Loyalty to a Brand

Why do people line up hours ahead of time; regardless of weather, to be one of the first to get a new iPhone? Why do people like Coke over Pepsi or vice-versa? Why did people root for the Chicago Cubs for 108 years before they finally won a World Series? The answer is probably one you could guess rather quickly: Loyalty.

Loyalty as a concept should not be unfamiliar to anyone at all, the concept of which has been around almost as long as humanity has existed. But what about loyalty to a brand or symbol? In Ancient Rome, the Aquila; or Eagle, was a symbol of extreme importance. They were the symbols of the Roman Legionnaires and were carried into every battle fought. On the rare occasion one was lost, monumental efforts were made to recover them, the recovery of which was said to have an effect equivalent to that of a whole military victory.

So, what does this have to do with the Brands and Logos of today? None of us are certainly buying anything specifically because we fought for it. While most of these logos and brands may not have military significance, we as a species have evolved beyond seeing symbols as just something of military or religious importance. Think about your favorite sports team, or favorite place to buy a cup of coffee. Odds are that as you think about this, the symbol of associated with them also immediately comes to mind. This isn’t to say we root for something because they have a nice logo, but because we associate ourselves with it in some way. The stronger our association with that logo or brand, the more loyal we are to it.

While a sports team may be the most immediate way to show loyalty to a logo or brand, the same concept can be applied to a company as well. We have all seen apparel from software companies, banks, restaurants and theme parks being worn by everyday folks. Those companies have developed loyalty to their brand to the point where people make fashion statements with them. They associate with those brands the same way they do with their favorite team.

But how does a company earn this loyalty from their clients? Simple: Don’t be ordinary. And let people know who you are before you say or do anything. The biggest advantage we have when it comes to securing new clients is that we follow up our first impressions with continuous reliability. Which means we have the opportunity to influence that first interaction to make it memorable, and then follow through on it, you can do this as well! Wear it, own it.


Six Marketing Trends for Success in 2019!

It never fails. No matter how much I try to ignore it, I always seem to come back to it every year around this time. As I jump around the internet, I find myself stopping to read posts about predictions and trends for the New Year. What is it about these articles that keep “Sucking Me In” every year? Is it their catchy titles? Is it my competiveness? Or, is it my yearning for knowledge of the future? (Which I blame my love of Science Fiction for that one.) Honestly, it is probably “All of the above.” But then again, I always do seem to find a few tidbits that change my outlook on how to approach things in the New Year. And, not unlike any other year, I have found a few for 2019 that seemed to stand out above the rest. So, I thought I would share some with you.

Know your Customer’s Communication Preferences

This is not new. But, it is becoming more important than ever. Your customer’s attention span is growing shorter. They have formed habits on where they look for information and entertainment. They read emails, they look to social media for news, and they go to events. All of these offer you time and spaces to get your product or services into view. But, your content needs to grab their interest enough for them to take notice. And…You need to be sure not to overdo it. (Remember…Right Place, Right Time, and Right Medium.)

Be Creative. And, Use All of the Different Channels of Marketing

The past few years, everyone has been preaching “Go Digital, Print is Dead…” Print is not dead; it is very much alive and thriving. In fact, the recent trend of going digital has alleviated the overburden of delivered printed marketing collateral. Now, this does not mean to go back to the “Spray and Pray” way of marketing. It means the door has re-opened to more receptive personalized marketing pieces being delivered. Integrating digital advertising with other platforms such as print, gives marketers the opportunity to develop innovative ways of heightening consumer engagement.

Account-Based Marketing

ABM is marketing to individual accounts, existing or prospective, and treating them like they are their very own market. Think of it like a One on One marketing campaign that is personalized and targeted only to that account.

United We Stand

The “walls” between departments are coming down. Companies are gaining more success from internal departments that work together, rather than traditionally separated. Things like content creation are now not just the concern of the marketing department. Great content now stands to fuel other parts of the company, driving a more unified “voice” for its brand.

Automation and Technology are Great, but…

Automation and Technology help marketers scale more effectively, make better decisions, and save money. But, they can also cost you something more important than money and time. Relationships and trust are being lost while companies are too focused on the technology side alone. Companies need to remain true to the relationships and trust they have built with their clients and customers. After all, what good is automation and technology if you don’t have any clients or customers left to use it with?

Connected Data

Data is power, but many companies are finding that non-integrated systems and data siloing are diminishing its potential. The challenge is getting to the data and using it. Integrating sales and marketing platforms can assist in retrieving some of this data. And, some companies are also re-thinking data siloing all together in order release data access to multiple departments as opposed to just one.

These are just a few tidbits of information I found interesting. And again, I have a new outlook for this year. Thanks for taking the time to read, and have a Happy New Year!


Dress Code and Corporate Culture

Some have said that clothes make the man, just as that statement is true, they also help influence the culture of the work place. You are likely to see a noticeable difference in the culture of a work place that has everyone dressed up in suits versus a place where everyone is dressed more casually. While both settings are more than capable of hosting a professional work environment, one is more laid back and relaxed than the other for obvious reasons. It is because of this that it is said they these places hold different cultures in the work place. Just as important to consider, is the difference in behavior in each situation.

As previously stated, both of the different work cultures would nurture a professional attitude, but they would be different kinds of professional. A place that requests a suit and tie every day would be very formal in its culture, that is to say everything has a professional air about it. This is all well and good, but as more and more companies are discovering, it isn’t always what some might want. Consider the fact that not everyone may feel comfortable wearing a suit in tie, they might feel stuffed and will therefore not act as they typically would. To say someone looks out of place in a suit is not an incorrect thing to say sometimes. Comparatively, corporate casual clothes can help people to feel more comfortable while still encouraging proper workplace etiquette.

It should be important to note that a suit and tie dress code is in no way a negative thing whatsoever. It is more so the fact that the world is changing and that many things in life are becoming more relaxed. These changes impact many areas, including dress code in the work place.

What started with companies like Facebook and Google has been spreading to other companies. As more millennials join and move up the ranks in the workforce dress casual is more the norm than the exception in many companies. People are dressing in what they feel comfortable in, while still adhering to the dress policy of their workplace. As a result, they act more confident and themselves while working, either in a desk job or client facing job. What is important to remember is that even though dress code may be becoming more casual, this does not have a negative impact on corporate culture, in fact it can sometimes enhance it.


Leveraging Supplier Technology

In today’s world no one can be expected to be an expert in everything. You and your company are experts in the products and services your business provides. Your suppliers are experts in the products and services they supply. Companies need to leverage their top supplier’s technology to help reduce their operating costs and grow their bottom line.

You hear about this every day, but are you really doing it? Have you set a process in place to track supplier technical support and its transfer to your bottom line? Do you have meetings to cover orders, onetime deliveries, costs and technical support as well?

Technical support can mean a wide variety things; product expertise, online ordering, online product proofing, and product information just to mention a few. These resources do not come free and are usually included in the costs of the supplied products and services.

Set up a plan to meet with your top suppliers. Ask them what more they can do for you than they are doing now. If their answer is, “We can sell you more products,” move on. Locate a supplier that wants to take the time to understand you, your company, and your company’s goals. This supplier should also ask questions about what you think could be improved in your processes. They should identify and focus on the areas they can help improve to make your ordering process more efficient from product conception, to product delivery.

This plan may take some time to setup, but it will yield results. Allowing you, and your company, to compete and thrive in today’s business environment. Your competitors may already be doing this! Stay ahead of the curve!!!


Business Casual vs Dress Casual

Despite the fact that you should never judge a book by its cover, you should really make sure your cover looks nice. No, I’m not talking about a cover letter or having a leather portfolio or anything like that. I’m talking about what you wear in the work place. Because there is a big difference between showing up in sweats and the shirt you slept in last night, to actually adhering to the company’s dress policy. A very important lesson especially for the millennial work force beginning to occupy more and more jobs in the industry, work is not college. This means you do not roll out of bed at the last minute and just shrug and show up wearing your pajamas. Much like the phrase of old, it takes work to look presentable for work.

Let us start with the supposedly plainly obvious stuff that still needs to be mentioned. Never under any circumstances think that it is OK to show up to your work place wearing ripped jeans. It may seem obvious but shockingly this is a lesson some people of my generation could still use some reminding of. Equally important is that you should never wear clothes that have not been washed. As stated previously this is not a college environment, it may have worked then but never for a moment think you can get away with wearing the same shirt three days in a row.

In terms of clothes that actually qualify as business casual, there are two ways to identify those. You can observe what the culture of the company you are working in is, i.e. what other people are wearing, or you can simply google business casual clothes. For guys business casual is typically khakis with some kind of collared shirt, it can be solid or patterned the choice is yours. For women the typical business casual outfit could be dress pants or khakis with a top that goes with it. Heels are welcome but I’d recommend checking to see if your job involves lots of walking before making that choice. For all options, your clothes should be ironed and not wrinkly, again a supposedly obvious fact that still needs to be stated. At the end of the day, wear the kinds of clothes your coworkers are wearing, and you will fit in quickly at your place of employment.


The Evolution of the Dress Code in the Workplace

Anyone who has seen even a few seconds of Mad Men knows that Don Draper typically wears a suit and tie if he isn’t in bed, that’s just how it was back then. But as entertaining as that was, that depicts a time where unless you worked in the factory, men typically had to wear a suit and women a dress. It was to be expected of people, take a look at how people used to fly then compared to now. Plenty of people will step on a plane wearing comfy clothes for a long flight, if they tried that back then they’d have been stared at and then promptly kicked off the plane.

While plenty of job positions still necessitate a suit and tie or dress nowadays, the stigma surrounding other clothes in the work place is significantly less. Odds are if you are not in a client facing job, the clothes you wear will be far less scrutinized. While appearance may still be important another aspect that has been considered more and more nowadays is comfort. This means less heels and more regular shoes and boots. I certainly would not require women to wear heels all the time if I was making the rules, and thankfully many employers do not require this of women either.

So where does it go from here then? The old generation is slowly but surely making its way out of the work force and the younger generation is taking their place. As this continues to occur, the dress code will continue to evolve and become more generalized. That is to say that the rules will become less and less strict, and people need to make sure they are aware of this and keep up with the changing trends and times.


What is the True Cost of an Item?

Many customers usually ask what the cost is for an item. And, their perception of that answer is usually based solely on the dollar amount listed on the suppliers invoice. In reality the actual cost of an item is much more than this. There are other, often overlooked, costs in all transactions.

  1. What is the cost to place the order with the supplier? According to Supply Chain Digest, the average company spends from $35.88 to $506.00 just to process a single purchase order. This cost can be reduced by taking advantage of online ordering for items ordered on a regular basis, and if set up correctly, items can be produced in a more efficient process. This results in a lower purchase cost, as well as reducing the transactional cost of processing a onetime purchase order.
  3. How much time is spent collecting quotes for an item prior to placing the order? The old adage of “Time is money” is truer today than ever. Companies expect their employees to do more with fewer resources. Purchasing departments are consolidating more items under their existing, already overburdened, buyers. How do you combat this? The solution is to get closer than ever to your value added suppliers. A value added supplier takes the time to understand your company’s goals and aligns their products and services to meet them.
  5. What is the cost to process a supplier invoice into the system and process the payment? Once again a value added supplier will have their invoicing processes flow into your company’s purchasing, receiving, and accounts payable system. In most companies the true cost to process, file and pay an invoice can be in excess of ten to twenty times the actual invoice cost. The fewer people required to process these transactions will yield savings in excess of the cost of some (or most) of the items purchased.

Minimizing your transactional costs will allow more time to be spent focusing on value added purchases. An increase of 10% value added purchases adds more to the corporate bottom line than a 20% reduction in purchase costs savings.


Document Security

Every day you hear about something being hacked – websites, personal information, bank accounts or medical records. But one area of fraud that does not seem to resonate is document forgery. This can include checks, redemption coupons, gift certificates, and prescription pads. Check fraud alone accounts for an estimated $15 billion in annual losses.

The use of the correct security papers and printed security features for check documents are critical. Using the correct security features in the design and production of checks will not only reduce your probability of being a victim of forgery, but it will also help to ensure you or your company are not held liable for any losses.

Banks and insurance companies can require security features, and potentially hold you responsible for any losses or damages if those requirements are not adhered to. The best practices for document security is layering overt and covert features into any document. Overt features are those that are apparent when the document is looked at, acting as a deterrent to forgers. Included in these level 1 security features are bleed through MICR numbering, foil stamping, step and repeat designs, foils and watermarks. More covert features are hidden and may require a black light or a magnifying glass to see. These level 2 features might be florescent fibers in the paper, chemically reactive papers, micro printed signature lines and boarders.

Partnering with a knowledgeable provider of secure documents is critical to protect your transactions and your assets. With over 25 years of experience of providing these products, The Northstar Group can help to assure your critical documents are secure. Contact us to learn how we can help.


It’s Alive…Alive…Alive!

Despite certain rumors that you may have heard, QR Codes are not dead. In fact, they are very much alive in 2017. Yes, as far as the fad aspect goes, we don’t see them daily on billboards or shirts anymore. But with the continued usage growth of mobile technology, today’s world of “Instant Gratification” is looking for a quick and easy way to access the information they seek.

QR Codes are still the best way to easily bridge the gap between Digital and Non-Digital worlds.

However, using QR Codes just for the sake of using them will most likely not produce worthwhile results. Their success lies in the planning. You need to have in mind what your target audience will get from scanning your code.

A few things to keep in mind when planning the use of QR Codes:

  • Content is still “King” and should be unique and special.
  • You need to have a well thought out and enticing Call to Action.
  • Give your target audience easy-to-understand directions, this will increase participation in your campaign and will in turn increase your conversions.

The use of QR Codes has grown steadily in the Marketing arena. The trackable information that can be collected from user scans, give marketers an abundant source of data that can be used to see how campaigns and conversions are progressing in real-time. Marketers are utilizing codes on:

  • Direct Mail Campaigns
  • Product & Service Collateral (i.e. – Posters, Flyers, Brochures, etc.)
  • Magazine and Trade Advertisements
  • Promotional Products and Giveaways

But, placing a QR Code on these items is just half the journey. You still need to make it worth the user’s time to scan the code.

For now, I’ll leave you with this little tidbit…

Delivering a “True Value” to the user will be more rewarded than wasting their time.

Is Your Data Protected?

Data Encryption is not just for big corporations. In today’s world, small and medium sized businesses also need to be vigilant when it comes to protecting their confidential data. According to Symantec’s 2017 Internet Security Threat Report, 2016 saw a total of 1,209 reported data breaches from companies of all sizes.

36% of those breaches were attributed to Theft of Data/Hackers. While, a combination of Improper Data Use, Accidental Data Loss, Device Theft, and (I hate to say this one) IT Errors accounted for 27% of data loss in 2016! It’s not just hackers we need to worry about anymore, apparently it’s us too.

There are many different approaches to encrypting your data. And, it is true that you do not need to employ encryption everywhere in the infrastructure of your business. Consider the areas where your sensitive data resides and flows. The most common areas where encryption is used are:

  • Endpoint Encryption – Full PC Disk Drives, Removable Media, and Mobile Devices are encrypted.

  • File and Folder Encryption – Files, Folders, Shared Drives, and even Cloud Storage are encrypted.

  • Email Encryption – Desktop, Gateway, and Mobile Emails are encrypted.

  • Whether driven by compliancy (HIPAA, PCI, etc.), concern for brand reputation, or simply the fear of the legal and monetary costs associated with a breach, your data needs to be secure. Technology advancements have made encryption options more cost–effective and easier for protecting your intellectual property and private data.

    For now, I’ll leave you with this thought…

    If you do happen to become the unfortunate victim of a data breach, and that data is encrypted…It is still protected.