Solution Driven Marketing Themes 

Solution driven marketing can reshape a firm’s view from product or money focus to  customer-needs’ focus. Solution driven marketing applies to every organization—profit, and not for profit. A key challenge is to change customers’ wants to valuable needs. In the long run, this will provide significant value to the firm, too.

Solution driven marketing has four distinct parts

Solution driven marketing changes wants to needs

Solution driven marketing
Solution driven marketing

First, the firm develops solutions or benefits based on its view of customers’ current or future wants or needs. To begin, the firm must learn about its customers and their wants and needs. It does this by highly targeted market research, and in focus groups.

The process starts with a clear vision and mission to define what the firm wants to be, and what it plans to do. The mission will appeal to certain groups only, not to everyone. Hence, the firm must decide the best approach to present its proposed solutions and benefits to help current and potential customers.

In solution driven marketing, the business does not “push” its services or products. Instead, it offers benefits, opportunities, and solutions it expects customers will find helpful. Look at Amazon, for example. It creates benefits for people to stay at home to shop for their wants and needs. As well,  it tries to change people’s wants to perceived needs. (more…)

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Are Students their Universities or Colleges’ Customers

Are university or college students customers of their institutions (subsequent references to college include university)? I am not referring to a student-as-customer’s movement that attempts to hike revenues by lowering standards and pandering students. That approach merely compromises the college’s mission, vision, and values while enabling entitlement-minded students. I disagree with it. Instead, I refer to a special partnership that exists between a college, delivering its vision and mission,  and college students, who do their best in the educational infrastructure that’s provided.

To answer the student-as-customers question properly, it’s crucial we understand essential traits of a customer, and the basic features of a business. That’s why I address the important customer and business relationship in such detail early in the paper.  Meanwhile, ninety-one percent of respondents to my survey (Bell, 2016) asking the captioned, said a college’s administration should treat college students as customers. Eighty-four percent said professors should be sensitive and responsive to students’ particular needs.

In this paper, I examine these areas:

  1. The customer and business exchange
  2. Anatomy of good customer relationships
  3. What the best college teachers do
  4. Perceptions of college students’ role as customers
  5. Treat college students as customers but don’t compromise values and standards
  6. Organizational structure of colleges
  7. Survey findings
  8. Conclusions

College Students Are Customers

The customer and business exchange

College Students Are Partners and Customers of Their Universities
College Students Are Partners and Customers of Their Universities

Who is a customer? Simply, a person or organization that buys goods or services from another person or organization is a customer or client. That’s it. You are a customer when you buy coffee from Starbucks, an iPhone from Apple, a case study from Harvard, or when you take a course from the University of Regina.

Is the customer always right? As a summer student at Selfridges, London, England, in the 1960s, that was the mantra I learned. Selfridges’ views were simple. Listen to the customer, understand the customer, and accept what the customer says about the product or service. Don’t argue with the customer. After the customer leaves, evaluate what she said, discuss it with your supervisor, and he or she will decide if change is needed. Does this attitude apply at a college today? Yes! Colleges must listen to students’ feedback, and where the college deems applicable, change. Even so, the context is different from a company selling pop. (more…)

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A Positive Brand Perception is Your Best Advertising

A positive brand perception is an important goal of many successful organizations. They understand that their brands are emotional links with customers. The deeper the link, the stronger the brand perception.

Brands are belief systems, not marketing tools. Many people think of the logo as the brand. However, the logo merely is the image that conjures up the brand perception.

The brand perception is in the person’s mind and evokes specifics such as quality, price, service.  It is the business’ brand identity.  To many people, the Apple brand means high quality, excellent packaging, and great service. Walmart’s brand conveys everyday low prices, and Costco’s brand brings to mind retail shopping at wholesale prices.

People pay extra for products or services when they identify with a firm’s brand. That’s why businesses spend significant time and resources developing and growing the right brand perception or brand identity. It’s counterintuitive to think anyone would pay to be a member of a firm to shop at that firm? Yet, membership fees are a major source of Costco’s continuing profitability.

Embed Brand Perception in Mission and Vision Statements

Positive brand perception key to progress
Positive brand perception key to progress

Organizations need to embed in their mission, vision, values, strategies, and goals, the brand perception or brand identity they want to convey.  These perceptions shouldn’t be general, but must be specific attributes that appeal to customers. Businesses must apply consistently, the values and other brand elements they wish to communicate. Consistency is the key. Folks should know they can trust the brand promise; not just what the firm says, but what it does. If actions do not match words, people will not trust the business or ministry. Still, unless what’s said and done connects with how people feel about what’s said and done, organizations will fail to convey the right brand perception.

Businesses find various ways to relate to customers on a deep level. Starbucks connects with clients at the Third Place (home, work, Starbucks). It does not push coffee sales. Starbucks wants people to come to its stores (the Third Place) to hang out, chat, work on computers, read a book. Starbucks understands that while people are at the Third Place they will buy coffee, and other products. When my wife and I travel abroad, although I don’t drink coffee, usually we stop at a Starbucks daily. I go on the internet, have a cool drink, and we plan the rest of our day.

Starbucks has no difficulty if people just hang out in the Third Place. It knows people will spend. But most of all, it wants its customers to know it’s fine to come to the Third Place just to meet friends and chat.

Starbucks knows the atmosphere it creates for customers at its stores gives customers peace of mind and make them feel like part of a family. Starbucks has figured out that the Third Place makes life easier for many customers—it is convenient, customers return, and they bring friends and colleagues. Have you seen a Starbucks advertisement on TV? On a billboard? You haven’t, because they don’t need to do this.

What’s Your Brand

Each of us has a brand? People form perceptions based on how we behave, not what we say. If you are a young entrepreneur beginning, how do you establish your brand? It starts with your mission and vision? What are you passionate about? How do you want this passion to be received? These are two key questions to answer. If you are an artist, what’s your genre? Who is your audience? What message do you want to convey to represent your work? What brand identity do you want to present?

Your message must be part of whom you are and what you do, and you must communicate it clearly, concisely, consistently, and passionately. The key to establishing your brand is to realize that it’s not what you say that people will relate to, it’s what you do well, and do consistently.

You need to establish at least three key elements to communicate and grow your brand:

  1. A simple message that illustrates what you stand for and what you want your brand to be known for–your brand identity. You should consider specific traits you want prospective customers, existing customers, employees, and others to use to describe your activities or business.
  2. A clear promise of consistent quality, reliability, and so on as outlined in your message in one above–your brand covenant. You want folks to know they can trust you to deliver what you say, consistently.
  3. A simple, unique, memorable logo that helps convey your message–your brand image. You want people to see your logo and recall your brand promise.

Are you Jesus’ brand ambassador

If you follow Jesus, you are His brand ambassador. What is the brand perception others have of you? What would they say is your brand? Would they see you as His disciple? I believe each of us as followers of Jesus should understand that we are His brand ambassador. We need to show brand elements that reflect Him—love, joy, peace, long suffering, patience, kindness, and traits that show we love others as we love us.

If you are an individual or a firm, you have a brand, formally or informally. Therefore, it is important you work to convey the perception you would like others to have of you, your firm, and your products or services. Afterwards, you must behave sincerely and consistently in line with your brand promise to protect the brand perception.

© 2016 Michel A. Bell

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Household Debt in Canada Growing Fastest in G7 Countries

Household debt is a huge problem in Canada. In 2012 when I wrote about it, I thought it was a major crisis. Surprisingly, it’s gotten progressively worse.

Canadians are in a debt mire, sinking deeper, but continuing with life unscathed. That’s the essence of a recent Manulife Bank survey. What has changed from previous polls? Nothing much. The basic message is the same. Canadians have an insatiable debt appetite. Since 2000, Canadians have grown household debt more rapidly than any G7 country. Today, Canada’s household debt-to-disposable income ratio is a whopping 171%.

Low Interest Rates Fuelling Household Debt Hike

Beware: Household Debt Cliff Ahead
Beware: Household Debt Cliff Ahead

Housing prices continue to soar. Interest rates remain low and are likely to stay there for sometime. Thus, folks have no incentives to apply more prudent stewardship to household finances. People focus mainly on debt service costs, not on total borrowing. And funds are easily accessible. (more…)

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Don’t Integrate Faith and Business – Live Your Faith

Christians, don’t integrate faith and business. Don’t integrate faith and anything. Live as followers of Messiah where you are.

Business is having the right people in the right slots headed in the right direction. It is all about people. Business is the largest mission field available to Christians, at home and abroad. Besides, it is the only wealth creating entity in society. Those of us whom God calls to be in business need to behave consistently as His stewards (Colossians 3:23-24), and His disciples (Luke 14:25-34).

Don’t Integrate Faith and Business

Don't Integrate Faith and Business: Seek First His Kingdom
Don’t Integrate Faith and Business: Seek First His Kingdom

Many Christian business leaders and pastors have not realized how much the church drifted into the world. Thus, they see a  need for Christians in business to integrate their faith and business principles. Christianity is a lifestyle. However, the integration idea suggests that Christianity is not a lifestyle, but a set of principles that apply situationally. So, in church and “Christian” settings, we live as Christ followers, but in business we integrate faith with business principles.


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Two Life Lessons For Performance Improvement

Two life lessons flowed out of my reflections on the solution of  issues that posed the biggest challenges to some of my students this semester. As I pondered different situations, I asked this question: What were root causes of students’ biggest problems that prevented them from presenting papers on time? The answer was obvious: Poor allocation of unscheduled time.

Life Lessons: Things That Matters
Life Lessons: Things That Matters

I am convinced that learning and practicing two particular life lessons will help students become better stewards of the time the Lord gives them daily. Besides, these life lessons apply to each of us at home, at work, at church, everywhere. If each person understood and applied them consistently, he or she would be able to allocate needed time with the Lord, for exercise, for healthy eating, to work on finances. Generally, that person will experience less stress while becoming more effective:

  1. Delay gratification
  2. Focus on things that matter and things you can control

Let’s examine what’s involved with these life lessons. (more…)

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Personal Finance: Credit Scores to Debt Freedom

Popular teaching about personal finance encourages people to concentrate on credit scores, cheap credit, and credit cards. Essentially, it assumes you will live in debt forever. It does not mention the single, key, controllable element in personal finance—individual choices that decide spending, and lead to financial results.

Two Approaches to Personal Finance

Personal Finance Needs a Money Map
Personal Finance Needs a Money Map

We can view personal finance in two ways. The usual approach teaches how to use credit cards, and how to maintain a good credit score. Or, the method I apply that encourages people to strive to live debt free lifestyles.

In the first method, you can get a great credit score, and maintain it always. But, what does that mean? It means you have been in debt, you have stayed in debt, and you repaid your debts as required. You didn’t add much debt, and most importantly, you are not paying off too much debt. Do you get it? You became a slave to debt! That’s what the world tells you, and most folks tell their children. Isn’t this absurd? (more…)

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Decision Making Process More Important Than Analyses

Your decision making process is more important to a successful result than your analyses to prove the validity of a decision. That’s what research shows consistently.

How do you decide? Do you follow a predictable process or do you let your emotions or situations lead you? I believe we are poor decision makers, generally. I think we need to follow a proven process before we decide matters in our private lives and in business. Let’s see what we can learn from three large, bad decisions.

Decisions Influenced By Today

Poor Decision Making Process
Poor Decision Making Process

First, in January 1, 1962, four youths in a rock-and-roll band auditioned for a major British record label, Decca Records. Later they got a letter from Decca saying: “We don’t like your sound; groups are out; four-piece groups with guitars, particularly, are finished.” Decca missed out on signing the Beetles!

Why did Decca miss this chance to sign one of the best groups in history? Decca assumed the future would resemble the present. Four piece groups were not in vogue then, so, Decca extended the present to the future. (more…)

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How to Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck

How to stop living paycheck to paycheck will take time, sacrifice, and patience. The solution won’t be easy, and it might be counter intuitive. It will focus primarily on lifestyle choices, not on strategies to get more money.

How to Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck

How to Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck and be free
How to Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck and be free

Since the apparent problem is a lack of money, logically, it would seem more money will solve it. But, it won’t. Money isn’t the obstacle. It’s your choices that led to debt. Money is the symptom.

For a short-term fix, you could try to change income or expenses. But for the long-term, first you should accept the principle to live on no more than current income. So, you need to look at ways to lower expenses. This starts with deciding to review your attitude toward money—what you believe about money.

Your attitude decides your behaviour. And your attitude and behaviour results in specific consequences (a+b=c). You might think your income is low, but that’s relative. The key issue is to accept who you are, where you are, and what you have (Hebrews 13:5, 2 Kings 4:1-7) as the basis to build and move on.

We can learn much from Oseola McCarty. I encourage you to take a moment to read about Oseola McCarty. Her story will encourage and bless you. (more…)

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Holiday Survival Kit: Getting Through The Holidays Debt Free

Holiday survival kit? Why does anyone need a holiday survival kit? One definition of survival is “to continue to live in spite of difficult circumstances.” Have Chanukah and Christmas become difficult times? For many, they have, although these periods are meant to be times of reflection and celebration. That’s why we need a holiday survival kit.

These can be lonely times for many folks. That’s a real important issue that needs to be addressed sincerely and compassionately. However, this is outside the scope of this blog, and I won’t address it here. If you know folks who will be lonely this season, pray with them; ask the Lord how you can help them.

I will focus mainly on the commercial parts of Christmas. (more…)

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