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As you think about your career strategy, how do you see yourself?

Are you bigger than your job, or is your job bigger than you are?

job-bigger-than-you

I had not really considered this career strategy question until the end-of-season speculation about which NFL coaches would be fired immediately after the regular football season’s final weekend. The discussions seemed sad, as if NFL coaches at poor-performing teams could do nothing but sit around and wait to be ushered out the door. In those situations, it seemed clear these coaches’ jobs were bigger than they are.

Tom Coughlin was one striking contrast among departing NFL coaches.

In his final press conference as coach of the New York Giants, Tom Coughlin demonstrated what it looks like when someone is bigger than the job. Coughlin “resigned” after fifteen years with the New York Giants, twelve of them as head coach. He led the team to two Super Bowl wins, and was on the coaching staff for another one.

Rather than playing back what Tom Coughlin had to say, you can read the transcript of his remarks.

I would encourage you, however, to watch the press conference video.

You will get a sense of someone who, while obviously devoting himself to his job, his organization, and his players, definitely realizes his job is not bigger than he is. – Mike Brown

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Our buddies at Armada Corporate Intelligence addressed what sections you should include in your go to market strategy plan in their “Inside the Executive Suite” feature. They highlighted ten different sections to include your strategy plan. (Note: If you want to learn more about the Armada Executive Intelligence Brief system and get in on this great publication for an incredibly low monthly rate, please visit the Armada website.)

Go-To-Market-Space

10 Sections Your Go to Market Strategy Plan Should Include via Armada Corporate Intelligence

AEIB-GraphicThe term “go to market” strategy cropped up perhaps fifteen years ago. In b-school and for years in the business world, we created “marketing” plans. Maybe consultants coined the new term. We see the difference between a marketing plan and a go to market strategy focusing on how the latter incorporates an understanding of customers, what attracts them, and what a brand does to introduce and win share with a successful product or service. (For brevity, we’ll use “product” to represent both products and services from here on.)

We haven’t found a perfect list of what a go to market strategy incorporates. The list here, however, is what we’ve identified and used. It’s a starting point to adapt from as you work on bringing new product initiatives to market:

Target Market

You need to communicate the primary targets you are trying to reach based on a product’s design, intended experience, and marketing. “Everyone” is not an answer to describe the target market. You should pursue a definable, distinct portion of the available audience. Although targeted, it needs to be large enough to deliver on revenue and profit objectives. When targeting multiple groups, communicate which one is the primary target versus others you might include in your marketing.

Brand Strategy

This isn’t just about logos, advertising, and colors. That’s only a part of brand strategy. The go to market strategy should address alignment between your employees, product quality and experience, audience communications, and everything else reinforcing your brand and how you’ll introduce and market a new product. The brand strategy sets guidelines for the go to market approach and provides a platform for new, smart ideas to integrate the product within the overall brand.

Positioning & Messaging

Positioning addresses where you want to place your product in the marketplace relative to competitive offerings. The position (and messages conveying the position to the market) should be distinct versus competitors’ market positions. Developing a product’s ideal position incorporates what the target market expects and will accept from the brand. It also includes what customers will reward through positive buying behaviors. Articulating the position is a start; the remainder of your go to market strategy addresses delivering on the position daily.

Value Proposition

A value proposition can take various forms. Two common elements are needed irrespective of the format. Initially,  the value proposition must clearly communicate how customers, through using your product, will receive more in return than the sum of what they paid and the other “costs” associated with using it. The other essential is the value proposition isn’t just a statement. It must translate to real world product purchase, use, and support experiences.

Sales and Distribution Channels

This covers the varied means of selling and getting the product to customers. It could include strategies for direct sales, inside sales, inbound marketing, wholesalers, distribution partners, alliances, affiliates, etc. It also incorporates all the elements necessary to support channels and relationships, including recruiting, hiring, training, tools, deployment, and the supply chain.

Customer Touch Points

You won’t just reach customers through the sales and distribution channel touchpoints. This strategy component addresses how the product will rely on direct and indirect online contact (web, social media, content), front line service providers, the customer service team, and any other places where you expect customers will interact with your brand and form perceptions about the experience.

Pricing Strategy

The pricing strategy must fit with all other sections to strategically and effectively support the market position and value proposition. It’s impossible to cover creating a pricing strategy in one paragraph. There’s one common trap, however, we see trip up many companies: the pricing strategy may have nothing to do with the production costs. Pricing isn’t necessarily your cost plus a certain percent added as a mark-up. You develop a pricing strategy to support the right value proposition in the marketplace; getting costs in line to support that position is a separate issue.

Marketing Communications Strategy

As with brand strategy, many executives incorrectly think this is the only part of a go to market strategy. Within this section, make sure you have the right mix of online presence and content, advertising, collateral, event marketing, public relations, and internal communication to support the product’s position and intended messages.

Supporting Technology and Systems

More than ever, technology is an integral part of developing and launching products. Smart marketers invite the IT team to the table early when planning a new product. They can help identify innovative ways to use technology to maximize the customer experience and improve efficiencies that create a more attractive cost position.

Metrics

Whether at the start or end a go to market strategy, develop and refine relevant metrics throughout creating the approach. Rather than simply including only sales units, revenue, and profitability targets, metrics should be in place to help identify progress and challenges during the entire implementation process. – Armada Corporate Intelligence

 

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I’ve just signed on to speak at the 2016 Social Media Strategy Summit in Las Vegas. The topic will be an update to the “Staying Sane as a Solo Social Media Professional” workshops I’ve delivered at previous Social Media Strategy Summit events (and elsewhere). The challenge is, however, it’s just a 45-minute presentation. That’s going to necessitate some judicious trimming to highlight the very top tips for a solo social media professional to focus and enhance a brand’s content marketing strategy!

Solo-Social-Media-Cover2

2 Ways to Decide When to Write What with Your Content Marketing Strategy

One of the new solo social media tips  under consideration involves this tip I used to help shape the Brainzooming content marketing strategy for this year.

The only thing about this content marketing strategy tip, however, is it requires two things:

  • At least one year (and ideally two or more years) of blog content published at a fairly regular frequency
  • Several blogs on your core topic areas that are generating ongoing search traffic throughout the year

Granted, those two content marketing strategy hurdles, depending on where you are blogging from, can seem either easy or incredibly challenging.

If you have met both of these hurdles, however, take a look at the month-by-month visits for your posts with the most robust ongoing traffic.

The big step is to compare the percent of yearly traffic you receive each month for a specific post to a typical standard for visits. There are two options for the standard you use:

  1. That standard could be 1/12 of your annual traffic (i.e., you’d expect to get an average share of visits each month).
  2. Alternatively, your standard could be the percent of total annual traffic your overall blog receives each month throughout the year.

No matter which standard you choose, for each month divide the percent of visits the post received by your standard for that month, then multiply all the results by 100.

What this will show is that for any month whose resulting number is over 100, there is greater than average interest in the topic that month. When the number is less than 100, it indicates disproportionately less interest in the topic.

This content marketing strategy approach helped prioritize nine of our most frequently-covered topics for the year. It highlighted that “innovation” is a popular topic throughout the year, and confirmed that “strategic planning” is most popular during the late summer and early fall months.

Never having used this approach to shaping a content calendar, I can’t report what it does to grow visits. The approach will, however, definitely help in keeping a focus throughout the year on what topics should be more popular at any given time. – Mike Brown

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On the Way to the Arch

Sidewalk-Signage

I took the picture above on the way to morning mass at the church underneath the St. Louis arch.

A sidewalk message to navigate the way to what is already a very visible landmark reminds me of my wife’s marketing activities in college.

St-Louis-Arch-Church

Before we dated, she was in charge of marketing for student activities at Fort Hays State University where we both earned our bachelor’s degrees. She was famous for using sidewalk signage to cut through the clutter and let students know which way they should walk to get to the latest music or entertainment program on campus.

Back to this sidewalk signage pointing the way to the St. Louis arch, however, it suggests multiple strategic thinking questions you can ask for your brand’s success.

7 Strategic Thinking Questions on the Way to Your Brand?

These seven strategic thinking questions focus on what happens to your customers on the way to your brand.

Put another way, is your brand visible in all the places your customers are going to be as they start toward, get closer to, and are nearby your brand – or your competitors’ brands?

Using the St. Louis arch sidewalk signage as inspiration, think about the following strategic thinking questions to imagine where your brand needs to be to reach potential customers on the way to your brand:

  • Where might customers begin in making their way to find and explore our brand?
  • How many different paths do customers take to reach our brand category?
  • What are all the other parties trying to get in from of our brand’s customers?
  • What types of messages stand out from competitors’ messages trying to reach our potential customers?
  • When our customers are looking “up,” “down,” or “to the side,” what are they going to see as they pass by our brand?
  • How many possibilities are available to reinforce our messages before customers reach our brand?
  • In what ways might we be able to use pre-brand messages so potential customers know they are getting “warmer” or “colder” relative to our brand location?

Run through these seven strategic thinking questions and see what possibilities your answers suggest.

See if you don’t uncover some new opportunities in answering these strategic thinking questions where you can make it easier and more apparent for your customers to find your brand from among all the competitive options! – Mike Brown

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The folks at Armada Corporate Intelligence shared, via their “Inside the Executive Suite” feature, a number of ideas to improve the effectiveness of rolling out your strategic planning document for the upcoming year. They were gracious enough to let us feature the six approaches since there’s still time to improve the effectiveness of how you introduce your strategic plan. We list each of their suggestions followed by our own thoughts in italics.

6 Ways to Make an Impact with this Year’s Strategic Planning Document

New ideas and strategic planning initiatives are ready to roll out, but strategies often aren’t developed with a full understanding of the audiences most affected by them. This can create a mismatch between executives sharing new strategic planning documents and those on the receiving end that are expected to implement them.

New-Year-Strategic-Planning

While some approaches for smooth strategy roll-outs could be too late to implement, there are multiple possibilities to improve the experience and impact.

  1. Create messaging focused on audience benefits and motivations

While the inclination is often to communicate a plan based on the external factors that justify the direction, it’s far better to communicate a plan in language that motivates the relevant audiences to understand how successful plan implementation helps them be successful in helping the organization be successful.

  1. Make sure the plan language SOUNDS like the audience

If you’re strategic plan sounds like freshly-minted MBA consultants put it together, STOP! Even if you don’t have time to revise all the language throughout the plan, at least make sure the shortened version you share with your organization SOUNDS like they talk. Make the language so simple that anyone in the organization knows what the plan means for them individually and what they need to do to make it successful.

  1. Give potential influencers an early look

Who are the operations leaders, sales veterans, and others that all the rest of the organization will look to for cues on what to think about the strategic plan? Spend the time to identify the list of people matching these descriptions and then invest the time to reach out and give them an early look on what you plan to share with the rest of the organization. You want to make sure they’re bought in and saying ALL the right things about the strategic plan.

  1. Shorten what you’re communicating to a single page or infographic

Do whatever it takes to come up with a one-page version of the plan for each audience you need to embrace, own, and actively implement the plan. Make it easy for people to understand what they need to do!

  1. Identify opportunities for user customization in the strategy

Don’t be ridiculous . . . you haven’t covered EVERYTHING people need to do in your strategic plan. Be upfront and identify where employees have latitude to make good business decisions and customize how they approach and implement the organization’s strategic plan.

  1. Communicate the strategy in a compelling way this year

Don’t send out a plan and expect ANYONE will read your email with the plan attachment. Just as you try to cut through the clutter with your customer communication, think about all the boring, crappy internal communications that create clutter internally. Then do something completely different and exciting to share this year’s plan!

There Is Still Time

As the folks at Armada suggested, you can pick just one of these ideas and realize greater impact from this year’s plan. 

The big strategic thinking question is, “Which one will you pick?”

 

 

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Leaders are looking for powerful ways to engage strong collaborators to shape shared visions. They need strategic thinkers who can develop strategy and turn it into results.

This new Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons for leaders to increase strategic collaboration, engagement, and create improved results.

Download this free, action-focused mini-book to:

  • Learn smart ways to separate strategic opportunities from the daily noise of business
  • Increase focus for your team with productive strategy questions everyone can use
  • Actively engage stakeholders in strategy AND implementation success

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When a brand strategy change is planned, what happens first?

An earlier “Inside the Executive Suite” article from Armada Corporate Intelligence addressed this important brand strategy question about how changes are rolled out to the public. The issue is this: When announcing a new brand promise, you need to give employees adequate time to understand and embrace the brand promise before announcing it to customers.

“Nearly simultaneously,” unless there are completely inescapable circumstances preventing advance notice, is not adequate time. Yet, discussions and presentations at a brand strategy conference indicate many brands act as if “nearly simultaneously” is sufficient.

You're-Gonna-Love-this-Plac

They’re wrong, and here’s an example included in the Armada piece. It’s a second-hand anecdote on the downside of not making sure employees know about branding announcement before customers, along with the fundamental differences in how brands are developed vs. implemented.

Brand Promises Are Developed and Communicated in Different Directions (From Armada Executive Intelligence “Inside the Executive Suite”)

“(There are) differing ‘directions’ in which smart brands develop and introduce their promises.

Many organizations first look inward to determine what they want the brand to be. They then develop related brand messages they launch with great fanfare in the marketplace. This is developing the brand promise ‘inside-out’ and communicating it ‘outside-in,’ implying employees are learning about the new big brand promise at the same time as customers.

“That approach is fraught with problems as evidenced by a story shared by a CMO we (worked with). He was flying on United Airlines as it introduced ‘United Rising.’ The brand campaign focused on United dramatically changing to deliver better service to customers. After enduring a day of cancellations and delays at O’Hare with no timely updates or apologies from United, passengers finally boarded a plane in the evening. One flight attendant welcomed passengers, acknowledged their long, frustrating day, apologized, and said the crew would have them home soon.

“The CMO told the flight attendant she was the ONLY person all day who displayed anything resembling United Rising-type behaviors. She asked what United Rising was. He explained it was the new United brand message. She replied, ‘Oh, they don’t tell us about those things. We’re always the last to know.’

“That highlights the problem with first communicating a brand promise in the marketplace. If the market learns about a new brand promise before employees, they aren’t in a good position to bring the brand promise to life for customers – and they may even wind up undermining it, as in the United Rising episode.

“The best brand promises are developed outside in. A brand starts by understanding what the market perceives about it and how much latitude it has to change. Brand promises are then communicated inside out. The communication process starts with employees before the market hears the message, making sure they understand it and are supported in delivering on it. Then, when the first customer comes through the door (whether a physical, figurative, or virtual one), employee behaviors and every other brand element can strongly align to what customers have heard.”

Even if there are regulatory or confidentiality issues involved, it behooves a brand to establish considerable groundwork with its employees in advance, perhaps over many months of time. This could come via broad employee involvement in providing input to the strategy. It could also include sharing foundational concepts that will support the eventual brand position. In that case, when the new brand is announced, brand management can link the new information on the brand to what has already been shared. That at least provides SOME context and preparation for employees to be able to communicate about and carry out a new brand promise more effectively.

Don’t mess this one up: Communicating your brand starts on the inside, NOT the outside!  – Mike Brown

10 Keys to Engaging Stakeholders to Create Improved Results

FREE Download: “Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact”

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Leaders are looking for powerful ways to engage strong collaborators to shape shared visions. They need strategic thinkers who can develop strategy and turn it into results.

This new Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons for leaders to increase strategic collaboration, engagement, and create improved results.

Download this free, action-focused mini-book to:

  • Learn smart ways to separate strategic opportunities from the daily noise of business
  • Increase focus for your team with productive strategy questions everyone can use
  • Actively engage stakeholders in strategy AND implementation success

Download Your FREE Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-book

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

Mike Brown

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We’ve certainly covered the heck out of how bad bosses, toxic cultures, and negative comments can crush creative thinking and creativity. These all dampen creative thinking because while ideas are in the awkward stage when someone has just envisioned them, the last thing you need is to attack them because they are outside the norm or aren’t fully-formed.

What you might not consider, however, is how an uber-positive boss that is TOO OVER THE TOP when communicating how great early stage ideas are ALSO CRUSHES creative thinking.

Here’s an example.

Creative-Thinking-Bouquets

Suppose a team is charged with doing the creative thinking to generate new ideas for an initiative. Sometimes the ideas are developed collaboratively; other times, ideas are shared one-on-one with the boss.

In a group where it is understood that creative ideas are considered works in progress, supportive comments from the boss are helpful to further creativity. Ideas that build on original ideas are beneficial. Creative thinking that removes or reshapes initial ideas is okay because team members understand an idea’s origin and can offer creative adaptations in a smart, supportive way.

When creative possibilities are shared individually with the boss, however, team knowledge about new ideas is limited. All you know about the idea is what the boss communicates back to the group. If an uber-positive boss shares only effusive praise for a new creative idea, it is challenging to for someone else to say, “That idea doesn’t make strategic sense,” or “There are other possibilities for that idea that you didn’t consider.” Sure, you can step out and offer these perspectives. But when uber-positive praise from the boss makes it seem as if the weak idea is the best creative idea ever, trying to actively adapt the idea can be, in the best case, a big challenge, or, in the worst case, seen as trying to sabotage someone else’s creative thinking.

5 Ideas When an Uber-Positive Boss Crushes Creative Thinking

A better approach as the boss is, when sharing the idea with the full team, to:

  1. Introduce the creative idea
  2. Credit the idea’s originator
  3. Remark positively on the idea’s possibilities and potential to grow and develop
  4. Share the idea’s status (i.e., it’s open for consideration all the way to it’s a done deal)
  5. Invite team members to comment, build on, and adapt the idea with their own creative thinking

These five steps help a boss be positive about a new creative idea while still creating room to allow other team members to provide their unencumbered creative thinking.

If you’re the boss, be positive about new creative thinking without going overboard. Doing this will encourage your team’s full collective strategic and creative thinking potential. – Mike Brown

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ebook-cover-redoBoost Your Creativity with “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation”

Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help  generate extreme creativity and ideas! For organizational innovation success, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative growth strategies. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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