Brand Positioning With The Urgency Of Jack Bauer

The program for people who want to take a sledgehammer to inaction.

Sufferers from Marketing Meeting Fatigue can’t always spot the warning signs right away. That’s because MMF sets in after the 15th meeting about the position of the market you feel you can truly own better than anybody. You may have disagreements on your best attributes, your best audience to hear about those attributes and what you want to say when you’re actually in front of them offline or online. You debate over and over about what you believe clients believe about you, which then diverts into unfocused thinking, thanks to the new hipster intern who thinks you should be on Pinterest rather than addressing the real business problem at hand first.

I’ve seen it happen. I’ve experienced it. And it doesn’t have to be this hard or painful.

True, finding a brand’s positioning typically calls for a carefully crafted process over several weeks and meetings to transform insight into a crystal-clear path. Those options come in the form of my Brand Catapults and are a great option for a lot of companies. A deep dive over a 6-8 week period isn’t a big deal for them because they can’t imagine getting to a lot of clarity otherwise on their brand positioning, precise target audience, messaging, media recommendations and more. Whenever possible, I strongly recommend this as an option.

Yet, perhaps your headache in this area isn’t a tingling sensation but a full-on migraine. And that calls for something a lot more fast-acting and maximum strength.

No more meetings.
No more BS.
No more chasing trends because everyone else is.

That brings me to my “selly sell,” as Chris Brogan would call it.

In such unique cases, companies need a plan even sooner, attacking brand strategy with the full urgency of a Jack Bauer and delivering a direction for their brand now. And by now, I mean yesterday. And by yesterday, I mean three months ago.

I get it. And now I’ve developed the answer. It’s called a Sledgehammer Session, supremely aggressive version of our robust process that dives into brand development for your company.

A Session That’s Full Speed Ahead.
In a customized session, my colleagues and I will meet with all the key players of your company to get a total understanding of your specific business goals and targets in relation to your branding, marketing, sales and social media efforts. Besides doing a fair amount of listening, I’ll also ask a variety of questions – some of them tougher than others – about your audience, your competitors, what you feel are your strengths, what you need to do better as a company, your budget and more.

Back In One Week.
In which we’ll return with a brand positioning and strategic recommendations based on what you want to achieve to improve your programs, audience and budget.

Sessions are four hours and you can purchase another block of four hours if needed.

Change doesn’t happen because of luck or some karma in the universe. It comes from taking a Sledgehammer to endless talking about a plan and getting the clarity you need on the right steps of your brand strategy right now.

Schedule your Sledgehammer Session with Caliber today at 773.677.6043 or dan@chicagobrander.com.

5 Ways To Make An Agency Creative Feel Like An Award Winner.

“Inside the mind of a writer is a truly terrifying experience.”
– Robert DeNiro at the Oscars, March 2014

Ouch, Bobby. As creatives, are we that insecure and in need of constant praise? Really? Well, maybe we’ve got the confidence and passion but like anyone, we do need to be recognized.

That’s where many agencies can maximize a terrific opportunity to show they care about the work, the work, the work. If it’s all about the work, recognize it. “Oh, do we really need to give everybody a cookie or sticker?” says The Insensitive Account Director. No. But if you did a good job in hiring talent at all, you’d know their work is worthy of recognition. Not cheesy recognition (“you win a free apple!”) but real recognition.

1. Framed Work On The Walls
Client walks into your agency and go into your conference room. Spends 3-5 minutes there. They can spend that time looking at exposed brick or they can look at some actual, real work. Work that inspires. Work that makes them laugh. Work that’s provocative. On the way in and out of the meeting they also see work hung in the hallways. Most importantly, that’s the stuff that your creatives see too – the stuff you live and breathe and celebrate. By the way, imagine a great piece your agency did as the jumping off point for a discussion vs. the typical small talk about how you took the kids up to Wisconsin for the weekend. Sorry, I fell asleep by the time that last sentence was completed.

2. Work On The Online Walls (i.e. Your Portfolio)
How is this hard? You choose a piece, you upload it. You write something about it. Done. Oh yeah – and you give credit to the creatives who made it happen. Every single one of them, plus account and production folks. Come on. I know you’ve got the time for this.

3. Give Credit In Front Of The Client
A client asks, “Who did this great line/this visual?” The standard answer is typically, “Oh, we ALL did. It was a TEAM effort.”

I know it’s a feel-good thing to say that, but it’s also perfectly OK to say, “Steve did the design and Luke did the copy. These guys did a really great job, didn’t they? ” This is your team. You brought them on. OWN IT. Why shouldn’t they be pointed out for making you look good?

4. Give Credit In Front Of The Agency
You may saying, “Oh, but how can we do that, Dan? You’re saying we should pull together a bunch of departments to just recognize our own people?” You’re overthinking this. It’s called email. You type it out. You give it some careful thought and consideration. And then you send it. Even if it’s only to your own department to say something like, “You know, I don’t always say it often enough but I’d like to personally thank (NAME) for (THING THEY DID TO MAKE YOU LOOK GOOD). I’m confident our client will love the result but even before that, I’m very proud of what we’ve put together with great sacrifice to time at home and sleep.”

If this is somehow too difficult for someone to do, it’s a problem of ego, laziness, fear, caring or a combination of all four.

5. The Internal Awards Show
Do you just want to rely on judges who don’t know your work? Creatives need tender loving care too and it’s not beneath you to celebrate their brilliance. Most Creative. The Best Ad The Client Should’ve Bought But Didn’t. Best Status Update That Uses Talking Cats. I don’t care. 

It’s not that winning outside awards don’t feel great. They do. They really, really do. But is it possible that a great feeling could also be experienced by the recognition you bestow on them within your own walls? If done right and actually meaningful with something the creative craves as a reward, the answer is yes, quite possibly. Which might save you thousands of dollars in entry fees and travel accommodations. Hearing praise from you, hopefully someone they very much respect, isn’t too shabby either. Why? Unlike those total strangers, you’re the one reviewing their work each and every day.

If you notice a pattern here, it’s that each of these ways requires you to give them some PDA: Public Display of Affection. No, I don’t mean making out with them. I mean publicly declaring your affection for their work to others.

There shouldn’t be any degree of risk in doing this if you truly believe in your people.

Because ultimately, you just have no idea how much of a long way a kind word and a kind action can go in the impact of someone’s day, someone’s focus, someone’s loyalty and heck, even someone’s life.

We all could use that feeling a little more often, don’t you think?

What other ways have you awarded creatives in your agency? Share them!

Finding Your Negotiating Point Of No Return – And Your Soul.

Sometimes in one of the networking groups I help lead, we have 15-20 minutes for an engaging topic of discussion relevant to entrepreneurs. This week, one raised an important question:

“Is anybody else tired of haggling to death over pricing? If we’re small businesses and the lifeblood of our economy, why are we beating ourselves up?”

It’s a very fair question. Rather than bemoan the problems and challenges that come with haggling over price, let’s do something about it. See, if you know who you want to deal with and who you don’t as well as if you know what your value is, then negotiating doesn’t have to be the experience you might regularly dread.

It’s your choice whether or not to play. And for how long.

Get a pad of paper out. List the 10 best clients you ever had. What do they have in common?

Then do the same for the 10 worst clients you ever had. What united them? What did they say? How did they act during the time you were putting a deal together?

Knowing that you’d obviously prefer to deal with the qualities conveyed in the 10 best, what does that say about somebody who displays little to none of those qualities?

These are decisions you are allowed to make and should make in advance of negotiation. Unfortunately, it’s always assumed in this “tell me what you’re going to do for me” world that you want to work with a total stranger you meet at a networking event. No, Chief. Why don’t you tell me a little more about you so we can learn if we’re even possibly a fit first. I have a stable of clients that have to meet a certain criteria and I want to know how much of that criteria you match. Pompous? No. It’s called valuing my own brand and my own time – and believe it or not, it’s about valuing yours too.

So ask yourself some very important strategic questions:

Are they really the kind of client you WANT?
Seriously. Do you know who you do not want as a client? Sometimes when people talk about the criteria of a good client, they chuckle and say, “Anybody with money.” Ha. Stop. No, seriously. STOP. You don’t take anybody with money. You take people with money who help get you where you want to go as a firm. As an agency, do you think they will add to the creativity of your portfolio? Will they refer business to you? Do you think they will enjoyable to work with and not condescending jerks? If you’re working primarily with large industrial clients, why are you taking on the florist down the street that doesn’t have two nickels to rub together?

How many clients do you actually NEED?
If you don’t know, that’s a problem. You haven’t defined what type of client you need to be happy and how many of them if they’re paying your true worth. If you say “I can never have enough,” that’s a way of saying, in other words, that you have no idea. And more importantly, you’re positioning yourself to sound like you’ll take anything that breathes. That’s where big issues and ulcers occur.

What’s your walk away point?
It’s not just about a particular price point but how the prospect is making you feel. If you feel like you are sacrificing part of what makes you great and what people value about you just to make a deal work for the other person, you know it. There’s a tingling sensation in your mind or your gut or your heart or some other region. You just…know it. And yet, you are making deals with yourself internally to make the logic work.

And that’s your walk away point.

Get up from the table, extend your hand and thank them for their time.

Those people won’t be helping because they’ll have line after line to push you over the edge and “sweeten” the deal. Beware.

For example, if I hear “I know a lot of people I can introduce you to if you can cut me a break,” I know I’m likely dealing with a pretender or cheapskate.

In my youth, I was wooed by this kind of talk. Ooh. Aah. You know people. Whatever.

They can pay at least a deposit up front, right now or they can’t. Plain and simple. Put up or shut up.

Create your parameters and standards for the kind of deal you just won’t do.
Everybody’s different on these specifically, but I like to think everybody also has a soul. The deals of “what could be” can’t outweigh what’s in front of you right now in terms of attractiveness. Rather, you should feel like, “Wow, this is a very rewarding mutually beneficial relationship as is. And hey, on top of it, we might even receive (bonus here).” You should NOT feel like, “Wow, this deal really sucks for us right now as we have to take a lot less than we typically do. But oh, if it works out, we’ll be neighbors to Richard Branson on his island with all the money we’ll make.”

Yeah…good luck with that latter scenario. Really. I hope it works out. I just wouldn’t expect it to at all.

This is why I don’t make “scratch-my-back-first” deals that involve me working for pennies for people who use the phrase “skin in the game” or “sweat equity.”
I don’t deal with people who try and barter rather than use dollars – the math doesn’t work cleanly.
I don’t deal with people who try to make back-end-percentages sound alluring when they mean zero dollars now. That’s playing in Fantasyland.

These are all nice ways of saying they have no money or not nearly enough.

It’s not just a financial standpoint. It’s a moral and ethical one for me. It’s who I am and what I believe in. It reflects the people I’ve had good experiences with and the not-so-good experiences.

Similarly, what have your experiences taught you about the situations you’ll never, ever re-enter?

You have to use your own BS Detector for these red flags to have some respect for yourself. The more you choose to engage round after round, the more you choose to be beaten up beyond what you deserve. REMEMBER: It’s your choice to negotiate and haggle. There are two parties that are necessary for that to occur in the first place.

When you decide the point of where enough is enough, you are taking back control of the process.

This is a part of what your brand stands for vs. those who will take anyone that moves and subsequently charge less than you to make that happen. They have no brand. They are just faceless, ordinary vendors providing a service like anyone else at that point, merely blending in with the rest. They will argue that they’ll get the business, but when it’s that ridiculous of a discount, they’ll have to work that much harder for that much less profit, over and over again until it’s a debilitating cycle. Does that sound like winning to you?

If that’s not what you want to be, it’s time to know when you talk the talk and when you have to walk the walk. For your brand. For your financial success. For your balance.

Keep this in mind and live by it with confidence. I’ll consider you a winner before negotiation even starts.

Banging Your Head Through Your Own Four Walls

There was a time years ago when that saying about the “cobbler’s children have no shoes” was worn like a badge of honor for me. I was working so hard on other people’s stuff back then that I would neglect to make myself a client. That was common but dumb.

I’ve also worked for agencies that acted this way. I just took a look at one of them and lo and behold, it’s the same website it’s been for years – barely anything has changed, including anything in the portfolio. But there they probably go, “humblebragging” about how they just work so hard on their own clients that they never have enough time to work on their own stuff.

Stop doing that. Right now. Seriously. Knock. It. Off.

Get this through your head once and for all. Nobody is giving you medals or consolation prizes because you’re just “so busy” that you don’t work on your own website, business cards, brochure and whatever else. It’s to your detriment and you’re giving your own business the shaft. Including the people that work for you. The “I’m so busy” excuse is over. It’s done. Throw it in the garbage. Everybody’s busy.

To really kick your own ass, you may need two things:

1) Humility

2) Someone who has nothing to do with your business who’s really, really good at helping you clarify your vision and showing you how to execute on that vision, one step at a time. 

I’m getting that kind of help right now from someone who is coming at my business from a perspective I wouldn’t have thought of. She’s not afraid to tell me when an idea is good or when it sucks. The things we’re working on is going to take my career to an entirely different tier. I’m so excited about some of them that I’m going to burst – and while I can’t share them yet, I can say that she’s keeping me on the path.

Regularly, I set aside the time with her to develop the client that is Me. That’s not self-help, new age talk. It’s real. For if I am to propel myself to the goals I want, I need to invest the time to make it happen. Goal setting is OK. Tactics are better. And better than that is living up to them – wait, you mean I actually have to do these things for the course I charted? Here goes.

Is this kind of discipline and determination any different than what you face when deciding whether or not to work out? Not really. You know what happens when you slack off from going to the gym. You suffer. You may feel good temporarily but then the guilt sets in.

Well, the same thing occurs when you keep kicking development of your own brand down the road.

You miss a day. Then another day. It becomes a week. Before long you’re saying, “I should really get back on that treadmill.” Just replace that last phrase with “We should really update our online portfolio” or any other burning initiative you have.

Is it easy? Ha. No. It’s fun but it’s not easy. You have to make yourself a client. Plain and simple. You will always, always, ALWAYS find an excuse not to do things for yourself if you do not see your own brand on the client roster. That is challenging when you have other clients who pay. I get it. But when you can see the steps forward in bite-sized goals rather than goals that are too big and too far in the future, you have something you can work on together with a consultant – and feel like you’re making real progress along the way.

Just like a fitness trainer can be of help to those who need to stay on the path of consistency, consider who you can turn to outside of your four walls to help you achieve your mission, one small hurdle at a time.

Sarah Victory

Now, I’d like to introduce you to the person who has already been and will continue to be a dynamite help to me. Her name is Sarah Victory and if you have time this Thursday the 20th, I’d love for you to hear her speak on how to Double Your Business, Double Your Impact, Change The World.” It’s going to be a fantastic evening of networking at The Metropolitan Club through one of my groups, the American Club Association (ACA). There are only a few spots left and you must register in advance at the link above.

I hope you can make it. And I also hope you can break outside of the thinking that it’s OK to put your own brand on the back burner or that only someone under your own roof can work on that effort. Let me know how it goes and the kind of outside help you’re getting to work toward what matters for developing your own brand.

Keep pushing forward. You’re worth it.

Keeping Your Brand Warmer In A Polar Vortex

As temperatures in this part of the country reach epically historic lows and videos depicting Chicago as the ice planet Hoth from Star Wars go up, one of the more common things for a company to do is to keep their customers informed on social media of delivery status or whether or not they’re open for business on a day like today.

Hey, no problem with that. That’s just keeping people in the loop, which is the right thing to do. But I wonder if there’s an opportunity to go further that some could take advantage of to host a captive Q&A session via Google Hangouts or reminding them of some of your more “live” customer service mechanisms in place such as video chat or a dedicated handle for customer service on Twitter. It may be an opportunity to speak to how your team works remotely and seamlessly, even when sudden conditions force you to not be in the same place. Are there tools you use to protect your communication lines internally and ensure data sharing that may, in turn, be of use for your customers to know (me – I’m a Hangouts and Dropbox fan)? In the process, you’re sending a subtle message about your flexibility, culture, technological level, teamwork and – most importantly – being helpful. Not just the fact that you’re open or closed. This doesn’t have to be complicated or require a ton of internal coordination – some updates or images via social media may do the trick.

After all, you’re talking about a portion of your population locally that may be working today but may be more confined to their own home base rather than the office. As they’re hunkering down with their laptop and Internet connection to the outside world because nobody should dare set foot outside otherwise, they may be yearning to connect with some humans a tad more than usual so cabin fever doesn’t set in. It just might be the extra chance for your brand to shine brighter when the forecast calls for a high of -1 degrees.

How are you connecting or collaborating with your team and customers when conditions force you to physically disconnect? Chances are, we can all benefit from ideas to keep our culture and customer service warm.

This Week’s Buzz: Do Google Hangouts Influence Search, Amazon Knows What You’re Thinking and the Future of Sears

This week, Erik Hultman and I talk about the influence of Google Hangout in search results, why you shouldn’t believe everything you read about the impending death of Facebook, how Amazon is trying to get even smarter in anticipating what you want and what the Sears closing of its flagship State Street store means for the brand’s future.

What are your thoughts on some of these issues? Love to hear them.