If you are working on growing your business, you can expect to hear talk about the importance of building a brand. There are branding companies, branding consultants, branding experts, branding strategists, and so on and so on. All of them want to help you grow your business by creating a brand presence in the mind of your current and future customers.
A business owner asked me the other day, what was the best marketing strategy ever? I did not have to think very long. To me, the answer is Southwest Airlines in its early days. In a day when Southwest was competing with industry giants to launch a new airline, they broke through and succeeded by demonstrating that they were the airline you wanted to fly by doing the following things.
- They offered an affordable and valuable service.
- They put their employees first and let them know it. The Employees became their marketing ambassadors on EVERY flight and at every gate.
- They empowered their employees to do what ever it took to make the customer experience both safe and enjoyable. The employees felt good about being part of Southwest and that spirit was contagious.
- They got people fired up about the service they were offering and encouraged them to tell a friend. They mastered the art of the testimonial!
Combining silly slogans by peppy flight attendants with little things like birthday cards or free drink coupons, and ads that made you smile, Southwest integrated the customer experience into every step of what they did and how they marketed. The rest, as they say, was entrepreneurial history. One friend told another – and they told someone else. People chose to fly the fledgling airline to see what all the buzz was about. They liked the experience, kept on flying, and kept on telling their friends.
I’ve been thinking about this – the creating of an experience – a lot lately for two reasons.
One is a company that I am hoping to become much more involved with. They have an offering that will revolutionize their category in a way similar to what Southwest did to the airline industry. As I look at what would be needed to do just that, I start to get really excited. (You’ll have to stay tuned to learn more about this project….it’s a developing story.)
But the other project, is one that I can tell you all about. It’s the Fourth Annual Arizona Entrepreneurship Conference or AZEC09. For the last 4 years, I have worked with the team at OTEF (The Opportunity Through Entrepreneurship Foundation) to provide entrepreneurial training, support, and inspiration to at risk populations here in Arizona. Programs have included helping women, who have faced huge challenges, start over and launch a new business. Teens got a fresh start in their own entrepreneurial venture and now, through Blue Print for Survival, displaced workers are finding a new purpose through their own businesses. The funding raised each year at AZEC09 makes this possible!
So, how could I apply what I have learned through the years from studying Southwest make AZEC09 better?
Valuable and Affordable – at $99 for early registration and $150 for the regular conference rate, it is probably one of the best full day conference values you can find. And the learning you can gain is invaluable from both the speakers and the people you meet.
Our team is first rate from our sponsors and community partners to our volunteers. It is important that we make the experience as good for them as possible so that they will make the conference great for our guests.
And it’s time to get folks fired up and to do something different to make things more fun. So I asked out great partners at the Phoenix Business Journal for help and they came through with the perfect gift to give away at different times throughout the day – I love presents! Another friend has gotten into the spirit of this and is also helping to bring other surprises. So now, on top of great speakers, the opportunity to connect with thought leaders, and some of the top exciting entrepreneurs around we have presents to. How cool is that!
So all I needed was a few testimonials. I went through the conference file and asked friends for permission to share their words with you. Here are a few…
“Dollar for dollar the 2008 Arizona Entrepreneur’s Conference was the best money and time spent on any conference. Period! I’m expecting even more on Nov 12th 2009!”
Eric Keosky-Smith CEO, Co-Founder, Shwaag ™
“… this is the best educational and networking opportunity in the state…. It’s an opportunity to network with and learn from people who have achieved entrepreneurial successes in health care, digital media, sustainability and cloud computing PLUS lots of ideas shared by CEOs on the front lines who are making things work!. ”
Pat Elliott, Western Marketing Group
See, the thing that makes testimonials from delighted customers the best marketing strategy ever is that what THEY say matters most.
So, I have a favor to ask. If you have attended one of the last three Arizona Entrepreneurship Conferences, leave me a comment and share your experience. And if you are coming this year, tell me why so we can work on making sure you have the best experience ever!
I’ll be watching for your ideas!
Thanks for stopping by. Stay Tuned…
P.S. Remember those great Sponsors and Community Partners I mentioned. Here is who they are:
The Business Journal Phoenix and Infusionsoft – who have generously stepped up EVERY year, as well as Mashable, Microsoft, Affordable Image, The Town of Gilbert, Metro Studios, Pour Masters, Gangplank, Stealthmode Partners, CorePurpose, Brent Spore, Chuck Reynolds, The Performance Magazine, and The Social Media Bible.com, PLUS our great friends and community partners at The Knight Center for Digital Media, EO, TiE-Arizona, and The Arizona Technology Council, Social Media Club Phoenix, The Phoenix Innovation Foundation, PodCampAZ.
The greatest message in the world will have no impact if no one is listening. This is not exactly a new concept. But if you forget it, you can get into BIG trouble.
“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
While often attributed to Irish Philosopher George Berkeley, this is more likely a paraphrase of Berkeley’s writings from his musings in A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, that delved into knowledge and perception.
From Berkeley’s perspective,
“To be is to be perceived” .
In the language of the great philosophers if his day, the maxim was “Esse est percipi“.
In the language of today’s business we might say …
If you are not perceived to exist, you do not exist.
But what does this have to do with business and messaging?
Actually quite a bit. Berkeley may have been writing in a time before any of our businesses where even a glimmer, but when you apply his words to the goal of growing a business, they are profound.
“If you have a great MESSAGE and no one is around to hear it – does your message matter?
The answer is Probably Not. Too often I have seen companies fail. It was not because they did not have a great product or service – they did. They failed for the simple reason that the right audience NEVER GOT THE MESSAGE. Since the message never reached the customer. employee, partner, or investor, the perception of value was not created – and the company did not get what they needed – more sales, more productive employees, better partnerships, or investment dollars. Eventually, the companies failed to achieve their goals or in some cases disappeared completely.
In business, perception IS reality
Equally important is how your target audience perceives your message or business. You may have the best service or widget in the world, but if aren’t aware of it and perceive the value to THEM, you are just whistling into the wind.
So if Audience and Perception are that important …
Here are some tips for finding an audience and helping to shape perception.
- Know who your audience is. Unless you have universal product – EVERYONE is not your market. Define them first!
- Understand where they hang out. This is the first rule of both messaging and networking. If you are singing like a bird in an empty forest. You will have very little impact. No one will hear you. Use media – both social and traditional wisely. Unless you have unlimited funds, look at the demographics of the audience BEFORE you invest your time and money there.
- Share a message that provides value to the listener. Do your homework on what your target audience is hoping to learn, to solve, to fix. Build your message around how your product or service will do just that.
- Never forget – the perceptions AND words of others will always be more powerful than your own. You can spend millions and have your reputation destroyed when unhappy customers, employees, or partners raise their voice, just as your fame can be assured when enthusiastic customers, employees, or partners spread the word.
Thanks for stopping by. Stay Tuned…