Tag Archives: personal branding

Branding: It’s Mastering the Mind

Marketing is the battle for the customer’s mind – owning a share of mind. The process of strategic brand management is a two part exercise. The first part is getting into the mind by displacing something that already exists. The mind is like a dripping sponge and the only way to own a position is to replace a brand image that already occupies a share of mind.

Building a brand image is a long term proposition that requires an in depth knowledge of how the mind works. Words are the key to the mind and each word has either a positive, negative, or neutral value. So the process of building brand equity begins with the development of the right words to build a brand’s “unique value proposition”. That is what is: faster, better, or cheaper, than what already exists?

Obviously, Tesla has created a unique value proposition for their new model 3 that is reflected in the over 300,000 deposits of $1,000 each they have received so far from customers around the world for a car that will not be available for over a year, or more.

The second part of strategic brand management is maintaining and protecting that share of mind and growing the value of the brand with other customers. Brand equity is the value of a brand in the global marketplace. Some examples of the worth of a brand are: Apple ($154 Billion), Google ($83 Billion), Microsoft ($75 Billion), Coca-Cola ($59 Billion), Facebook ($53 Billion), etc.

Some classic examples of brands that have sustained and grown brand equity for many years are Nationwide Insurance (over 50 years) with their well known tune: “nationwide is on your side”. Peyton Manning, Nationwide’s current spokesman, only has to hum Nationwide’s infectious jingle for an instantaneous connection with customer’s minds. A competitor, Allstate, has another over 50 year old similar, but still effective slogan: “you are in good hands”.

Once you hear the familiar Intel “bing”, you don’t have to wait for the “bong” because it already has resonated. An over 100 year slogan that still resonates is Maxwell House Coffee’s: “good to the last drop”. And Wheaties: “breakfast of Champions”.

In conclusion, brand equity is made up of the intersection of the DNA of the brand with the DNA of the customer.

Personal Branding: It’s Not For Me?

It’s really hard to believe that we’ve entered a phase in history where employees have to brand themselves to gain access to opportunity.  There was once a day when people could just work hard within their company for which they would get rewarded with raises, bonuses and promotions.  However, it seems that these perquisites have become endangered and almost extinct.  Companies have created organizational structures that don’t resemble anything we studied in business school.  In fact, some companies say they don’t have any structure at all.  This could be a sign that those once great benefits of work are scarce and you’ll have to figure out how to get one for yourself.  With a lack of structure comes a lack of a visible career path.  This small change has allowed companies to step away from the career development of their own employees.  Basically, it’s all up to you now.

If this wasn’t enough, recruiters and HR have changed the rules of hiring by seeking out what they call ‘passive’ candidates.  In the old days, we didn’t do this.  It was considered to be ‘poaching.’  Some companies today still have rules against ‘stealing’ each other’s talent.  If they are disgruntled and unhappy, that’s one thing but if they are satisfied, we just left them alone.  Today, the passive candidate is a target for new opportunities.  Passive candidates are the people who are working already but not actively looking for another job, leaving those who are unemployed at a disadvantage.

Let’s take a look at a few other things that may be impacting that elusive little critter we call ‘opportunity.’  Technology has greatly improved productivity, which has resulted in a reduction in workforce.  We all thought that this would be a temporary scenario but it wasn’t.  Companies are striving to do more with less.   Another huge game changer is organizational change.  A constantly changing economic landscape means that skills that are in ‘demand’ today may likely be in ‘supply’ tomorrow.

Another challenge is that many professionals feel that new opportunities are found online, exclusively.  While there are many jobs listed on company websites and job boards, it doesn’t mean that’s how you’ll gain access to those opportunities.  I recently spoke with employees at a company who has posted over 50 open positions.  These employees stated that submitting your resume through their website won’t help you get a job.  “They don’t use those resumes.  They use recruiters to find who they want,” one employee stated.  Getting your resume in front of the hiring manager is difficult and best done by someone on the inside.

Even when you are within reach of an opportunity, companies put up more barriers.  The hiring process, according to a study by Glassdoor, has gone from 13 days in 2009 to 23 days in 2013.  The cause for this dragging of the feet by companies is unknown at this time.  Professionals are just embracing the new prolonged interview and vetting process.  I think this stems from the fact that hiring managers are finally being held responsible for making hiring mistakes.  Therefore, they are taking more time to find a candidate that is ‘safe’ but not necessarily the ‘best’ choice.  Of course, as companies continue to reduce headcount, everyone must be able to do more than when they were originally hired.  This leads to inefficiencies in the process.

Lastly, managers, leaders and HR have taken on a whole new mindset when it comes to handing out opportunities.  In the old days, inclusion was the driving principle.  We would look at a person to determine what they had that we needed.  Today, we look first to see what they have that we don’t want.  It’s an exclusion mindset where we seek to rule all candidates out until we find one that just seems to fit.

I know all of this seems to be overwhelming.  It is.  Finding opportunity, even in the land of opportunity, is not easy.  In fact, it’s just as hard to find as anywhere else in the world.  We discriminate on every possible aspect of a person, though we’ll never admit it out loud.  So, how do you fight such forces that seek to separate you from opportunity?  You brand yourself.

Unless you have connections inside the company, you’re unlikely to manifest influence on decision makers.  The best way to bring opportunity closer is to draw those with opportunities closer to you.  Check out the infographic.  There are opportunities and people are looking to give them away.  Are you poised to be found?  Will people like what they see?

Branding is required and that need is here to stay.personal branding infographic

Defining Your Value to Your Company is Crap

The problem with defining our value as a working professional is that most of us tend to do this by highlighting our credentials and allowing our audience to interpret how these accolades can benefit their situation. This can lead to misinterpretation or a downgrading of the true value you offer. More importantly, in today’s society of an instantaneous communication process, it’s more likely to deter your audience from reading your credentials altogether.
As technology expands into new horizons, it focuses on making communications faster and faster. Unfortunately, it means that we will include less and less information but we will convince ourselves that we can make better decisions that way. While I’m not sold on this idea, I think it’s important that we all understand the power of brief messages. Twitter type communications will create an impatient and “get to the point” audience. So, do you want to utilize the little time you’ll have in communicating your value by telling them about your credentials or do you want to briefly describe the benefits you’ll provide that they need?

When it comes to drawing interest from your employer, they are only interested in 3 things: making money, reducing cost and getting someone to do the crap they don’t want to do. If you can develop all of your marketing materials around these ideas, you’ll attract a lot more attention to your skill sets.

Making Money. This is your company’s purpose. There’s no greater value than someone who can generate revenue for their company. Usually, we look to sales people as the creators of growth in the company, which is why they get paid so well. But they aren’t the only ones who can demonstrate this value. You can create products, services, intellectual property, ideas, etc. I had a close friend who earned an MBA the same time I did. He took his new knowledge to the marketing department and helped them solve one of their toughest problems. He took that evidence to the CEO and got a $10,000 raise that week. It’s that easy. Don’t tell them how you can make money. Give them a little example of it. Then, tell them what it is worth to them. Once you put the money in the bank, send me some, since I gave you the idea.

Reducing cost. This is another huge activity companies engage in all the time. If they can reduce the cost to build the products and services, they can improve their margins and make more money. In my first job out of college, I asked my company to fire a contractor they had hired to do some programming for their industrial controls. You know, the software that keeps a production line running that builds products. Anyhow, my company was installing 10 new production lines in a large scale project. The contractor would program a production line, then charge my company money for putting the same program in the next production line. I told the company I could save them $30,000 on each production line. After I proved it, they gave me the project to run. Find better ways to do things with less effort and less time and you’re likely to find yourself in a much better financial position.

The Crap. This is my favorite part of defining your value. Most people don’t consider this to be of value but it’s a great skill to have in your toolbox. Businesses don’t run smoothly. I don’t care how many Harvard grads they hire (and I’ve worked under a few). They will run into obstacles. And when they run into obstacles, it costs the company money to figure out how to get around them. Why? If the problem is spotted near the top of the organization, they’ll contract a consultant to solve the problem who may know less about it than they do. Sometimes companies even create their own problems. I know…it’s hard to believe, but it’s true. I’ve seen companies buy smaller companies, then fire the sales people. Strangely, they can’t sell any products because they don’t understand the market or the customers. Step up and help out.  Opportunities for helping here are abundant.

There are other times you can demonstrate some valuable skills, such as dealing with a “pain in the butt” customer. Companies have to show growth which means sometimes they have to work with customers they would rather not work with because they need the revenue. So they take the work. Here’s your opportunity. These are just a couple of examples of the kind of crap organizations get into in the quest for money. Most of the time no one wants to deal with such headaches. We all want the easy work that allows us to work on our “Career Plan B” during the day. I’m not saying you should sign up to handle all of the crap but it does have value. Here are a few kinds of crap dealing skills you can boast:

• Solving problems
• Dealing with difficult situations
• Creating and Leading Change
• Training and managing new people
• Working with other cultures

Defining your value can be done in just a few steps. First, consider the areas I discussed above. What skills do you possess related to these areas? Write them down. Then, take some time to think about what tangible evidence you have related to each one. What accomplishments prove you have the skill? If you don’t have any supporting evidence, go get some. Find opportunities by talking with other groups in your company about the problems they have. Help solve the issues. You might even take ownership of it and drive it to resolution. Lastly, deliver this info to those who can reward you for your efforts. That’s it….skills, evidence, and delivery.

Where do you market this value? Everywhere. Online profiles, cv/resumes, performance reviews, friends, etc. are great locations for your value. When people know what value you can provide, they’ll keep an eye out for opportunities to use your value, especially when it benefits them. Oh, and remember, getting all the crap jobs at work might not be so bad. It just might be a key definition of your contribution to the company.