Company Re-branding Strategy – Our Website

Whether purposefully or not, when the Apex website was originally built five years ago, it mainly targeted job seekers. The site was filled with videos of our President playing the guitar ‘poorly, but with enthusiasm’ as he frequently states, along with a few other videos sprinkled in, but lacked any substantial evidence as to why anyone would want to hire Apex as a consultant.

How was the site being used to track potential clients? How was this site showcasing the work that Apex does, and how was the knowledge and expertise of our consultants being utilized? It wasn’t.

Newsletters and blog posts highlighted employee fishing excursions and marathon training, but nothing really honed the skills and expertise that Apex has to offer its clients, which is a huge miss because our teams have been a crucial part of driving global initiatives with our clients.

There were a few case studies and white papers housed on the site, but the content was outdated, not being utilized and shared out, and not to mention the lack of use of our few social sites – our content wasn’t being read.

The result of my assessments led to my first project alongside the rebranding effort, which was to develop a new website. Brand-spanking new! I was so excited I didn’t know what to do with myself. Really, I had no idea what to do.

The current website portrayed Apex as a mom & pop shop, which it wasn’t. Maybe five years ago, or even three years ago, but it has experienced incremental growth over the last few years – an increase from 34 employees in 2011 to over 70 employees currently. The website should reflect a more mature and capable company that Apex has become.

My next move was to create a mockup of how I envisioned the finished project. We took that design and hired a local design agency and got to work.

From there, I had to assemble a content team. Though our site is not hugely robust, one would be surprised at the time and effort it takes to create distinguishing content. We kept asking ourselves how to say what every strategic consulting firm says, but in a way that would distinguish us from the rest. Project management, quality assurance, and some aspects of training are very standardized, so it was difficult to get creative with the content. I was lucky to have a team of project managers, training managers, quality assurance managers, hiring managers, and a handful of others, to help me create content that really showcases the expertise and domain knowledge of our organization.

Below are images of my concept to our agency mockups and then final product.

Existing Apex site – Very colorful with stark color contrasts (click for larger image):

Solutionsbyapex.com-homepage

 

My initial vision of the finished site:

Website Mockup

 

Finished Site www.solutionsbyapex.com:

Final WEbsite

 

The website redevelopment took roughly eight months to complete (with a couple of holiday breaks during that time).  We ended up finishing on time and on budget.  You can visit solutionsbyapex.com and read about our company, or visit our Insights page for more information.

Company Re-branding Strategy – Our Logo

The last seven months in my role have focused on our company’s rebranding strategy.  Last week we launched our website and hosted an open house to re-introduce ourselves to the local business community.

The branding strategy focused on our website, our logo, collateral and assets, and overall strategy around our service offerings.

The first initiative was the logo and company service offerings.

Original logo with our five service offerings:

Apex Sig Logo

Each icon represented a service offering:

LogoIconBreakdown

After analysis of our logo and service offerings, we came up with the new logo and logic behind it:

ApexLogo_New_Final_highres

The logic behind the new logo and offerings:

We reduced our service offerings from five core offerings to three.

We are first and foremost a strategic business consulting firm.  Every conversation we have is around strategy.  It is not a service offering, but it is a guiding principle that we follow that allows us to provide a tailored service to each of our clients.

Project Management is our largest book of work and is in high demand – that remained one of our service offerings.

Because we offer much more than just a simple training model, Training became Learning Solutions.  We design, develop and deploy customized training solutions for our clients.  We create solutions that help our clients provide a meaningful and engaging experience for their employees.

Quality Assurance is another service offering that is at our core business.  We offer software quality assurance and testing, along with compliance an audit QA.

Staffing is an offering that we took a good look at.  During tough economic times, companies would rather hire on a per-contract basis rather than bringing in an employee full time.  This made sense then, but we had to question whether we really are a staffing company.  The answer we came up with is No.  While with a lot of our projects we do provide a resource, it is due to that individual’s knowledge and expertise in project management, training or quality assurance that makes them an added value to the project.  Like strategic consulting, it is provided in most cases in order to complete a project efficiently and effectively.

One piece of feedback that I’ve received throughout this process is that people outside of the organization don’t understand what the icons in our logo mean.  It has been important that when creating collateral and using the new logo we include each icon with the identifying offering.  The end goal is that when people see our logo they will identify with each icon and the service offering it represents.

This is only one piece of the rebranding strategy – stay tuned for the website rebrand and content strategy next.

Have you even redesigned your company’s logo and collateral?  What are some challenges you faced?

During Crisis, Tweet Responsibly

tweetloudThis week has been traumatic for our nation.  From the Boston Marathon bombing and manhunt to the fertilizer explosion in Texas, we have experienced a roller coaster of emotions.  For those of us dialed in to social media, we have experienced these events almost first-handedly.

I am a runner.  I have completed one marathon – the Portland Marathon.  I am registered in December for the California International Marathon, and am running a half in three weeks.  I was excited for Marathon Monday and logged in to Twitter first thing in the morning to catch the results of the Boston Marathon.

It was after the winners had been announced; Rita Jeptoo of Kenya who won the women’s with a time of 2:26:25, and Lelisa Desisa Benti of Ethiopia who won the men’s with a time of 2:10:22, that I came back to Twitter to see what else was going on and saw Tweets indicating that a large explosion had gone off – due possibly to a bomb.

I wasn’t seeing anything on the major news outlets and nothing had been posted to Facebook.  I went back and my Twitter feed had itself exploded with mass tweets regarding the possible bomb near the finish.

As the news started to unravel, every news outlet began popping up with updates and photos – these photos were the same ones I had seen posted to Twitter earlier.  For the next handful of hours I relied on live updates from those who were live at the event to keep me informed.

But of course, there is always room for speculation.  Was it a terrorist attack?  Was this Al-Qaida?  Who was behind the bombing?  Posts and tweets began to pop up similar to the one below.  Only hours after the event took place, automatically, assumptions had been made.  A little blurry, but it reads ‘They found a suspect to the Boston bombing and SURPRISE! – wait for it – a Saudi national…’

russel_FB

With social media at our fingertips, citizen journalism has taken on a whole new meaning.  News is a click away.  In fact, more news is spread quicker on Twitter than any other outlet.  But with this comes great responsibility – and before we tweet, here are a few things to remember:

Check your facts: Don’t post your assumptions as facts.  It’s called fact-checking.  Every responsible journalist should be held accountable for checking his sources, and you should too.  If you have an opinion, state it as such, but don’t post what you can’t confirm.  This is a quick way to lose credibility, and followers.

Show Discretion: It is great if you are on the scene to inform others.  That is what officials did during the Boston Marathon to direct others in surrounding areas, but if you are exposed to images and scenes that may come across as offensive or compromising, think first before posting.  Don’t mistake this as censorship, just ask yourself if you’d want this blasted all over the internet if it had been you.  Some things may be better left to the imagination.

Twitter is Not a Weapon: Twitter is a communication tool, not a weapon; choose its uses wisely.  Twitter was used throughout the search for the bomb suspects and to update the country of their capture, but it was also used to throw blame and criticism.  Remember that in situations such as the ones our nation faced this last week, we are not affiliates of a party – we are humans.

How do you use Twitter?  Please share.  If you’d like to join in my conversations, you can follow me at @nicolejdenison.

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Emergenetics, Preferences and the Color Wheel

emergenetics color wheelYou decide you are going to purchase something big. For the sake of it, let’s say you are going to purchase a road bike, or a computer, or even a car. How do you make the decision on what to buy? Are you an impulse shopper? Do you spend hours reading Consumer Reports ratings? Or do you ask your friend who already has the same model?

Depending on how you answer this question would determine where you fall in the Emergenetics color wheel. Emergenetics is a brain-based psychometric assessment that highlights thinking and behavior. Simply, Emergenetics is a clearer understanding of how people live, work, communicate and interact.

In this color wheel are four categories; analytical, structural, conceptual, or social. These are called attributes and they determine how we receive and process information. The breakdown of each attribute is as follows:

Blue – analytical. You are a rational thinker who is inquisitive and clear minded. You want to see data and research. You appreciate scientific method and learn by mental analysis.

Green – structural. You are a detailed, practical and methodical thinker. You follow rules and are cautious of new ideas. You are considered disciplined, organized and traditional, and you like guidelines.

Red – Social. You are a relational thinker. You are collaborative, empathetic and supportive; team oriented. You are socially aware and are sensitive to the feelings and ideas of others. You are intuitive and learn from others.emergenetics

Yellow – Conceptual. You are imaginative, unconventional and visionary. You like change and are easily bored. You are thought of as inventive, original and innovative. You learn by experimenting.

Going back to the question above, if you rely on your friends to give you input on how they like their tablet, and that data is enough for you to make your purchase then you would have characteristics of a are red attribute and are considered social. If you spend countless hours researching every model and what industry reports have to say, odds are you possess a high amount of blue and are analytical.

While you can have any percentage of each, a preference is when you have 23% or more of any one attribute.

Why is this important?

To understand how we can work together and drive projects forward with the most efficiency it is important to have individual contributors with a mixed set of attributes. It wouldn’t make sense to have a team whose preferences are yellow and red to tackle a project that relies heavily on data analysis. It would also be counterproductive to have someone who is blue and green perform cold calls on potential sales clients.

It’s not to say that someone with strong social and conceptual preferences can’t perform data analysis, they just don’t prefer it and someone who is highly analytical with little social would find it exhausting to have to converse with people throughout the day. They are literally drained by the time five o’clock rolls around.

Emergenetics profiles help us to understand others’ preferences so we can tailor our communication styles to be most effective. When we know how others prefer to have information presented to them, or how they prefer to communicate, and how they prefer to tackle a project we are able to maximize or efforts.

As for me, I am a tri-modal; red, yellow and green. My yellow and green are constantly at odds as I think big picture and grandiose ideas while my green reels me back down to focus on the nitty gritty (hence my passion for lists), and my red invites those around me to participate in these dialogues, creating fun for everyone. 

Does your office have anything similar to Emergenetics? Do you find it useful when communicating with others?  Please share.

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Can Your Brand Withstand Fool’s Play?

Brand-BlundersThis week the internet has been abuzz with April Fools Day jokes ranging from Snooki eloping with her boyfriend Jionni LaValle to Mike Tyson’s face tattoo removal to…bacon mouthwash?  Most pranks were lighthearted fun while others were a complete miss.

Maybe it wasn’t the prank that necessarily made waves, rather the person behind the prank.  While perusing through Facebook I came across a post that linked to Mark Remy’s public apology to his readers (Remy is an author, editor for Runner’s World, and Remy’s World blogger).  A health writer apologizing to his readers?  My curiosity was piqued so I clicked through. Here’s what he had to say:

Humor is funny… until it’s not. A (brief) explanation, and a word of apology.

When I conceived, wrote, and published my April Fool’s Day column – a faux news article titled “EXCLUSIVE: Ryan Hall, ‘Blade Runner'” – I was happy with it. I thought it was pretty funny, and I certainly never imagined that anyone would find it insulting.

I was wrong, on both counts.

While many reader comments on the column were positive (or merely perplexed), many more reflected displeasure, disgust, outrage… you name it.

I could go on about 20/20 hindsight and pushing boundaries and so on, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll keep it simple.

I’m sorry.

The original column has been removed from RunnersWorld.com.

Since I hadn’t read the original article I wasn’t exactly sure why the apology was necessary, but as I scrolled through the comments I knew that whatever was said would most likely be forgotten in a day or so and Remy’s reputation would walk away with minor scratch, or maybe a lesser slight bruise.  I wasn’t familiar with this guy before reading this post and I have to say that I was impressed with his approach.  He’s definitely got me as a new reader.

Like Snooki, Tyson, or even Remy, we all have a brand, and how our brand survives blunders such as this depends on how well we’ve built and kept our reputation up to that point.  By putting ourselves into the public eye we immediately open the door for potential backlash.

Not everyone is going to agree with what we have to say at times, but if we make it a habit of insulting our audience, our brand may not be strong enough to stand the test of time.  It’s important present ourselves so that if we do face a situation such as above our followers will understand that everyone makes mistakes and with a (humbling) I’m sorry we can move along and continue as we did before, strengthening our brand as a result.

Have you ever made a blunder in front of an audience?  How did it affect your relationships?  What steps did you take to repair your brand?  Please share.

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Subject: Email Etiquette

I was called out this wemail etiquetteeek doing something that I absolutely hate.  One of my biggest pet peeves in the office is when I send someone an email and they don’t read the whole thing.  And when they provide a response that either does not address my initial point of my email, or it only addresses part of it.

I recently transitioned into a new role and am ramping up, and I will be the first to say that the amount of information I am responsible for learning is overwhelming.  While in the ramping phase, I am receiving inquiries and requests for approval of transactions.

I sent an email off quickly this week without making sure I completely understood what it was saying, and it was due to the fact that my request was unclear.  How many times have you received an email request that is a thread of a conversation that has taken place with a number of individuals before it hits your inbox?  This is common in our office, and what is most challenging is when a summary is not provided, rather a ‘see below – can you assist?’

If your office is anything like mine, then you understand the multitude of emails exchanged in a day.  It is your job as the requester to guide the reader through and make it simple for him to complete the request.  Below are a few things I have learned about how to compose an email that should warrant the response you are looking for.

  1. If there is an action required in your email, state it in the Subject line.
    ex: Approval Request <Action Required>
  2. Do not write a novel.  Respect the reader’s time and make the email short and to the point.
  3. Use bullets – I’ve noticed that in these emails the responder will just answer in-line.
  4. If it is time sensitive, state it.  Again, take the responder’s time into consideration and, if possible, allow ample time to complete the request.
  5. I like to thank the individual in advance for his or her assistance.

This may seem elementary to some, but I find that we are so quick to send a request, or give a response that we forget about email etiquette.  Have you been in a situation such as this?  How do you feel you communicate best to get the results you are seeking?  Please feel free to comment on anything I may have missed, or share your successes and challenges with email in the office.

Welcome to the Human Factor

If you’re reading this you’ve either just stumbled across the page, or you, too, are bored of discussing the bland, yet necessary, topics in business.  Rather, you have an interest in how human behavior can have a profound effect on how we do business.  Take a moment and think about the exchanges you have during the day.  How many of those exchanges take place at work or in the market place?  Does every interaction go as expected?  Are you overly pleased or extremely dissatisfied with any particular exchange?  Or, are you having a difficult time remembering what exchanges took place at all?

What I intend to do through this blog is explore the many ways in which individuals interact with each other, how businesses interact with its employees and its customers, and through these exchanges how we can optimize any situation we are faced with.  To me, business is more than just the numbers, it is about the people who drive the numbers.  Not to say that the numbers don’t count, but I feel the people don’t tend to count enough, and I disagree with that notion.

I find this topic particularly important as we have entered into a digital era.  Every encounter you have with another person or company has the potential to be shared with Facebook friends, LinkedIn connections, Twitter followers, or on blog posts such as this.  You want to ensure that if someone is going to talk about an encounter he or she had with you or your company it is a reflection a positive experience had, or a recommendation to try your product or do business with you.  The way we communicate today can have the potential to boost your business, or ruin it.  It’s up to you to decide which category you want to be in.