From the Same Songbook

Proper messaging is a critical component for a company’s success. Organizations spend millions of dollars over months, or even years, getting their message to consumers just right. It is that important. But your investment in developing the message itself need not be so great to get it right. In fact, for some, the message is so obvious that it takes little effort to create.

Regardless, it what happens once you have set the message that counts. Certainly, you’ll develop collateral. You will use it as a recurring theme through various communications.

What about the rest of your team? Sure, you’ve told them what the new messaging is and shown them all the beautiful ways you are going to use it, with the requisite “oohs” and “ahhhs”. All of that’s great. Now, what tools are you giving your staff so that they are sharing the right message, using the right words and focusing on the right topics? It is a difficult task, made most effective when you not only tell them what to say but also what to avoid.

The only way your message is going to make its way through your various touchpoints in the right way is by ensuring everyone knows exactly what and how to communicate it.

Managing Staff

Whenever you enter a management position that includes managing a staff, there are two types of people you will manage: the people you hire and the people you inherit.

When it comes to hiring, you should have a pretty good idea of what you are looking for. That can create anxiety, especially if you’re new at it. Hiring the right people is its own reward, reflected in your success. Hiring the wrong person…well, that can be a nightmare. And the best way to handle it is to end it as quickly as possible. Letting them linger will just make it worse.

On the other hand are the people you inherit. Typically, they will fall into one of three categories:

  • People who are or have the potential to be stars. You are fortunate to have them.
  • Average workers that aren’t rocking the world but also are doing decent work. You may or may not have hired them yourself, but they’re OK.
  • The ones that should have been fired before you got there, but no one wanted to deal with the problem.

For anyone in one of these categories, the first thing you need to do is assess the individual ability and fit with the rest of the organization. The one thing you are trying to figure out is whether the person is in the best position to succeed. If she is, then the decision is simple—doing well keeps her around; failing to execute means she needs to go.

If, instead, she is not in the best position to succeed, find a better way to match her talent with your needs. Then see how well she executes.

At the end of the day, you are building the best possible team for your brand.

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Profiling for Talent

In a meeting I had with a client yesterday, we discussed two different ways to drive his business forward. Through that discussion, we also identified a pretty good psychographic profile of his clients (he’s in the service industry).

The reason the profile works so well for him—even though it just sort of happened that way—was because he connects with that type of person much better than others.

We brought the discussion back around to building his business, in particular by adding staff. This was the crux of our earlier conversation. Should he go in one direction that would lead to higher revenue with aggressive producers in a shorter time horizon? Or should he go in another direction that took a longer-term approach, was more deliberate and focused on establishing a relationship?

The answer: it depends. To make that decision, he has to understand the sacrifices he would have to make in either scenario. He must consider how it will affect his brand and his ability to deliver on the brand promise. And he should enjoy the people he works with, if at all possible. We shouldn’t have to merely tolerate our co-workers.

So we are working on a psychographic profile for potential staff and putting together a scouting plan to find them. We’re turning his marketing approach for building a client base into a recruiting plan for employees.

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What Determines a Brand’s Value Part 3

Here we have arrived at the third and final set of components making up a brand’s value. You can find the first twelve in my posts from Monday and yesterday.

Your staff and intermediaries. Everyone who touches your product, no matter how much or in what way, impacts the value of your brand. That includes what they say and do, even when they think they are not on the clock or doing so in confidence.

Assessing your competitors. The only way to compete is to understand who your competitors are, what they are doing and how it affects you. Having a fuller understanding of the main brands fighting for your customers will give you a better prediction on how they will react to the moves you make, if at all.

The current brand and product life cycles. A brand life cycle and a product life cycle are not going to be the same. One is going to outlast the other. Which one depends on the industry, the market and the company. Planning accordingly will go far in optimizing your brand’s value.

Your processes and procedures. You must have processes and procedures in place that detail what happens when, how decisions are made, the way information flows and who is accountable for what.

Having evidence of your efforts. We all want to know that our efforts are paying off. For that to happen, there must be specific, measurable goals—that you can actually measure. If not, you may be wasting precious time and resources.

Proper alignment of brand goals with the organizational or ownership goals. The way in which you manage your brand must align with the organization’s or owner’s goals. Bad things happen when there is misalignment, such as poor decision-making, improper spending and diminished brand value.

If you take all 18 of these together, then put the brands value at the center, you create a paddlewheel. And as long as each paddle (the components to the brand’s value) is properly weighted, the wheel will continue to turn efficiently and effectively. This, in turn, increases the actual value.

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The Marketing Mindset

My undergrad microeconomics professor defined economics as “the study of purposeful human behavior.” If you think about it, that makes perfect sense. Supply and demand curves, utility, market baskets, durable and non-durable goods, everything related to the economy is based on people behaving with a specific purpose in mind.

Notice, it is purposeful not rational. There is a significant difference. Often, the purposeful behavior is based on the irrational thought processes of individuals.

For businesses, that means that everything you do must center on creating that purposeful behavior. This must be your mindset.

What is going to make a customer want to buy your product? What compels your employees to deliver excellent service or top-notch quality?

The key elements for both, and several other related questions, are message, image and content. We will discuss these in greater depth starting on Friday, when we look at what makes content work.

Tomorrow is a special treat. I am hosting the Post2Post Virtual Book Tour for Dan Roam’s The Back of the Napkin. Be sure to check it out!

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The Image You Project 2

Sometimes I really wonder what people are thinking. If they’re thinking at all. In case you weren’t aware, people look at what you do both inside and outside of work to determine just how trustworthy you are. Yes, that includes your MySpace and Facebook pages, blog posts, comments, “recreational” activity and other random stuff.

Why? Well, it’s pretty cheap (read: free), and it gives a lot more information about who you are (or who you want people to think you are) than a standard background check. Oh yeah, and it’s easy to find.

It gets worse the higher in leadership positions you go or the more public your image is. Ask Eliot Spitzer and Britney Spears.

Remember, your words and actions say as much, if not more, about the brand you represent as the brand itself. You become a spotlight for it. Which means one of two things:

  1. You can represent a brand that matches your behavior or
  2. You can modify your behavior to match the brand

Yes, have a personality. We are not robots or clones. That would be far too boring. But allow the image of your personality to support and enhance your brand, not destroy it. What may seem like harmless fun or a private matter really isn’t any longer. Especially if outside people looking in might not understand the context.

You also are subject to the halo effect. When you are part of a successful, respected brand, it boosts your own image. The flip side is true as well. Bad acts on the part of one or a few taint all those around them. This profile of Ronn Torossian is an unfortunate example (warning: this story is not for the faint of heart).

Is it fair? Well, yes. And no. Yes, because we willingly participate in these activities. No, because something that we did back in college, or that bender we had over the holidays, may come back to haunt us.

The solution is simple, in an easier-said-than-done kind of way:

  • Project your best possible image, with your unique personality, in public spaces
  • Keep things that should be kept private behind closed doors (and without a way to be archived online)

You are a brand unto yourself. Protect it with all your might.

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Piling On

I am re-watching The Matrix Trilogy, and viewed The Matrix Reloaded this past weekend. In one of the key scenes, our hero battles his nemesis (a self-replicating computer program) on a playground. Once they begin fighting, with Neo (the hero) keeping his enemy at bay, Smith (the nemesis) calls upon dozens of replicas to help.

As with any good martial-arts fight scene, our hero uses the multitudes attacking him to his own benefit.

It’s no different in the business world. We do it all the time. We pile on in a faltering area, thinking that the extra money, manpower or whatever is going to lead us to victory. Instead, we get in our own way.

That’s not to say that marshalling resources is a waste of time, money and effort. Quite the contrary, when used appropriately. Dedicating your salesforce, advertising dollars, promotional activities or discounts usually works when you introduce a new product or a significant change to an existing product.

The waste comes in when you lag sales expectations or lose market share to a competitor, without making any internal changes yourself.

When you find yourself in this latter or similar situation, take a step back. Do a root cause analysis. Find what is at the heart of the problem, and work to correct it. Often, it will help to grab a blank sheet of paper or whiteboard or a napkin and start from scratch.

This also means you have to scrap all of your previous assumptions about what works and what doesn’t.

In the end, you’re likely to find that by simply changing the resources or how you apply them will lead to greater success than piling on more of what you are already doing.

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