How to build a personal brand

personal brand

Personal branding seems to be a popular topic around the pub, even the brickie who lives a few streets away, and is not known for his new age sensitivities, has got a hold of it.

It is not new, Julius Caesar had a personal brand well before Bill Shakespeare wrote a play about him,  and they killed him for it.

Tom Peters, who was really “hot” in the nineties wrote a prescient Fast Company article  about personal branding, but missed the point, at least to my mind. This Roger Duncan e-book does it much better,  listing 8 behaviors that build a personal brand, and if you followed the list, no doubt you would make a mark.

However, I think it can be summarised better, in a few words.

“Always deliver greater value than is expected”. Simple, but complicated at the same time.

A mate of mine was offered a bundle, just to meet with someone he knew vaguely for a coffee. If asked nicely, he probably would have made the 20 minutes, but being offered money????. He did not have the coffee, and it turned out that the supplicant did want something from him, and had my friend taken the money, it would have set up an obligation to deliver something he may rather not have.

There is never something for nothing in business, when it seems too good to be true, it usually is.

Doing something unexpected for others, over delivering in the parlance, builds a bank of goodwill that at some point will be repaid.

Perhaps not today, or tomorrow, but it will come back to you. That is the way you build a persona brand, based on honesty, transparency, and over-delivery.

Renting your sales.


isle endWalking into chain retailers these days you are inevitably confronted by displays of product, usually at a discount.

Most people seem to think that it is the retailer doing the promotion as a means to attract added sales, which is true, but the reality is that the promotion is funded by the suppliers, and it is a competition for the retail space that is generally won by those suppliers  with the deepest pockets, and best information.

Retailers are in two businesses, selling stuff to consumers, and renting retail space to suppliers. Chain retailers business model relies on a formula that accommodates volume, revenue,  and total margin over the space allocated. This can get very complicated, as the number of variables is enormous.

For a supplier to a chain retailer, the challenge is to balance the complex and  competing demands of enterprise profitability and investment  in the future against the need to meet retailer margin  demands  necessary to retain access to the consumer via the distribution controlled by the retailer.

Of real significance is the difference between sales that would have been made irrespective of promotional activity the “base sales rate” and sales made in a period as a result of promotional activity, “incremental sales”.

The need to fund retailer margin via promotional allowances is universal, but the sales that occur as a result of the activity may not be there when there is no activity, and are therefore” rented” sales. The effectiveness of the activity has many measures, but to the supplier two measures only are of any real use.

    1. The real cost of the promotional activity including all discounts on deal volumes and associated co-operative advertising.
    2. The number of consumers who convert over time from being a rented consumer to one who becomes a part of the base sales volume.

If you are not making these calculations, and adjusting the mix of your expenditure programs accordingly, and are prepared to make some very tough choices on the basis of the information gathered, chances are you are going broke being successful, a very common complaint in the Australian FMCG market.



Category management steroids


This post goes back to mid 2012. A conversation yesterday with a colleague brought it to mind, as we were discussing the the opportunities to monetise Intellectual Capital of the sort represented by the 1200 odd StrategyAudit posts. “You know more about category management that almost anyone”, he said, “You almost invested what was then Trade marketing 30 years ago, there must be a bob here somewhere”.
Perhaps self indulgently, I agree.

Originally posted on StrategyAudit:

Data mining as it is evolving in retail is a fascinating exercise in identifying behavior characteristics that apply to very small percentages of the shopper population, and doing something with them. Progressively retailers are getting better at leveraging the data, and as the penetration of cards increases past a critical mass, so will the effectiveness of the marketing and promotional programs. Of course, consumers are well aware of this, and have well developed “relevance meters” built in.

Consider the category management of potatoes. Pretty dull stuff? no, fascinating stuff.  I am making these numbers up to illustrate the point, but consider, of 100 customers using their cards at the checkout,  perhaps 10% have potatoes in their trolleys, and 10% of that 10% have a particular variety, and of that 10% (now down to 0.1%), they also have sour cream and chives in their trolley.  Pretty reasonable guess that the potatoes…

View original 238 more words

Organised serendipity



At first sight, “Organised” and “Serendipity” are at opposite ends of the scale, almost mutually exclusive.

Serendipity occurs by chance, when the stars align, the unexpected happens and not by any organised process, or so we are led to believe. Organisation by contrast removes by its nature the chance occurrences, random relationships, and inconsistency that make serendipity possible.

As collaboration increases and we recognise and  seek to harness the intellectual capital of individuals by what is often called loose/tight management, the opportunity for serendipity increases, simply because the processes that run our lives are looser, more inclusive rather than exclusive.  The use of technology to facilitate collaboration and recording process has increased the opportunity for those serendipitous moments and insights that just used to occur at the water cooler, and in the lunch room.

It follow then that setting out to organise in such a way that the chances of serendipity are enhanced is both logical and indeed, is a competitive necessity. It is after all where the insights that lead to innovation and its rewards are born.

Are you organised for it?


Corporate euthanasia


Holden, SPC, Alcoa, Caltex oil, and all the other industrial enterprises that are going currently going out of business or leaving the country are doing so because they failed to keep up with the evolution of technology and management practice. Whilst labour costs, the $A, oligopoly control of retail supply chains, limited scale of the domestic market, and all the other reasons that are trotted out have played an important role, the underlying presence is a corporate failure to evolve in the face of these changes.

Well, SPC is not out of business, just. Woolworths have sent them a lifeline, but it is motivated by self interest, not benevolence, as they suddenly realised that without SPC, they had no local supply of canned fruit, adding uncertainty, inventory, 3 months lead time, and transaction costs to a supply chain where they had lost all leverage. They have also done a similar deal on supplies of milk, as they recognised, perhaps belatedly that they were killing their own supply chains.

Now the handouts have stopped, we are undergoing the corporate version of Euthanasia in manufacturing.

Painful, but unavoidable commercial evolution if you take the long view.

Governments seem to have made the choice (with some politically expedient exceptions like Cadburys) between retaining by subsidy an industry or enterprise that has no economically sustainable business model, simply to maintain jobs, and letting it die by cutting off the supply of taxpayer cash. This is not to make light of the emotional and financial challenges this places on the displaced families, particularly in regional towns that find their biggest employer closing.

There are many lessons for us all in this current flurry of corporate euthanasia, perhaps even the beginnings of a national strategy? Certainly, the space left will open up opportunities for others, innovative smaller businesses  that use technology and agility to add value their larger less agile predecessors could not.



3 core questions of strategy.


Often I find myself engaged in conversations with those running small businesses who believe they have discovered the next  big thing, the idea that will change the world, or at  least their business.

It can be  as simple as a tweak to an existing product that enables it to be used in an adjacent market, to a patented idea that they believe will change the world, the 3 questions I  always ask remain the same:

    1. To whom will it add value?
    2. How will it add value?
    3. By what means can you unlock that value and make a return as a result?

Whilst answering those questions can be time consuming, and sometimes confronting, and is often an evolutionary process, they constitute the core of strategy development,

So often I see a solution in search of a problem posing as strategy that it makes me shake my head in frustration, when a bit of discipline in the way tasks are identified and managed can go such a long way. These are 11 tasks  you can set yourself to help the process of answering the “big three” along.




The corruption sideshow


The joint is in a mess.

Every time you look at the news, there is another “revelation” of dodgy morality, insider dealings, political duck-shoving and just plain corruption.

Greed has become the magnet in our moral compass, and to compete, we are all tempted to cut a corner here, increase a claim there, and in the process join the race to the bottom.

Engaging in a number of forums of SME’s over the last few weeks, it has become evident to me  that the cynicism of small business owners is at an all time high, and their contempt for those who pull the levers of power never higher.

Small business (1-19 employees) is the neglected powerhouse of the economy, generating 47% of jobs, and 36% of industry value add, and are heavily concentrated in the service industries where the growth is occurring. This is just another way of saying important.

These people, who together probably lift the average hours worked in the economy 25%, and who are way more productive than most, are becoming wary of trusting our institutions, are minimising the people they employ, and the degree to which they engage. Over time their confidence is being eroded, their trust being withheld.

The long term impact is that investment, innovation, and ultimately our economic well-being is compromised.

As far as I am concerned, those convicted of offenses should be thrown into the slammer, and their assets taken, but they are the sideshow to the slow erosion in the character of our economic fabric. They just provide the evidence that all  the bad stuff that the owners of SME’s believe every time they set out to engage with a local council to get a DA, have to fill in another senseless form, or suffer the invasion of someone checking that they are doing the “right thing” is really happening. They wonder at the volume of corruption and hubris that is remaining hidden, when they are getting their regular dose of Obeid and Thompson et al from both sides of politics on public display.

The public display of corruption is just a sideshow, the small fraction of the smelly deals that get done that becomes public, but just imagine how productive we would be if the stench of this sideshow was removed, and confidence and  trust rebuilt.