AT&T business communications services

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The hardest part of quantifying the success of brand strategy (1 claim, 3 proof planks) is the act of tying measurement of “care-abouts” and “good-ats” (the proofs upon which brand value are built) to sales. I call this pursuit: Return On Strategy (ROS).

Back in the 90s while working on AT&T Business Communications Services, fighting off MCI (a smart competitors buying share with discount prices), we knew that messaging the right combination of “competitive price” (within 10% of MCI), “network reliability” and “innovative telecom tools” (the 3 planks) would result in added business users. If market perceptions of this trifecta were offset by MCI, they started winning new account “adds.” The trick was meting out the right combination of planks with our media budget.  We were using quantitative research to gauge attitudes and tie them to actions/sales.

This is the way one does ROS.  But numbers about attitudes can lie. Nate Cohn, The New York Times version of Nate Silver, mea culpa’ed today about Donald Trump. He spent a 1,000 words explaining why the numbers lied and Trump beat the odds.

I often write about “proof” in my blog posts. And about “deeds” — the actual activities that feed the care-about and good-ats. This line of thinking and study is where I need to spend more time. As was the case in Mr. Cohn’s explanation of Mr. Trump, attitudes and numbers can mislead. So I’m off to look beyond attitudes and on to awareness of deeds tied to sales. Should be interesting.

Peace.                         

 

 

 

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A critical component of brand planning is understanding the special language of the seller and buyer. In the tech sector, the language can be quite unique, with many words to learn. As a young strategist working with AT&T’s Business Communications Services, I developed an acronym dictionary I kept with me every day. One could sit in a technical marketing meeting at AT&T back then and hear 10 acronyms in 10 minutes. In other technical businesses, e.g., healthcare, finance, and insurance learning the seller language is equally important. On the buyer side it isn’t as critical because the technical stuff goes thought a translation filter before it hits a consumer. (But if language is dumbed down too much, it comes out as marko-babble.)

When you learn the language of the seller, you hear things you couldn’t otherwise. Nuance. Emotion. It makes it so the sellers don’t have to teach, they can communicate. If you speak their language you also become more trusted.

Consultants and freelancers who don’t have a lot of time to learn the language are handicapped. It’s the first thing one needs to do on a new assignment. You need a good ear. No foreign word is unimportant. Study the language by reading trades magazines. Learning the language makes the first few meetings a bit clunky, but it’s necessary.

Peace.

 

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I attended Google Firestarters last night in NYC (thanks Ben Malbon), the topic of which was “constraints” and how they can fuel business and marketing improvements. Speakers included Adam Morgan (Eat Big Fish) and Mark Barden (ex-Guinness) co-authors of the smart new book A Beautiful Constraint. Firestarter panel 012215 In the morning I spoke at a great small business panel sponsored by Teacher Federal Credit Union on the topic of “Return on Strategy.”  One of my business constraints is that I’m a self-taught brand planner. Ada Alpert and other brand planning recruiters won’t touch me because I don’t come out of a traditional brand planning shop. I’ve also not been schooled by a member of the British Mafia. To overcome this constraint I’ve had to study hard from afar, creating my own syllabus and curriculum.

Return on Strategy is one of my self-taught tools. Here’s how it works: Measure your brand strategy (not tactics) and see if adherence puts more money in the bank. Period.

An example: Years ago, AT&T Business Communications Services knew if consumers 1. felt price was within 10% of its closest competitor, 2. believed they had a more reliable network and 3. provided innovative tools to help businesses grow, market share would grow. These became the 3 legs of the strategy. Perception of these things is what we measured through tracking research. So long as we maintained advantage in all three areas AT&T added customers. If we slipped in one area, we started losing customers. Gotta love science.

For my clients the search is all about finding the three key business-building strategies that help grow business. I call them proof planks. When I find the planks I help clients build and manage them. I also make sure they measure adherence and tie it to business gains. You have now attended What’s the Idea? 101. Peace.

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