Another Look at Personal Branding

We’ve been talking about personal branding and Brand Y-O-U for some time now (even the legal implications), and undoubtedly you’ve invested some time already in it.

Right?

No matter what your profession is, I certainly hope so. Need some more convincing? If you’re in healthcare, hop on over to my latest blog post for Oncology Times and learn about why personal branding is valuable for oncology clinicians.

Even if you’re not in healthcare, take a good, long look at it anyway, since many of the same priniciples apply to building your value as an expert in what you do. Need guidance on how to get there? Take a look at these posts:

It’s important to charge ahead with crafting a personal brand that establishes your expertise, builds social capital and your social network, and carries you through tough times and good times alike.

Cascading Questions?

It was a good week wasn’t it? Got alot of work done and accomplished alot, but always alot left to do, right? Looking forward to the weekend?

I started with a few questions because many questions popped up for me today, all day. I read some articles and heard some comments that made me think, and it resulted in a series of cascading questions about marketing, marketers and our jobs. Make sense? No, you say? Then here, let me give you the question that started it all:

  • Why do some marketers totally disregard Twitter?

    I answered that question with a question, which was also an answer…and so on and so on. Enjoy.

  • Do you not want to hear what customers are saying?
  • Isn’t listening to customers part of our jobs as marketers?
  • Hell, isn’t understanding new media channels a big part of our jobs, too?
  • Isn’t there something — anything — we can learn just by listening to customer conversation?
  • Even if you think Twitter is crazy, why wouldn’t you jump in and at least understand what it’s all about, especially if it’s part of your job?
  • Do you disregard other media and tactics without understanding them fully, too?
  • Are you doing your job by doing that?
  • Technology and marketing evolve fast nowadays, aren’t we supposed to learn and evolve along with it?
  • Even if most of Twitter is “pointless babble,” shouldn’t you be able to find a creative way to mix dialogue with tasteful marketing?
  • Would you hire a marketer who doesn’t learn and evolve, stay up-to-date with technology, and get better at their job?
  • If you’re the supervisor of a marketer who doesn’t evolve, why are you employing them?
  • Are you not evolving because your organization doesn’t evolve?
  • Even if that was the case, why wouldn’t you still want to learn and be a better, more marketable marketer?
  • Don’t you want a strong personal Brand Y-O-U?
  • If you’re not on Twitter or other social media where customer conversate, do they notice?
  • Do they wonder why you’re not there?
  • Would you know if they did?
  • What are you going to do about it?

    Charge ahead and answer the last question.

  • Craft Your Personal Brand With Care — Or Else

    Personal branding is certainly important to career growth for any growing or established executive. It’s arguably more important than your resume, as when your personal brand is strong, it makes the job of your resume that much easier.

    That’s why it’s critical for you to take a good, long look at a few short videos, courtesy of the very valuable AdMaven blog, on the legal implications of personal branding. These videos, taped during a recent Chicago Media Marketing and Advertising June Meetup, feature Daliah Saper discussing the nitty-gritty details of the employer-employee relationship as far as who owns what in regards to your personal brand and how you build it. The discussion of course includes a focus on personal branding via social media, including Twitter and blogs.

    You may be surprised at some of the answers.

    Kudos to AdMaven for making these videos available.

    7 Things To Do in the Next 7 Days — Part One

    It’s a crazy time to be a marketer.

    So much to do, so much to learn, so much to stay on top of. It’s the most dynamic time in the last 15 years. Technology evolves at a breakneck pace even in the down economy. Social media rewrites the way marketers can engage customers and build relationships. Twitter rises to a frantic level of use — and marketers become frantic overnight trying to embrace it. Expected evolution in traditional tactics like direct mail and email still continues (yes, we’ve arrived at the point where email is now a “traditional” tactic). And you have to keep an eye forward to prepare for next-generation advances in targeting and technology.

    How can you do it all, AND do your day job?

    Ultimately, the answer lies with you. You have to find a way to balance the skills that keep you employed today…

  • Driving sales
  • Achieving goals
  • Raising ROI
  • Motivating employees
  • Building brands

    …with the skills that will keep you employed tomorrow.

  • Utilizing the latest technology
  • Understanding shifting customer needs/wants
  • Building a strong personal brand
  • Evolving your brand positioning with the changing market
  • Driving sales, raising ROI, building brands, and all the rest — in different times, with different rules, and different strategies

    So, in the interest of helping you find that balance, I offer you a few things to do in the next seven days (if you’re not already doing them). Take a good, long look at this list, and find time to dedicate time to each task — not just this week, but for good. You’ll be better prepared to charge ahead with whatever the economy demands of marketers in the coming months.

    1. Find five blogs to read regularly.
    This is the first thing on the list, because it is a complete MUST. There are so many experts out there who write compelling things every day to help you do your job. And they don’t work for publishers, they’re not all journalists — if you read this blog, you know our future is driven by content, not journalism. They’re marketers with decades of proven experience who blog and offer ideas and insights you need to read, understand and apply.

    Seth Godin and Chris Brogan are two I read always. There’s a buzz-generating new book out called Free by Wired‘s Chris Anderson…do you know about it? You would if you read blogs. There are also people with excellent business acumen, who aren’t necessarily marketers by definition, that can help you. Mark Cuban, for example. Look at the blogroll on my homepage for more. Use Google, search in your vertical market for other experts. Ask colleagues. Whatever you need to do. The point is this — set up a My Yahoo or Google Reader page, and find at least five blogs you must read, minimally, at the start of each day. You will be smarter at the end of the week.

    2. Talk to one customer each day.
    Every day, we’re busy. We have copy to write, projects to manage, bosses to assure, and strategies to present. Yet if part of the day doesn’t involve a conversation with a customer, then all that other stuff may end up being inaccurate. How do you know if the copy you write, projects you manage, and strategies you present — all of which are targeted to your customers — will be effective with your customers if you don’t ask them? How do you know what media to use for your message — not just today, but tomorrow — if you don’t ask them? How can have a breakthrough launch or idea that differentiate you from your competitors, if you don’t ask customers what they need?

    More importantly, you can’t build a strong personal brand without a refined way to understand customer needs.

    So get a customer list and call one each day. Young marketers, especially you. Don’t just be an executer — be someone who can offer insightful input based on conversations you have with people in the market. Ask that customer each day what keeps them up at night, what media they use, what budget challenges they face, and what keeps their customers up at night. And use that feedback to guide all your decisions. You will be smarter at the end of the week.

    3. Rethink your email marketing campaign.
    I almost gagged the other day when I heard about someone in my own company who emails every person on his email list every single week. Everyone gets everything. Here’s a better idea — save the time and money, and just opt-out all your customers right now.

    There are two ways you should rethink your email campaign right now: frequency and relevance. More is not better — more relevant, however, is. So take extra time to understand your customers and your list, and craft well-timed messages that are more relevant to what keeps them up at night (which you’ll found out by talking to a customer each day…#2, see above). Some people on your team may push for more, more, more — I say go for quality over quantity. Email inboxes are full right now, in case you’re the one exception to that reality and didn’t realize it. Stop pushing messages just to be pushing — study your metrics and know what works for a particular list, know what customers need and find relevant, send messages around times/dates that are important in the metrics, and focus the message on key needs and/or pain points. Doing it this way, less will get you more.

    Oh, and if you’ve been doing the same thing, try something different. Find balance between consistency in branding and fresh messaging that generates response. If you have a brand email template, try a text-only message that’s on-brand yet delivers the message in a unique way.

    There you have it. Three things to start on right now. See you in three days for the rest of the list.

  • Another Letter to Marketing Professors

    Dear Business School Marketing Professors–

    How are you doing? I haven’t had time to drop you a letter since my last one in April, but I took a good, long look at something today that made me think of you.

    Leave it to the guru, Seth Godin, to write another blog post that makes it all clear (you guys might want to consider recruiting him and turning him into the President of Professors). His post is about the textbooks you guys use to educate these kids you send out here. You may want to rethink the whole concept, as he suggests.

    I’ll tell you why I agree with his ideas. Re-read the last letter and think about the skills these kids lack when you send them out here. You can’t teach that stuff in a textbook. These kids need real-world skills and perspective, not definitions and false belief that they’re equipped with what it takes to succeed. Seth is right, let Wikipedia have the definitions — their definitions are much deeper and broader than anything in a textbook anyway.

    Plus, when do kids ever learn things like people skills with customers, time management and managing expectations from a textbook? I know, I know, you guys do that all the time — but I keep reminding you, you’re academics, you’re j-o-b is to write, read and learn from books and studies and papers. I don’t give out a how-to book to people out here, you’ve gotta figure it out on your own, and quickly. But c’mon, a marketing textbook for a class in 2009 with no mention of Google? How is that in anyone’s best interest? The folks who write your books don’t know about Google yet?

    Listen, give Seth a call, invite him to your next conference. Hell, read his latest book, and use that as the textbook in your next class. If nothing else, go Google some information on Google.

    Let’s keep working to make sure the kids you send out here charge ahead with the best idea on what it takes to get ahead, create a strong personal brand, and build a career.

    I’ll be in touch again soon.

    The Real World

    Steps to Improve Your Social Network

    This may be preaching to the choir, but clearly I am not against that in this blog. You know this.

    Marketers are, by and large, good networkers. This is probably due to the fact that, like I said in a recent post, we are in sales as much as we are in marketing. We’re accustomed to seeking and finding customers on an hourly basis, so seeking and finding others like ourselves either comes naturally or comes through experience. And as part of Brand Y-O-U, your personal brand, networking is critically important to the vitality of your career.

    Yet for young marketers, those who’ve been in a particular job or field for a long time, those who are not either natural or trained networkers, or those executives who are not in marketing, you need to take a good, long look at your social network and get up-to-speed quickly with the power of social networking. And specifically, building the power of your own social network — the generalities and statistics and cool factor about social networking are great, but the ROI in social networking needs to include some tangible benefits for you and your personal brand, right?

    Make no mistake — investing some of your time in establishing a strong social network for yourself is just as important as investing time to understand the social networking tools you use to engage and acquire customers. And it’s important to invest this time when you’re:

  • At an experienced career level, in the growth stages of your career, or just starting out
  • In a strong employment position, rather than just when you’re looking for a job
  • That’s because when you’re out of a job, of course you’re reaching out to people — and it’s perceived that way. You’re out of your comfort zone — and if you’re not a regular networker, you’re viewed as putting on a persona that’s not normally you.

    So, now that we’ve got the reasoning for networking out of the way, here’s the whole purpose of this post. A brief list of things you can do to be a marketer with a strong social network:

  • Build a power profile on LinkedIn — Keep it updated to-the-minute with all your experience, connect to people you work with and know, and ask people to recommend you. Sure, it may be a little cliche now, yet it’s the easiest and first thing to do, and it’s recognized by all. Make your profile a place you can send people to easily learn about your credentials. (Use my profile as a reference)
  • Read and comment on blogs — You need to read blogs for their valuable perspective and insights, so comment on them to put your thoughts on record, build a search-engine friendly way to find you, and establish your expertise. If you don’t have your own website or blog (which, if you’re considering starting a blog, ask yourself these questions first), link back to your LinkedIn profile.
  • Reach out to other professionals who are like you — Create relationships with people you can learn from, bounce ideas off of, and share insights with. They may work for your company, your vendors, other companies in your industry, or even your competitors. That’s right — competitors. Fostering a strong social network and empowering a give-and-take of knowledge is more beneficial than erecting barriers that diminish your network’s reach. Find these people on LinkedIn, at industry events, on blogs, on blog comments, on Twitter, on Google, on company websites, and via other colleagues in your social network. Reach out to them with an invitation to share expertise and discuss issues.
  • Stay in touch with your network — Don’t meet people and then just let the relationships wilt. Stay in touch with your network, where they are, what they do, and more importantly what and who they know. Find relevant reasons to communicate — share ideas, forward data and articles, set up meetings, propose partnerships.
  • These are the basics. There are other things you can do — start a blog, seek speaking opportunities, and more. If you’re new to being a social networker, start slow. Build a good foundation for your network before you charge ahead into the world of blogging and advanced social media.

    You’ve invested the time, money and effort in being a good marketer — don’t let it go to waste because you didn’t invest in your social network and Brand Y-O-U.