Tag Archive: tips


Nailing Your Brand

Don’t Forget that Presentation Counts!
After developing the substance of your personal brand and landing it, you need to nail, package and market it to your audience (employer, group, organization).

Answer these questions: Who am I? What do I want to be? How do I want to be perceived? Most of us don’t think of ourselves as “a package,” but all of us are packages (i.e., “she is so plain, don’t depend on him he will never deliver, he is just boring”). Here is the trick; you want to make sure that you control your packaging (the look, feel, and experience) and the message that illuminates from it.

Honestly, how many times have you bought something just because of the packaging, or paid more for something because it was presented in an exciting way? That’s the main reason we want to pay less for generic – the packaging is uniformly dull. When we see a package that shouts “Energy, Invigoration, Crispy, Clean, Colorful, Beautiful, Sophisticated, Expensive, “we are willing to pay more.

In essence, good packaging helps speed the purchasing decision and leads people to pay top dollars (and that’s what you want your packaging to do right?). Packaging is how you express your personality. So think about how you want to be perceived, what’ competitive edge you want your packaging to send.

Remember, the way you decide to package your unique brand should be evident in everything that you do and attach your name to, the way you walk, the way your talk, the way you dress, the content and appearance of your resume/cover letter, your award winning interview.

Also remember, the market can spot a phony a mile away! Your brand needs to reflect your core substance. Build your brand around your genuine strengths, not the ones you think the market wants to pay a lot of money for right now. You will always do better in the long run by being yourself, both in business and in life.

Nailing your brand is not something you do once and walk away from, it is a constant process of fine-tuning and adjusting your brand to the changing needs of the market and your changing interests, abilities, experiences and skills. Following are a few simple things you can do to help nail your brand today, tomorrow and far into the future.
If you still doubt the importance of nailing your brand, consider the recent experience of the National Football League, which underwent what could have been a brand-destroying four-and-a-half month lockout that featured some tough talk from both players and owners, as well as canceled preseason workouts and games.

While resolving the contract issue a month before the start of the regular season surely helped avoid fan backlash, the fact remains NFL TV ratings and game attendance, as well as merchandise sales, appear to be unaffected. This is due in no small part to the amazing job the NFL has done in the last 25 years of creating its brand as “America’s Game,” essentially stealing this title from Major League Baseball. In a January 2011 Harris Poll, 31% of US adults said football is their favorite sport, close to double the 17% who chose baseball!

The NFL did this by capitalizing on the drama inherent in what is often a violent and brutal game, emphasizing pain, conflict and personal sacrifice in the pursuit of victory. Also the many colorful characters who play and coach this unique sport were brought into the foreground. By nailing its brand image as America’s premier sports league, the NFL brushed the lockout away like a bad dream.

Following is a football-themed “heart check” to measure how effectively you are nailing your brand. While “running up the score” is often frowned upon by football players and coaches, in this case you want to score as many points as possible.

Scale

5Wait, that’s really, really true about me- Strongly agree
4That would be me- Agree
350/50 sometimes, sometimes not- somewhat agree
2That absolutely has nothing to do with me-Disagree
1Let me take the fifth on this- Strongly disagree

1. My brand is evident in everything I do and say, as well in how I present myself to others.
2. My brand is honest and genuine, and based on who I am and what I am best at.
3. I constantly fine-tune and adjust my brand.
4. My brand adjusts to the marketplace, but not the point of losing its unique identity or becoming a market follower, rather than leader.
5. My brand package delivers a world-class experience on first sight (within three seconds).
6. My brand package encompasses preparation, aspiration, staying laser focus, selling like you are crazy, invigoration, and omitting the negative.
6.5. Even people already familiar with my brand substance find the packaging compelling and informative.

Now that you’ve taken the test, let’s analyze how well you are nailing your brand:

If you scored from 7 to 13, you get sacked at the line of scrimmage. You are not presenting yourself or your brand in an exciting way that lets the world know your core substance and unique value proposition. Your brand doesn’t stand a chance!

If you scored from 14 to 20, you are “three and out.” Your packaging conveys one or two key components of your core substance, but not in a compelling way that makes you distinct from your competitors. Whatever chance you have in the marketplace is limited at best.

If you scored from 21 to 26, you make it into the “red zone”. You have managed to make your brand stand out in a crowded marketplace thanks to compelling and innovative packaging that conveys your core substance. But that little something extra is missing. You are still a solid number two brand people turn to when their preferred brand is unavailable.

If you scored from 27 to 33, you score a field goal. Your packaging is top-notch and you are among the leading brands in your field. But still, whether you lack a bow to tie it all together or your packaging’s gleam is a little dulled, you are not the true leading brand in your area of expertise.

If you scored a 34 or 35, you score a touchdown. Your packaging is impeccable and includes bows, ribbons and all the other little niceties that make a product truly stand out on a crowded shelf. You are the leader in your area of branded expertise, and anyone who sees your packaging knows it.

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Magic and Michael Knew What It Takes to Be a True Champion: Be Prepared!

You Can’t Build a Fresh, Competitive Brand without Preparing Yourself First

Preparing yourself helps you get a large part of the substance for your brand-building. Earlier in your career, this can be used to help you conduct stellar interviews with the best companies and have your pick of jobs. Later in your career, preparing yourself can help make you a top performer and obtain the promotions and accolades that will propel your career forward at a breakneck speed.

For college students, preparing yourself means taking steps like maintaining a consistently high GPA, test-driving potential careers and impressing potential future employers through internships, participating in extracurricular activities, and doing a “heart check” on your major – are you majoring in something you excel at and that truly captivates your interest where you can be passionate about it?

For professionals, preparing yourself means continuing your education, building and contributing to formal and informal networks, maintaining an active intellectual interest and knowledge capital in your career and your life, staying current on the latest business trends and demands in your field, taking on project assignments, asking your boss what you can do to become a better performer, and seizing every opportunity to stay front and center by volunteering for committees and gladly accepting additional work.

If you doubt the value of preparation, or perhaps feel you are already so good at what you do that you can slack off a bit when it comes to preparing, a brief look at the careers of pro basketball legends Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Michael Jordan will be instructive. They are undoubtedly two of the best players in the history of the NBA (many experts rank them one-two, in both orders) and both were explosive forces on the court from the moment they started their careers till the moment they ended them (of course, Johnson retired and unretired once and Jordan did it twice!). Blessed with immense natural athletic ability and incredible knowledge of the game of basketball, these men could easily have shown up at games with minimal preparation and still won championships and probably made the Hall of Fame.

But they didn’t. Both were notorious for being the first to arrive at practice and last to leave, every single time. Both put in huge amounts of personal time in the offseason staying in shape and working on basketball fundamentals so they would be able to start the season at peak performance level. Less talented teammates couldn’t help but be inspired to practice harder when they saw how seriously two of the all-time best players took their preparation.

It is also not a coincidence that both men have had highly successful post-basketball careers as business executives and corporate spokesmen. Their dedication and preparation helped give them sterling reputations as true “winners” which everyone wants to associate with, and undoubtedly they take the same no-nonsense, hyperprepared approach to their business lives as they did their basketball lives. If Magic and Michael needed lots of preparation, so do you!

Wondering how your efforts to be prepared stack up against the pros? Let’s compile a basketball–themed “shootaround” to measure your preparation. Rate how strongly you agree that each of the following preparedness statements applies to you today from 1-5, with 1 equaling strongly disagree and 5 equaling strongly agree:

1. I have a fully realized ideal of personal and professional success around which I build all my preparatory efforts.
2. I have the utmost confidence that I am truly prepared to achieve success and have no doubts about my ability to overcome any obstacle, no matter how unpredictable.
3. I have mastered the specific skills necessary to achieve success by being a branded expert in my chosen field, organization, business and or company.
4. I have obtained all the credentials necessary to achieve success by being a branded expert in my chosen field , organization, business and/or company.
5. I feel a burning competitive desire that pushes me to always take additional steps toward being prepared rather than feel satisfied with my preparatory efforts.
6. I know the skill sets and the mental attitudes of three people who have achieved success in the area that I want to succeed.
6.5 I gain a new competitive skill on at least a quarterly basis.

Now that you’ve taken the test, let’s analyze your score:

If you scored from 7-13, you launched an airball. You haven’t taken any real steps to prepare yourself for success and are relying on blind luck and last-second thinking to overcome whatever obstacles come your way.

If you scored from 14-20, your ball glanced off the rim. You have taken a few quick steps to get ready to succeed, but hurrying now will only make success take longer to arrive later.

If you scored from 21-26, you hit a free throw, worth one point. You have done all the obvious things it takes to prepare for success in your chosen field, organization, business and/or company, but so have most of your competitors. Those who take extra steps and think outside the box in their preparation are the ones who will stand out.

If you scored from 27-33, you hit a regulation two-point basket. You have gone above and beyond the norm to prepare and are ready for some serious competition. But are you ready to win?

If you scored a 34 or 35, you hit a three-pointer. Congratulations! You have taken the lessons of Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan to heart and have thoroughly prepared yourself for all contingencies, including unknowns, and done the groundwork necessary to truly stand out from the rest of the competition. You are fit to compete for a championship and maybe even have a Hall of Fame career!

http://www.themichaeldbrown.com

Bakeries often have two options for their bread customers: fresh and day-old. No big surprise, the fresh bread typically sells for more than the day-old variety, which people only buy if they are short on money or possibly making croutons.

Brands are a lot like bread – fresh brands are more in demand and bring in more money than brands that are old and stale. People who achieve meaningful and long-term success personally and professionally understand the critical importance of staying fresh. You can’t just land your newly developed personal brand today, put it on a shelf and expect it to carry you throughout your career and life while you sit back and reap its rewards.

Anyone who has ever been in love (or even thought they were in love) can attest to this. The initial courtship is passionate and you can’t see enough of each other. But as you know, time goes on, competition enters, and that once passionate flame begins to flicker and eventually burns out. If a relationship is to have any chance of thriving long-term success you’ve got to keep it fresh, right?

You are essentially in a relationship, or pursuing a relationship, with bosses, clients, co-workers, customers, teachers, etc. For your relationships with the people who consume your brand to thrive long-term, your brand needs to stay fresh, current and vibrant enough to retain their interest and outshine the other brands vying for their hearts.

Or to use another analogy, right now Major League baseball teams are in the heart of spring training. For about six weeks before the start of the official season, teams practice, work out, bring in minor leaguers and possible free agent signees for evaluation, and play exhibition games.

Even the most experienced and accomplished veterans can be seen at their team’s spring training complex (which to lessen the sting are generally located in either Florida or Arizona), running sprints, chasing ground balls and performing other repetitive, mundane tasks to help them prepare for the upcoming season.

Why do some of the world’s most highly-paid athletes subject themselves to this often dull and grueling annual routine? Because they realize that after a long winter away from baseball they need to sharpen their skills and improve their physical conditioning so they are fresh as possible once the season starts in April. If people who in some cases already earn upwards of $25 million a year can make the effort to stay fresh, so can you!

Wondering how your efforts to stay fresh stack up against the pros? Let’s compile a baseball–themed “box score” of your freshness. Rate how strongly you agree that each of the following fresh statements applies to you today from 1-5, with 1 equaling strongly disagree and 5 equaling strongly agree:

1. My friends and colleagues come to me for the most up to date information.
2. If you are looking for fresh ideas, I am the one.
3. My current skillset is the most competitive out of anyone I may come up against for a job and/or promotion.
4. I am aware of the latest technology that can help me personally and professionally.
5. When my friends and colleagues want a fresh perspective or strategy I am the first person they call.
6. The last book that I read was one that was published within the last 12 months.
6.5 My resume is current, up to date and competitive.

Now that you’ve taken the test, let’s analyze your score:

If you scored from 7-13, you have struck out. You know what that means: nobody wants to purchase your brand and you’ll soon be taken off the shelf.

If you scored from 14-20, you hit a single. There is minimal demand for your personal brand, but only at a steep discount and when the more popular and competitive brands are all sold out.

If you scored from 21-26, you hit a double. Your brand will sell if it stays on the shelf long enough, but anyone seeking real fresh results will look elsewhere.

If you scored from 27-33, you hit a triple. Your brand is a respectable choice for the discerning connoisseur, but not the top choice.

If you scored a 34 or 35, you hit a home run. Congratulations! You have the brand that is most in demand and fetches the highest prices. You sell out early in the morning, when only the most competitive shoppers are out evaluating the available brands.

http://www.themichaeldbrown.com

Just give yourself a little Fresh PASSION this Valentine’s Day and Beyond

While I was in college, I articulated my methodology for creating a successful personal brand (though at that time I hadn’t classified it into this brilliant acronym). I called it Fresh P.A.S.S.I.O.N., a convenient acronym that stands for Preparing yourself, Aspiring to reach your goals, Staying laser-focused, Selling your value, Invigorating yourself, Omitting the negative, and Nailing the brand.

And of course all the passion in the world won’t enable you to achieve success if you employ an outdated, stale approach to your career, your business or your college matriculation which is why I make sure to put “Fresh” first!

Fresh…
What exactly does each of these terms mean? “Fresh” means doing something every day to enhance your brand so that it stays fresh – keeping your skills sharpened, packaging yourself well.

Preparing…
“Preparing yourself” means continuing your education through classes, professional development, building and contributing to formal and informal networks, and simply maintaining an active intellectual interest and knowledge capital in your career and your life.

Aspiring…
“Aspiring to reach your goals” means having particular ambitions and then setting out to achieve your goals – aim at nothing and you’re guaranteed to hit it!

Staying laser-focused…
“Staying laser-focused” means intently focusing on each area of Fresh PASSION, otherwise you’ll miss the mark and not deliver your brand.

Selling…
“Selling your value” means understanding your return on investment (ROI), having confidence in your fullest potential, and constantly searching for new opportunities that will help you meet even exceed that potential.

Invigorating…
“Invigorating yourself” means having the tenacity and discipline to go the distance and secure your personal and professional success – fan the flame within and catch on fire!

Omitting…
“Omitting the negative” means learning from the inevitable negative experiences you will encounter without dwelling on them or letting them consume the valuable real estate in your head – you have so much more ahead of you!

Nailing…
And last but surely not least, “Nailing the brand” means successfully packaging your substance (your core) up and putting a bow on it so that you become a fresh brand that can successfully compete and WIN internally and externally (even in this turbulent environment), which will enable you to achieve exponential personal and professional success.

Fresh PASSION sounds great, Michael, but what if I’m not 100% sure what I’m aiming for?
“Success” can be a vague concept. In general it means “doing well and getting what you want,” but unless you know what you want to do and toward what end, devising a success plan is a pointless endeavor. To help build a framework to support your Fresh PASSION activities, write down your perfect day. Don’t leave out any small details; think large and globally.

Consider and answer questions such as: What does your family look like? What’s your financial picture? What career do you have? What does your personal life look like? Where do you live? Where do you travel? What are your credentials? How do you give some of your success back to the community?

What’s your “perfect” day?
Now compare your perfect day to your typical day, and see where you come pretty close to living it and where you fall short. Those areas where you fall short are the areas that need some Fresh PASSION applied first!

My own perfect day includes living debt-free, staying fresh and up-to-date in my area of branded expertise, speaking for Fortune 500 companies and business schools, and taking the time and effort to strengthen my relationship with my family. Currently all these “perfect” situations are a reality, but that hasn’t slowed me down. The nice thing about perfection is that you can never truly achieve it; you can always strive to do better and do more.

Ask the Green Bay Packers about their perfect day!
Even if you paid more attention to the commercials or halftime show than the game, there is a pretty good chance you watched at least some of this year’s Super Bowl. And even if you didn’t watch, our ubiquitous 24/7 news culture would make it virtually impossible for you not to have heard that the Green Bay Packers won. More impressively, they won despite suffering injuries to 15 starting players during the season, needing to win three straight road games in the playoffs leading to the Super Bowl, and having eight starting players miss most or all of the Super Bowl itself due to injury.

How did the Packers overcome these obstacles? By remaining passionate about the game of football, focusing on winning with laser intensity, and finding fresh ways to win when the odds seemed hopeless. The Packers, one of football’s legendary franchises (the Lombardi Trophy which goes to the Super Bowl winner is named for late, great Packers coach Vince Lombardi, who coached the Packers to victory in the first two Super Bowls), also stayed true to their brand image of athletic excellence. As a result, the team members collectively experienced the perfect day for anyone playing in the NFL: winning the Super Bowl.

http://www.themichaeldbrown

Packaging is Key to Your Brand Image
After developing the substance of your personal brand and landing it, you need to nail, package and market it to your audience (employer, group, organization).

Answer these questions: Who am I? What do I want to be? How do I want to be perceived? Most of us don’t think of ourselves as “a package,” but all of us are packages (i.e., “she is so plain, don’t depend on him he will never deliver, he is just boring”). Here is the trick; you want to make sure that you control your packaging (the look, feel, and experience) and the message that illuminates from it.

Or to look at it another way, since we are in the holiday season, think of your personal brand as a gift. Because it is; you are offering your time, expertise and talent to serve the needs of the marketplace.

Now think of gifts you have received over the years. The first thing you always notice about a gift is how it’s wrapped. Does it come in a solid package covered in colorful paper with a fresh, original pattern and a shiny bow on top? Maybe a nice personalized card attached? Or is it stuffed into an old shoe box with a ripped-up edition of last week’s Sunday funnies halfheartedly thrown around it, held in place with fraying twine?

While this example has been exaggerated for effect (especially the second part), honestly, how many times have you received a gift and had your heart sink before you unwrapped it because of the dull, generic packaging? That’s the main reason we also want to pay less for generic products on the shelf – the packaging is uniformly dull. When we see a package that shouts “Energy, Invigoration, Crispy, Clean, Colorful, Beautiful, Sophisticated, Expensive,” we get excited when it comes as a gift and we are willing to pay more when it comes as a product for sale.

In essence, good packaging helps speed the purchasing decision and leads people to pay top dollars (and that’s what you want your packaging to do right?). Packaging is how you express your personality. So think about how you want to be perceived, what competitive edge you want your packaging to send.

Remember, the way you decide to package your unique brand should be evident in everything that you do and attach your name to, the way you walk, the way your talk, the way you dress, the content and appearance of your resume/cover letter, your award winning interview.

Also remember, the market can spot a phony a mile away! Your brand needs to reflect your core substance. Build your brand around your genuine strengths, not the ones you think the market wants to pay a lot of money for right now. You will always do better in the long run by being yourself, both in business and in life.

Nailing your brand is not something you do once and walk away from, it is a constant process of fine-tuning and adjusting your brand to the changing needs of the market and your changing interests, abilities, experiences and skills.

How have you tweaked your brand’s “packaging” to make it shiny and new? Share your story!

http://www.themichaeldbrown.com

Make Sure You’re In Touch with Your Customers!

You may have heard the recent hoopla surrounding The Gap’s brief experiment in changing its classic logo, which has been around since the department store chain opened in 1969, to a newer, more futuristic “2.0”-looking kind of logo.
The Gap thought it was time to update its 1960s relic of a logo with something sleek and contemporary to show it is a retailer of today, not the past.

However, The Gap’s customers thought differently. As soon as The Gap unveiled the new logo on its website, negative feedback poured in from all corners. Overwhelmingly, customers wanted the “blue box” logo they had known and loved for 40-plus years.

Of course, had The Gap asked its customers how they felt about the logo first, all this trouble could have been avoided. At least The Gap was smart enough to preview the new logo online before going ahead and slapping it on storefronts all over the country (I bet Coca-Cola wishes the Internet had been a mainstream phenomenon when it launched “New Coke” in 1985!), but it generated enough ill will to prompt Marka Hansen, president of Gap Brand North America, to issue a public apology.

Before pointing a finger at the Gap for its branding blunder, ask yourself, do you really know what your customers (current employers, clients, colleagues) think about your brand? Do you know what your potential customers (future employers, clients, colleagues) think about your brand? How are you perceived in the market? Does your brand image need to be refreshed and modernized, or do you have a well-respected “classic” brand your clients would hate to see altered?

Don’t follow in The Gap’s footsteps and make a major branding move before obtaining client feedback. Ask trusted current and future clients, as well as friends, relatives, etc., how they perceive your brand. Is everything in order, or are some changes in order to maximize your market potential?

One thing The Gap did correctly, if a bit too late, was use the web to offer a preview and collect feedback. You should have a professional website as well as an active (and professional) presence on major social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Use them to their fullest advantage – you can collect much more information from far more people much faster online than through any other method. Of course, also be aware that online is permanent, sometimes things that sound harmless when spoken aloud can take on unintended connotations in writing, etc.

Don’t let a gap between you and your clients hamper your exponential success. The Gap used to have an advertising tagline, “Fall into the gap,” but you’re better off closing the gap entirely!

Have you ever made a change to your brand or image that proved to be a mistake? How did you rectify it? Share your story!

http://www.themichaeldbrown.com

The Dangers of Brand Overpromotion

The term “brand overpromotion” may sound like an oxymoron, especially coming from a guy like me. After all, I’m the one telling everybody to “sell their value” and “stay invigorated” in their pursuit of brand market share and recognition. But don’t promote yourself into an image that is impossible to live up to.

While I wouldn’t advise basing your brand image around your weaker points, the fact remains that we are all human, which by definition means we are all imperfect. Therefore, it is OK to base your brand on being perfect or virtually perfect in certain key areas (if you can back it up with your performance), but don’t try to spread that perfection to every other aspect of your life.

I’m as sick of hearing about Tiger Woods and his marital problems as anyone else, but his misfortunes of the last several months illustrate the branding pitfall I’d like you to avoid. Tiger is about as perfect a golfer as you will ever see. Golf experts will tell you the key to his game is he is simply good at every aspect of it. Even most of the greats had at least one flaw in their game; Tiger really does not.

Tiger intelligently parlayed this phenomenal golf ability into both a lucrative career as a professional athlete and an even more lucrative career as a professional spokesperson and product promoter. People mesmerized by his seemingly inhuman skill on the golf course were eager to swing his clubs, wear his spikes, and maybe even drive his car or wear his aftershave.

All well and good. But where Tiger erred was when he started to expand his brand image from being a guy who was perfect at golf to being a guy who was perfect at everything. The perfect humanitarian, the perfect role model, the perfect husband and father.

I won’t bore you by rehashing what you already know. Tiger’s personal imperfections have been exposed for all to see. Because they clash so violently with the brand image of complete human perfection he cultivated, they are far more damaging to his brand than if he had narrowed its scope to perfection on the golf course, where he could legitimately back it up.

I am not condemning Tiger for whatever personal mistakes he may have made and I truly wish him and his family healing and rejuvenation. But I am pointing out that there is a reason he is continually lambasted for his less-than-perfect personal life while fellow pro golfer John Daly, who has created a brand image of a lovable buffoon which seems to serve him well, gets a free pass for his numerous divorces and highly public problems with excessive eating, drinking, gambling and smoking. I’m hardly suggesting you take the John Daly route with your brand image either, just that you find a happy medium.

Have you ever overpromoted your brand? How did you rectify the situation?

http://www.themichaeldbrown.com

A Healthy Brand Requires a Healthy You

Everyone knows the secret to success in building a brand, or anything else, is hard work and lots of it. Look at the rigorous training schedules Olympic athletes undergo for four years just to compete in a few events. And even for the 99.99% of us who are not Olympians, getting ahead in life means devoting your spare time to practical ends.

For the most part, this is all well and good. Your brand needs to be constantly freshened and promoted if it is to stand out among all the competing brands out there. But believe or not, there is such a thing as working too hard on building your brand.

Let me give you the example of a colleague who has been slowly but steadily building a brand as a self-employed freelance professional since getting laid off from his last full-time job about four years ago. He started slowly with a few short-term assignments here and there, but kept his head down, networked relentlessly and treated even the smallest job with the utmost seriousness and dedication. He also accepted every work offer that came his way, even one-hour projects that only paid a pittance.

Lo and behold, after a couple of tough years this work and dedication began paying off. Clients came back to him with more assignments and also recommended him to their associates and acquaintances. He continued to take on all comers. By late last year, he was working constantly and still fielding offers for more work.

Considering the state of the economy, having more work than you can fit in your schedule is not the worst problem you can have. However, as a result of stress and exhaustion, my colleague wound up developing a painful illness that sidelined him for a couple of weeks, causing immense difficulties in his personal and professional life. He had branded himself sick, so to speak. Now he is feeling much better and reorganizing his life to prevent future branding-related health mishaps.

Remember, a healthy brand starts with a healthy you! Unless you are sound in mind, body and spirit, you will be unable to produce your best effort, and your brand will suffer. Sleep is okay, and so is spending a Saturday afternoon getting some fresh air instead of catching up on paperwork. Sometimes working a little less produces a lot more!

What steps do you take to avoid “branding yourself sick?” Share your advice for a healthy, balanced approach to brand-building.

http://www.themichaeldbrown.com

This New Year, Make Every Day Count for Your Brand

So it is now the middle of January and for many of you, those pesky New Year’s resolutions to eat less, exercise more, get up earlier on Saturday mornings, call Aunt Martha more regularly, etc., have probably already gone by the wayside. I’m not judging you; it is hard to maintain these commitments in the face of the craziness that is everyday life in 21st century America (or any other country).

However, I propose that in this still-New Year, you dedicate yourself to one simple resolution: make every day count for your brand. That may sound like an awfully tall order, but it’s actually easier than you think.

To make every day truly count for your brand, all you have to do is make one extra effort you otherwise might not have made. If it’s five minutes before the workday is over and you’re tempted to slip out the back door, stay at your desk and make one more client phone call. If there’s a valuable networking session scheduled at the same time as your favorite slew of prime time TV shows, get the TiVo working and go mingle with your professional peers. Hand out that last business card in your wallet; it isn’t that expensive to get more printed.

Making an extra phone call or blowing off a night of TV may not sound like things that make a huge difference, and in and of themselves they probably don’t. But when you keep doing them day in, day out for a whole year, the cumulative effect will be tremendous. Your name and face will be much more present and recognizable, and over time that extra effort will become noticed and help build you a solid brand reputation as a reliable, hard-working professional.

Best of all, after taking an extra step every day for a whole year, it will become a set part of your routine and you won’t even have to worry about making every day count for your brand a resolution for 2011. So next year you can focus on shedding those 10 extra pounds, or going to the gym instead of sleeping late on Saturdays, or calling Aunt Martha to thank her for that lovely hand-knit argyle sweater she seems to give you every Christmas.

http://www.themichaeldbrown.com

What types of extra steps do you take on a daily basis to help build your brand? Share your tips with your fellow brand-builders!

Delivering the Goods is Half the Battle

Building a premium brand should be the goal of every business and every person. When most people think of a “premium brand,” they think of a product, service or individual that delivers exceptionally high quality at a good value. All too many people think building a premium brand stops there. But that’s not all there is to it.

To illustrate exactly what I mean, let me use the recent experience a colleague had with his premium brand flat screen LCD TV as an example of how the brand image of even the highest quality product can be damaged by inferior follow-up.

My colleague paid a large sum of money to purchase an LCD TV from one of the most well-known and respected manufacturers in the marketplace at the beginning of this year. He even had several relatives give him gift cards to a leading consumer electronics retail chain for Christmas in order to help defray the cost. The TV worked perfectly for about eight months, until one day it mysteriously went on the fritz. After carefully checking the cable connection, electrical outlet, remote control, etc. for problems and finding none, he called the manufacturer’s help line, as the TV was still under one-year factory warranty.

Following a rather lengthy wait on hold, my colleague finally spoke with a customer service representative, who efficiently if dispassionately ran him through a series of remote diagnostic tests that neither discovered nor solved the root of the problem. After being put on hold for another several minutes, my colleague was informed that because his TV was smaller than 42 inches, he would be ineligible for a home visit from a technician and instead would have to schlep the TV to the nearest approved warranty repair center. This happened to be a mom-and-pop TV repair shop located about 40 minutes from his house. To add insult to injury, mom and pop did not offer weekend or evening hours, meaning he would have to take time off work to both bring the TV in for repairs and then pick it up!

Apparently the TV gods were playing some sort of cosmic joke on my colleague, because after being left unplugged overnight, his TV mysteriously started working again. But the damage to this premium brand had already been done. Not because the TV broke down, which unfortunately can happen at any time with even the best electronic devices. But because once the goods were delivered, the manufacturer essentially wrote him off.

To truly build a premium brand, you need to offer premium follow-up. Customer service does not end after the customer pays the bill! Even if a customer or client has an issue months or years later, you need to offer fast, courteous service and make every effort to resolve the issue at your own inconvenience, not the customer’s. This type of follow-up shows you truly stand by your brand and distinguishes the merely good brands from the great ones.

In addition to offering high-quality goods, premium retail brands like Nordstrom and L.L. Bean further justify the admittedly high prices they charge with extremely generous and convenient return policies. Use them as your guidepost for your customer follow-up policies, not manufacturers of expensive TVs who provide a quality brand experience until something breaks down.

Have you ever experienced poor customer service follow-up that damaged your perception of a brand? Share your story!

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