Enjoyed sharing personal branding strategies at NSA Ohio this weekend. We all have a brand, whether we know it or not. So be intentional. Image-crafting matters. As Bill Stainton said, you never know when a client or prospect is near. He was traveling on an airplane, reviewing his notes for a speech, when the woman sitting next to him said “You must be our speaker!”
While we work hard to craft a professional personal brand, perhaps Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon said it best: “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
It is critical that your personal brand is aligned with your authentic self, intentional, aligned with your go-to-market strategy and crystal clear.
If you want to learn more, pick up a copy of Speak More and read my section “Get Passionate About Personal Branding.”

 

Grab the oxygen mask. While J.C. Penney tries to stop its free fall, torches and pitch forks are pointed at CEO Ron Johnson.

Here are a 5 things businesses can learn:

  1. Be careful what you wish for.
  2. Bring  data to support your position.
  3. Keep your customer top of mind.
  4. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.
  5. Pretty doesn’t make marketing effective. It’s the message stupid.

While there is no doubt that Penney’s needed change to stay competitive — was his radical reinvention strategy just too radical? Was it a “communications problem?”

“Improvement merely lets you hit your numbers. Creativity is what transforms,” said Johnson in a March 2012 Fortune article about his coming out party.

In my nearly 30 years of experience working with companies big and small, this statement is true. And working with an organization in the midst of transformation can be exciting. But, retraining behavior is extraordinarily difficult.

From a business standpoint, you have to have enough financial runway and latitude to drive a new strategy forward long-enough for stickiness. (JCP didn’t.)  From an emotional intelligence standpoint, that stickiness and new behavior can be incredibly tough to achieve — after generations of conditioning a set of shopping behaviors. (There was little communication on what specific actions JCP wanted customers take. And no sales, meant no call to action or motivation to “buy now.”)

JCP forgot something incredibly important — ASK YOUR CUSTOMER. (What do you want and how do you want it? Then, market-test the heck out of the concept to see if their buying behavior matches their wish list before launch.)

People like to feel like they are getting a deal. It’s psychological. It’s shopping 101. By competing on price, JCP had to make an incredibly clear and compelling case to the consumer. It didn’t. It’s a major fail whale.

And while I love beautiful marketing pieces, all of JCP’s environmental, scene driven photography didn’t sell one blender. Why? Because there was no compelling copy to describe the item, no customer benefit and no clear pricing.
Another multimillion dollar marketing mistake.

Customers are dropping like flies and credibility is gone. It will be a long-climb for JCP to recoup its losses.

J.C. Penney analyst: ‘CEO has to go’

Dallas Business Journal by Steven R. Thompson, Staff Writer

Date: Wednesday, July 11, 2012, 5:30am CDT

After J.C. Penney cut 350 employees from its Plano headquarters Tuesday, retail analysts said they are unsure how the company can continue to follow through with its transformation strategy. One analyst even said it was time for CEO Ron Johnson to leave.

“The next step is the CEO has to go, I guess,” said Howard Davidowitz, chairman of New York-based Davidowitz & Associates, a retail consulting and investment-banking firm. “Because if it stays like this, the question will be, ‘What credibility does he have to do anything?’ He will have lost all credibility.”

Davidowitz has previously made his position on the J.C. Penney transformation clear, saying Johnson “caused incalculable damage” to the department store chain.

Other retail experts expressed more optimism about J.C. Penney’s plans, even as they said they were uncertain about the company’s turnaround.

“It is probably more of the same as they try to reduce their cost, but they are under a ton of pressure,” said Dwight Hill, managing partner at the Plano-based The Retail Advisory. “I am still fairly bullish about their strategy, but I’m not sure Wall Street is going to be patient enough for them to continue to go down this path.”

J.C. Penney (NYSE: JCP) said Tuesday’s job cuts were part of the company’s plan to cut $900 million in annual expenses by the end of 2012. J.C. Penney executives declined requests for an interview.

The company needs to do a better job of communicating that the layoffs are part of a “multi-stage turnaround process,” Hill said.

“With sales dropping as they are, they have an even greater need to reduce this SG&A cost,” Hill said.

The drop in sales is mainly due to the lack of coupons, Davidowitz and Hill agreed.

“They’ve begun to realize the coupon and sales addiction probably runs far and deep,” Hill said. “And customers don’t want to go cold turkey.”

Davidowitz didn’t offer many solutions for J.C. Penney, saying, “I’d have to spend months figuring out what to do because the mess is so deep.” He still can’t believe that J.C. Penney would abandon its core customer so quickly in order to test a new pricing and marketing strategy.

“People in retailing fight for decades to get market share,” Davidowitz said. “And here’s the reason, because it costs a fortune to get a new customer. You advertise, you spend a fortune to get a new footstep to give you a chance. It’s what retailers work on every day, ‘Let’s try to get this customer to give us a little opportunity.'”

http://www.bizjournals.com/dallas/blog/morning_call/2012/07/jc-penney-analyst-the-ceo-has-to-go.html?s=print

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Here is a good check-list to protect your brand. Mostly geared toward product companies, but could also be applied to professional service organizations.

Pam

1. Recognize that a product is only as good as the customer experience

First impressions count. To identify all the elements that contribute to a good customer experience, include production and customer-facing personnel in your product-development process. Then, take steps to ensure that everything is in place.

2. Attempt to anticipate and address potential problems

Before going to market, test all aspects of the product’s delivery. Defects tarnish the company’s brand, and service calls erode profit margins.

3. Provide customers with recourse in the event of a product failure

Mistakes happen. So, always provide customers access to someone who can take corrective action—ideally by phone, with 24/7 availability. Many customers will forgive product failures if they can reach an empathetic support person who remedies the situation.

It’s insufficient to refer customers to prepared “frequently asked questions.” First, company personnel often miss questions that real customers have. Second, customers regard answers that don’t squarely address their questions as defects, rather than signs of their own inadequacy.

4. Treat customers with respect

Avoid keeping customers “on hold.” Staff support lines with sufficient personnel. Many people find it particularly galling to sit on hold while they wait for someone to fix a product they bought to improve their productivity.

When call volumes are especially high, give customers the option of receiving a call back. Also, consider releasing them (and their phone lines) while researching problems or documenting cases that don’t require customer input.

5. Empower employees to take corrective action

My problem was easy to address. The issue was a mismatch between a code included with the product and the company’s database of authorized product keys. The frontline support person could have done exactly what his superior did—resolve the problem right away.

6. Set expectations

This company had sold “fear” of operating without its product, thereby contributing to an expectation that the company would resolve problems quickly. By taking 24 hours to connect customers with support personnel, the company sent a very different message.

Rather than leaving expectations to chance, let customers know how long it will take to get an initial callback. Then, tell them when they can expect a resolution to their problem.

7. Attend to your social media outposts

In the past, dissatisfied customers told 10 people about their bad experience. Today, they can inform thousands with just a few keystrokes.

When they don’t get satisfaction via normal channels, unhappy customers may turn to social media to share their disappointment. Nevertheless, companies that monitor their brands on social media can often turn a bad situation around, before it gets out of hand, if they respond quickly and offer to address the problem.

8. Follow up for continual improvement

Follow up, learn, and improve. Step one is to have a process for capturing and eliminating errors. Step two is to fix the process to avoid future problems.

One company I know classifies a shipment as “dead on arrival” if anything it’s done, or has failed to do, interferes with the customer’s experience. That organization convenes for cross-functional meetings weekly to review DOAs, delve into the root cause of the problem, and develop a course of action to ensure that the problem does not recur.

Source: Marketing Profs & Barbara Bix of BB Marketing Plus


Corporate America has been in a stupor… frozen in fear of the changes ahead.

The question is… now that the election is over, can we all get back to business?

While President Obama will never be “pro-business.” But thanks to a more evenly divided Congress, Corporate America, has an opportunity to influence the discussion in Washington. Now is the time to help our elected-officials understand that business is the driver behind jobs and our econmic recovery.

Leaders… I am urging you to shake it off and shake it up. It’s time to fine tune your business models and align your employees as quickly as possible. This is the key to emerging from the “unrecovery” ahead of your competitors.