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Small Business News:
Top seven items small businesses want to see in federal budget - Proposals, presented by CFIB to the Finance Committee, will go a long way towards creating stability in an uncertain economy for Canada's leading job creators and drivers of prosperity. Read more...
Challenges Aside, Canadian Small Business Owners Enjoy Financial Health, Work-Life Balance - Life is good overall for Canada's entrepreneurs; 79 per cent are happier, and 65 per cent are less stressed now than when they worked for someone else, according to a study from Intuit Canada. Read more...
Proposed tax changes may hurt small business owners - The current federal government made election promises which could increase the amount of tax small business owners and their families' pay, and these changes may become a reality with the upcoming 2016 budget. Read more...
Saskatchewan small business owners' optimism jumps in January - Unlike neighbouring Alberta, optimism among Saskatchewan small business owners increased again in January and remained above the national average, according to the Canadian Federation of Business (CFIB) monthly business barometer. Read more...
How Diverse Is Your Marketing?
Take a long look at your marketing strategy - who are you targeting with your advertising and other promotional activity? Hopefully you'll have identified your target market by homing in on its gender balance, age range, socio-economic status, and geographic location to identify your primary customers. You may have even carried out a market survey to better understand the needs of your potential customers. If you have, then you will have a clear idea of how to reach them with your message. But is that enough?
Major corporations are, according to the Mintel Group, " ... looking to strengthen relationships with consumers by recognizing and reflecting our more diverse and open-minded society." Here are six examples of how the corporate world is acting on this:
Toy manufacturer Mattel made the cover of Time magazine recently when it diversified its range of Barbie dolls; they now come in 8 skin tones, 14 different face types, 18 eye colours, 22 hairstyles/colours and a range of body shapes (original, curvy, tall and petite). Mattel also featured a boy in a television commercial for the first time.Cineplex Odeon are now showing sensory friendly screenings, in conjunction with Autism Speaks Canada. Movies are projected in 2D, with increased lighting, lower volumes and smaller audiences.Actress and Paralympic snowboarder Amy Purdy starred in a Toyota Super Bowl ad, and Gatorade aired a commercial featuring a Sled Hockey team playing against NHL pros. It's worth noting that 13.7 per cent of the adult population in Canada have a disability - that's 3.8 million people!In Ohio, a small business called Veil has manufactured a technologically advanced, waterproof, lightweight, hijab for the modern woman. The company funded its development through a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign; it set its goal at $5,000 and received an amazing $39,221 in pledges.Signs, a restaurant in Toronto has a threefold vision to: become one of the best restaurants in Canada; promote the use of American Sign Language among the hearing community; and provide career opportunities and growth for the deaf in the hospitality industry. All servers are deaf and customers are asked to order using sign language. Icons next to each menu item and a sign language cheat sheet help customers. The restaurant has received national media attention.Dozens of global name brands have recognized the LGBT community in their ads, or through event sponsorship including Kellogg, Ben and Jerry, MasterCard, and American Airlines in the United States. In Canada, TD Canada Trust sponsors 42 Pride festivals across North America, and both General Mills and Proctor and Gamble feature same sex couples in their television commercials. These are just a few examples of companies making their advertising to reflect real life.
The companies mentioned above are not being totally altruistic, there are sound marketing principles behind their desire to appeal to a more diverse audience. People relate to people like them and if all your advertising focuses on one stereotype you are limiting its appeal. Consumers have morals, ethics, and viewpoints that reflect their beliefs - increasingly companies are taking a stand too and finding that it humanizes them. Supporting any specific minority group has its risks. People might find your promotional material too gender specific, or ageist, or not ethnically diverse enough, others may be offended by what they see as immoral - people will always see what they want to see, or perhaps not see. Only you can decide what is right for your company.
However, the one thing the trend toward diversity in marketing is showing us is that consumers want to feel you, as a company are being authentic. Adding a touch of diversity to your overall marketing activities may well pay off in more ways than you might imagine.
Is Your Brand A Good Fit?
Does your brand really fit your company? Does it give the right message to existing and prospective customers? Branding is an integral part of who and what your company is. If you're not clear what it is, you risk letting your customers define it for you, and there lie dangerous waters.
We all know the word branding comes from branding cattle or horses, so ranchers could identify which were their animals on the range. It was simple and effective. Taking the concept from its roots and introducing it to your business - not so simple.
If you are in any doubt about whether your branding is working for you, not against you, take a good look at your philosophy, identity, essence, personality, image, character and culture.
Now, does your brand image talk to what you are, what you want to deliver, how you are seen by clients? In short, ask yourself: is there a strong, relationship between what you offer, the way you and your team members interact with clients, and the brand itself?
Start looking at advertisements in newspapers, or commercials on television. Not the silly ones, but the ones that try to promote a strong corporate brand and see how well, or badly, they work. For instance some time ago there was an ad campaign for a leading financial institution that showed employees helping customers with their shopping, or fixing their car. The idea was to promote their high level of customer service, but in reality a bank teller is not going to repair your car, so there was a disconnect. The brand should have promoted trust, reliability, security and all the things we expect from a financial institution.
Do you really understand what your company stands for? Love them or hate them, Starbucks delivers exactly what its brand promises. They deliver the same smiling service and the same great coffee in every darn location whether in North America, Europe or other far off climes. This is a brand that knows itself and that resonates with its customer base.
Take a look at your brand: does it work? Are you delivering on it, is it clear? Does it represent who and what you are? If you were to ask your customers what makes them continue buying from you, what would they say? Would it reflect what you consider your brand to be? And now for the $64,000 question: do all your employees understand what your brand means? If they simply point to your logo, you have some education to do.
Organize a half-day, or evening, retreat for your employees, or the people closest to your business (advisers, friends, family) and ask them the following questions and discuss their answers. See how in tune they are with your brand. You will be surprised at the different takes you get on what they believe your company to be and in the process you'll be able to define, or redefine your brand.
What does your company stand for - what's its philosophy? Perhaps it's always delivering first-rate products, at fair prices reliably, or no job is too small, or outstanding customer service. Maybe it's to become an industry leader, give back to the community, or display exceptionally high environmental standards.
If you could distill your company down to its core essence, what would it be? Ask yourself, what do I believe in?
What about your identity? Does your company have a personality? Do you want to be seen as a warm, friendly, family company, or perhaps a slick team of hi-tech professionals doing the job and doing it well? Is heritage your thing, or do you want to be seen as leading edge?
Character is an important element and can mean many things, it can represent your corporate ethics and how they are portrayed in the quality of what you sell and the way you deal with customers.
Corporate culture is something that can't be written down, it's the sum of all the parts discussed above; it's what makes your company unique. It's either the reason for your success, or for its disharmony. It's the very essence of your brand - what makes your company good, bad, or indifferent. Get it right and your employees will deliver on your brand promise naturally, allowing your company's brand to stand out from the rest of the herd.
If you discover a disconnect between what your branding is saying about you and what you really are, don't be afraid to rebrand. Whether your company is a one-person business or has multiple employees - a retail store or offers a service, branding is a vital component to connecting with existing and potential customers. It's important you make it effective.
Coach's Corner - AND not BUT
Often we get stuck in how we say things not realizing the impact of the words on others.
Think back to a time when someone was giving you feedback about something you had done. It begins sounding nice and supportive and then the word "BUT" is inserted. You know what happens. You hear the word "BUT" and you think, 'Oh oh, what's next?' You suddenly feel a little deflated and may actually forget what the first part was about.
BUT is one of those words that shut down communication. Rather than being supportive and encouraging, it is competing for the two truths in a statement.
Susan Scott, author of Fierce Conversations, suggests that we substitute the word BUT with AND. She talks about multiple realities competing when the word BUT is used. There are two truths, I own one and you own the other, and when BUT is inserted there is a loser.
"I love what you've done, but..."
"I love what you've done and..."
See how different the start of these two statements feel without even knowing what's next.
"I know you want an extension, but the deadline is approaching." This statement contains two truths where the second competes with and overrides the first. No negotiation or even consideration.
"I know you want an extension and the deadline is approaching." This statement comprises two truths of which both are balanced. What can we figure out here?
It may seem awkward at first and it might require a bit of rethinking as to how and what you are going to say to another person. When my clients and I have explored this concept, we have realized the power of it in creating a shift in thinking about the impact of our statements. It's about recognizing the other person and their accomplishments and it's about the other truth, whatever it is. It doesn't negate the accomplishment, merely exists beside it.
Another reason to try to exchange these two words is that it challenges you to view things in a different way, to shift your thinking. The word "but" does not allow the brain to hold two ideas together to sort out a solution. Replacing "but" with "and" allows both thoughts to be considered which in turn may lead you both to figuring out what to do.
Although it is not always possible or necessarily easy, it is worthwhile considering the impact of your statements when using the word BUT. By trying to replace it with the word AND you are considering the impact of your statements in relation to another person-staff, student, colleague, etc.-and jointly coming to some understanding of each other.
So next time you are about to use the word BUT, stop, and think of what you are going to say and how it impacts the other person.
Paul Abra, Motivated Coaching
Beaver River Community Futures Development Corporation
PO Box 2678, 106 1st Street East, Meadow Lake, SK, S9X1Z6
Phone: 306-236-4422 | Fax: 306-236-5818
firstname.lastname@example.org | www.beaverriver.ca