Be A Brand Advocate

Gert Boyle Columbia Sportswear

When you consider how much money is spent on brand perception and loyalty in a world of short term consumption I strongly suggest you make the most of it and become a brand advocate. What does that mean in real life? Well, just like friends, gardening, reading and other activities that need nurturing take good care of those brands that are important to your well being and lifestyle.

Here is how it works in today’s hyper connected world:

1) You pick 3-5 brands that are worth fighting for in this competitive world where domain names dictate what brands our kids will be following in the near future. Those should be brands that you buy no matter what price, defend against any criticism and cherish because they are like you – unique!

2) Look up there LinkedIn company profile, Twitter account, Facebook page…the usual stuff where you can learn more about what the brand is up to and hang out with other fans just like you.

3) Eventually the best brands understand that they have a crowd that have turned into brand advocates. They don’t just goof around the bush – no – they take actions and want to be part of the product development team. So the very best brands crowd source ideas from these fans giving them a community portal.

Why would I care participating in a community like that? My busy schedule is already asking me to Like my best friends new kitten on Facebook, congratulate my cousin for his new job on LinkedIn, watch the Force of Nature on the Weather Channel in a location 5,000 miles from my home…you name it and I have yet to do it on my smartphone, tablet or TV!

Here is why and what you will get from it

1) You actually know more about what shapes your identity. After reading Gert Boyle’s book about how Columbia Sportswear went from almost going bankrupt to a company that now asks you which radio ad they should be launching there is no question which sports brand my entire family will be wearing whenever possible. I am active in their Greater Rewards group and you can even suggest what apparel they should add in next years collection!

2) You know what they deliver not only when buying the product or service, but when you actually own and use it. I have sent a Tweet to Volvo Cars Canada VP of Marketing to share my gratitude for having such a great service team at Volvo Laval that now you can talk to their staff like your neighbour. My local garage that used to fix stuff on it always complained how complicated it was to service a Volvo. Well, now when I see a Volvo owner on his parking I tell them to try out the local Volvo dealership instead.

3) You give them bang for their marketing bucks. Let’s read this twice. You are paying for them to find new customers so that they can continue providing YOU with what you already know is the best out there, because let’s not forget that our kids change brands as fast as they download an iTune. So I don’t ask for money back when referring a new client to my brands. No – a brand advocate does it because it keeps prices low, innovation in motion and most of all customer satisfaction. Have you ever tried to open an account in a financial institution other than Tangerine (now Scotia Bank)? I still have to find a more approachable VP than Peter Aceto who answers your Tweets the same day. You don’t ditch a brand like that for 0.25% lower mortgage rate for 6 months. Nope. You stick to your guns and help them spend their marketing dollars wisely on getting new customers to lower everybody’s mortgage rate.

Finally I want to say that the opposite is true too. If you have been a brand advocate for years and see that quality starts going downhill, dealing with customer service is worse than a divorce, pricing keeps going up without getting more for your buck etc. it’s time for you to let them know about how they deceive you. Literally – on Twitter seems to be the most effective way to start with since you immediately get somebody asking you to DM (Direct Message) them about your concern. You may give them a second chance at that time. However often I find they just get too comfortable in being #1 or have too much money to goof around with to deliver failure after failure until it looks like there is no turning back.

I have fired brands in the past. Banks. Software companies. Snow removal contractors. Insurance companies. Restaurants. You just have to say why and then move on to a better brand out there.

Website: www.brandadvocatebook.com

Cost: 1 hour per month. No more. No less. You can’t literally work for your brands since they have their own staff. However if you only read their newsletter once a year you aren’t doing anybody a favour.

Time to make decision and execute: 1 hour to pick 3 brands, connect with them on LinkedIn and Twitter and find out what the brand advocate community is excited about right now.

Benefit: You get perks. Not always monetary though. I get my car servicing appointment from Volvo Laval when I need it most of the times. My wife once got an apology from the local Tangerine branch manager after two ATM glitches and since then nothing has gone bananas with her accounts. My daughter got her new Columbia winter boots saying “Is that the Grand ma that was on that book cover you were reading the other day who makes these boots?” Just like in the old times. You keep brands who are worth surviving alive for future generations.

Set up a LinkedIn Profile

LinkedIn President Obama Jeff Weiner

The other day during lunch I sat in front of a young professional from Montreal who believed that being on LinkedIn was not the best idea.

Actually – when you start looking at people you work with in an office, city or country it seems that there are many that share this opinion in 2014 although all numbers – including LinkedIn latest financial report – tend to say the opposite. If you aren’t on LinkedIn yet now is the time to join the Pro’s!

So why would one care to spend a good 2-3 hours of hard work to participate in an virtual community  full of people talking about work? You are already busy maintaining engagement on Facebook where fun stuff like the ice bucket challenge happen. Not to mention all those emails that start pouring in once you are “Linked”. I consider myself to be a Connector and here is why:

1. It’s the first result in Google when searching for a person most of the times.

2. You can actually connect with these professionals without paying for it and get less spam than any other social media channel.

3. If you ever are to lose your job or need a career change a solid LinkedIn network it will take less than 3 months to be back on a payroll.

I could list a dozen others like these and here are my favourites that are Real Life stories

- I found a credit card in a park and was able to contact the owner via LinkedIn to hand it back to him within 24 hours.

- During a million dollar business project I found out that the competition was using a certain technology just by looking at their consultants who posted detailed project information on their LinkedIn profile.

- I once was asked to draft the organisational chart of my previous employers marketing team and refused doing it since this was available information on LinkedIn anyway.

- During a career mentoring session I realized that the person in front of me was applying for the same job that a previous candidate I mentored got let go from thanks to a LinkedIn update message earlier that week.

If you need help setting up your LinkedIn Profile here are the best experts by region that I follow on a regular basis

Simon Hénault Quebec

Melonie Dorado Canada

Viveka Von Rosen USA

If you wonder whom to connect with just focus on what works for your personality. Some have 500+ connections others less. For sure if you connect with 12 professionals and don’t do much more you may as well stay on Facebook.

Website: www.linkedin.com

Cost: $0 and whilst you are at it may as well open a Twitter account so that you share your LinkedIn posts on with your flock of birds.

Time to make decision and execute: 2-3 hours without getting any professional help. 2-3 days if you really want to master this tool.

Benefit: You can export your LinkedIn network contact list with name + email to segment them by interest, industry, job opportunity etc. Not to mention joining Groups that hoover around a topic of interest. I have yet to find a disadvantage from being on LinkedIn every week. Take a break from the action during vacation though.

 

 

 

 

Set up an eBay Account

eBay Buyer Protection Shield

Having 200M + members selling and buying stuff online with an auction business model puts eBay in a spot many have tried to copy. The increasing number of businesses having an eBay Store makes it even more compelling to log in and validate the real time “offer vs. demand” market price .

I have been an eBay user since March 2004 in Canada and ten years later this is my preferred online place to check

1) Small (read light) items that eliminates a trip to your Wal-Mart or shopping mall which can be ordered directly from Asia saving you time, taxes and 50% of the cost. Examples: batteries for my Swatch or smartphone, bike parts, small gifts for birthdays, DVD’s that friends recommend and are not on Netflix etc.

2) Pricing compared to national retailers: if you can get a Google Nexus 7 tablet for $100 shipped to a hotel in the US during your next vacation why pay $220 + tax at a local electronics retailer? It’s the BOGO solution to many annual upgrades in our household.

3) Marketing research for Entrepreneurs: many have a great idea about a product they want to sell as a Start Up. Well, go on eBay and see what’s already out there at what price, because that is eventually going to be your competition especially in the 20-30 age group. Testing your idea on eBay is even more fun!

I have even tried to be an eBay seller for 12 months and learned the hard way that Canadian shipping costs bring margins down to 5-10% unless you sell diamonds since the optimal eBay product has to have a HIGH density value: expensive, small, on demand and low cost shipping & handling. So this experience can teach you very fast which items to search for online and which to buy locally unless you live in the US where ground shipping still is a bargain.

Website: www.ebay.com

Cost: $0 and whilst you are at it may as well open a PayPal account so that check out process is a click away.

Time to make decision and execute: 2-3 days with PayPal validation of your credit/debit card(s).

Benefit: It’s the only market place that really makes buying “glocally” easy at the right price. My young children have learned that if something isn’t available in Montreal all one has to do is look on eBay and wait for the Postman to deliver it. From California, Hong Kong, Toronto…they really don’t care as long as the price is right!

WARNING: eBay can be like a dating site where you think the next deal will be cheaper, better and delivered faster. Amateurs spend hours searching an iPhone Hello Kitty case to save $0,25 on shipping. Professionals know exactly what it should cost and what the initial budget was and BUY NOW only. Use filters to speed up the process and if there are zero results then eBay was not the right channel to get what you wanted with the budget you had available.

Set up a Free Mint Account

Mint Personal Finance software

Personal Finance Software Mint

Having built a personal finance software for a credit union I know exactly what data banks have about their clients. Few of these tools can work with other bank accounts though and the one who cracked the code is Mint. Now owned by Intuit you can rest assured it works like a Swatch and when there are glitches the user community typically has found a way how to bypass the issue. Their tablet and smartphone app is the best out there still.

I have been using Mint for 1036 days solid and every transaction is tracked, sorted, ear market and automated. You no longer open bank statements, keep receipts, pay or leave a tip in cash because if you want to know where your money goes it has to be a virtual transaction. Now you think this must be the most daunting task on Earth after having a root canal, but think again.

Besides my mortgage there is $0 in interest fees, $0 in bank fees and $0 penalties per year. $0 is powerful because it allows you to go on vacation, flip a kitchen project in 12 months and smile when the bank employee glares at the screen asking “You don’t have more than one credit card?” Nope, because with Mint I learned if you channel ALL your expenses through one card and pay the monthly balance it generates more than $1,000 in cash back per year. No moon light flight to Las Vegas on a Tuesday, no Black & Decker toaster or bogus insurance coverage.

Website: www.mint.com

Cost: $0 unless you have fees to close a banking account/credit card

Time to make decision and execute: 2-3 months including migrating financial assets to www.tangerine.ca and setting up budgets, automated monthly transfers, alerts, goals etc.

Benefit: Financial freedom without visiting your bank branch ever again. Those who are afraid of fraud I can confirm that after 12 years of online banking the only time one of my accounts got hacked was a debit card which professional thieves cloned at a local Esso station in 2005. On the contrary – since using Mint I have cancelled $1,000+ of services companies “automatically” renew that I didn’t want or needed any more.

Sign up for a race

Santa Shuffle Race Start

Santa Shuffle Race Near You

Most people wait until January 1st to join a gym, start a weight loss program, diet etc. It lasts a month or two at best. Then nothing happens until Dec 31st and back to “GO”. I sign up to one yearly 70.3 Ironman race to motivate mysekf to run with colleagues at lunch twice a week all year. Now my entire family is signed up for the Santa Shuffle race in December. Every six months we will do an affordable, fun and local 5K race until the children are ready for 10K and so on.

Website: www.santashuffle.ca

Cost: Starting at $25 CAD

Time to make decision and execute: 10 minutes

Benefit: affordable family activity that keeps you motivated for months to run weekly

Become an AARP Member

Michelle_Obama_with_AARP_card

First Lady with AARP card

I became an AARP Guest Member in January 2014 and now can read their awesome magazine on my tablet, receive updates on what the US is doing for their seniors (55+) and eventually get discounts with a large number of fine companies. 40 millions members was a compelling value proposition and their articles are also valid for Canadian/European readers.

Website: www.aarp.org

Cost: Starting at $16 USD per year

Time to make decision and execute: 15 minutes

Benefits: can apply information to my work and future financial investment decisions

The Art of Non-Conformity

Martin Wiedenhoff

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