Brand Strategically: How To Tell When Your Graphic Designer Doesn’t “Get” Branding

Brand Strategically-060514There’s a great deal of discussion these days in regard to branding and re-branding. Typically branding is seen to be the domain of the big players in the marketplace. But what was formerly thought to be only available to them is now available to the rest of us – small and medium size enterprises (SME’s) who wish to use strategy to win. They are intrigued that they can absolutely succeed through taking a leadership position. SME’s turn to graphic designers to facilitate their “branding.”

It’s this writer’s opinion that a good percentage of graphic designers see branding or re-branding as nothing more than changing the logo and marketing materials – visual solution. The reasons SME’s have for needing branding typically have very little to do with visuals per se. Many are searching for a solution to flat sales, low moral, changing culture, up-dating of positioning, expansion , succession and any number of business issues. If you’re looking to have branding done properly, I’d recommend working with a firm that has a proven branding process that strategically looks at your brand and can develop strategies that position it as the leader in its category. If the graphic designers you’re speaking to only mention logo and marketing materials – hike up your britches and run like hell.

Avoiding these designers is imperative because they simply don’t “get” branding. They think it’s too complicated and frankly don’t have the confidence and expertise to deliver the real article so they deliver what they do have confidence in – a visual solution only. The unqualified designer will view a strategic, process-driven approach as counter-intuitive. I’m guessing it won’t to you when you understand that strategy is what the visual solution is based on. An experienced branding expert will deliver a strategic and visual solution together as an overall deliverable. Experiencing this properly allows you the customer to appreciate the value delivered. When delivered to your branding team, a qualified designer now becomes an integral strategic partner to your business. They will be able to assist you in not only developing a leading brand but also assist and facilitate launching it effectively.

Look for and demand that a branding process be utilized. A branding process allows everyone on your team to easily understand what is taking place. Your Team may not be used to things like branding, design and strategic brainstorming. A process allows everyone to see the deliverables as they emerge. They get that something comes next and over time builds into something very powerful and motivating. If you as an SME have experience in things like compliances, ISO and industry standards then a branding process with its validation components will make perfect sense to you with you.

As with anything an SME does to improve their business, it’s important to get it right the first time. Branding is no different. If you find it daunting to walk yourself through it, then it will benefit you to bring in qualified assistance. I’ve been branding companies for a while now and every time i facilitate the process with a business’s branding team, establishing a dominate position in their category has more impact than a slogan or a new logo. It reaches deep into the culture of the company and reflects the core values in it boldness. If branding is something you’re investigating but would enjoy some research in the matter, I’d recommend the book, “Blue Ocean Strategy” to help understand why positioning is the key deliverable from any certified branding expert.

For more information on how designers can work with a branding process, or for designers wanting to up their game and deliver a genuine branding experience, check out these two comprehensive brand training programs: “How to Talk About Branding,” and the Brand Academy Certification Workshop.
Designers should also catch the no-cost webinar, “How to Make $20,000 to $50,000 on Your Next Branding Project“.

The Convenient Entrepreneur

Branding[Entrepreneur] according to Webster’s dictionary one who undertakes a business venture, taking both control and risk.

I would add to that – a commitment to one’s vision or dream. When you decide to put up that shingle, you’re making a promise to yourself and your customer to work in the best interest of both. In this world economy of ours many people found themselves out on the street for the first time in their careers through no fault of their own. Streamlining, down-sizing – whatever the cause has had a lot of people “re-inventing themselves.” You may have noticed a plethora of coaches, consultants, gurus, agents of change and what ever moniker these discarded individuals hoist upon their shoulders. Don’t get me wrong – there are a great many who are the genuine article and come with their guidance, a rich portfolio of wisdom. BUT, there there are many who lay claim to being something they’re not.

In your community, you see them everywhere. Individuals who love the idea of “entrepreneur” but lack the gumption and commitment to walk the walk. When they worked as an employee they may have envied the entrepreneur and even envied their “freedom” or perceived freedom. They answer to themselves (or so they thought). A true entrepreneur is the hardest working person in the room. They recognize that it’s not about who’s the boss. Their motivation is not simply the money but the satisfaction. They weather the risk and some even thrive in its uncertainty. An entrepreneur is a unique individual.

You see the cracks in psuedo-entrepreneurs very easily. They are the ones are looking for the short-term solutions. They are the ones who book meetings at their convenience. These are the people go into business and wait for the customer to somehow grace their door steps. They are the individuals who quit at 5:00pm, using (balance) as an excuse. The worst offence is these are the people who profess to love their business but secretly yearn that someone will come forth and offer them a full-time job with benefits. This is a dangerous individual. Companies that hire their ‘expertise’ are thrown to the curb at the first job offer. Instead of looking for opportunities to grow their businesses they try to play all the angles to minimize risk. The best way to minimize risk in business is to work harder and focus on your core competency. If that competency is being a great employee then focus on that and be the best employee there is. Businesses need great employees. They don’t need opportunists. They’re hard to rely on. Employees should do what they do best and that’s work for the visionaries. Be a great follower.

If you are the leader and are having a hard time with it – get out there more. Network – meet people who are making it happen . Talk to them, read about them. See what makes them get up in the morning. Try new things, put yourself in situations out of your comfort zones. Align yourself with individuals that you admire. Avoid negative people who will bring you down. Consciously try and stay positive and provide positive vibes to those around you. Start a mastermind group of brilliant business people who love the concept of sharing.

As Webster’s states – ‘…take control and risk.’ Stay true to yourself and you’ll end up where you ought to be. Pretending causing confusion and opportunities that should be yours avoid you until you are clear in your intentions.

Who Do You Think You Are?

confusedAs we head into the new year, do you have a clear understanding of your own personal brand? Are you aware of what the perception on the street is of you? Does your personal brand reflect consistently with your business brand? All good questions if you’re looking to go into the new year on a high note. Look around your circle of influence. Like myself I’m sure you’re witness to individuals who don’t have the slightest idea who they are. They call themselves specialists who list a flurry of services they try to deliver on – but excel in very little. I’ve been asked to coach a number of individuals to develop a brand for them. But, I can’t help them if they don’t know who they are. As I tell them, “it’s not up to me to tell you what you should be. I can help if you know who you are but are floundering in how to present yourself in a way that resonates with your target audience.

The problem stems from a lack of confidence. They suspect (but haven’t committed to the concept) that they are experts. They lack the confidence to express it in a tangible way. They question what the perception might be. Will their audience ridicule them for what they think is a lack of excellence. They throw up barriers to move forward. Having a lack of confidence is a scary place to be. Not only does it hinder who your are but also aids in failing to charge a fair dollar for your deliverables.

Lack of confidence is a psychological barrier, but one, that if you can breach, will deliver immense rewards. Those of us with confidence find it hard to understand why someone would be so hard on themselves, when the rewards are so encouraging. When I work with people and companies, I’m using the strategy that they focus on the money-maker. Most have a tendency to want to list everything they do, to show their scope of services. Lists are dangerous in that customers believe that since you’re listing services, if you fail to list something then you don’t do it. Ouch! My take is by focusing on your strongest service to get the door open, once in you have the opportunity to sell what else you do. It’s easier to build confidence if you focus on your strong point. Every time this happens, clients clearly have more fun and are excited by their brands (personal and business) again.

Understanding who you are can only make your brands more powerful, resonating in a big way. Not everyone is cut out for this bold a strategy and wish to remain with what keeps them safe and risk-free. Where has a safe harbour ever gotten anyone? Leaders are folks who embrace excitement and a challenge. Identifying who you are and acting on that in a direct way, changes the script you’re currently playing to. That in itself will generate enough confidence to hurdle the challenges you face.

So moving into a brand new year – who are you?

Have You Been Using Twitter The Wrong Way?

I have been using Twitter for a while now but never knew about this. Awesome tip from Gary Vaynerchuk.

Workplace Leadership: Dealing with Different Employee Personalities

A one-size-fits-all leadership style will only go so far when it comes to dealing with employees. The more people you have on your staff, the more likely you are to encounter different personality types. Fortunately, you don’t have to develop a split personality to work with different types of people. An awareness of various personalities and how to work with and guide them will help you develop a workplace environment that’s positive and productive. The following tips and insights can help you lead your employees in a way that instills trust, loyalty, confidence and good workplace morale.

Personalities

Dealing with Different Employee Personality Styles

  • The Introvert. Quiet, shy people are often mistaken for employees who have little to offer at meetings or during projects. But when introverts are given an opportunity to communicate in ways that are more comfortable, you’ll generally find they have a lot to contribute. Introverts are more private, which means they prefer forms of communication that don’t require speaking in front of the entire staff. Provide written communication options, as well as email and one-on-one communication to tap into the knowledge and expertise of your introverts.
  • The Competitor. The competitive employee is always striving to do better than others or even his or her own personal accomplishments. This employee loves conquests, as well as access to management and executives. Tap into this personality by making this individual part of your goal-achieving team. Sales, account management and other competitive departments are a good location for this employee.
  • The Believer. Every team needs a cheerleader, and your believer is the person who will be on-board for every new project, goal and mission. Be careful in how you use your believer personalities. They’re effective for encouraging the pragmatists, but need to refuel their optimism by spending equal amounts of time with other believers.
  • The Pragmatist. The pragmatic employee isn’t necessarily a negative person, but he or she is more likely to be skeptical and hesitant when it comes to something new. This individual prefers to research all the possible pitfalls before deciding on the benefits of something. They’re also more likely to question things and people, which can be worked in your favor.
  • The Work-Life Balance Seeker. More people are seeking work-life balance than ever before. This personality type is likely to be as ambitious and gifted as your competitors and believers, but they are also highly efficient and use their efficiency to attain balance between work and life. The work-life balance seeker makes a good manager, particularly when working with people he or she likes.
  • The Toiler. Toilers view work as a means to an end, such as spending more time with family or going on vacation. Even though this individual is not likely to become a star executive, they are necessary to the ongoing functions of the business. Work with this individual to promote efficiency, and your toiler will get things done.

Bringing the Whole Team Together

A range of employee personalities can be overwhelming to deal with, but when you consider the variety existing in your team, you’ll find there are many ways to bring them together. Cohesiveness is vital to a team environment and, many times, different personalities complement one another to make a well-balanced team. As the leader, it’s your job to encourage the best parts of each personality to come out in full force, while tempering the personality aspects that the team needs less of.

The leadership sets the tone, which means you have the power to bring everyone together or allow personality differences to create an insurmountable gap. With consistent effort and genuine interest on your part, you can achieve the former. Start by learning about the personality types that exist in your workplace, and then consider each of them as you plan each day, week, meeting and goal.

5 Steps For An Outstanding Presentation

Besides being a great presentation, I love how short and sweet this is on its own. Short is good.

I think #2 is not always possible but good to attempt to do when you can and #4 is probably my biggest challenge.

What is your takeaway from this presentation?

The Power of Anecdotal Differentiation

What sounds better during a sales pitch:

1. We help businesses improve their bottom line.
2. We helped XYZ company increase revenue by 19%.

Quantifiable_TestimonialsObviously number 2 is the clear choice, and the reason is because it includes quantifiable data that validates the value the company claims, which helps differentiate the company and its offerings. This type of anecdotal differentiation comes in many flavors, regardless of the type of organization you run, e.g.:

A. Tree removal company – We helped ABC park district remove 26 trees so it could finish its new park on time.

B. Law firm – AAA Law Firm saved BBB company $457,000 in erroneous liability claims.

C. Technology company – Our ABC product increased staff productivity by 26% within the first three months following installation.

D. Ice cream shop – Eight out of every 10 of our customers surveyed state they would gladly refer a friend or family member to our shop because of the taste, variety of flavors and cost of our ice cream.

E. Insurance company – Following Hurrican Sandy, we helped 45,000 people in the Northeast rebuild their homes will full replacement value payouts.

F. Tire company – We helped John Smith and his family save $145 (versus the competition) on their set of new tires for their minivan.

G. Web development firm – ABC Web Development gave RRR Recreation Company a professional-looking online presence in just three days.

Regardless of the type of business your work for or run, and irrespective of the size or industry, you have the ability to dig into your performance and pull out such anecdotal evidence of the value of your products/services. In the worlds of sales and marketing there really is no more valuable data that this. Having worked for over 15 years in both B2B and B2C marketing environment and for sales teams, I can atest to this fact. Whenever we were able to uncover such testimonials for the sales team, they were estatic, to say the least.

Ways to Secure Anecdotal Performance Data

Quantifiable testimonials and return on investment (ROI) data such as this is worth its weight in gold and it can unfortantely be a little challenging to get your hands on at times. There are, however, many proven approaches to securing this invaluable data. Here are a few of those methods:

1. “We want to showcase your success” – Contact your most successful customers and tell them you are so proud of their success with your products/services that you want to highlight them in your outbound communications. Many clients will simply say “okay” because of the free, positive publicity you are offering.

2. Offer an incentive for helping - Offer your most successful customers a free month of service or 15 percent off their next purchase or six months of complimentary support, e.g. in exchange for giving you a quantifiable testimonial. This method has proven the most successful for me in the past.

3. Put a clause in your contract (primarily for B2B) – Put a clause in your sales contract that states the company will serve as a testimonial for your business once they have ROI to demonstrate. Many times the client won’t even notice it in the contract or if they do may simply disregard it at the time of purchase.

Branding and differentiation today can sometimes come down to inches – meaning a few dollars here and a few dollars there in terms of selecting you over a competitor. You need to do everything you can to stand out from the competition, and there are few better ways than with anecdotal evidence. Take the time to amass a number of these types of anecdotes – whether simple quantifiable bullet points like above or embedded into full-blow case studies. Case studies put the substance and color around the metric to help bring its full value to life.

Either way, anecdotal evidence will go a very long way toward distinguishing you and your offerings from the next guy, and that is what successful business is all about – offering something people want and demonstrating its value with real, quantifiable data from past customers.