Your Brand Is Your Personal “Package”

What is a Brand? Webster defines a brand as a characteristic or distinctive kind of mark. In contemporary society, a brand is the essence of what people believe or think about you, your product, service or your company. Branding is that touchy-feely good stuff that translates into the way people feel about products and services. There are also negative brands out there, but we won’t go there except to mention that strong brands can very quickly become negatives ones. Consider all the negative publicity about Mattel and all the flak around that brand with the lead paint issue.The brand is what keeps people returning. It makes them feel confident, secure, trusting, and cared for. It builds loyalty, constancy, allegiance, faithfulness and name recognition. So what does it mean to and for you?A brand can be mean different things to different people. One thing remains constant: the brand should be compelling, intriguing, engrossing, fascinating or interesting. If your brand cries BORING, DULL, TEDIOUS, HUMDRUM, STODGY or just plain BLAH, it is time to “transform” the brand.Building the brand will be the most important thing you do in 08. It will impact your business, your career, your family and your customers. You want to position yourself first and foremost in your customers’ or bosses’ eyes. That way when an opportunity arises, you and only you are the immediate consideration.The brand can do that for you. It is vital to realize that a brand is not a static thing. Just because your brand was great in 07 doesn’t mean it will have the same success in 08. A brand can become old, outdated, passé or even obsolete. Remember the Buggy Whip? I don’t either but it disappeared along with soon to be obsolete this like vinyl records (nor so the say).Consider brand recognition. Brands like Coca-Cola, Nike, GM, Apple and McDonald’s not only have instant recognition but they also have the capability to bring an image into focus. Visualize those brands. Not only do their brands represent a product but a feeling too.Some of the most compelling brands stay with us for a lifetime. Think back (I’m dating myself.) Bucky Beaver – Ipana tooth paste, Speedy – Alka Seltzer, roadside signs-Burma Shave, Smoky the Bear – Prevent Forest Fires. That’s what your brand should do for you. It should shift you to the forefront with the people that count. That way when it becomes time for a decision your name or your company’s name comes up first. If your brand accomplishes that, congratulations. Read no more. If not, it’s time to rejuvenate or reposition that brand.Evaluate the following points before you start building your strategy.1. Define your brand attributes. Brand attributes are like your skill sets. If I asked you to describe yourself in one word what would that word be? Strong, emotional, trustworthy, honest, sincere, reliable, friendly. That’s a brand.2. Start thinking in these terms to flesh out the essence of your brand. What one word do you want to be remembered by? Would I be interested in what you have to say? If not it’s time to rethink your core message. It’s also important to understand that building your brand is as much about your customer (boss or client) as it is about you. You need to provide what they need, not necessarily what you are selling.For example, you sell packaging (imagine that), doesn’t everyone? Does a potential customer need a new vendor? No way, but they need you right? So convince them that you are different and not just on price. Distill it down to what can you do for them that no one else can do.· Deliver on time (reliability)· Offer design assistance (creativity)· Take inventory (responsibility)· Help them sell more product (loyalty)· Reduce the number of SKU’s (efficiency)· Help them build their brand tooGet the picture?3. Promise yourself to use your brand with everything. The more you see your brand the more powerful it will become. The ultimate goal is instant brand recognition. If I say the word Microsoft, you have an immediate opinion that connotes both good and bad images. My point is that whether it’s good or bad, it’s instant acknowledgment that you know this brand.4. Use your brand to open doors, reinforce the doors that are already open through customer recognition. Get customer buy-in for your brand through testimonials and success stories. When other people do your talking for you that becomes your brand.5. Leverage your brand. Do you have a charity or special cause that you endorse? Volunteer and get active. You never know whom you might run into. Make sure it’s a cause you believe in and not one you have selected for the publicity. Ensure its okay to include your participation in all you promotional materials. Integrate these into your brand.6. Think brand in everything that you do. The average message needs to be seen or heard seven times before it’s even recognized. Consider the places where brand recognition comes into play. I’m not talking about the obvious places like TV, but the more subtle ways brands influence decisions or interests. Subtle brands are those that people really remember.7. All your promotional materials are mandatory branding items. Business cards, flyers, media kit, stationery, websites. The list goes on. Make sure to personalize it and use a photo or a catchy tag line like “Packaging Diva. People remember that stuff. It’s okay to have fun with it. Not all business is serious stuff. In fact, many CEO’s are now taking humor classes to learn to “lighten up” and “social networking” is becoming the next hot way to get your brand out there.Some other subtle branding techniques include your voice mail. Tell me what you do. I don’t care whether you are in the office or not. What are you are going to do for me to solve my problem (that’s why I am calling). Don’t forget to tell me the best way to reach you too. If you never answer the phone (a negative branding message), I’ll soon tire of leaving messages or become agitated that I cannot reach you.Insert your brand message into your SIG file too. You would be amazed at the number of people that just assume that you know who they are when they send you an E-mail. Be sure and check mine out at the end of the newsletter. I update it monthly with what is fresh, new and exciting.8. Promote your brand
This is fun. Promoting your brand is the best part of the process. Get out that horn and start tooting it. Don’t be shy. If you don’t promote yourself, who will? Write articles, give speeches, and get interviewed. Get OUT THERE. There are countless ways to soft sell yourself and your company in order to increase your visibility. Use them all.9. Don’t forget to build a network. I just joined Linked in and already I have close to 400 connections (as a colleague mentioned. I have an awesome packaging network). This is where you can live the brand everyday. Your brand should be clearly visible and identifiable in everything you write say or do. Your brand should continually evolve and crystallize the essence of your message. Think me, I, my, then take the next step. Who are you going to tell? Everyone.Make a list of every person you come in contact with, including friends and family and non-business activities. Think about how you interact with these people. Don’t they need to know about you? Did you remember your hairdresser/barber, vet, and cleaning lady? I’m not reaching here. All of these people know someone who needs to know about you. One can never tell where the next “connection” might come from.10. Who knows about your brand? So you have a great brand, now what? Who knows it? What are you going to do about it? What is your brand action plan and whom are you going to share it with? Ask yourself who should know this. How can I reach them? What makes my brand better than brand X? You do know who brand X is, right? If not, how can you differentiate yourself from them? Better get sleuthing. Investigate what is appealing in the competition and determine how your brand is superior.You need to continually coalesce, amalgamate, blend, consolidate, fuse, synthesize and unify your essence into a core message. The message should be consist and easily repeatable. You want people to remember you and to tell your story for you. When that happens, you become your brand evangelist. You know that you have a strong brand.A brand can be anything whether old or new. Build your brand by understanding your core attributes. Promote and leverage your brand every day in every conceivable way. Use the power of your brand at any opportunity. Plan your brand marketing campaign for 08. Tell everyone who you are. It doesn’t matter if you have the best brand out there if no one knows it. Make sure you a true to your brand; and for heaven’s sake never leave home without it.Wanted to know who or what I have branded lately? Email me back and ask what can you do for my brand too?

Potential Reasons – Why Do Project Fail and How Project Managers Can Prevent?

The principle aim of this article is to identify and explore multiple dimensions of project failures during the entire life of project execution. Many projects fail, especially IT projects. The only way that companies can get better at performing projects is by learning from projects they have carried out. There are small things which can decide fate of project. These all in project management practice and research, has been to see it as a threat and as something that should, if possible, be neutralized, reduced and followed.IntroductionIn a perfect world every project would be “on time and within budget.” But reality (especially the proven statistics) tells a very different story. It’s not uncommon for projects to fail. Even if the budget and schedule are met, one must ask -Question – “Did the project deliver the results and quality we expected?” Answer to this question could be different in different perspective. There is no single method or organizational structure that can be used to manage projects to success. Project failure can happen in any organization and to any project.There are many reasons why projects (both simple and complex) fail; the number of reasons can be infinite and can fit into different phase of SDLC (Software Development Life Cycle), initiation through go live. Sometimes it’s out of the control of a project manager and/or the team members. Sometimes failure is controllable. Failed projects and people involved with the failure have some things in common. I have tried to draft few critical and most basic reasons based on my experience for project failure and may differ project to project.From outside view, it could be that all reason will roll up to project manager’s responsibility and accountability however from my perspective it should be collective responsibility.Here are the some of the common reasons why project fails – based on my experience.1. Incompetent Project ManagerFirst possible cause of project failure is the project manager. A project manager who helps steer the project in a timely fashion and provides sound, inspiring leadership can go a long way toward bringing about a successful project. Reasons like “an incompetent project manager” “project manager unwilling to make decisions,” “project problems ignored”, “poor management by the project leader,” “loss of control by the project manager,” and “the failure of the project manager to delegate”, “working as only as coordinator” are most important reason given for project failure.2. Less Involvement of Project ManagersThis is always a topic of debate for project managers: Should they just focus on pure project management activities such as reporting, cost and issue tracking, or should they also dive into ground-level review and design? There is no correct answer. Even the biggest project depends on the success of the smallest components. Every detail contains a seed that can mean the difference between success and failure. On relatively inexperienced teams, project managers must be involved in the details for key activities. This will help them have better control of the effort as well as provide true status of the project to stakeholders.3. Unavailability to Skilled ResourcesEvery project has some resource estimations before starting of the project and even every vendor submits key personnel details and profile as part of bidding process to acquire project. However picture is always opposite once project is awarded. Initial resource estimations and loading sheet handed over to project managers as part of sales hand over process but I have seen that project managers always struggle for right skilled resources hence it is necessary that leadership team should understand criticality and provide planned/skilled resources on time to avoid project delay or failure.4. Lack of Proper PlanningProject managers should have clear projects outcomes visibility and should involve himself./herself right from sales hand over as this phase is critical for project success. If you don’t have a clear focus at the earliest stage of the process/project, you are making things harder on yourself. This would lead to inappropriate estimations and half cooked planning.5. Lack of Management Support/Leadership AlignmentIt is important to ensure that the senior management remains fully engaged throughout the project life cycle. The involvement e.g. through project update sessions imply that they are willing to take appropriate actions to address issues raised by the project team, mitigate the project risks, provide leadership, thus contributing to the project success.6. Missing CommunicationCommunication plan plays very substantial role in project success or failure. Plan should contain stakeholder details I.e name, role, contact no. and email, project team details, escalation matrix and other dependent groups. Information distribution details (stakeholder, information detail, distribution methods, format and frequency) should be clearly defined in plan. To save your project from failure, project manager need to establish a clear communication channel.Effective communication within any organization is important to keep all your team members on the same page, avoid confusions and keep them motivated. By communicating with your team, project managers can develop an environment of trust, proactively kill conflicts, which would bring the best out of your team and eventually lead to a successful delivery of the project.7. Ignoring Change Management ProcessTake a second before your project starts to undergo significant changes, or even before you look for a technology solution. It’s critical to define your change management process steps. A firm understanding of change management principles will serve as a strong backbone for any change management plan. Change is inevitable, irrespective of the size of your project. Whether good or bad, it must be managed well to ensure the project continues without disruption. Every project must have a change control process, and every change request, however small, must go through it. The change’s impact should be documented, approved and presented to key stakeholders so that everyone understands its effect on quality, cost and schedule. The focal point of any leader tasked with change must be to align their team with the vision. Communication is a crucial component in ensuring every team member is on the same page.8. No Risk Management ProcessMany projects fail because there is no risk management process as an integral part of the project management process. I am not surprised because I have been on many projects where the risk log is created at the start of the project and then quietly parked, never to be seen again. Then guess what – a perfectly predictable situation arises which no one knows how to react to.It was in the risk log but no risk response was created so the predictable outcome is a less than optimal project. My own feeling based on my experience is that you ignore risk management in a project at your risk.9. Inadequate Quality AssuranceNow this is where the technicality comes in. Software projects often fail when no quality assurance activities are planned and no systematic activities are performed to evaluate the quality of development process or ultimate deliverables. This is because managers often fail to project appropriate reviews tests or checkpoints where quality can be verified. Code review is part of this (as defined in #20).10. Missing Project Management Tools/FrameworkSuccessful projects are based on a methodology or framework that includes project management tools. Right approach can help project managers to stay on top of the project and by using some reliable management tools; project managers can enhance the team’s productivity, can increase accuracy and save time by automating activities like task tracking and managing dependencies.A great number of unsuccessful project results from missing methodology and framework, which leads to inaccuracy and wasted time. There are numerous project management frameworks and methodologies (like Agile, Iterative) and they can support efficient delivery.11. Company/Project CultureCompany or project culture should not be supported with political environment. It should support competency, skill, professionalism and transparency. If it isn’t, team members will not be motivated to do their best. Basically, everyone involved must be participated in their part of the project to successfully complete it. Any actions which project managers take to move project execution from the political arena into an objective and analytical one will improve the project’s success. This involves managing and retaining the most highly skilled and productive people. Knowledge is money. It is job of project managers to manage and motivate so that project efforts will experience a zone of optimal performance throughout its life.12. Inappropriate PrioritizationWhile some work best on a small number of requirements, others are better suited to very complex projects with many decision-makers. But regardless of when it is done, before a requirement can be prioritized, project managers must consider why requirement is most important from a business standpoint and what would be the impact of this on overall system whether new requirement would add value to overall system or it will be overhead. Project managers should lead prioritization exercise along with all relevant stakeholders. There are a number of possible business considerations, including value, cost, risk, and improve customer experience, stakeholder agreement and urgency variables.13. Inaccurate Stakeholder AnalysisStakeholder Analysis is the first step and an important process that successful project managers use to win support from others. Managing stakeholders helps them to ensure that their projects succeed where others might fail. There are three steps to follow in Stakeholder Analysis. First, identify who your stakeholders are. Next, work out their power, influence and interest, so that you know who you should focus on. Finally, develop a good understanding of the most important stakeholders based on Power/Interest grid, so that you know how they are likely to respond, and how you can win their support which can lead project success.14. Use of Unfamiliar ToolsTools are definitely needed for project execution and success but unfamiliar tools may lead to chances of failure as well. Sometimes, it can cause many severe problems during project life cycle as the team has to deal with the learning curve of new tools along with usual project tasks and duties. Project managers should ensure that tools are not enforced on project team members, just to utilize for fulfillment of audit compliance unless tools adding some productivity and save some efforts.15. Change – Always saying “Yes’ to the CustomerMany behaviors can cause a project to fail, but accepting whatever the client says is sure to spell project doom. Initially, a stakeholder might appreciate your flexibility – but that will be overshadowed later by the impact of possible schedule slippage and unmet objectives.. Change is a major cause of project failure. Project specifications can be changed for several reasons: initial planning was not complete or thorough; Senior-level management changed the scope of the work; the client (if not upper-level management) changed the scope of the work; this isn’t to say that you should always tell customers “no.” If you do that, they’ll feel their concerns are not being addressed. Before you commit to something, perform due diligence and analyze the pros and cons of your decision.16. Bonding between Project Team MembersIt is the prime responsibility of project managers to unite the team members to achieve a common goal. The stages a team generally goes through are: forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning. As a project manager, a good understanding of these stages would help in guiding a team from infancy to maturity which creates needed bonding.Things can easily go from good to bad very quickly if there is no unity between your team members. Consider a scenario in which all team members are moving in different directions. Could you expect a positive result to come out of this situation? There could be many reasons from personality differences to conflicting interests. All of them contribute towards taking you one step closer to project failure.17. Unrealistic ExpectationsAt the beginning of a project, it’s important to set realistic expectations for every member or stakeholders who are a part of the project. If the project kicks off without setting goals for individual team members, they are most likely to lose clarity and focus somewhere in the middle. Project managers must have one on one session with individual team members and help them understand their role in the project. If goals are set before the project is in full swing, the members would have a roadmap to follow that prevents them from derailing the project.18. Talking Through ProblemsCondensing bad news internally for long enough will only seed the explosion later on. It’s is fine to do for a limited period, but you will need to take some time to pull it out, examine it, feel it, and study it so you can find a way to re-channel it, or transmute it into another kind of energy. Quite often we face the dilemma of whether or not to deliver bad news to stakeholders. And too often we forget this truth: Clients have a vested interest in the success of the project. They have every right to know any development impacting the outcome of the initiative. You will end up having this heavy thing on your chest that will never move. You will never understand what it is about. The problem is that we believe that sharing problems will make us weak, and that stakeholders will start to judge us for our short-comings. Maybe they do. But stakeholders having higher interest who genuinely care about project and you very well know these people, will come out and help. Sharing helps you feel less burdened, because you now have less things on your mind. This will also allow you more space to put new thoughts, planning things better.19. Guesstimates – EffortsA “guess estimate,” also referred to as a “gut feel,” is based on personal intuition and past experience. But even the most strongly held conviction could be faulty. An inaccurate estimate can leave a project team slogging day and night to meet a deadline. The project might finally be delivered on time-but with a huge effort overrun. If time is pressing, use Function Point technique, Function Points are units of measure for functional size as defined within the IFPUG Functional Size Measurement (FSM) Method and it is the major global functional sizing methodology. Project Manager is responsible for accurate and re-estimation post sales hand over. If efforts guesstimated or not correctly estimated with appropriate tool then it definitely impacts one of all three critical project parameters- Cost, Scope, schedule.20. Avoiding Code ReviewsAssuming that testing will catch bugs or that defects are fixed faster when you know where code is breaking. You’ll only end up increasing the risk of schedule slippage as the inflow of defects rises during testing and the turnaround time for code fixes increases. Code review helps produce a stable, quality deliverable. Its focus is not only to catch code defects but also to look at critical dimensions that may not get caught during testing, such as code optimization and requirement coverage.21. Skipping PrototypingDefects can result from a misunderstanding of requirements and a misinterpretation of stated requirements. Even if requirements are well-documented, they must be validated for correct understanding. Only by a visual walkthrough can users spot the differences in what they expect and what’s being built. Feedback must be planned at various stages throughout a project to reduce risks. These feedback loops will help you spot gaps early and provide enough time for correction. A sketch, wireframe, mockup, and prototype are all unique ways to visually display the requirements of your project with varying levels of detail. Understanding that level of polished output each of these present will keep expectations aligned and communication clear between all the stakeholders.ConclusionThere could be many different, seemingly independent causes of project failure. However, it becomes clear that many of these causes are actually linked to project managers (which may differ project to project) and their way of execution. Past failure should not discourage project managers from future efforts. Past examples of IT project failures gives us the opportunity to point to the relevant lessons that can be derived from recognizing areas where IT projects is more likely to fail.Changing the project’s scope not only affects cost, but it also affects schedules and resource allocation. One way to overcome to all causes is that the various stakeholders and project team of the project should be included in a very thorough planning process, thereby maximizing the input from the various vested interests and broadening the understanding of the project manager and team members resulting in success rather than failure. An improvement in success rate of IT projects is possible by putting significantly more focus on general-management activities. With accurate planning, defined goals, clear assignments and effective communication, proactive managers can overcome those odds to master, even the most challenging project and also required support of leadership team which can help project managers to complete more projects on time, within the allocated budget and with expected benefits/outcomes.

Defining the Audience For Your Health Care Online Marketing Campaigns

Many health care organizations make a simple, but costly, mistake with their health care online marketing campaigns — failing to define a target audience. It’s just as important to define your audience with an online campaign as it is with print or direct mail marketing. Online advertising that attempts to reach everyone is a costly way to produce little results.Luckily, there is an easy fix. With just a little planning, your health care organization can build incredibly successful marketing campaigns online by first simply determining the exact people you want to reach. This article looks at ways to zone in on a defined target audience to increase the success of your next campaign.Geographical LocationAre you a chiropractor in Seattle? Then marketing your chiropractic clinic to someone in Miami is a waste of your valuable resources. The first step to defining your audience is determining whether geographical location matters. For example, location does matter for our Seattle chiropractor, but would geographically targeting an audience be important for a pharmaceutical company promoting a new diabetes medication? Probably not. Determine whether geographical location matters to your specific situation before creating your online health care marketing campaigns.Visualize Your AudienceTake a moment to get a mental picture of your audience. By visualizing them, you make them real instead of just being scribbled notes on a notepad. An easy way to picture your ideal audience is to look at your past and current customers, considering who you enjoyed or benefited from working with most. Once you have a good mental picture, start making a list of their characteristics.Establish Problems, Needs, And WantsWhat are the problems, needs, and wants of your target audience? Knowing these three things can help you refine your ideal target audience. For example, if you’re a hospital emergency room, your target audience is people in dire need of fast, expert medical attention, so considering this information when deciding where and how to advertise can lead to achieving the best results. Make a list of the top ten problems, needs, and wants of your target audience and where they actively look to resolve them.Consider DemographicsConsider the demographics of your audience, including age, gender, marital status, education, job, income, family size, lifestyle, and interests. This offers another great way to zone in with your health care marketing campaigns. For example, your target could be 25 to 35 year old couples with small children and tight budgets or affluent seniors age 65 and older that enjoy an active lifestyle.Take A Look At Your OfferingsOnce you have really narrowed down your target audience, look at your offerings before creating your health care online marketing campaigns. Can you modify your services or products to better suit your audience? Would additional features be helpful to your audience? Address how you can make your offerings better for your target audience to best attract their attention.Now that you have your target audience and you’ve really refined your health care offerings, you’re in a great position to launch health care online marketing campaigns that effectively build your brand and increase your ROI and customer base.