Thursday, July 13, 2017

Three Essential Books for Your Summer Reading List

Every summer, we plan extra hours for all sorts of activities. From beach excursions to museum visits to outdoor hikes, the summer is the time to catch up on all the adventures that don’t happen during the rest of the year. In addition to all the fun outdoor adventures, another activity on our summer “to do lists” is reading. Some of us even build a stack of “must-read books” all year-long with the intent to read them during our summer vacations. While you may have some non-fiction or novels on your reading list, I highly recommend that you add these three business books, more specifically these three marketing and leadership books, published this year to your summer reading list.

MORE IS MORE by Blake Morgan
The buzz in today’s competitive and social economy centers on the brand experience, which relies heavily on the customer experience. Businesses stand out by providing the most positive and most memorable customer experience. But how do you accomplish this? There is no secret sauce, and every industry has differences, whether big or small. According to Morgan, there is a customer experience crisis underway, and most brands have no idea how to move their brand from mediocre to extraordinary.

“Instead of being intimidated and shying away from the abundance of new channels and digital platforms, brands need to act quickly and figure out meaningful strategies that can help them meet potential customers at these new touch points...Contrary to popular belief, the customer experience boils down to far more than just sales and customer service…Customer experience is an attitude embraced within the company; it’s a company-wide approach to building an operation that has the customer at its center.”

Here are eight pieces of advice from Morgan:
[1] Hire someone to own the customer experience. Some businesses use the title “Chief Customer Officer,” others use “Chief Engagement Officer,” and others use “Chief Branding Officer.” But no matter what title you use, this individual will represent your customer at the highest level of your organization.
[2] Involve your entire organization. Create and maintain a customer-centric culture. One example is the Walt Disney Company, where all employees or cast members attend Disney University to learn about the culture, corporate lingo, and more.
[3] Meet and serve customers in their preferred channels. If your customers post lots of photos on Instagram, you should have a large and growing presence on Instagram. If your customers post comments or ask questions on Twitter, you should have a large presence on Twitter. Don’t spend time on social platforms simply to say you’re there.
[4] Don’t ignore mobile technology. How does your brand leverage mobile technology to improve your customers’ lives? The answer will determine your mobile strategy.
[5] Offer a strong employee experience. Do your employees have authority to fix problems, or do they pass off the customer from one employee to another with no end in sight?
[6] Be a good corporate citizen. Participate in local, regional, or international philanthropy and involve your employees. Some businesses are known for offering employee philanthropy or volunteer days whereby the businesses close for the day and employees volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, a literacy program, or others.
[7] Embrace change. One example is the evolution of retail. If you only sell in a physical store, your brand may soon disappear. But if you’ve developed a digital presence and strategy, your brand has a better chance of surviving.
[8] Ask this question: What role do customers play in your business? This question should be at the core of all your key discussions.

This book is a revised and updated version of a previously-released book from 2010. The concept behind the book was that “there is a type of leader called Multipliers, who saw, used, and grew the intelligence of others, while other leaders called Diminishers, shut down the smarts of those around them.” There is probably a bit of this concept playing out in every business in America today, and the result is a waste of intellectual capital. This waste of intellectual capital can be viewed in terms of productivity, intellectual growth, and overall manpower hours. The bottom line is that employees suffer because they don’t work to their full potential, leaders suffer because they don’t empower their employees or inspire them, and businesses suffer because they only witness a percentage of work product by their employees – not 100%.

“Some leaders seem to drain intelligence and capability out of the people around them. Their focus on their own intelligence and their resolve to be the smartest person in the room had a diminishing effect on everyone else. For them to look smart, everyone else had to look dumb…In countless settings, these leaders were idea killers and energy destroyers.”

“Other leaders used their intelligence as a tool rather than a weapon. They applied their intelligence to amplify the smarts and capability of people around them. People got smarter and better in their presence. Ideas grew, challenges were surmounted, hard problems were solved.  When these leaders walked into a room, lightbulbs started switching on over people’s heads…These leaders seemed to make everyone around them better and more capable. These leaders weren’t just intelligent themselves – they were intelligence Multipliers. Perhaps these leaders understood that the person sitting at the apex of the intelligence hierarchy is the genius maker, not the genius.”

Wiseman explained the five disciplines of Multipliers:
[1] The Talent Magnet: Attracts talented people and uses them at their highest point of contribution.
[2] The Liberator: Creates an intense environment that requires people’s best thinking and work.
[3] The Challenger: Defines an opportunity that causes people to stretch.
[4] The Debate Maker: Drives sound decisions through rigorous debate.
[5] The Investor: Gives other people ownership for results and invests in their success.

If you know or work for someone who is a Diminisher, you can make a difference in the workplace by sharing the disciplines of Multipliers.

Who has inspired you? This is the question that author Kristi Hedges used as an icebreaker when making a keynote or presentation. Responses included first bosses, colleagues, parents, friends, teachers, politicians, members of the clergy, and more. Every time, though, it had the same result despite the fact that may people were in attendance because they had to be: excitement and passion.

Hedges thought more about the issue and wondered why this level of excitement was missing from many workplaces. “If we want to have inspired companies, then we need inspirational leaders. And that involves being the kind of leader who communicates in a way that creates the conditions for inspiration in others. It’s about making the right connection and letting the inspiration take off from there.”

Hedges offered the following settings for offering inspiration:
[1] One-to-one meetings.
[2] Group meetings: team meetings, status meetings, leadership meetings, and brainstorming meetings.
[3] Presentations.
[4] Networking.
[5] Difficult conversations.

Lastly, “People remember not what you said, but how you made them feel. If you can engage people in real, meaningful conversations that inspire them to think and do more, you’ll be making strong connections that endure…Capture conversations that would otherwise slip by, and use them to give a positive bounce. Make them zing, Inspire because you can. Inspiration can happen anytime, and anywhere, started by you. Be the spark.”

What business book would you recommend reading this summer? Please chime in and share.

Connect and follow these great authors on Twitter:
Blake Morgan: @BlakeMichelleM
Liz Wiseman: @LizWiseman
Kristi Hedges: @KristiHedges

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Five Tips to Create Your Brand Style Guide

What’s one of the most important documents that your company has? While you might think it’s the list of passwords to gain access to your customer database, and that’s certainly important, a brand style guide is critical. In today’s competitive and social economy, a consistent and positive brand experience leads to future business and new customers. Therefore, a brand style guide is essential for the future success of your business.

This post provides five tips to create a brand style guide. A note, this document is a living, breathing document, so it will evolve over time – just as your business evolves. But if you don’t have one, don’t delay, create a brand style guide immediately.

[1] Showcase Your Brand Voice

Is your brand playful or serious? Do you have industry-specific jargon that’s easy to understand, or do you need to provide definitions? It may be easier to explain your brand’s voice by sharing examples with sample sentences. Another way to explain your brand’s voice may be by way of comparisons. Here’s an example from MailChimp: “We’re fun but not silly, expert but not bossy, confident but not cocky.”

[2] Showcase Your Brand Visuals

Is your brand associated with a specific color or colors? Think UPS and brown. Is your brand associated with a specific font? Think Coca-Cola’s swirl. If yes, know the Pantone or PMS colors as well as the CMYK and RGB versions. Also include “Don’t Use” examples with your logo and tagline.

[3] Showcase Consistency

Your brand is not just one logo, one tagline, and one or more colors. Think of how the Apple brand has evolved from the iPod to the iPhone to the iPad. When your main brand evolves and co-brands are created, consistency with the main brand provides credibility. Consumers, users, and stakeholders have developed a bond with your brand, and as a result, you want them to also develop a bond with your other brands. The best way to make this happen is to provide brand consistency. Apple did this by including the “i” in its brand naming structure.

[4] Include Your Legal Team

Ask your legal team to review the style guide. This will accomplish two important goals. First, the legal team will be involved in the process so that if any brand or trademark infringements happen, the legal team will be aware of the document you’ve created. And second, the legal team can share its trademark law expertise and possibly add something to the style guide that was missed by the marketing, design, PR, and/or personnel teams.

[5] Share Your Guide Company-Wide

Once the brand style guide has been completed, don’t toss it into a drawer in the personnel department leader’s office and forget about it. Include it as part of your onboarding process and hold quarterly brand training sessions. Feature it as a PDF on your website in the online press room and feature highlights in a blog post or blog posts on your company’s blog. Apply the guidelines to all other company marketing applications including letterhead and envelopes, business cards, email signatures, PowerPoint presentation templates, meeting agendas, flyers, and more. Use the logo or an approved tweaked version on all social platforms. Make sure that your employees know that they are encouraged to associate themselves with your company/brand when they post in social media but that they must clearly note their online posts as their own (for example, in their Twitter profiles).

And lastly, it is a good idea to provide an introduction to your brand style guide. Here is a sample introduction:

"These guidelines are provided to help carry our brand message to the community. Along with the brandmark, typography, color palette and other visual elements, directions are included to help manage the visual communication materials. This guide should be used as a reference when working with outside vendors and also with internal departments to ensure that everyone is using the (include your company name here) logo and other brand tools in a consistent manner."

What else have you included in your brand style guide? Please chime in and share.