Successful companies have to juggle lots of moving parts: product, sales, logistics, operations, financial metrics. However, the most important driver of success is something that many organizations fail to focus on: their own brand.
Originally, a brand was a symbol that differentiated one rancher’s livestock from another. Today, a brand is the sum of the characteristics that make its service or products recognizable. It’s so much more than a logo, and includes everything from the layout of your store to what you talk about (and how you talk about it) on social media.
Peter Thiel, in his fantastic book Zero To One, describes a brand as the one thing that a company or organization can monopolize. It’s your identity, what makes your company unique, and the face or personality your customers interact with. It’s what attracts new customers and develops loyalty in repeat buyers. For many companies, brand equity is one of the most valuable assets on their balance sheets. Despite this, branding is often the first thing that companies choose to dilute or neglect.
So, in the fast-moving and ever-changing digital world, how do you make sure you protect and grow your brand? Here are five ways we believe companies can improve their most important asset:
1) Identify and remind your team what your brand actually is.
Spend time with an outside consultant or agency (like us!) to help define your brand. An internal team might see your brand through rose-colored glasses, giving a skewed view that doesn’t match up with what customers actually see. Outsiders have the emotional distance necessary to understand who your customer base actually is and what they think of you, resulting in a brand that represents your company and appeals to your target audience.
2) Critically question how your brand is different from your competitors.
Be honest with yourself about the magnitude of your differentiation: is it just a few additional features, or is it a whole new way to operate in your industry? Being intellectually honest about your brand will help you set realistic expectations for how well it will perform in the marketplace.
3) Ensure your product is substantive and reliable.
A restaurant’s brand may look and sound great online, but if the restaurant has bad service or food, its brand will suffer. Customers will tell their friends, or worse, write scathing online reviews. Though we have years of experience in ORM (online reputation management), no amount of reputation management can overcome having a product that’s inherently bad.
4) Make sure your brand’s online tactics align with your audience.
If your brand wants to talk to millennials and young professionals, your brand should be on social media platforms that are popular with that audience, and push the envelope on emerging platforms. Your messaging and voice should probably sound young, hip, and a little edgy. But if your brand is focused on professional baby boomers, your brand should pursue more traditional platforms and have a more buttoned-up voice. Your branding depends almost entirely on the audience and personas you are trying to reach.
5) Constantly invest in your brand.
We all know that startups (and larger companies) sometimes want to cut corners, and we understand that 99Designs is a cheap place for logos and design assets. However, to preserve, grow, and maximize your brand equity, you need to invest in design, messaging, and online aesthetics worthy of your most valuable intangible asset.
User experience, quality assets, messaging, core values, and, yes, a logo, are all part of your brand. If you invest in your brand now, you’re much less likely to find yourself defending or diluting your brand in the future.
“People aren’t your most important asset. The RIGHT people are.” – Jim Collins
“There are only two things in this world that grow for growth’s sake: cancer cells and bureaucracy.” – Eddy Badrina, paraphrasing Edward Abbey
Recently I read Good to Great by Jim Collins [affiliate link], which talks about commonalities in companies that grew in excellence and market share compared to their competitors. As I read through the chapter on the team-building within these companies that “made the leap”, I was surprised (and a little comforted) that we were following the same concepts in how we are growing Buzzshift. We have had only one mutual parting of ways in our 3+ years of being in business, and as we grow, we are confident that our “churn” rate will be virtually non-existent. Why? It starts with purpose.
Cameron and I always make sure we have the purpose for Buzzshift as our “north star”, which is to make our client-partners smarter and more effective online. As Peter Drucker once said, “Profit… is the result of doing things right rather than the purpose of business activity.” If we are sticking to our purpose, then, it is essential to hire the right people, no matter the timeframe, and no matter how much pressure we have on us to grow.
With that purpose in mind, we’ve developed three relatively simple steps to hiring:
1. Identify Cultural fit.
2. Identify Strengths fit.
3. Identify Functional fit.
Cultural fit. We believe this is the most important, and the hardest, piece to fill. Our core values include: being early adopters, having a curious approach to life, being proactively helpful, and doing everything with excellence and “polish”. We also have a LOT of fun doing what we do, which you can readily see on our Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram pages. Why do we post all that? Because we believe our core values and unique culture attracts likeminded individuals (and potential clients-partners). We don’t want convince people to work for us; we want the right individuals to be drawn to working alongside us. Drawing the right people in is the easiest way to start to identify cultural fit. It’s also why we are diligent in networking, because it allows us to come into contact and identify potential hires in a slow, organic, relational way. We take our time in hiring because we allow ourselves time and space to hire.
Strengths fit. I was a psychology major, and the Myers Briggs played a huge part in helping me identify my career path coming out of college. Later on in life, the Strengthsfinder test by Gallup [affiliate link] further helped me in determining what my particular character strengths were. At Buzzshift, we have found that Strengthsfinder has been essential in identifying what each person on the team brings to the table. We give the test and the book to EVERY applicant and intern that we interview. Aside from helping us to see past a resume, it provides the interviewee with something tangible they can use down the road, even attaching to the back of their resume or adding it to their bio. We believe it’s the best $20 we can spend in the hiring process, and it’s one of the best $20 gifts anyone gets for spending some time with us. In fact, we can’t think of another company that gives a gift of any kind to applicants!
We go one step further and combine it with the Strengths Based Leadership book [affiliate link], which helps us identify how to utilize people within our team and where to place them. Those two books have been crucial in successfully building and developing the team, as well as showing us areas where we need more leadership.
Functional fit. This is simply roles and responsibilities, skill sets like knowledge of Excel, social media savviness, and experience with keyword research and SEO tools. It’s the basic reason we hire, but it is not the essence of what we look for, nor the true nature of why we hire. You’d be surprised at how little we look at a resume, and how much we listen for industry reputation, explore past work scenarios, and gauge their curiosity.
Our Hiring Process
All together, our hiring process goes something like this:
And this is our team thus far. We admit that we don’t know if this is scalable past 20 employees, but we are pretty sure that the three layers of “fit” will still apply. How are you hiring for your company? We are curious to hear how other companies are successfully growing and retaining their team.
Icons by Sven Gabriel, Dirk Unger, Dolly Vu, Ben Hsu, Thomas Le Bas, Lauren Gray, and Travis J. Lee of the Noun Project.
It Can Wait. That’s what the team at Buzzshift, as well as Verizon, want you to know when it comes to texting and driving. There’s nothing THAT important that you need to distract yourself from driving and potentially injure or even kill yourself or others. We decided a commercial with Derek Holland would be the best way to spread awareness, because, Derek Holland. As the saying goes (so they say), anything with Derek Holland is probably going to get interesting, and this commercial shoot was no exception to that rule.
The commercial consisted of filming Derek and a team of actors “driving” around downtown Dallas doing distracting things, and when Derek would try and text, everyone would stop what they were doing and freak out on him, because it’s never acceptable to text and drive.
Two different “sets” for the filming.
Buzzshift is awesome when it comes to the Internet, and Verizon is awesome when it comes to nationwide coverage and blistering 4G speeds, but neither of those can make a commercial. So what do you do in such a situation? You hire Brad Holt, owner of HoltArts, a badass and high-tech Dallas-based commercial video production company. Brad shoots on RED Cameras, which is basically the top-of-the-line HD camera. In addition to shooting on a kickass camera, did we mention the set? No big deal, it’s just a Tesla Model S, a fully-electric luxury sedan with everything from a 17″ touchscreen/command center, pop-out door handles, and a Frunk.
The RED camera being attached to the set.
Brad Holt (In purple)…being, well being Brad Holt.
So of course, you can’t really prepare food and drive, which is why we had to tow the set, a sight to be seen quite honestly. The crew at MPS Studios took care of that for us, easy as cake, one might say. However, when you tow a Telsa around Dallas, you’re going to need some escorts, so we got two! Two of Dallas’ finest escorted the set as we filmed around Downtown Dallas. Again, a sight to be seen.
The set, a Tesla Model S.
Each distracting activity required an outfit change, so we had to roll around downtown Dallas a few times, taking multiple takes, just get everything right. Once all the takes were completed, there was one final surprise. A cardboard cutout of Derek Holland, which, you guessed it, he posed with.
Derek Holland being Derek Holland
After everything was said and done, we ended up with this commercial, a fine piece of work if you ask me.
So go take the #ItCanWait pledge to end texting and driving, and be a part of safer driving, no matter where you are!
Behind the scenes photos by Christie LaViolette.