Personal Branding Simplified

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth 

5 Attributes of Personal Branding

Great personal brands are simple, understandable, and straight forward in their brand promise. If you want to create a strong personal brand do yourself a favor and avoid the hype and rhetoric being espoused by the masses of overnight personal branding experts who have suddenly flooded the marketplace. Most so-called personal branding gurus are more akin to modern snake-oil salesmen than they are legitimate professional services providers. Personal Branding as a marketing discipline has regrettably been diluted by the hordes of attention seeking purveyors that seek to separate you from your money by confusing hype with branding. Hype and spin have little to do with creating a growing and sustainable personal brand. Personal brand equity is built over the long-term by doing the right thing, and adhering to the 5 personal branding attributes (see above) that I developed more than a decade ago. 

True personal branding professionals use a values based business process to help clients develop a brand strategy that puts their best foot forward while remaining authentic in their messaging. This is best accomplished by utilizing a solid business process which results in a certainty of tactical execution. Smoke and mirrors gimmicks might work for a short while, but when the ruse begins to unravel there will be a very steep price to pay….the loss of your reputation. 

Strong personal brands are built by understanding that it is the ability to leverage your gifts and talents to help others succeed in achieving their goals and objectives that makes the difference. The following illustration depicts a common sense approach to focusing on the items that truly add depth and breadth to the personal branding process:

Keeping the main thing the main thing

More information on personal branding can be found by viewing other posts in this category or by visiting our personal branding page.

Nationalizing GM

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth 

Nationalizing GM 

General Motors fell on its sword today essentially offering itself up for nationalization. In a previous post entitled “Good Money After Bad” I warned of the evils of government intervention into private enterprise, and now I’m afraid we’re about to reap what we’ve sown. Nothing good comes of bailing-out failed entities. The only thing this exercise in frivolity accomplished was to delay the inevitable, and to waste more taxpayer money. The “Financial Times” had a good piece on this sad moment in American history which I would recommend reading.

CEO Surveys

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

What do they really say?Do CEO Surveys constitute a reliable bellwether, or are they little more than well packaged corporate propaganda pieces? The answer is yes on both accounts. Not only does N2growth conduct CEO Surveys, but so do most other consultancies. It has been my experience that the determining factor in whether or not CEO surveys are reliable can be found solely in whether or not the data is being published for external consumption. In today’s post I’ll share some thoughts about how to discern the value (or lack thereof) of CEO surveys.

While today’s topic should be obvious to all, I find that for many it’s very easy to get caught-up in reading for the sake of reading, rather than understanding what they’re reading, and truly discerning the value of the content being consumed. While good and honorable intentions may exist behind externally published surveys, I have always found them to be of very little value.

Externally published surveys tend to consist of high level, watered-down information full of caveats, posturing and spin. CEOs being publicly quoted often find it difficult to be candid. Their need to balance what’s being said against the fear of unwittingly making forward looking statements, raising the ire of disgruntled shareholders, attracting negative attention from the media, disclosing sensitive information to competitors, giving analysts the wrong impression, or creating regulatory or legal risk simply challenge the credibility of many externally published statements attributed to individual CEOs. Attributed quotes tend to be understated, but mostly positive, while negative statements tend to be generic references to aggregated group sentiments or statistics, or pointed toward “other” companies.

A perfect example of the premise stated above can be demonstrated by reviewing a recent CEO Survey published by PricewaterhouseCoopers in which you’ll find generic negative references like: “The percentage of CEOs who were ‘very confident’ about their one-year revenue growth prospects dropped to 21%, the lowest level in six years.” You not only won’t find any CEOs names attached to this statement, but more importantly there is no supporting information provided for this statement that would allow readers to determine whether or not it bears any relevance or impact upon their individual circumstances. All a reader can discern from this statement is that CEOs realize that we are in a tough economic environment…boy, that’s sure enlightening and helpful.

Here’s another brilliant observation contained in the PWC survey: “Each CEO faces different challenges, but all want to meet the acute demands of survival, preserve the advantages that make them competitive over the long-term, and ensure that their business models are prepared for a return to growth when it comes.” Duhhhhhh.

I’m not suggesting that as business leaders you shouldn’t consume these reports and surveys, but that you have the discernment to recognize them for what they are. However I would suggest that a better use of time is to conduct your own informal CEO surveys. Your audience/respondents should be comprised of the CEOs of your customers/clients, vendors, suppliers, partners, lenders, investors, etc. By interviewing relevant constituencies you will not only receive useful first-hand information that is candid, but you’ll also improve the relationships most critical to the success of your enterprise.  

Business Process Meets Advertising

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth 
The Landscape Is Changing
Business process meets advertising…it’s about time. I have often been critical of the advertising industry for not adapting to the consumer driven world of social media, and the cross platform nature of what today’s mediums offer. In “Ad Agencies Just Don’t Get It” I criticize their inability to differentiate media buying from branding due to huge conflicts of interest. I was shocked to stumble upon some of the best commentary on the advertising and media space that I’ve read in quite some time being generated by IBM. Will technology consultancies overtake traditional ad agencies at their own game? If IBM’s work is indicative of things to come, traditional ad agencies should be very, very concerned…  

Term Sheet Generator

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Only the good term sheets get signed...Term Sheets are a foundational element in justifying your valuation logic. Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to view some absolutely brilliant term sheets, and regrettably, I’ve also reviewed more than my fair share of laughable terms sheets. Guy Kawasaki turned me on to this term sheet generator tool provided by the law firm of Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati. While certainly not perfect, it produces something far better than most term sheets I see. However if you use the output of this tool as a baseline for further refinement and customization, you’ll have a term sheet rooted in logic and substance that can also tell your story in a uniquely branded fashion. If the term sheet generator doesn’t work for you, forget about suing as the use of the tool comes with a plethora of indemnifications and disclaimers…after all, it is produced by a law firm.

Are You a Hypocrite?

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Don't be a Hypocrite...Are you a hypocrite? Most people will answer no to this question because they don’t see themselves in that way. However if you’re being honest, you’ll recognize that all of us can find ourselves being hypocritical at times. That being said, some people are particularly good at being hypocrites, and sometimes it’s easy to think that those who are deceiving others are enjoying it.  Leon Festinger would beg to differ.

Leon Festinger is the renowned communication theorist who came up with the Cognitive Dissonance Theory.  Cognitive Dissonance is “the distressing mental state caused by inconsistency between a person’s two beliefs or a belief and an action.”  Isn’t it interesting that when we are being hypocritical our body reacts by exhibiting extreme amounts of stress?  Leon’s work clearly demonstrates that those who are living with an inner conflict are not at peace. 

If you are cutting corners, or espousing one set of beliefs to one group of people and another with others, be careful.  Not only is this way of living stressful to your body, the outcome of such behavior will surely not end well.  If you’ve exhibited hypocritical behavior in the past, then learn from your mistakes and move forward.  Relieve yourself from the distressing states of inauthenticity and non-transparency.  Decide what you believe and stand by it; both in word and in deed.  Don’t just talk the talk…walk the walk.

One important warning regarding cognitive dissonance…it doesn’t just occur when you are acting in a way that conflicts with your inner moral compass; often dissonance occurs when you come into contact with others of differing opinion.  This is very difficult for people to process and it often leads to ‘selective exposure. If you have an employee who has the opposite political views, or lives a life that you find dishonorable, you may avoid them to save yourself the headache.  Unfortunately, you don’t always have this option, nor should you.  Festinger does not indicate whether he views our tendency toward selective exposure as positive or negative, he just records that most people respond to dissonance this way.

I’m going to argue that in most cases it is good to avoid dissonance.  The cases I am referring to here are the conflicts with your inner moral compass.  If you are behaving in a way that conflicts with the things you say, you need to avoid that dissonance so you are not viewed as a liar and hypocrite.  I’m a firm believer in second chances, so if this is you, it’s not too late to start over or change your behavior.  However, in some cases you must tolerate dissonance, and it can actually benefit you.  I will argue that selective exposure as a response to dissonance created by outside influence is an immature response to dissonance.

If you are a conservative (as I am) and you only watch Glenn Beck, you are not helping yourself.  While it may be uncomfortable to experience the dissonance that comes with watching MSNBC, it may actually benefit you when engaging in debate with someone, or when trying to understand current events.  If all you know is what you believe, you can’t successfully communicate your beliefs to others who have opposing views, nor can you understand fully understand said opposing views.  You must understand  the ‘opposition’ to fully understand yourself (i.e. keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.)  By engaging in temporary dissonance you are not being a hypocrite or a liar, instead you are contributing to an ultimately more consistent and intelligent existence.

If your dissonance is a result of your own inner conflicts, resolve the dissonance and do as you say.  If you are willfully engaging in dissonance to avoid selective exposure so you can become a better informed citizen, family member, and CEO then hats off to you.  Endure being uncomfortable, so ultimately you will be settled and sure of what you think because you’ve investigated all sides.

Disaster in the Making…

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Say it ain't soIn today’s post I’ll give President Obama a break on his domestic policy, but I cannot give him a free pass on his foreign policy agenda (or lack thereof). I can’t recall a President in modern times who has exhibited more foreign policy naivete than Barack Obama. He has the uncanny ability to make the wrong move, at the wrong time, and in the wrong place. His apologetic statements at the G20, allowing North Korea to launch a long range missile, continuously falling prey to the lulling tactics of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, bowing to the Saudi King, and giving Hugo Chavez a propagandist photo opportunity are nothing compared to his decision to release top secret” CIA memos on interrogation methods. In today’s post I’ll explain why this President and his administration are in way over their heads…

From releasing prisoners at Gitmo without any plan, to using public funding to finance abortions overseas, to Hillary’s inappropriately translated “reset” button, to Obama’s classless gifts to foreign dignitaries, the new administration just can’t get it right. While the phrase “War on Terror” has been banned by the Obama administration, Janet Napolitano didn’t seem to have any trouble floating the idea that our veterans could pose a terrorist threat…Any sane individual would have to admit that it makes no sense whatsoever that the Obama administration will not call a terrorist a terrorist, but they don’t hesitate to label the men and women who risk their lives in the service of our country as potential terrorists. Give me a break…

While I could fill pages with the foreign policy gaffes that have occurred during the first three month’s of the Obama Administration, nothing supports my case that President Obama is not ready for prime time more than his decision to release CIA memos on US interrogation methods. Barrack Obama just told our enemies exactly what they can expect should they be captured. They now have a field guide for use in the recruitment and training of terrorists provided by Barrack Obama. If memos like this were leaked in a responsible administration, at a minimum it would have been considered a breach of national security, and would more likely have been considered treasonous.

I wish I were hopeful that these types of mistakes would cease to occur moving forward, but given this administration’s lack of common sense, coupled with their lack of foreign policy experience I’m afraid I won’t hold my breath…

What would you do?

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

What would you do?What would you do if you didn’t need to work? Golf, travel, volunteer, spend time with family and friends, teach, go into politics, and the list could go on…A friend of mine called me today, told me that the sale of his business had closed, and that he had enough money to never need to work again. He informed me that he had put together a list of people he respected and was calling to ask what I would do if I didn’t have to work again. I was pleased to have made his list, was impressed with his logical pursuit of advice and counsel, but wasn’t at all surprised that he was searching for a bit of direction. While many entrepreneurs tirelessly seek their exit by disposition, few have spent a great deal of time planning what life after work looks like. In today’s post I’ll share a few thoughts on planning for the future…

I want to begin today’s post with an excerpt from my book “Leadership Matters…The CEO Survival Manual“:

“By the time you reach the CEO level you should be striving to move beyond success and towards significance. You need to use your network, your wealth, your experience and intellect, as well as your passion to create a legacy that transcends your title…Having the advantage of hindsight, I can say with great certainty that who you are a a person is infinitely more important than the job you hold. There are few things in life as thought provoking as witnessing what by all outward appearances seems to be a successful executive, but as you begin to peel back the layers of their carefully crafted veneer you quickly come to realize that they are little more than an empty, bitter, and frustrated person. They work their entire career chasing some illusive form of fulfillment only to fade into the sunset with nothing more than an empty lifetime of regrets as their reward.” 

While my friend is the farthest thing from the illustration provided in the aforementioned quote, I have seen far too many people fall into this category. My hope in authoring this post is to have you adjust your thinking when it comes to the definition of success. My clients usually tend to be successful individuals prior to finding me. My goal is to simply help them leverage their success into significance over the course of our dealings. The sad reality is that far too many people either confuse success with significance, or they are so focused on success that they are actually blind to the meaning of significance.

Just take a look around and you’ll see that most people use their knowledge, resources, and experience to acquire things in an attempt to satisfy their personal desires, which in their minds constitutes success. Contrast this with the people that use their knowledge, resources, and experience to serve and benefit others, which by my standards constitutes significance.

Sure, for those “who get it” success and significance are one in the same, but for most professionals success begins and ends with the achievement of a certain list of personal goals with little regard to the impact on others. These people confuse success with significance, and regardless of their wealth and professional accomplishments, they won’t accomplish the true greatness that only comes through making significant contributions to something other than one’s self. I don’t care how your resume reads, what your net worth is, or what your W-2 shows…what I care about is your motivation, and what you do with what you have.

I am always impressed by those who choose a life of service over personal glory, or those who understand how to leverage their personal success into significance. Most of my clients have acquired significant material possessions…they just don’t live their lives according to a “he or she who has the most toys wins” philosophy. They don’t give because their accountant told them to, or for estate planning purposes, they give to make a difference. They don’t throw trivial contributions to a variety of charities to see their name appear on donor’s lists, they make substantial contributions (usually with little if any self-promotion). It all boils down to motivation…are you solely seeking to have fun, fame, fortune, and recognition, or are you seeking to serve and benefit others with what you have?

It is my opinion that when you start to define your personal success by the value you add to the lives of others you have arrived as a mature human being who possesses true influence and has become a person of significance. My challenge to you is this…set the chinning bar very high for yourself by reevaluating your goals and objectives to insure that you are on a path towards significance. Don’t allow yourself to become blinded by your success, rather leverage your success in an attempt to make a lasting and significant legacy for which you and your family can be proud.

So, what would you do if you never had to work again?

Marriott Nixes Newspapers…

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth 

Marriott Nixes NewspapersOne company’s green initiative can definitely have a negative impact on another company’s profits. In yet another nail in the old-media coffin, Marriott announced today (see Reuters article) that it will make the long standing hospitality ritual of door-dropping newspapers optional for its guests. With more-and-more companies “Going Green,” I believe it is quite likely that many other hotel chains will follow suit adversely impacting an already beleaguered industry.  I would recommend reading a previous post entitled “Innovate or Perish” in which I pointed out a few lessons that can be learned from the newspaper industry’s mistakes.

Changing Times

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Change Equals SurvivalAs the old saying goes, “The times they are a changing.” For those of you who are not regular readers of the Myatt on Mondays posts, Monday is the day that I often set aside to answer questions from readers. However in today’s post I’m going to switch things up a bit and ask you to answer a question posed by me. While I have given frequent counsel about how to successfully navigate the many challenges posed by these uncertain economic times, my question is this: “In the last 90 days what proactive changes have you made within your business which have placed you in a better position to survive the changing economic conditions that are presently vexing many a CEO?” In the text that follows I’ll give you a few places you might want to look at if you haven’t already…

A mantra that was drilled into me during my days in the military was “Adapt, Improvise, and Overcome.” Whether on the battlefield, or in the boardroom, your ability to change in accordance with the demands of the times will often determine your ability to survive. Changing times demand fluidity on the part of successful CEOs. If you’re not changing both the strategic and tactical approach in which you do business in this market you will live to regret it. Standing still in a rapidly evolving world will only result in your competition running you down. Savvy CEOs have likely already made many of the adjustments mentioned below, but it’s not too late to jump on the bandwagon if you’ve been slow on the trigger:

  1. Cost Centers vs. Profit Centers: Slowing economic conditions require a greater emphasis on growth in revenue and profitability. Reallocate financial and non-financial resources to marketing and sales activities to prime the funnel. Look to reduce commitments to business units, departments, and headcount that don’t significantly impact contribution margin.
  2. Go Shopping: Tough times create opportunities to acquire companies and/or other assets at discounts over normal pricing. The best deals are not made when multiples and trailing 12′s are at all-time highs, but rather when true value is unlocked as a result of recognizing market opportunity created by adversity.
  3. The Talent Advantage: Weed out the lower echelons (the bottom 10%-20%) of your work force and seek to replace them with higher caliber talent looking for a better opportunity during tough times. This is an employer’s market with a dearth of talent available without having to pay the signing bonuses of old… 
  4. Get Help: If you’re a younger CEO and this is your first economic downturn, get help…Find a coach or mentor who can help guide you through to the other side. As the old saying goes: “You don’t know what you don’t know.” 
  5. Add to the War Chest: While the capital and credit markets have eased-off the frothy pace of the last few years, there is still an abundant supply of smart-money looking for a home. Underwriting and due diligence may be a bit more painful these days, but don’t let that stand in your way. Work every level of the capital structure and create as much operating leverage as possible at the lowest blended cost of capital.  
  6. Don’t Forget the Customer: This is a time to not only remain close to your key accounts, but to also aggressively go after your competitions key accounts. Remember that if you’re not talking to your customers someone else will be.
  7. Don’t Miss the Boat: Change, disrupt, innovate, disintermediate, and generally unleash havoc in the marketplace. More wealth is gained, and more dominant brands are established in declining markets than in advancing markets. Smart CEOs aren’t looking for safe harbors, rather they understand that waning economic conditions create a significant window of market opportunities…
  8. It’s Not About the Risk: Don’t manage risk, exploit opportunities. Put incremental gains and process engineering on the back-burner as these types of initiatives won’t carry you through tough times. Cost cutting is not a business model, and it alone (especially the wrong kind) won’t save you. Invest your precious resources where you can create leverage, velocity, or economies of scale. Don’t trip over dollars to pick-up pennies.  

As the old saying goes, “it’s better late than never.” Only the most arrogant, or the most foolhardy CEOs don’t recognize the need for rapid change in reacting to today’s slowing economic conditions. 

Website Traffic Analysis

By, Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

No Traffic Equals No RevenueSubjecting your website’s traffic to intense analysis is the key to breaking the code for improving conversion ratios and watching your success on the Internet skyrocket. Understanding the basic logic surrounding this premise, it amazes me how few companies truly understand the key metric in driving website success…traffic. In today’s post I’ll share a bit of information that will help you gain a better understanding of the value of website traffic analysis…  

The first step in analyzing website traffic is to actually look at the data. Your web hosting company can provide you access to your server log files which will provide root level data, some web hosting firms offer either proprietary analytical tools, or you can subscribe to third party applications like Google Analytics. The second step in analyzing website traffic is to actually be able to interpret whatever amount or type of data you have access to. The reality is that if you’re not familiar with internet jargon the data you receive from your host company can be overwhelming if you don’t understand how to apply it to your particular business and website.

In a previous post I addressed the subject of keyword analysis so we won’t spend much time on that topic today. Keywords aside, it is important to note that while you can become very sophisticated in the analytics surrounding your website traffic, examining the following five basic data sets will help you focus on the right things for the right reasons:

  • Traffic Count: If you look at nothing else, pay attention to the trends (growing or declining) surrounding the average number of visitors to your site on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. These figures are the most accurate measure of your website’s activity. At first glance one would think that the more traffic you see recorded, the better you can assume your website is doing. However, it is precisely this line of thinking that can cause you to gain a false perception of the health of your Internet presence. You must also look at the behavior of your visitors once they come to your website to accurately gauge the effectiveness of your site. One of the most common misconceptions related to website traffic has to do with what’s commonly known as “hits.” “Hits” simply means the number of information requests received by the server. If you think about the fact that a “hit” can simply equate to the number of graphics loaded per page, you will get an idea of how overblown the concept of “hits” can be. For example, if your homepage has 15 graphics on it, the server records this as 15 hits, when in reality we are talking about a single visitor checking out a single page on your site. As you can see, hits are not useful in analyzing your website traffic. Don’t get caught up in examining “hits”, rather focus on the number of unique visitors to your site as this is a much better indication of true traffic levels. The more you focus on assessing the unique visitors that come to your website, the more accurate your interpretation will become. The greater the traffic is to your website, the more precise your analysis will be of overall trends in visitor behavior. The smaller the number of visitors, the more a few anonymous visitors can distort the analysis. The aim is to use the web traffic statistics to figure out how well, or how poorly your site is working for your visitors.
  • Traffic Sources: It is also important to assess where your traffic is coming from. Does the majority of your traffic come from the search engines, and if so, which ones and via what keyword or keyphrase? In addition to the search engines you want to look at the other top referring sites driving traffic to your site. You should also assess what geographic regions are generating the majority of your traffic. If you only sell a product on a local or regional basis, but the majority of your traffic is being generated from Asia, then you likely have a geo-targeting issue. 
  • Average Session Length: As important as how many unique visitors reach your site, is how long those unique visitors remain on your site. One way to determine this is to find out how long on average your visitors spend browsing your site. If the time spent browsing your site is relatively brief, it usually indicates an underlying problem. Then the challenge shifts to finding out what that problem is. It could be that your keywords are directing the wrong type of visitors to your website, that your content is not appealing to your visitors, or that your graphics are confusing or intimidating, causing the visitor to exit rapidly. Use the knowledge of how much time visitors are spending on your site to pinpoint specific problems. After you fix those problems, continue to use time spent as a gauge of how effective your fix has been.
  • Average Number of Unique Page Views: One of the drivers influencing average session length is the number of actual unique pages viewed per visitor. As an example, at the time of this post, the average visitor to the N2growth site views an average of 18 pages before leaving the site. If people are drilling down deeply into your site it means that they find your site valuable, and if they only visit one or two pages and then exit your site you may want to examine the quality of your content. This type of information can help you determine effective and ineffective areas of your website.
  • Specific Page Analysis: In addition to the number of pages viewed you also want to pay attention to which specific pages are being viewed. If you have a page that you believe is important, but visitors are exiting it rapidly, that page needs attention. You could, for example, consider improving the link to this page by making the link more noticeable and enticing, or you could improve the look of the page or the ease in which your visitors can access the necessary information on that page. If, on the other hand, you notice that visitors are spending a lot of time on pages that you think are less important, you might consider making adjustments there as well. Your website undoubtedly has exit pages, such as a final order or contact form. This is a page you can expect your visitor to exit rapidly. However, not every visitor to your site is going to find exactly what he or she is looking for, so statistics may show you a number of different exit pages. This is normal unless you notice a exit trend on a particular page that is not intended as an exit page. In the case that a significant percentage of visitors are exiting your website on a page not designed for that purpose, you must closely examine that particular page to discern what the problem is. Once you pinpoint potential weaknesses on that page, minor modifications in content or graphic may have a significant impact on the keeping visitors moving through your site instead of exiting at the wrong page.

While this post was a rather high-level look at a relatively complex subject, I hope you were nonetheless able to take away some insights that will help you improve the productivity of your website.

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