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People Buy Your Uniqueness Before They Ever Buy Your Product Or Service. What's Your Uniqueness & How Do You Market It?

The Carnival Cruise Ship Brand- “Fun” Ship?

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Most of us know by now what happened last week with yet another cruise ship in the Carnival family of ships.  Yes, more stranded passengers at sea in less than hygienic conditions… and then some.  The events were obviously unfortunate for all involved.  I can just imagine being a passenger who had my precious vacation days wasted and health compromised, not to mention the monetary damage.  Are we having fun yet??

The most important branding buzz has been about the compensation Carnival offered their guests.  A big part of brand management is how we use compassion and connection value to take care of clients and staff.  This is particularly true when a wrong has been committed, thereby damaging the brand.

It was appropriate of Carnival to offer compensation to passengers.  However, I’m not sure they got to the heart of pain they created for passengers by offering them a refund, $500 and another cruise- for free.  How can a dollar amount, such as $500, be the “right” figure given what passengers endured?  Why would Carnival assume that a free cruise would be sufficient brand rehabilitation?  After all, those passengers now have a negative brand perception of cruising on Carnival.

In creating or rehabilitating a brand, you must put yourself in your clientele’s shoes.  This isn’t about what you want, but what your target market or clientele want from you, whether that’s an apology or joy.

WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE TO REHAB YOUR BRAND AND COMPENSATE YOUR CLIENTELE IF YOU WERE CARNIVAL?

What’s The Actual Value of Personal/Business Development ?

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I was at an American Bar Association (ABA) conference last week.  One of the events I attended centered on negotiating for lawyers.  Each pair of lawyers were given fact patterns and told to negotiate their side.  The fact patterns involved one lawyer being the “boss”, or partner-in-charge, and the other lawyer being “junior”, or the associate.  Afterwards, the pairs discussed the results of their negotiations.

I found a very interesting phenomenon occurring as each pair stated their results.  In 75% of the pairs, the junior employee/associates would negotiate for services related to personal and business development, such as the hiring of coaches or attendance at conferences and workshops.  In all these cases, none of the bosses/partners-in-charge were willing to provide funding for such development activities.

The logic each time was that the activities and coaches requested were all for the betterment of the junior employee/associate and NOT of the law firm/institution.  I was shocked and dismayed!  Really? True, that the actual individual getting the benefit of the coach and/or attending the conference or workshop is the single junior employee/associate.

However, how could anyone ever believe that the entire institution and/or law firm does not stand to benefit? You mean to tell me that if, during the course of the coaching/event, the employee/associate gains skills and self-confidence that lead to: 1) gaining of new clients and 2) creation of new services/products, the organization would not benefit?  The reality is that of course the organization benefits because that is the goal of the development.  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had clients work on their personal brand development with us and use this knowledge as a way of directly retaining new business.

So what causes this organizational denial/disconnect?  First, I believe it is a function of being frugal.  Organizations are often looking for the least expensive means to everything and anything.  So, of course they will take the view that training only benefits the individual employee.  Second, it is a function of not being able to effectively take what the individual employee learns, quantify it, and apply it to the entity or even monitor the end result.  It would take more costly human capital, and perhaps technology, to figure out how to use the knowledge well.  Lastly, it is so much easier for organizations and law firms to just focus on the substantive work.  After all, they can track with much more ease the substantive work results and they sleep better betting on a sure thing.

So what is the real worth of personal and business development for employees/lawyers within an organization/law firm?  I would say it is invaluable.  I encourage management to not make the mistake of comparing personal and business development directly with billable hours/substantive work product.  Comparing apples to oranges won’t yield positive results.

Instead, stop and evaluate each individual situation for what it is worth. Yes, that does require extra time and effort. Learn to balance substance with investment in human capital.   Perhaps it will even require some faith, forecasting, and implementation of an evaluation/measurement system.  In the end, it will be worth it. I promise.

What has been your experience with personal and business development?  We’d love to hear!

Lessons Learned From Brand “Republican”- How Do You Block The Success of Your Brand?

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The term “brand” is usually related to food, cars  and clothing.  It has been our job (and an uphill one at that!) to show companies and business owners that branding applies to people as well.  However, much to our pleasure these days, the term “brand” is used much more widely and commonly with respect to people and groups.

Just recently, Louisiana Republican Governor Bobby Jindal delivered his party’s formal response to Obama’s vision for this country.  In his response, Jindal said, “We had a number of Republicans damage the [Republican] brand this year with offensive and bizarre comments.”  Jindal was referring to self-sabotage in sending a brand off-course.  Self-sabotage is sadly a common characteristic of the human race.  We would like to deny it as much as possible, but we cannot.  In the personal branding world, we see self-sabotage play out daily.  We don’t even know we are blocking our personal brand success until it is often too late. Even then, we may not want to believe it is our fault.

We don’t just come up with a personal brand for companies and employees.  We help you understand your individual uniqueness as a person and then work on communicating that uniqueness to your target audience so that you captivate them with your memorability and credibility.  We want you each to be different, understand the difference and bring that uniqueness to the business brand so that there is a synergy created based on a common, united front- that’s the synchronized, harmonious business brand/perception the target market feels when they encounter each of you. As a natural consequence of self-sabotage and poor personal brand management, we also rehabilitate personal brands.

So what exactly is the brand of a Republican or a liberal or any other group for that matter?  Well, it depends on the audience and their perception.   The way we define “brand” is a list of identifying characteristics of a person or group.  This list of identifying characteristics is dictated by the person or group, as well as by the audience perception.

So for example, Jindal believes the Republicans damaged their brand.  Does his audience believe the same?  And even more important, what are we going to do to rehabilitate the brand- inside the group and out in the audience?

What’s important for you to do is start paying more attention to the term, “brand”.  First define your identifying characteristics, then manage to audience perception. 

Does Your Attire Bring You Profit? Michelle Obama, Visual Branding and YOU!

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Personal Branding involves your visual brand, including what you wear that reflects your personal branding goals.

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How many times have you attended a crowded networking event where it seemed every professional in attendance was wearing a blue or black suit?  How many times have you left events where everyone and everything seemed like a blur? What I mean is you could not quite remember anyone’s name or practice.  In other words, no one left any type of impression on you.  No one was memorable, let alone credible.  Ever wonder why?  It is because no one stood out for you.  In a sea of sameness based on profession, what is it that you have to help you stand out?

Visual branding is about how you show up for me visually.  In other words, we are talking about your actual appearance.  Your appearance is only about twenty percent of the personal branding package that we are working to create, but nevertheless an important piece.  When you are at a crowded  event are you wearing something that will make me stop and take notice of you in a positive way?  Or do you choose to blend into the background?  Another good way of thinking about your attire and visual brand is to keep asking yourself, “does my attire and appearance bring me profit?”

This is often the point where people roll their eyes. In their opinion the visual portion is “fluff”.  After all, not many of us professionals are working daily to make a fashion statement.  I tend to agree.  However, we also need to realize that society is visual in nature.  Why do you think it is that so much money is spent each year by retail clothing stores, and designers producing clothes, marketing them to us and the rest of society?

Society (and businesses who would hire you) tend to pay attention to these things. Michelle Obama is a great example.  How often have we heard and seen commentary about her fabulous and toned arms?  Or what about her Gap sweaters and casual skirts? And the latest was all the commentary around her red Jason Wu gown at the inauguration ball.

I can’t say I was a fan of her red Jason Wu gown.  In the past her clothing selection has denoted a personal brand element for her that was consistent and had clarity.  This particular Wu gown did not send the same message to me about Michelle Obama’s personal brand.  That’s my perception, that’s my reality and therefore, it is correct- for me.

Regardless of whether you liked Michelle Obama’s red gown or not, the fact is that we are talking and writing about it. There was even a column in the Huffington Post on it!  Just as we notice Michelle Obama’s arms and gowns, people notice you and your visual brand and form judgments about you and your business based on it.   If you disagree because you claim you are not the First Lady and thus, not super visible – you are fooling yourself!!

Does your attire bring you profit?  What is your visual brand?  Does it work for you? If not, what will you change and how?

Give To Get

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Nowhere in any of my programs will you find me saying that the point of personal branding is about you getting more business or “taking” for yourself.  This seems counter-intuitive because personal branding is about selling yourself and your uniqueness.

However, the entire premise of personal brand management is about understanding that you are to give to others and fulfill their needs by bringing them value.  Oftentimes, I find that as professional service providers (lawyers, doctors, CPAs, etc) clients  get confused here.

They tend to think that everyone is trying to sell them  something and thus, they  need to sell, too.   We addressed the ability to make the big “ask” here.  With the exception of the holidays, as a society, we are most often in “taking” mode instead of “giving” mode.

Understand that the universe is a dance of giving and taking.  You get what you give.  There is reciprocity in all things, including you getting back your fair share.  However, it has to start with you wanting to “give” and help others without any expectations of getting anything back in return.  It is then, and only then, that you will truly receive back.

Understanding and applying this concept has everything to do with you having a strong personal brand.  People want to hire, buy from and be around those professionals who are truly about giving and not taking.  Try it on.  I’ll guarantee your results if you do it right.

First, Know Yourself So You Know What To Market.