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Are You Making the Single Worst
Brand-Building Mistake a Company Can Make?

Smart brand strategy must be built on a foundation of empathy for the customer.
Lindsay Pedersen offers a few insights on what empathy looks like—and what it doesn't.

          Seattle, WA (July 2019)—In late 2008, Seattle's adored Washington Mutual Bank (known locally and affectionately as WaMu) failed and was subsumed in a shotgun wedding with Chase Bank. Seattleites were reeling in the early days of the Great Recession, and WaMu's going under was salt in that raw wound as they watched thousands of friends, family members, neighbors, and colleagues get laid off. Then came the final blow: Chase plastered this line on buses and billboards throughout the city: "Seattle: land of coffee, seafood, and now helpful banking."

          "Now helpful banking?" says Lindsay Pedersen, Seattle resident and author of Forging an Ironclad Brand: A Leader's Guide (Lioncrest Publishing, April 2019, ISBN: 978-1-544-51386-7, $27.99). "We previously did have helpful banking. It was called WaMu. Who did this outsider think they were, coming in and telling us we needed them? How dare they?

          "Understanding our response required empathy from Chase—stepping into our shoes and feeling the wound with us," she notes. "Chase could have empathetically let us Seattleites be the hero and resolve the tension, the anguish of this communal loss. Instead they positioned themselves as the hero and insulted us further."

          This, says Pedersen, is the single biggest mistake companies make in their brand efforts. They fail to be on the customer's side. They fundamentally fail to respect the customer. They commit a breach of empathy—that elusive ability that lets us see things through the perspective of another.

          "At the foundation of a compelling brand is empathy—putting yourself in the customer's shoes," she notes. "You have to truly get to know the humans you're seeking to connect with. When you don't, you'll not only fail to persuade them to buy and build a loyal relationship over time, you may put out a tone-deaf message—like Chase did—that blatantly alienates them."

          Keep in mind that our brand is more than the marketing messages we send out—far more. It encompasses everything from our product to our pricing to our SEO tactics to our customer experience. And Pedersen says companies are constantly failing to notice and bridge the "empathy gap" that exists between their offerings and the customers they're trying to reach.

          That said, empathizing begins long before you sit down to conceptualize messaging. Empathy has to be baked into your processes and the very fabric of your culture. Otherwise, you'll fail to serve the customer and ultimately fail the business. In fact, Pedersen says most serious brand mistakes come down to the central cardinal sin of failing to empathize.

          Pedersen offers a few tips to help you sidestep this big mistake:

· Forget the Golden Rule. We all know the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Some form of this guideline has appeared in every one of the world's major religions. But the goal of the marketer is to tap into the customer's needs and wants—to empathize with her, to meet her where she lives. If we don't and instead we market as if we ourselves were the target, we're going to fail. Rather than doing unto them as you would have done to you, do unto them as they would have you do unto them. It's not about you—it's about them.

· Cultivate the "beginner's mind." This is what Zen Buddhists call the receptive, unguarded, eager state of childlike wonder about your customer and what he is trying to accomplish. In this state, you will be vulnerable—open to learn, to be surprised, to be wrong—even though you might find this feeling uncomfortable. If you're not approaching your customer with vulnerability, you won't allow him to be vulnerable, and this will prevent meaningful insights from emerging. You will merely hear confirmation of things you already knew.

"Don't adopt this mindset surgically, only to discard it when you finish your research," advises Pedersen. "Let it become your default state."

· Find out what customers really want and need, not just what they say they want and need. This requires some digging and dot connecting. Henry Ford famously said, "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have answered 'faster horses.'" Instead you must a) discover the deep-seated, unspoken, perhaps even unconscious desires of your target and b) create an offering and communicate that offering in a manner informed directly by your understanding of those desires.

"It's not easy," says Pedersen. "And it's not just product developers who risk a lack of empathy. Smart, experienced, highly trained marketers have fallen prey to the empathy gap. But my question is: How meaningful do you want your offering to be? Do you want it just to plug a hole, or do you want it to add meaningfully to the lives of your customers?"

· Make your customer the hero in your marketing. Your customer—not your business—should be the hero of the story. Your business exists to help the hero, the customer, to resolve the tension and advance his story. It is not to show the world how great you are. It is to show the customer how his tension and resolution might look. When you do tell stories about your own business, let that be a device to show the audience themselves in your business story.

This last point is where Chase went wrong. Pedersen notes they should have taken an approach like PEMCO Insurance took during the same era. PEMCO developed a bus ad campaign that featured humorous Pacific Northwest images that sparked Seattleites' sense of community, pride, and kinship. The caption for each ad was "We're a lot like you, a little different," featuring inside jokes like the "Supercharged Seahawks Fan," "Green Lake Power Walker," "Recumbent Bike Commuter," "Oblivious Left Lane Occupant," and "Fremont '60s Holdout."

"Instead of presuming a superior place at the family table, they became one of us," says Pedersen. "They felt the zeitgeist and made the Seattleite the hero of the story. I still witness people grin when they encounter a PEMCO ad. Not surprisingly, PEMCO's revenue has flourished in recent years, growing 30 percent between 2003 and 2015."

          We can be PEMCOs, says Pedersen. To do so, we must continually orient ourselves to our customer's perspective throughout the brand-building process.

          "Tell your story in a way that allows your respect for the customer to shine," she says. "Before seeking to resonate with them, first seek to let them resonate with you. Before asking them to like you, make sure you first like, understand, and empathize with them."
 

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About the Author:
Lindsay Pedersen is the author of Forging an Ironclad Brand: A Leader's Guide. She is a brand strategist, board advisor, coach, speaker, and teacher known for her scientific, growth-oriented approach to brand building. She developed the Ironclad Method for value-creating brands while working with billion-dollar businesses like Starbucks, Clorox, Zulily, T-Mobile, and IMDb, as well as many burgeoning start-ups. Lindsay lives in Seattle with her husband and two children.

For more information, please visit www.ironcladbrandstrategy.com.

About the Book:
Forging an Ironclad Brand: A Leader's Guide (Lioncrest Publishing, April 2019, ISBN: 978-1-544-51386-7, $27.99) is available at bookstores nationwide and from major online booksellers.

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FIND YOUR ANCHOR BENEFIT CONCERT

SET TO TAKE PLACE AUGUST 12

AT OVATION IN CHICAGO, IL

 

TICKETS AVAILABLE NOW

 

PROCEEDS TO BENEFIT FIND YOUR ANCHOR AND ITS SUICIDE 

PREVENTION, AWARENESS, AND EDUCATION MOVEMENT

 

FEATURED ON THE MIGHTY: http://bit.ly/2XpxU82

 

JULY 9, 2019 - Find Your Anchor, a grassroots movement aimed at suicide prevention, awareness and education, has announced its second official benefit concert, set to take place on from 7 to 10PM on Monday, August 12 at Ovation in Chicago, IL. Early-bird tickets are available a ticketstripe.com/findyouranchor for $65, and prices will increase to $80 after July 19th. All proceeds will benefit Find Your Anchor. 

 

The benefit concert will feature an open bar courtesy of Revolution Brewing, food vendors, a performance by The Hacky Turtles, surprise guests and speakers, and more. Last year's concert raised $6,000 for the organization. 

 

The physical form of Find Your Anchor is a small blue box packed with various materials designed to inspire, soothe and offer support. These boxes are then planted in public places (the library, the Vegas strip, etc.) to be found by those in need; specifically, those close to suicide in one way or another. The boxes are intended to be organic in the sense that each person can add to the box their own inspiration and anchors before passing it along. These boxes are meant to feel curated and even kismet, and can be ordered on-demand on the Find Your Anchor website for someone who needs them.  

 

The boxes are free for those in need and the organization runs solely on donations. 

 

Find Your Anchor has seen a recent increase in the demand for boxes, and currently are at a demand of 4,400 boxes and counting.  Proceeds from the benefit concert will help the organization get boxes out to everyone in need who has requested one. Learn more about Find Your Anchor at www.findyouranchor.us

 

Last year, Find Your Anchor was awarded the Songs That Saved My Life Grant from Hopeless Records: https://youtu.be/kACt5EZ-oNs. The premise behind the nonprofit is that each person needs an anchor, according to founder Ali Borowsky. They encourage people to "Establish an anchor - a dependable, stable, secure base that you can hold on to, one that keeps you firmly planted, no matter what winds or storms may come."

 

Speaking to the concept of Find Your Anchor, Ali said, "Find Your Anchor is that reason to fight. It's 52+ Reasons to Live when you can't even think of one. It's that list of resources in your pocket, reminding you there are people all over the country waiting to listen. It's a reminder that you're not alone. That there is hope. An endless amount of gratitude and thanks to Hopeless Records for this opportunity - to really grow this movement and get more boxes into the world and in the hands of those struggling."

 

Event Details:

Find Your Anchor Benefit Concert

Date: Monday, August 12th, 2019

Venue: Ovation Chicago | 2324 W Fulton St, Chicago, IL 60612

Tickets: ticketstripe.com/findyouranchor | Early Bird (ends 7/19)- $65, Regular Price - $80

Time: 7-10PM

 

For More Information, Please Visit: 

www.findyouranchor.us

facebook.com/findyouranchor

instagram.com/findyouranchorbox

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How Much Should I Charge? A New Consultant's Most Worrisome Question
Setting your fee can be a struggle for first-time consultants. Elaine Biech offers tips and insights to help you make this tough (and emotionally laden) decision.

          Hoboken, NJ (July 2019)—You're finally ready to take the leap and become a consultant. But there's one question standing between you and your dream career: How much should I charge? If you're really nervous about making this decision you're not alone says Elaine Biech: price is one of the biggest stumbling blocks for new consultants.

          "Most of us have insecurities about attaching a cash amount to our work, which is why this decision feels emotional in nature," says Biech, author of The New Business of Consulting: The Basics and Beyond (Wiley, May 2019, ISBN: 978-1-119-55690-9, $30.00) and its companion workbook, The New Consultant's Quick Start Guide: An Action Plan for Your First Year in Business (Wiley, April 2019, ISBN: 978-1-119-55693-0, $28.00). "It feels as if that number is tied to your value as a person."

          First, if you worry that you're not "worth" a fair price, put your mind at ease. You provide valuable expertise and a fresh, objective point of view, plus in the emerging "gig economy," companies depend on consultants more and more. The real question is, what constitutes a "fair price"? Biech offers a few insights:

Carefully consider the "Big 3": Client Type, Location, What YOU Bring to the Table. Here's more detail on these factors:

FACTOR 1: The type of client you serve. Generally, for-profit companies have bigger budgets than do nonprofits. Daily rates for consultants working in the corporate arena tend to start around $1,000 per day and go as high as $6,500 per day (for Silicon Valley clients). Government, nonprofit organizations, and associations are usually lower, in the $600 to $4,500 range.

FACTOR 2: The location of the client. Ranges of fees are different in different areas. It's natural to expect consultants in large cities like New York, Boston, or Frankfurt to charge more than consultants in smaller towns. In the U.S., consultants working on both coasts command a higher fee.

FACTOR 3: Your own consulting foundation. What expertise do you have? How long have you been in your specialty area? Is it unique or commonplace? How much experience do you have? With what type of clients? Do you work internationally, statewide, locally? How well are you known? What perceived value do you add to your stature in the business, authored books, or university affiliations? The answers to each of these will help to determine your rate.

Check out your local competition. For example, a local mental health clinic may offer a stress-management class for $25 dollars. A community college may offer a time-management course for $35. If any of these is your specialty, you may have a difficult time convincing companies to pay $1,500 per day for your services—even if you do customize content for them.

Resist underpricing your services. This is the biggest mistake new consultants make. They feel that if they price low, they will acquire more contracts. But if you work long hours and don't make the amount of money you deserve on the job you won't have enough time to grow your business or develop yourself. A low price also suggests to clients that you are not as good as other consultants, or that you are not worthy of important projects.

"Pricing your services on the higher end of the range means you'll be able to focus on fewer contracts," says Biech. "This lets you manage your time better, allowing flexibility to deal with all those unforeseeable things that crop up when starting a business. It also lets you spend more time with each of your clients, giving them better service rather than worrying about your next contract."

Use Elaine's 3X Rule to determine your salary. Biech's book explains how to calculate your consulting fees to generate a comfortable salary and enough to cover business expenses. If you'd like to get an estimate without doing the calculations, the guideline she calls "Elaine's 3X Rule" is a good shortcut. For example, to earn a salary of $100,000, you will need to bill about $300,000 each year. Don't lowball yourself: It's easier to establish an appropriate salary when you launch than to increase it at a later time!

"Don't confuse your salary with your business profit," she adds. "A profit is your reward for business ownership and the risk it incurs. Set a goal to earn a 10 percent profit in your first year."

Choose your preferred pricing structure. Training, organization development, or management development consultants typically charge by the day. The downside? Even if your day ends up being 11 hours long, you don't charge for additional hours. Also, this may make you seize as many work days as possible, even when they don't fit into your schedule well. Industries like computer programming, accounting, legal, and engineering typically bill by the hour. Under this structure, you may need to provide a range of hours you expect the job to require.

"Alternately, you can establish a firm fixed price for a complete project," says Biech. "I prefer this pricing structure for several reasons. First, it's more client friendly: the client can call at any time for assistance. Second, it's performance- and results-oriented. We are paid for what we accomplish. Third, it's the best match for a custom design. Finally, it's better for larger contracts—and generally, it's easier to manage several large contracts than dozens of little ones."

Manage scope creep. For fixed price projects, you can lose money when your client asks you to do more than what was agreed upon. These things happen because neither you nor the client can predict everything that can spring up over the course of a project. Immediately bring these additional requests to your client's attention. At that point, you can both decide how to manage them. They may be included in the project at an additional fee or left for a later time.

Plan to average around 120 billable workdays a year. Here's why: first, the work you must do as a consultant is not all client-facing. You will need time to run your business, market, network, write proposals, travel, bill clients, etc. Also it's difficult to match your clients' needs with your available days. All your clients may need you the same week in September—a month that is notoriously busy in this field. You may need to turn down some of those billable days.

Remember, reducing your proposed price damages your reputation. It is unethical to lower your rates simply because clients do not have adequate funds in their budgets to cover the amount you first quoted. Tempting as it may be, don't do this.

"This is one of the ways consultants gain a bad reputation," says Biech. "If you can do it for $10,500, why did you ask for $15,500? Does that mean you had $5,000 worth of fat in the proposal? It will make a client question your ethics and the ethics of all consultants."

Consider offering a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee. If the client is not satisfied with your work, you will return the full amount. Sound risky? It shouldn't. If you don't believe in your work, who will? A guarantee makes it easier for the clients to say "yes" to you. (They have nothing to lose.) Second, it tells the client that you are confident and competent at what you do.

          "Don't make yourself crazy assuming that clients will balk at your fee," says Biech. "The emotional stakes are seldom as high as we may imagine. Your clients are less concerned about your consulting fee than about whether you have a solution for them. What's more important is being confident that you can do a great job and following through on that promise."

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About the Author:
Elaine Biech is the author of The New Business of Consulting: The Basics and Beyond. She is a dedicated lifelong learner who believes that excellence isn't optional. As a consultant, trainer, and president of ebb associates for more than 35 years, she helps global organizations to work through large-scale change and leaders to maximize their effectiveness. She has published 85 books, including the Washington Post #1 bestseller The Art and Science of Training. She is the recipient of numerous professional awards and accolades, including ATD's inaugural CPLP Fellow Honoree, ISA's Broomfield Award, and Wisconsin's Women Entrepreneur's Mentor Award. Elaine, a consummate professional, has been instrumental in leading the talent development profession during most of her career and has served on several boards, including ASTD, CCL, ISA, and others. She is a designer and facilitator for the online course "How to Build Your Successful Training Consulting Business" and has been featured in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Harvard Management Update, Investor's Business Daily, and Fortune.

Customizing all of her work for individual clients, she conducts strategic planning sessions and is particularly adept at turning dysfunctional teams into productive ones. As a management consultant, trainer, and designer, she provides services globally to public- and private-sector organizations to prepare them for the challenges of the future.

For more information, please visit www.elainebiech.com.

About the Books:
The New Business of Consulting: The Basics and Beyond (Wiley, May 2019, ISBN: 978-1-119-55690-9, $30.00) and its companion workbook, The New Consultant's Quick Start Guide: An Action Plan for Your First Year in Business (Wiley, April 2019, ISBN: 978-1-119-55693-0, $28.00), are available at bookstores nationwide, from major online booksellers, and direct from the publisher by calling 800-225-5945. In Canada, call 800-567-4797. For more information, please visit the book's page and the workbook's page on www.wiley.com.