One thing the New Year forces us to do is to re-evaluate the nooks and crannies of our lives that have gone unattended, reflect on past challenges, and resolve to make changes for the better. In business, it provides an opportunity to take a fresh look at the landscape of both internal and external projects vying for attention, and then set a clearly communicated course for success and allows your team to focus on what is most important. This path doesn’t need to encompass burdensome, cost-heavy changes, rather philosophical shifts in practices that will help crystalize your priorities, and ensure your business is poised for a focused and successful year ahead. Here they are:
1. Know Your Strengths
Knowing what you know versus what you don't know is one of the most powerful positions in business. No one expects you to be an expert in every subject or area of your offering, however they do expect you to be able to clearly communicate what you are selling and how it is different or better than other options they may have. Are you offering a service that is faster, a solution that is stronger, an ad that is more clever, a widget packaged cuter, or a sales team that is friendlier? If you aren’t better, stronger, or faster, but you happen to have the best return policy on the planet, embrace that too! Whatever makes you different can be leveraged as a marketing tool to help clarify advantages over your competition.
2. Get All Hands Involved
We scratch our heads at the number of times we’ve heard companies finalizing user interface product specs without having involved a member of the Marketing team; or PR/Communications folks at tradeshows who haven’t connected with their company’s Product Engineers to understand product features and nuances. We don’t need to explain the missed opportunities inherent in this broken circle of communication, but the lesson remains: In advance of a product roll-out, map out a comprehensive product strategy that involves representatives from Marketing, Business Development, Product Management and Engineering teams to ensure all audiences are being addressed, and any go-to-market surprises are minimized.
3. Support Your Industry
The opposite of paying it forward, is turning your back. If you are looking to be a well-respected and recognized brand within your given industry, it is important to attend relevant conferences and shows, submit yourself to be a speaker on panels and roundtables, and if your budget allows, offer to sponsor a coffee or breakout session during one of the events. Participating in, and supporting, professional gatherings is an exciting and dynamic way to keep your brand and business top-of-mind with industry influencers. If attendance at an event isn’t an option, it is easy to show support in other ways—follow tweets from the show, or post a question or thought on the organizer’s Facebook page. After all, you will never be faulted for showing interest and insight into the happenings of the space where you do business.
4. Practice Your Pitch
Many companies minimize or ignore the importance of media training, yet few things can bolster, or consequently tarnish, your brand quicker than words. Because of this, it is important to make sure all company spokespeople are knowledgeable and savvy about your products or a given topic before speaking publicly about it—and this goes for anyone operating as a social media spokesperson as well. If professional media training isn’t in the budget, practice videotaping your spokespeople from your smart phone—peppering them with relevant question—and have them rehearse answers aligned with pre-determined message points. If nothing else, it is always entertaining to try to identify fidgety hand habits and jerky head bobs internally before taking them to the public stage. In general, it is a good idea to write the story you want to see as a result of any meetings with the press—this will help spokespeople stay on target in all of their communications.
5. Demonstrate Passion
You may have heard the popular motivator for athletes—You don't have to be the fastest, or the strongest, you just have to want it more than the rest—beyond athletics, this can be true in life and business. In all things related to your company, its people, and products, convey passion about what you do, what you make, the service you provide, and why you believe in what you do. Passion is addicting, contagious, and difficult to say no to—all things that sound pretty good for your bottom line.
At Elevate Partners, we are excited about what we see taking shape in 2014. From evolving technologies, to budding trends, to the realization of entrepreneurial visions, we believe success is within reach for businesses who invest in knowing themselves, sharpening their focus, and communicating their positioning. Here’s to your brand growing, shining, and succeeding in the New Year!
Chris Donahue and Valerie Pressley are co-founders of Bay Area-based Elevate Partners, a marketing and business development firm working with technology and consumer product start-ups. www.elevatepartners.netTwitter: @elevatepartners Email: firstname.lastname@example.org