson might be the CEO or the Director of Marketing, or may even be an external public relations firm representative.

When you have a critical situation in which you’re communicating technical information you may also want to have a subject matter expert speak in conjunction with your designated spokesperson. Subject matter experts can often convey a highly technical information in a way that bolsters the message and helps people understand complicated topics.

For larger firms there will be a communications team whose job it is to speak with members of the media. There may even be specific individuals who are aligned with the various publics or audiences of the corporation: customers, stockholders, employees. This team is coordinated, so they all deliver the cohesive information.

Unified messaging whether in a crisis situation or in regular PR and marketing communications is mandatory. When you have several people who communicate with the media without coordination, the result can be detrimental publicity which damages your reputation.

Multiple points of view help shape credible messages

When working out what to say and how to respond, every viewpoint of the potential audiences must be comprehended. These viewpoints shape the manner, tone and content of a response. Evaluate and utilize insights from all your constituencies in order that the resulting message does not open up a minefield of other issues.

You have seen this happen when leaders deliver tone-deaf messages which cause slights or insult various members of the public. As an example there is the apology type I call “sorry, not sorry”. A classic example is United Airlines’ 2017 contrasting initial public response and employee directed response to the involuntary removal of a passenger from their plane. [Read the story on PR News Online.]

Annual communications audits and training

Annually your communications team or corporate spokesperson needs to work with the company leaders to identify key messages. They also must identify potential vulnerabilities and outline for the team how those vulnerabilities — if they become occurrences — might impact your business. After having identified potential threats, whether it’s a customer complaint which goes viral via social media, violence in the workplace or a storm which disrupts business, you can outline an initial message and points of response. Keeping these points fresh and updated allows you to respond with nimbleness to an immediate situation.

The foundation of these plans will include who will speak in each given situation and who has the responsibility of communicating on behalf of the business. As noted earlier, in some situations you may be able to benefit from having subject matter experts partnered with your designated spokesperson.

How will frontline staff interact with the media?

When members of the media visit your business locations and attempt to speak with people who are not designated to speak with the voice of the company, it’s critical that frontline staff understand how to react as well the appropriate method for providing contact information for the designated spokesperson. One of the simplest ways to do this is to have the unit manager meet the media person if they are in the store or speak with them on the phone and provide the contact information or the business card for the spokesperson.

It is the staff member’s responsibility to then communicate the journalist’s name, contact information and affiliation which they got during their interaction to the communications person or team. Doing so in this manner means that both the journalist and the spokesperson know about the contact. Most PR people will go ahead and reach out to the journalist, rather than wait on the media contact to reach out.

Training for frontline staff members needs to be a part of their orientation when they join the firm. Regular review of this topic with employees to keep everyone familiar with how they direct inquiries will ensure that when a media representative contacts your business, the person who greets them will know what to do, and do it well.

If you follow this simple outline of how to get your message coordinated, you can avoid multiple messages which may lead to confusion, or damage to your business reputation.

What if you do not have someone who capable of serving as a spokesperson?

A public relations firm such as Charleston PR & Design can provide identification of vulnerabilities, message development, spokesperson training, and can act as a spokesperson in critical situations. We can also provide training to your frontline staff around interaction with the media. Don’t wait until it’s too late, plan ahead and be certain that your messages are coordinated and represent your business with clarity and unity and that your designated spokesperson is ready, able and can respond with authority.
 

Photo Copyright: microgen / 123RF Stock Photo

When to Send a Media Alert Rather Than a Press Release

Over the last several years I’ve written a number of times about press releases. We’ve discussed online newsrooms, and how to develop and pitch story ideas and how press releases support your pitches. But I don’t think I’ve written about the press releases’ brother, the media alert which is sometimes called a media advisory.

What and when to send a media alert

A media alert is best used to call attention to an event that has components suitable for visual media coverage. That means television, digital media like blogs and more traditional print media such as newspapers and magazines.

Media alerts can be created from some of the content used in your press release but their format is quite different. They are not press releases. They are more direct and to the point. A media alert is precise and describes for the editor what visually interesting events will happen and why the outlet might want to assign a videographer, news reporter or photographer cover it. Of special interest to media is a chronology of events taking place so they may cover the visually compelling parts of the event. Frequently television news media don’t have time to hang out for an hour, but want to capture video of the visually rich bits. So help them out by providing a schedule that allows them to dispatch a videographer to capture what they want.

The advisory also contains a list of entities participating in the photo op and the organizer’s contact information so the reporter may call to get credentials organized or get more information. It’s also helpful to include a map, directions or link to a map to help media find the event location easily.

Who should get a media advisory?

Media alerts are generally sent to television news and assignment editors or reporters covering specific beats.

You can view a great example of an online media advisory from NASA. You’ll notice how NASA is making great use of the web as a hub for their advisory. This way they can tweet, post and share the content without having to send the alert as an attachment or inline content. Media interested can use the information and access it from any location or with any device.

Click through to view an example from 2013 which we created for our client. [PDF] We invited the media to a behind the scenes rehearsal event. During the event, media were able to observe an opera rehearsal and meet performers. This event resulted in great coverage because of the event’s unique nature. Generally visual media don’t get invited “backstage.”

The other time you may want to send a media alert out is if you have a “presser” or a press conference. Generally these types of events are highly news-worthy and timely. Below you can view an image of a media advisory sent to media in advance of a press conference held years ago. You’ll note that the lead-in explains the reasons for the event and who will be there.

Media Advisory Example News Story

Information to include in your advisory

Always to be sure to explain the Ws: Who, What, When, Where, Why. And describe the event so the news editor understands why your event is worthy of coverage.


Do you have questions about when to use media alerts and advisories? Just ask below in the comments and I’ll be glad to answer.