Thoughts on Personal Branding (from the “Hat Man”)

Thoughts on Personal Branding (from the “Hat Man”)

I have been labeled (branded) the “Hat Man.” If you go to my company’s homepage and scroll down to the team section, you will notice that where a job title should be I’m designated simply as the “Hat Man.” I guess that means I get paid for wearing a fedora?

That designation was a gradual thing. I have always loved hats and went from baseball caps as a kid to drivers caps in college. My wife bought my first nice fedora while on a trip to Savannah. I wore that fedora more and more, then I got another fedora, and another. At some point between 2013 and 2015 I somewhat unintentionally switched to wearing a fedora most of the time. During that time we also rebuilt the Sideways8 website, I put up my bio, and one of my teammates jokingly went into my bio and changed my job title to the “Hat Man, ” and it stuck.

After that, I decided that a cool haircut was something I never really could pull off anyway, but a cool hat, that I could do! So I embraced wearing fedoras and chose to make that my personal brand. It’s funny the effects that choice has had. Here are a few of the things I have noticed:

  • The hat makes me much easier to recognize and remember. I have people come up to me from time to time like they know me, just because they have seen me a place or two and continue to recognize me. I think it’s a micro-glimpse into what being a celebrity must be like.
  • When I meet someone for coffee for the first time, I just tell them I’m the guy in the hat. It makes me easy to spot.
  • People enjoy seeing if I will live up to the “Hat Man” reputation. I remember meeting one client for the first time, I had gotten to the restaurant early, sat down and removed my hat (to be polite). The first thing the client did on arriving was ask if I had my hat! He had seen my bio on our website and wanted to see if I lived up to the reputation.
  • People think I’m a musician (which I wish were true, but is not).
  • I get random comments from complete strangers a few times a week saying, “Nice hat!” or “Love the hat!”

For the reasons above and several more, I’m a big fan of having a personal brand. Something that is uniquely you that helps you to stand out in people’s minds. I’ll confess, my personal brand wasn’t always a sweet fedora. In high school, my personal brand was tie-dye t-shirts and bright orange Doc Martin boots (yes, you read that correctly, [head shaking]). As I look back over my life, I have always sought ways to be individualistic.

But, having a personal brand isn’t always about wearing something that makes you stand out. I have friends whose personal brand is humor. One friend comes to mind that makes me laugh all of the time when we meet up. I have another friend whose personal brand is radical candor. I know when I meet with him he is likely to ask me a question so personal that no other person would dare ask it. But this guy asks the question in the same manner that he asked me what I had for breakfast! Some peoples’ personal brand is their kindness, lovingness, or willingness to help someone in need at any time.

I think every person has a personal brand, something that is uniquely them that makes them remarkable. My encouragement to you is to find that brand and own it. Invest in emphasizing your personal brand. In doing so, you will stand out more and more! But a word of caution, bright orange Doc Martins might not be your best bet…

My  best and worst recent sales experiences

My  best and worst recent sales experiences

I recently had two very different sales experiences. One was fantastic, just perfect for me and resulted in a sale. The other was misery, and though I was interested in the product, will not be signing up. Here is what happened.

Let’s start with the amazing sales experience first. I was interested in joining a gym. A part of the process is to go in and get a tour. I went in and was clear with the salesperson about my needs. I told him I was familiar with the space (I had worked out there before) and I was low on time. He instantly adjusted his sales approach to match up with that new information. He told me just what I needed to know and nothing more. I hate going into too much detail and don’t care about the specifics like the age of the machines and all of that junk. He didn’t bore me with that at all. I asked him three or four questions, he answered them, and I signed up. I was in and out in less than ten minutes. When I left the skies parted and the sun shown down on me, it was perfect.

Now for the worst sales experience in recent memory. There is a service I was interested in using for my business. As is common, I opted to have a phone call with the sales guy about this service to learn more about it and how it might work to grow Sideways8. I just wanted to know two things. What will it cost? Has it worked effectively for other companies like mine? The sales guy just wouldn’t shut up. I could hardly get a word in as he took a deep dive into the very specific details of how to setup their product and all of the details of their packages. I hate details like that and didn’t care at all. Several times I had to flat out interrupt him to ask the questions that I wanted to know (I hate interrupting people and consider it very rude). Then, he didn’t answer the question well and would dive back into the underworld of details. He didn’t take the time to understand what I needed to know. He didn’t care. He only cared about talking about his product and how it would solve my problems, only he didn’t take the time to even hear my problems! That call lasted a horrifying 45 minutes until I finally cut him off and told him I had to go. I should have cut the call off much earlier; I’ll never get those minutes back.  The sales experience was terrible. Their product might be great, but I want nothing to do with that company ever again.

Thinking of these experiences, I think the biggest difference between them is that one sale person was able to understand my needs quickly and adjust his approach to meet my needs. I had a need to get in and out fast with basic questions answered. He did that, and I signed up. The bad sales person didn’t recognize that I was in a hurry (even though I told him) and didn’t take the time to understand or answer my questions well. He just ran the sales call like he always does, running through a laboriously detailed pitch. That lack of customization to the sales process lost him the sale.

Sales is about the customer; otherwise, it’s just a one-sided conversation.

Surprise! Snapchat’s not evil, and is actually pretty cool now.

Surprise! Snapchat’s not evil, and is actually pretty cool now.

I confess, I started off thinking Snapchat was evil and would only be used for sending inappropriate photos because of the nature of the platform. It turns out it’s actually not evil, and now that they added the new Memories feature, it’s pretty useful.

I started using Snapchat about two months ago. At first, it was to consume news on there. Surprisingly the news channels on Snapchat are pretty engaging and are very different from other platforms, which I like. Then I started following some friends on Snapchat and started to see the power of the My Story feature. This feature allows you to post a series of photos and videos that people can see sequentially. Each photo or video only remains in your story for 24 hours, so there is no pressure to make anything pretty, it’s just a simple way to tell a narrative. This results in snaps of people’s lives that are more “behind the scenes” and a lot less refined than what you might find on Instagram or Facebook.

While I found this idea of the My Story section interesting, I still didn’t start using the platform because it was exclusively temporary content. I love that the temporary nature of the content lent itself to encouraging authenticity, but what if I wanted to keep some of the photos or videos for the future? Enter Snap’s new feature Memories. With the Memories feature, I can save those snaps for later!

So what does this mean for you? It means that Snapchat just got a lot more usable and interesting. It means the platform will likely continue to skyrocket and will likely become a major player in the social media space. So, like it or not, Snapchat is making its way into our lives and is surprisingly useful and fun. I am embracing it and think you should too.

For more about the new Memories feature from Snapchat, check out my friend Drew Hawkin’s post on it.

Marketing lessons from my daughter’s dance recital

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending my little girls dance recital. She did awesome, and the little 2 year olds in tutus were cracking everyone up. In the midst of the cuteness, I couldn’t help but see some lessons in there that business’s might find helpful. So here are a few thoughts:

  • Follow the leader, not the person following the leader. If  you follow the person following the leader, you are behind.
  • Exaggerated moves are good, but they might throw you off balance and make you look bad. Be careful.
  • Being in step might be expected, but the audience finds the person out of step most interesting.
  • Standing apart from the group makes you noticed. Standing too far apart makes you odd.
  • If you are even slightly behind everyone else, it looks bad.
  • Looking like you know your part, even if you don’t, is important. Attitude sells it.

Adapting Customers’ Behavior

I read an interesting article yesterday about how Thomas Nelson publishers is doing a sweepstakes by placing stickers within books for prizes; with the purpose of driving traffic into brick and mortar bookstores. While I think this is a clever idea, its only a stopgap in an attempt to change customer behavior in the short run. So, I applaud them for a good short term solution to help out retailers, but I have to wonder where they will go from here.

The book industry is clearly moving more into the digital space, and the simple result of this fact is that we need less book stores, or bookstores that themselves innovate to meet the customers’ needs. Publishers and retailers will have to realize that, while you can make customers adapt their behavior to a degree, you can only do it for so long and only take it so far.

At what point do you stop trying to hold onto old ways and innovate to meet new needs? There is a balance here, and those in the book industry that do it well will be fine, those that don’t will have vacant storefronts, very soon.