Time Categories

A small change in my calendar settings that led to big insights.

February 10, 2020

One of my closest friends lives in London, but he's in San Diego now for his sister's wedding. It was a pleasant surprise. I hit him up and he told me he'd only be in town until tomorrow evening.

Tomorrow evening!? Dang, that's not a lot of time to get together.

I checked my calendar and saw a bunch of scheduled items. All of them are black, so there's no distinction between them. How could I have scheduled so much stuff on one day?

Cue color coding. I created some alternative colors to use to showcase different meeting types I have. Red for in-person and green for digital meetings.
Sure enough, I have three red items today. That's a lot of meetings in a very short amount a time. Don't get me wrong, I love people (a lot more than most designers, I'd think), but this showed me that I'm spreading myself thin for time. This burns the most when I don't have flexibility to see friends from out of town because of it. Something had to change.

So I set a rule: if I see two red/green slots in one day, that's it. No more. A red flag, if you will.

Color-code your calendar.

More you say?

3 Things

How you can beef up your brand in spite of COVID-19.

3.18.2020

With every challenge comes new opportunity, especially in times of crisis.

With that said, you can curl up into a ball and let the world trample over your dreams or you can do something about it. Whether you have founded a company or are involved in making a company awesome as an employee, here are three things that every brand could do right now to beef up their brand.

Set up Virtual Meetings with Customers
Think you're alone in feeling alone? Not remotely. If you have a long-standing relationship with good customers, see if they're willing to talk with you over the phone or using a screen-share. Ask them specific questions like why they chose you over your competitors, what they think could be improved about your business, and if there are other things (besides COVID-19) they wish were better in their life. You might find they show new opportunities and that recurring patterns are going on within all their lives.

Do a Brand Audit
You've got a lot of time to yourself right now. Take this as a chance to look inward and see where the gaps are. Take a look at your marketing collateral, your social media feeds, your website, anything a customer might come into contact with. Are you doing the best you can to make them feel a cohesive, emotional connection with your company? Do you look like a company that is worth talking to and doing business with? Is it out of the question to think it could be improved?

Try New Digital Marketing Tactics
You will probably suck at this when you start, but what do you have to lose? You can't meet with anyone face-to-face, so you need to have a strong presence online. Create a newsletter using Mailchimp (it's free to start), create a YouTube Channel (also free), host a webinar using Google Hangout (also free). It's estimated that we are going to be distanced for the next three months, but you can close the gap by getting online in someway. Just pick one and go for it.

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Auditing Your Startup's Brand

Assessing the causes for a low brand score.

5.1.2020

Yesterday, I wrote about measuring a brand's effectiveness and actually assigning a value to it. It followed a scoresheet with specific levels of customer appreciation for the brand. This article is going to address some of the tangible assets that lead to getting those number higher.

Level 1: Satisfied

The company/product has met my expectations.
People don't want to buy shit products, at least not more than once. Even the least affluent customer isn't stupid enough to buy something that continually breaks simply because it's affordable. At the most core level of your brand, you must be able to live up to your promises and deliver. Be it a product, service, experience, whatever. If you don't have this in order, fix it first.

The company charges a fair price for the product.
Aligning with the fulfillment of your promise is the value it is worth. This in part has to do with who you are trying to make something for. If said target wants to pay a premium for a premium product, you better give it to them. If they want to spend middle tier, you need to let them. "Fair," is relative and is determined based on the person you are making something for.

$100k is a fair price for a brand new Tesla if experience, ease-of-use, and being on the forefront of innovation are what matter to someone. $100k for a Honda Civic is not.

Things that can help affect this level:

  • Improving products or creating new ones
  • Customer avatars
  • Journey mapping

Level 2: Delighted

I've been pleasantly surprised by the company/product.
This is a build up of small things that were pleasant surprises. Things like a special email follow-up after purchase, nice packaging, good design, or something as simple as saying, "my pleasure" (thank you Chick-Fil-A). It's hard to pin-point exactly what these elements would be, but I'd offer this general statement: if a customer comes into contact with it, can you make it special and unique to your company?

I would happily recommend it to others.
I'd ask this: do you make it easy and worthwhile to get referrals? If not, how could you make it a win-win-win for you, the new customer, and the one who referred you?

Things that can help affect this level:

  • Touchpoint audit
  • Brand identity refresh
  • Improved messaging
  • Referral program/process

Level 3: Engaged

I identify well with the other customers of this company/product.
We do business with companies and people that have the same values as us. That being said, you have to offer something that isn't found in other players in your market. You have to ask yourself "who would choose you over your competitors and why would they do it?" It can be for subjective reasons too, not just pricing or features. Some people just want things to match up with their lifestyle. Someone who values sophistication, aesthetic, and craftsmanship is not going to shop at Walmart.

I would go out of my way for the company and its customers.
Something to keep in mind with this statement, in order to go out of your way, there have to be other options available. This is about differentiation and why someone would seek you out, even it if wasn't the most convenient.

Things that can help affect this level:

  • Brand positioning
  • Competitive audits
  • Voice and tone
  • Look and feel
  • Establishing brand values

Level 4: Empowered

The company/product is essential to my life.
Here is where you assess the value and permanence of your product. You own a couple items, I'm sure, that fit this category. Your phone, favorite pair of jeans, necessary software, or a favorite restaurant. Not only is the product so good, but the entire experience is enough to make you a repeat buyer.

I would be very sorry if it went out of business.
Are you irreplaceable or not? Have you impacted a core area of your customer's life?

Things that can help affect this level:

  • User experience design
  • Product line expansion
  • Knowing your customer's biggest challenges

What are you going to work on first?

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