Personal brands circa 2025

April 19th, 2009

I registered my sons’ names as domain names.  I thought I had bought them both earlier, but realized I only had one purchased.  They have fairly unusual names, so there was no real rush but I want to make sure they have them.  Who knows what their personal brands will become when they’re college age?

(The older is still preschool age, so I have limited experience in this but I do know this:  they don’t really become a certain person or personality as much as they simply reveal themselves, a little bit at a time, as time goes on.  It’s all there upon birth, I really believe now.  Just every new capability or experience or skill reveals the raw materials in new ways.  Whatever their brands become, 100 bucks says I could predict certain key aspects right now.)

But it’ll still be fun to see.

My personal professional life

April 14th, 2009

Still getting used to the blogging forum and how visible it is.  I still keep thinking that I’m writing to, well, I don’t know, a select group of six people who know me, like me and fill in all the blanks.  Or people who don’t know me at all and are interested in pontifications on e-commerce or start-ups or job hunts or life in corporate America or whatever I figure out I’m writing about.

Still trying to figure out what I most want to write about.

I have no control over who’s reading, from what aspect of my life.  I wanted to originally write about my job hunt–how badly people interview candidates, the puerile questioning, my favorite headhunter and why he’s so effective, the incredible confidence that I felt this go-round at times, and the frustration of being rejected by a recruiter’s assistant who thought I was too old to “get” the way hip companies are using social media.  But I was also trying to publicize this blog a bit and realized–duh–the people I wanted to quote verbatim were in the position of hiring or not hiring me.  And if not those specific individuals,  they could well know the people who ultimately held the job I most wanted. My industry is incestuously small.  So nix to that.

I wanted this professional.  No musings on my children, as much as I like to muse on them.  (They’re really cute, by the way.)  No rambling about my life and the mistakes I’ve made or the personal triumphs I managed to pull off.  Certainly nothing embarrassing–if I can’t look good on my own blog, where else do I have a chance?

And even in the professional space, it has to be positive, right?  I needed a job, after all.  Posts are forever.  What if an old boss starts reading?  What if the associate I hired years ago with the extremely distinctive tic sees the link to this blog on Twitter?

I’ve worked a lot.  I like to work.  Given the life choices my family has made, I have to work.  I have far more friends from my working life than any sort of personal life.  I took about a 9-minute maternity leave when I had my second baby.  My co-workers over the years are my closest friends, save for family and my best friend from high school.  So even when my focus is on my professional life, it becomes personal quickly.  It’s a complicated endeavor.

And I’m still trying to figure it out.

The reason why it’s a cliche…

April 10th, 2009

…is because it’s true.

Getting a job is all about relationships. About care and feeding of the existing ones and developing new ones. I worked really hard on my job hunt but what that means is that I worked really hard to be out there and visible and heard that I was looking, to be in touch, to be aware of what was going on out there in various companies, to listen to what every single person I knew had to say on ideas, leads and introductions.

It’s all about the people. Thank you, people!

Relief!

April 10th, 2009

A decision has been made and we know where we’re going and what we’re doing. I’m so relieved and happy and grateful. Now, back to living my life instead of planning/strategizing my life.

A Quiet Period

April 8th, 2009

I’m no Wall Street m&a but I feel like I’m observing a “quiet period” in which I can’t speak to the public. The decision is becoming clear–it was becoming extremely clear–and then some late-game wrenches threw themselves in the works. These are such good problems to be having but they’re still stressful. Things rarely go according to plan, eh?

Yes, it all worked out.

April 2nd, 2009

3 great opportunities. In this economy, I feel beyond lucky. In October when I was so scared and thought I might not be able to support my family, I kept saying, I’d be okay if I knew it all worked out eventually.

It’s not the same. It’s not what I wanted. Not what I ever would have imagined. But it worked out.

Now. I need to figure out what to do.

“Only connect” isn’t just about literature.

March 31st, 2009

Email isn’t just a way to tell customers that you have another sale going on.  It’s not just about click-thrus or actual sales of the featured item, though it certainly can be.   What it can be is an amazing tool for building a relationship with a customer.  It’s an amazing covenant, really. Out of all the retailers out there, a person has actually chosen to receive your communications. They’re telling you of their interest and a decent expectation you’ll send something relevant and worthwhile of their time.

They are not telling you of their endless patience. They’re not telling you they’ll be less annoyed if you waste their time, fill their in-box unnecessarily or spam them.

Why do so few retailers use their email to connect? Tell your customers what you’re about.  Tell them what you offer, sure, tell them you have great values or benefits or whatever you want.  But try to look further than the sales of this specific email.  Think about how you feel when you get the email of a friend you’re not super-close with, but there is a “hello” in your in-box.  Think about them being excited to hear from you.  Another come-on doesn’t do that.  What about a human being writing about something they know that might interest the receivers?

Think about all the frenzy about social media marketing and blogging now.  We need a blog! says the VP of marketing of LargeCorp.  Sure.  You might.  But try an email first.  Tell them something.  Treat them like people.  Build a relationship.  Think of it as old-school social marketing.

Business Cards

March 30th, 2009

There’s a lot of talk now about personal brand, which can feel sort of overwhelming. I’m not sure what my brand is, especially in any sort of work-y, elevator speech sort of way. But I did work with a very talented designer on a small run of personal business cards and I’m completely in love with them. They are me, in a tiny double-sided rectangle. The colors are vibrant and stylish. My initials, which I confess to be inordinately fond of, are prominently featured. The cards say: totally feminine, totally strong.

I’m not sure what my brand is but I know these cards express some aspect of it. It’s a fun exercise if you’re able to do it.

We’re live!

March 26th, 2009

I’m pleased to announce the birth of www.sustainstores.com!

I met the Sustain team in November and we realized how complementary a relationship could be–they needed someone who knew retail, who knew e-commerce, who knew about launching a business quickly and efficiently.  Throw in some awareness of socially responsible business.  During my first meeting with the VP of Business Development at the local Panera, I kept thinking, Wow, is it possible for any opportunity to be more up my alley?

It’s been a great few months.  These guys walk the walk of green living.  They believe, they put their money where their mouth is and they’re funny and fountains of ideas to boot.  I’ve enjoyed launching this business immensely.

Know Thy Customer

March 22nd, 2009

It’s so important I call it a commandment instead of a rule.

Figure out who your customer is.  Find her (in my life, it was always a her but it can be him, it can be babies, it can be pet owners who live off the grid.) Stay as close to her as possible.  Never lose sight of her.  Anticipate her needs and fulfill them.

And this is key: Make sure there are enough of her to support your business model.

One of the worst things about starting a business in the ’00’s is that customer service is a cliche–something everyone talks about and consumers barely hear anymore.  One of the best things is that even though everyone talks about it, many fewer walk the walk.  If you are truly customer-focused it will shine through.

I spent 10 years at BigCo where superior service was the mantra.  When we started ours, it was in our DNA. But it’s still easy to get lost in your needs (maybe to save money, a pretty worthy goal), and your wants (people inside the company get more quickly bored by your marketing, your models and your products, than any customers do who interact with you twice a year if you’re lucky.)

It’s amazingly clarifying when making decisions: who is this person and what does she read?  where does she shop? how much does she spend?

Name her. Know what she drives. Know if she’s a student, an urbanite, mother, a grandmother.  And embrace who she is, not whom you want her to be. Many companies target an aspirational persona: she ends up being  “27-years-old with plenty of disposable income who is very educated but loves fashion” because that’s what’s cool or sexy or what the head designer really wants to design for.

And she’s not necessarily you.  I think this needs to be repeated. She’s not you. Just because you go into a store and buy something regularly you are not the arbiter of what your customer wants.  If you’re going after a customer exactly like you, and that target demographic and psychographic is written into the business plan, well, okay, fine.  But otherwise, resist the urge to be the focus group of one.  If you are a 35 year old woman who lives in Atlanta and just got married, you do not have the inside scoop to know all the trends for wedding gifts, registries, etc.  Most people who get married are not 35 and there are far more brides outside of Atlanta than in it. You have anecdotal insight and that’s great. But unless you have experience in the industry and are getting paid for your knowledge, you are not the end-all and be-all in knowing what the bridal customer wants, just by sharing that experience.  Far worse is even the lack of anecdotal experience–a vague goal of reaching “people like my parents” or “teenagers” or “people like us.”

Be specific, be targeted, be narrow.  There’s always time to widen.  Know thy c