Category: Marketing


So, What if Yours is “Brand D”? Try this…


Don’t panic but ponder this: Our minds are filled with ladders. Unfortunately, there are only three rungs on each category ladder that really matter.

I’m not sure if there is scientific proof of the three-rung theory that is central to the marketing classic, “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind” but anecdotally, I’ve found it to be true. So much so that since 1990, Al Ries and Jack Trout’s book on the subject became “must reads” for my employees and clients.

My paraphrase of their premise is this: People have “ladders” in their minds for pretty much everything. The tough part: there are only about three rungs on a ladder in which people can remember or that matter to them. If your company or product brand isn’t one of those three, you are pretty much hosed from a market share standpoint.

Think about it for a moment.

What are the three top cereal brands that immediately come to mind? How about the top three pest control companies? What about the top three motor oil brands? The top three life insurance companies?

If I asked you to name the top seven in those categories, you’d likely have a tough time getting past the top three or four.

If your brand isn’t in the top three, what do you do? According to Ries and Trout, you set up a new ladder – create a new category that resonates with your target audience AND one that you can ideally own the top rung.

A fitting example is NyQuil. The cold medicine category already had three brands on the top three rungs of the ladder before NyQuil came on the scene. What did they do? They created a new ladder: “NIGHTTIME Cold Medicine.” Simple. Brilliant.

If you haven’t read, “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind” as part of your brand positioning strategy, I highly recommend you do. Looking for outside help in addressing your company’s brand positioning as part of your growth strategy? We can help.

Become a Lead-Generating Machine

The sales process starts with the ability to generate leads, aka people who have an interest in learning more about your business. It’s the inability to create sufficient lead flow that prevents most companies from substantial growth.


If you can get lead flow right, hang on and enjoy the ride! Or, let this continue to be your sales constraint and get left behind – or “dropped,” as we call it in the mountain bike racing world. Getting dropped sucks!

One you have identified your Core Customer and have clarity on the Buyer Persona, create a multi-channel plan to connect and generate leads. Buyers are not one-dimensional – they take in information from multiple sources, so you need to think about where they regularly find information, then hit them with information there.

12 Places Your Leads Might Find You

Here is a list of lead-generation channels to explore. Pick what is right for you based on your Core Customer’s Buyer Persona.

  1. Content marketing
  2. SEO and AdWords
  3. Create events – you are the subject-matter expert
  4. Outside sales teams
  5. Inside sales teams
  6. Outsourced door openers
  7. Group affiliations or sponsorships
  8. Partnerships – Channel Sales
  9. Trade shows or industry events
  10. Social media
  11. Traditional PR
  12. Write a book or do speaking engagements
  13. What else makes sense for your industry or your Core Customer?

Look for the 3-5 channels you can focus on. You might ask, “Why not just focus on one channel and go deep?” The answer is that things can change that are out of your control. I see many companies going all-in with an inbound marketing strategy tied to the Web hoping to make the phone ring. Great idea, but what happens when Google changes the content-ranking algorithm? Your 1st page rank is now number 4, and it will take money and time to get it back on top.

Instead, start by working with your team to create a list of 3-5 channels to focus on, and create 3-year, 1-year and 90-day targets and goals. Then create a 90-day action plan to put your multi-channel strategy into motion.

(Image: / Flickr)

External Perceptions Versus Internal Realities: Who Knows You Best?


As I just reviewed a recent article on “America’s Most Hated Companies”, it made me again question, “Why do people flock to some brands and hate others?”

Though I dare not to try to solve this mystery with a simple and tertiary exploration, in many cases this is answered by better understanding the Customer Experience. What is the Customer Experience? A basic definition of the Customer Experience is simply the sum of all perceptions, interactions, and experiences a customer has with a given brand and/or company.

Think for a moment about your FAVORITE brand – the one in which you are most loyal and most passionate. What are the feelings, emotions, impressions, and thoughts you have from the sum of all your experiences with that particular brand or company? Now, do the same with your LEAST FAVORITE brand. How do they compare and contrast?

Now, take it one step closer to home. Think about your own company’s external perception versus internal reality. Is there harmony or conflict? Why one versus the other?

Having spent over 30 years in helping companies define their brand, elevate their customer experience, and grow their sales, I really enjoy addressing inconsistencies, threats, and opportunities regarding brand environments, product lines, communications, and interactions from the CUSTOMERS’ perspective. In doing so, I’ve also come to realize that addressing the customers’ perspective is only part of the solution that separates the “Most Hated Companies” from the “Most Admired Companies”. There is more. An important differentiator comes down to the harmony or conflict between external perceptions and the answer to this question: “What is the experience of our employees, suppliers, and partners? What do THEY think about us?”

I’ve worked with a number of Presidents, Founders, and CEOs who are willing to take the first step and ask, “What do our customers think about our brand and/or company?” I’ve also been amazed how surprisingly few leaders are willing to ask the tough question: “What do those who know us most intimately, like our employees and vendors, think about our brand and/or company?” Perhaps it is due to the fact that it takes courage, humility, and a willingness to listen to those who know us MOST INTIMATELY. It is the question that can separate the external façade from reality. It has the potential to either affirm or expose. It is the one question that cuts to the chase.

Regardless of your particular belief, I think it is fair to say that no other leader has so radically impacted the world as Jesus has. I find it fascinating that one possessing the power and influence that was uniquely his was willing to ask his “leadership team” (those who knew him best and most intimately) these questions:

“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (Think of this in the context of a recent Customer Experience survey that asks, “What attributes best describe ‘Brand X’ or ‘Company Y’?”)
“Who do you say I am?” (Think of this in the context of a company surveying its employees, suppliers, and partners with the same Customer Experience question.)
The fact that such a powerful and influential leader who literally changed the course of the world was willing to ask this final question says a lot about his humility, leadership, transparency, and confidence. I believe we can learn from this example and apply an aspect of this to our own situation – both personally and professionally.

Whether or not you are in or leading one of the “Most Hated” or “Most Loved” companies in America, each of us has the opportunity to get real by asking those who know us best and most intimately the same type of questions that Jesus asked. In doing so, we might get validation of who we (and the brands and/or companies that we may be representing) REALLY are.

Though daring to ask those most intimately acquainted with us, “Who do you say I am?” may take courage, humility, and a willingness to listen to their answers, I believe it is the fundamental question we must ask if we are serious about making the greatest positive impact with the life we’ve been given as well as the brand and/or company in which we may be stewarding. It’s a risky but enlightening challenge. Are you willing to ask those who know you best the question?

What is Your Company’s Promise to the World?


What is a BRAND PROMISE?  In short, it is what your firm is promising to the world and it is what (hopefully) makes your firm unique.  At Insight CXO, we believe a powerful Brand Promise can give you leverage in the market and operational insight more than almost anything else you do.  The definition of a Brand Promise is:

    1. Something your clients NEED and not just want. They can want you right out of business.
    2. Must be really HARD TO DO and hard to copy. Competitors should be scratching their heads on how you are pulling it off.

It’s helpful to already know the Persona of the buyers and the market segment you want to own before creating your Brand Promise.  Next month’s BLOG will cover how to develop one.


Think about your core customer and the things they need to be successful.  What are their options?  What is the pebble in their shoe?  What are their major jobs to be done?  What kind of ‘normalized pain’ are they living with?

Hard to Do

This is how you separate yourself from the pack and find a place where there is very little to no competition.  At first, the ideas to pull this off may seem crazy or even impossible.  But do not stop because this is exactly what your competitors will do. Keep driving deeper and start asking the operational questions that just might be the key to success. Remember the customers who will buy in on your Brand Promise will also buy for optimal profit.  A well deserved price increase or extra velocity in sales can fund the operations of the new Brand Promise.  Another way to think about operations is to think in terms of an anti-Brand Promise.  Things you will lower the value proposition on and related cost structure and double down on the operations that empower the Brand Promise.


A good Brand Promise must be measurable by both you and the client.  It’s important to know how well you are doing on execution.  This becomes a great metric for the management team to focus on.  It’s how you know if your operations are really in support of your sales and marketing efforts or not.  I think this is the Holy Grail of running a business. The former CEO of Federal Express said there are two things every business should focus on.  “The Promise and the Process”.  Are your operations really setup and perfectly aligned with what the sales team is selling and what the marketing team is promoting?  This is where we see the most internal conflict and frustration.  What is being sold is not properly aligned with what and how things are produced.

Find your unique BRAND PROMISE and sell where there is no competition and get your entire organization in complete alignment!!!