One thing

October 11, 2017

one thingIn the wake of what we’ve been talking about over the last couple weeks, I’ve received a lot of emails asking about this idea of how to define who your organization is, who you best serve and what you do for them. Ironically, this all boils down to doing less, to focusing on just one thing. It’s so counter-intuitive that most business owners and leaders reject the idea. I get it – you want to offer as much as possible to your potential customers and surely more potential customers means more revenue, right?

Actually, no. Our world today is about specialization. In most cases, people have a specific need. I need someone to tune up my BMW not just I want an auto mechanic. I need someone to come to the house to tune my piano not just I need a piano store. I need long-term disability insurance for my company of 43 employees not I need someone who sells every kind of insurance under the sun.

We get it when we are the consumer. We want someone who has a depth of knowledge so we can be confident that they will not only understand my need but they’ve met my specific need many times for customers who have gone before me. But when it comes to the selling side of our world, we somehow forget the value of this distinction and want to sell a little something to everyone.

Here’s why that’s a flawed premise:

Your most profitable sale is the repeat sale: You know the least profitable of all sales is the first one. The sales cycle is longer. The concessions are often greater and the risk of a client mismatch or dissatisfaction is greater. But when you delight someone and meet their need to such a degree that they buy again – there’s hardly any sales cycle, they are happy to pay your price because they’ve already seen the value and they know they’re going to be happy.

You don’t need that many: I think one of the reasons businesses take the generalist route is because they haven’t done the math. If you could secure new customers that were going to be repeat buyers and great referral sources – how many do you really need? The truth is, you can only handle so many new clients. So why not narrow your focus so you only secure the best possible new clients?  Why not focus on the one thing?

Generalists are commodities: If you sell everything to everyone, you become the dollar store of your industry. You have to be less expensive because you are a generalist and generalists have to compete with everyone out there. So it becomes a price issue. Is that really where you want to be?

It diminishes the experience for your team: Being pretty good at a lot of things does not feel the same as being incredible at a few things. Everyone wants to take pride in their work. Everyone wants to be perceived as being best in class. Everyone wants to be appreciated for adding incredible value. With today’s shrinking workforce – you want to offer your team the luxury of being a rock star, not a garage band so that you can attract and retain the best talent out there.

Part of your work in defining your company’s values, mission and vision should be focused on the question “where can we truly over deliver that will add tremendous value to our clients?” Odds are the answer will not be everywhere. What is our one thing? Define the playing field where you have the shot at winning almost every game and refuse to play anywhere else. That sort of discipline is difficult but the short and long-term rewards are worth the effort.

Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Be indispensable to a few who will help you attract more just like them.

 

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What’s your mission?

October 4, 2017

MissionLast week we explored how critical it is for a business to have a clear idea of who they are and what they’re all about –  mission, vision and values. My worry is that few owners have ever taken the time to actually articulate what their business is all about or made the effort to weave it into the fabric of the company.

Hopefully you invested some time last week to really define your core values and are ready to dig into the mission and vision portion of defining your organization’s core.

Many people confuse mission and vision. Here’s how we define them.

Mission — what you do best every day

Vision – what the future is like because you do what you do best every day

No matter what you sell, from legal services to multi-million dollar medical devices – someone else sells what you sell. Yours might be a little better, a little faster or it might last a little longer but it’s got lots of decent competition. Our best clients don’t love us for what we sell but how or why we do it. That’s where our mission and vision come in.

Why would you invest the energy? First, we have to acknowledge that there are no bad customers. But there are definitely bad customers for us. Every dollar is not earned equally. We’ve all suffered from a wrong fit client. Because we’re not in alignment with them – it’s harder to make them happy. We end up investing a ton of time and energy trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. That hardly ever works. We expend an incredible amount of time, money and energy trying to meet their needs when the truth is – we weren’t the best fit for them.

That’s the beautiful thing about really understanding why your business exists and what matters most to you. That clarity will attract right fit customers to you and it will also repel the wrong ones.

Another big benefit of that clarity is that when you define your why, as Simon Sinek encouraged us to do in his book, Start With Why, it also helps you find employees who share those beliefs and will stand along side you as you delight your right fit customers.

So how do you figure out what your mission and vision are? The key to doing this well is not settling for a superficial answer. Remember that your mission statement is what you do best every day. This statement should be from your customer’s point of view.

Why do you work so hard? How are you changing your sliver of the world?

If you’re having trouble articulating what you do best, try this. You know that feeling you get every once in awhile when everything falls into place and deep in your soul you think — THIS is why I do what I do? Figure out what triggers that feeling and odds are it’s a pretty good clue to your organization’s mission.

Unlike the mission, the vision is from your company’s point of view. Why are you putting in the effort? What are you trying to accomplish? What will be true for your organization if you deliver on your mission every day?

The trick to doing this well is pushing past the expected. If most of your competitors could claim your mission or vision – you haven’t dug deep enough. It needs to be uniquely yours, so keep pushing until you get to that level.

When you do this well, it’s evergreen. Just like our personal values and purpose rarely change – the same should be true of your company’s mission, vision and values.

Invest the time to do this well and then reap the benefits of knowing exactly who you are and who you are not.

 

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Mission, vision and values

September 27, 2017

mission, vision, valuesIt’s vital to every business that they have a clear idea of who they are and what they’re all about. Few owners have taken the time to distill it down or made the effort to weave it into the fabric of the company. What do the mission, vision and values for your business look like?

Many people confuse mission and vision. Here’s how we define them.

Mission — what you do best every day

Vision – what the future is like because you do what you do best every day

And the values that your company are built on is what influences your mission and vision. Each of these is critical. If you believe you’ve already sorted these out for your organization– revisit them to make sure they’re still on target and meet the following criteria:

  • Are your mission and vision statements a single sentence?
  • Are your values short enough that everyone on your team could memorize and recite them?
  • Are all three components written in common, easy to understand language?
  • Are they unique to you? Could any other business claim the exact same set?
  • Are they all from the client’s/an outside perspective? Remember this is how you want others to see you.

This kind of work looks simple enough, but the truth is, it’s incredibly difficult to dig deep enough to get to answers that fit all of the criteria.

If you’ve never developed a mission, vision or defined your company’s values, it’s long overdue. Let’s start with your values.

Go someplace that inspires you to clear your head and really do some deeper thinking. For some, this will be a quiet place like sitting by a lake or in an art gallery. For others, it will be putting on some headphones in a coffee shop and immersing yourself in the energy. Hopefully you know what kind of an environment triggers your best thinking.

Most people find it’s easiest to tackle the values first. Make a list of all of the values that you want your company to have. At this stage, don’t edit or censor. Just brainstorm the list and capture every thought.

Now, pick the 5-6 that are most important to you. These are the values you are not willing to compromise on, for love or money. These should not be aspirational. These need to be foundational to your business – you should already be using them as a guide, whether you’ve articulated them before or not.

The finalists should get a yes answer to the following questions (borrowed from Jim Collins in Good to Great):

  • If you were to start a new business, would you build it around this core value regardless of the industry?
  • Would you want your company to continue to stand for this core value 100 years into the future?
  • Would you want your business to hold this core value, even if at some point in time it became a competitive disadvantage?
  • Do you believe that those who do not share this core value—those who breach it consistently – do not belong in your organization?
  • Would you change jobs before giving up this core value?
  • If you awoke tomorrow with more than enough money to retire comfortably for the rest of your life, would you continue to apply this core value to your productive activities?

Rank them in terms of importance. Why does this matter? Because sometimes values are in conflict with one another and you need to know which ones trump the others.

Now, that you have the values defined, are you happy with the words you’ve chosen to communicate each one? This is your opportunity to wordsmith them. After you’ve done that – you’re done with step one. Next week we’ll dig into your mission.

 

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Get Ready for Hibernation

December 7, 2016

Hibernation

You may not realize it but you’re starting to feel very sleepy. In a couple weeks, you’ll be in full “business hibernation” mode. Everything comes to a screeching halt as you go from full steam ahead to a sleepy stroll towards the New Year.

Even if you want to keep going at breakneck speed, everyone around you is already yawning and shifting into a very lazy gear. Between the holiday shopping, parties, travel and those long weekends that seem to start on Wednesday – productivity is doomed.

Customers don’t want to start anything new. No one’s in the office to review any proposals or contracts and even if you have work in progress, tracking anyone down to give you an approval is almost impossible.

The New Year doesn’t snap everyone back to attention either. It’s usually the middle of the month before things get cooking again. We are slow to wake from our winter solstice slumber.

But, if we know the hibernation period is coming, is it possible we could actually use it to our marketing advantage?

Here are some suggestions for some ways that you could enjoy the slow down but also feel like you’re planting some seeds for a strong new year.

Ponder and plan: You know you should already have your next year’s business plan done, right? You know why you don’t? Could it be because you haven’t had a free moment to think? Guess what – the hibernation season is the perfect time to dream, wonder and put at least a skeleton of a plan together.

If you’re looking for a system to turn your plans into accomplishments, check out the book Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business by Gino Wickman. I’m betting that you’ll have time to read it before the end of the year!

Reach out and connect: Think of a few people who are important to your business but you rarely slow down long enough to have an actual conversation. They might be a key vendor or a referral source. Make the time to invest in your connection. Grab coffee or a hot toddy and ask them how you can help their business in 2017. You’re going to like where the conversation goes.

Prune for future growth: Gardeners and arborists will tell you that pruning sparks new growth and I think there’s a lesson there for all of us. It’s time to trim. Trim your email lists, trim marketing tactics that just haven’t delivered the ROI and trim all the data that you’re buried under. This is a great time of year to get down to the essentials.

Spruce yourself up: You know that website that you keep meaning to update? Now’s the time! You need to freshen up your content, take down the bios of employees who’ve been gone for 10 months and give the whole site a fresh feel. Don’t forget to give the back end of the site some attention too. There are probably plugins, updates, and other technical aspects of the site that need your attention as well.

Build up the team: Everyone who works for you has been going all out for months too. Why not use the forced slow down to strengthen your team’s bond? Do something together that fosters team and holiday spirit. Adopt a family and go shopping for them together. Or work a shift ringing the bell for the Salvation Army or wrapping gifts for charity. Why not create a Toys for Tots drive among your employees, vendors, and customers? Let the holidays give you the perfect team building exercise.

Don’t get me wrong. I think you should enjoy the slow down. You’ve earned it. But, there’s no reason you can’t mix the holiday festivities with some business activities that will give the next twelve months a leg up.

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Find Your Sweet Spot

November 30, 2016

Sweet SpotWho should buy stuff from you? If you’re like most business owners or leaders that I know, your knee-jerk answer is something just slightly smaller than “everyone on the planet.”  But “everyone on the planet” can’t be your sweet spot customer.

You need to narrow it down a little. Businesses who need insurance or parents, or someone who wants to own a house or people with teeth. I didn’t ask who COULD buy stuff from you. I asked who SHOULD. That shift is a dramatic one and one that most business people don’t spend enough time thinking about.

Think of your own buying experiences. Odds are, no matter what you’re in the market to buy – there are plenty of companies that can sell it to you. Yet, you gravitate to one and if that buying experience is a good one and aligns with what you expected – you are likely to go back the next time you need to make the same purchase.

Why?

When we buy something, we don’t just buy the thing or a service; we also buy how the business that sold it to us parallels our life needs/comfort zones. We each have our own list of criteria that is based on a blend of our values, our life’s structure and our emotional connection to their brand.

If time is a more treasured commodity to you than money, you’ll pay more for something at a convenience store or 24-hour drug store.

If money is more important than a relaxing shopping experience, you’ll be the one in line for a couple hours for a door buster sale.

If reliability and fast service are vital to you, you’ll pay the service charge to always have your HVAC repair jumped to the front of the line because you belong to the insider’s club.

If a particular brand (like Harley) makes you feel a certain way or, in your mind, makes others see you in a certain way – you’ll wait for months and pay extra just to get one of their offerings.

When a business connects with a customer who not only likes what they sell but how/why they sell it – the transaction is faster, easier and more frequent. The word of mouth referrals are higher, and the level of satisfaction for both the customer and the employee is higher.

Who doesn’t want that? Well, guess what – you can’t have that if you think that everyone under the sun is your customer. You need to figure out who are your sweet spot customers and how can you serve them and only them.

Business gurus always talk about the 80/20 rule – that 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your customers. That’s because the 20% are your sweet spot customers. So what happens when you increase that 20% to 50% or 75%?

Each time you work with someone outside your sweet spot, it:

Distracts you from the zone: Part of what makes your sweet spot so sweet is that it’s easier, faster and more satisfying for you to serve those customers. They want exactly what you have to offer, and they value it and how you deliver it.

Costs you money: When you stray from your sweet spot, you have to spend extra time and money to make them happy. You might have to modify what you sell or how it’s delivered. But it doesn’t come easy or cheap.

There’s friction: When someone who is not aligned with your brand/values wants to do business with you, it feels a little off. The fit just isn’t quite right, and you and your employees will notice it. Worst of all – you customer will notice it too.

The work you do is tough enough. Don’t make it harder by chasing after clients who aren’t in your sweet spot.

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Let your benefits tell your story

July 6, 2016

benefitsLet your benefits tell your story.  What does that mean?  Most prospects and customers have no idea what your company’s mission statement or tagline is but they definitely know how they felt when they did business with you.  Those experiences spark more word of mouth marketing than anything else.

The interactions your employees have with your customers – be it in-person, on the phone or online, are often the foundation for how your business is perceived. Which makes those exceptional employees one of your most effective and valuable marketing assets.  Assets you do not want to lose.

Couple that truth with what sources like Bloomberg, The Economist and US News and World Report are saying about the oncoming high skilled labor shortage.  As businesses struggle to find new employees, it’s only natural they’re going to start trying to poach yours.

A strong benefits package actually packs a double wallop. There’s no doubt it will help you retain your best employees and keep them on the front lines, delighting your customers, but what many business owners don’t really understand is how much your benefits package can also build your brand internally.  By carefully creating benefits that speak to your core beliefs and values, you can weave those elements deep into your organization’s culture.

Many companies struggle with how to infuse their brand into their employee base in a way that rings true and will reinforce those beliefs so they get translated accurately in all customer interactions.  When an organization walks its talk, the employees don’t just hear the brand values, they see them in action.

Does your current benefits package actually reflect your company’s values and brand promise?

One way to think about your benefits from a more holistic point of view is to look at them by category.

Benefits that make life easier and communicate family, trust and life/work balance: This would include perks like time off, child/elder care, flexible work hours, and space, concierge services, discounts on legal services, counseling, personal space at work (lactation room, exercise room, etc), summer hours and gift cards/certificates.

Benefits that focus on the employee’s health and the importance of living a balanced and long life: There’s lots of room to get creative here beyond health insurance.  Don’t forget about benefits like gym discounts, long-term care insurance, wellness programs, a health risk appraisal, disability insurance, and access to health care options like eye, dental and mental health care coverage.

Benefits that help them grow professionally and speak to thought leadership, expertise and the value of helping others: Many employees know that the best way for them to earn more money is to be more valuable to the organization. Look for opportunities to give them career visibility, frequent feedback from managers, relationship networks, learning opportunities, trade or professional memberships, coaching or mentoring, education reimbursements and perhaps the best professional perk of all – an engaging culture.

Benefits that make your place the bomb and communicates fun, passion, serving the community and play: Not all benefits need to be traditional or ongoing.  A day at the ballpark, an internal paper airplane competition, a potluck just because, bringing in a chair massage service or working together for a charitable cause all create a workplace that’s hard to duplicate.

Benefits that help an employee build their wealth and demonstrate your belief in being prepared, rewarding performance and legacies: Beyond paying a fair salary, there are plenty of things you can offer to help an employee stay in the green.  Think about offering tax preparation discounts, access to financial planning services, bonuses, or retirement savings accounts with employer matches.

Use your benefits package to not only keep your employees happy but to remind them every day what you and your company are all about.

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Becoming a marketing master

June 2, 2015

Becoming a marketing masterYou don’t have to be a good writer or have a mind for marketing to set a goal of becoming a marketing master. You just have to be willing to do the hard work of learning how to do it and practicing it regularly.

There’s a huge body of research that has studied how people who are at the top of their game got there. Many people assume these superstars had a wealth of natural talent that gave them a huge advantage over the others in their field.

But even when you look at remarkable performers like Tiger Woods or Warren Buffet, it’s not true. We’ve all heard the story of how Tiger started playing golf at 18 months and had over 15 years of regular practice before he began competing at a national level. Warren Buffet admits that he knew very little but invested significant time studying business and financial statements to learn how to spot patterns and trends.

In fact, the research is so consistent it has evolved into what is commonly called the ten-year rule. It states that the most accomplished professionals, no matter what field they’re in; need about ten years of intense study to get to the top of their game. The ten years isn’t an average, it’s a minimum.

And there’s one more element that matters. It can’t be casual or haphazard practice. It needs to be what is called deliberate practice. It’s you doing things with the explicit goal of improving your performance that will push you past competent to a level of excellence.

Why does all of this matter to you, in terms of marketing?

  • It means for you to develop and execute effective marketing, you need to be deliberately practicing on a regular basis.
  • It erases the excuse “I’m just not wired to be good at this” when it comes to marketing your business.

Like most other aspects of running or owning a business, it boils down to doing the hard work and committing to it for the long haul.

And there’s one other benefit to taking this sort of approach. In the case of marketing – unlike a golf game or investing, you have a potential audience and that audience requires many marketing touches before they start paying attention. The fact that marketing is a marathon not a sprint works well with this “practice every day” philosophy.

Very few marketing tactics deliver instant results and when that happens, it’s more dumb luck than anything else. Marketing is a cumulative effort. Your efforts stack up and create that consistent drip drip drip marketing that we’ve talked about before.

In many ways, marketing is the perfect skill to develop, given the ten-year rule. You have to do it consistently and intentionally to get better at it and your audience needs you to do it consistently to notice you. So the more you practice, the better you get and the better results you’ll experience.

Now the question is – what do you need to do to put this idea into play?

Daily Practice: What marketing tactics can you commit to doing on a daily basis? Is it a Facebook page update? A customer thank you call?

Weekly Practice: What can you do every single week? An insightful blog post? Sending out targeted direct mail pieces and then following up with a call?

Monthly Practice: What, come rain or shine, will you do every month? Writing a helpful newsletter that establishes your expertise? Running an ad in a niche publication aimed at your primary audience?

Be sure you build your skills by practicing every single day and before you know it, you’ll be on your way to becoming a marketing master. Not only will you get better every day but you’ll get also more customers as you practice!

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Where has your planning taken you so far?

April 22, 2015

planningAs the first quarter of 2015 whizzes past us, it’s time to take stock of your planning abilities. 25% of the year is now done. How are you doing on your goals for 2015?

I suspect the answer to that question fall into one of two camps.

Camp One (also known as the Camp of the Seat of My Pants): Goals? We’re doing pretty well. I think.

Translation: We didn’t set SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound) goals so we know we want to make more money than we did last year, but other than that – we’re not sure what success in 2013 looks like.

Camp Two (also known as the Camp of the Strategic Planners): We’re at 32% of goal one, 17% of goal two and we’re doing a customer survey in June to see how we’re doing on goal three.

Translation: We took the time to set SMART goals and then built a plan for accomplishing those goals. We’re tracking our progress and adjusting the plan as we go.

Now you might argue that there’s a third camp. The Camp of Lucky Breaks. No argument there. Every once in awhile a business hits one out of the park through no particular fault or planned effort of their own. They’re just in the right place at the right time. Everyone deserves a break like that every now and then. But that’s the problem – it’s unpredictable and at best, sporadic.

Since we can’t count on falling into the third camp, the truth is – as business owners and leaders, we make a conscious decision to plan or not. Make whatever excuses you want – it’s either a priority or not.   And you get to reap the benefits or not. It’s really that simple.

Whenever I think about the true value of planning, I remember my experience with our office move a few years ago.  It was a sight to see. The team at MMG is filled with native planners. They like to be organized and anticipate as many details as possible. It’s how they work with our clients and it’s just how they’re wired.

We had several meetings in the months leading up to the move, trying to anticipate anything and everything we’d need. There were plenty of checklists and task assignments.

I watched in amazement at how smoothly the move went. Each area of the office was assigned a different color of duct tape and everything that belonged in that area was marked with the appropriate colored tape (including me by the end of the day!)

This allowed the moving crew to load the truck by area, knowing they’d unload in the same way. When we got to the new office, there were color-coded charts on the walls, and large colored signs by each area in the office. The unloading was incredibly fast and efficient.  Even on move day, – we were back on track and taking care of clients. Within two work days, we were completely settled into the new space and everyone was working at full speed.

That’s the thing – while planning does require an investment, it almost always pays dividends. Here’s the short list of planning perks.

You get where you want to be – by starting with the end in mind, you can plan the path to get there.

Resource conservation – you’ll burn fewer resources (time, money, good will) to accomplish your goals, which means you’re that much further ahead.

You can track your course – when you are actively monitoring a goal’s progress, you can make course corrections faster and minimize your losses.

You’ve lost the first quarter. Will you lose the second too or is it time to get planning?

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Love advice is not good marketing advice

February 27, 2015

Love advice is not good marketing adviceAs we celebrated Valentine’s Day this month – there were many a cliché uttered in the name of love. I want you to remember that in most cases, they don’t work as well as marketing maxims. Love advice is not good marketing advice.

In fact, in general I might suggest that you shun cupid’s advice when it comes to marketing your organization. Let me give you a few examples.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder: While this may be true in human interactions, buyers have a very short attention span. When your marketing is sporadic or worse – nonexistent, you can’t expect a prospect to think about you when they’re finally ready to buy.

Trying to reach our consumers, no matter what we sell, is a little like trying to time the market. The truth is – we don’t know when they’re going to be ready to pull the trigger. We do know that when they’re ready – typically they will identify three potential solutions and explore them. That’s why marketing’s job is to keep your product or service top of mind all the time so that when the prospect is actually ready – you’re in the short set of possibilities. Absence doesn’t make it more likely that you’ll get a shot at the sale.

Love is blind: While in human interactions it’s true that appearances don’t trump love…in marketing, love is definitely not blind. How you present yourself has incredible impact on your ability to capture and keep the attention of a customer. When it comes to marketing, this isn’t so much about attractiveness as it is about consistency and being true to your brand.

Adhering to graphic standards that represent and promote your brand is vital to growing demand and brand loyalty. Consistent use of logo and brand colors begins to create a subconscious connection with your prospects and repeat customers. Pretty soon – if you’ve honored your brand’s visual guidelines you can trigger a reaction every time you use the brand’s color palette or logo. Think how we immediately associate a red soda can with Coke or a brown truck with UPS. You can create the same effect.

Opposites attract: We all know couples that seem like they couldn’t possibly have anything in common who are deliriously happy with one another. Shows what we know. But that phrase doesn’t work so well when it comes to customers. The truth is – every business has what we call “sweet spot” customers. Those people who are the perfect fit to what we have to offer. One of the reasons they’re our best fit is because they see the world in the same way we do. They agree with how we approach our industry and the specifics of not only what we do but how we do it.

Many companies go broke trying to be everything to everyone. Instead of embracing their sweet spot customers, they chase after every dollar, no matter how bad the fit may be. The result of that is almost always a very rocky relationship that ends in an ugly crash. And then, that former customer runs around town (or your industry) telling people about their bad experience. You’re far better to

All you need is love: In today’s economic times – I don’t care how much fun you are to work with, if you can’t generate results you won’t get to stick around for too long. One of the marketing mistakes that many organizations make is that they don’t put the spotlight on the results and give them their due.

There you have it. I don’t want to rain on anyone’s Valentine’s Day fueled parade but when it comes to love clichés and marketing – it is definitely not better to have loved and lost. Remember — love advice is not good marketing advice!

Instead, market smart and keep those customers for life!

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5 tips for creating a company culture that connects with your sweet spot clients

September 25, 2014

creating a company cultureAn area of marketing that is often overlooked is how important it is to be mindful when creating a company culture. You don’t build a culture to make a sale. But the culture you build, if you’re very clear about your organization’s values and beliefs, can translate your company’s personality and attract right fit prospects. It can also reinforce your current customers’ buying decision.

Company culture doesn’t just happen. If you want it to really flourish, you need to make it a priority for your business. You need to build/strengthen the foundation of your culture and then nurture its growth from there.

The challenging aspect of corporate culture, of course, is that culture is shaped by the workforce. Which means it’s an ever-evolving entity. As employees come and go, the culture can be altered in ways that don’t benefit the employees or the organization.

Your culture is too valuable not to protect. Here are a few ways you can ensure that your culture has a consistent foundation that doesn’t ebb and flow over time. If the core is rock solid, then it’s okay if the details shift a little.  Ready to start creating a company culture? Keep these tips in mind.

Create a manifesto: Don’t hide your culture. Celebrate it. Capturing the essence of your culture in a statement of beliefs or manifesto will allow you to articulate the key values and behaviors that you want to protect.

Put it in your employee handbook, create a beautiful framed version and hang it proudly in your corporate office and read it out loud to kick off each year’s first staff meeting. You could even ask new hires to sign a commitment to honoring the manifesto on their first day of work.

Weave the culture’s core values into your job descriptions and review process: Employees know that if something is important enough to be a part of their annual review, then it must be pretty important to the company. You can reinforce your culture by rewarding your employees for keeping it alive.

It’s also a built in culture training program for new employees. If they know they’ll be held accountable to their job description when review time comes along, they’re much more likely to adopt those wanted behaviors.

Make your staff part of the solution: If you teach your employees how your company culture contributes to the success of the organization and then invite them to help you protect it, they’ll gladly accept the challenge.

Why not a team that is charged with bringing the culture to life through employee events, customer interactions and rewards programs? They’ll probably surprise you with their innovative ideas and enthusiasm.

Hire for culture, train for skills: Identify the attitudes and behaviors that best support your company’s culture and hire for those traits. You can teach skills but you can’t teach attitude. It’s much easier for a new hire to fit into an environment that aligns with his or her own personal beliefs. Trying to force a square peg into a round hole puts a great deal of stress on both the organization and the new employee.

Share the vision: The purpose of a company culture is to support the organization as it marches towards its future. One way to help the employees understand the importance of protecting and building the culture is by sharing the desired end result.

Once they share the vision, they’ll be inspired to guard everything that will help you all achieve that vision. If anything, they will strengthen your culture to help you get there even faster.

Your culture matters every day. Purposefully creating a company culture will help you recruit and retain your best talent. It supports how you deliver excellence to your customers and it is a compass that guides you towards even greater successes. Be sure you protect it like the valuable asset that it is.

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