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A twist on old school tactics

December 5, 2018

old schoolIn this era of all things digital, I thought it would be a nice change of pace to go old school and talk about some very simple marketing tactics that are often undervalued and underutilized. Best of all, neither of these ideas will dent your marketing budget.

Thank you notes: When I was growing up, my mom was a stickler for thank notes. On December 26th there would be a stack of thank you cards and a list of recipients on the kitchen table. The importance of that act has stuck with me my entire life, and I still write a ton of thank you notes.

Most of us don’t get a lot of traditional mail anymore, and when we do, we sort it over the wastebasket because there’s not a lot of value in what we receive. So we notice personal mail, and we remember who sent it to us.

When a client places a new order or makes a referral, don’t just shoot them a quick email. When a prospect makes time to learn about your business, be memorable. Their inbox is already bloated. Take five minutes and do what most people don’t do — write a thank you note.

Tech twist: When I’m on the road I don’t want to carry a bunch of thank you notes in my suitcase, so I use an app called Bond Black. It allows me to send a handwritten thank you note with my actual signature from anywhere in the world without trying to track down stamps or cards.

Make connections: We all have people in our lives that seem to know everyone and can quickly make valuable introductions that create new partnerships, client relationships, and peer connections. You need to be one of those people.

The good news is that you don’t need to know a certain number of people or have a certain level of influence. All you have to do is be intentional. The Zig Ziglar quote, “You can have everything in life you want if you will just help other people get what they want” is spot on. What Zig didn’t say but I think is implied is that your desire to help them get what they want has to be genuine. You can’t fake it just so they’re helpful to you in return.

Here’s a great way to start. Make a list of ten people who genuinely have helped your business. Now, think of someone you know that would benefit them in some way. They might be a potential client or vendor. Or they might serve the same customer base but in a non-competitive way and there could be the possibility of them partnering together on a promotion or joint offering. Make an introduction, explaining why you think they should get to know each other. It’s that simple.

Tech twist: Use Linkedin as your connection hub. Leave recommendations for people who have been influential in helping your business. Go a step beyond that and send a message to two people you want to connect and make an introduction. They’ll be able to meet each other and make a LinkedIn connection, which opens their networks to each other.

While both of these tactics may seem rudimentary, we don’t do either often enough.

Selfishly, they pay huge dividends. But even more important than that – they remind us to be the kind of business leader we should all aspire to be. Giving, gracious and grateful. I know those are the kinds of business people who have helped me learn, grow and build my business for the past 25+ years and I want to return the favor.

 

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How to create a buyer persona

December 2, 2018

No matter what you do for a living, you have customers.  And odds are you want more of them.  But every customer is not equally valuable to your business.  And every potential customer out there does not want to buy what you sell or buy it from you.

One of the most glossed over aspect of marketing and sales in most organizations is the deep dive you should be doing to truly understand your best prospects.  The easiest way to do that is to think about the current customers you have and identify what common traits they share.

Once you have identified your best fit prospects — the people who you are most likely to delight over and over again — you need to take it one more step to help you personalize the audience and have a very tangible picture of who you’re talking to when you create content, thought leadership pieces and marketing messages.

The more real and three-dimensional these avatars or personas are, the more precise and on target your efforts will be and the more “native” it all feel to your audience.

Identify the key role that your persona should be modeled after.  It might be the Dean of Admissions or a business owner of a company that has between $5-$10 million in sales.  In some rare cases, you might need to create two personas, if you serve more than one core audience.  But remember, not more than two.  This isn’t an effort to describe ALL of your customers, just your best ones.

Here are some sample questions to get you started.  The right questions (a subset of these and some you may add) will be dictated by what you sell.  Answer these questions for your 1-2 avatars:

  • Demographics:
  • Gender:
  • Age range:
  • Educational level:
  • Typical degree or area of study:
  • Core values – what do they value the most personally and professionally?
  • Where does he/she work:
  • Job title:
  • Why did they choose this profession?  What do/did they love about it?
  • Who is their boss?
  • Do they have a team/staff?  Describe that structure.
  • What is he/she like at work?  How would his/her co-workers describe him/her?
  • What do they love about working with him/her?
  • What do they dislike about working with him/her?
  • How do they communicate when things are good?  How do they communicate under stress?
  • How are they being evaluated at work?  How does their boss define success for them?
  • What are his/her professional goals?
  • What is his/her biggest professional challenges?
  • What does he/she get excited about?
  • What do they want to do more of?
  • What does his/her typical day tend to look like? How do they feel about that?
  • What skills/qualities are necessary to do his/her job?
  • What tools and technology do they use to do their job?
  • How do they stay current in their own industry?
  • What’s the biggest threat to their job/company?
  • How are they different/unique from their peers?
  • What publications (on and off line) do they read?
  • What associations do they participate in?
  • What are the three most critical events for their industry?
  • Where do they live (house, condo, apartment)?
  • Do they have a significant other/family?
  • How do they spend their off hours?
  • List five personality traits they exhibit
  • How do they see themselves?

Once you’ve answered all of these questions about a target customer – create a narrative about them.  Think of it as telling their story.  Describe them in a way that anyone who works for you would be able to recognize them.

Give them a first name and find a stock photo that represents them.  I know it sounds strange but giving them a name and a face makes them even more three-dimensional and real to you and your sales team.

Once you’ve got all of that built out —  as you create marketing messages — keep this persona in mind.  Let’s say her name is Lucy.  Ask yourself — would this resonate with Lucy?  Would this catch Lucy’s eye?  Where would Lucy go to get this kind of information?

The more detailed and realistic your persona is — the stronger tool it will become for you.  Let your personas guide your language, channels, and key messages.  Now you’re using the right kind of bait to catch the kind of fish you prefer!

 

 

 

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Silence is not golden to your customers

November 28, 2018

SilenceI stopped by Walgreens to pick up a prescription the other day. When I gave the pharmacy tech my name, she went to the bin marked M, flipped through the prescription box and came up empty. She didn’t say a word but just walked into the back of the pharmacy. A minute later, she came back out and then disappeared into another nook. Again, no communication.

While she was actively trying to fulfill my order, here’s what was going on in my head:

  • I wonder if there was a problem with the insurance?
  • Was this the right Walgreens or did I send it to the other one in my neighborhood?
  • Maybe they didn’t have time to fill it yet since I just submitted it a couple of hours ago
  • Maybe they didn’t have it in stock and are waiting to get some from another Walgreens

All of those thoughts ran through my head in the few minutes it took her to find my prescription and bring it back to the counter. This was just a routine refill. I was in no danger if I had to wait a couple of days. But still, I had all of those momentary thoughts and worries.

I’m sure for the pharmacy tech; it was just a routine “I can’t find it but the computer says that we filled it, so it’s around here somewhere” moment. But that’s not how I experienced it.

No matter what you sell or who you sell it to, there are moments in the process that are routine to you. But that doesn’t mean they’re routine to your customer. You might be waiting for some internal paperwork. Or the order could be in process and already on its way to the customer’s office. For you, it’s business as usual. Everything is on track. You’re not worried because you understand the entire workflow and know that everything is exactly where it should be. But your client doesn’t have that same insight.

All your customer hears is the silence. And in the silence, worry often appears.

We are often blind to those silent spots in our own processes. We think we’re hard at work, serving our clients, and instead, we’re accidentally making them anxious.

The pharmacy tech could have prevented all of my random thoughts and worries by recognizing that silent spot and over communicating with me. Immediately after realizing my prescription was not in the bin, she could have let me know that they had filled it and she just needed to find it.

No matter what product or service you sell, there are some common moments that might be ripe for creating worry for your clients.

Immediately after your discovery meeting: In many businesses we invest a significant amount of time on the front end of the engagement, learning as much as we can about our client’s challenges. And then we go back and have to assimilate all of that insight to diagnose the problem and decide on a solution. We’re deeply engaged on our end, but that kind of thinking takes time.

Inter-departmental handoffs: If there are different departments within your business that all play a role in a client’s project, there’s usually a slight lull as the new department gets up to speed.

When outside vendors are involved: Once you’ve relinquished the work to your partner, you’re comfortable waiting for them to complete their work. But that’s because you know them and have confidence in them.

Walk through your entire process and note where moments of comfortable silence for you have the potential of being an uncomfortable worry for your customers. Then, build additional communication into those moments to give your clients comfort and reassurance in those necessary bits of silence.

 

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Who already trusts you?

November 21, 2018

trustIf there is a cardinal sin of marketing, it’s ignoring the people who already know you, appreciate you and give you money. For most organizations, 60-75% of your net new revenue should come from your existing customer base.

Despite that metric, most businesses spend the majority of their marketing dollars and efforts chasing after new clients and invest very little in wooing the customers they have already earned. You’ve already cleared the highest hurdle – earning their trust. And yet, we often walk right past them on our way to talk to strangers.

One of the biggest values of marketing to your current clients is that they’re the ones who are most likely to tell others about you. It’s logical to think that the more they know about you, the more they can share with someone else who might be in the market for what you sell.

Another lost opportunity, if you don’t actively connect with your customers, is that they develop a narrowed view of who you are and what you do. Odds are good that even your best clients don’t utilize every product or service you offer. If you don’t keep reminding them of all of the other ways you can help them – they begin to pigeonhole you as the “fill in the blank” company that is purely defined by what they currently buy.

We’ve certainly had that happen at MMG. If we developed a brand and the support materials (logo, tagline, etc.) for a client, they begin to see us as a brand shop. If we don’t keep talking about other aspects of marketing strategy and execution, we can quickly be JUST a brand shop.

In all of our work with financial institutions, we knew that if someone had 3+ accounts or 4+ ACH/direct deposits going in and out of their checking account, they were far less likely to change institutions. The marketing expression for this reality is “setting more hooks” and it’s as true for your business as it is for a bank or credit union.

Of course, the trick is how do you introduce yourself to someone who already knows you? Marketing to your existing customer base is all about demonstrating that you recognize who they are and what matters to them. There’s no need to focus on helping them get to know you or trust you. You’re already there. It’s looking for ways to enhance what you already do for them.

Make a list of the customers who make up the top tier of your sales. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What could we do (not sell) to make their experience with us something they couldn’t help but talk about?
  • What product or service would significantly enhance the effectiveness/usefulness of what they already buy from us?
  • How can we bring that to them immediately, either through something else we offer or from a strategic partner?
  • How do we genuinely demonstrate that we appreciate their loyalty and business?
  • Who, from my figurative Rolodex, needs to know about this person/company and how can I make those referrals?
  • Have we invited this client to provide a testimonial, case study or to leave us a review?
  • How can we institutionalize these kinds of requests so we get them from all of our best, happiest customers?
  • What else do they need that we don’t currently provide that we could develop and deliver with excellence?

If you want to set more hooks and bring even more value to your best clients, you’ll need to spend some time finding the answers to these questions and then be ready to invest some time, talent and budget to bring those strategies to life.

 

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The marketing plan recipe

November 14, 2018

marketing planIf you’ve been with us lately, you’ll remember that we’ve been hyper-focused on the channels you should be considering as you design your marketing plan for 2019 but I’d like to step back and take a look at the bigger picture.

In my imagination, your New Year’s Resolution is going to go something like this: “In 2019 we are going to be 110% consistent in our marketing so that we attract the best customers, repel the wrong customers and reassure the customers we already have that they made the right buying decision.”

To make that happen, you need a marketing plan. While there’s no doubt your goals will vary, my goal is to give you a list of ingredients that you can use to build out a plan that you and your team could realistically execute with excellence.

Ingredients:

3-5 SMART goals: There’s no reason to market if you don’t know what you are trying to accomplish. Get them written down and track against them every quarter.

2-3 customer personas: The more specifically you can define your best potential customers, the more effective your marketing will be. Trying to sell to everyone is expensive and inefficient.

1-2 points of differentiation: Why should someone choose you over your competitors? Clearly define what makes you unique. You might need some outside perspective here. It’s challenging to see the label when you’re inside the bottle.

2-3 core messages: Once you know who you’re talking to and how you’re different, tell the story of what makes you unique in a way that will resonate with those personas. No matter how many times you’ve told the story – keep telling it. Find new angles or aspects of the story, but keep emphasizing the key points.

1-2 current customer specific efforts: Before you spend any time or money chasing after a new client – be sure you retain the customers you already have. How do you remind them of the value you provide? How do you show your appreciation for their ongoing business? For most businesses, more than 50% of your net new revenue should come from existing clients, so don’t let them feel forgotten.

4-7 channels that are heavily trafficked by your personas: There’s no reason to invest a lot of time or energy into a channel that doesn’t attract your core audience. Be sure you blend online and offline channels unless your business exists solely online.

2-3 tactics for each channel: Don’t just stop at defining the channels. You need to decide how you’re going to engage in that channel. Let’s say that one of the key channels for one of your personas is a specific trade magazine. That’s the channel. Now, what will you do on that channel? You could pitch a story so they might write about your organization. You could place an ad. You could also buy a booth at their annual trade show or invite the publisher to be on your podcast. Any of those would be a smart tactic for that particular channel.

12 months of calendared items: Odds are good that if you don’t write it all down and plan it out on a calendar, it will not happen. Map out the entire year. Of course, it’s going to change. But far better to edit a marketing calendar than not having one at all because you know it won’t be 100% right. Mapping it out will also help you be sure that you’re going to connect with each persona every week.

Is it as simple as this? No, but even this would be a very good start. Doing this level of planning will put you ahead of most of your competitors. Start here and see what happens. You can always add complexity after you have this down pat.

 

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Using call to action triggers to drive conversion

November 7, 2018

call to actionA while back, we reviewed some of the general best practices if you’re going to run Facebook ads. I want to drill down a little deeper into one of the most critical tools you have to increase conversions – the call to action (CTA) trigger.

Bottom line – if your audience does not interact with your ad, you can’t convert them. You absolutely can and should use call to action buttons if that makes sense with your message. As you’re building your Facebook ad, the ad manager will give you pre-set buttons with a variety of options from contact us to download, learn more, sign up or request time.

I know it seems obvious but choose your CTA carefully. Match the offer with the button label, so people know exactly what’s at the other end of the click.

Don’t forget about calls to action that don’t require an actual call to action button. Your ad copy might invite the audience to click on the ad itself to take an action (give us your feedback, sign up for free product, vote for a favorite, etc.) or to answer a question that you pose either in your graphic or text.

Another element of a successful Facebook ad campaign is social proof. Social proof is public social engagement that other users can see. This includes likes or other reactions, comments, and shares of your ad. When someone sees your ad, they’ll also see who among their Facebook connections already interacted with the ad. These small interactions can matter just as much, if not more, than the ad copy when it comes to gaining more conversions.

For most of us, if we see a Facebook ad with ten positive comments and a couple dozen likes, we’re much more likely to pay attention to the ad than if it had no reactions showing at all.

The power of consumer-generated reviews and reactions carry over to this channel as well. That’s why, according to a study by KISSmetrics, Facebook ads with some sort of social proof had 300% more conversions, and 50% lower clicks per actions and cost per clicks.

In addition, social proof has an additional, less obvious, benefit. Social engagement boosts your relevance score, which gives you a higher priority in the ad bidding system. It’s a great way to lower your ad costs.

Once the campaign is launched, the best way you can improve the performance of the campaign is to keep an eye on the metrics. One of the most under-utilized is the relevance score.

The Relevance Score is a calculated metric that monitors how your audience is reacting to a particular ad. The scores can go from 1 to 10, depending on the positive and negative feedback your ads receive. If your score is below a 5, you should do some testing to see if it’s your audience, the message or the visual that is causing the disconnect.

Choosing when your ads appear (based on your audience’s time zone) is another way to increase success. By watching which times of day perform the best, you can adjust your campaign to increase conversions and reduce your cost per lead.

If you’re running ads to build brand awareness or some other top of the funnel activity, then you aren’t measuring success by conversions, and this may be less important to your campaign.

But in most cases, you’re running Facebook ads because you’re trying to drive an action of some kind. You want to give yourself every advantage you can and how you entice the audience to click on your ad is the most important step.

 

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Digital engagement

October 31, 2018

digitalIt’s hard to imagine there is an active business today that doesn’t have some level of digital connection and engagement. But the truth is that how business leaders define engagement and the level in which they invest (time, money, staff, etc.) in that engagement is an incredibly wide range.

Deloitte did a study for Connected Small Business US, which was commissioned by Google to explore the levels of digital engagement among small businesses (250 or fewer employees) and the impact of each level.

The study determined that there were general levels:

  • Basic (no website/no social media presence)
  • Intermediate (simple website/basic digital marketing)
  • High (advanced, mobile-ready website/multiple social channels)
  • Advanced (use of data analytics/mobile apps)

As the researchers reviewed the activity level and the outcomes that aligned with each of the four levels of engagement, they came to some very interesting conclusions.

Digital engagement increases revenue. Seventy-seven percent of businesses in the advanced category reported expecting revenue growth over the next year—almost double the percentage of businesses in the most basic engagement level. The reason the advanced level businesses were confident in the potential of growth is because forty-five percent of them had already experienced revenue growth over the past year, compared to only twelve percent of businesses identified as having a basic digital engagement. Thirty-two percent of the organizations in the high category reported revenue growth.

Digital engagement increases employment needs. When a business experienced increased revenue, it only makes sense that they’d need a larger workforce. So no surprise, the category of companies that reported larger percentages of revenue growth (high and advanced) also reported an increase in employment growth. The research also pointed out that people employed by a digitally savvy company “tend to be relatively more productive, with the average revenue per employee at digitally advanced businesses being two times as high as small businesses with a basic level of engagement.”

Digital engagement creates new products and services. Over the past twelve months, businesses at the basic level had less than a ten percent chance of introducing a new product or service. On the flip side, almost seventy percent of the most digitally advanced companies reported did. New channels mean new opportunities, and if you’re not there, you can’t take advantage of them.

So what does this mean for your business? It means that maintaining just the “table stakes” level of digital engagement is costing you opportunity, market share, and money. If you are at that level, which was defined as just having a simple website and not really using effective email marketing, social media or exploring the data that these tools can give you, you need to recognize the consequences. This should not come as a surprise to you but perhaps the outcomes that this study points to can serve as the wake-up call to drive you to explore how your business can step further into the digital realm.

This study emphasizes what common sense has told us for some time. The way we do business has changed. The expectations that the marketplace has for us have changed. We may be the only element that hasn’t yet changed.

For every business, whether you only serve a local audience or an international customer base, embracing digital strategies is a business must. Tools like marketing automation, social media, mobile readiness, and letting the data help you determine what your prospects are interested in and what you can offer to encourage trial and conversion is more business survival than anything else.

Today, as the research clearly demonstrates, businesses that ignore that truth are simply behind in revenue, growth, and innovation. But pretty soon, without making some changes, they may just not exist anymore.

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Do you ask better questions?

October 24, 2018

questionsGiven the amount of competition out there, the challenges of landing a new client and the struggles with keeping the clients you do have – I totally get the hunger to have the right answers. But, it’s not about the answers we provide, it’s about the questions we ask.

We want to think that after all, what our clients are paying us for is our expertise, our years of experience and our guidance. I want to suggest that while all of that is true – our expertise, experience, and guidance should show up in a different way.  The more we can put aside our cookie-cutter solutions and assumptions the better our questions will be.

And ultimately, that leads to better answers. As Voltaire was credited with saying, “Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.”

When we are meeting with a prospective new client, the sentence I love to hear more than any other is “I’ve never been asked that before.” That means I am adding value. I am taking them in a direction they haven’t been before or coming at their issue from a different perspective. And odds are, the closer I am to getting to the best answers.

In terms of marketing, we have evolved from a black and white world to a world of iterations. I don’t care how right your solution is for today, given the rapid rate of change in our world, it’s not going to be spot on forever. Some solutions, like a company’s brand and product promises, need to stand the test of time. But today, most of our marketing tactics have a shelf life. Customer behavior, needs, and expectations are a moving target and we have to keep up with them.

If you don’t feel like the quality of your questions is where you want it to be – how do you up your game?

It helps if you’re naturally curious. Is your brain wired to wonder? The very trait that I am sure drove my parents crazy when I was a kid is one of my God-given superpowers as a professional. If you’re not naturally curious, then practice the art of curiosity. Like anything, you can create a habit around curiosity. Beyond that, try some of these techniques:

Keep it open-ended: Try to keep the conversation going by asking questions that require a longer response than a yes or no. Certain words trigger definitive answers and actually add a bias into the question. Avoid using the words “should” or “would” when you formulate a question. Don’t start off with “do you think” because you’re giving them license not to actually think about their answer.

Follow the rule of three: This is a digging deeper technique. Ask at least three follow-up questions to your original question before you move onto the next topic. This will require you to listen carefully and not be ready to jump in with the next question. Especially in a business setting, the first layer of questioning has been asked and answered a million times. You want to go where most haven’t thought to dig.

Beware of assumptions: One of my favorite questions is “if we had to prove that was true, how would we go about it?” So often, we make assumptions along the way and start speaking them as if they’re the absolute truth. But we have no basis for that other than our opinion or it may be a long-held belief that no one questions anymore. Remember that even if it was true in the past, it does not necessarily mean it’s still accurate.

Better questions make our work more collaborative and more accurate in terms of actually finding the best solutions for our clients. So, fire up your curiosity and ratchet up your Q&A sessions.

 

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The mechanics of a successful webinar

October 17, 2018

webinarA while back, we focused a series on the channels too critical for you to ignore in 2019 and one of those channels was webinars.   We covered the basics then but now I want to get into the mechanics of executing a webinar well, so when you’ve got your content ready, you get the biggest bang for the buck.

When I’m talking about a webinar, I am not talking about a one-on-one web-based demonstration or sales meeting. I’m talking about an event you would promote to a larger audience, and the event itself is intended to be a group experience.

Webinars are a smart tactic if you want to:

  • Educate prospects or customers
  • Field objections and questions in a live environment
  • Demonstrate aspects of your product or service in an interactive way
  • Establish your thought leadership or authority on a topic
  • Capture sales leads

Note that drive sales is not on that list. A webinar is not a hard-driving sales tool. It’s higher up in the funnel and serves more of a marketing function. That doesn’t mean you won’t garner sales from the webinar. But it shouldn’t be your focus. Webinars are successful if they’re helpful, if people connect to the presenter and feel like they walked away with knowledge or insights that are valuable.

Here are some mechanics to consider as you think through your webinar strategy:

Tools: There are many good webinar tools out there, and the right one for you will depend on price, number of attendees possible, the ability to record and other factors. This guide may help you decide.

Promotion: Webinars are not a “build it and they will come” sort of thing. You need to get the word out and issue multiple invitations. Give yourself at least a 30-day window for promotion. If you already have a list of prospects, that’s a smart place to start. You’ll get your biggest flurry of sign-ups about ten days before the event. If you make a big deal out of the fact that they’ll get access to a recording of the webinar whether they attend or not – you’ll get more takers.

Leave behind: I think of my PPT deck as a leave behind when I am working on a webinar. I’m always going to offer it to the attendees at the end, so I build it with that in mind. Unlike a deck for a speech, where I might have a single image and no words, I use a lot of bullets and text for my webinar decks. I know I am in essence taking notes for the attendees, so my slides are a little denser in content.

Format: As you think about constructing your webinar, explore easy to grasp “packages” for the information you want to share. Like:

  • Five mistakes to avoid
  • Ten questions to ask before…
  • Four unexpected benefits of…

This style of formatting will help you tease and promote the content. It will also help you avoid trying to pack too much information into the webinar. It lends itself to a strong wrap up for you as a presenter and gives your attendees something to grab hold of and remember.

No matter how or when you deliver your webinar, be sure you know what you want to happen once you sign off. Do they get a “thanks for attending” email? Do they get a link to deeper content on one of your key points? Don’t lose the momentum. When the webinar wraps, it’s not the end, it’s the beginning.

 

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When I say Dunkin’ you say …

October 10, 2018

dunkinOdds are, you say Donuts. After all, since 1948 the company has worked pretty hard to get us to recognize their name and their core offering. Dunkin’ Donuts.  They have invested millions of dollars to connect those two words. Remember the “time to make the donuts” campaign?

All of that is what makes the announcement they made last year so intriguing. They want to test the idea of dropping the word Donuts from their name, but a final decision on the name won’t come until late 2018. They’ve coupled the shortened name with a new tagline – Dunkin’. Coffee and more.

The company cites several reasons for the change. When asked why they harken back to their roots when they were a coffee shop that sold donuts. Based on the numbers, they actually derived 58% of their revenue from coffee in 2016. Now that Starbucks has made coffee trendy and pricey, Dunkin’ has decided to lean into that category and try to ride the upswing in both volume and profits.

Their coffee also gives them more opportunity for line extensions. They sell Dunkin’ coffee beans, K cups, and other related products in their own stores and grocery stores across the country.

As coffee is growing in popularity, donuts are falling in the opposite direction. Culturally, we are making healthier choices (or at least saying that we are) and according to a company spokesperson, the shift will “reinforce that Dunkin’ Donuts is a beverage led brand and coffee leader.” Actually, the statement should be “we want to be a beverage led brand.”

I don’t believe they’ll ever make that pivot work. Their brand is too entrenched in our minds and more importantly, in our connective experiences with the stores. Maybe they actually are a coffee led brand if you crunch the numbers. But brands are rarely built on data. They’re built on experiences and emotional connections.

What the decision-makers at Dunkin’ seem to have forgotten is the most important truth of branding: brands are not controlled or owned by the company. Their consumers have that privilege.

Changing your name does not change how people categorize or describe you. It doesn’t change the way they experience you or why they will or won’t do business with you. If you truly want to reinvent your brand, you have to drive change much deeper than just dropping a word or two.

You may not remember, but Starbucks used to be called Starbucks Coffee. They made a big deal of dropping the word coffee in 2011. When you think of Starbucks, what is the first product that comes to your mind?

Seven years later, we still think of them as a coffee shop that happens to sell other things. The budget they’ve had to alter our perception is far greater than what Dunkin’ will have to spend, so it’s hard to imagine that we’re going to forget the donuts aspect anytime soon.

The learning for all of us in this?

We need to be very intentional when we create and build our brand because once we plant those seeds and nurture them, it’s very difficult to change course and take our customers with us on the journey. Once we’ve told them what to expect and have honored those expectations over time, we shouldn’t be surprised that they believe us.

On paper and by the numbers, Dunkin’s pivot may be perfectly logical. With the decline in donut sales and the spike in coffee consumption, who can argue? But brands don’t live on paper and aren’t driven by numbers. Brands are born and grown in the hearts of our customers, and it’s much harder for logic to prevail there.

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