Category Archives: Business Strategy

Anatomy of a Brand Marketing Campaign

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When most people think of branding they usually focus on quite superficial aspects such as their name, logo and product packaging. Contrary to such popular belief is that branding extends considerably beyond that to include aspects of Financial Capital (which create value for the product), Emotional Capital (which create consumer value) and Human Capital (which creates cultural value internal to the organisation).

Iconic Capital

This is the level of branding which most organisations focus on. The iconic capital focuses on brand perception; what people perceive the brand to be about, and includes things such as the name, logo, brand identity, packaging and social presence. These aspects contribute only to the surface branding of a product, whereas the following contributes towards the experience which that brand provides.

Financial Capital

The financial capital of a brand relates to the overarching strategic plan for the brand, how the item will be positioned against industry competitors, how things such as the brand image will be represented by both the marketing strategy adopted by the brand owner and by the culture of the business itself. The type of management structure in a business will play a significant role in determining this, as that leadership will decide which approach is taken towards the commercial aspects of the brand; sales strategy, marketing strategy and strategic investor relationships.

Emotional Capital

A brand’s emotional capital focuses more on the relationship between the consumer and the brand, and relates to such things as customer loyalty and the consumer’s engagement with the brand. Social Media Marketing plays a significant role in this area as customers will want to feel like they connect with a brand, and a major contributor to that is how important the customer feels by being associated with it. Strategies such as customer loyalty programs are key to this aspect of brand development. Businesses who maintain a CRM (Customer Relationship Management system) and regularly follow up with customers to see how satisfied they are with their products also contributes to this.

A mechanism for assessing how well a company has implemented their Emotional Capital is through the “Net Promoter Score” (NPS); which (amongst other things) measures the loyalty a customer has to a business. In essence, this poses the question to the consumer; “How likely is it that you would recommend this brand (company / product / service) to a friend or colleague?

Human Capital

A brand’s Human Capital looks at the internals of a business to determine the level of staff commitment and investment into the company’s brand. Whereas Emotional Capital looks outwardly at the relationship between the brand and the consumer, Human Capital looks inwardly at the relationship between the brand and those who are working to support, promote and develop it. Companies with a high level of Human Capital will typically have a good staff retention and a healthy number of new applicants seeking to work for the company in order to add that brand to their resume.

Recent US Study on Telecommuting

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It still surprises me the number of managers and employers I come across who carry the mindset of “if I can’t see it, I can’t manage it”. But without launching into another crazed, over-impassioned tirade about how online collaboration technologies have come so far, more environmentally friendly, more economical (blah-blah-blah)… here’s a great info graphic of a study done in the US which looks at some of the benefits of a healthy balance between working from home and working from the office.

The following are some of the key benefits which I personally found quite interesting:

  • The US could save 1/3 of it’s yearly oil imports
  • Each person could save on average 109 hours in travel time
  • Telecommuters suffer on average 25% less stress … (not sure how they quantified that one)
  • 3 out of 4 people said they ate healthier when working from home
  • Which all translates into happier, more productive employees!

… cost savings, better quality of life, happier and healthier people, AND increased productivity. Sounds like a no-brainer right??

Top 10 Traits of a Master Business Networkers

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Like any proactive business-minded person, I devote a considerable portion of my time toward the cultivation and nurturing of strategic business networks. To share some insights into art of Business networking, I’ve come across a video by Ivan Misner who heads up one of the world’s largest networking organisations, BNI (Business Networkers International), who describes the top 10 characteristics possessed by successful networkers, which I thought I’d share with you:

Some of the key points he raises are that business networking is more about farming, rather than hunting. The objective being to cultivate relationships with other business professionals as opposed to simply sourcing and consuming.

Top 10 Traits of a Master Networker

10. They Actively Work their Network

  • Manage contacts with contact management software – use online software such as to manage your database of contacts
  • Organise emails – take a structured approach to storing client correspondence
  • Carry referral partners business cards – never miss an opportunity to pass a referral, because by thinking of your referrals they’ll want to refer to you in exchange
  • Make Appointments to get better acquainted – within the BNI circles these are called Dance cards, where you make an hour a week to meet up with one of your contacts to learn more about their business, so you know what their best referrals are

9. Sincerity

  • Convey sincerity – be genuine in your interactions.
  • Offer undivided attention – aside from just being courteous, you’ll learn more if you pay attention!

8. Enjoys Helping Others

  • Keep eyes and ears open to advance other people’s interests – on a more selfish note too, by having a large network of people you can refer to makes you look VERY well connected in the business social circles.

7. Gratitude

  • Thank people for the help they’ve given – this tells your referrers that you recognize and acknowledge the work they’ve done to help grow your business
  • Builds to cultivation of relationships – through appreciation of other people’s work you develop closer relationships

6. Network ALWAYS.

  • Never off-duty. Everything is an opportunity to network – be interested in other people’s business and lives, as you never know when the next big opportunity is hiding!

5. Good Listening Skills

  • How well we can listen and learn – of particularly interest are any comments made which present gaps or dissatisfactions in people’s lives, as these often present golden opportunities to pass referrals
  • The better a listener you are, then faster you can build a valuable relationships

4. Be Trustworthy

  • Must be able to trust your referral partner – the ultimate objective in cultivating professional networks is the development of trust. Trust in both your products and services, but also more importantly trust in you as an individual.
  • You’ll never be referred if you can’t be trusted to handle that referral well. People’s referral of you is an extension of their trust with the referee, so ALWAYS remember to follow up promptly on any referrals and ensure you uphold that trust with both your referral and referrer.

3. Enthusiasm / Motivation

  • Need to sell yourself with enthusiasm – more than just being a “motivated seller”, your overall personality and how you carry yourself is a very influential factor when others decide whether they want to do business with you (or refer to you)
  • Passionate in your area – know your products and services and be a enthusiastic ambassador in their promotion

2. Having a positive attitude

  • Makes people want to associate and cooperate with you – nobody likes or wants to be around a sad sack.
  • Others will want to be around them, and send people to them – if people got a good vibe from being around you, then they’ll be more confident that others will as well. Therefore their referral of you will in turn reflect well on them for having referred you.

1. Follow up on Referrals.

  • #1 trait of successful networkers, so let’s just re-emphasize this again; FOLLOW UP ON YOUR REFERRALS!!!
  • If you refer to someone who doesn’t follow up, this reflects poorly on both the referrer and referee – fail to do this repeatedly and you’ll stop receiving referrals at all.

In summary, it takes time and effort to build up your “social capital”. More than simply churning and burning leads as they come in, properly nurtured business relationships can develop into a continual source of new business if handled properly. The above 10 characteristics merely describe the traits of master business networkers who are successful at this – the hard part is taking on these traits yourself and making sure you follow through on these.

Top Causes of Workplace Stress

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There is considerable academic research supporting the connection between high levels of stress and cardiovascular disease (generally also coupled with other poor lifestyle choices such as not exercising enough and over-indulging in sugary and fatty foods – but that aside for the moment)… so when we consider how much of a our life is spent on the job, it’s worthwhile reviewing what some of the more common work-related stresses are, how to tell whether we’re being impacted by these (as often the symptom may not necessarily be a clear indication as to the cause), and most importantly what is the best approach toward handling these.

For the more emotionally intelligent / self-aware of us (the rest of you, please try to tune into the feedback you’re more than likely receiving from your peers) the most common signs that you’re experiencing stress will include:

  • Un-explainable fatigue or feelings of being run down
  • Increased irritability (or rather, lower than usual tolerance for other people)
  • A heightened emotional state of tension or feelings of being strung out
  • Difficulties sleeping at night (not sure if your coworkers will know about this one)
  • Problems maintaining your focus at work leading to a drop in day-to-day productivity
  • Increased susceptibility to illness (whether psychosomatic or genuine – due to a weakened immune system)
  • Difficulty in making decisions

… so if any of this sounds familiar, then the below info graphic is for you!

Surviving Redundancy – Your Road Map to Recovery (Free Download)!

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There’s been a lot of talk in the news recently about the mass lay-offs across the Queensland government. And while I’m not one to deny that there’s probably a fair share of bloat in the public service, the loss of a job (be it personally or even that of a close friend) can be quite devastating. Unemployment brings with it an uncertainty surrounding your future income, how to handle existing financial obligations such as car payments and mortgages, as well as the personal responsibilities in taking care of a family or loved ones. All these factors can become quite stressful and it’s often in these times that we tend to lose our direction a little bit.

When we feel secure in our lives, our mode of thinking is generally calm and collected. We’re able to take a pragmatic and strategic approach to the decisions we make as there isn’t any real pressure or urgency that influences this process. The problem however isn’t during these times of serenity but rather when that calmness is disrupted and something (such as an unplanned loss of a job) and forces us into our more primal survival mode. By contrast with our strategic mindset, our survival mode is largely emotion based and as a consequence can have a less than ideal impact upon our cognitive decision making processes (emotional intelligence 101). Logic and reason take a secondary position to much stronger emotion based drivers such as panic and fear, which can lead us to making some quite poor decisions – in some extreme cases even crime (case in point).

It’s for this reason I thought I’d put together a bit of a roadmap for those who have been affected by these government lay-offs. The below “Employment Disaster Recovery Strategy” looks at a range of re-employment (or income generating) options which you may not yet have considered – particularly if you’re already in survival mode. It should be noted that the objective of this guide isn’t to sit you down and tell you what to do – unfortunately you’ll still need to put some thought in yourself. However by reviewing all the options that are actually available to you (as presented through this “strategic mind set” created mind-map), you will hopefully be in a much stronger position to collect your thoughts, refocus and make the decisions that will take you into a considerably more positive direction in your life.

Along with this, I’ve also included a number of immediate to-do items in the event that you lose your job (items which could save your house and credit rating), as well as listing a variety of diverse industries and professions – which even if you don’t currently qualify for, may still spark some ideas for interesting opportunities through apprenticeships, reskilling or even on-the-job assistant level positions which you could then build upon.

So I’ll finish this post on the following important notes:

  • Only Action leads to outcomes – if you don’t do anything to help your situation, your situation will never improve.
  • And above all, it’s important to look on change as a new opportunity. People fear change, however opportunities are exciting times for personal development and growth.

Download Your FREE Employment Disaster Recovery (DR) Mindmap here!

Work from Home or Work from the Office [InfoGraphic]

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Those who know me also know I don’t pull my punches when it comes to my thoughts on telecommuting and remote working arrangements… and you wouldn’t believe the self control I have to exercise right at this moment not to launch into another tirade about this… so I’ll keep this post short and sweet with the following research on Telecommuting, presented in a beautiful Infographic format:

The Surprising Truth about Motivation!

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When you ask the question, what really motivates people, a common misconception is that if you dangle a larger monetary incentive before someone, that they will automatically begin to perform better. However research identified in Daniel Pink’s book, Drive, indicates that this is only true for simpler, more repetitive tasks.

For more complex tasks which require greater degrees of conceptual reasoning, motivations is actually driven through increased autonomy, giving the person the opportunity for self actualization through attaining a mastery of a subject, and in the creation or establishment of a sense of purpose which that person can directly identify with and work toward.

Below is an excellent 10 minute video by RSA Animate which delves into this concept a little further (well worth the watch):

The Benefits of Telecommuting

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Today I had the opportunity to telecommute into work from home, so I thought I would put together a post about my day as it unfolds in order to journal it’s effectiveness toward maintaining a much happier and more productive employee. For those just tuning in, this is a follow-on to my earlier post detailing my average working day since I’ve moved out into the suburbs: A Word on Motivation.

The New and Improved “Commute into Work”!
As it takes me the better part of 7 seconds to walk the distance from my bedroom to my study at the other side of my house, this morning I was able to enjoy a sensational sleep in (well, by contrast to my average day). Then with time to kill, I made myself my favorite N-espresso coffee and a hot bowl of Uncle Tobys oats (it’s still winter at time of writing this), then armed with my awesome breakfast I make my way to settle in comfortably at my PC and remote into work.

Reasons Why my “at-home” Working Environment Rocks
While my work has been kind enough to provide me with two 19″ monitors, my home PC has a magnificent 3 x 27″ wide-screen high-res DELL monitors which wrap around to capture almost my full field of vision when I’m seated at my desk. They sit on a black-leather office desk which is also very spacious and I have a high-back leather reclining office chair. You couldn’t wish for a better working environment! I’m comfortable. Ergonomically seated with respect to my keyboard and mouse, and have some SERIOUS screen real-estate to work with. Next to me there is a window looking out over a quiet, suburban street – completely free of distractions and interruptions. With this scene in mind, we move onto my working day! (Picture above is not my actual desk btw).

The Benefits of Telecommuting
The first and most immediate benefit which come to mind in this arrangement is that I am considerably more refreshed with the extra sleep I was able to get this morning. There’s definitely much to be said about allowing your body to rise with its natural sleep cycles. Consequently, I was able to make some unprecedented headway through my massive backlog of emails this morning – something which back at work would almost certainly have been hampered by numerous interruptions as staff arrive at the office, greet each other, stop by for a chat etc.

The day goes on as most days do. A plethora of emails stream into my inbox, communicator chat windows popup as people throw ad-hoc questions and requests at me, and jobs roll in through our in-house ticketing system. As with most jobs I guess, I have fairly well defined responsibilities within my role, so it’s rarely the case that there isn’t much to do. One thing which did occur to me though as the day drew to a close, was that through work from home I was ideally positioned to take on after-hours tasks. The imposition of this type of work was considerably less offensive from the comfort of my own home, than were I stuck in a cold, empty workplace waiting for 6pm to roll by before being able to start. Extending this idea further, the concept of having telecommuters cover the outer extremities of rostered shifts would also provide more quality of life to those who do need to go into work and would otherwise have been stuck there until close of business day (clearly IT context here).

So with my work desk phone forwarded through to my mobile and online via the in-office communicator program and email, I made a point to ensure I was just as readily accessible as were I in work and at my desk – so much so that most of the people I interacted with during my day had no idea I wasn’t even there! Surely this has to be a positive indicator in favour of telecommuting! Then there’s also the added bonus that if I was on the phone, any incoming calls from the office now had a personal voice mail service available for the caller to leave a message on, which at work would not have otherwise been the case.

Ok so at this point we’ve established the following benefits;

  • More sleep, more rested and consequently more productive employee
  • Flexibility hours, and increased ability to take on extended hours work
  • Fewer non-work related interruptions
  • More relaxed and comfortable working environment

Next up we should probably consider the financial aspects; with the rising cost of public transport, petrol, inner city parking, depreciation on the motor vehicle as well as all the sundry expenses associated with being away from home such as lunches and coffees. There are environmental considerations too, with the ever increasing traffic congestion problems spewing tonnes of pollution into our atmosphere each day. And in a society where we are all already time-poor, the most offensive aspect of all (in my opinion at least), the completely inefficient use of our time when having to partake in this daily commute! For myself I calculated about two hours per day was being written off in transit in and out of work. Just imagine – what could you do with a 2 extra hours each day? … that’s another 10 hours per week!

Now, I should probably also give a special mention to the absolute awesomeness that is having your own private bathroom available to you. No longer do you have to suffer the moans and groans of a shared toilet experience, forced to listen to the guy next to you giving birth in his cubile while trying to mask your own bodily transgression… toilet paper on the water to “break the fall”… controlled releases of flatulence so that your “roomy” doesn’t hear you and pass judgement… nope. At home, you can just grip it and rip it. When you want. How you want. In the complete comfort and privacy of your own bathroom, and with none of the communal toilet hygiene issues.

On a slightly more cultured note, let’s also take a moment consider how much we’re paying for these beautiful homes of ours. For most of us, an average home loan is costing us anything between $1500 – $3000 in interest / rent each month (possibly even more?). Wouldn’t it be great then if we could actually get to spend some more time in them? And if the options were available and we could telecommute full-time, we wouldn’t even need to live so close to the city, creating opportunities to afford even more beautiful homes a little further out!

In Conclusion…
Let me preface this next section in saying that I am by no means blind to the merits of the conventional office environment. The social interactivity which takes place allows people to feed of the energies and enthusiasm of those around them. It creates a dynamic environment that encourages creativity, brain storming and new ideas. Problem solving through focus groups and meetings allow for arguably much faster resolutions than were these to be approached by isolated individuals. It facilitates new friendships and relationships, as well as allows people to fully embrace a team culture and all the inherent benefits of cross-skilling, mentoring and healthy competition which falls incumbent to that… however…

We are in the 21st century now and there are just too many compelling arguments in favour of offering such flexible working arrangements that it would be truly remiss not to seriously consider these. A 2009 trial undertaken as part of a QLD Transport and Main Roads Pilot study found statistically significant results that employees were not only happier but also MORE productive when working in an environment where they felt more relaxed and comfortable. Some of there other finding also identified;

  • The pilot achieved a 34% reduction in morning peak hour travel and a 32% reduction in afternoon peak hour travel amongst participants.
  • The initiative eliminated some journeys altogether through participants adopting telecommuting and compressed work weeks/fortnights
  • Of the three flexible practices offered, flexible hours were the most popular. Many participants chose to use more than one practice.
  • Both employees and employers indicated they had achieved increased productivity through working flexibly during the pilot.
  • 87% of participants reported improvement in their work-life balance.
  • There was high satisfaction with flexible work arrangements – 92% of participants expressed an interest in continuing their arrangements.

… the full report can be downloaded here: Flexible Workplace Pilot.

Couple the above with modern day broadband speeds and telecommuting technologies such as Citrix or Windows Terminal services – both of which offering high quality and secure remote desktop access… why would we still insist in forcing ourselves to endure conventional 1950’s work practices; being stuck at a desk in a budget chair that’s slowly destroying our backs, while sucking in the communal air of a shared office environment…. was that a sneeze that just exploded from the guy next to me? … followed by a violent emptying of his head into a tissue and the air all around him? But not to fear people, I’m sure THAT won’t be circulating through our internal air conditioning system… right? 😉

For the old-school operators out there, I can already hear the wailing and nashing of teeth at the very notion of this idea; “But how can you control this? What if you have employees who aren’t performing?” … Firstly I’ll say that having a little faith in your staff that they will do the right thing will go a long, long way – especially when their work performance is directly linked to them receiving such an opportunity. But in the event that they did abuse this, then you would most likely discover this in the exact same way as were they skiving off at their work desk; things start to fall through the cracks, you hear reports of them being constantly unavailable and work tasks repeated get escalated up to you for updates (as a manager or team lead). The reprimanding would then be the same as with in-office workers; privileges are promptly revoked, the staff member is placed back at their desk and slapped… with a mandatory 1-3 months sentence of intensive micromanagement to look forward to. Generally speaking though, if an employee has no work ethic to start with then they’re probably not going to be the best suited for such an arrangement anyway. That said too, these employees would probably be equally as useless regardless of where they’re seated – so in this instance, telecommuting would again serve to move the good employees away from such disruptive influences.

In summary, there are clearly many benefits offered through flexible working arrangement such as telecommuting, however a full time telecommuting arrangement risks losing out on the valuable social interactivity of a conventional workplace. So while different solutions will work better for different businesses and organizational types / structures, a balance between the two approaches would arguably serve to capture the best of both worlds. Then as a consequence of this, the organisation is rewarded with happier and more productive employees, a better performing business with a lower staff turnover!

For those interested in some extra reading on tnhi; Queensland Transport and Main Roads’ Guidelines for effective transition and management of Telecommuting arrangements, a general article on the Benefits and Drawback of Telecommuting, and 6 Organizational Benefits of Telecommuting.

Check out the full 4 days of Dilbert’s Telecommuting experience here!