Who are you designing for”¦ you or your customers?

I called this entry “œWho are you designing for”¦you or your customers”, because most business owners can’t see that what they are asking a designer, marketing firm or neighbor down the street to do is create the image of how people who have different tastes and interests will perceive their over all brand. They say that first impressions are very hard to change, but triple that when someone picks up your business card, brochure, sees your ad in the paper or looks at your website before they even talk to you. Unless you’ve invested the time in your Brand Identity to ensure that it is reflective, and supported, in all of your marketing materials.

Let’s understand the difference between Brand Identity and Brand Image before we go any further. Your Brand Identity is how you want people outside of your company perceive your company. Your Brand Image is how people outside of your company are currently viewing your company. The two are separate, but the same. Your Brand Image should constantly be reinforced and supported by your Brand Identity. One can weaken the other.

Let’s face it, when it comes to how effective your marketing materials are”¦the initial perception people get is reality to them. You could be the best schmoozer in the world, but hand someone something that looks like you put very little effort into the presentation and all your schmoozing is for nothing. Convincing, begging and bribing may not drive the message home that your first round of marketing materials were done to be “œcost effective”, but instead they may came out making you, and your company, look less than stellar.

First and foremost your marketing materials should be created with your customers, current and future, in mind. When you sit down to have someone create your marketing materials, the building blocks of your Brand Identity, my best advice is to remove yourself from process as much as possible.

I don’t mean that you should not be involved, but you should remember”¦you aren’t trying to use these marketing materials to get you to invest into your company, product or what have you. Sometimes that means you need to leave the confines of your office, ask your best customer some good questions on how they perceive your business and start looking at your company, product or widget from the customers side of the fence.

Your design is an impression not a true test to your companies’ capabilities, but like I said before sometimes all you get is a first impression. Make it the best one you can.

How accurately do you think your companies marketing materials reflect the over all view of your company as a whole?  Do your marketing materials work with or against the way your want your company to be perceived? How strongly do your marketing materials communicate the personality and ethics of your company?

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Landed On My Feet

Back a few months ago, I announced my departure from b5media. At that time, I really didn’t know what I would end up doing. At the time, I figured I’d land on my feet doing something similar (Director of Technologyish) or maybe dip my toes in PR. Lord knows I wanted to get out of technology. No doubt I’ll be back in technology at some point in my life, but I really needed a break from it and wanted to explore other career paths.

Well, two months went by and when I left b5media, I quickly picked up with Lijit where, instead of dipping my feet in PR or continuing on the technology track, I found myself learning the ropes of Business Development.

Never been here. Never done that.

In typical Aaron fashion, I thought I could storm in and prove all the critics wrong. Wrong. I figured I could identify a bunch of high profile sites and, bam, I’d prove my mettle.

Wrong.

Don’t get me wrong, I did a fine job. I managed a few quick wins and set about on bigger targets. Time went by and the wins got farther apart.

Okay, I began realizing this was a marathon, not a sprint. I had to adjust.

Adjustment ongoing, however I’ve shown enough promise at this very new role for me that last week I traveled out to Lijit World Headquarters in Boulder, Colorado – a place once described as 50 square miles surrounded by reality – and met the entire team. In addition to a pleasant few days in the mountains and thin air, I was pleased to walk away with a full-time gig. Business Development Manager.

Scary title. I even now own a Boulder phone number. Fascinating.

Interestingly, I’ve learned a few thing about Biz Dev as it relates to other, more familiar roles.

  1. The key to BizDev is more about relationships and less about sales.
  2. Pitching doesn’t work. Talking does.
  3. BizDev is a war fought with a pistol, not a machine gun. (via Micah)
  4. Strategic wins are sometimes bigger than Big wins.

I’m sure there are other things that I’ll continue to learn about BizDev as time goes on. Love to hear your thoughts on this kind of role. Tell me what I need to learn.

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The Internet is Not a Free Speech Zone

It would seem that people, by and large, think that the internet is a free speech zone. We have blogs, these are our personal spaces and we can do whatever the hell we want.

In case you missed the memo, this is not the case.

Sure, you might not go to jail (actually, this increasingly becomes possible) but as bad, if not worse, is the possibility of destroying relationships because of your actions on the internet.

It’s not a free speech zone.

A few days ago, Loic Lemeur, the founder of Seesmic and someone who I have yet to meet in person, put out a very impassioned video calling Kosso (who is my friend and the developer of Phreadz) to task for disseminating private conversation.

I find this video very honest and transparent. Loic apologizes for direct comments that may have been inappropriate. From Kosso’s standpoint, he explains in a very coherent way why the whole thing is very awkward:

Now, if you’ve made it this far and watched the videos, you can understand that the politics of the web is a very delicate thing. It’s easy for people to get twisted up, but there’s always two sides to every conversation.

A few months ago, Loren Feldman started a series of parody videos mocking Shel Israel’s videos at FastCompany.tv. Quite a number of people took offense to these videos and that particular conversation got downright nasty. What some people don’t understand is that the internet is not a free speech zone and, if Loren wanted to, he could destroy their lives, businesses, client relationships, etc.

Does that make Loren a bad guy? No, I hardly think so. I personally think that Loren is one of the nicest and most honest guys on the internet. But I know he could destroy me.

That in itself doesn’t keep me from stepping into that fray, but it’s a healthy respect valve.

So to everyone I have bitten harshly in this internet world, accept my apologies. There have been a lot of them, but to name a few: Tyme White, Mike Rundle, Kris Smith, John Havens, David Krug, Robert Scoble, Mike Arrington, Jason Calacanis and others.

Life’s too short.

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