Three Hurdles Your Logo Has to Clear.

Your logo is visual shorthand for your brand and a reflection on your company. If it’s outdated or doesn’t create the right impression, it’s working against you. So whether you’re having a new logo designed or refreshing an existing one, here are three tests it needs to pass.

Just Your Type
If a typeface is trendy at the time your logo is created, there’s a good chance it will get dated more quickly. So if you’re thinking about developing a logo or updating the one you have, look at typefaces that have managed to stand the test of time and still look fresh and current. Those timeless faces will still be working hard for you years from now.

Sans serif typefaces may be more suitable for industrial or technical types of companies, while serif typefaces often feel friendlier and may make more sense for human services companies. And there’s almost never an occasion when a script typeface or novelty face makes sense for a logo.

Color By Numbers
Too often, logo colors get chosen for the wrong reason. They may be colors that the decision-maker simply likes personally, or colors that a lot of companies in your industry use, rather than colors that make sense with what you offer and resonate with your audience. Color choices should fit your offerings and your audience, and make you stand out from the competition.

There are practical things to consider as well. Red fades in the sun more quickly than other colors, so if your logo is going to get a lot of outdoor exposure, red may pose some challenges. In addition, if your logo will appear on signs that direct people to you, the colors you choose need to offer a strong contrast and high readability.

Graphic Detail
Most logos have some graphic element or icon. It doesn’t have to be literal. And it doesn’t have to be the coolest thing in the world. But it does have to be different to be memorable. And if it can reinforce your name or what you do, so much the better.

As you consider your choices, ask if your icon is similar to that of a lot of other companies, especially in your industry. Or is it something truly unique? For example, a lot of companies want to show their patriotism by using some variation of the American flag or stars and stripes with red, white and blue. Often, this has nothing to do with the business they’re in or who their audience is. The result? The marketplace is seriously crowded with red, white and blue logos that use elements of the flag. This makes them harder to find and remember.

Consensus Kills
Consensus is often where great logos go to die. A design that gets watered down by a committee and has to be blessed by everyone is a lowest common denominator logo, and unlikely to serve you well. Hire a designer or firm you trust with expertise in identity design, choose the smallest possible number of decision-makers, and push yourselves to allow a logo that lets you stand out.

(Idealogy has been designing awesome, award-winning logos for more than two decades. If yours needs an update, ask how we can make it a logo you’ll love for years.)

The Bare Essentials of Your Brand.

Dieter Rams is the pioneering industrial designer who led the design team at consumer products company, Braun, where he worked from the 1960s through the 1990s. In the wonderful documentary Rams, he shares a fascinating insight into his approach to product design.

“We were trying to eliminate the need for user manuals. We wanted to make it so that the machine could be used without one. Which means the reduction of everything to the bare essentials and removal of anything that could be a distraction.”

This applies to your brand as well. If a brand is the unique position you hold in the minds of your customers, prospects and employees, it needs to be simplified and pared down until only what is essential and obvious remains. Everything else is a distraction.

In fact, let’s go one step further. Anything more than the most simple, clear brand message actually waters down and undermines your position, making it less unique and more interchangeable with your competitors’. That’s the opposite of branding.

The same is true of your website. Think of Rams’ call for “the reduction of everything to the bare essentials and removal of anything that could be a distraction.” If you followed that principle, would your site become more user-friendly? Clearer? More effective? Yes.

In a world where a lot of content is created simply for the sake of having more content, it makes sense to strip away everything that isn’t necessary to help people find you and the solutions you provide. Because if it isn’t needed, it’s getting in the way.

The same is true of presentations and slide decks, collateral and emails. How can you get to the point faster and make it more clearly?

Rams closes out his Ten Principles of Good Design with this: “Good design is the least design possible.” Less is more as long as what’s left is the essence of who you are and how you can help.

Try this today. What’s the least number of words you can use to state the unique way you help people or companies? It’s a great team exercise — or a great competition. Take it for a spin and see what you get. (Hint: it will probably be a stronger brand statement.)

3 Marketing Moves That Boost Sales

You want to sell more.  You need to sell more.  So here are three specific things that make marketing — anybody’s marketing — work harder.

Switch Pronouns

Everywhere you want to talk to customers, stop saying “us” and “we” and start saying “you.”  On social media. On your website. In phone calls and sales calls.  In company literature.  In email and direct mail.  

Talk about the customer and not about you.  Show customers that you understand what they want and need.  What opportunities and challenges they face.  What life can look like for them with you by their side.

Flip the Picture.

Put the visual focus on your customers, too.  Let them see themselves on your website, in your social media posts — everywhere you use images.  No matter whether you sell a product or service, depict it making life better for them. 

No one needs to see another image of your offices or your senior management team or your sales team or your providers.  They need to see the best possible version of themselves -— as made possible by you.

Ask for Something.

Every message doesn’t have to ask for a purchase, but every one should have a call to action.  If it’s social media, ask customers to comment about their experience or share their situation.  In email, ask them to visit the website or share on their own social accounts.

On your website, ask them to download a PDF or watch a video or subscribe to an email or a podcast.  In a direct mail piece, ask them to call or visit your website for more information.

In a face-to-face meeting, ask them to share their experiences, pro or con, in the area you serve.  Ask about their goals or their concerns.  Ask what keeps them up at night, or what lets them sleep easier.

So…Three Things.

Talk about the customer.  Let them see themselves.  Ask them to do something.  Doing those three things consistently can have an enormous impact on lead generation and sales.  Try it and see.

Six Ways to Market Ahead of a Recession

Recessions happen.  And while no one knows when, or how severe, one thing is certain — there’s one on the horizon in the next few years.  So how are you marketing now to minimize its impact when it lands?

First of all, understand how a recession will impact your customers — and by extension, your bottom line.  In most industries — and there are exceptions — demand drops off during a recession.  That means working to ramp up demand now before things cool off.  Here are six ways to do that now.

1. Divide and Conquer
Especially if you have a long sales curve, divide prospects into two types: those who are likely to stop spending during a recession, and those who aren’t.  Market with a greater sense of urgency to the first group to move them more quickly toward a purchase decision, while playing a long game with those whose purchasing power is less likely to be impacted during a downturn.

2. New Purchase Paths
Work now to develop alternate methods of purchase that may be more affordable and less risky during a recession.  Look at the kinds of financing options already in place at furniture stores and others, or consider creating different purchase models like subscriptions, as software companies and others have done.

3. Protect Your Base
In a downturn, you can’t afford to lose existing customers.  So use this time to perfect and even enhance your customer service.  Communicate more often with existing customers, through more channels — and more effectively.  Offer them insights and ideas that can help them through a slow economy, especially if you can assist them with that.  Look out for them, and they’ll stick with you.

4. Create Urgency Now
What problem do you solve?  Remind prospects of the pain that problem causes, and the remedy you provide.  Help them see how their life will be better the sooner they act.

5. Play All Your Cards
Talk openly about the likelihood of a recession in the next couple of years or so, and promote the benefits of purchasing now while things are still relatively stable and the economy is mostly strong.  Paint a picture of what it will look like if they wait too long. 

6. Sharpen the Differences
Right now, double down on the ways in which you’re better than your competitors.  Especially if you cost a little more, make the case for the value you deliver.  Be more creative in your marketing to make certain your message sticks.

One more thing.  Consider setting aside funds now to use for marketing when things slow down.  Your competitors are likely to make the classic mistake of putting marketing completely on hold to save money.  If you can create a rainy day marketing fund to help you keep your name out there, you’re likely to capture a bigger share of those who are still buying.

Your Mission Statement Is Broken.

Do you have a mission statement. If you do, why?

Seriously.

Let’s be honest. Mission statements are pretty useless. They’re labored over and argued about. They’re revisited and revised. They almost always grow longer over time. They’re put on walls and websites. And then mostly forgotten.

Don’t believe it? Take a walk. Ask the first five team members you see to tell you the mission. How many do you think can do it?
A mission statement no one knows is worthless. So why have one at all? Two reasons. 

The first — and most important — is to tell your team what to do. Because everything they do should move you closer to fulfilling your mission. To do that, you need one that’s crystal clear. 

While each has an “official” mission statement, the world’s best-known soft drink companies each use a very different version to guide their people. Coke’s? “Put a can of Coke within arm’s reach of everyone on the planet.” Pepsi’s? “Beat Coke.” 

Read their formal mission statements online. Now read the ones above again. Which do you think people remember? Which help them do their jobs? Which can they measure themselves against?

The second reason to have a mission statement? To attract and inspire customers, shareholders, donors, team members and volunteers. And as younger generations pay more attention to what you’re about, this gets more important.

Your mission statement needs to be emotionally charged. It has to engage heart and mind. And it has to do it in clear, plain language.

So here’s a challenge. Scrap that musty mission statement that no one knows. Start over. You’ll meet resistance at first — maybe even your own. You’ll have to power through that.

Think like a military leader. What do you want your people to do? What’s the endgame? Take that hill. Destroy that wall. Stop those invaders. That’s the model. Start there. 

Now edit. Be ruthless. Strip away corporate jargon and long, formal phrases. What’s the point? What’s the least number of words that will work?

If you can do that, you’ll have a mission statement that actually inspires the troops. One that informs their actions every day. One that attracts the people you want to attract. Can your current mission statement do all that? Or any of that?

Want an equally effective vision statement? Answer this. How will you know when the mission is fulfilled? That’s your vision. “We beat Coke.”

(Need a hand tackling this? Give us a call at 812-399-1400 or email allen@idealogy.biz to find out how we can help.)

Bend It Like Bezos

In his terrific book, Marketing Rebellion: The Most Human Company Wins, writer Mark Schaefer points out something that might surprise you. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos believes that focusing on change can be less important than thinking about what isn’t changing.

Bezos points out that people will always want a low price. They’ll always prefer a wide selection. And they’ll always love fast delivery. By focusing on those three things that remain constant over time, Amazon has become an enormous success — and has changed retail forever.

And did you notice? All of those “constants” revolve around one thing: customer preferences. In other words, human beings. And while humans may change in the ways they interact with technology and so on, their core needs don’t really change that much. Focusing on those basic drives will always lead to better decisions.

Taking this to heart might lead to some really helpful insights — or at least help you question your assumptions about why customers do what they do. For example, it’s a widely held belief that millennials do not want to visit a bank branch. They’d rather do everything remotely using technology and not talk to a living banker.

But what if there’s another way to think about that? What if millennials happened to be the first big generation to start banking after banks began downsizing their staffs? So instead of the experience of previous generations, where many people in the bank might know you by name and know your family as well, they’re more likely to have encountered far fewer employees, higher turnover and a much less personal experience.

It’s widely held that millennials appreciate an experience, and embrace those choices that provide one: Starbucks and other small coffee joints, local shops and boutiques, restaurants that offer locally-grown or locally-made choices on their menus. And Disney World — because it’s the experience. 

So if a bank — or any business that wants millennial consumers — focused its time and energy on bringing back or invigorating that personal experience, they might find that conventional wisdom is wrong, and that millennials and others do want that human contact. Or they might not. But it’s sure worth asking the questions and questioning the assumptions.

The bottom line takes us back to Bezos. What is there about the way your customers think, feel and believe that hasn’t changed, and isn’t likely to change anytime soon? How would your marketing change if that became your focus?

It’s worth thinking about.

Why Marketing Fails

Marketing works. Except when it doesn’t. So when you miss your marketing goals, it pays to dig into the real reasons behind the shortfall. (Hint: it’s almost never that the goals were too aggressive.) Here are five ways marketing can go sideways on you.

Untargeted
Unless you have unlimited resources, you have to focus on your best and most likely prospects. That often means excluding everybody else. But too much marketing casts a wide net, when a majority of those reached are not prospects at all. Look at your best customers or clients. Then build your marketing to attract people or companies just like them. 

Unpersuasive
Marketing and sales are mostly the same thing. And just telling people what you offer is neither. Persuade me of the need, then persuade me that you’re the best choice to fill that need. Make me want it, show me why you’re the best source, then make it easy for me to get it from you. Whatever it is. Then repeat.

Underfunded
Probably because of social media, it’s easier than ever to believe that you don’t have to invest in marketing. It’s also wrong. It takes both time and money to market well (translation: get results). Most companies, regardless of size, invest too little of both.

Unimaginative
It’s true that some media don’t have the reach or impact they once did. But there are smart solutions. You can use those media better than others are using them. Or you can come up with marketing ideas that are off the beaten path. Either way, you have to look beyond what everyone else is doing. When was the last time you tried something new?

Uninteresting
It’s all about engagement. Think entertainment, but entertainment with a goal. You have to make the audience want to find out more or share or follow or take a next step. It’s been said many times before: you can’t bore anyone into buying anything. Look at your marketing. If it was a competitor’s, would you be jealous? Would you wish it was yours? If so, good for you. If not, it needs work.

Of course, there are a lot of other reasons marketing might not work as intended. But if you’re getting all of these five right, there’s a very good chance you’re meeting — or beating — your goals. If not…well, there’s your homework.

(If your marketing needs a boost, consider Idealogy’s Out of the Box Day, a chance to get you or your team out of the office and into creative high gear. You’ll come out the other side with new ideas, new marketing messages and new energy.)

Time to Retire Your SWOT Team?

It’s a fixture in strategic planning sessions and retreats. It consumes much of the planning time. And it may be time to retire it.

SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis makes perfect sense on paper. But that rarely translates into real forward motion for an organization. Here’s why.

First — and this is huge — there are rarely customers or prospects at the table. No vendors, suppliers or partners either. Those people who have a powerful picture of where you’re strong and where you’re not. And they have no voice. 

The result? Opinions and insights from the same inside people who see the same things in the same way, day after day, year after year, with the same insular, internal focus and the same perspective. 

We expect them — completely unrealistically — to suddenly, spontaneously recognize critical strengths and weaknesses. To spy opportunities that have been eluding them. And seldom does the conversation ever turn to how to create opportunities — only how to find them.

And threats are even more elusive. We rarely have a true grasp of where threats are coming from. They’re mostly external and — early on — mostly invisible. New technology. Shifting consumer tastes and behaviors. New, non-traditional competitors.

What can you do instead?

Ask customers — past, current and prospective — to take an online survey. What do they think you do well? Where do they think you need work? And how much does each item really matter to them? 
Do the same with suppliers and other partners — and all employees. If you’re a nonprofit, ask those you serve, those who fund you and your directors.

(Why online? Two reasons. Anonymity breeds honesty. And no group dynamics to skew or inhibit responses.)

Remember that weaknesses can be flipped to strengths, and vice versa. Are you smaller than your competitors? Then you’re hyper-local and hyper-personal. Offer a smaller range of services or serve a narrow range of customers? You’re the specialists.

Play war games. Imagine building a new company to compete against yours. How would you do it? Who’s doing that right now? How are they doing it? Those are some of your threats. 

What if the economy stalls? It will. What if you take current trends in consumer habits and behaviors to their logical conclusion? Threat or opportunity? What are you doing now to be ready?

Rethink threats, too. What do you have to do to become the threat? What kinds of people would it take? What resources? Can you do it? How fast? What if you succeed? Those are the opportunities.

You need to know where you’re strong and where you aren’t. You need to find new opportunities and prepare for new threats. Just consider that there might be better ways to do it.

(Idealogy often assists companies in shaping this process. Let us know if we can help yours.)

Five Social Media Pitfalls to Avoid

There are a lot of great reasons to invest in social media. It can be inexpensive. It’s immediate and instantaneous. It invites interaction. It can get shared and even go viral.

If all that’s true, then why do so many businesses feel they don’t get the return they hoped for from social media? Here are five possible culprits

1. Failure to Invest
Social media’s free, right? Only if you have the time and ability to manage it all yourself. Because time is money. And it takes both to develop consistent content that’s relevant, engaging and worth sharing on a regular basis. And it takes both to manage your accounts.

2. Failure to Respond
A lot of people see social media as the easiest way to contact you. And the easiest way to complain about you. If you’re not watching those notifications, setting up alerts and responding appropriately and immediately, your social media presence can actually do more harm than good. Have a written policy and follow it.

3. Failure to Commit
Ramping up your social media is like buying a puppy. At first, it’s fun and exciting. Then it starts to get a little boring. Then it just becomes tiring. That’s why so many social media accounts have a flurry of posts early on, then fewer and fewer as content ideas slow to a trickle. Have a schedule. Check your analytics. Stay the course.

4. Failure to Follow
We’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. Follow your customers. Follow your competitors. Follow your prospects. Follow trade associations and media. Like and share their posts when they deserve it. Add comments. Mention them in yours. It’s called “social” media for a reason.

5. Failure to Grow
“If you build it, they will come” is a great line for a movie, but a terrible approach for social media. It takes work to build fans and followers, especially if you want them to spread the word for you. Some of it is doing all of the above (content, following, responding) and the rest is finding ways to get people to follow you — contests, surveys, special promotions and more. If no one’s there, nothing else matters.

Fear Cripples a Brand

You probably believe (or at least hope) that your company has a vibrant brand — a position in the market that you can call your own. But a true brand is really hard to build. And of all the things that can cripple or even kill a brand, fear tops the list. Fear chokes off a brand’s power to build your business in two critical ways.

First, fear makes marketers or business owners avoid creative solutions — ideas that could be truly game changing. Those ideas might involve changing products or services, or changing the way they’re delivered. But most of the time, they’re about changing the marketing itself. And most never see the light of day.

Here’s why. If your marketing messages look and sound like the industry norm, they feel safe and comfortable. They don’t make waves. They don’t ruffle feathers. They get approved easily. They look the way they’re supposed to.  

In other words, they blend in perfectly. And they sink without a trace.
Breakthrough ideas make us nervous. They’re risky. They’re untested. They’re not what everyone else is doing.

So even though they can cut through the clutter and engage the prospect, they sit on a shelf unused, out of hesitation or nervousness.  

But blending in, while it feels safe and sure, is neither. It’s brand repellent — and it’s nearly 100% effective.

That leads us to the other kind of fear: fear of senior management. Not that senior management is inherently scary. But senior management does not like different. In fact, most senior management hates different. Senior management got to be senior management by being careful and watching numbers. Senior management did not become senior management by taking chances.

Over the years, countless frustrated marketers have shared how they were hired to energize a brand, only to watch their ideas for doing exactly that die a slow, painful death. Over time, death comes more quickly, but no less painfully.

The end result? A demotivated marketing director or team stops trying to do anything that would truly move the needle, because, in their words, it’s just not worth the fight.  

By the way, if you’re senior management, and you don’t buy this, take a good look at your marketing. Does it really seem different from your competition?  

If not, and if you have good marketing people, then there’s a culture where actual branding — standing out in your market in a consistent and meaningful way — isn’t a goal and isn’t valued. Rather, it’s silently discouraged. Quietly crippled. Leaving money and talent on the table.
It’s simple math. To sell anything, you have to be heard. To be heard, you have to stand out. To stand out takes a team willing, able and empowered to try new ideas, to make a few mistakes, and to discover different ways to sell what you have to offer.

Remember, fear eats the soul. But not if the soul eats it first.
What has to change for you to market fearlessly?