Build Customer Confidence: 4 Brand Identity Essentials

Trust builds confidence.

That is why a strong corporate brand identity can make or break a business. Brand identity is more than key values or approved color palettes; it is the collection of all elements that a company creates to portray the right image to its consumer. Here is one helpful way to describe it:

Brand identity is the image or character of your business as people relate to it. For example, the BMW image of elite luxury has grown naturally from customers’ repeated exposure to BMW’s ads, endorsements, and products.

Brand imagery is the aesthetic appearance of your brand’s core identity and messaging. This results from all the visuals (from billboards, print ads, or product packaging) that represent your brand’s identity.

When a company has a strong brand, it is easily recognized, which grows people’s trust. Trust builds confidence, and confidence begets loyalty. When a business has built superiority in a particular niche, repeat customers are more willing to buy in other areas. When you have loyalty from your base, you have space to increase prices or ask for bigger commitments. 

Breaking Down the Brand Experience

When building a brand, think of an iceberg in which only the tip is visible.

The substance exists below the waterline. The brand elements that are most seen and celebrated (like brand imagery) are not always the most important. The brand experience – the mosaic of customer interactions people have with your business – is part of a greater journey.

Here are four dimensions of this mosaic:

1. Brand Voice

If your brand was a person, what would they sound like?

Are they loud and animated or reserved and refined? An organization’s name, tagline, and editorial style comprise an overall projection of its voice. As these elements are developed, consider how the words would sound in the mouth of a brand spokesperson or its founder.

Also, try to contrast the voice of your competitors. If your rival brand has a highly polished voice, you might consider adopting a friendly, down-to-earth style.

2. Consistency in Core Elements

Building the foundation of your identity starts with identifying core elements.

Strong brands create a style guide that anchors them to brand colors, key fonts, a logo projected across different backgrounds, and a style they hope to express (e.g., “elegant, clean, scalable, approachable yet excellent”).

Once you’ve nailed these keys, you can embellish with design tweaks, humor, or variations on patterns (of ads, print layouts, customer stories, and more). Like music, good design balances order and variation to make a beautiful composition.

3. Total Time

People want to feel like they are in control.

The total time invested in transactions is an essential consideration for today’s consumers. Don’t want to wait in a massive drive-through line? Order ahead in the app. Hate the grocery store line? Use the self-checkout. Perhaps you need to focus less on saving them money and more on saving them time.

Small tweaks you make to the customer experience can assure clients that their time is valuable.

4. Framing Customer Choices

Brand building is about affecting customer choice.

While prospects initially engage with emotional triggers like color, shape, image, or tone, eventually, they’ll ask deeper questions about their spending or time commitments. This involves both upfront expenses and opportunity costs; if customers buy from you, they implicitly say no to another brand.

Think strategically about speaking to buyer emotions regarding loss aversion, short-term sacrifices (vs. long-term gains), or sunk costs (how people don’t want to lose what has already been invested).

Brand identity goes beyond simple appearance. Decisions you make about voice, consistency, time, and customer choices can create strong feelings that prompt a profitable response!

Winning the Name Game: What We Can Learn from the World’s Stickiest Brands

Have you ever wondered how the most iconic brands got their names?

The Lego story is as elegantly simple as the blocks themselves.

The Lego company began in the workshop of Danish carpenter Ole Kirk Christiansen in 1932, where he crafted wooden toys. Christianson’s inspiration for the brand name came from the Danish term for “play well” – leg godt. By combining the first two letters of each word, he created a unique and meaningful brand name that has transcended countries and generations.

In 2016, Lego’s turnover grew 6% to 5.1 billion euro, surpassing Mattel’s measly $4.9 billion, making them, for the first time, the world’s largest toy company.

Making Your Name Stick

A great name can make a brand.

In today’s expansive global market, it gets harder and harder to win the name game. If you want your name to be known and respected, you have to pick a winner and make it stick.

What makes a great brand name? The “stickiness” of the word can make all the difference. Names that closely align with the service they offer are especially memorable (like Twitter, Smuckers, Naked Wines, SnapChat, Netflix, PayPal, Red Bull, Dollar Shave Club, and Snuggie).

Names with engaging metaphors are powerful too. When paired with a clear graphic device, names that suggest something beyond their literal meaning create some of the most evocative brand identities.

Take Amazon, for example. When Jeff Bezos was looking to carve out space as the biggest bookstore globally, he wanted to convey his company’s sense of mystery and endless possibility, available to any customer with an internet connection. Bezos tried two or three names before settling on “Amazon.”

The metaphorical impact of this name had great appeal: the Amazon River was the biggest in the world, home to a vibrant ecosystem as exotic and different as Beso’s dreams. It was the ideal metaphor for his new venture. The Amazon was striking and boundless, just as he wanted his online store to be. It was also the largest river in the world, 10 times larger than the next contender – perfectly fitting the vision for Amazon’s status today!

Growing Top-of-Mind Awareness

Once you’ve found the right name, it’s time to get it in circulation.

Brand awareness is the extent to which a brand is recognized by potential customers and correctly associated with its particular product or service. When your name becomes familiar, you will enjoy all kinds of perks:

— People will know who you are and what you do

— A viewer will be more open to reading your ads or mailings

— Search engine users will be more likely to visit your website

— Prospects will be warmer toward a referral from one of your current customers

— Customers will be more likely to choose your brand over others, even if there are cheaper options available

Looking for ways to get your name out in your community or industry? Here are 10 ideas:

1. Create a custom hashtag that plugs your unique selling proposition 

2. Participate in or sponsor local events

3. Build bright, colorful infographics 

4. Post regularly to social media using your brand voice

5. Sell your name through special shapes (i.e., die-cut postcards, magnets, or key chains)

6. Go mobile by creating colorful decals for vehicles

7. Hang full-size posters in “can’t miss” locations

8. Add a blog to your website and feature it in printed inserts or newsletters

9. Invite your employees or VIP customers to wear branded clothing at key community events

10. Design beautiful labels for all your products

It’s a good idea to use a mix of online and offline strategies to build awareness in most cases. The more customers see your company, the more likely they are to think of you when they’re ready to buy.

Craft First-Class Flyers with 4 Quick Tricks

For decades, flyers have been a go-to marketing tool for businesses of many stripes. But are flyers still effective in the digital age?

Angela Brown, the “House Cleaning Guru,” says the answer is emphatically YES.

“I am a huge fan of running flyers. My book, ‘How to Start Your Own House Cleaning Company,’ has a huge section on flyers,” Brown said. “Flyers are a great, cheap way of advertising your business, and if you do it the right way, you can have business coming in within a day or two. And lots of people save the flyers. If they are not ready to hire you today, they can hire you when they are ready. And once you have clients, you can work from referrals after that.”

Brown has moved repeatedly, and each time, she’s had to start her business from scratch. Flyers have been a key marketing strategy each time, with similar, conclusive results. “No clients, same business,” said Brown. “New neighborhood, new clientele. Running flyers is an old-fashioned way of doing business, but it’s effective!”

Flyers that Move People to Action

Flyers may seem insignificant, but they get the job done.

Though these simple bits of paper often end up trampled in puddles or buried in a pile of bills, they always grab attention. And, if they’re designed well, they’ll move people to act! (Attend this grand opening; subscribe to our monthly newsletter; visit the new farmer’s market.)

Want to build momentum for your event, promotion, or group? Flyers are a low-cost form of mass communication that can be mailed, personally delivered, or posted in public places. Flyers are fun to create and allow you to experiment with unusual images or layouts.

As you explore the possibilities, here are four strategic areas to sharpen your design:

Magnetic Focal Point

When you begin your design, clearly identify the theme of your message.

Look for an image or headline that best communicates this, and build your entire design around it. Every flyer should have one thing on the page that is huge, dominant, or captivating. Bright, bold color palettes give flyers punch and attract tons of attention, even from across the room.

Logical Design Flow

After the focal point, your flyer design should have a sensible layout that intentionally leads the reader through the page: left to right, top to bottom, or using visual cues like numbers or a “map” of dashed lines.

Strong subheads should allow viewers to scan the page quickly. And simple, elegant designs bring impact all their own. Keep text to a minimum and space your design elements generously.

Cohesive Alignment

Choose one alignment for the entire flyer.

Don’t center the headline, then set the body copy flush left. Don’t center everything on the page, but also squish extra elements in the bottom corners. Be confident in your layouts: try all flush left or flush right. Your design should feel brave and bold!

Appropriate Content

What should you include in a flyer?

While brochures or foldable flyers come in various formats, a basic rule of thumb is this: the “where” determines the “what.” The delivery of your publication has everything to do with its content. If your piece arrives in the mail to someone on your mailing list, you can include much more on it. If it is for public display, it should be readable at a glance.  

Made You Look, Made You Look!

Flyers are fun to create because they allow you to abandon restraint. Your flyer will often go head-to-head with dozens of competing pages, so grab their attention and really go wild.

Anything out of the ordinary will make people stop and look, and that’s 90 percent of your goal.

5 Straightforward (and FUN) Ways to Boost Your Productivity This Year

Today is a great day to integrate some healthy new habits into your routine.

Everyone benefits from good time management, and here are just a few simple ways to free up more time to do things you really love!

1. Create Templates

Tired of repeating yourself?

Templates (a type of “fill-in-the-blank” document) are great for assignments created the same way every time. Whether it’s a weekly email, a presentation spreadsheet, a thank you note, or a method for re-directing inquiries to a better source, creating templates in advance can save you tons of time in the long run.

2. Listen to Audio Books

Who doesn’t want to read more?

Audiobooks are a wonderful way to maximize that “throwaway” time in the car, getting ready in the morning, or during exercise.

In 2020, many local libraries made audiobook apps totally free. People who previously struggled to finish a chapter found themselves gulping down five books a month, while sharpening their minds and adding spontaneous joy to each day!

3. Block Distracting Apps, Websites, or Emails

According to research carried out by RescueTime, the average digital worker can’t go more than six minutes without checking their email or instant messaging.

The digital nature of your work and social life can leave you frazzled by constant alerts. This minimizes both productivity and potential as you struggle to focus on tasks for even short periods.

Start this year strong by implementing a few website and ad blocker tools. Unsubscribe from email lists or group chats that are sucking away precious moments in your day. And set your devices to block notifications from coming through in key work hours.

4. Batch Prep Your Meal or Meal Prep

If you want to save time in your busy week, mastering food prep can be huge.

Every time you mess up and clean your kitchen, it takes time. So why not make one big mess once a week, rather than a medium-sized mess every day? This can be as simple as chopping your veggies (or cooking all your meat) as soon as you get home from the store. Or it can be more intentional, like pre-cooking several meals and properly labeling them for fridge and freezer storage.

While the idea of prepping several meals at once can seem daunting, the time, energy, and money you’ll save in the long run are totally worth it.

5. Try the Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management system that encourages people to work with their time – rather than against it.

Using this method, you break your workday into 25-minute chunks separated by five-minute breaks (referred to as pomodoros). After about four pomodoros, you take a longer break of about 15 to 20 minutes. This work rhythm helps create a sense of urgency and productivity followed by natural releases needed in order to recharge.

Curious? Check out this short tutorial to learn more.

Save More Time, Live More Life

While you may not be a fan of resolutions, the emphasis here is on forming productive habits and finding tools to minimize your daily load.

To be more productive, look beyond your task list to the organizational tools needed to manage time well. That takes effort up front but gives you more time to enjoy each day later. And that really is crucial!

As writer Annie Dillard said, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

Simply Irresistible: Best Practices for Writing Compelling Lead Magnets

Have you ever made an impulse buy at the grocery store? Or been drawn to an online store that you knew was probably fakey clickbait?

Sometimes, when the right offer hits you at just the right moment, it seems impossible to resist! And they don’t call this “magnetic” appeal for nothing.

In marketing, Magnets are an effective technique for gaining a prospect’s contact information and/or drawing them into your sales funnel. Sometimes called lead generation, this process of stimulating and capturing interest (to develop a sales pipeline) allows you to nurture a lead until they are ready to buy. 

Sounds easy enough, right? But how do you build this curiosity or engagement with your target audience? According to Hubspot, about 63 percent of businesses believe their biggest marketing challenges relate to generating traffic and leads, and 60 percent of marketers say lead generation is a key pain point for their company. Leads typically hear from a business after they receive and respond to some type of content, and knowing where to build this bridge can be a challenge.

Looking for some ways to engage your next VIP customer? Here are five time-tested options to consider:

Provide a Free Onsite Course or Webinar

People love information.

And giving it away for free is bound to create a sense of reciprocity with your prospects because humans naturally want to respond when something has been given to them.

Look for a point of need in your prospective customers and offer them valuable information in a podcast, an in-person event, or a consultation, and people will jump right in!

Compile Case Studies and Reports

Insider information about a company’s sector is always valuable.

This may be a quarterly white paper (like a comprehensive guide on the latest technology or trends in your industry) or a case studying outlining the benefits of certain methods, products, etc. Trade this information for your prospects’ contact information, or send a flyer with the introduction but release the full content only if people sign up to receive it.

Offer a Demonstration or Free Trial

A good way to secure customers is to give them a way to try your service or product without cost; or receive a free quote from your team.

Mailed postcards or website promo codes are an effortless way to get this offer in front of them.

Promote Contests and Free Products

A no-fail way to generate leads is to make generosity fun.

You can offer a free product, a BOGO offer or bundle promotion, or even a monthly drawing for a goodie bag of some kind. The more creative the offer, the better!

The Road to Opportunity

No matter what magnet you use, your lead generator should:

  • Position you as the guide. (Share empathy and authority as one who can help solve their problem.)
  • Stake claim to your territory. (Differentiate yourself from competitors and share unique knowledge in key areas.)
  • Qualify your audience. (Speak to the specific audience you are trying to reach with a succinct, irresistible headline.)
  • Create trust by solving a problem. (Even though your product should be the ultimate solution to their problem, your lead generator should provide an immediate benefit too.)

When you implement a lead generation program, you increase brand awareness, build relationships, generate qualified leads, and ultimately close deals.

And the better your leads are, the more successful your sales will be!

Expand Your Market: 15 Ways You Can Use Direct Mail to Sell in 2021

Life is noisy.

In today’s world, everywhere you look, you’re constantly swamped by ads: buy this, watch this, subscribe now!

How pervasive is this? These stats give us a glimpse:

  • Thanks to the internet and new technologies, the average viewer is exposed to between 6,000 and 10,000 ads daily.
  • Google has managed to grow its advertising revenue every year for the past 19 years. It made over $134 billion in 2019 alone, just from advertising.
  • Sixty-five percent of people say they skip online video advertising – doing so as soon as they get the chance – and 76 percent say this is an ingrained behavior.
  • In 2020, the average open rate for marketing emails was around 21%, and more than 20% of marketing emails never made it to a subscriber’s inbox.

In contrast, more than 40 percent of recipients scan or read the direct mail pieces they get, and consumers are 22 percent more likely to purchase products promoted through direct mail than they are products advertised through email.

Maybe this noise overload is one reason younger people are placing greater value on print products. Millennials say they value direct mail in general: 69% of Millennials said they “somewhat” or “very much” like print coupons for restaurants, and 65% said they like coupons for retail businesses. In one survey of Millennials, 75% of respondents said receiving personal mail makes them feel special.

Open the Door with Direct Mail

All of these are wonderful reasons to add direct mail as an arrow in your marketing quiver.

In the digital age, an ink-on-paper sales letter or direct-mail package that your customers can hold in their hands will really distinguish you from competitors. More exposure means higher response rates. Higher response rates lead to more leads. And more leads generate greater sales!

When you’re ready to expand your market, here are several ways to package your message through direct mail.

— Make an announcement (perhaps using a flashy invitation or an oversized postcard)

— Send a sales letter or script font note combined with a catalog or brochure

— Introduce a new product or service

— Distribute a maintenance or service checklist with a detachable coupon

— Generate long-lasting impact with a sleek postcard magnet

— Invite people to attend a product demonstration, educational seminar, or nonprofit fundraiser

— Send renewal reminders for subscriptions, contracts, insurance policies, or service agreements

— Send holiday greetings with a special New Year’s offer

— Welcome inactive customers back with an incentive

— Get your company in front of fresh prospects using new mover marketing lists

— Promote a “live” social media event you are hosting

— Distribute valuable content through educational newsletters

— Conduct a sweepstakes event or contest

— Sell seasonal merchandise or products linked with hometown favorites

— Offer a free analysis or a complimentary cost estimate, review, or consultation

New Prospects = New Possibilities

Some marketers shy away from print, which is truly a loss.

Mastering direct mail can help you strengthen your reputation, drum up leads, entice new prospects, and make you a hero to your clients or boss.

Need some quick-to-print templates or tips on no-hassle mailing lists? Contact us today! We’re here to help.

4 Ways to Lead a Team that Goes the Distance

A marathon isn’t enough anymore.

Around one million people took part in marathon races in 2018, but ultramarathons (ranging from 50 km to multi-day races) are one of running’s fastest-growing fashions. Ultramarathon participation is up more than 1,000 percent over the last two decades! 

While physical endurance is paramount to success, one of ultramarathoners’ outstanding qualities is mental endurance. To travel 100 miles by foot or run around a track for a continuous 24-hours, mental resilience is essential. These races are repetitive, involve hundreds of thousands of steps being taken, and are as much of a test of a person’s ability to push through monotony as they are a test of physical strength.

Record-setting US runner Camille Herron says a key to her success is to mentally “break up the race” and to find coping strategies to do so.

Maintaining Professional Momentum Over the Long Haul

Mentally motivating your team can involve a similar approach.

The work done by your team has a significant impact. But your team members cannot serve effectively if they’re under major stress; they will break down before they go the distance. This is especially true in the holiday season – and even more so during a global pandemic.

How can leaders help people succeed over the long haul? By cultivating the concept of relaxed concern. Though it may sound like a contradiction, teams cannot thrive if they don’t take mental breaks along the way. Although people must realize their work is important, they won’t last if they can’t take their foot off the accelerator.

When you want to encourage an attitude of relaxed concern in your team, here are a few habits that can help: 

1. Have realistic expectations

Don’t expect every person on your team to work at the same energy level all the time.

Everyone is different – some people are a racehorse, others are a snail, and many people fall somewhere in the middle. Set your focus on output, not on the process, and allow people to work at a realistic pace to their professional DNA.

2. Be aware of external drains on energy and compensate for them

When someone on your team experiences illness or personal crisis, realize it will drain their energy, and then compensate for it.

Reportedly, 80% of workers drag themselves into work during illness, and an alarming 37% of people say they do not get sufficient sleep. Physical struggles and personal stress increase errors and fuel conflicts at work. Do everything you can to encourage personal well-being in your team, and allow margin when people are struggling. By prioritizing people above results, your team will be better off in the long run.

3. Work smarter, not harder

If the ax is dull, a difficult chore becomes impossible.

To make the best use of energy, work smarter, not harder. You may have people on your team who are working harder than anyone else, but their productivity is low because they aren’t working smart. Encourage and support your staff as they look for ways to make their work easier. This not only increases productivity, but it frees people from frustration and weariness.

4. Make work fun 

The most successful people in life are those who get paid for doing what they like to do.

And that’s true for businesses as well. Close work friendships boost employee satisfaction by 50%, and companies with happy employees outperform the competition by 20%. Whether you host quarterly “feast days” or post a wacky wall of fame, investing in relationships is always worth the effort.

For your team to maximize potential, they need to stick around. Cultivate relaxed concern to build teams that go the distance!

Magnetic Marketing: Using Faces to Command Attention

Our faces reveal multitudes about who we are, what we are thinking, and our intentions toward others.

Lying right under your nose is an awesome landscape of skin, muscles, and features. The face is one of the most profound parts of our body, and it packs so much power! Check out these remarkable facial facts:

  • Humans are capable of making 10,000 unique facial expressions.
  • The face has the biggest range of muscle structure in the human body, and 43 of these muscles are directly linked to facial emotions.
  • Humans regularly flash micro-expressions that last less than 1/25 of a second before they consciously or subconsciously neutralize them. These split-second displays can reveal more than a thousand words (or lies!) ever could.
  • Genuine facial expressions are almost always symmetrical. From frowns to smiles, people typically reveal authentic feelings evenly on both sides of the face.

Faces Add Impact in Marketing

How does this play into marketing and print?

First, it’s important to recognize the impact of faces so we can prioritize them in design. Research by Catherine Mondloch showed that newborn babies less than an hour old prefer looking at something with facial features. Humans prefer humans, and people buy from people!

It would be careless to overlook these statistics while continually deferring to inanimate objects. When you’re looking to add that personal touch to your marketing mix, remember faces can help you to:

Connect with People

Large, faceless corporations feel cold and manipulative.

To humanize your brand, feature people, not products! Pictures of real people build empathy and trust among viewers. And eye-tracking studies show that the faces of babies and pretty women are two of the most effective subjects you can use.

Putting faces on your brand allows you to connect with your audience in a relatable way. As you position faces in your ads, remember eyes looking right at people will have the greatest emotional impact because the eyes are the most significant part of the face.

Create Curiosity

Humans have a natural tendency to follow the gaze of others, and we have been coached since birth to follow these visual cues about where we should be looking or going.

Want to build curiosity and engage your viewers? If a face on your poster is gazing toward a text box or a product in the margin, readers will track toward that area as well.

Emotions can also be carried from a subject to the viewer as you set a tone within your design. The emotion in the faces you display can draw people to linger longer before your designs or to be drawn deeper into the message itself.

Cultivate Trust

People react to a photo on a page faster than any other design element, and seeing the people behind a business can establish credibility very quickly.

You can use faces to cultivate trust by using staff profiles on a website, facial photos in welcome displays or high traffic areas, or brochures with testimonials and photos from real customers. If viewers can relate to the people enjoying your product, this will seamlessly build positive associations in their own minds.

When used properly, photos of faces can help you connect with people, create curiosity, and cultivate trust.  Bypass resistance and build connections through the magnetic power of people!

How to Kickstart Your Noodle During a Creative Block

“Design can be art. Design can be aesthetics. Design is so simple, that’s why it is so complicated.” (Paul Rand, graphic designer)

Never does a page seem so bleak as when you experience a creative rut in design.

Design ruts are the graphic artist’s equivalent of writer’s block. And everyone has been there! The world’s most imaginative people have experienced this obstacle and found a way to battle through.

One benefit of getting stuck is that you’re forced to rediscover your own creativity! Need help getting started? Here are some different ways to break out of stagnation when you’re stuck on a design:

1. Think laterally

Designs are ultimately problems waiting to be solved.

When you are stymied by the project at hand, come at the problem from a different angle, no matter how extreme it might seem.

One way to do this is to temporarily focus your thinking around individual parts of a message, like why a client might need your product or what pictures might best communicate its benefits.

2. Concentrate on your market

What are your target customers used to seeing, and what would make them lean forward and take note?

Maybe you need to challenge existing assumptions and go for something bolder. For example, in the financial world, materials tend to be produced in very corporate colors, like navy blue and grey. How could a fresh design upend traditional concepts in a way that is appealing and energizing?

3. Try the “what if” or the “why” game

When designs don’t seem to flow, start with questions instead. Like this:

What if questions:

  • What if I only use illustrations?
  • What if I only use type?
  • What if the type made the illustration?
  • What if I draw it with my eyes closed?

Why questions:

  • Why do I need to focus on this particular product feature?
  • Why is this feature important to prospects?
  • Why is this something that will impact their life in a significant way?
  • Why is this something they need to think about now versus later?

4. Take a Quick Tutorial

While it can be tempting to rip off a design from someone else, one of the best ways to build your original muscle is to go back to the drawing board.

An easy way to do this is to jump into an online tutorial. Though traditionally intended to educate, tutorials can be a rich source of design inspiration. Don’t merely skim the tutorial and glance at the result, go through the tutorial step by step with the author.

Doing this will force you to think like another person as you try to understand the implementation of methods that aren’t your own. This can energize you to think about new possibilities.

Don’t Force a Solution

When you feel overwhelmed by your lack of inspiration, remember that feeling stuck is just another step in the creative process.

If all else fails, embrace the moment and give it some time. What seems like a rut now might be an important step on your creative journey. Be patient, learn from it, and trust that you’ll come out on the other side.

Need help with your design idea? We can help!

How Fantastic Managers Bring Out the Best in Each Person

Have you ever had a “bad” boss?

If you’ve ever led a team, you’ve probably encountered a life-sucking person, problem, or habit that’s restricting your potential. But a challenging situation doesn’t guarantee a poor outcome, especially if there’s a good manager in the mix!

Managers have the power to make or break their organization. Strong managers can lead teams, help them grow, and bring out the best in each person. These leaders don’t just produce great work; they inspire it. Why is that?

While effective managers are goal-oriented, they also have an innate ability to bring out the best in people.  And while these people come in many flavors, there is one quality that sets truly great managers apart from the rest: They discover what is unique about each person and then capitalize on it.

Marcus Buckingham, head of people and performance research at the ADP Research Institute, characterized it this way:

“Great managers know and value the unique abilities and even the eccentricities of their employees, and they learn how best to integrate them into a coordinated plan of attack. This is the exact opposite of what great leaders do. Great leaders discover what is universal and capitalize on it. Their job is to rally people toward a better future. Leaders can succeed in this only when they can cut through differences of race, sex, age, nationality, and personality and, using stories and celebrating heroes, tap into those very few needs we all share. The job of a manager, meanwhile, is to turn one person’s particular talent into performance. Managers will succeed only when they can identify and deploy the differences among people, challenging each employee to excel in his or her own way.”

Positioning People for Success

When you want to bring out the best in your team, here are some specific steps to consider:

1. Ask the Right Questions

To assess your team’s strengths and skills, try using questions like these:

  • What do you like best about your work?
  • What skills do you have that are being underused?
  • What was the best day you had at work in the last three months? Why?
  • What was the worst day you had at work in the last three months? What drains you?

2. Find Optimal Triggers

Everyone works for a purpose.

Some work for money. Some for the personal challenge. And still others for relational equity they build through personal and professional friendships.

Managers can bring out the best in people by finding unique ways to motivate people. One company that does this exceptionally well is HBSC, a London-based bank. Each year it presents its top individual consumer-lending performers with “Dream Awards.” Each winner receives a unique prize, precisely tailored to something especially motivational to each employee (though capped at $10,000 and redeemable in prize form only). At the end of the year, HBSC hosts a Dream Awards gala and shows a video about the winning employee and why this person selected a particular prize. From college tuition funds to dream vacation airline tickets, the celebration of individual dreams is a win for the entire company.

Beyond individual awards, other performance triggers may include financial incentives, ownership shares, public recognition, increased autonomy over key projects, workday perks, or even quality time with key leaders.

When you tailor perks to your team’s unique strengths, they will feel more motivated to give their best effort.

3. Invest in Training Opportunities

People are more likely to excel when they feel valued.

One simple way to invest in people is through training. Did you know an astonishing 87% of Millennials say that career development opportunities are very important to them? When you want to motivate and shape your people, look beyond daily tasks, and encourage people to grow their skills. And as you’re evaluating training opportunities, look for those that fit each person’s unique learning style, like analyzing, watching, or doing.

Great managers look to build and mobilize people. By investing in individual people, you will work with them, not above them. And that’s a win for everybody!