Albert Einstein said; “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking that we used when we created them.” In thinking about this statement and in light of the events across the nation regarding the crisis in law enforcement, there are five strategies Leaders in Law can adopt to elevate their agency to the next level. Whether the agency is experiencing challenges or not, these five strategies will provide the thought-leadership to navigate the rough waters in the sea of conflict. Leaders in Law must first understand that the fabric of leadership is the strength that tightly holds the culture together and leadership must remain in a continuous state of forward-motion at every level of the organization. With that, all Leaders in law must be willing to adopt a different approach to achieve improved outcomes and results from their leaders; more specifically, they must…Read More›
Making any progress, process transformation or change across American communities and throughout the global business communities as usual is always hard and usually requires a significant investment of resources – people, finance and effort. So, whenever a leader or an organization adopts any new strategy, technology platform, methodology or approach, that adoption has to be driven by both a need and with leadership clarity.Read More›
The NFL is sitting pretty.
You bet! After a series of widely publicized domestic assault cases, repeatedly botched attempts to impose discipline, and the performance of a commissioner who has been AWOL for most of the recent crisis, the fans keep flocking to the gates and even more fans are watching on Sunday (as well as Thursday and Monday).
Our organizational world is constituted and shaped by language. It is also accessed and made available to us through language. Language acts as the lens through which we can see and understand the challenges presented, and subsequently make sense of and provide solutions for.Read More›
Politicians make the best punching bags.
Eric Cantor is Exhibit A. He was laid flat by a roundhouse punch by voters in his House District who opted for an unknown economics professor as their Republican candidate. Cantor was surprised; his own internal polls had him leading handily, and he out spent his opponent nearly 20:1. What a knockout.
While Cantor may have lost touch with voters, he did not lose touch with his humanity. He conceded defeat on election eve, and the very next day Cantor said that he was giving up his role as Majority Leader of the House of Representatives.
Politics aside, Cantor’s exit shows class. As pundits have noted, by removing himself from office he spared his party the kind of internecine battles that could only hurt Republicans.
“I… believe if you have a problem you better solve it. Because if you don’t solve it, you won’t be here or the company won’t be here.”
That’s what Mary Barra told Bill Vlasic of the New York Times about her approach to helping General Motors survive and thrive in the coming years. While much attention as been rightly paid to Ms. Barra because of her gender – she’s the first woman to head a major automaker – too many commentators have overlooked her background. She’s an engineer by education – a graduate of GM’s Kettering Institute – as well as experience, growing up in manufacturing before attracting the attention of senior management. Barra recently headed HR as well as product development.
Do you understand the difference between presence, visibility and overexposure? Have you figured out how to apply the laws of scarcity to brand management? If not, then this post is for you. While a brand without exposure is not much of a brand, I consistently find that brand exposure is an aspect of brand management that is all too often overlooked as a success metric. Whether you’re assessing the strength of a personal or corporate brand, finding the appropriate level of brand exposure is key to sustainable growth in brand equity.
As I stated above, having an underexposed brand, or what I like to refer to as having a brand in stealth mode, means that you really don’t have much of a brand. Conversely, having a brand that is mismanaged through overexposure can cause a brand to go into decline by diluting hard earned brand equity. The reality is that premium brands are viewed as such because they jealously manage their brand exposure. They pay attention to the both the frequency and reach of their exposure. While they are careful to insure that their brands are visible to the right constituencies, they simply won’t allow overexposure. When a brand’s pedigree has an element of mystique, scarcity, intrigue, or sophistication, said brand will be in high demand. Let me be clear that I’m not advocating brand snobbery, just astute brand management based on time tested success principles.
Intelligent brands create at least some level of focused planning surrounding the issue of access to prevent overexposure. Once a brand is overexposed it becomes commoditized, diluted, and ultimately. will go into decline. While you might not detect brand taints associated with overexposure in the short-term, this principle holds true across most genres over time. Think about any overexposed brand that comes to mind and you’ll see that it quickly begins to lose its luster. Once a brand’s appeal begins to erode, it will require significant time and expense to recover. It is simply a more intelligent approach to consistently manage brand exposure than it is to let your brand run wild and then attempt to triage overexposure.
Let me offer just a few examples to help connect the dots: Recording artists that release too many CDs over too short of a time period hurt their own appeal. The same holds true with authors that release books with too high a frequency, or actors that churn out too many movies. You may also notice that politicians who confuse their real job with that of a media celebrity will lose the respect of their constituency and taint their effectiveness.
Please keep in mind that the personal brands of business people are not immune to the phenomenon mentioned above. The goal of a sound brand exposure strategy should be to increase your demand, which in turn allows you to pick and choose your opportunities, which in turn further increases your demand…the goal is not to seek every opportunity in the marketplace, but to have the right opportunities seeking you.
I’ll close today’s post with a prime example of personal branding overexposure that while a pet-peeve of mine, will certainly draw the ire of many. I’m a huge believer in the use social media and social networking to further brand exposure. That said, I have little use for social networking junkies who collect friends/followers/contacts just for the sake of watching the numbers go up, while adding little or no value to their network. I would suggest that if your brand is based solely upon the quantity of contacts in your LinkedIn network, or the number of followers you’ve amassed on Twitter, and not the qualitative relevancy of said contacts, then you are more likely stroking your ego than you are acting as an astute personal brand manager. If no real interaction, no real value add, or no real engagement takes place, then while you migh have a lot of contacts you likely have very few relationships – there is a difference.
I think you’d be shocked at how many people still struggle with the “to blog or not to blog” dilemma. Most of you who have been following this blog know that I’ve been an a strong evangelist of social media, and perhaps even more so of blogging for several years now. So why is it that so many people still seem paralyzed when it comes to taking the plunge? Let’s look at the numbers…While the numbers vary depending on which source you believe, the total number of blogs on the Internet is generally thought to be in the range of 200 million blogs. By any category analysis or analytical standard blogging has obviously developed into a powerful communication medium. However the question remains, do the numbers in-and-of-themselves mean that blogging is right for everyone?
I have read many a commentary ranging from the negative – “is blogging dead?” to those who argue the opposite – “Blog or Die.” Moreover, since I author a Blog (you might be interested in reading a previous blog entitled “Why N2growth Blogs“) I must believe in blogging right? Not necessarily…If you’ve taken the time to review a random cross section of blogs on the Internet, I’m sure you’ll agree that the world would be better off without some of the content currently being published. That said, I also believe the world is indeed a better place as a result of some of the good content available via blogs. While I don’t think a business will perish if it does not blog, I wholeheartedly believe a business will clearly fail to maximize its full potential without leveraging the significant benefits that blogging affords to those who do choose to participate.
Jason Lee Miller authored a post entitled: “Blogging Hits a Crossroads” last year which I believe is probably even more relevant today than it was when it was first released. The premise of his piece is that the landscape of the Blogosphere is changing radically, and that as such many “A-Listers” have either quit, or are contemplating giving-up their blogging endeavors. Miller’s post is quick to point out that blogging is competitive, requires a great investment of time, subjects the blogger to the ire of those who have dissenting opinions, and that it is becoming increasingly difficult to make money blogging. I concur with all of the aforementioned assertions, but must admit that I am far from quitting…In fact, I would say that blogging is just starting to get interesting.
What makes blogging so interesting is also precisely what makes it so annoying at times…the low barrier to entry. The simple fact is that anyone can blog, which explains the existence of the huge numbers of blogs I mentioned earlier. The noise in this space is simply deafening…As Miller so aptly stated in his post, “The good stuff lasts, the chaff separates from the wheat, the cream rises to the top, all that.” The dropping-off of a few “A-Listers” is of little consequence to me, or frankly to anyone else. The litmus test for blogging is, and always will be, does your blog add value, does it make a difference, and do people benefit from the opinions espoused?
Bloggers will continue to come and go…while some will be missed, many will not. Nevertheless the reality is this…blogs are not a tool for those looking to get rich quickly (that train left the station a long time ago), nor are they likely to transform insignificant thoughts into something other than what they are. What blogs do offer is a viable and robust platform to be leveraged by those that have a message worthy of communicating. Blogs can clearly be accretive, and will continue to add brand equity to those companies and individuals who grasp the value of social media and understand how to incorporate blogging into their social media efforts.
It should also be noted that while blogs can and certainly do take people that previously lived in relative obscurity and turn them into almost overnight sensations, the reality is that the higher-up in the org chart you tend to find yourself the more benefit there is to blogging. This is simply due to the fact that more people want to hear what a high profile CEO or entrepreneur has to say. Taking into account the above considerations, not everyone can or should blog. In this author’s humble opinion, blogging only makes sense if the following conditions can be met:
You Have Something To Say: I don’t have any particular affinity for useless musings. Time is a precious commodity these days and most people I know are looking for valuable information that they can put to work for some benefit. I’m also not a fan of going to a blog to read third party news, press or the re-blogging of someone else’s information published for no other reason then to boost their search engine rankings. There are plenty of legitimate news sites and other aggregators out there so if you can’t produce your own content you shouldn’t blog.
You Know How To Say It: Mark Twain I’m not, but for the most part I can put across a cogent thought. While there is no requirement that you be a Rhodes Scholar to blog, it does help if you can communicate well in written form. The worst thing you can do for your business is to lose credibility via poor communication and a lack of professionalism. Not everyone is a writer nor should they try to be.
You Have The Time To Say It: I generally produce 5 blog posts per week (one each business day) and it normally takes me an hour or two per post. I don’t simply link to another article or make trite comments, but author original content that I hope adds value, which in my opinion is mission critical. If you don’t have the time to make blogging a priority the effort will end in frustration for both you and your audience. Post frequency is an often debated topic, but how often you post isn’t as important as meeting whatever commitment you make, and doing so with quality content.
You Have Someone To Say It To: Make sure that there is a viable audience for your content. Whether the blog is a tool for internal communication to employees or an external channel to third parties you must have an audience to either receive or pass along value. If no one is reading your content, you might get some cathartic benefit from your efforts, but there may be better uses for your time.
There Is Some Benefit Derived From What You Say: Back to value – whether the value is received or given (in a perfect world both) does not matter as long as value is created. A blog can serve educational, social, business, philanthropic, political or any number of other agendas so long as a clear value add is present. A simple cost/benefit or risk/reward analysis should indicate whether your effort will be of value to you, and even if it is not of value to you, it may be to others.
The bottom line is that the numbers do in fact speak for themselves. Blogging is much more than the latest trend and is here to stay. So as long as you can meet the criteria mentioned above blogging can be a tremendous platform from which to effectively communicate your message. If you’re still on the fence, I would request you try and answer the following question: If you can engage those with whom you conduct business, or otherwise desire to interact with in a meaningful and value added fashion why wouldn’t you do so?
How do you know when marketing is out of control? Those of you familiar with this blog know that I’m generally a strong marketing advocate. That said, my typical pro-marketing position assumes that certain key fundamentals are in place to insure that the lunatics don’t somehow become in charge of the asylum. In today’s post I’ll discuss how to keep marketing in check so that brand focus is maintained and your company avoids the costly trap of marketing gone awry…
On more than a few occasions I have found myself called in to rescue companies from themselves and/or their consultants with regard to ill advised or poorly conceived branding or rebranding initiatives. I have watched companies spend tremendous amounts of money, time and energy debating logos, taglines, color pallets, font styles, ad campaigns, positioning strategies, marketing messages, brand promises, etc., with the only outcomes being failed initiatives and splintered management teams.
I have often counseled clients to beware the change agents for the sake of change…There are few things in business that can impede corporate progress like failed marketing initiatives. If you don’t believe me just try confusing, offending, or alienating your customers and prospects with mixed marketing messages and see what happens. Today’s consumers aren’t going to tolerate trite marketing gimmicks that either insults their intelligence, or that requires too much intelligence. Don’t fall into the trap of cranking out cute ads where form trumps substance by having the message either lost in the ambiguity of the marketing, or overshadowed by the complexity of the marketing (I would suggest reviewing another post entitled “Keeping It Simple“).
The best way to insure that your marketing doesn’t wander off course is to gut check your marketing and branding initiatives against the following four points to determine whether or not your message is accretive or dilutive to your objectives:
- Customer Focus: Mark my words – any marketing endeavor conceived in absence of a customer centric mindset will fail. At its core, marketing is about engaging with customers, meeting their needs, solving their problems, sparking their passion, earning their trust, and cementing their loyalty. Executives or agencies that believe marketing is somehow about them and not the customer represent everything wrong with marketing today. Marketing isn’t about egos, it’s about results – you cannot achieve results without the customer.
- Leadership: There are a number of ways to get in trouble here…poor leadership, no leadership, or fractionalized leadership can all be quite problematic. Marketing is not a part-time endeavor, and if you don’t have a qualified C-level marketing executive leading the charge, don’t just trust things to the most vocal staff member. Lastly, don’t decentralize marketing…consistent messaging across markets, mediums and constituencies is critical. Don’t be guilty of mixed messaging because the right hand didn’t know what the left hand was doing.
- Alignment: A fundamental precept to all marketing initiatives is that they must be in alignment with the corporate values and vision. Remember that good marketing adds value, leverage, and velocity to your vision. It should never dilute it or distract from it. Most importantly good marketing is never in conflict with corporate values…compromise in this area and trouble will most certainly follow. If your marketing doesn’t uphold your brand promise or if it’s not advancing core business initiatives, then you have an alignment issue.
- Managing Outside Vendors: Remember that consultants work for you, and that the decisions should be made by you and not the vendor. Good consultants build consensus and unify management focus, they do not splinter opinion. If you have a management team that is split down the middle on a marketing or branding issue then you have not arrived at the right decision.
Bottom line…solid marketing and branding initiatives are mission critical to sustainable increases in growth objectives. That said, flawed marketing or branding initiatives have crippled many a good company. Don’t allow yourself to be bullied into something that doesn’t resonate with your sense of discernment. If something is important enough to implement, it is important enough to do well.
As always, I invite you to add any thoughts or additional tips in the comments below…
Assuming that you have deep pockets, a talented staff, and a lot of patience, growing a recognized brand isn’t difficult…spend heavily across all mediums with consistent, creative, on message advertising while simultaneously conducting aggressive public relations and social media campaigns. Avoid controversy, maintain a high likeability factor, consistently and proactively engage your customers, be a business of character that engenders trust and confidence with your target market(s), produce a quality product or service at a competitive price point, and provide great customer service. The preceding description paints the perfect illustration of why branding is one of my favorite topics…It is complex. Unless you are a very large enterprise it is unlikely that you have the time, money, staffing, or external professional relationships to execute a brand management strategy such as the one outlined above. In today’s post I’ll share 8 tips for common sense branding that entities of any size can put into practice…
So what’s the best way to build a brand if you’re not a Fortune 500 company? Be very, very smart. Unfortunately I’m not kidding – if your business isn’t one of the deep pocketed companies capable of executing a strategy like the one mentioned above, then you must understand how to cost effectively appropriate and deploy your resources & talent in a manner that still produces results. The simple truth of the matter is that building brand equity with limited resources is one of the most difficult things to accomplish in the business world.
The following 8 items constitute the basic tenants of branding, which if incorporated into your brand management strategy will help build a solid brand regardless of the size of your company or your ad budget:
1. Treat your brand as an asset not an afterthought: If building brand equity is not a key strategic focus for your executive team don’t be surprised if your brand remains in stealth mode. If branding is not someone’s full-time responsibility then your brand will suffer from the part-time results that the part-time efforts yield.
2. Keep your word: Living up to expectations (brand promise) is critical if you want to keep your brand from going into free-fall. If you can only do one thing is business, I would strongly suggest that it be to keep your commitments and honor your promises. In absence of any other action this will keep your brand on solid footing, and in combination with the other items mentioned here will propel your brand equity with maximum velocity.
3. Never sacrifice quality: Your products, services, leadership, management, culture, customer service, communication, etc. must all reflect high standards of quality. Quality equals value in the eyes of the consumer, and as a result often corresponds into justifying price premiums.
4. Focus on the customer: Make sure you understand the needs and desires of you customers/clients and do everything possible to satisfy them. If customer centricity is nothing more than a buzzword, and not a core value reflected in your business practices, creating growth in brand equity will be a challenge. Put the customer first in all decisions and good things will happen.
5. Understand the competition: Creating competitive separation is a must. Without strong and clearly recognized competitive value propositions you will be forced into the commodity market of competing on price points alone.
6. Broadcast vs. Social: It is also critical to understand the difference between broadcast and social media. The world has changed, and if you haven’t adjusted your messaging, positioning, communications, and engagement strategies accordingly, your brand will suffer. If you don’t have a big advertising budget, and even if you do, social media provides a significant opportunity to engage in meaningful conversations and interactions with your customers that broadcast media simply cannot produce. If you don’t have the luxury of being able to spend across mediums, select the medium that will give the most frequency, reach, viral shelf-life & engagement and build from there. Put simply, if you’re going to spend your time and money do it where you get the biggest bang for the buck.
7. Be consistent: Consistency in all things throughout the value chain is critical. Continuity should flow from values to vision, mission to strategy, and objectives to tactics to process. Mixed messaging or practices has killed many a brand.
8. Innovate: Your brand will have at best a limited shelf life if a culture of innovation doesn’t pervade your business. Even category dominant brands can fall into rapid decline as obsolescence sets in. Don’t fall into the trap of resting on laurels and assuming that a great product or niche market will endure the test of time without constant attention to the shifting needs of a fluid marketplace.
Today’s post was inspired by a witty piece authored by Wally Bock on the topic of fads. If you’re not familiar with Wally’s work, I’d recommend checking him out on a regular basis…When you looked beyond the humor, Wally made some great points about the impact (or lack thereof) of the latest fads, trends, business theories, gimmicks, concepts conveyed in business books, etc. Trends have a significant impact on business. Does your business exploit trends or do they exploit your business? What was the latest fad chased or trend adopted by your business? Why did your management team jump on the band wagon? Has the trend or fad generated an increase in revenue or gains in efficiency and/or productivity? In today’s blog post I’ll examine the impact trends can have on your business.
Let me also point out that trends and fads don’t necessarily constitute innovation. In fact most often the organizations that demonstrate a “heard mentality” when rushing to adopt the latest trends are the farthest thing away from being innovative. The result is that they will likely experience little more than yet another in a long line of great adventures that ended in frustration due to the time wasted and the investment squandered. The reality is that many businesses are quick to recognize great ideas, but they often have no plan for how to successfully integrate them into their business model.
My advice to you is not to let your business get caught up in trends and fads, at least not without some initial analysis being conducted to determine the likelihood of success. Failed initiatives are costly at several levels. Aside from being costly, a flawed execution can cast doubt on management credibility, have a negative impact on morale, taint the brand, adversely affect external relationships and cause a variety of other problems for your business.
Every sound business initiative begins with a solid strategic plan. However while most anyone can cobble together a high level strategic plan, very few can author a strategy that can be successfully implemented. In order for your enterprise to turn a trend or fad into a monetizing and/or value creating event you should develop a strategic plan that attempts to measure the idea against the following 15 elements:
1. The trend or fad should be in alignment with the overall vision and mission of the enterprise.
2. If the initiative doesn’t provide a unique competitive advantage it should at least bring you closer to an even playing field.
3. Any new project should preferably add value to existing initiatives, and if not, it should show a significant enough return on investment to justify the dilutive effect of not keeping the main thing the main thing.
4. Put the idea through a risk/reward and cost/benefit analysis.
5. Whether the new initiative is intended for your organization, vendors, suppliers, partners or customers it must easy to use. Usability drives adoptability, and therefore it pays to keep things simple.
6. Just because an idea sounds good doesn’t mean it is You should endeavor to validate proof of concept based upon detailed, credible research.
7. Nothing is without risk, and when you think something is without risk that is when you’re most likely to end-up in trouble. All initiatives should include detailed risk management provisions.
8. Adopting a trend or fad should be based upon solid business logic that drives corresponding financial engineering and modeling. Be careful of high level, pie-in-the-sky projections.
9. Any new initiative should contain accountability provisions. Every task should be assigned and managed according to a plan and in the light of day.
10. Any trend being adopted must be measurable. Deliverables, benchmarks, deadlines, and success metrics must be incorporated into the plan.
11. It must be detailed and deliverable on a schedule. The initiative should have a beginning, middle and end.
12. Strategic initiatives must not be disparate systems, but integrated solutions that eliminate redundancies, and build in tactical leverage points.
13. It must contain a road-map for versioning and evolution that is in alignment with other strategic initiatives and the overall corporate mission.
14. A successful initiative cannot remain in a strategic planning state. It must be actionable through tactical implementation.
15. Senior leadership must champion any new initiative. If someone at the C-suite level is against the new initiative it will likely die on the cutting-room floor.
The bottom line is that new ideas are beautiful things. Properly implemented, capitalizing on trends can keep business from stagnating and cause growth and evolution. Just follow the 15 rules above and stay away from being an agent for change for the sake of change.
What is marketing? One of the most entertaining things you can do in business is to attend a meeting where a group of senior executives begin to pontificate on the subject of marketing. I have more fun watching people attempt to distinguish between marketing, advertising, branding, business development, sales, communications, public relations, etc. It never ceases to amaze me at how something so simple can become so convoluted, and how people can so passionately take a completely ridiculous stance and want to defend that position to the death. In today’s post I will attempt to demystify the subject of marketing and give you some actionable items can be implemented immediately to generate improved results.
Let’s take a moment and have some fun with definitions. The following two definitions of marketing come from the American Marketing Association. The first was a definition was used from 1985 until 2004 when the “revised” edition was released by the AMA.
Previous AMA Definition: “Marketing is the process of planning and executing conception, pricing, promotion and distribution of goods, ideas and services to create exchanges that satisfy individual and organizational goals.”
Current AMA Definition: “Marketing is an organizational function and a set of processes for creating, communicating and delivering value to customers and for managing customer relationships in ways that benefit the organization and its stakeholders.”
Okay…a quick analysis of the two aforementioned definitions shows that the mistake of obviating the customer from the original definition was corrected by the clear and emphasized inclusion of the customer in the revised definition (I guess I won’t resign my AMA membership just yet). Let me be clear…I’m not meaning to make fun of academic theory or best practices, but I have little use for generic, omnibus or overarching statements as they tend not to accomplish anything of value, but rather they just create confusion among the ranks.
Let’s take a look at a few more definitions…Most of you know how fond I am of “Druckerisms,” and so in good conscience, I must quote him to you yet again…Peter Drucker’s definition of marketing is: “Marketing and innovation are the two chief functions of business. You get paid for creating a customer, which is marketing. And you get paid for creating a new dimension of performance, which is innovation. Everything else is a cost center.” Now we’re getting a bit closer, but this is still too ambiguous for my taste…
From my perspective the problem with marketing as a discipline is that the desired result often gets lost in the vast expanse of it’s multi-disciplinary nature. The reality is that marketing is really the aggregation of any activity that touches the customer. Therein lies the problem…that is just too much for most organizations to get their arms around, let alone to manage and execute on.
So, how do I define marketing you ask? Marketing is “any activity that catalyzes a selling opportunity” (my definition). Put simply, I want marketing activities to make my phone ring! I don’t care what the medium, market or message is, if it doesn’t put a qualified prospect into a buying situation it is a waste of time, money and effort. Before the Myatt bashers come out of the shadows, I’m not diminishing the value of brand equity, market share, mind share, etc., but I’m simply trying to take a complex subject and make it real and actionable.
If you’re conducting brand campaigns or mind share initiatives that’s fine, but realize that in most circumstances while these may classically be defined as marketing activities these efforts don’t catalyze sales opportunities in the short run. The litmus test of any good “gorilla marketing” effort is measuring return on cost of sales. A great marketing campaign generates a high velocity of selling opportunities at the lowest possible cost over the shortest possible selling cycle. If you juxtapose this with the typical branding initiative you’ll see that these two efforts are truly diametrically opposed.
So the goal of marketing is to not get caught up in theoretical debates and academic exercises, but to realize that the main thing, is to keep the main thing the main thing. If you can’t put every marketing initiative under the magnifying glass by tying it to an acceptable return based on the generation of sales, then you might want to reconsider what you’re doing.
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