Friday, December 18, 2009

Why should you be a ‘thought leader’ in your industry?

As Augment Marketing explores thought leadership strategies, we wanted to deliver ideas that could be used within departments and organizations immediately. We found the following points at Go-To-Marketing Strategies Web site:

According to Go-to-Marketing Strategies author Steven Van Yoder -

  • Thought leadership centers on sharing your knowledge and giving your expertise generously and frequently in a  variety of formats.
  • Thought leaders position themselves as centers of influence who are always "present" within their target markets. Seek opportunities to be seen, read, and heard on a regular basis by the people who matter most to your  company.

Thought leadership is creating a great deal of buzz. In fact, we're seeing a movement among leaders in respective fields that explore what makes a thought leader in an organization? We discovered some important points:

  1. Be accessible and freely share best practices to those in your department or field - in today's competitive economy where every job is on the line, individuals may be afraid to collaborate or offer insight that could help another person in their organization for fear of losing value if they do. The total opposite is true. You can ensure your 'thought leadership status' by authoring documents and getting your ideas in front of people. By holding back, you cannot be successful - no one even knows you exist.
  2. Establish yourself as an expert - Anyone who feels shy, timid or afraid to share ideas need not apply. To establish yourself as a thought leader you must be front and center. If you aren't easy with putting yourself out front, start by establishing social media and small speaking engagements within your organization. Once you find your groove, you'll feel more comfortable presenting your ideas to larger audiences. There's no easy way to becoming a thought leader, either way you slice it... it takes time.
  3. Deliver value to your organization - Always being aware that the information you bring to an organization should offer some kind of value i.e. increased productivity, better customer relations, reduced inventory, enhanced ROI. The goal is to define the value when presenting your ideas to upper management to be seen as a thought leader. Most high-level executives want the bottom-line right up front.
  4. Promote innovation and align with your company's vision - Thought leaders are always aware of innovative new technologies and ideas that can align with the company's vision. This may be in the form of analyzing or introducing new software, new business models or new products. Again, the idea is to lead your peers and fuel innovation and growth that contributes to a sustainable future for the company.

Thought leadership is an increasingly vital driver of business success.The term was first coined in 1994, by Joel Kurtzman, editor-in-chief of the magazine, Strategy & Business. The term was used to designate interview subjects for that magazine who had contributed new thoughts to business. There isn't a better time than now to become a thought leader and deliver valuable insight in helping your company evolve.

Trisha Ahlman is the CEO of Augment Marketing Group and has nearly 20 years experience in marketing for corporations and small businesses. She sits on several creative and strategic development boards nationwide. "Inspired by growth" from its inception, Augment's mission is to inspire growth in all businesses large or small when developing strong brands. We believe in inspiring, learning and growing please contact for more information:

7 Steps to Promote Innovation within Your Company

In today’s competitive environment, companies must cater to the changing needs and wants of the consumer. New, innovative ideas are vital to the growth and success of your business. Maintaining an inspired creative team requires dedication, education, and communication. Here are seven simple steps to foster the growth of innovation in your business:

  1. Encourage Ideas
  2. Designate Creative Time
  3. Have a Submission System
  4. Keep Track of Current Trends
  5. Combine Need and Technology
  6. Implement and Incentive Program
  7. Communicate

Encourage ideas
Ideas are the foundation of creative innovation! Encourage creativity and be receptive to all ideas- even if they aren't that great. Employees should never feel embarrassed or afraid to submit their thoughts or creative suggestions. It only takes one idea, good or bad, to be the starting point of something big.

Designate creative time
While it's certainly not cost effective to let employees sit around all day staring into space while they dream up the next great invention, it IS a good idea to set aside some time to let the creative juices flow. Whether it's once a week or once a month, designating a certain amount of time for employees to brainstorm and share ideas is a great way to promote creative thinking.

Have a submission system
Good ideas will never grow into something tangible if there isn't a process to keep track of them, so adopt a system for employees to use in order to submit their ideas. This system will keep submissions from getting lost in the shuffle, and will make sure that they reach the appropriate department that can make the necessary steps to bring the idea to fruition. 

Keep track of current trends
Sometimes good ideas are not altogether new- they are simply inspired by a product or practice that already exists. Keep track of what other businesses in your industry are doing; know what works; know what has already been tried, whether or not it was successful, and why.

Combine need and technology
New and improved technology is being produced at an increasingly rapid rate. However, if it were to no one's benefit, what would be the point? Make sure your team knows where innovation is needed most within your industry, and keep them up to date on current technological trends. This information can then be used to your company's benefit, as your team can effectively combine all this new, advanced technology with the existing needs of your target audience. Be sure to look for technology that can drastically improve efficiency. In times of economic turbulence, improving productivity is the key. 

Implement an incentive program
Use an incentive program (which does not necessarily have to include monetary compensation) to motivate your creative team. Recognizing staff members for innovative thinking can go a long way, and rewards based upon various levels of achievement are always a great way to encourage hard work and promote employee loyalty.

Communication is extremely important. Listen to your consumer and be aware of their current needs and wants. Make sure that the lines of communication are open between staff members, C-level leaders, and vendors. When employees are appreciated and acknowledged for bringing valuable innovation and profit to your company, they will be motivated to continue on the path of creative thinking.

If you’re on LinkedIn, you can watch this SlideShare show on “Making the Competition Irrelevant” -

Written by Ruth Netanel of Adgination.

Trisha Ahlman is the CEO of Augment Marketing Group and has nearly 20 years experience in marketing for corporations and small businesses. She sits on several creative and strategic development boards nationwide. "Inspired by growth" from its inception, Augment's mission is to inspire growth in all businesses large or small when developing strong brands. We believe in inspiring, learning and growing please contact for more information:

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Building Credibility as a NEW Business

As a new business your main focus is to appear larger than you are until you are able to grow your business. Think of it as an illusion. You’re not trying to get one over on anyone but quite frankly, you have to fight your way up the ladder when your small and this is the only way to do it.  Building credibility can be a daunting task but it’s very doable if you put the right strategies in place.  Building credibility starts with these few concepts:

  • Becoming an expert is merely taking charge of what you know and demonstrating it to the world. If your field is marketing, management, finance or decorating, begin building credibility by writing about it and educating consumers.
  • Building your credentials is a must as you begin growing your business. Every seed you plant right now will probably not come to fruition for a year or maybe more down the road.

At last week’s “Building Credibility Seminar” at Jesse H. Jones School of Business at TSU – Entrepreneurship Center, local companies learned these three things to start building their reputation as a leader:

  1. Begin blogging – blog about what you know. Do not be afraid of writing if you are not a writer. You have to practice in order to hone your skills. There is no time like the present. Have a friend or colleague read your blogs until you are comfortable with writing. Blogs are more educational and conversational than anything else. They are short and to the point information that is easily digestible; making them easier to write than articles. Once you are comfortable, you can venture into writing articles, guest writing, editorials and perhaps even whitepapers.
  2. Have a strong image – make sure you go above and beyond the call of duty on building your image. Invest in nice business cards, letterhead and envelopes. Invest in a domain name so that your email is your company email and not or If you can invest in a simple Web site with at least 4-5  pages of informative, brochure like material, then you can have Web presence to demonstrate your professionalism. If all else fails, start a company blog – at least you will appear to have information on the Web when potential clients are searching for you.
  3. Make news – write a press release on your business each week. Even if you never publish them, you are forced to think about newsworthy content to promote your business. Making news plays an important role in building credibility for a new business. Another reason you should be writing news releases is to get better at writing and taking charge of the future of your business. You can post them to your blog or Web site. Your company will be searchable in search engines and potential clients can find relevant information about your business.

You’ll be relieved when you begin to see all of your hard work pay off. Again, building credibility isn’t an overnight strategy but a long-term positioning strategy that will ultimately grow your business beyond belief. Be proactive and follow these tips and you’ll see improvements over time. If you need more advice like the information in this article, FREE events take place at the Entrepreneurship Center each week. It’s open to the community and general public at no cost.   To get updated on upcoming events, please email your request to be added to our mailing list at

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Eight Ways to Augment Your Sales Process and Win Business Today

These eight basic elements will help you to start augmenting your sales efforts. If you are new to business, you’ll learn a great deal by implementing these measures. If you are a novice, not to worry, you may need to brush up on your closing or networking skills. Either way, these eight steps will move you one step closer to closing the deal.

1. Dream big and never give up – This is the first step because without believing you can win and working to achieve the highest goal you set, you will surely never get there. Shoot for the stars and if you get to the moon you are halfway there.

2. Commit to building your capabilities and portfolio without being concerned about money – Of course we all want to make money but sometimes taking steps is a learning process and worth the price you get for a project just to get your name out there. Don’t be afraid to ‘volunteer’ your services on the front-end. Only follow this advice if you intend on producing results. It doesn’t work with poor quality. Try organizations, non-profits or even business-to-business (B2B); for example, you can offer your services on at a competitive rate.

3. Don’t forget sales 101 the natural buying process – Buyers do not purchase products or services they do not know or trust; therefore, when developing your sales process, you must think of sales as a funnel. The wide mouth indicates the level that consumers just want to get to know you down to the bottom of the funnel where trust is strong enough to buy. You may have learned this concept in marketing 101… It’s called Awareness. Interest. Trial. or (A.I.T.). Augment Marketing has coined this as B.I.G.™ - Build awareness, Increase interest and Generate results. All this means you need several levels of buying options to gain trust from your clients.

4. Know your target market – two fundamental questions you must answer – who are your customers and what do they want? Again this is marketing 101 – But, it’s the hardest to identify. The reason is because you may have several targets and segments. Without research and analysis, you may not have a good grasp of your competitors or your customers. Do yourself a favor and focus on one or two targets and expand from there.

5. You have to know it before you can grow it – before you can go out and sell your product, you should have already thought about your vision and core values. It’s important to understand what you stand for because while you are out networking or meeting potential clients, they will want to hear your elevator speech.

6. Develop an elevator speech – Be able to say who, what, when, where and how in 10, 15, 20 or 30 seconds. No doubt, you will have to be prepared to deliver a compelling message to get your audience to listen.

7. Image is everything – Never leave home without it. Meaning, a polished business card and brochure. If you can invest on the front-end, you definitely need to make that happen. If not, it’s better not to take a chance on cheap materials. Get their card and tell them you will be in contact.

8. Close the deal – Make sure to plan out your calls, contact messages and emails. Once you have their attention, don’t be afraid to close the deal. Create a sense of urgency. If all else fails, tell them you have another project and need to make a decision. You would appreciate their diligence and timely response. If they say, not at this time but maybe in two months, great – you have a solid commitment and can move on to bigger fish in the sea.

Good luck to all businesses and entrepreneurs. You truly are the real American heroes.

Trisha Ahlman is the CEO of Augment Marketing Group and has nearly 20 years experience in marketing for corporations and small businesses. She sits on several creative and strategic development boards nationwide. "Inspired by growth" from its inception, Augment's mission is to inspire growth in all businesses large or small when developing strong brands. We believe in inspiring, learning and growing please contact for more information:

Saturday, September 5, 2009

How Logic Models Set You Apart from the Competition

When presenting a contract or report to potential clients or board of directors, Logic Models can demonstrate your preparation and understanding of how you came up with a process and how it will impact results.  If you are responsible for writing contracts, Logic Models can set you apart from your competitors.  How you ask? While some are focused on what they provide and how they provide it, you can go the extra mile by demonstrating the impact to the organization. This is important for stakeholders because it means that you have considered not only specific actions to take but measureable results.  It’s just one more step to implementing projects more effectively which clearly sets you apart from competitors.  If you want to learn more about Logic Models, please email in order to receive a free report on how to develop logic models.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

New Event Coming Up

Trisha Ahlman will be presenting this Friday at Jesse H. Jones School of Business at TSU in the Entrepreneurship Center – room 109 – 3100 Cleburne St.. The topic is on Logic Models. Many contracts require logic models in order to demonstrate goals, actions and tactical plans. The meeting time is 5:30 – 7:00. To learn more, visit for more details.

Attendees will learn how to structure a logic model, how to apply a logic model and how logic models are used to develop strategic plans more effectively.

The event is FREE and anyone can attend.

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Elements of Value Innovation

Have you ever wondered how some companies achieve sustainable growth while other struggle to keep up? W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne stated in an article from the Harvard Business Review, Value Innovation, “In a five-year study of high-growth companies and their less successful competitors, we found that the answer lay in the way each group approached strategy”. The authors go on to explain that the conventional way of thinking, beating the competition, wasn’t the type of strategy that high-growth organizations adopted but rather the strategic process of making the competition irrelevant. The article explained in detail that it didn’t matter what size the organization was but how they logically approached strategy that impacted growth. What can we learn from this as small business owners? The lesson is that we truly have a great opportunity. We, the small business owners, are more flexible, more agile, and more creative and we have less bureaucracy. That’s why entrepreneurs still have a chance to create successful businesses even in the most uncertain economic times.

Let’s talk more about the elements of value innovation. To innovate value you have to skillfully integrate an idea, competitiveness and emotional value for consumers. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What do you stand for (value proposition)?
  • What makes you stand out (marketability)?
  • What makes you compelling (brand story)?

Consider this value innovation model when developing value innovation for your company:

To consider each of the strategies surrounding your value proposition look at:

  1. Core Capabilities – Look at what value you have to offer your clients. Are you capitalizing on your strengths? Each of the following strategies will strengthen your core capabilities making you more marketable to your clients.
  2. Partner Network – Develop partnerships and alliances so that you can win more accounts. Think outside-of-the box. Remember, the goal is to make the competition irrelevant if you want to master value innovation. Bring in more partners and alliances and you will build your core capabilities for a unique client experience.
  3. Customer Relationship Management – How will you manage your clients? What unique value do you offer over the competition? Start by knowing the competition and defining how your CRM strategy will differ.
  4. Distribution Channel – Distributing your product or service is the one of the most important strategies to consider. Think about the many products and services you can offer to build your core but more importantly determine how accessible will it be for your client.
  5. Target Customer – The idea is to have a niche market. Define a small or narrow target and it’s much easier to offer them precisely what they need. Again, you may have several target customers if you have a variety of core capabilities but the idea is to identify each segment skillfully.
  6. Cost Structure – Determining your cost structure will contribute to your competitive advantage. If you are a small business you have less overhead than larger companies and can add more value at the same time. Never price yourself out of the market or below. Investigate pricing strategies that will work for your clients.
  7. Revenue Streams – Consider multiple revenue streams and structures. Think about funneling buyers through the buying process. First you have to build awareness, then interest and ultimately trial (A.I.T.). So, if you think about your revenue strategies you might want to think about different packages you can offer your client to augment your business. Start with a small package to build trust and win them over for repeat business in the future.

An Example of Value Innovation:

Amazon’s business model or value model combines an idea, competitive pricing and an emotional experience for the customer:

  • Shopping convenience
  • Ease of purchase
  • Speed
  • Decision-enabling information
  • A wide selection
  • Discounted pricing
  • Reliability of order fulfillment

It’s the integration of all these processes and emotional benefits that makes Amazon a great value to consumers. Your business can do this too! You just have to plan to strategically position your company and products. Understanding that high-growth companies approach strategy differently really helps new companies create a sustainable model from the beginning. If you want to attend a free seminar on Value Innovation see our FaceBook Events page for more details.

Trisha Ahlman is a marketing strategist and small business owner. She has worked in just about every marketing function possible for nearly 20 years. Augment Marketing Group's specialty is helping small businesses build strong brands, increase visibility in the market, and generate sales - this is called our B.I.G. (tm) system. To contact, email