What do you think is the foundation of all of (business) relationships?
I put the word business in parentheses because I do believe what I shared below can be applied to all relationships, but since I'm an entrepreneur and I wrote this on my company site, I'm going to focus this blog article on business relationships.
Some of us might say that you need one or a combination of the following to build a foundation in a business relationship: common services, needs or wants, industry connection, commonality, experience, mutual benefits or equal exchange, consistency, follow-through, deliver as promised, etc.
Although the above have a place in the business relationship they are not the foundation. The cornerstone of business relationships is TRUST & VALUE. Not one or the other but it's essential to have both or the relationship will either be static, shallow, purely transactional, miserable, disruptive, destructive, selfish and at some point, it will just flat-out disintegrate.
So why TRUST & VALUE?
As I said we're going to look at it from a business perspective, but I believe this could be a universal theory for all meaningful and long-lasting relationships, including within teams or organizations.
Regardless of whether we are talking about Business to Business (B2B) or Business to Customer (B2C) long-term relationships can not be formed without full TRUST & VALUE, transactions and exchanges can definitely happen without full trust or value but unfortunately in that case it's only a transaction or an exchange, not a relationship.
Products and services can not be sold repeatedly for continuous profit if a brand is not TRUSTED & VALUED. Try to have one without the other the relationship will eventually falter or will just result in a limited-time exchange or transactions of goods and/or services until something better (or more trustworthy and valued) comes along.
For non-profits that are reading this, and may not think this applies to your organization, you are still a business and if people don't TRUST & VALUE your cause or initiative then they will not donate or will only donate once if they don't continue to TRUST and VALUE your brand and the cause. But you need both to build loyalty and longevity!
EXAMPLE: TRUST & VALUE relationship vs a transaction/exchange:
If you purchase a certain brand vehicle because in the past your parents did and/or because you believed in the brand promise and messaging over years of advertising, there is a certain level of TRUST from those experiences.
Unfortunately, the VALUE hasn't been truly established because you haven't had a one-on-one brand experience. Your parents bought the car so you were just along for the ride and the advertising is just auditory and visual communication that captured your interests and preferences for a new vehicle.
Now, if you decide to buy the vehicle based on your two TRUSTED experiences above but don't VALUE the brand there is a strong chance that this relationship could end sooner than later. I know, I know, the VALUE can't be determined until the brand experience actually happens. I agree, so when the brand experience happens the importance of providing VALUE to that customer is essential, but the customer also has to experience VALUE in the vehicle with and without influence. The direct experience of driving the vehicle day after day, month after month, and year after year in collaboration with key points of contact from the brand to ensure expectations are being fulfilled is what will build brand VALUE to the customer. This will also reinforce their initial TRUST in the brand that started from the time they were a child and/or support the advertising messages. Ultimately, the TRUST & VALUE has to be established and nurtured but can erode or be severed if the TRUST and/or VALUE is neglected or broken repeatedly or worst-case scenario, severely.
What is the takeaway aside from needing TRUST & VALUE to build a long-term business relationship?
Quick Sidebar before I answer the above question: I know there are some people who might say, well transactions and exchanges are still relationships. Okay, I admit that there is technically a connection there, but it's more notional than a real connection that is intended to go deeper than the surface exchange or transaction. TRUST and VALUE relationships involve consistent and long-term commitment. Otherwise, neither party really has any skin in the game to build any TRUST and VALUE, it's only centered around self-fulfillment for a particular need/want. Basically, I give you get, and vice versa. This means if there is no real TRUST and VALUE behind the transactions or exchange there is no real commitment to be loyal to that particular brand or customer, whether B2B or B2C. They can always go elsewhere to fulfill that need/want.
Now, back to the question before the sidebar. What is the takeaway...?
STOP MANAGING YOUR BUSINESS RELATIONSHIPS AND BUILD THEM.
TRUST & VALUE are built based on specific actions that we commit to doing in a relationship for someone else i.e. communication, reliability, consistency, collaboration/teamwork, adaptability, leadership, service, kindness, time spent, community, follow-up, forgiveness, accountability, passion, vulnerability, purpose, compassion, respect, selflessness, etc. I can go on but you understand where I'm coming from. COMMITTED ACTIONS, not just transactions or exchanges build TRUST & VALUE.
I leave you with a thought and a quick story to consider that could potentially change our thinking.
BUSINESS ACRONYM AND ACTION TO CHANGE IN SALES & MARKETING:
CRM = Customer Relationship Management to CRB = Customer Relationship Building
THE TRUST & VALUE STORY:
“ A father said to his daughter, “You graduated with honors, here is a car I acquired many years ago. It is several years old. But before I give it to you, take it to the used car lot downtown and tell them I want to sell it and see how much they offer you.
The daughter went to the used car lot, returned to her father, and said, “They offered me $1,000 because it looks very worn out.”
The father said, ”Take him to the pawn shop.” The daughter went to the pawn shop, returned to her father and said, ”The pawn shop offered $100 because it was a very old car.”
The father asked his daughter to go to a car club and show them the car. The daughter took the car to the club, returned and told her father, ”Some people in the club offered $100,000 for it since it’s a Nissan Skyline R34, an iconic car and sought out after by many.”
The father said to his daughter, ”The right place values you the right way. If you are not valued, do not be angry, it means you are just in the wrong place. Those who know your value are those who appreciate you. Never stay in a place where no one sees your value.”
Let's build TRUSTED and VALUED relationships.
WISDOM VS INTELLIGENCE
DATA. INTELLIGENCE. HUMAN EXPERIENCE.
The world values intelligence at a very high premium because it is one of the major components that has allowed us to evolve, create, and recreate. Wisdom on the other hand is valued but not emphasized as much, taught, or valued in the same way intelligence has been over the years. Why?
Well let's start by looking at the basic definitions of each word.
Intelligence, applied KNOWLEDGE and SKILLS vs wisdom, the quality of having EXPERIENCE, KNOWLEDGE and GOOD JUDGEMENT...soundness of action or decision...
As you can see by reading the definitions, intelligence is an objective application of knowledge and skills. Whereas wisdom is a combination of objective and subjective application of not just knowledge and/or skills, but decision making that distills data in the form of social experiences and/or shared knowledge from another person.
For example, intelligence or a person's IQ is not directly related to whether or not you touch a hot stove. Based on a persons experience with other hot elements like water, steam, fire, or even the sun we have an experiential concept of what "hot" is. Therefore, if we've never experienced touching a stove, we can choose to touch it or take the wisdom from another person (whether experiential or scientific). If we choose not to touch it then we've made a wise decision, but if we choose to touch it then we've made an unwise decision. This opens up the opportunity in the future for us to make a wise decision or repeat the same unwise decision.
So what does this all have to do with branding and marketing? Directly, not a whole lot, but indirectly both intelligence and wisdom are needed for branding and marketing which goes without saying (but just for fun I said it anyway). This blog was really to help elevate the value of wisdom and the lack of importance it has in business and society at large. Empowering and encouraging people young and old to acquire as much wisdom as possible because that is going to give you the ability to harness your intelligence to make more sound decision making as you go through life's experiences, our journey.
We tend to downplay or downgrade wisdom as common knowledge or common sense. Funny they both use the word "common". Typically this is used by someone who has already gained the experience and knowledge = wisdom. Wisdom isn't common, because no matter what institutions you go to if someone didn't provide you with or you didn't experience personal finance, job interviewing, home buying, healthy eating, faith, courage, exercise, law following, morality, etc. you will not know how to navigate through these experiences.
Intelligence is important, it has allowed us to evolve, create, and recreate. We know intelligence can influence wisdom and vice versa, but I leave you with this question and thought what is intelligence without wisdom? I challenge you to go deeper than the obvious answers, look at it from many different perspectives holistically and separately, worldview, scientific view, faith view, even from hi-tech view. Things like A.I. , mobile phones and social media can really begin to reveal the value of the human experience.
In the world where technology has allowed us to be exposed to marketing messages from countless brands whether small, medium or large, the battleground for customer attention gets more crowded. The danger and pitfall for many brands, especially for the small and medium ones, is their sometimes-stressful need and focus on making money versus engaging and fulfilling their customer needs/wants. This isn’t to negate that having sales goals is imperative, but to identify where the true emphasis and PURPOSE should be to generate long-term success for a business.
Financial goals are necessary, but where the issue occurs is when that is the driving force behind the brand strategy. Don’t mistake this for ignoring the value of generating cash-flow and ensuring a return on investment. The tunnel-vision of money or a financial goal as brand strategy inhibits the ability for brands to connect with their consumers in a meaningful way. When you negate human connection, you minimize your brand value down to transactional exchanges that are easily disposable when a more attractive offer or competitor presents itself.
Startups, small, medium, and large business need to stop and remember why they started their business in the first place. Hopefully, it hasn’t been just to make money and if it is then you need to recognize the short-term vision of your business and set up an exit or acquisition strategy to someone who sees the customer value within your business. Neglecting why you created your product or service in the first place is neglecting the human aspect of your brand. If it's always been about making money, then your brand is just a vending machine. You’re providing a service or product in exchange for a monetary deposit.
Relationships drive business, our economy, our country, and our world. We thrive or deprive as human beings because of the network of relationships we create or lack thereof. Embrace the reason or find a valuable reason why you developed your product or service and that will be the start of leading your business to focus on how to transform people’s lives. Translate that DREAM into a brand mission with values that are driven by PURPOSE and ACTION. Don’t ignore the very thing that separates us from all other life and technology on earth. Be human!
Are we blinded by the pleasures of technology and ignoring what lies beyond? Technology continues to evolve while discovering new ways of doing or not doing things, and at the same time making it easier for us to overindulge. Is the innovation within technology clouding our judgment and exposing how we go on autopilot to feed our own human instincts?
We are in an era where there is more information and data available at our fingertips than ever before. We can educate, train, or entertain ourselves at any given moment throughout the day. We can obtain 15 seconds or more of fame without earning or auditioning for a role and maybe even get paid for it. We can become an author, videographer, photographer, reporter, or journalist at a basic level and attract an audience equivalent to a magazine or even TV impressions. We have become technology co-dependent by inviting listening devices into our homes to help us turn on our lights, appliances, music, and search things we want to know or buy. The exchange of information and usage of data is endless - we can donate, talk, view, debate, share, encourage, search, market/re-market, embarrass, date, demean, fight, bully, brag, etc. all in a matter of seconds with a click, swipe, tap, or just by the command of our voice. What's the cost or personal exchange that is consciously or unconsciously happening?
Introducing the "Digital Dichotomy", we say we want privacy and no ads, but at the same time we give up our personal information for simple conveniences and access to information or content we want (i.e. entertainment, gaming, news, etc.). In addition, we share and post our personal highlight reels or whereabouts. Knowingly or unknowingly we've given up our data and privacy in return for ads we say are intrusive.
Our digital preferences don't reflect our online behavior or actions unless privacy and intrusive ads are the topic of conversation or incorporated into a survey. We could even look at statistics saying that the younger generations are more prone to share personal data, but it's not always the case unless someone who is older downplays their usage/consumption in fear they will be looked down upon by their peers. Remember? - for Baby Boomers and Gen X'ers growing up saying "I'm busy" has always been a badge of honor.
Where does this Digital Dichotomy leave us and how will it shape our future? On daily basis, individuals and companies continue to experience the repercussions across various platforms (i.e. social, mobile, banking, retail, etc.) where personal data is not being protected appropriately, or it is being misused and/or hacked for monetary gain. Where is the threshold for society? What does privacy even mean anymore?
In a world where technology has made communication and the exchange of information an open platform we need to redefine what privacy is. On a personal level it may be more subjective, but for the world, we need new overarching standards. Some companies and platforms are recognizing this and beginning to help change things. We are still in the infant stages of recognizing the inconsistencies and negative results of our actions. It's easy to point the finger at the companies because they create attractive technology, but society at large is responsible. Similar to the revolution in the type of foods we eat consumers/users must participate, no actually demand the change in privacy and ad intrusion by having the self-discipline and the voice to communicate when enough is enough.
BRANDING & MARKETING
Welcome to the Envision Brand Marketing Blog Spot and the very first blog post!
When creating a name for my agency I deliberately chose to put the words "brand marketing" in the title because they are the ingredients to the capabilities and services Envision provides. They are also essential to the marketing and advertising industry because they encompass the who, why, what, when, how, and where. Unfortunately, these two words either get confused as one in the same or they get ignored/forgotten under the pressure and impatience of creating a profitable business. So what's the difference between branding and marketing and why are they important?
Branding and your brand are the WHO, WHAT, and WHY, and it must consistently identify, define, and verbalize what you dreamt about creating for your business before you made it a reality. To take it a step further, the brand is the identity that is perceived by an audience; it's a noun, a person, place or thing. Branding is the specific actions and characteristics the brand embodies on a daily basis (internally and externally). Once brands have taken their dream to reality I've noticed in my 17 plus years in the marketing industry that the brand and branding tend to take a back seat to shiny new social trends and marketing tactics. This clearly ignores the WHY and focuses on HOW, WHEN, and WHERE, which leaves out the foundation and unique value as to why a consumer or business would be attracted to purchasing your service or product in the first place. Your brand should organically live and breathe within every aspect of your company; without branding, you're just pushing or selling services/products in hopes that people understand your WHO, WHAT, and WHY.
Once your brand and branding are established you can then, and only then, begin developing internal and external marketing. Marketing by definition is the relationship builder between the brand and the intended target audience. But similar to dating and finding "the one", you flounder unless you know who you are, what you have to offer, and why it's valuable to someone else. Not to mention you need trustworthy support and advocates to help you grow while holding you accountable.
That being said, marketing encompasses many different aspects in order to develop and implement it with success. The Business Dictionary provides four (4) key elements called the Four P's, Product, Price, Place, Promotional Strategy, which summarizes how marketing is organized and executed. Each of the Four P's requires special attention and research to construct leading to the intersection where marketing meets strategy to formulate an execution plan. What's crucial and sometimes overlooked in the development of the marketing strategy is the "brand". A marketing strategy must be led by the branding and be integrated throughout or the return on investment (ROI) will be unsuccessful.
The topic of brand/branding versus marketing has many layers and can spawn off into many different conversations, but this blog is to clearly identify their differences. The relationship of brand vs. marketing must coexist if a brand business wants to thrive. The BRAND is the story and the BRANDING and MARKETING are the storytellers. \
Thank you for taking the time to read the Envision Brand Marketing Blog. Feel free to leave thoughts, comments or question regarding Brand vs. Marketing.
D. Banks - Owner & Chief Brand Marketing Officer of Envision Brand Marketing, LLC