Category: Fresh Result Tips

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Homebuyers often have two options: a fresh new house in “move-in” condition or an old “fixer-upper.” No big surprise, the newly built home not in need of any significant repairs or renovations tends to fetch a lot more on the market.

Brands are a lot like houses – fresh houses are more in demand and bring in more money than houses that are old and in need of some “TLC.” People who achieve meaningful and long-term success personally, economically and professionally understand the critical importance of staying fresh. You can’t just land your newly developed personal brand today, move into it and expect it to carry you throughout your career and life while you do not perform any maintenance or upgrades.

Anyone who has ever been in love (or even thought they were in love) can attest to this. The initial courtship is passionate and you can’t see enough of each other. But as you know, time goes on, competition enters, and that once passionate flame begins to flicker and eventually burns out. If a relationship is to have any chance of thriving long-term success you’ve got to keep it fresh, right?

You are essentially in a relationship, or pursuing a relationship, with bosses, clients, co-workers, customers, teachers, etc. For your relationships with the people who consume your brand to thrive long-term, your brand needs to stay fresh, current and vibrant enough to retain their interest and outshine the other brands vying for their hearts.

How Slammed is Your Door?

Let’s compile a homeowner-themed “slam score” of your freshness. Is your brand’s door wide open to fresh new ideas, concepts and activities, or is it slammed shut against all progress and modernization? Rate how strongly you agree that each of the following fresh statements applies to you today from 1-5, with 1 equaling strongly disagree and 5 equaling strongly agree:

1. My friends and colleagues come to me for the most up to date information.

2. If you are looking for fresh ideas, I am the one.

3. My current skill set is the most competitive out of anyone I may come up against for a job and/or promotion.

4. I am aware of the latest technology that can help me personally and professionally.

5. When my friends and colleagues want a fresh perspective or strategy I am the first person they call.

6. The last book that I read was one that was published within the last 12 months.

6.5 My resume is current, up to date and competitive.

Now that you’ve taken the test, let’s analyze your score:

If you scored from 7-13, your door is slammed shut. You know what that means: nobody wants to purchase your brand and you’ll soon be taken off the market and maybe even put into foreclosure.

If you scored from 14-20, your door is open a crack. There is minimal demand for your personal brand, but only at a steep discount and when the more popular and competitive brands are all off the market.

If you scored from 21-26, your door is open halfway. Your brand will sell if it stays on the market long enough, but anyone seeking a truly comfortable home they can move right into will look elsewhere.

If you scored from 27-33, you door is open three-quarters. Your brand is a respectable choice for the discerning homeowner, but only as a backup if higher bidders get the more desirable homes in the neighborhood.

If you scored a 34 or 35, your door is wide open. Congratulations! You have the home that is most in demand and fetches the highest prices in town. Your buyers come to check you out early in the morning, when only the most competitive homebuyers are out evaluating the available options.

2.5 Keys to Unslamming Your Door

Just because your door may not currently be wide open does not mean it has to stay that way. Even a door that is stuck due to years of staying closed can be pried open with the proper tools.

So to help you unslam your door, or keep it wide open if it’s already that way, I offer the following 2.5 fresh keys to opening even the most stubbornly slammed door so the whole world can come on in.

Key 1: Establish a network, refresh your network – Simply put, without a well-established and maintained network, you will not go far in this world. Due to immense market pressures and the rapid speed of modern business, today’s employers do not have time to waste searching for job candidates, evaluating them from scratch, and then hiring and training one they hope will turn out to be successful.

A large number of employers are now more willing to hire people they know, either directly or through someone, who can demonstrate they will succeed with a minimum of training or development. And a few key questions that they will ask of someone who knows you (hopefully that’s in your network) is what’s your track record like, can you make things happen and can you get results. You want to empower your network members with the ability to respond with a resounding, “He/she is the person that can make it happen and they have a track record of results.”

So how do you go about establishing a network? As an aspiring or current member of the professional world, hopefully you have already taken some basic network-building steps, but don’t be complacent. Continue to join professional associations and volunteer for causes you believe in. Look for the “movers and shakers” and invite them into your network, identify people who are where you want to be and what you want to become, and soak up their knowledge like a sponge.

Also keep in mind that a network is a living, breathing organism. It needs regular nourishment or it will die (remember, you have to keep it fresh). Refresh your network on a regular basis. Call that old college buddy you haven’t seen in a while and find out what he or she is up to.

One final note on networking in the 21st century – your network is no longer constrained by physical bounds. Thanks to the unifying power of the Internet, you can build a virtual network that spans the globe. Professional networking sites such as LinkedIn and, alumni-oriented sites such as, and even social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, allow you to establish a profile and build valuable relationships with people you may never even “meet” in the physical sense!

If you maintain any type of personal Web site or blog, please keep in mind that it needs to reflect the type of image you want to present to prospective employers and business contacts. If you’d be embarrassed for your parents, children or spouse/significant other to see it, or for it to make headlines in the New York Times, keep it off the Internet!

Key 2: Implement five fresh steps into your daily routine – You need to do a little “modeling,” which is one of the biggest secrets of successful people. Continuing with our real estate-themed example, let’s look at the daily life of real estate mogul Donald Trump. According to his book Trump: The Art of the Deal, he rises most mornings by six a.m. and spends an hour reading newspapers. He arrives to work by nine a.m. and during the course of a working day that runs till about six-thirty p.m., makes 50 to 100 phone calls and has at least a dozen meetings, most of which last no longer than fifteen minutes. He rarely stops for lunch and will often continue making phone calls from home until midnight and all through the weekend. Trump finds all of this activity enjoyable.

If you are a beginning real estate developer, you could easily work five of these steps into your daily routine. Rise at six a.m.? Check. Spend an hour reading newspapers? Check. Arrive to work by nine? Check (come on, you should be doing this step already!). Make 50 to 100 phone calls per day? Check. Skip lunch? Check. And even if your personal schedule doesn’t allow you to make calls from home till midnight or through the weekend, you can certainly enjoy your work as a real estate developer. Implementing these steps couldn’t possibly make you less successful, and I’d be amazed if they didn’t make you more successful over the long haul!

Key 2.5: Stay fresh and keep nailing your way forward, into your big fresh mansion – The marketplace is ever changing as is the norm, so always be positioned to competitively respond. But dare you get comfortable as there is always bigger and greater in you. The “nail” will prevent the door from slamming shut and help keep it open. Don’t acquiesce to fixing up your “local generic shack” – instead focus on building a world-class mansion.

TGAPTM – The Great Action Plan

I will conclude today’s look at brand freshness with a Great Action Plan aimed at helping close the gap between true freshness and staleness. To become fresh, you need to change your attitude toward living! Rather than trying to adopt a “quick fix” to obtain pseudo-success that will not last, take the longer-term approach of developing a fresh attitude toward life that will allow you to achieve personal and professional success that permeates your entire existence.

Now using the information above, what will you do to close the GAP? What’s your Great Action Plan for becoming a fresh brand that is sought after and will yield you personal, economic and professional success.

What will you do today? __________________________________
What will you do this week? _________________________________
What will you do this month?_________________________________

Packaging is Key to Your Brand Image
After developing the substance of your personal brand and landing it, you need to nail, package and market it to your audience (employer, group, organization).

Answer these questions: Who am I? What do I want to be? How do I want to be perceived? Most of us don’t think of ourselves as “a package,” but all of us are packages (i.e., “she is so plain, don’t depend on him he will never deliver, he is just boring”). Here is the trick; you want to make sure that you control your packaging (the look, feel, and experience) and the message that illuminates from it.

Or to look at it another way, since we are in the holiday season, think of your personal brand as a gift. Because it is; you are offering your time, expertise and talent to serve the needs of the marketplace.

Now think of gifts you have received over the years. The first thing you always notice about a gift is how it’s wrapped. Does it come in a solid package covered in colorful paper with a fresh, original pattern and a shiny bow on top? Maybe a nice personalized card attached? Or is it stuffed into an old shoe box with a ripped-up edition of last week’s Sunday funnies halfheartedly thrown around it, held in place with fraying twine?

While this example has been exaggerated for effect (especially the second part), honestly, how many times have you received a gift and had your heart sink before you unwrapped it because of the dull, generic packaging? That’s the main reason we also want to pay less for generic products on the shelf – the packaging is uniformly dull. When we see a package that shouts “Energy, Invigoration, Crispy, Clean, Colorful, Beautiful, Sophisticated, Expensive,” we get excited when it comes as a gift and we are willing to pay more when it comes as a product for sale.

In essence, good packaging helps speed the purchasing decision and leads people to pay top dollars (and that’s what you want your packaging to do right?). Packaging is how you express your personality. So think about how you want to be perceived, what competitive edge you want your packaging to send.

Remember, the way you decide to package your unique brand should be evident in everything that you do and attach your name to, the way you walk, the way your talk, the way you dress, the content and appearance of your resume/cover letter, your award winning interview.

Also remember, the market can spot a phony a mile away! Your brand needs to reflect your core substance. Build your brand around your genuine strengths, not the ones you think the market wants to pay a lot of money for right now. You will always do better in the long run by being yourself, both in business and in life.

Nailing your brand is not something you do once and walk away from, it is a constant process of fine-tuning and adjusting your brand to the changing needs of the market and your changing interests, abilities, experiences and skills.

How have you tweaked your brand’s “packaging” to make it shiny and new? Share your story!

Make Sure You’re In Touch with Your Customers!

You may have heard the recent hoopla surrounding The Gap’s brief experiment in changing its classic logo, which has been around since the department store chain opened in 1969, to a newer, more futuristic “2.0”-looking kind of logo.
The Gap thought it was time to update its 1960s relic of a logo with something sleek and contemporary to show it is a retailer of today, not the past.

However, The Gap’s customers thought differently. As soon as The Gap unveiled the new logo on its website, negative feedback poured in from all corners. Overwhelmingly, customers wanted the “blue box” logo they had known and loved for 40-plus years.

Of course, had The Gap asked its customers how they felt about the logo first, all this trouble could have been avoided. At least The Gap was smart enough to preview the new logo online before going ahead and slapping it on storefronts all over the country (I bet Coca-Cola wishes the Internet had been a mainstream phenomenon when it launched “New Coke” in 1985!), but it generated enough ill will to prompt Marka Hansen, president of Gap Brand North America, to issue a public apology.

Before pointing a finger at the Gap for its branding blunder, ask yourself, do you really know what your customers (current employers, clients, colleagues) think about your brand? Do you know what your potential customers (future employers, clients, colleagues) think about your brand? How are you perceived in the market? Does your brand image need to be refreshed and modernized, or do you have a well-respected “classic” brand your clients would hate to see altered?

Don’t follow in The Gap’s footsteps and make a major branding move before obtaining client feedback. Ask trusted current and future clients, as well as friends, relatives, etc., how they perceive your brand. Is everything in order, or are some changes in order to maximize your market potential?

One thing The Gap did correctly, if a bit too late, was use the web to offer a preview and collect feedback. You should have a professional website as well as an active (and professional) presence on major social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Use them to their fullest advantage – you can collect much more information from far more people much faster online than through any other method. Of course, also be aware that online is permanent, sometimes things that sound harmless when spoken aloud can take on unintended connotations in writing, etc.

Don’t let a gap between you and your clients hamper your exponential success. The Gap used to have an advertising tagline, “Fall into the gap,” but you’re better off closing the gap entirely!

Have you ever made a change to your brand or image that proved to be a mistake? How did you rectify it? Share your story!

Offer Structure, Be Early and Be Patient!

The time of year has come when many people turn to fishing as means of getting out on the water and enjoying the summer weather (plus hopefully the taste of fresh seafood!) Whether you’re heading out alone for some peaceful solitude on a deserted pond or getting together with a bunch of friends to charter a deep sea trip on the open ocean, fishing can be a great way to spend a warm day.

Fishing is also a great metaphor for building your brand. Beyond the painfully obvious comparisons about “baiting a hook” for clients and the like, many of the elements that make for a successful fishing excursion also make for a successful branding effort. Following are three key takeaways someone looking to build their brand can glean from experienced fishermen (and women).

1. It’s all about structure. Fishermen know that fish congregate around structure. This can be pilings, a coral reef, a sunken boat; anything solid sitting beneath the surface of the water will do. Likewise, customers and bosses congregate around brands with “structure,” meaning brands with something of solid substance to offer. Fish do quite poorly when exposed to hot air, so do the targets of your branding efforts!
2. You can never be too early. Fish bite the most before most people wake up. When the sun rises, they are hungry and eager to snap at whatever may look like a tasty worm or bit of smaller fish. But even by mid-morning, the best fishing hours are usually over. The same is true for your branding efforts. Start branding at 6 AM and see how many more leads you get than if you start at 10 AM.
3. You can never be too patient. Fishing carries no guarantees. Even the most proficient fisherman will occasionally spend the day hunkered over a rod and reel and have nothing more to show for it at the end of the day than a great story about “the one that got away.” Experienced fishermen also know that sometimes a whole day without a bite can be quickly redeemed if you have the patience to wait for the one big fish that is ready to be reeled in.

Branding, like fishing, is often a painstaking process with no clear reward. The best brand-builders often spend countless hours trying to win a prize client or assignment and lose out to a competitor. Like the best fishermen, they pack up their gear at day’s end and head out bright and early the next morning. They also realize waiting a little longer for results often pays off.

So use a little fishing strategy and wisdom in your branding efforts. Or better yet, reward yourself for your next major branding accomplishment with an afternoon casting your line in the water. Invite a valuable prospect or contact along if you want to make it a “working holiday.”

What are some of your best “brand fishing” stories? Did you land a “big one,” or do you have any secret “fishing spots”?

The Dangers of Brand Overpromotion

The term “brand overpromotion” may sound like an oxymoron, especially coming from a guy like me. After all, I’m the one telling everybody to “sell their value” and “stay invigorated” in their pursuit of brand market share and recognition. But don’t promote yourself into an image that is impossible to live up to.

While I wouldn’t advise basing your brand image around your weaker points, the fact remains that we are all human, which by definition means we are all imperfect. Therefore, it is OK to base your brand on being perfect or virtually perfect in certain key areas (if you can back it up with your performance), but don’t try to spread that perfection to every other aspect of your life.

I’m as sick of hearing about Tiger Woods and his marital problems as anyone else, but his misfortunes of the last several months illustrate the branding pitfall I’d like you to avoid. Tiger is about as perfect a golfer as you will ever see. Golf experts will tell you the key to his game is he is simply good at every aspect of it. Even most of the greats had at least one flaw in their game; Tiger really does not.

Tiger intelligently parlayed this phenomenal golf ability into both a lucrative career as a professional athlete and an even more lucrative career as a professional spokesperson and product promoter. People mesmerized by his seemingly inhuman skill on the golf course were eager to swing his clubs, wear his spikes, and maybe even drive his car or wear his aftershave.

All well and good. But where Tiger erred was when he started to expand his brand image from being a guy who was perfect at golf to being a guy who was perfect at everything. The perfect humanitarian, the perfect role model, the perfect husband and father.

I won’t bore you by rehashing what you already know. Tiger’s personal imperfections have been exposed for all to see. Because they clash so violently with the brand image of complete human perfection he cultivated, they are far more damaging to his brand than if he had narrowed its scope to perfection on the golf course, where he could legitimately back it up.

I am not condemning Tiger for whatever personal mistakes he may have made and I truly wish him and his family healing and rejuvenation. But I am pointing out that there is a reason he is continually lambasted for his less-than-perfect personal life while fellow pro golfer John Daly, who has created a brand image of a lovable buffoon which seems to serve him well, gets a free pass for his numerous divorces and highly public problems with excessive eating, drinking, gambling and smoking. I’m hardly suggesting you take the John Daly route with your brand image either, just that you find a happy medium.

Have you ever overpromoted your brand? How did you rectify the situation?

Domino’s Risked it All – You Don’t Have To!

At the end of last year, I posted a blog entry about a huge risk being undertaken by Domino’s Pizza. Responding to declining sales and customer satisfaction scores, in late 2009 Domino’s decided to completely revamp its core pizza recipe. The last time a major brand so drastically changed its identity, Coca-Cola released “New Coke” in the mid-1980s, with disastrous results.

So far, Domino’s seems to be avoiding the New Coke curse and is winning its huge brand reinvention bet. During the fourth quarter of 2009, when Domino’s introduced its new recipe, net income more than doubled and same-store sales (one of the retail industry’s most important health indicators) went up. In addition, Domino’s is now beating the competition in customer satisfaction surveys.

So Domino’s took what amounted to a multibillion dollar risk to reinvent its brand and appears to have made it work. Fortunately for you, brand reinvention is possible without risking everything you own! If your brand needs a “refreshening,” there are several key steps you can take that are affordable and allow you to modify your efforts if they don’t succeed at first effort.

First and foremost, establish a trustworthy and honest Branding Board of Advisors. This board should consist of knowledgeable, successful people who like you enough to be genuinely interested in your brand’s success and are also honest enough to tell you point blank when you’re doing something wrong. Your board will be a crucial tool in framing any reinvention strategy.

Secondly, keep yourself and your brand fresh. This means attending professional networking events, taking classes and seminars, and engaging in real conversations with your customers and clients to keep abreast of their changing needs and desires. Effort and expense will be required, but not nearly as much effort and expense that will be required to save a brand developed in a stale bubble.

Finally, make sure that everything about you communicates and exudes freshness. Your mother may have told you never to judge a book by its cover, but you know you didn’t listen to her! Neither did anyone else. Appearance counts and image matters. Unless you look and act the role of fresh, nobody will believe in your brand. Invest some money in quality tailored clothing, high-quality shoes, eye catching business cards, a leather attaché case, and personal grooming. Not taking this important final step is like executing a perfect golf swing and failing to follow through. You’ll miss the green (be it tightly manicured grass or money) every time.

Have you ever attempted to significantly reinvent your brand? Let us know what you did and how well it worked out!

A Healthy Brand Requires a Healthy You

Everyone knows the secret to success in building a brand, or anything else, is hard work and lots of it. Look at the rigorous training schedules Olympic athletes undergo for four years just to compete in a few events. And even for the 99.99% of us who are not Olympians, getting ahead in life means devoting your spare time to practical ends.

For the most part, this is all well and good. Your brand needs to be constantly freshened and promoted if it is to stand out among all the competing brands out there. But believe or not, there is such a thing as working too hard on building your brand.

Let me give you the example of a colleague who has been slowly but steadily building a brand as a self-employed freelance professional since getting laid off from his last full-time job about four years ago. He started slowly with a few short-term assignments here and there, but kept his head down, networked relentlessly and treated even the smallest job with the utmost seriousness and dedication. He also accepted every work offer that came his way, even one-hour projects that only paid a pittance.

Lo and behold, after a couple of tough years this work and dedication began paying off. Clients came back to him with more assignments and also recommended him to their associates and acquaintances. He continued to take on all comers. By late last year, he was working constantly and still fielding offers for more work.

Considering the state of the economy, having more work than you can fit in your schedule is not the worst problem you can have. However, as a result of stress and exhaustion, my colleague wound up developing a painful illness that sidelined him for a couple of weeks, causing immense difficulties in his personal and professional life. He had branded himself sick, so to speak. Now he is feeling much better and reorganizing his life to prevent future branding-related health mishaps.

Remember, a healthy brand starts with a healthy you! Unless you are sound in mind, body and spirit, you will be unable to produce your best effort, and your brand will suffer. Sleep is okay, and so is spending a Saturday afternoon getting some fresh air instead of catching up on paperwork. Sometimes working a little less produces a lot more!

What steps do you take to avoid “branding yourself sick?” Share your advice for a healthy, balanced approach to brand-building.

This New Year, Make Every Day Count for Your Brand

So it is now the middle of January and for many of you, those pesky New Year’s resolutions to eat less, exercise more, get up earlier on Saturday mornings, call Aunt Martha more regularly, etc., have probably already gone by the wayside. I’m not judging you; it is hard to maintain these commitments in the face of the craziness that is everyday life in 21st century America (or any other country).

However, I propose that in this still-New Year, you dedicate yourself to one simple resolution: make every day count for your brand. That may sound like an awfully tall order, but it’s actually easier than you think.

To make every day truly count for your brand, all you have to do is make one extra effort you otherwise might not have made. If it’s five minutes before the workday is over and you’re tempted to slip out the back door, stay at your desk and make one more client phone call. If there’s a valuable networking session scheduled at the same time as your favorite slew of prime time TV shows, get the TiVo working and go mingle with your professional peers. Hand out that last business card in your wallet; it isn’t that expensive to get more printed.

Making an extra phone call or blowing off a night of TV may not sound like things that make a huge difference, and in and of themselves they probably don’t. But when you keep doing them day in, day out for a whole year, the cumulative effect will be tremendous. Your name and face will be much more present and recognizable, and over time that extra effort will become noticed and help build you a solid brand reputation as a reliable, hard-working professional.

Best of all, after taking an extra step every day for a whole year, it will become a set part of your routine and you won’t even have to worry about making every day count for your brand a resolution for 2011. So next year you can focus on shedding those 10 extra pounds, or going to the gym instead of sleeping late on Saturdays, or calling Aunt Martha to thank her for that lovely hand-knit argyle sweater she seems to give you every Christmas.

What types of extra steps do you take on a daily basis to help build your brand? Share your tips with your fellow brand-builders!

Delivering the Goods is Half the Battle

Building a premium brand should be the goal of every business and every person. When most people think of a “premium brand,” they think of a product, service or individual that delivers exceptionally high quality at a good value. All too many people think building a premium brand stops there. But that’s not all there is to it.

To illustrate exactly what I mean, let me use the recent experience a colleague had with his premium brand flat screen LCD TV as an example of how the brand image of even the highest quality product can be damaged by inferior follow-up.

My colleague paid a large sum of money to purchase an LCD TV from one of the most well-known and respected manufacturers in the marketplace at the beginning of this year. He even had several relatives give him gift cards to a leading consumer electronics retail chain for Christmas in order to help defray the cost. The TV worked perfectly for about eight months, until one day it mysteriously went on the fritz. After carefully checking the cable connection, electrical outlet, remote control, etc. for problems and finding none, he called the manufacturer’s help line, as the TV was still under one-year factory warranty.

Following a rather lengthy wait on hold, my colleague finally spoke with a customer service representative, who efficiently if dispassionately ran him through a series of remote diagnostic tests that neither discovered nor solved the root of the problem. After being put on hold for another several minutes, my colleague was informed that because his TV was smaller than 42 inches, he would be ineligible for a home visit from a technician and instead would have to schlep the TV to the nearest approved warranty repair center. This happened to be a mom-and-pop TV repair shop located about 40 minutes from his house. To add insult to injury, mom and pop did not offer weekend or evening hours, meaning he would have to take time off work to both bring the TV in for repairs and then pick it up!

Apparently the TV gods were playing some sort of cosmic joke on my colleague, because after being left unplugged overnight, his TV mysteriously started working again. But the damage to this premium brand had already been done. Not because the TV broke down, which unfortunately can happen at any time with even the best electronic devices. But because once the goods were delivered, the manufacturer essentially wrote him off.

To truly build a premium brand, you need to offer premium follow-up. Customer service does not end after the customer pays the bill! Even if a customer or client has an issue months or years later, you need to offer fast, courteous service and make every effort to resolve the issue at your own inconvenience, not the customer’s. This type of follow-up shows you truly stand by your brand and distinguishes the merely good brands from the great ones.

In addition to offering high-quality goods, premium retail brands like Nordstrom and L.L. Bean further justify the admittedly high prices they charge with extremely generous and convenient return policies. Use them as your guidepost for your customer follow-up policies, not manufacturers of expensive TVs who provide a quality brand experience until something breaks down.

Have you ever experienced poor customer service follow-up that damaged your perception of a brand? Share your story!