- Testimonials/Case Studies
All Posts Tagged Tag: ‘branding’
I was recently at a reunion dinner with 7 of my closest friends from law school. It has been a very long time since we all graduated law school together. Of the 8 of us, only 3 were still actively practicing law. At dinner, one of my friends, Vicki, asked me a very interesting question. Vicki is a deputy prosecutor and probably has one of the best outlooks on life I have ever encountered.
Vicki asked me what is the biggest challenge I face when working with individuals on their branding. The answer is very simple.
Very often, I work on personal branding with highly educated professionals such as lawyers, dentists, doctors and PhDs. I have found that when we are highly educated or have a particular skill-set that requires a lot of precise mental processing (engineering, medicine, legal, etc), we tend to believe that anything and everything that could possibly make our business better is tied directly to our substantive knowledge and work. In other word, we believe that how intellectually smart we are is the complete reason for our success in our business and careers and professions.
It takes me and my staff much work to convince clients that while it is great to be so highly educated, the first impression the public and prospects have of your business is NOT based on great education or intellect. In fact, it has absolutely nothing to do with this fact!! This statement tends to sting and offend at first often times. Some clients like to fight me on this fact or dismiss it. Thus, this becomes my biggest challenge.
The truth is the first impression of others about your business is a visual one and not based on substantive work product. Think about it- when you are in a room with others networking, all you see initially is a group of people. You don’t know everyone’s background, experience or education. All you know is that you will choose to approach and speak to certain people, and not others, based on what you visually see about them that attracts you to them. This is the art of personal branding and being memorable at its most basic. The process is often subconscious and not personal to anyone. Then once you have decided who you want to get to know, you can learn about their credentials and business.
What does this mean for you? While your education and experience is very important in standing out in your career and from your competition and running an effective business, it is not initially important when it comes to your personal brand. What is important is how you visually stand out from the rest of your competition and how you attract and engage others to you so that they can then learn about you and your business. This requires a visual personal brand that is deliberate, genuine and memorable.
I was recently with a client of mine who travels a lot for work. We were talking about her favorite airline and she mentioned how she loves Southwest. As she started talking about Southwest, her entire demeanor changed- you could totally see her excitement and passion for the airline. She was smiling and saying how much fun it was to fly again now that she had “found” Southwest. She had stumbled upon them when her preferred, major airline had left her stranded and given her no options or assistance. She had literally walked over to the Southwest counter, where they had booked her in about 5 minutes to her destination AND made her laugh. After that, she was hooked. She gave up her zillion mile status and her first class seats- all to travel on Southwest and enjoy her constant trips.
To me, this is the perfect example of how the Southwest personal and business brands are a success. It is all because of customer service. Southwest recently celebrated 40 years of business. If you look at their mission statement (which my client knows by heart!)- it is a dual statement. One part of the statement is devoted to clients and one to employees. The client mission statement is: “dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit.”
Southwest has literally taken this mission statement and translated it into developing a personal brand for each employee that caters to customer service built on fun and quality. This personal brand of “fun and quality service” is what my client, as well as many other travelers, remember most about Southwest. The personal brand is very unique and sets apart the airline from competitors. Who wouldn’t want good service and fun these days?
As we always say here at Puris, every successful business needs a personal brand that has a unique community service platform. In terms of personal branding, Southwest has the community service component covered well, also. According to their website, in 2009, Southwest Airlines employees volunteered more than 45,000 hours to charities across the country. To support these passionate employee volunteers, Southwest Airlines launched the Tickets for Time program. For every 40 hours their employees volunteer for a nonprofit organization, the benefitting nonprofit organization is eligible to receive one complimentary, roundtrip ticket on Southwest Airlines for fundraising or transportation needs.
According to my client, Southwest is “well-designed, yet casual and always has fabulous service”. On their blog Southwest says that they are in the customer service business and just happen to fly planes. This says it all, doesn’t it?
What does this mean for your personal brand and your business brand? Nothing resonates louder for your personal brand and that of your employees than quality customer service done only to serve and create fun and joy in the lives of your customers. Do you and your staff enjoy servicing your clients? Is it fun or is it difficult? Do you all put on your game face and “pretend” to be happy or do you mean it? We can all see through any insincerity. It never works. Hire staff who really like what they do for you and your clients. I hope you are running a business that you really love, too.
My client is a perfect example of how a business traveler with many options would leave the comforts of first class, priority boarding and extra legroom for good customer service and fun. Is your customer service fun and effective? If so, then so is your personal and business brands.
Since I teach negotiation skills as part of an effective personal brand, I often get a very simple, yet complex question. People often wonder where is the best location/premise for them to hold face-to-face negotiations. There are two schools of thought on this topic.
Some claim that you should always invite the other party to your turf and negotiate at your own office or at the place of your choosing. Many believe this gives you a “home court” mental and physical advantage. You have access to your own staff and documents as well as having the comfort and familiarity of your own space. Plus, you set the initial rules starting with where you meet to negotiate.
Others are of the belief that you should negotiate at your opponent’s premises/office/location. The logic here is that you get to have your opponent comfortable on their own turf so that you can get concessions on items they don’t see coming. In addition, some prefer to be out of their own office so they don’t have any interruptions or distractions like calls and emails. I never found either of these “benefits” to truly be benefits when negotiating. To avoid distractions, just turn off your emails and your phone. As far as getting your opponent too cushy, if your opponent is one to fall prey to this distraction, then I don’t think you had much of a difficult negotiation anyway.
Perhaps the biggest reason people like to negotiate on opponent’s premises is because if you are thrown a tough question/topic you can use the excuse that you left certain documents/information at your office, thus you’ll have to “get back to them” and i.e, stall. While I suppose this logic is possible, it fails on its merits. Negotiations are successful when you are honest and have integrity. Thus, you preserve and strengthen your personal brand. If you’ve done your homework well and are ready for a negotiation, you’ll never be caught off so much that you’ll need to stall. And if it does happen to you, just be honest and stay authentic.
So what does this mean for you? I’ve never been involved in a negotiation that was won or lost due to the turf. In my opinion, it really doesn’t matter where you negotiate as long as you know how to negotiate well and do so with integrity.
Another trend I see regularly from my clients and business owners is what I call, “business paralysis”. I will often ask business owners certain questions regarding key personal branding components within their business. For example, what type of target market they want to develop – or how they want to generally resonate with prospects and other businesses.
The response is unfortunately often the same. The business owners tell me that they can’t seem to make a decision on this topic, so they have tabled the topic (often completely!) until further notice! What this translates into is a business that has been derailed/delayed due to indecision and unorganized/unstructured planning and fact-gathering.
The business owner’s demeanor and general business posture follows the paralysis mentality- they often feel resigned to not succeeding and being a business failure. Their personal brand is diluted because they come across as indecisive and lacking self-confidence. Who wants to hire anyone like that?
This same “paralysis” applies to employees looking for a job and/or new career. If you have been told “no” often enough in this economy, you are likely to think you are a failure and hence, go into paralysis over your competence in your given field. Guess what happens then? No one wants to hire someone who has a less-than confident personal brand.
What does this mean for you? Own who you are, whether a business owner or job seeker/employee! Just make a decision and keep moving forward. Any decision is better than indecision leading to paralysis and a weak and inauthentic personal brand. Even a “wrong” decision will mean you are moving forward and that is attractive to the rest of us because you are in control of your life and personal brand. This shows you can handle our business and/or do a competent job as an employee.
Give it a try. The only failure is in not trying- I promise.
As a business owner or employee, we all have this problem sooner or later: a customer becomes aggressive, and even hostile, during a business interaction or negotiation. What should we do?
First, I can tell you what NOT to do from my years of personal experience and observation of others in action. Rarely does it work to interrupt the customer and offer up reasons as to why they are wrong. I see this technique happen all the time with my clientele when I am working one on one with them. My clients often tell me they feel the need to try to stop the customer and make them feel better by giving them the correct version of what happened.
The problem here is that by doing so you are: 1)angering the customer even more because you have interrupted their rant/rave 2) offering up what sounds like poor excuses to justify screwing up, leaving a very poor personal brand of yourself for the customer and 3) showing the customer that you are not able to “confront” them and have an intelligent conversation with them.
When you encounter an aggressive customer, I recommend you do the following:
1. Realize this situation is NOT personal to you- the customer isn’t aggressive with you. They hardly know you. They are aggressive with the situation and you just happen to be the face of the situation upon whom they can vent. They don’t know you. They don’t know you are a kind person and on their side.
2. Allow the customer to fully vent or finish their cycle of aggressiveness- Of course, this makes sense so long as they are not physically threatening you. But 9 times out of 10, people just want to be heard. If you just allow them to be heard, you have given them 90% of what they need and want in that moment.
3. Acknowledge their reason for being aggressive- no matter how nuts you think the customer is being, remember that to them their aggressiveness is very real and right. They may go home and realize they were a jerk, but in that moment they feel hurt and thus, aggressive. Realize this fact and say something to acknowledge them as humans. It could be as simple as saying, “I totally understand how you would feel this way”. This statement doesn’t mean you agree with them, but that you get them.
4. Look them in the eyes and don’t let your gaze drift- holding your own and being able to confront a situation means being able to be with a person in that very moment and looking them in the eyes. I’m not saying stare them down. In fact, that is exactly what NOT to do. But looking with compassion into another human’s eyes, immediately deflates any tense situation. Non-verbal communication is at least 78% of all communication. So by holding a steady gaze, you are saying volumes without saying a word. In fact, a firm and compassionate gaze sets you up for a completely effective and confident and strong personal brand.
WHAT EXPERIENCES HAVE YOU HAD WITH AN AGGRESSIVE CUSTOMER? EMAIL US AND LET US KNOW.