• Categories

  • Advertisements

How to build Brand Trust

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”false” link=”term=sears&iid=6092209″ src=”3/d/5/b/Sears_Posts_2nd_6427.jpg?adImageId=7761923&imageId=6092209″ width=”234″ height=”156″ /]Why do I begin this conversation with a photo of a Sears sign?  Because in this discussion, the Sears brand has been and still is, a trusted brand name in my family.  There are a few things that are iconic to my family generational-ly and the Sears Christmas catalog [their first Christmas catalog came out in 1933] is one, and the tool and appliance departments at the stores are another.  When my mom brought home the catalog early in the month every December, my sister and I would sit and devour it.  We’d mark the pages and leave it sitting around just where dad could see it.

The products that my parents and their parents purchased at Sears were trusted simply because they came from Sears.  My dad would not buy tools for his garage shop from any other vendor.  My grandmother and mom only bought their clothes from Sears.  Up until my mom passed away a few years ago, I was taking her on her monthly shopping trips to Sears.

So how can you and I – small and home-based business owners – build a brand that has this kind of trust attached to it?

I began exploring this question due to an article in the business section of my morning newspaper on November 10.  I had time that morning to read through more than just the front page of each section and on page four in the biz section that day was a big article titled, “PayPal could overshadow eBay” with a subhead: “Convenience, trust in the brand help build loyal following for online pay service.” [article by Rachel Metz, Associated Press-San Francisco].What jumped out at me in the subhead was the phrase “trust in the brand.” I believe this to be true of PayPal. I’m a home-based business owner and I do business through PayPal…in my etsy store I only accept PayPal.  I utilize PayPal as a way to pay for supplies through my mosaic tile supplier.  Why?  Because I’ve grown to trust PayPal.  Why?

  1. PayPal does what it says it will do
  2. I have never been sorry or inconvenienced by the service – from the article: “…PayPal doesn’t share your financial information with merchants. That brings peace of mind to people who might otherwise worry about shopping at a site they’ve never heard of….”
  3. PayPal offers enough services to meet my business needs

According to the article, “…As of the end of September, 78 million people had active PayPal accounts, up from 65 million a year ago….” What does this tell me about trust in the brand?  That people trust PayPal to be consistent: what you see, what you hear, what you read about PayPal is what you get…every time.

I thought some more about the question: how do you build brand trust? For answers I went to the experts who shared some valuable wisdom.  The key things I think they are saying is that your business and the way you do business needs to be consistent and transparent: what is seen, what is heard, and what is read about your business should be what your customer/client gets…every time.

The question I posed: How do you build brand trust?

  • “…You create a product, service, message, or name that’s simple and memorable.  You surround it with easy to understand differences and you consistently engage every corner of space online and off and then you do it next week and the next and . . ..” – thank you to John Jantsch – a marketing and digital technology coach, award winning social media publisher and author of Duct Tape Marketing  www.ducttapemarketing.com
  • “…When it comes to a small business building trust in their brand particularly online, the first thing they must do is approach it with the give-to-get principle.  Every relationship must be approached with the mindset, “how can I help?”   They will position themselves as a connector and expert in their industry…Perceived risk is the number one barrier for small businesses.  The more important thing a small business can do to build trust in their brand is to be clear about exactly what business they are in, keep their word and deliver on their brand promise….”  thank you to Melinda Emerson “SmallBizLady” Author, Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months; A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business that Works!  (Feb. 2010 Adams Media) www.succeedasyourownboss.com www.melindaemerson.com
  • “…I believe brand trust is about getting your organization’s message out frequently and consistently – and then following through. If the message and the user/customer experience do not match, trust is eroded. It’s like the old adage about saying one thing and doing another – customer/client service must reinforce the marketing/branding message for strong brand trust to be forged….” thank you to Jane K. Stimmler, The Marketing Edge
  • “…Following are two ways I recommend building brand trust: Have a suggestions/comments area on your business’ website– and a system in place for responding to all comments received in a timely manner.  If you know there are times you’ll have heavy traffic, have a standard email that gives an “estimated waiting time” for a personalized response.  ALWAYS RESPOND…Call with no news: very often people don’t call back because they don’t have the information you requested.  Making the time to call whether you have good news, no news, or bad news is a fast way to build brand trust….” thank you to Frances Cole Jones,   www.thewowfactor-thebook.com
  • “…I’d say the best way to build trust is with brutal honesty…I think brands do themselves the MOST good after a ‘drama’ of some kind – some kind of bad publicity. I recommend the sooner they come forward, and the more honestly they come forward the better.  There have been cases  where people have started Facebook groups or started tweeting relentlessly about brands that have stuffed up in some way or another and stupidly the brand has IGNORED all of the drama expecting it to ‘blow over’ – and of course with this kind of social media available – it DOESN’T!  So eventually after much delay they have no choice but to speak up, but by then it’s too little too late…I think brands have the most potential to win raving fans during times of trial and bad publicity – the more humbly they come forward and either say “we were wrong” or the like the better it is for them and their future sales....” thank you to Allison O’Neill author of  The Boss Benchmark www.thebossbenchmark.com
  • “…A satisfied customer is not a loyal customer by any means.  I build brand and customer trust by NOT expecting them to be loyal to me, but by being loyal to THEM!  I earn loyalty by giving it.  I do it one “D” at a time: Discover (what is important or of value to my customer), Decide (what their experience will look like), Deliver (what I set as their expectation) and Do It Again (it’s an ongoing process that changes and improves with feedback….” thank you to Chrysty Beverley Fortner www.linkedin.com/in/chrystybeverleyfortner www.chrystybfortner.wordpress.com

Here is what I think the above experts are telling me when it comes to building brand trust:

  1. give-to-get; this is very much like having a service mentality.  Instead of positioning your business in your own mind as “the customer is lucky to have this,” you position yourself as “how can I be of service?”  As businesses, as business owners, we need to remember there is no entitlement.  We are not entitled to have customers or clients simply because we hang out a shingle.  A customer may purchase once, but what will bring them back?
  2. consistency – this is a principle that says you treat every customer exactly the same; your products are of the same value and quality from one season to the next; your message, although worded to fit various occasions, says the same thing each and every time
  3. transparency – this is the “what you see is what you get” concept; your business is open and visible – your customers and clients [and competitors for that matter] can see what your business standards are by the way you do business, by what you say and put “out there” and by the way you treat your customers, clients and vendors [suppliers, even the FedEx delivery fellow]
  4. honesty, open and frequent communication – to me this means the right hand and the left hand are working in concert on the same tune; that your message and actions match; that you and your business are accountable for every message, product and service
  5. follow through – do what you say you are going to do or deliver…make no promises – rather, say what you stand for

My personal input on this question is that building brand trust takes time.  Do all of the above and over time your brand will stand the test of economy and fluctuating customer demand.  Also, I think it needs to begin with a leadership question: what exactly do I want my brand to be, to say, to be known for and trusted for?




Business news bits and bobs

IMG_1231Sometimes business news comes in little bite-size pieces, much like the Halloween candy we didn’t give out last night – this was the leanest year for TricksOrTreaters we’ve had in the seven years we’ve lived in our neighborhood.  We answered our front door less than 10 times.  And I carved my best effort at a Jack O’Lantern yet!  I know what you’re thinking, I’m supposed to be an “artist” and this is the best I can do? Well, sometimes one gift simply doesn’t translate into another.

Talking about translating, I’m finding that working in concert with various social media sites has its advantages.  Last Friday I put up a question on Twitter: are doctors small business owners? As was recommended to me -and I pass this recommendation along to others- I have my Twitter account linked to my Facebook account so that what I post on Twitter shows as a status update on Facebook – for a small or home-based business that is good to know as it increases the exposure for quick news items you might have.  I got a response on my Facebook status/Twitter question from Paul Sinasohn “…It depends on the structure of the practice. Some are, even if the practice is incorporated, but some – such as those who are partners in larger medical groups (Brown & Toland, Hill Physicians) are not.   SBA standard is $10 million average receipts….”  Thank you, Paul.

Bits from today’s news:

*Today from The Huffington Post, an article about counties in the U.S. that have been stressed the hardest by the year’s economic woes and wouldn’t you know, of the top ten counties, 4 are in my home state of California, and #8 is the county of my youth, San Joaquin County.  The housing boom/bust has had just awful repercussions – it’s not just the home sales industry, but also construction and all the pond ripples out to associated businesses of both those industries that have been hurt.  In the neighborhood in which I live, there is one home that was a victim of bank foreclosure that still sits empty [we had two].  Then you add the layoffs and other woes of the  auto industry and the computer software/hardware industry and it’s rather depressing.  Not so easy to be a solo-preneur in such a climate.

*Swine flu…actually any flu…advice is to stay home if you are contagious.  Article today by Associated Press writer Ashley M. Heher points out that this advice is difficult to follow for those who don’t get paid if they don’t show up.  From the article:  “…That idea drives an untold number of carpenters, day care workers, servers, shopkeepers and small-business owners to their jobs each day. Sniffles or not….”  Home business owners who work primarily online don’t have this as an issue necessarily.  However, those small and tiny businesses who must meet with clients/customers and potential customers daily will have to figure this one out.  Just today I went out to run errands and saw people in the store wearing a protective breathing mask over their face.  This might be one answer.

*This last item really isn’t about small business…it’s about big business.  Unless you could say that an actor is a small business person…even a home-based business person who goes from contract-to-contract.  I mention this one because my sister would have loved it.  My sister passed away three years ago and today is her birthday.  One of the things she and I shared was a love of science fiction movies and television shows.  We both, together and separately, watched the second “Aliens” installment too many times to count.  Tomorrow night on ABC, “V” debuts and it looks fantastic.  I have been a fan of Morena Baccarin since her days on the one-season series “Firefly” as Inara Serra and as Adria in Season 10 of  Stargate SG-1.  The TV critic of my newspaper, Chuck Barney, says of “V” in today’s column, “…it all makes for a suspenseful, scary concoction. The fast-paced “V” pilot sucks you in from the start and keeps you welded to your seat right up through a couple of shockers near the end of the hour….”  I’m going to watch it.  I know my sister would have loved it.



Best point of sale customer service at a KFC

Who knew that I’d observe the best example of point-of-sale customer service at a fast food place?  This past weekend I was traveling and stopped off the freeway at Sacramento [California].  I wanted to call my husband, rest for a short while and have a quick snack.  The Kentucky Fried Chicken/A&W place was easily the best choice to allow me quick back-to-the-freeway access.

KFC/A&W Del Paso Rd in Sacramento, CA

KFC/A&W Del Paso Rd in Sacramento, CA

When I entered the establishment, there was just one fellow ahead of me in line.  He was ordering for three and not sure of his choices.  Waiting on him at the cash register was a friendly young woman.  Now, at first, I didn’t pay any attention to the sale going on before me…I was thinking about my day and staying on my travel schedule.  I began to tune in though because of what I was hearing.  The sales person was patiently giving the young man explanations of the differences between the various ways in which KFC’s chicken is cooked; she told him what the specials were and pointed out the new beverages [I ended up with the limeade – it was good].  He changed his mind a couple of times, but she didn’t miss a beat.  She exhibited all the traits of a truly skilled and competent sales person:

  • provided enough information about the choices for the customer to make an informed purchasing decision
  • her smile was warm and genuine
  • she was patient…she treated him as though his purchase was important
  • courtesy was in every sentence…she used “please,” “thank you,” referred to him as “sir” and looked him in the eye
  • she made sure his order was exactly what he wanted before concluding the sale and then thanked him for his business
Sheba, salesperson extraordinairre

Sheba, salesperson extraordinairre

After the young man left the register and it was my turn, I told this young woman that I was very impressed with her friendly professionalism.  I explained that I wrote a business blog and was going to write about this with her permission.  I also asked if I could take her photo, to which she agreed after checking with the on-site manager, Robert Greenlee.  Her name is Sheba and she said, “I try to do my best wherever I am.” With customer skills like this, Sheba has a bright future in my opinion.

To be fair, when I was seated at a booth and finishing my snack before heading back onto the freeway, I observed a young man at the register who was also helping a customer with polite consideration.

What really struck me, though, in this experience is that I don’t enter a fast food establishment with the expectation of receiving this level of customer service.  Actually, I’m quite happy if the counter person gets my order correct.  We should ask the question: should there be “levels” of customer service dependent upon the ticket price of the merchandise? If I spend $100 on an item of clothing, or if I eat at a restaurant at which entrees begin at $25-30 I expect to get good or even great service.  Shouldn’t I also expect good or even great service when my total ticket is $3.78?  I think the answer is yes. It’s important for any business, regardless of industry, to remember that a happy, satisfied customer is going to tell others.  A business’ reputation is built, in part, upon what its customers have to say about it.

What do your customers say about your business?

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine

What’s so bad about direct selling?

Direct selling is a great vehicle as a home-based business. That said, why does it get such a negative vibe?  You mention “direct selling” to someone and they squish up their face as if they’ve just bitten into an unripe lemon [which is a truly bad taste].  However, people all over the world purchase products from direct sellers every day of the week, every week of the year.  Products like cosmetics and functional beverages and vitamin supplements and baskets and food containers and scrap-booking supplies and home decorative elements and health and life insurance are all examples of direct selling products.  In fact, some of the most well-known products in the world cannot be purchased in a retail store…they have to be purchased from an independent contractor [or consultant or distributor or agent].  Billions of dollars in sales every year are generated through direct selling.

So what’s so bad about direct selling as a home-based business?  Here are some of the inaccuracies I’ve heard:

  • I don’t want to go door-to-door.  If you were interested in my product, you would never hear about it because I knocked on your front door.  Most products sold by direct selling independent contractors are done by invitation and referral.  In fact, the income opportunities with which I’m affiliated discourage this type of selling mechanism…it’s a pure waste of time and effort.
  • I can’t sell. Good, then don’t.  As sales guru Jeffrey Gitomer says, people don’t want to be sold they want to buy.  Don’t “sell” something, share information.  Ask questions.  Let’s say you are in conversation with someone and the subject of health comes up and your product is a vitamin supplement; ask the person how they are managing that aspect of their health maintenance and would they be interested in some information about your product?  Give them the information and let them make their own decisions.
  • I can’t represent something I don’t believe in. Well then, don’t.  You can’t get excited about something you aren’t excited about.  For instance, I could never talk passionately to you about the juice product I represent if I was not already passionate about it.  And I’m passionate about it because I use my own product for my own health benefit.  And because I do benefit from it [and so does my family] then I’m quite excited to tell you about it.
  • I can’t afford a large inventory.  That’s a good thing because now-a-days not only don’t you need one, with many direct selling companies you ought not to have one.  With the internet and the availability of sales websites, your customers have the convenience of shopping online and having their orders drop-shipped to them.  You don’t have to stock your garage with product that you aren’t sure will move.   To me, in my business, this means I have the assurance that my customers are getting the freshest product direct from the distribution point…not from stock I’ve had sitting in my garage.
  • It’s too expensive to start a business.  Depending upon the product or service, this may not be true.  There are some direct selling companies that cost in the $200-300 range to enroll [which includes kits/samples] and there are direct selling companies that cost far less to enroll [one of the two income opportunities with which I’m involved is offering no-cost enrollment this year as example].
  • I don’t have the time.  Time spent working your business is a personal choice.  A direct selling home-based business differs from a “job” where it is your employer who sets your work hours.  With your own business, you decide how many hours per day/week you’ll work, what time during the day – when you start, when you stop…you even decide if you don’t work at all any given day.  It’s your business.

There is, in actuality much that is great about direct selling…so much so that about 59 million people worldwide are involved in this industry.   If you are among the thousands of people wondering if a direct selling income opportunity would help you in your current financial situation, then give it a look.  It costs nothing to look and the benefits of involvement are rich.

Add to FacebookAdd to NewsvineAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to Ma.gnoliaAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Furl

It’s not just an “American” Dream anymore

I like the  wordnet Princeton University  definition of “American Dream,”…the widespread aspiration of Americans to live better than their parents did….” 

This was certainly true of my parents.  My parents grew up in the 1920’s and 1930’s and when they became parents they embraced the whole post-WWII “two cars in every garage and a chicken in every pot” American ideal.  They wanted their four children to have things they didn’t have, wanted them to have Christmases with many gifts under the tree, wanted their children to have opportunties they didn’t have.  For the most part my brothers, sister and I did.  My parents always told me that I could do “anything” I put my mind to and that the opportunity to do so would there.

People from all over the world have flocked to the United States in a search for this ideal – to give their families things they never had and opportunities closed to them in their countries of origin.  However, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that this ideal never has been exclusive to America.  Surely all parents everywhere want their children to live better than they.  And, we now live in a global community.  There are companies in America with employees who live in other countries.  People anywhere in the world can do commerce worldwide via the internet.  The direct selling company with which I am an independent distributor is operating in several countries of the world and expanding.

I would change the phrase “American Dream” to “Human Dream.”  What caused me to think on this was my re-watching of the  BBC series  “planet earth.”  The final dvd disc in the series has discussions involving human society expansion versus shrinking environment and ecology.  There is a discussion involving sustainable development.  This really caught my interest.  I live in a western developed country – I include all developed nations in this – and the idea of sustainable development where I live has been impossible for more than one generation already.  What about other parts of the world?

Is the desire to live better than one’s parents did at odds with protecting the planet?  In the series Tony Juniper, at that time Executive Director  Friends of the Earth  talked about the difficulty of sustainability versus development “…protecting the earth’s natural capacities to meeting human needs….” 

I wondered to myself, do we as humans need development in order to aspire to live better lives than our parents?

In the series Professor Wangari Maathai, Founder Green Belt Movement, said:

  • “…sustainable development must mean that we develop in a way we can thrive on this continent…and Africans have thrived…without airplanes, without trains, without skyscrapers, without all the modern development…development means staying alive…quality of life…not so much a life that is surrounded by goods, things, but a life where you can live in a clean and healthy environment….”

If I had an American Dream, a Human Dream it would be that my children and now my grandchildren can live in a clean and healthy environment…whether or not it is in a developed nation or not.

But is this now a world seeking western lifestyles – that everyone wishes to live in a suburb with two cars, tvs, computers, cell phones, microwave ovens, grocery stores on every corner and mega discount stores in every community?  Is this an assumption we can make?  In the series M.A. Sanjayan, Lead Scientist with The Nature Conservancy said, “…I’m always cognizant in the back of my mind that they’re [people in undeveloped countries] thinking well, that’s great for you to say, that you guys have all these things in the U.S. and you’re well developed and all that now you’re trying to prevent us from the same thing.  These are real human aspirations….” 

Can we really say to people that they must live differing lifestyles than those in western developed nations because the planet as a whole needs them to?

“…It is impossible and unexceptable and just won’t work to say to the poor of China and India you can’t have what we’ve got….” – said Rt Hon Clare Short  MP Former Sec State International Development as identified in the series.

My understanding of the American Dream has always been one of people  wanting opportunity to succeed at whatever…opportunity to have dreams and goals and having the chance to pursue those dreams and goals.  I have never believed this is a Dream confined to the geographical limits of the United States.  I think it’s human.  Even though the BBC series “planet earth” was devoted to environmental and ecological issues, I found within it the idea that all humans everywhere seek quality of life and aspire to live better than did their parents.

My Human Dream is to build a home-based business that will give me resources to help my family to live better, to help my community to deal with issues better and to help my planet because I want my grandson to have a future.

What is your take on the Human Dream?

Add to FacebookAdd to NewsvineAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to Ma.gnoliaAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Furl

2 points about direct selling

Two big points about direct selling are: 1) what it is…and 2) what it isn’t.   And what direct selling is…is so much more than what it isn’t. 

First, what direct selling is not:

  • direct selling is NOT a get-rich-quick-scheme.  Besides con games by professional con artists or out-and-out thieves [and they are criminals by-the-way] , there are no get-rich-quick-schemes.  You might make a profit one day on the stock market, but you’ll lose another day.  You don’t sign on with a direct selling company hoping that magically you’ll quickly get rich.
  • That’s it to what direct selling is not…not a scheme, scam or illegal operation of any kind.  It’s just a business model – a way of doing commerce.

What direct selling is:

  • a way of doing commerce: selling a product or service person-to-person.  You can literally do this one person at a time, or hold a meeting or party in someone’s home or office and demonstrate your product(s).  Direct selling contractors are independent business people who do not have a brick ‘n mortar storefront. 
  • direct selling is a business, and like any other business, your success will depend upon what work you put into it.
  • a direct selling business is an opportunity…a way to earn for yourself either 1)extra money to supplement what you are currently doing, or 2)replace what you’re currently doing altogether [again, depending upon your work ethic and willingness to learn business acumen and selling skills], or 3)be its own opportunity – you don’t currently have income but are in need of some and want the leverage of a business with which you call the shots.

There are many direct selling businesses that are right now offering millions of people around the world the opportunity to either add a little extra income each month or a lot.  Such companies as Avon, B’s Purses and Accessories, Creative Memories, Discovery Toys, Inc., The Kirby Company, The Longaberger Company….there are hundreds.  The Direct Selling Association at this time lists over 200. 

Direct selling…as a phrase…is also not a compensation plan, nor is it catalogue sales.  Phrases such as direct marketing tend to indicate that the message about products or services are directed at end users – definitions vary.   If I were to put a brochure about my product into your hands, then I am directly marketing [literally means informing] you about my product.  It is a function of selling – whether you are in the direct selling industry or any other type of retail sales industry. 

Multi-level marketing, single-level marketing – these are phrases that have to do with compensation plans [how you are paid] of a direct selling company.  The ways of compensating independent distributors vary from company to company.  You would need to do your research and due diligence on the type of product/service and direct selling company you are interested in and then to determine which type of compensation plan appeals to you.  Again, there is nothing evil about the phrases multi-level marketing, they are simply descriptive of a compensation plan.

One other phrase heard a lot is network marketing…again it is a phrase used to describe selling person-to-person.  You build a network of contacts through which you market [inform people] about your product or service.  No mystery here.

Back to my 2 points about direct selling.  1.  direct selling is not something bad that makes your forehead crinkle.  2. direct selling is selling products/services person-to-person.

I am an independent distributor for a direct selling company and love the freedom this type of income opportunity allows.  I did my due diligence.  I found a product I love, a company with which I’m pleased to be associated [as my grandfather used to say: never work for or with something or someone that you can’t hold your head up in society]; and I love the potential for income that this compensation plan shows.  The company with which I’m associated is exciting and right now is offering some pretty exciting things.  If you’d like to know about it, please send me an email.

Have an awesome day.

Add to FacebookAdd to NewsvineAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to Ma.gnoliaAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Furl