Who’s Telling Your Brand Story?

 

As an owner, founder, CEO, president, or some version of several of these titles, at some point in time you made a decision: to start a business – or take the helm of one that already existed.

Maybe you researched, planned, and joined a successful franchise. Perhaps you started at the counter and eventually took over the shop that your grandfather built. No matter the exact scenario, you became a part of that company’s very fabric when you took your position. Whether the very first few pages or several hundred in the middle, your role started a chapter in your brand story.

“Brand story, huh? Sounds like some pretty fancy marketing jargon.”

I hear you. And the marketer in me hates to admit that most buzzwords really do come off that way. But, just because it might be an on-trend phrase doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Whether you acknowledge it or not, your brand has a story. It’s being written all around you. The kicker? You’re not the only one writing it.

Every employee, customer, competitor, distributor, Facebook fan, or Twitter troll is someone who has experienced your brand, even on the smallest of levels. They could be sharing a glowing review about how you got their only car back on the road after the shop down the street was too busy. They could be personally attacking a member of your team for something entirely false and not related to your business at all. My point is this: any conversation gives you an opportunity to communicate, authentically and openly, in your own voice. While you can’t control what is being said, you can lead it.

Putting your brand out there can be a bit intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are three ways you can start sharing your brand story today:

  1. Your history: who started your business? What was the goal when it first got off the ground? In sharing how you got from your very first dollar to where you are today, you give customers a way to connect to you through your background and maybe even a shared history. Whether in an “about” section on your website or the “Our Story” section of your Facebook company page, tell people what you’d like them to know about you.
  2. New products and services: did you just launch texting to your main business number so customers can set up an emissions appointment that way? That sounds cool. While you might be tempted to announce that you’re now offering ____, resist the easy megaphone-style message. Instead, share why you decided to launch this feature, the top 10 ways a new customer can use it, or even a quick video of an actual conversation between you and a customer.
  3. Employee features: having trouble finding talent to keep your business moving? You’re not alone. In today’s applicant-driven job market, it’s even more important that you’re sharing what it means to be a part of your team, the story of what it’s like working for you. The best way to share this part of your story? Through your current team. Better still, tie an employee feature on one of your social media platforms to a work anniversary. Share not only what your company means to this person, but what they mean to you.

Your brand story is your business’ emotional undercurrent. It’s what gives your transactions a feeling, and what gives your customers a reason to choose you. If you don’t take the time to stop and tell your side, outsiders will fill in your narrative for you.


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Every story has an author. And, every brand has a story. So, who are you letting write, tell, and share yours? Join the brand conversation below or connect with Jennifer directly.

Accounting for the Bus Theory

On any team, each member has a role to play. In your shop, your Customer Service Manager helps customers and works to earn repeat business. Your Custodian keeps the place clean and approachable. Your Office Manager makes sure the business functions. And no one is more capable (or qualified) to diagnose, repair, and rebuild than your ASE Certified Master Technician.

Whether big or small, team roles and responsibilities often are siloed. Individual contributors focus on where they are best. And most of the time, everyone wins.

Until Bob is suddenly sick, Dani is out of town on her vacation, and Kevin put in his notice.

A few years ago, one of my own teammates took a new opportunity. Despite working together collaboratively every day and having a transition plan, doing my best in the reality of the unknown was how I spent many days, weeks, and months after.

In one moment of frustrated file searching in particular, I came to an important realization: I hadn’t been planning for this. And now, it was too late to do anything but figure it out on my own.

Enter, what we now affectionately call “The Bus Theory” on our Marketing Team. Yes, everyone has their niche, their specialty that no one else can do as well as they do. But, just because you have an expert doesn’t mean you can’t (and shouldn’t) have at least one back up – in case they get hit by a metaphoric (or real) bus.

Here are 3 ways you can use to prepare for the buses in your business:

  1. Cross-training: while having a bunch of utility players usually results in a “jack of all trades, master of none” kind of scenario, cross-training is an opportunity for individuals to gain additional skills and knowledge, whether or not they will be used daily. Especially when you introduce a new system, tool, or procedure, don’t just train those who will be most immediately affected. Train as many who want to learn.
  2. Job shadowing: as a learning tool, there is nothing quite like seeing a problem solved in action. When you’re about to tackle something particularly challenging, stop. Grab your newest coworker or your right hand (wo)man. Take them through your steps right along with you.
  3. The Bus List: whether a member of a team or the boss, keep a running list of what you do. Update it when you take on a new project, land a new customer, or learn something new. Nothing fights tribal knowledge like documentation.

Vacation, illness, and family emergencies are a part of life, so they’re also a part of work. If you aren’t accounting for what happens when any member of your team suddenly isn’t there, prepare to feel it.


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Benjamin Franklin said it best: if you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail. This week, the Woman Behind the Curtain is sharing why it’s especially important to consider when a member of your team might not be around – for a day or for a while. How do you prepare for the buses in your business? Comment below or connect with Jennifer directly.

If You Give a Sales Guy a Lead

If you give a sales guy a lead, he’s going to ask for a phone number.

When you give him the number, he’ll probably ask you for an email address.

When you’re finished, he’ll ask you for a creative pitch. 

Then he’ll want to set a meeting to make sure he’s on the same page.

When he sits down in your office, he might notice he doesn’t have a pen. 

So, he’ll probably ask to borrow one of yours.

When he’s finished taking notes, he might get carried away and take your pen along with him. 

Back at his desk, he’ll probably want to take a working lunch.

You’ll have to pay for a little box for him, with a sandwich and a pickle.

He’ll dig in, eat until he’s full, and wipe his hands with a napkin a few times.

He’ll probably ask you to read over his email draft.

So, you’ll read it over and he’ll ask you to show him anything he should change.

When he looks at the changes, he’ll get so excited that he wants to write a new pitch of his own. 

He’ll make a graph.

When the graph is finished, he’ll add supporting text and make a PDF.

Then he’ll want to send it. Which means he’ll need your approval.

He’ll walk into your office, hand you papers, and stand back.

Looking at your desk will remind him that he wants to make more money.

So, he’ll ask for a lead.

And chances are if he asks for a lead, he’s going to want a phone number to go with it.

 

This sales story might sound familiar. It’s a take on the pretty well-known children’s book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. Many sales guys (and sales gals) start out like this: excited, unsure, inexperienced. And early on in a young sales professional’s career, there isn’t such a thing as too much training or help. Long-term, though? You bet. Sales enablement is the quickest way to turn a green sales rep into a weak one. Have a rep on your team that can’t (or doesn’t want to) find new customers? Put your cookies away.


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If you give a mouse a cookie, what happens? This week, The Woman Behind the Curtain is sharing a sales story – for managers and reps alike. How do you balance a team’s success while equipping individuals in their own right? Comment below or connect with Jennifer directly.

There’s Nothing Wrong with Being Small

“There’s nothing wrong with being small. You can do big things with a small team.” Jason Fried, founder of 37signals (who you might know better by their current company name, Basecamp) said this. I’m not sure when he said this or to whom, but I am sure of what he meant.

First, a little background:

When I started in the automotive aftermarket, our Marketing Team was small (two people, if you count Captain Reman – and he’d likely prefer I did). This small, internal team was responsible for content creation, social media, marketing strategy, reputation management, trade show planning, company events, and sales team support.

A little way down the line, we added a talented Graphic Designer. And then, the creative wheels really started to come off. A new trade show booth? Sure! Unconventional product update videos, shot in our conference room? Why not! A consistent brand voice and style standards? You bet. And a combined 120 REMAN U articles? Truly, a team of three can be quite productive.

Today, I’m fortunate that our once small team takes up a few more chairs in our conference room. 4, to be exact. And along the way, as this same team has grown, shrunk, and grown again, here is what I’ve learned about the number of people it takes to get $%!t done:

  1. Small = scrappy. When you’re scrappy, you don’t have time for excuses. Scrappy teams find a way to make whatever it is work.
  2. Bonding happens faster – and often deeper – with fewer backs to have. On a small team, there are only so many personalities, egos, and idiosyncrasies. When your immediate peers are so few, you don’t have the option to not get along and support one another’s work.
  3. Move the needle over minutia. With a smaller team, especially when each individual wants their contributions to matter, it’s easier to rally around the big, all-hands-on-deck type of tasks – and let the less significant fall where it may.

Feeling stressed and like you’re fraying at the ends? Don’t attempt to solve it by adding a body to your team, at least not immediately. Take a breath, take a moment, and enjoy the hidden benefits of one (or a few people) together on that island.

This week’s article is the first of four in the Wisdom On Our Walls series. Based on some of the pretty cool Startup Vitamins posters that hang on our sales floor, near our builder benches, and in our cafeteria, our REMAN U writers will be sharing what these quotes mean to them – and how these words can impact your business.


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If you ask the Woman Behind the Curtain, there’s nothing wrong with being small – in stature or in team size. What have you been able to accomplish on your small teams? Share below or with Jennifer directly.

What Would Mike Do?

Basketball legend Michael Jordan? No, number 23 is not the right Mike.

Jackson 5’s most iconic member? No, he’s not the right Mike, either.

The Mike that sparked these words? Mike Anderson, Transmission Digest Account Executive for 17 years until his passing this past November. And for the past 6 years or so while I’ve been his customer, he’s been one of our most loyal REMAN U readers – and one of my favorite industry friends.

As with any loss, sudden or otherwise, memories and moments come back in full force. What was said and done remains. But, it’s not all that’s left – or all that will be.

A sales guy, connector, and dedicated “company man”, here are 5 business (and life) lessons that I learned from Mike:

  1. Ask for the sale, but know your stuff. Good sales reps know how to ask for a sale. Great ones know how to respond to hesitation or an outright “no” because they’ve done their homework and have framed their pitch around what’s important to you. Build relationships by being an expert in your field.
  2. While everyone else is busy being polite, be genuine. My inbox is saturated with “have a great day,” “hope this finds you well,” and “we appreciate your business.” Write politely and blend in, or use the words you would if you were standing face to face to almost bring yourself right into the same room.
  3. It’s ok to take your work home. What you do 8+ hours of the day occupies a significant amount of your time, energy, and brain power. When you’re really proud of how you tackled the week’s biggest problem, talked a customer off of a ledge, or read an article that made you laugh, share it with those who matter to you most.
  4. Want to have a presence? Participate. Every year, I signed an advertising contract with Mike. Signature in hand, he could have disappeared until the next inking was due. Instead, he stopped by our booths at various trade shows to say hi, emailed to give his 2 cents on a new YouTube video, or called if a free press opportunity opened up.
  5. Patience is a very human virtue. Mike had a knack for picking up on a particularly busy week and proactively asking if a deadline needed flexing. Sense that someone you’re working with could use some extra breathing room? Give it if you can.

When facing problem X or obstacle Y, what would Mike do? I’m not sure. I wish I could ask him or call for his opinion on our latest print ad campaign. What I am sure of, though, is that Mike would be as helpful as he could and never lose sight of who is on the other end. My job (and likely yours, too) is nothing without people, be it a long-time customer turned brand advocate, driven Customer Loyalty Specialist in the office, or vehicle owner venting via social media. Without customers to buy from you, people to sell for you, experts to create for you, and competitors to push you, all you have is a product. The most sophisticated, technologically-advanced product on the market, though? Pales in comparison to the impact of a person who cares.


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From an industry connection to a friend, the Woman Behind the Curtain remembers one of hers and the lessons he taught (intentionally or otherwise) this week. Who is your Mike? Share below or with Jennifer directly.

Flux Capacitors and Flexing, Creatively

If I had to guess, I’d bet that I’m 1 of at least 1.21 million people who are a fan of Back to the Future (snaps for the uber fans who picked up on that numerical reference). I didn’t see it in theatres, but I popped in our VHS copy on almost every teenage sick day.

It wasn’t Biff’s sweet hair, or Marty McFly’s trademark vest that kept me coming back. This connection? Deeper, almost cosmic – and to none other than Doc Brown.

Flashing forward (and backward) to two weeks ago, I walked into a comic book store. On one of many alphabetized shelves was a line of bobbleheads: Darth Vadar, Mickey Mouse, Bob Ross, South Park’s Kyle – and Doc Brown. The moment I saw his zany blue goggles, he was as good as sold.

When I think of Doc Brown, I think of:

  • An inventor who pushed the envelope.
  • A passionate scientist, with courage in his convictions.
  • An absent-minded, eccentric “madman.”

When I look at plastic Doc Brown sitting on my desk, I’m reminded that:

  • Different isn’t bad, whether a personality, idea, or customer.
  • Criticism, challenge, and pain aren’t worth fearing, especially when what awaits on the other side are some of the greatest professional victories.
  • Successes and failures alike are created in vacuums. Test and re-test, openly.
  • When progress isn’t, well, progressing, try another way.
  • Making a difference of unknown proportions requires doing the work – and sometimes, doing it alone.

Take a look at your desk, workbench, or station, especially if you find yourself feeling in a bit of a creative rut. What are you looking at when you come to work and throughout the day? Whether pictures, quotes, or seemingly silly plastic figures, find something that can at the very least make you smile when you’re not – or remind you to explore a new thought, project, or approach, even if it seems absolutely insane.

 


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Great Scott! The Woman Behind the Curtain goes Back to the Future every day on her desk to get inspiration to flex her creative muscles. Who or what on your desk inspires you to think outside your timezone? Share it below or with Jennifer directly.

The Most Important Part

About 3 weeks ago, I took a step away from my desk – and into a pair of steel-toed boots. While it wasn’t the first time I’ve worked in a pair of safety shoes in my professional lifetime, it was the first in the past 6 years of my current role.

A 4:45 am alarm? Pretty darn early. Any lingering tiredness, though, faded quickly as I walked through the production employee entrance an hour later.

I met my supervisor for the day, grabbed a pair of safety glasses, and gloved up. After a few brief introductions to my new coworkers, I was ready for the challenge: Jennifer Porter, Parts Washer.

In my usual day-to-day, I’ve posted, updated, and promoted an open Parts Washer position on an almost monthly basis. Determined…Hard working…Attention to detail…An expert in preventing contamination…These were just words on a page before I spent a half day working in those exact shoes.

So, what did I learn – and re-learn – in the process?

  1. Quality starts at the beginning. Quality isn’t something you can make adjustments for 50% of the way through a process. Yes, you catch or correct a mistake, but you don’t have to when you start correctly to begin with – with the cleanest clutch, with your very best work.
  2. An assumption is the only result from judging what you haven’t yet experienced yourself. What did I think it was like working on a production line before I shadowed? Simple – and loud. What do I know it is now? Hard – and significant.
  3. The mark of a leader is in their actions. Being a leader is a choice: a choice to help a new coworker when you’re not a “boss” in title, a choice to speak up when you see a business standard not being met, a choice to play by the rules for the greater good.
  4. The most important part is every part. Sure, a transmission won’t function without a torque converter. Electronic communication won’t happen without a valve body. But when you can argue that every part is significant, they all are. In any company, no role is more important than another. Every job has its purpose – and without it, we’ll all fail.

Without the patience, guidance, and training of my peers, I would have learned only a fraction of what I did – and would have probably sprayed solvent in my eyes. But here I sit, with my full vision and new-found clarity. Do you really want to know the ins and outs of the business your hard work supports? Shadow a coworker. Come out from the back for an afternoon and work the front counter instead. Step outside of yourself and into a different kind of impact awareness.

 


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The Woman Behind the Curtain stepped into some new [steel-toed] shoes to experience the Work Behind the Production Wall. Thoughts on what she learned and [re]-learned?  Share it below or with Jennifer directly.

Three Things I Learned From Playing Buyer Hardball

This story starts a few weeks ago with a seemingly simple task: booking a hotel room.

With a local Milwaukee event kicking off (and an office full of coworkers that I really enjoy and don’t see nearly as often as I’d like to), I took to my usual go-to travel sites and started hunting for availability for a week.

$249.00 a night?!

$315.00 a night, not including taxes and fees?! What in the absolute heck, I wondered.

Convention? Some kind of festival? Milwaukee is a happening city in the summer, but this seemed extreme. As it turns out, I’d neglected to notice several months back that my trip dates mirrored one tiny event happening not too far from our corporate offices: the US Open.

I didn’t need to be a Rory McIlroy fan girl to know that this was kind of a big deal – and I’d probably be sleeping under my desk if I didn’t act. Quickly.

Immediately, I sent an email to a hotel we use at least a dozen times a year when our customers come to visit, and where we also happen to have a pretty killer corporate rate. The good news? They still had a few rooms available. The bad news? A strict rate blackout.

Having spent more than a few years in the “you’ll never get what you don’t ask for” school of thought, I picked up the phone.

“Hi, Carol? Jennifer here. I’m hoping you can help me…” 

“I completely understand the reason for the policy, Carol, and it’s all well and good that you ONLY enact this type of blackout twice a year…”

“Well, what happens if you don’t sell these rooms? Call me crazy, but wouldn’t it be better to have them occupied at a corporate rate than not at all?”

“You guys have been great to work with in the past, but I’m starting to think I might need to look for another hotel partner…”

I think you get the idea of how my conversation went. In the end, Carol offered to escalate my question to her General Manager and get back to me the following morning.

Friday came and went. Monday morning, I left a message for Carol and followed up with an email. Monday afternoon, she apologized for the delay and kindly informed me that her boss’s decision was firm. She was sorry she couldn’t help me.

This experience wasn’t without its frustrations. But, here’s what I learned – and how it’s relevant to any buyer or seller alike:

  1. Negotiation is uncomfortable. No, not for everyone, but for many. As a buyer, negotiation is your opportunity to share what’s truly important to you. As a seller, it’s an opportunity to win a customer for life.
  2. Even a pushy customer is a customer with a wallet. Was I forward with Carol? Definitely. But did I – and do I – have business to give? Absolutely.
  3. Situations blow over – and decision-makers change. In this experience, I didn’t get what I wanted as a customer. Life moves on, and we all survived. Carol’s next boss, though, might feel differently.

For those wondering if I’ll continue to do business with this hotel, the answer? Probably. It’s a unique property and our customers have given some pretty rave reviews. And while I’ll (also probably) be sleeping under my desk next week, it’s well worth being uncomfortable from stepping up – and learning a lesson.


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You’ve heard of “playing hardball” – but what about buyer hardball? Last week, the Woman Behind the Curtain played it. And this week, she’s sharing her experience for buyers and sellers alike. Ever had a negotiation go the way you expected – or rather, didn’t? Share it below or with Jennifer directly.

You Are What You Eat

Before I get too far, this is not about food. Yes, food is delicious. And I hope whatever you had for lunch today was tasty, but this article? It’s about the other things throughout the day that you eat.

Or rather, consume.

From the moment you wake up in the morning (after snoozing your alarm about 5 times if you’re like me) to when your hardworking head hits that pillow, you’re surrounded by hundreds of thousands of sights, sounds, and smells.

At any given moment, you’re the sum of lots of things, past and present. And as time moves on, your most recent happenings take up more space – and have more of an effect.

Here’s what I know:

  • You are what you listen to. From the type of music you listen to in your car during your morning commute to talk radio on a weekend morning, what goes in your ears doesn’t just stay there.
  • You are what you read. It’s pretty well established that our Reman U crew are big fans of books. (Need some recommendations? Check out this recent post.) Any content you read, though, leaves a mark. Are you spending your time consuming it consciously, like setting aside time each day to brush up on the latest industry news? Or are you unconsciously taking in all that your Facebook feed offers?
  • You are what you watch. Did the Siren of Support or I become a grizzly guy with horns and fangs after seeing the latest Beauty and the Beast remake? No. That would be silly. But we did talk about the movie in the office the very next day. Character portrayals, Armageddon-esque action scenes, and underlying themes influence your thoughts and even behaviors, whether in 20 minute Netflix chunks, week-long binges, or hours in a movie theatre.
  • You are what you hear. The advice of a mentor or the coaching of your boss? Hear that well. Don’t discount, though, the impact that other words around you have. You can try to ignore the criticism and negative attitude of that toxic coworker, but it’s still there if you are.

Every conversation, interaction, or moment of silence adds up – to you, your mental capacity, your drive, your physical capabilities, and your outlook. When any of these things feels off, the answer is in your consumption diet. And not unlike the foods you eat, it’s all about balance. If reality TV is on deck tonight, maybe coffee with a friend you haven’t seen in a while is in order tomorrow.


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Mmmm…burgers…wait, what? Ohhhhh, that’s not what this week’s topic is. The Woman Behind the Curtain is talking about another kind of eating. Have a comment? Share it below or with Jennifer directly.

photo credit: © drobotdean – stock.adobe.com

Do You Dare Unplug?

When you’re reading Reman U, I’m usually typing away and reviewing your clicks, opens, and comments in real-time.

But, that’s not the case today. Yes, I’m probably still thinking of you and how you’re connecting with these very words (I can’t help but love our readers…that’s not weird, is it?), but instead of sitting behind my laptop, I’m sitting with my toes in the sand.

You guessed it – I’m on vacation. As exciting as it is to trade in winter weather, it’s been daunting to think about stepping away from work, let alone in the middle of the week.

I’m planning to unplug, but it won’t be easy. Here’s how I’m making it happen – and most importantly, how you can too:

  1. Build a trusted team. Whether or not you’re the one usually steering the ship, the team you leave behind are the ones who will step in – and step up – in your absence. Make sure you have the coverage you need.
  2. Get your ducks in a row. Planning what needs to happen when – and when you’re away – takes work. The earlier you get quacking, the better.
  3. Leave a clean desk and an empty to-do list. Anything you leave unfinished will haunt you…and so will a desk covered in papers when you return. A few late nights beforehand are a small price to pay.
  4. Have faith in your people. Having a strong team is only step 1. Give your full support of any decisions they make without you and trust that they’ll act in your company and customers’ best interests.
  5. Turn on an out of office reply and set up a vacation voicemail greeting. Your customers and peers alike won’t know where you are and when you’ll be back if you don’t tell them. Set the proper expectation and use it as an opportunity to show a little personality.
  6. Don’t check your email. Seriously. You’re not really unplugged if you’re hawking your inbox. If you MUST check in, limit yourself to once a day.

Work, life, and all their subsequent deadlines can too easily make you feel like you just can’t take time off. The moment you have this thought is likely when you need a vacation the most. Dare to unplug. Dare to see what impact a little refresh will have on doing your best work.

photo credit: © kintarapong – stock.adobe.com


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This week, the Woman Behind the Curtain is taking a break – and sharing 6 tips for how you can do the same a bit easier. Have a tactic that works for you? Comment below!