Wednesday, 30 September 2009

What's Your Niche?

One big thing I’ve learnt in my career and running my own business is the importance of occupying a niche.

By that I don’t mean a gimmick, but an authentic offering that is more distinctive than aiming at the mass-market at large. I’ve seen too many executives and small businesses who try and be ‘all things to all people’, rather than have the courage just to think niche.

‘Niche’ doesn’t have to mean specialist; it can be the unique attitude that informs your approach to business or your brand personality. It’s about knowing who you want to talk to – who your target audience is - rather than just blindly trying to talk to everyone.

The skate store in my local town. Yes, that’s niche.
A marketing specialist focused on tech brands. Yup.

But it doesn’t have to be so obvious.

One of my jobs working for a organisation saw me soaking up the projects and opportunities the CEO didn’t know what to do with. That vacuum became my strength. All that weird and wonderful stuff that no one knew what to do with landed on my lap. ‘Special Projects’ became my niche – people knew that Ian Sanders was good at dealing with pioneering and odd-shaped projects.

So whether you’re an executive seeking a job or a start-up defining your market offering, give your offering that distinctive edge with a clearly defined niche that you – authentically - live and breathe.

So what’s yours?

Monday, 28 September 2009

How To Beat Stress

Here's my four tips to beat stress, from October's 'Esquire' magazine which are taken from my book 'Juggle! Rethink Work, Reclaim Your Life'.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Managing Your Identity

(This is an excerpt from my book ‘Juggle! Rethink Work, Reclaim Your Life’)

Wearing different hats can get confusing. Some people see you as one thing, others might see you as something completely different. But if you define your personal brand as YOU – beyond the job titles, beyond the labels - then that's much more authentic.

If we heard that the CEO Worldwide of Saatchi & Saatchi was also a lecturer in Business Studies and Chairman of USA Rugby we might wonder what on earth that has to do with being head of a global advertising agency; but as his brand is personified – ‘Kevin Roberts’ is the brand not ‘Saatchi CEO’ - then why can't this bloke called Kevin juggle nine different balls? He’s defined by who he is not a bunch of job titles.

Since you may be judged by perceptions (and the reality of your professional offering might be quite different from its perception), in a Juggle life your identity is really important. In all you do, you need to communicate your breadth. If you don't, people might think you are a one trick pony and that will limit your potential. Be honest; your work life should be a mirror of the real you; don't hide your talents – be your (full) self.

So if you only have a reputation for one thing; start shouting about the other bits. Communicate your personality. This new media space offers fantastic opportunities to communicate our multi-dimensional selves and to be really transparent. As Gary Vaynerchuck said:

‘I think that every person is multi-dimensional and has enormous things they are good at and many different interests and I think that the best way to communicate in this new social era is to talk about all of them, don’t hide anything. … I think people will always embrace ‘real’ and ‘authenticity’ and I think the more things you talk about that you are passionate about, I think the more people are going to get to know who you are. So please don’t fear being multi-dimensional.. Expand what you are talking about’.

Use whatever platforms you have at your disposal to tell YOUR story. Communicate your passions and don’t be afraid of mixing it all up together. Tell it like it is: Work, Play, Family, Hobbies = This is me.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Make It Your Own

I’m often asked by people working in full-time jobs how can they start to reinvent their work lives. They want their work life to better reflect their talents and desires, but they don’t know where to start.

I always tell them to start by making the job their own.

We all have the potential – whatever career level we are at - to shape our jobs in a particular way, to put our personality stamp on it. Sure, you need to ensure you deliver the requirements of actually doing the job, but around the edges there’s huge potential for making it your own. Whether you are the CEO or the 65 year old greeter at the door of the local Asda supermarket, you can inject your personality to bring a distinctive approach and style to the role.

I never just filled a job. I always reshaped it, re-invented it and made it very much my own, reflecting my style and also my desires to get involved in other projects and ventures. You may not feel that your admin or sales role has much scope to be reshaped. But try taking on other tasks that reflect your talents. Organise the team social, be the company blogger, take photographs for the company newsletter. Whatever it is that is ‘you’, put some of that in to the role = it’s all in pursuit of the Work You being the Real You.

There is no one-size-fits-all career plan or job spec. Each person brings a unique approach that has the potential to take the role in a different direction.

So whatever you do, don’t stick with the job spec, start reinventing it.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Think Reinvention

If you're looking for ways to reinvigorate your business or your career, Think Reinvention.

In this rapidly changing world reinvention is a powerful way to consolidate your strengths, keep fresh and stay ahead of the game. But reinvention is not about marketing hype; it’s about staying authentic - taking a look at your organisational, personal or brand strengths from a fresh perspective and repositioning your offering to maximise potential.

Here's my 90 second video on the subject:

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Being Direct In Business Relationships

Like any relationship, business ones can get muddied if neither party is clear about what they want or what they are looking for. That can lead to misunderstanding, frustration or conflict.

Being direct upfront about your expectations or requirements can save a lot of grief later on. Whether you’re having an initial meeting with a client or sounding out a supplier, let them know what you’re looking for and/or ask what they want from the relationship.

Tell them what you want:

‘I’m looking for a new supplier’.

‘I’m looking for a new client’.

‘I want to work with you’

‘I’d love a job with you’

Don’t waste time playing games.

It’s like the approach John Chambers, CEO of Cisco takes to meetings:

Meet Mr Chambers in the flesh, and the small talk lasts for about five seconds, until he asks: “What do you expect from this conversation?” (The Economist Aug 29th)

You might think that’s brash. But at least it’s focused. No room for ambiguity.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Does The Work You = The Real You?

How important is authenticity in your working life?

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Spell It Out…

Is your business or career potential hampered by misperceptions from people who don’t understand what you really do? Are you still defined by what you *used* to do or what your business *used* to stand for?

The marketing challenge for many of us – especially where we have reinvented ourselves or our business – is fighting such misperceptions in the marketplace where potential customers think we are all about ‘x’ where actually we are all about ‘y’.

It's like the perceptions of one of my favourite cities where I was last week -Amsterdam. Mention ‘Amsterdam’ to people and you’re likely to get one of two responses. Either how beautiful the city is with its architecture, canals and bicycles. Or people will talk about the red light zone and the cannabis cafes. Amsterdam is indeed a brand that suffers from a large amount of people thinking it is one thing, but once you experience the real city, you’ll probably have a completely different view.

So start asking your target audience what they think you do or what do you stand for. That may sound a bit obvious but the feedback will be invaluable. You may have assumed that your website or ads explain what you do, but don’t take anything for granted.

And if you’re reinvented yourself, the challenge may be tougher. It’s like when I worked with the fashion brand Benetton. Mention ‘Benetton’ and so many people think of their provocative ad campaigns (even though that was over 10 years ago) or brightly coloured clothes. They don’t know about the other products, the smart suits from Sisley, the jeans, the kids clothes. And that was my marketing challenge for the assignment I worked on.

So whether you are a big brand, a city, a freelancer or even a job-hunter, start educating your audience about what you actually do – spell it out. Make sure everyone knows what you stand for, why they should hire you/ buy your products/ or use your services.

And don't take the risk that your audience must already know the basics.