How To Run A Candidate Vetting Process

Hiring the right people for your team can be an expensive and time-consuming process. Glassdoor estimates that the average American company spends about $4,000 to hire a new employee and that the process often takes more than 50 days to complete. Managers face the additional complexity of trying to determine which candidates are most qualified tosucceed in the open role. Developing a fair, inclusive and efficient recruitment strategy is a must for any business seeking new talent.

HubSpot writer Caroline Forsey says an effective vetting process should contain a few critical elements. We explore the key components of the vetting process in this issue of Promotional Consultant Today.

Write an accurate job description. It’s worth taking the time to create an accurate and compelling job description. When you do, you’re laying the groundwork for you and the candidate to ensure a mutually beneficial fit from the start. Try to focus on the attributes you desire. If you’re hiring a new sales rep, for example, you might list “customer-focus mentality” as a top priority. Forsey says it’s also important that your job description appeals to a diverse audience. Diverse teams tend to perform better and come up with more creative ideas.

Use software to review applications. In a vetting process, you can filter out candidates who don’t have the skills to succeed in the role. It’s important to vet an applicant’s resume, cover letter and other materials submitted in the application process. Forsey recommends checking out a blind search system in which resumes are scanned by software, ensuring that resumes are automatically sorted by skill.

Set up a video interview before a phone call. Video interviews that prompt candidates with questions and record their responses is another great step to include in your candidate vetting process. In high-volume roles, watching video responses is an effective way for hiring mangers to determine if they’d like to proceed with a candidate. By using video interviews, you can limit the amount of time you spend on phone calls trying to find the right person.

Use other assessment tools to evaluate. Before you bring someone on board full-time, you want to ensure he or she will succeed in the role. One way to do this is by offering initial assessments. For customer-facing positions, offer role plays. If you’re hiring someone for your marketing team, consider having candidates develop a pitch. An initial assessment allows you to see if the candidate has the skills you’re looking for.

Stick to a process. From background checks to assessment tools, it’s important to remain consistent in every step of the vetting process. Use the same background check or pre-screening techniques on every candidate and be sure not to require any additional information that doesn’t apply to the job. Forsey notes that a vetting process is only effective if it’s consistent and replicable. By establishing a process and sticking with it, you can effectively review candidates and determine which ones are best qualified to advance to next steps.

If you have an open spot on your team, use the tactics above to help determine a mutual fit for your team and candidates.

Source: Caroline Forsey is a staff writer for HubSpot’s marketing blog and has been voted one of Express Writer’s and Buzzsumo’s “Top 100 Content Marketers of 2018.”

What Meditation Can Teach You About Sales

Those who take a few minutes for mindful meditation each day experience many benefits, from greater self-awareness to better emotional health. For salespeople, meditating can lead to improved listening skills, better mental resilience, slower reactions for improved critical thinking, and reduced stress, which leads to better overall health and more time for selling.

If you don’t regularly meditate or you’ve never tried sitting in silence for a short time, it’s worth checking out. You don’t even need to carve out a big chunk of time—just a few minutes will do the trick. Alex Kremer, a speaker and account executive who has worked at Microsoft and Docusign, recently meditated for 365 days in a row and discovered three big takeaways from this daily practice. Here, we explore Kremer’s findings and how meditation can help you achieve more success in sales.

Lesson No. 1: Let the pressure be heard. With quotas and deadlines looming, Kremer admits that the pressure salespeople sometimes feel can be crushing. Rather than trying to tamp down that tension, Kremer learned to accept it. He found that when he turned toward the tension, he could see the gift in it. It’s healthier for salespeople to acknowledge job stress than keep pushing it down and grinding it out.

Lesson No. 2: Acknowledge without judgment. Many of us are guilty of overthinking and wondering how we ended up at a certain conclusion. Through meditation, Kremer learned to become aware of the overthinking and decided to simply listen to his mind and body. By being more mindful, Kremer says he has become more empathetic with prospects during conversations. He can more easily pick up on tensions and nuances. Noticing these things without judging takes practice, but in the long run, Kremer says it allows for stronger relationships to form.

Lesson No. 3: Stop the burnout before it happens. When you work in sales, the calls, e-mails, negotiations and meetings seem to stack up without an end in sight. While you might be used to powering through, Kremer suggests a different approach: take a step back. When you feel your stress mounting and you feel you are approaching your breaking point, pause for a moment. Take a few deep breaths. Center yourself. Level your nerves before getting back to work.

What started as a year-long practice for Kremer has become a lifelong journey. He recommends starting at five minutes of meditation every day and seeing where that takes you. A variety of apps offer guided meditation, or you can simply quiet your mind, breathe in for four seconds and exhale for five seconds. If a guided or structured meditation isn’t right for you, Kremer recommends simply sitting quietly for two minutes with no book, television, laptop or people to interrupt this dedicated time.

Whether you start your day with a morning meditation, squeeze in some quiet time on your lunch break or fit in some mindfulness before bed, meditation can do wonders for your stress levels and productivity in the workplace.

Source: Alex Kremer is a speaker and an account executive who has experience working at Microsoft and Docusign.

Nine Bad Sales Habits To Break

Highly successful salespeople have developed some stellar habits. They didn’t become one of their organization’s top reps by good luck. They have honed their craft and become the best at what they do. On the flip side, many sales reps struggle to develop winning habits. Or, maybe they remain stuck in old practices that no longer generate sales. Whatever the case may be, it’s important that you connect with prospective customers the right way and provide real value in order to close the most deals. It pays to take a step back and reflect on sales habits that might be harming your success.

Marketing and social media professional James Meincke has identified nine bad sales habits that hinder a salesperson’s ability to close deals.

1. Trying to sell to everyone. Don’t make as many calls as possible and hope that you land a few clients. That’s not effective. Meincke asserts that it’s much better to target your sales pitches to companies that are a good fit for what you’re selling.

2. Sending generic e-mails. Considering that most people receive close to 100 business-related e-mails each day, it’s no secret that e-mail overload is a staggering problem. When you send a sales e-mail that is clearly from a template, you make it all too easy for the recipient to click “delete.” Instead, aim to personalize your e-mails to increase your chances of getting a response.

3. Calling without conducting any research first. Don’t waste your prospect’s time by asking questions that can easily be researched. Before you dial their number, research the company and contact person. Use this information to inform your approach. By asking customized questions, you position yourself as a consultative partner.

4. Still using BANT. For nearly six decades, BANT (Budget, Authority, Need and Time) has been used as a tool to qualify prospects. However, the problem remains that this technique focuses on the seller’s needs. When using BANT, sales reps are essentially asking questions to determine if the prospect is worth their time. Don’t continue using this old-school approach. Meincke says the sales process-including qualification—should always be customer-focused. Make sure you put the customer’s needs before your own.

5. Overly stating someone’s name. You may think it’s a good thing to keep saying a prospect’s name to prove you actually know the person. However, it ends up coming off as cheesy and could potentially cost you the sale.

6. Pretending you know everything. Prospects know when you’re making up an answer. It’s best to admit when you don’t know the answer to a question and commit to getting back to the prospect as soon as possible.

7. Sending a follow-up e-mail simply to ask for a status update. Nobody likes getting those “just checking in” e-mails. Every time you reach out to your clients and prospects, you should be adding value. Give them a link to a great article or provide an interesting piece of research. Never just “check in.”

8. Giving up on a deal too soon. Sales, especially large ones, take time. Expect to talk to multiple people and complete many processes before closing a deal. Remain persistent and the work you invest will eventually pay off.

9. Asking prospects to print and sign a PDF. Don’t expect customers to shoulder all the work of printing, signing and scanning the documents you need. Invest in a tool that allows contracts to be signed digitally.
Are you guilty of one (or a few) of these bad sales habits? If so, commit to building better sales habits one at a time.

Source: James Meincke is senior marketing manager at CloserIQ and a freelance social media strategist.

Watch For These Marketing Trends In 2019

To maximize your marketing in the year ahead, it’s important to know how to connect with your audience in the ever-evolving marketing landscape. With new technologies and new behaviors impacting the effectiveness of your marketing, it pays to consider the past year’s patterns and note emerging trends.
Here, author Deep Patel shares some of the biggest marketing trends to keep an eye on in 2019.

A shifting marketing funnel. Instead of creating a marketing funnel that accepts anyone, move toward niche audiences. Contacting people and businesses who are interested in your products and services saves you money and time.

Content rises in importance. People crave phenomenal content. In the year ahead, think about how you can create articles or videos that inspire your audience, provoke their thoughts, appeal to their emotions, or excite them. Don’t just write a post to write it; craft a piece with a goal of getting readers to share and engage with it. When you do, you open the door for two-way communication, which ultimately helps you build trust.

AI’s growth continues. Artificial intelligence (AI) can help you target potential leads faster and can perform all kinds of tasks such as monitoring consumers’ online patterns. No matter how you choose to take advantage of AI in the year ahead, it’s smart to pay attention to how your audience reacts to it and whether your competitors use it.

An uptick in chatbots. In 2019, these AI helpers aren’t going anywhere. Grand View Research reports that the worldwide chatbot market will reach $1.25 billion by 2025, growing 24.3 percent annually. Plus, your customers likely want to use chatbots instead of calling someone or sending an e-mail. Nearly half (45 percent) of end users prefer using chatbots for customer service.

Consumers pay more attention to security. People want to know how businesses handle their information, so ensure that your company’s security is thorough. In an era of hacks, leaks and theft, make sure to discuss your security with customers. What are you doing to ensure the safest business experience?

Voice search gets louder. If you haven’t yet explored voice search, make 2019 the year to get ahead of the game by making sure you’re optimized for voice searches. Search Engine Land predicts voice-based commerce sales will soar to $40 billion by 2022.

Visual searches take off. Voice searches will be huge this year and so will visual searches thanks to new camera technology that allows people to find information about something simply by snapping a photo. To take advantage of visual searches, make sure you include Pinterest in your marketing efforts and optimize your website for SEO.

A greater focus on Gen Z. Members of the second-youngest generation crave authenticity and prefer socially responsible businesses. As they get older, their buying power increases. Make sure your marketing reflects what matters to this group to best connect with them in 2019.

Influencers become more personal. While celebrities used to dominate influencer marketing, consumers now lean toward their peers to decide what to buy. Instead of celebrity marketing, many brands are turning to real people (micro-influencers) because people trust individuals like them.

To win at marketing in the year ahead, don’t keep doing what you have always done. Keep an eye on emerging technologies, methods and patterns to maximize your marketing efforts.

Source: Deep Patel is the author of A Paperboy’s Fable: The 11 Principles of Success. The book was dubbed the No. 1 best business book in 2016 by Success Magazineand named the best book for entrepreneurs in 2016 by Entrepreneur Magazine.

What Leaders Should Know About the Rumor Mill

My company recently announced an organizational change. An entire department that used to report to one senior leader was told it would now report to a different senior leader. The funny thing is that when the change was announced, the reaction among employees was, “So what?”

The reason for the apathetic attitude? This rumor had already been circulating around the company for months, so by the time the actual move took place, people no longer had a reaction to it.

In her recent Forbes article, Dr. Carol Kinsey Goman, an expert body language coach, stated that 70 percent of communication that takes place within an organization comes through the grapevine, yet many senior leaders are unaware that it exists or how it operates. In this case, the “grapevine” is the informal and unsanctioned communication network found in every organization.

Goman interviewed more than 1,100 employees in a wide variety of companies and industries regarding the power of the grapevine.

1. Rumor trumps the actual source. Goman’s interviews revealed that if there were conflicting messages—one delivered during a speech from the company leader and another spread through the grapevine—more people (47 percent) would believe the grapevine, and only 42 percent would believe senior leadership. (The remaining 11 percent were undecided.)

2. Put it in writing. Goman found that putting something in writing tends to give the content more validity. When she asked if people were more likely to believe an official newsletter (online or print) versus the rumor mill, most respondents (51 percent) favored the newsletter, with only 40 percent placing more faith in the grapevine.

3. Direct supervisors were the most trusted sources of information. Due to the more personal relationship that exists between employee and supervisor, it wasn’t surprising that 74 percent said they would believe their boss. Still, many stipulated that it would depend on the quality of that relationship.

4. Certain situations escalate the rumor mill. In her interviews, Goman discovered there were some conditions when you should expect the rumor mill to kick into high gear: These conditions include:

  • When formal communication is lacking
  • When the situation is ambiguous or uncertain (as in times of major change)
  • When there is no sanctioned channel for venting
  • When there is a culture of silos and internal competition
  • When the communicator’s body language (gestures, facial expressions, tone of voice) contradicts his/her verbal message
  • When there is a heavy-handed attempt by management to kill the grapevine

5. Multiple sources of truth. In Goman’s study, 57 percent believed the rumor mill was accurate, but what tends to happen most often in the workplace is that people believe a “blend” of what they hear, rather than making a clear choice between more formal communication and the grapevine.

Companies are a combination of formal hierarchy and informal networks, but most communication strategies consider only the formal organization. While we will always need authentic speeches from senior leaders, for example, it’s just as important to understand the power and influence from the complex web of social interactions and informal networks within our organizations. Identify the most influential people who operate within it and listen to the information being communicated by them.

Source: Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D., is an international speaker and a body language coach who helps politicians, business executives and sales teams align their verbal and nonverbal messages for greater impact and professional success.

Get Your Day Back By Saying No

Yep, it happened again this morning. My coffee was hot. I had my task list laid out for the day, and I was ready to seize the day. Then the distractions started.

A coworker walked into my office with a “quick question” that turned into a 30-minute discussion. Then, I got a call to join a meeting that was in progress, because they needed my feedback. I had no sooner arrived back at my desk when I received an e-mail asking for more detailed instructions on a project I was roped into the week before. I looked up and it was noon. I hadn’t even started on task No. 1 for the day.

Here, we’re sharing insights about time management from Mike Schultz, president of RAIN Group a sales training organization. Schultz hears similar stories from clients across the country. In order to help employees get their days back and become more productive, he offers insight into four things you should decline on a regular basis.

Prune your priorities. The adage goes, if you have 12 priorities, you have none. Schultz notes that many leaders not only have too many priorities, but they also often don’t have the right priorities. He suggests that leaders who want to lower the number of priorities and focus on the right ones ask themselves which ones they’re excited about. His mantra for this: “If it’s not a gung-ho, it’s a no.” Select five key priorities you need to focus on for the day, and work from there.

Turn down the noise. Office and remote workers alike are being bombarded daily with requests that take their time. If you are being called into too many office meetings, ask the meeting planners in advance about the meeting agenda and how you can be helpful. If the planner only needs you for five minutes out of the 60-minute meeting, arrange for when you can join the meeting to provide that update and leave immediately afterwards. You’ve just saved yourself 55 minutes.

Keep a “to-don’t” list. Most leaders know what they want to accomplish and keep a to-do list to manage their time. But what about a list of what you need toavoid to stay focused. Keep a list of tasks that you should not be doing right now and keep it nearby your to-do list. For instance, you know that a presentation is due next week, but it isn’t high priority today, like the other tasks you need to complete. Write down that this presentation should not be a part of your day (just for today) and keep the to—don’t list as a reminder to stop yourself from working on that project—at least until the high-priority tasks have been completed. There will be a time when working on this project is a mandatory task.

Say no to your bad work habits. Bad habits are to blame for sabotaging time, no matter what the vice is. Do you check e-mail so often that it distracts you from your workload? Do you reach for your phone every time you hear it buzz? Do you check your fantasy football team every hour to make sure none of your players have reported an injury that will prevent him from playing? Well, it’s time to put those behaviors to an end—if you’re aiming to be more productive, that is. Even if these distractions only appear momentarily, they’re still absorbing precious time in your workday that could be used to complete tasks.

Source: Mike Shultz is the director of the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research and president of RAIN Group, a global sales training and performance improvement company.

Washington Proposes State-Wide Plastic Bag Ban

Washington is angling to become the second state – after California – to ban single-use plastic bags. Such bans have the potential to stir sales of branded reusable products, like totes, in the promotional products industry.

“Right now, there are more than 86 million metric tons of plastic in our oceans and the equivalent of five grocery bags of plastic trash for every foot of coastline spills into the oceans annually,” said Washington Sen. Kevin Ranker in a recent press statement.

The proposed state bill would prohibit plastic carryout bags, though the ban would be phased in to give businesses time to use up existing stock. Paper bags would be available for 10 cents each. Small plastic bags, used for carrying items including meat, produce and flowers, would be exempt from the ban. The bill is being backed by environmental and conservation groups, as well as an association representing major grocers.

More than 20 communities in Washington already have some form of plastic bag ban on the books, joining a growing movement toward outlawing single-use plastic products. Such bans are a potential boon for the promotional products industry, since they could possibly boost sales of branded tote bags and other reusable items. Charleston, the largest city in South Carolina, recently banned plastic bags, straws and foam containers. California was the first to enact a state-wide ban, though Hawaii essentially has done the same, since all of its most populous counties passed their own plastic bag bans. Major cities like Seattle have authorized bag restrictions, and scores of other smaller municipalities have done the same, including the Philadelphia suburb Narberth, and Lambertville, NJ.

Of course, the push to ban single-use plastic bags has also seen a bit of a backlash. The state of Ohio is eyeing a bill that would prevent local governments from adopting legislation that would tax or ban the use of “auxiliary containers,” a category that includes single-use plastic bags.

Supporters of the pending Ohio legislation say it will bring consistency to the state. Without the bill, “we would have a patchwork of inconsistent laws on the issue around the state, which is a regulatory burden for businesses,” State Rep. Jay Edwards told the Athens News. “Kroger has a full business plan to reduce plastic bags to zero over the next couple years. I believe there are other ways, similar to Kroger’s plan, to go about reducing harmful materials into our environment.”

Earlier this year, the Texas Supreme Court struck down a bag ban in Laredo, which in turn led to Austin no longer enforcing its long-standing bag ban.

Promotional Food Tips & Trends

If you make your money selling food, should you give it away as a promo product? The connection seems like a natural fit, but the reality is that the food service industry looks first to apparel and hard goods when it comes to their promotional needs.

Still, don’t discount food as a powerful gift, especially as suppliers offer the capability to integrate it into a kitted package. Mosinee, WI-based Maple Ridge Farms (asi/68680) has added logoed mugs, beach bags, towels, tumblers, cheese boards and office accessories to its food baskets from suppliers that distributors already trust. “The great thing for our distributor partners is they get to utilize those same supplier relationships and pair it together with our food gifts,” says Jodie Schillinger, director of customer care for Maple Ridge Farms. “Suppliers are trying to be more agile in competing with e-commerce. We’re competing with insta-click and ship. We need to ask ourselves, what are you doing to disrupt it back?”

As far as food trends, Schillinger says spice-infused foods and candies are popular now, echoing the National Restaurant Association report that saw ethnic spices come in at number 10 on its Top 20 Food Trends list for 2018 and number two on its Condiments and Accouterments forecast. Sea salt is also on-trend, Schillinger says: Maple Ridge Farms’ sea salt chocolate caramels – a “rookie product just a few years ago,” she adds – is now its bestselling chocolate.

Wood is also trending, she says, in the form of crates to hold food and cutting boards inside food-gift baskets.

US, China Agree To Suspend Planned Tariff Increase

A détente has been reached in the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China. President Donald Trump has agreed to suspend a previously-planned increase of import tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods. That increase was set to begin on January 1, 2019. Reaction in the promotional products industry, which imports the vast majority of the items it sells from China, was mixed.

Per the agreement, the Trump administration will hold off on boosting tariffs from 10% to 25% for at least 90 days, Newsweek reported. During that timeframe, Washington will continue to negotiate with Beijing to resolve ongoing trade tensions. However, if the parties are unable to reach an agreement after the three months, the 10% tariffs will indeed be raised to 25%.

Import tariffs are a major issue for the promotional products industry, so the development in trade talks between the US and China garnered ample attention from promo executives.

“This is a hugely positive, but likely short-term development, for our industry and the global economy,” Eddie Blau, CEO of Top 40 supplier Innovation Line (asi/62660), told Counselor. “A 15% additional tariff increase would have been a tremendous blow to continued promo industry growth. I believe China will make enough concessions to satisfy the Trump Administration and avoid the further increase. However, I wouldn’t bet on the current 10% rates going away in three short months. This is a long-term and contentious negotiation.”

David Nicholson, president of Top 40 supplier Polyconcept North America, suspects that the stay on the tariff increase will make things a bit easier for the promo market to start the year. Nonetheless, “suppliers will still need to increase prices, but at more moderate levels, which should help keep the current market momentum going. In terms of the broader economy, we remain in a situation with a great deal of uncertainty. I’m not sure that is going to change any time soon. As long as this exists, businesses will be hesitant to make long-term investments and will likely take a ‘wait and see’ approach. That is never good for the overall health of the economy.”

Meanwhile, Paul Lage told Counselor that the 90-day extension lengthens uncertainty for the promo products marketplace. “Many products take longer than 90 days from purchase order to receipt,” said Lage, president of Top 40 supplier IMAGEN Brands(asi/93990/47700). “Pricing to the end-user can be variable, especially for custom overseas orders.” Even if tariffs don’t rise to 25%, Lage anticipates that they will be in place, in some form, through 2019 – a negative for the branded merchandise industry. “There’s a list of issues between the two countries that’ll take years to resolve,” Lage told Counselor.

Executives at Top 40 supplier BIC Graphic (asi/40480) said they’re hopeful that the 90-day hold on the tariff rate increase signals a de-escalation of the trade war, but added that the full implications for the promo industry won’t be known until negotiations are complete. In the interim, the firm is aggressively marketing that its product portfolio contains a wealth of items made outside China. “Nearly 50% of BIC Graphic’s order volume is produced in our U.S. facilities, and we have product sourced from other areas (Korea, Vietnam, India) to provide additional options that will not be impacted by potential tariff increases,” said Melissa Ralston, chief marketing officer at BIC Graphic.

In return for the stay on the tariff increase, China will agree to purchase a not yet agreed upon, but reportedly substantial, amount of agricultural, energy, industrial products and more from the United States “to reduce the trade imbalance between our two countries,” according to the White House. In addition, China has agreed to designate Fentanyl – one of the drugs driving the opioid crisis in the U.S. – as a Controlled Substance, meaning that individuals selling the drug to the U.S. would be subject to China’s maximum penalty under the law. “The principal agreement has effectively prevented further expansion of economic friction between the two countries,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the media.

Investors around the world are breathing a sigh of relief, as stocks and oil jumped on Monday, CNN reported. Major indexes in Hong Kong and Shanghai grew more than 2.5%, and stocks were up 2% or more in London, Frankfurt and Paris. Crude oil spiked by more than 4%. “The good news is that this truce should be seen as Washington recognizing the potential damage on the US economy if tariffs escalate further,” Tai Hui, chief market strategist for Asia Pacific at JPMorgan Asset Management, told CNN.

The deal came as a result of Trump meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping during the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires over the weekend – the first face-to-face meeting between the two leaders since the trade war erupted in July. The Trump administration has already imposed tariffs on about $250 billion worth of imported Chinese goods, affecting approximately 6,000 items. Trump has pushed for these tariffs as part of an intellectual property investigation of Chinese high-technology companies. As for China, the total amount of U.S. products subject to Chinese tariffs comes out to $110 billion, which is 85% of U.S. goods that entered China last year.

The damage has already been done to the world’s second-largest economy, as China’s manufacturing sector failed to expand for the first time in more than two years in November. China’s National Bureau of Statistics said the stagnation was a result of “trade frictions” with the United States and a weakening global economy.

The promotional products industry has been keeping a close eye on the trade war, fearing that tariffs will cause increased product costs, price fluctuations, supply chain disruption and thinner margins. At the ASI Power Summit in October, a majority of surveyed industry leaders forecast the anticipated price jumps to be along the scale of 11% to 20%. So far, headwear, bags, keychains, technology products and accessories, certain drinkware (including stainless-steel items), stationery, coolers, cases and some outerwear are among the items suppliers and distributors anticipate will be affected by tariff-driven price increases.

Christopher Ruvo contributed to this report.

CORRECTION:
An earlier version of this article said that Top 40 Distributor Kaeser & Blair (asi/238600) did not include pricing in its 2019 catalog. That is incorrect. K&B’s Best Buys catalog is indeed carrying pricing.

Five Smart Marketing Tips For 2019

Today marked a typical milestone for this marketer: planning for the coming year. Planning involves assessing all that was, or wasn’t, accomplished over the past year, and prioritizing the focus for the coming year, along with the tools and resources needed to reach these goals. It also requires being thoroughly honest about accomplishments and shortcomings—hey, we all have them—and the new strategies in place to resolve them.

In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we are sharing five key points to consider when developing your 2019 plans, as according to Billee Howard, founder and CEO of BRANDthropologie.

1. Focus on emotion. Successful brands succeed in anticipating what consumers will do. Howard says these brands also succeed in anticipating how their consumers will feel, and how to encourage them to take action. We live in an “emotional economy”—an economy based on people and their relationships with each other and the brands they love—and recent advances in technology have moved the economy even further towards this. Marketers who understand this and learn how to draw value from it will become vital to the success of any organization.

2. Sharing is caring. According to Howard, we also live in a we-conomy, which involves a greater focus on finding solutions to problems rather than mass-producing products. People entrust the opinions of others, as well as reputable sources of information, but are gravitating less to traditional ads. The launch of Uber, Airbnb, Yelp and other highly consumer-driven resources has created an environment for sharing. These companies are structured by new business models that use trust as their foundation. As marketers and storytellers, we must build this trust by creating content that is authentic, reputable and purpose-driven. By doing so, this also leads to content that others will want to share with influencers and advocates.

3. Empathy continues to be important. Howard points out that we also live in a time of purposeful business, which is driven by the desire to make the world a better place. This requires successful leaders to focus on the world they live in as much as their own bottom line. Here are some things that Howard suggests when building a purposeful brand:

  • Clearly articulate your brand’s purpose. Purpose is different from a mission statement or company values.
  • Be aware that purpose is not cause and cause is not purpose.
  • Brands must demonstrate empathy by valuing consumers and demonstrating an understanding of their needs. They must place their managers and employees in the customers’ shoes. Purpose is about what a brand is doing for someone else, not what the brand is doing for itself.
  • Make purpose motivational, because it connects with the heart as well as the head.
  • Use emotion-driven storytelling to bring your brand’s mission to life.

4. View attention as your customer’s most precious resource. In today’s busy world, the most valuable commodity we have is time—and many of us don’t have much of it to spare. Do you treat your customer’s time with high value? A customer experience strategy should translate into the creation of an engaging and memorable experience for your customer. At every interaction or encounter brands must ask: are we seizing the customer’s attention?

5. Finally, invest in digital technology, not just digital marketing. Today’s technology and digital tools can be overwhelming, so it is important to first focus on those areas of the business that will drive growth as direct result of improved consumer relationships. This includes characteristics such as loyalty programs, personalized customer experiences and other types of high-touch opportunities. Then, invest in the technology that supports those experiences while also providing you with the data and insights to continue building on those personalized experiences.

Review these recommendations and allow 2019 to be your most personalized and profitable year yet.

Source: Billee Howard is the founder and CEO of BRANDthropologie, a consultancy firm that harnesses creativity and technology to solve business problems. Howard works with clients to identify their purpose and then creates the content experiences that will help define distinction and positively impact their bottom line.