They may be invisible sometimes, but the good news is unleveraged assets do exist, and you don’t have to create them; they’re within your company. The trick is to discover where they’re hiding and coax them into the open so your customers can admire them, experience them, and brag about them. Let’s examine how to uncover these assets and use them to benefit.

An unleveraged asset is an existing resource or hidden strength that is not currently being used to its full potential. These assets could take the form of stories, abilities, relationships, guarantees, return policies, services, or products. An unleveraged asset may seem insignificant to you, but to potential customers, it can be a tipping point between them buying from you rather than one of your competitors.

A means of recognizing unleveraged assets is by asking who, what, when, where, and how.

Unleveraged Asset #1: WHO

Your current customers are your potential Brand Evangelists, that’s a given, but you have “who”s even closer than your customers: your staff members. These folks are in the trenches helping your company succeed. However, around 85% of what you do collectively consists of systems and practices. Automate that routine 85% as much as possible so you can humanize the other 15%. Start by ditching the stock photos on your website and replacing them with images of you and your team being yourselves. Allow your employees to be social on behalf of your company. When employees post social media updates about or for their company, it accomplishes a few things:

  1. It lets people know that the person pictured gives a hoot about the company they work for.
  2. It gives viewers a chance to learn the names, faces, and personalities behind a company.
  3. It expands the reach of the company’s content because employees can be tagged, and their friends and followers will be able to see those tags.

Unleveraged Asset #2: WHAT

This question is not so much about what products or services will stand out from your competitors; after all, you’re in the same line of business. Rather, it’s about what ways you communicate your brand. The temptation is to go with the latest trend: newer, hipper ways to communicate, like Tumblr, Instagram, and Snapchat. But what if you were to turn to something everyone still has but no one uses the right way anymore – the U.S. Postal Service? I’m not talking about forgettable direct mail and lookalike postcards that are immediately dumped in their trash bin. What if you went totally old-school and sent a limited-edition card in an envelope to your favorite customers?

How long has it been since your customer got a message in the mail in a handwritten envelope with a first-class postage stamp—NOT metered—with the stamp just a little crooked, addressed in blue ballpoint pen? Inside is a limited-edition card. Not an offer. Not an ad. Just a friendly communication on behalf of your company, along with a hand-written “P.S.” asking a question that only someone in your city would understand. This is what our colleague, friend, and partner Tom Wanek calls “signaling.” It says, “Look! We’re insiders, and we understand the nuances of where we live.”

If your company is celebrating a milestone anniversary, this might be a warm, fuzzy, and unusual way of staying in touch with your best customers without trying to sell them something. Keep in mind this unleveraged asset takes patience. With the first three cards, expect no response. By the 4th month, you may get some comments but little business. This is the polar opposite of mass-mailing. You’re still sending mail, but it’s better dressed and has way more class, and that makes it more memorable to your customer.

Unleveraged Asset #3: WHEN

This one requires you to be available and responsive. If your company boasts 24/7 service, you already have systems in place to ensure the phone is answered. If a customer interacts with you on social media, though, they will expect you to respond in close-to-real time as well. Make sure you have someone designated to monitor your company’s interaction, someone willing to become the voice of your brand on social media.

We recently read a story about a mom with 2 teens. The daughter bought a shirt that shrunk after the first washing. The son bought a shirt from a different company, and he needed a question answered quickly after spilling tea on his shirt. The daughter contacted the apparel retailer via social media. It took them three minutes to get back to her and 45 minutes to resolve the issue. The son, on the other hand, complained to the manager, called corporate, and even vented on social media. It took that company a week to get back to him about his (now ruined) shirt.

As much as you may please your customers via phone or in person 24/7, all of that goodness can be undone by a bad online reputation. While it’s tempting to think of your company’s Facebook page as “fluff,” many customers consider it a conduit for reaching you, and they expect a response. Put someone in charge of monitoring your reputation online and give that person the authority to address problems and answer questions quickly.

Unleveraged Asset #4: WHERE

What’s that saying in real estate? “Location, location, location.”

Is your business situated somewhere you could tell passersby who you are, what you stand for, or share a little about your corporate attitude? Several types of businesses in our town come to mind.

A prominently located heating and air company has a window that faces three lanes of traffic near an intersection, forcing traffic to slow or stop. Wasting no opportunity to brand themselves, this company uses that window to mark holidays (“Santa Clog” stuck headfirst in a toilet) or pop culture events and movies (“Teenage Mutant Ninja Toilets”). Are they getting noticed? The company would regularly win the Readers Poll for “Best Window Display.”

A Mexican restaurant rolls a portable sign streetside to entertain passing drivers, commenting on local events or being just plain silly: “What if soy milk is just plain milk introducing itself in Spanish?” “Last queso stop before a bunch of yoga studios” (It’s true!). Even a local elementary school steps out of simply announcing PTA meetings for some harmless snark about traffic. Comments like “Stuck? Check with us. Your kids may have graduated by now.” and “I’m melting! Mellllting!” entertain passers-by and make harried drivers smile.

Is there an architectural feature, sign, or location opportunity you’re not taking advantage of in your business?

Unleveraged Asset #5: HOW

When you empathize, you are essentially shifting your perspective to that of another person in order to change your point of reference. When addressing problems relating to your company, you look at it from the point of view of your user.

Sometimes a minor change can make a huge difference. For instance, while working for iOmega, Mark Fox noted that every computer component at the time was beige. Mark’s suggestion was to change the color of the zip drive to cobalt blue. The positive response was instantaneous and huge.

Think about how your product or services might be viewed by different people, and you may discover an innovative way to solve a problem that otherwise eludes you. Ask, “How would a child or a senior citizen see the situation? How may an expert, a novice, or a local inhabitant versus a visitor use it differently? Would a wealthy person’s experience be different than that of someone less wealthy? A tall person vs. a short one?” Each angle provides a different perspective and unleashes new insights and ideas.

Bonus Unleveraged Asset: WHY. 

Discovering your “Why” and clearly communicating it to your customers will hopefully set you apart (and above) your competitors.

Simon Sinek, whose first TEDx Talk on “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” is the third-most-viewed video on, calls it the “Why.” What some call a company’s “why,” we at Wizard of Ads call your “North Star.”

Whatever you choose to call it, make sure it’s clear to your audience what you care about and why you do what you do.

Remember to be careful not only to discuss profits. Yes, you’re in business to make profits, but so is everyone else. Profitability happens as a result of a bigger “why” that serves peoples’ needs and makes their lives better. Your “why” tells people your values and beliefs. A shared belief becomes a shared identity.

When you say, “Our products and services simplify your life,” that is your “what.” “We deliver via the cloud!” That is your “how.” Neither statement is compelling unless we know why you do what you do. What’s the non-negotiable bottom line in your business? It’s more than what you do. What do you believe?

For example…

“At Wizard of Ads, we believe… finding the right message matters more than finding the right customer.”

Employees and customers want to believe in something bigger than themselves. There is value in belonging to a movement.

What’s your movement? Do your customers know? Do your employees know? Define your “why” and then live it.

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