June 2, 2014
Book Review: ZAG
As we continue our reading for success series (R4S), remember this book review series is for the purpose of providing resources to busy people who wish to know what books are available and what books can help in being successful. In this review we explore a fantastic book focused on understanding the importance of branding.
Before we begin, I’d like to offer a quick thank you to my good friend, Chiara, for presenting me a copy of this book and introducing me to this excellent resource.
The book we are examining in this article is a well-written, easy-to-read book which is quite conducive to picking up, reading quickly and taking important snippets away. The author, Marty Neumeier, does an excellent job of defining a plan and then diving deeper into each point.
By Marty Neumeier
When everybody zigs, zag…Radical differentiation…is about finding a whole new market space you can own and defend, thereby delivering profits over years instead of months…the engine for a high-performance brand.
Marty delivers a clear message through the use of examples and a clearly defined process which has been the cornerstone for a successful business. There are three aspects of the “zag” which Marty focuses on. These three parts are: Finding your zag, designing your zag, and renewing your zag. The value of each is quickly outlined and defined. In particular the process of “designing your zag” is outlined through the process of answering seventeen questions. If you are interested in effectively disrupting a market and finding your brand then these questions are not only important but critical to your process.
What is a zag? According to the author the ‘zag’ is the differentiating factor which when viewed by others will define your brand. The common misconception centers around businesses creating their own unique brand and value proposition. In reality Marty suggests the brand is in actuality the reputation of the business as perceived by the customer. This graphic outlines the main portions which make up a successful brand and summarizes the various points of the book quite well.
Because of the importance of being able to define your differentiating factors, or the initial part of the process I will focus this review on those seventeen questions you should ask of your business.
As mentioned, I am focusing in particular on the seventeen questions outlining the designing of your brand. There were many other key points to this particular article however these are a great place to get you started. If you’re interested in more, you should absolutely read this book.
- Who Are You?
The ability of your business to recognize what drives you is critical to defining your zag. This is what empowers and drives not just the leader of the company but is the passion which consumes the entire company
- What Do You Do?
Beyond just identifying your passion as a business you need to be able to clearly point to what your business seeks to accomplish. This is your business’s core purpose.
- Whats Your Vision?
Once you have established core purpose the next step involves refining this purpose to a very specific and concrete vision which defines the business. Be sure to not confuse the leader’s vision with the company vision. The leader may share a rather abstract idealistic vision but this is not the same as the vision which drives the business.
- What Wave Are You Riding?
The wave is the current trend which allows your business and your brand to ‘seize the moment’ and explode onto the scene. When identifying and riding this trend you will find an energy source to continue driving the business forward.
- Who Shares The Brandscape?
Obviously in most industries the brand will not be singular or completely different from other businesses in the same sector. Therefore, because the brand space may be shared you need to focus on your uniqueness not your admirable qualities.
- What Makes You The Only?
When focusing on what makes your business unique and different you should be sure you’re not only just different but radically different. Be able to answer the question, what makes you the only _____ that ______ .
- What Should You Add or Subtract?
Don’t confuse your customers. Be sure your business is focused and don’t add new strategic directions merely because your competitors are offering a particular feature or service.
- Who Loves You?
Every brand is built by a community. In addition, every member of that community is important and should be appreciated for their contributions. Showing the value of each customer makes them fall even more in love with you.
- Who Is The Enemy?
Not everyone is an ally. Every business has competitors. When you are doing your research, be sure your strongest and most successful competitor is who you align yourself against when differentiating yourself.
- What Do They Call You?
When hear the question, ‘what’s in a name?’ you should take it very seriously. How your customers define you and what they call you is important. You should be very conscious when selecting your name.
- How Do You Explain Yourself?
All brand communications should originate from a single internal position. This position is referred to as your ‘trueline’. This is the singular thing which you can say based on your brand and its identity.
- How Do You Spread The Word?
Your brand (business) should use one voice when communicating through all marketing channels. In addition, your business communication should disseminate your message through all available channels.
- How Do People Engage With You?
Even before you begin spreading your message and sharing your vision you need to examine how people will connect with you. This involves a bit of a gut check rather than logistics and means getting in touch with your customers.
- What Do They Experience?
More than simply defining how you communicate and how people engage you need to see how experience your business. This means actively seeking out the process from first impression through the entire sales cycle.
- How Do You Earn Their Loyalty?
Keep in mind that loyalty cannot be forced and loyalty cannot be programmed into people. Loyalty is not bought but loyalty is earned. When communicating with your customers and focusing on their user experience you need to keep in mind the importance as it relates to their loyalty.
- How Do You Extend Your Success?
Often the best way to continue to extend success is to grow your brand through a series of additional products or services. This should be done carefully as it can potentially conflict with the early question regarding adding or subtracting from your business.
- How Do You Protect Your Portfolio?
Brand portfolios (a brand house as mentioned in the previous question) face the risk of four specific dangers not found in a single brand. These are specifically: contagion, confusion, contradiction, and complexity. As a business owner you should focus on the differences between stretchiness and stickiness.
Renewing Your Zag
While the bulk of this book focuses on finding your zag and beginning the process, this book also provides valuable resources for renewing your zag if you are an established business who may have potentially lost its focus.
This last section provides key insights for businesses to once again find their uniqueness and their vision. It’s important to recognize the author understands the loss of this radical differentiation is a common problem and rather than avoiding it or pretending it’s in-existence it is much better to acknowledge and address the problem.
I encourage anyone interested in either beginning their own business and identifying their vision and the many other aspects the above questions seek to help to read this book. The resources are valuable and the questions insightful. It is an easy read and yet incredibly helpful to small businesses seeking to establish themselves.
May 13, 2014
[R4S] Reading For Success
This is the start of a ridiculously fun series about reading for success. I hope to share insights and advice I’ve received from various business books. If you struggle to find time to read or what to read maybe this series will help.
I should begin by sharing that I love to read. In fact is one of y all time favorite things to do and I’m pretty fast. (Interested in how fast you are? You can take a very quick test here for free. If you’re curious I’ll share what my average normally is.) And thankfully I can retain most everything I read and recall it later.
I thought perhaps others would be interested in an abbreviated list of books and summaries I’ve found to be helpful as they relate to business and personal success. Please don’t think I’ve been successful with all of these or have already mastered the advice. I merely hope to share things that I find interesting or helpful.
Ok, without any further delay, let’s jump into the first book.
The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership
By John C. Maxwell
“Everything rises and falls on leadership,” says Maxwell. “These laws carry consequences with them. I’ve seen them at work in more than ninety countries around the world. Apply the laws and people will follow you. Violate or ignore them, and you will not be able to lead others. But here’s the good news: every one of the laws can be learned.”
In this book John Maxwell highlights 21 principles he’s uncovered throughout his business career. He applies these principles to various situations throughout history and provides anecdotal applications based on these 21 principles. Many of them are logical and easy to understand.
Some of these “laws” you’re probably already aware of, Maxwell simply gives it a name and applies to to a particular situation to make it easier to grasp. Overall, I found this book to be an easy one to read and held some good applicable concepts which I could relate to and apply to my own business.
I highly recommend this book and have personally found many great applicable ideas. Especially when looking at the power of an open source community and examining how some of these dynamics relate to an open source situation. If you have the time you should definitely pick up a copy (ebooks are great).
Here are the 21 laws as defined by the author. So many of these are of incredible importance and help define a strong leader.
- The Law of the Lid
Leadership ability is the lid that determines a person’s level of effectiveness. The lower your ability to lead, the lower the lid on your potential.
- The Law of Influence
The power to influence lies in the ability to get people to participate. If no one follows then you are not leading. Management is part of being a leader, but managing is not the only requirement of a leader.
- The Law of Process
This law demonstrates what matters most is what you do for the long haul. A good leader requires a lifetime of dedication and perseverance. Truly successful leaders are demonstrated in the day-to-day.
- The Law of Navigation
Leaders are navigators. They count the cost before making commitments for themselves and for others. Anyone can steer. Leaders chart a course.
- The Law of E.F. Hutton
When real leaders speak, people listen. Learn how a person became a leader: their background, who, what, where, when, why.
- The Law of Solid Ground
Good character builds trust. Trust is the foundation of leadership. To build trust a leader must demonstrate: competence, connection and character.
- The Law of Respect
People naturally follow leaders who are stronger than they are. if people do not trust you they will not respect you and they will not follow you.
- The Law of Intuition
Leaders see things with a bias. Leaders instinctively know what should be done in a situation. Leadership intuition separates the great leaders from good leaders.
- The Law of Magnetism
Who you are will define who you attract. People follow leaders with whom they share several key areas (e.g. attitude, generation, background, values, life experience etc…)
- The Law of Connection
Strong leaders touch hearts before asking for hands. Each connection is between individuals and the relationship between them is what matters most. Six keys to connection are provided.
- The Law of the Inner Circle
A leader’s potential is determined by those closest to him. Look for greatness in others. Find people you should include in your inner circle.
- The Law of Empowerment
Secure leaders give power to others. If a leader is able to give away power the organization becomes more powerful. Only empowered people reach their full potential.
- The Law of Reproduction
Leaders are the ones which help others become leaders. Leaders develop others to see the big picture, attract other leaders, create an environment which nurtures leadership.
- The Law of Buy-In
People follow worthy leaders who promote worthwhile causes. The leader and the vision always go together. A leader must have people believe in them and the vision before becoming a reality.
- The Law of Victory
Leaders find ways for their team to win. There are 3 components to victory: unity of vision, diversity of skills, encourages others to reach potential.
- The Law of the Big Mo
Leaders develop momentum. Leaders concentrate on what they can accomplish not what they can’t. They celebrate victories regardless of the size. Leaders endure under pressure.
- The Law of Priorities
Leaders recognize the importance of organization. Leaders follow the 3 R’s when prioritizing: required, return, and reward.
- The Law of Sacrifice
Leaders are willing to give up to go up. Sacrifice is the true nature of strong leaders.
- The Law of Timing
Leaders understand knowing when to lead is just as important as knowing what to do and where to go. The right action at the right time is what bring success.
- The Law of Explosive Growth
Explosive growth requires the ability to develop the right leaders. Leaders who develop leaders position themselves for explosive growth as compared to leaders who develop followers.
- The Law of Legacy
A leader’s lasting value is measured by succession. A team of good leaders is required to succeed long-term. Always be developing your successor. A good leader knows when to walk away.