Who’s Your “Amy”?

three women with shopping bags
Photo credit: ThinkstockPhotos-454296797

Last week the Globe and Mail published an article by Marina Strauss on Sears Canada’s marketing focus (New Sears Canada president’s mission: Win over ‘Amy’) — spoiler alert, it’s all about Amy. Amy is “40 years old and has one child and another on the way. She’s time-starved and looking for reasonably priced fashions.” And she doesn’t exist as an actual person, she is a representative of the ideal customer that they believe will help Sears regain some of its lost market share in Canada. And, for the foreseeable future, most of their marketing decisions and service implementation will take Amy into account.

Defining your ideal client, even to the point of naming her or him, shouldn’t seem odd in this time of avatars and online profiles. In fact, determining your target market and understanding your customer is nothing new. However, the structure and detail applied in the current trend does seem to be adding an additional dimension to the practice. And, that’s a good thing. It is driven, in part, by the rise in content generation and inbound marketing tactics. It’s important to understand who you are writing content for and how best to attract their attention and online loyalty.

Sears realizes, of course, that they can’t ignore the existing customers who remain loyal shoppers. Have you met Linda? She’s an “over-50 customer with two grown children and an ingrained Sears shopping habit.” (Maybe Amy and Linda will go shopping together, and Amy can help Linda post her purchases on Instagram.)

Under the savvy stewardship of new President Carrie Kirkman Sears Canada is applying a disciplined marketing strategy. It sounds obvious, and you might assume that all companies employ this type of strategy, but most don’t. In fact, many SMEs don’t truly implement any structured marketing strategy. (Yes, they probably have some form of strategic plan, but they often don’t have a workable implementation plan, so it never becomes part of the day-to-day consideration.) And that’s the real strength of what Sears Canada is doing. This strategy is pervasive and lends itself to implementation at all levels — not easily, it will take real commitment. But making it more tangible (Would Amy use that product, notice that display, appreciate this service…) It’s easier to understand directives and more motivating to care about how they are fulfilled when you’re “doing it for Amy.”

In addition to facilitating implementation, here are some other advantages to a successful buyer persona directed marketing strategy:

Coherent Communication: For any organization, and especially large corporations, communication (both internal and external) can be rather confusing. Concentrating on buyer personas provides a simple and engaging storyline internally, and coordinates clear external messaging.

Resource Deployment: Having such a laser focus reduces waste as you more effectively direct spending and staff.

Staff Morale: Understanding who you are working for and why can be a rallying force for staff. If everyone understands their targeted demographic is, if everyone knows Amy, then the entire organization can understand what they are doing and why. Retail, and virtually every organization, is reliant on service; isn’t it easier to care of a friend?

Satisfied Clientele: Not trying to please everyone allows your organization to hone in on satisfying your targeted market — improving both ROI and customers’ experience.

Regardless of the type of organization, you will benefit from articulating your ideal client/customer/member/donor/patron, and focusing your strategy on that buyer persona. Any business is not necessarily good business, so determine who you should be catering to, and set out to rock their world.

The 3 A’s to Business Networking Online

Recently, I have been looking up different ways to maximize online strategies to connect with potential partners and networks. I mostly found that articles don’t explore as much the idea of social media as a networking environment and focus mainly on reaching the end-user. Now, when I say networking, I mean mainly to interact and connect with other businesses and services that will help you promote, distribute and eventually, generate sales. To help you remember what you need to consider when thinking of such a strategy, check out my 3 A’s to Business Networking Online.



Every good strategy has a goal or an objective. This is what I call an achievement. Although, you have not yet achieved it, this is what you want at the end of your networking efforts.

Important to note, contrary to a B2C approach, you will not be speaking directly to the end user. You will be connecting with like-minded partners, peers and other parts of your industry. So what do you want to achieve at the end of it all? Here are a few examples of achievements you should work towards:

– Position yourself, or your organization, as an expert in your field
– Find partners that are willing to work with you to push your message or cause
– Generate leads to grow your distribution channels

Like any worthy destination, these achievements will take some time and effort to reach. Which also means your networking strategy needs to be on a longer timeline than a simple social media campaign to promote a new product or make a quick sale. Best to set achievement goals that will push you to connect, network and create relationships over both the short and long term, but remember that time will be required to gain significant traction. To find inspiration, and check out what other businesses might consider a priority, check out Scott’s article on a recent HubSpot survey: Only 8% of Sales Leaders Prioritize Social Sales.



When thinking about the audience you want to reach, remember that every company has individual people in it. This being said, your message needs to be focused to achieve your goal, but accessible enough to be noticed by a broader audience. Typically, it will be be an employee, community manager, or even a CEO, looking on social media for like-minded partners that will find you and initiate the conversation.Looking for ideas on what to achieve? Prosar can help

To start that process, you will need to decide, what part of your industry you want to network with and why. If we adopt the three goals listed above, this is what could be considered:

– Position your company in the industry: you will want to connect with researchers, experts, other companies that are pushing the development of your industry.

– Find like-minded partners: you will be connecting with potential competitors, associations, organisations, partners in other countries, companies that can collaborate or recommend you.
– Generate leads and grow your distribution channels: you will connect with other parts of your supply chain, partners in new markets you want to reach, prospective customers.
Creating a dialogue with these people and nurturing relationships builds a network for referrals, feedback, advice and industry/competitive information. In many cases, these contacts become more intimate than in typical B2C social networks, where the relationship can be more generic.



Here, I am referring to the different channels, platforms and media that are available to you. From a social standpoint, the main ones to include are Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Now within each of those platforms, here are certain avenues to consider for your networking efforts:

  • Facebook: Does your industry have any specific Facebook groups you should be apart of? If not, maybe you should be the one to create it.
  • Twitter: Are your industry experts, researchers and partners online? Do they participate in certain Twitter chats? Are they on certain lists? If not, you should perhaps host a chat to regroup your like-minded partners.
  • LinkedIn: What groups should you be in? What kind of messages are your peers posting? What kind of knowledge do they want to receive? Can you contribute in any way?
  • Forums: Does your industry have its own topic? If so, than find those forums and see what the conversation is all about. Can your company help find solutions in any way? How can you get involved?

Transform online connections into offline business with ProsarAnd let’s not forget the offline avenues! Lasting connections can be initiated and nurtured online but often offline conversations will reinforce those relationships and help you generate leads or references. Here are a few avenues to consider:

  • Events: What events can you go to? Can you be a guest speaker or host a workshop?
  • Publications: What publications should you be in and how can you contribute a piece of information instead of a simple ad?
  • Direct Contact: What companies can you meet face-to-face with and how can you connect with them directly?

These suggestions based on the 3 As (Achievement, Audience and Avenue) are meant to serve as pillars when building your online networking strategy. To start your journey and add the right elements into your plan, include these considerations!

The ABCs of Tone

“Tone” is an abstract but critical concept for marketing. Just like perfect pitch is rare in singing, perfect tone is equally rare. In general, tone refers to how you’re delivering your message to the audience, and it’s important to understand the importance of the right tone. In the end, tone is the reason people keep listening.

While it’s impossible to create a sure-fire formula for the perfect tone every time, there are considerations to improving your tone across all platforms. Just remember ABC and you’ll be well on your way to better marketing.


Image credit: kadirkaba / iStock / ThinkStock


As always, the more you know about your audience, the better your marketing message will be. Age, gender, relationship status, and more factors impact what tone will work best. However, do not focus on stereotypes and supposed best practice attempts (especially for groups such as millenials). Research your particular audience segment in depth and, preferably, read content generated by the target you want to hit. That will provide a better understanding of how to tailor your tone to your demographic.

Learn where your audience spends their time, what marketing messages they resonate best with, and the language the audience already uses. Once you do that, your message will go further.


Your own company’s brand guidelines should influence how you speak in advertising. Depending on the type of product and how you want to position yourself in the market, you could stick to terms like “informative” and “friendly,” or be more detailed about exact wording whenever you discuss the product or service. No matter what you do, keep it consistent throughout the marketing. It’s jarring to encounter wildly different tones within the same company, making consumers less likely to stick with your company.

Make sure your brand guidelines allow for the same general tone to translate across all channels you’re using.


Each media channel out there has its own norms and best practices for effective language. While companies often go for similar messaging but different wording between traditional media channels— shorter, snappy headlines for outdoor and entertainment value for radio— they very frequently they fall flat online.  How often have you seen a tweet copied from Facebook, or a blog post that looks like it comes straight out of a magazine? You should be adjusting your tone to the environment you’re putting it in, which includes how people use the channels.

Learn online media as much as you learn traditional media. You cannot simply copy/paste your traditional marketing tone on the web and expect it to work. Take the time to adjust, especially considering how much of your audience is online.

Remember A, B, C, and you’ll find tone is as easy as 1, 2, 3.

Is Your Brand Relevant?


Many years ago, we dealt with a local retail clothing chain that catered to a young demographic. They were very aware of their market’s needs and wants, and the importance of how well their brand reflected that market. The owner was relatively young himself, but a very intelligent fellow with valuable experience and good business instincts. Often, when we presented a campaign, he would stare at it for a while and muse over the creative or messaging. He would say something along the lines of “This isn’t anything like I had in mind… but let’s consider how it might play out and what it can do for our brand.” Nine times out of ten he endorsed the campaign. Only part of the credit goes to our team. A large part of the credit goes to the client: first of all for providing us with the insight to fully appreciate his market; and then to remove any ego from his decision and apply his business and market knowledge to best support his brand.

He understood that his brand wasn’t about him or what he thought was cool. He fully realized that his store’s brand needed to be relevant to his market. And he understood his audience well enough to consider each campaign from their perspective. He figuratively walked a mile in their shoes before deciding whether he felt the campaign was a hit or miss. (Check out Marketing and Sales Strategy: The Need For Focus.)

Regardless of whether you produce a product or provide a service, and whether your focus is B2C or B2B — you have a target market that must somehow connect with you in order to choose to deal with you. In order to resonate with your market, they need to be aware of you and feel inclined to learn more. Branding achieves this by grabbing their interest and effectively communicating that you are relevant to them.

Sounds easy, but it’s anything but. And, like anything somewhat complex, it is a process. It’s not simply a matter of creating a cool logo and tantalizing tagline… not that they are typically simple to do. (Check out The Four Pillars to Building a Brand that Builds Your Company.) Without an actual brand strategy and ongoing stewardship, even well-crafted components are only a façade which your market will quickly see through. In my example above, the clothing store hired carefully and trained their staff extensively so that the in-store experience was the essence of their brand. All material, from promotional signage to applications to staff memos were written and designed to reflect the store’s tone and raison d’être. All staff understood the mission and bought into the vison. They had a comprehensive strategy that considered all the touch points for staff and customers. Do you?

To help your organization in putting together such a strategy, consider:

  • who is your target market
  • what are their wants, needs, and problems
  • why do you care
  • what do you want your message to be
  • why should they care
  • how can you reach your target market
  • what are the touch points to reinforce your brand

This list is not comprehensive, nor should it trivialize the process of establishing a strategic branding plan. It may require a lot of research and planning and writing, and then even more work to implement, monitor and maintain. But it is well worth the investment, for a strong brand is one of the most valuable assets an organization can attain.

What would you add to the list of considerations above?

The 4 Pillars to Building a Brand that Builds Your Company

Every business owner dreams of prosperity; and every business person understands that success takes hard work. That hard work is not solely sweat equity. Getting up at dawn every morning to allow for 12-hour work days is part of the formula, but working smart is equally as important. A sound strategy to guide your efforts is key to actually realizing great success — and a sound strategy includes an appropriate brand that is targeted to your consumers and well-supported throughout your plan.

Sounds simple, yet few companies seem to nail it. LEGO’s brand is far stronger than its engineered ability to lock together securely. The company has parlayed a quality toy into a megalithic brand that represents quality, intelligent design, creativity, and much more. They have successfully leveraged this brand to capture the hearts and minds of numerous distinct audiences worldwide — from awe-inspired pre-school children building their favourite superhero, to awe-inspiring engineers and scientists who meet in groups to talk about and create magnificent LEGO creations. We expect and trust LEGO to provide fun and educational activity for enthusiasts of all ages.

What can you do to build a brand with this kind of integrity? Obviously, consulting with bonafide branding experts is a smart strategic business decision, but there are things you can do yourself. Io start, you can consider these four pillars to developing and sustaining a strong foundation for your brand.

Visual Identity

Yes, the logo plays an important role in setting the scene for your brand. Your visual identity is a fundamental means of communicating who you are and what you offer. It is an opportunity to attract your targeted market with a look that they will respond to. Maintaining consistency is important to reinforce your “look,” however in our digital age that can be attained with more fluidity than the constrained approach previously enforced. Years ago, many companies thought that their logo was their brand, but most organizations now appreciate that the beauty is more than skin deep.

Corporate Messaging

From your tagline to your corporate mission to the content on your website, what you say and how you say it is critical. Whatever your organization puts out there can have strategic influence. Consider your audience (and you may have several distinct market segments to address) and try to engage with them in your writing and messaging. Consider the tone of your organization: authoritative and instructional, understanding and guiding, carefree and irreverent… Different people within your organization creating content, each with their own voice, can still infuse a corporate tone and positioning through their material. A branding strategy should explicitly outline the messaging objectives and desired corporate tone.

User Experience

Whether your consumer is on a website, on the phone or on-site, what do you want them to think of your organization? In addition to the branded identity and corporate messaging, does the environment reflect the essence of your organization? Do interactions with your company support this positioning? The best logo and tagline in the world mean nothing if people, service, store décor, website design, automatic email wording, etc., are not all aligned to reinforce the desired image. Virtually all business owners have the best intentions, and perhaps even believe that their consumers are experiencing the fill thrust of what their brand represents; but few companies live up to their mission and vision statements. That is why the LEGOs stand apart, and why they have continued success.


It’s not enough to have the prescient ideas and strategic rationale, you need the implementation and maintenance plan to realize any benefit. All facets of the organization at all levels need to be in agreement, and hopefully share in the vision, to put the plan in play, and keep it a top priority in virtually everything that they do.

It’s a simple list, but running a company is difficult; and developing a successful and respected organization with sought-after services/products is an achievement that requires a well thought out and coordinated brand strategy. There are more certainly considerations in building a strong brand, what would you add to these three pillars?

National Associations: 3 Ways to Engage Your Members

As the staff of any national association knows, it is important to keep members informed, motivated and remind them of the importance/relevance of the association they belong to. Engaged members are members who care. Importantly, this engagement can also support your organization’s continued relevance and value to its members.

Though many members of associations automatically become members by default, meaning they don’t need to be persuaded to join or to remain members, associations should nevertheless strive to continuously prove their value to members. All members should feel like the association they are a part of is invested in them and that they matter. Further, it is important to provide members, new and old, with easy ways to relate to your association and find their place within it. Read on for three ways to engage members with their association.



1)   Use Social Media to Create an Engaged Community

The power of simple, instant communication afforded by social media to bring people together is incredibly impressive. A key strength of social media is that it enables the creation of communities  united by a commonality, in this case, a shared membership to an association. Your national association should see social media as an opportunity to create a community of engaged members.

Maintaining your social media accounts, with the help of a sound strategy, of course, will also aid your federation in appearing (and being) more relevant and approachable.

Once you’ve (a) made your social media accounts easy to find and (b) maintained activity on these accounts, you open the door for members to engage with you directly in an easy and convenient manner. Make sure to respond in a timely manner to show members that their national association values their input and cares about their needs.


2) Produce Visual Content to Engage

Large associations can seem complex to outsiders — even to their own members!

Infographics are able to both clarify and disseminate sometimes complex information while engaging the reader. They do this by delivering valuable information such as statistics and facts in an organized, efficient, and visually engaging way. Breaking down the association’s key functions or highlighting achievements (for example), into simple, well-branded visuals can effectively present how the organization works and benefits its membership. Done properly, infographics have the remarkable ability to make potentially confusing or bland information nearly painless and even enjoyable to consume!

The advantages of infographics for national associations are clear: from highlighting membership benefits to sharing important news or history.

Unlike a blog article (which has its own list of virtues), infographics are more immediately immersive. A well-designed visual arrangement of information will immediately create an appealing environment for the reader and requires less of a mental investment than multiple paragraphs of words on a page.

There is a reason infographics have been trending for a long time: they are easy to share on social media. People like them because they are seen as low-effort/high-pay-off pieces to both consume and share. For that reason they are also a great way to extend your message to places it hasn’t been before. Strong brand awareness for any national association is an on-going concern.


3) De-clutter Your Website for More Engagement

Try visiting (nearly) any national association’s homepage — choose one you have never visited before. How do you feel? A little overwhelmed?

If you don’t know exactly where to look and what you want, you’ll find that navigating many association websites can be overwhelming. There is often so much depth and breadth of information in such a compact space, that it can be difficult to figure out where to begin. Imagine how someone must feel who knows little about your organization. Pairing things down and organizing information in a clean and logical fashion makes good sense.(Not everything needs to be immediately accessible from your homepage.).



By using social media to nurture a stronger sense of community, infographics to communicate important information clearly and appealingly, and an easy to use and informative website, you will be more successful at engaging your members than ever before.