Friday, March 23, 2012

Are you your own BRAND?

Do you have a brand vision? Are you consistent in promoting your vision? Do you know how to effectively communicate your vision? For some help in creating and maintaining your brand, the secret weapon is David McNally’s and Karl D. Speak’s book, Be Your Own Brand – Achieve More of What You Want by Being More of Who You Are.

As the authors explain in the book’s introduction: “Everyone has a brand, and anyone can be a strong brand. It doesn’t involve changing your personality – you can be an introvert or extrovert. And it’s definitely not about trying to be something you’re not. The difference between one personal brand and another is that the person with a strong brand utilizes his or her special qualities to make a difference in the lives of others.”

The book was originally written back in 2002, at a time when personal branding was not as evolved as it is today. But thanks to social media, we now have the tools to shine as individuals, which is completely different than when only businesses were the embodiment of a brand.

McNally and Speak define a brand as “a relationship – not a statement. It is not a matter of contrived image, or colorful packaging, or snappy slogans, or adding an artificial veneer to disguise the true nature of what’s within. In fact, a “branded” relationship is a special type of relationship – one that involves the kind of trust that only happens when two people believe that there is a direct connection between their value systems.” McNally and Speak clarify that a personal brand “is a perception or emotion, maintained by somebody other than you, that describes your outstanding qualities and influences that person’s relationship with you.”

Does your personal brand accurately reflect what you want it to? You need brand dimensions (the combination of standards and style that defines the unique attributes of your brand) and a personal brand promise (a concise, meaningful, and inspiring statement that sums up the relationship you have with someone else). Then, your personal brand has great potential. But you’re not done yet. McNally and Speak offer 11 guiding principles:

[1] Develop and refine your personal brand platform
[2] Be brand proud
[3] Audit your brand promise
[4] Be authentic
[5] Make sure the signals you send convey relevance to others
[6] Be consistent
[7] Make sure your package reflects your contents
[8] Brands are known by the company they keep
[9] Find alignment between your personal brand and your employer’s brand – if possible
[10] Start counting relationships as part of your asset base
[11] Go social or go home

What would you add to further develop a personal brand?

Connect with David on Twitter:!/EvenEagles

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Connect with Karl on Twitter:!/speakk

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Sunday, March 18, 2012

R.I.P. Encyclopaedia Britannica - You'll Be Missed

Did you hear the recent announcement that the 244-year-old Encyclopaedia Britannica would cease its print editions? This means that the 32-volume set would no longer sit on people’s home library shelves or school library shelves. As one who often turned the pages of this amazing set of books during my youth, I was extremely saddened by this news.

First, the depth of the information and the quality of the photos, drawings, and maps were second to none. They took me to places that I could only dream about, from animal safaris in Africa as far away as the moon. They showed me in-depth scientific drawings and detailed maps that explained how complex machinery worked. They featured photos and images of people from history in places that I could only imagine. Somehow, holding a heavy book and physically turning the pages that contained all of this information was a special experience – something that a modern smartphone or tablet cannot capture.

Second, there was no surprise that the publishing industry was going through a metamorphosis – similar to how a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. Some tech industry experts would even describe the change to be just as dramatic as that of the caterpillar due to the fact that so many newspapers are closing their doors and going out of business. Where was the leadership team at Encyclopaedia Britannica during the last 15 years as the Internet grew up?

Third, the evolution of the digital ecosystem presented a plethora of options for Encyclopaedia Britannica. The Encyclopaedia Britannica could have partnered with Google or an earlier search engine and provided content. This financial arrangement could have kept the print editions in production. The Encyclopaedia Britannica could have offered content on a tier basis, similar to The New York Times and other news entities who offer online content for a fee. There could have been daily free content with weekly, monthly, or per article/topic rates. Note, an Encyclopaedia Britannica app is available for the iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch at the iTunes store.

Lastly, based on changes in education, where was the marketing arm of the company? While it provided specific websites for K-12 schools, universities, public libraries, and consumers, why wasn’t Encyclopaedia Britannica front and center with its product offering? Where were the corporate sponsorships and strategic partnerships?

There had to be better ways to integrate technology with what appeared to be an outdated business model. But any way that you look at it, this is a disappointing consequence of technology. However, while continuing to ponder this news, I was reminded that fans of horse-drawn carriages may not have been too happy when the first automobile appeared with its noise and engine smoke. Today, most of us couldn’t exist without modern transportation.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Top 10 Reasons to Implement Employee Onboarding – If You Want Your Business to Provide Great Customer Service

In today's challenging economy, companies of all sizes need to stand out in order to attract new customers and retain existing customers. One way to stand apart from the competition is by providing excellent customer service. Oddly, many companies are providing poor or even horrible service these days. But one way to create quality customer service is to invest in your employees. While this is not a new idea, it is often difficult to implement on a consistent basis. The solution is to implement employee onboarding – and ten reasons are detailed below. I have provided five reasons, and Gina Abudi has provided the other five.

According to Wikipedia, “Onboarding or organizational socialization refers to the mechanism through which new employees acquire the necessary knowledge, skills, and behaviors to become effective organizational members and insiders. Tactics used in this process include formal meetings, lectures, videos, printed materials, or computer-based orientations to introduce newcomers to their new jobs and organizations. Research has demonstrated that these socialization techniques lead to positive outcomes for new employees such as higher job satisfaction, better job performance, greater organizational commitment, and reduction in stress and intent to quit. These outcomes are particularly important to an organization looking to retain a competitive advantage in an increasingly mobile and globalized workforce."

Allow me to introduce Gina Abudi, President of Abudi Consulting Group in New Hampshire. She has more than 20 years of experience working with organizations of all sizes from small businesses to global organizations. Gina shares her expertise about projects, processes, and people with clients and often presents at conferences, forums, and corporate events on management and project management topics. She has also written a variety of white papers and case studies, and co-wrote a book about best practices for small business. You can find Gina on Twitter, her company website, and her Blog.

Without further ado, here are my five reasons:
[1] Create a connection: From day one, new employees realize that they are valued because they go through the same instructional sessions as everyone else – which creates a level playing field – no one is exempt from the process.

[2] Explain culture: New employees learn about the company’s way of doing business, its mission, its values, and its competitive advantage. Without an explanation on day one, new employees can easily wonder why a company differs from the competition.

[3] Teach technology: New employees should be introduced to all technological tools that will be at their disposal, ranging from desktop computers to laptops to fax machines to printers to telephones to smartphones to tablets, etc. No new employee should be hindered from doing actual work due to technology.

[4] Clarify procedures: New employees need to understand how company procedures work, who reports to whom, how the chain of command works, how authority is determined, how departments work together, etc. These procedures can be outlined in organizational charts, presentations, spreadsheets, etc., but they must be explained at the outset.

[5] Learn from failures: New employees enter their new jobs full of energy, enthusiasm, and with an abundance of new ideas. But they need to understand why previous successes happened as well as why previous failures happened before jumping into the specifics of their positions.

And now, Gina Abudi joins the discussion. Here are her five reasons:
[6] Increase efficiencies and effectiveness: New employees get up-to-speed much quicker, and therefore, are productive sooner in their roles when time is invested up front in onboarding them and showing them the ropes.

[7] Have a buddy to lean on: New employees appreciate the opportunity to have someone they can rely on right at the start. Someone who knows the ropes, can provide guidance, introduce them around the company, have lunch with them, and to whom they can ask those “silly” questions.

[8] Introduce customers: If your employees are on the road – such as sales folks or customer support specialists – be sure to have them bring new employees along with them to learn the ropes. It helps the new employees to get to know the customer and provides them with an increased level of comfort when they are with someone who already knows and understands the customer.

[9] The unwritten rules: There are unwritten work rules in every company – such as usual hours worked in a day, how decisions get made, how much risk is tolerated, who to go to when you need some help or need to get something done, etc. Rather than letting new employees learn these unwritten rules through trial and error, give them a leg up by sharing the information up front. It increases the new employee’s chances of success within the organization.

[10] Relationship building: Strong working relationships are essential to every employee’s success. Give them a head start in building relationships within the organization by helping them connect with others within the business on day one through personal introductions, lunches with members from various department members, and after hour events.

I would like to thank my employee engagement colleague, Gina Abudi, for sharing her perspective. Employee engagement is a critical part of building successful long-term employees who become amazing advocates for your brand and the best result is excellent customer service, which in turn, creates long-term satisfied customers.

So what do you think? What are some of your reasons?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Do you have a web presence that wins?

Long gone are the days when just a brochure version of a website would suffice. Today, in addition to unique graphics and compelling copy, a website with bells and whistles is essential for a business. Some might go one step further and say that an amazing website is mission-critical for business success.

A book by Philippa Gamse reinforces that belief. The book is 42 Rules for a Web Presence That Wins – Essential Business Strategy for Website and Social Media Success. As Jim Blasingame explained in the foreword, “Thanks to the Internet and associated elements and resources, customers have new expectations that preclude those traditional business models that are not supported by a complementary online strategy. Your existing customers are online deciding who to do business with before you know they’re interested, and prospects are doing the same thing before you even know they exist. At this moment, merely being competitive isn’t enough – you will also have to be relevant...If you seek that twenty-first century marketing strategy that youre going to need to forge your way successfully in the Age of the Customer, you’ve found your guide, Philippa Gamse.

Philippa’s book is full of excellent web strategies, but here are some of my favorites:
  • Appoint your web ambassador – this person is in charge of your web presence and also analyzes and understands the traffic information.
  • Think outside departmental boundaries – many, if not all, departments should have a voice in a company’s overall website strategy – no single department should create the site in a tunnel.
  • Make informed technology choices – avoid the common trap of designing solutions to work within current constraints, your technology choices must support your goals but should not dictate them.
  • Know if your site needs a touch-up vs. a complete makeover.
  • Learn to tell the baby from the bathwater – make sure that coding differentiates page URLs so that all are unique (for example, there is only one home page, so multiple pages should not link to the home page) – do not allow designers to focus on a design that ignores search engines and specific calls to action.
  • Identify all of your audiences – and keep them all in mind.
  • Leverage everything – every page should have a strategy.
  • Show up and be real – the “About Us” section of a website or social media site is critical, so don’t ignore it because you already know about your company.

There are hundreds or even thousands of web design, development, and strategy books available, but 42 Rules is a must-read because you can implement the rules each time you refresh your site.

Connect on Twitter:!/pgamse

Read Philippa’s Blog: