The Pains of Developing an MVP and How to Overcome Them

The fabled MVP has become the new sexy word to throw around when it’s time to develop a new application, company, or product.

MVP (or minimum viable product) is meant to achieve a concept called Product Market Fit as quickly as possible. The MVP allows for small improvements based on real feedback—as opposed to  the traditional school of thought,  which is to try to launch publicly with what we think is our final, perfected product.

Think the quiet and inexpensive growth of Airbnb vs the giant release of the first iPhone.

While the concept of the MVP is a great concept, and it does work very well when executed properly, proper execution is extremely difficult. I’ve found there are generally 3 killers:

Ego Trumps All

A lot of people’s ego get in the way of the process. They want the software or the website to be “perfect” in their eyes, without really a care to the consumer.

When this is brought up, the response is usually, “oh, I know what the consumer wants.” Followed by endless meetings trying to justify why no one is buying the product or using the fancy new app.

The problem is a lot of people have issues with putting something out into the wild that they don’t deem as perfect. They chase down rabbit holes looking at issues that defeat the whole purpose of doing the MVP process in the first place.

A graph at the end of this article shows the concept of MVP a bit better too.

I’ve seen several situations where the owner of a start up developing an MVP basically ignored all of the consumer feedback (either justifying how it wasn’t the right client, or justifying how it was a one-off that wouldn’t affect the market as a whole). Instead, he only focused on his experience with the application, ruining the entire product along with it.

The Importance of Money & Time

A lot of times people hear the fantasy stories and the “cases” of Airbnb, Snapchat, or similar apps and hyper focus on the fact that it was low cost or even free (outside of time invested) to develop their app.

They then lose focus of the fact that:

  1. The exceptions are not the rule
  2. Their app isn’t nearly as revolutionary or “new” as they think it is (and definitely isn’t new to the market)

Businesses run on money. Even those one-off stories required VC or angel investment soon after they got noticed in the market. Servers need to be maintained, employees need to be paid, customers need assistance, and so on.

It’s So Misunderstood

The point of this is really quite simple:

You get a basic working version of some feature or product to the end user as fast as possible, and then continue doing that. You’re collecting validated learning experience to build consumers exactly what they want.

It’s also a methodology, not just a single product. It’s constantly working on improving and upgrading the product to fit the consumer need. This meme does a great job of explaining:

Original Image: Making sense of MVP (Minimum Viable Product) – and why I prefer Earliest Testable/Usable/Lovable by Henrik Kniberg

Why Your Software Developer Needs To Go To Sleep

“Well, you really want your IT guys [or department] to be the kind of guys that don’t have a life or girlfriend. They just sit behind their computers all day and night.”

Um, okay.

Time At Work Does NOT Equal Productive Output

I was sitting on my couch reading the other night (okay, I was playing Madden) when a solution to a software problem we’ve been trying to solve suddenly popped into my head.

We were trying to think of the best way to create a set of CSV files for a partner company to access to track some basic data entry.

While I was sitting there debating whether or not Drew Brees was going to cut it as my new franchise Quarterback, I suddenly realized that we shouldn’t be doing this with a CSV file at all, but rather (and contrary to task instructions) with a member portal.

Does this mean I should just play Madden all day? Unfortunately, no. However, if I hadn’t taken the time to rest and give my mind a break, we would have likely kept going down the road that we were “supposed” to, which wouldn’t have created the best solution for the client or their partners.

24/7 Connection Doesn’t Mean 24/7 Work-Life

This one has been written about in countless articles and books, and is becoming a more popular topic:

The obsession that our culture has with work is having a significant impact on our livelihood, families, and workplace productivity.

Just because we are now connected 24/7 doesn’t mean you should expect to hear back from someone within minutes at 9 pm (or, even 9 am).

Oh, but this issue is urgent?

In the excellent Phoenix Project book, the author says it best:

Something seems wrong in a world where half the e-mail messages sent are urgent. Can everything really be that important?

Most “urgent” issues that come across my desk are only “urgent” in the same sense that makes us pay a little more for overnight shipping.  Just because something is “wanted now” doesn’t mean it’s “urgent.”

Knowledge Workers Should Work Fewer Hours

What ends up happening is that this “developer” (the one with no life) is in front of a computer for 12 or 14 hours a day, but that doesn’t include:

  • The 90-minute lunch
  • The 2 hours spent on forums, Hacker News, Stack Overflow, or (more likely) Facebook
  • The hour-long discussion about whether or not Russia did hack the election

In a famous 1993 study of young violinists, Anders Ericsson found that the best ones all practiced the same way: in the morning, in three increments of no more than 90 minutes each, with a break between each.

He discovered the same pattern among other musicians, writers, chess players, and athletes.

I’ve found this (or a variation where you work for 55 minutes and take a 5-minute break, and then an at least an hour for lunch) is the best form of productivity. Fewer hours, but hours where you work 100% of the hours (no distractions because Aunt Sally lit up Facebook with a new fake news article).

I know, the new credo is that we need to work 80 hours a week, and be connected 24/7 in case “something comes up.”

Companies and countries encourage this mentality (more work means more productivity right?) while completely ignoring everything we scientifically know about productivity and performance.

We never challenge an executive or (really any worker) when they exclaim they’ve “worked 80 hours this week.” We accept them as someone who must be a hard worker and ignore the fact that it likely means quite the opposite.

Instead of worrying about hours in, I’d like to see a work culture that is concerned about the productivity during hours worked.



Why Software Projects Make People Pull Their Hair Out

There was a study done in 1995 (22 years ago as of this writing) that concluded:

  • Only 16% of software projects were successful
  • 54% were challenged (cost overruns, budget overruns, or deficiencies)
  • 31% were outright cancelled
  • The average project runs 222% late, 189% over budget, and delivers only 61% of the specified functions.

Failure has become the IT norm. Today I want to discuss some of the reasons why, and in a follow up article, I’ll discuss my life mission to do something about it.

No Time

Most software projects I’ve quoted or started had a deadline date that was decided well before the project starts. 99% of the time, this is an arbitrary date of when “it’d be nice to have it.”

OR, a project is started with the intentions of “doing it right,” but a few months into the project there becomes a sudden need for it “to be done now.”

There’s an excellent quote from the Mythical Man-Month (a software development book written in the 70s):

But false scheduling to match the patron’s desired date is much more common in our discipline than elsewhere in engineering.

If anything, this has gotten worse in the age of iPhone Apps and overnight shipping. People are set on just deciding it’s time for a project to be “due.”

No Budget

A lot of projects don’t have proper budgets allocated to them. Without knowing the specific requirements of a software, it’s impossible to determine how much it could cost. Much like home remodels or other labor intensive work, the cost of a software project is based on how long it takes the geeks working on it to complete it.

Companies go in looking for the lowest possible price on the project, and ignore the suppliers (generally the more experienced ones) who have strong cases for why it costs as much as it does.

Worse is when the budget runs out partially through the project. It’s important to ensure that the budget is in place to retain and optimize the solution down the road.

Bad Communication

Clients often complain about the “disappearing developer” act that is very common in our industry (as well as graphic design). More often than not, the types of developers or designers that disappear are the ones that weren’t that professional in the first place (see, “No Budget,” above). Hiring the cheapest and lowest common denominator generally comes with lower professionalism and dedication.

We see quite the opposite, which is the “disappearing client” act.

A project will go well and we have your attention for several weeks, maybe even several months. Then, suddenly, our requests for testing or meetings are ignored.

You’ve become busy with another project or company emergency. The budget came in a lot lower than you expected, or you had delays/issues in other projects that needed your attention.

This, of course, is not the largest issue. We understand that things happen (I own a business myself and frequently have to delay my vendors while dealing with important issues).

The problem comes when all of a sudden, these lost weeks (or months) show up at the last minute with an urgent need to rush the project as soon as possible, which then creates:

No Focus on Quality

When there’s a haste to deliver the software or website, quality will suffer. Things won’t be tested or documented properly, and solutions will be rushed out. While this may save a couple of hours or even a couple of days, it always ends up in weeks (sometimes months or years) worth of delays.

The Jay Nine, Inc Software Development Process


We’re working on continuously improving our process of project management and development. The below outlines the high level overview of the processes we use to develop and build web applications and custom business software.

The Core Fundamentals:

  1. Find out exactly what the [user, client, or person who is benefiting the most from this system] needs and wants.
  2. Get the data you need to make that happen. Analyze at least ten types of forms. Refuse to accept any data without validating it first, always assume there is undiscovered data.
  3. Build the simplest and quickest version of that. Always focus on getting the simplest version to a solution in production as soon as possible.
  4. Test with user, fix mistakes, create better functionality. Ensure that no human error is found again (through automated tests and scripts).
  5. Do not allow arbitrary deadlines hurt long term productivity (focus on the tasks that will take a few extra days and save a few months). Set deadlines for each project on either weekly, every two weeks, or monthly deadlines. In emergencies, set daily deadlines. Agree upon this before the project begins.
  6. Ensure all changes are pushed to a staging environment, rigorously tested, and then pushed live after that.
  7. Ensure all people involved in the project have the tools and resources they need to see the project vision. The lowest developer or the highest project manager should be able to rollback changes if needed, or push new changes live easily.
  8. All project details are carefully, but not wastefully, documented.
  9. Nothing matters in the project other than working software, easy functionality, and results.

Programmers and developers are not the best at managing clients. Since we’re very literal people, we love systems that have precisely defined behaviors.

This makes working with non-technical people harder for us than it needs to be because we tend to take every request literally, rather than spending the time trying to figure out what a client actually wants.

The goals of our process system:

  1. To minimize bottlenecks, and spend as much time on the Code, Test, Deploy cycle as possible
  2. To create a system where even the entry level developers have the resources to make decisions and determine what the client actually wants, providing customers better systems and faster implementation cycles
  3. To measure all projects on weekly cycles to ensure that we are not losing focus on the big picture, but ensuring small tasks are taken care of efficiently

High-Level Planning Notes:

  1. To plan the project, we need access to all the data or a live test case. Not a promise of the data, not a vague understanding, but the exact items that we will be putting into production.
    1. This needs to be detailed enough to create an exact scope.
    2. We should have at least several different use cases/data examples to account for one-offs
    3. We always want to question the validity of the data and ensure we’re probing to iron out any outliers and cases that will break the system
  2. All development systems and task reporting needs to empower the developer, not add unnecessary work to the developer
    1. This means we need to streamline the process of a developer seeking higher level help, clarification, etc., without a lot of unnecessary reporting and systems
    2. Our motto: outsource anything we cannot do directly, automate anything we can automate, and eliminate anything that’s not crucial to the project
  3. All project tasks are updated in real-time in the task tracking (currently, Asana)
  4. Active documentation needs to be included in all parts of the process; all documentation needs to be up-to-date with no exceptions.
    1. Two “testing” documents are prepared and utilized for each client
      1. A document to use to guide testing
      2. A seperate document to use to track testing changes

Plan Asana Tasks for Web Development

As a rule of thumb, all tasks and documentation need to have necessary details. Usually an image/screenshot of the task, and text to explain the issue.

We organize each  project into with the main boards of:

  • Wishlist (a place where we can store dreams/wanted tasks that aren’t in production)
  • Bugs (bugs that are on the live site and would require pertinent attention)
  • In Progress (tasks that are currently being worked on)
  • Ready for Staging (ready to be pushed to staging)
  • Failed on Staging (bugs that did not pass testing on staging)
  • Ready to Push live (Items that are ready to push live)
  • Completed (any tasks that have been been completed)

Note: a single client of ours can have more than one active project.

Software Testing Methods

  1. Acceptance Testing – This is ensuring that the application fits the client’s needs, and we work with the client to create these tests. This is testing the key performance indicators of the application.
  2. Unit/Component/Deployment Tests – These are standard software development/unit tests.
  3. Live User Testing – using active customers (NOT the client) to provide feedback and find issues and other “breaks” that would have never been thought of or planned.
  4. Application and Performance Testing – This includes learning the capacity of the application by testing the load times, application security, and so on.

Finally, we determine how we can automate as many of those tests as possible, to save time.


My Favorite Books from 2016

I read an average of one book a week this year, far short of my goal of reading 100 books this year. My goal for 2017 is taking a page from Warren Buffett’s book (ha, pun alert) and striving to read “500 pages a day.”

Below I’ve listed the 5 best books I read this year, with some excerpts from each:

The Score Takes Care of Itself by Bill Walsh

I’m not usually a fan of sports-centric motivational or leadership books, but this book was in a class of its own.

Walsh took the 49ers from the worst team in the NFL to the Super Bowl in less than 3 years. What was fascinating was his systematic (known as the Standard of Performance) way of doing so. His courage and emphasis on the fundamentals is an amazing lesson to all people trying to tackle greatness. He emphasizes that with upholding these standards and the fundamentals of the craft—whatever they are for any chosen craft—success will take care of itself.

My favorite quotes:

“Flying by the seat of your pants precedes crashing by the seat of your pants.”

“When you worked with Joe, you were treated as an equal. There were no stars in the Montana system, including Joe Montana. That corny old cliché, ‘One for all and all for one,’ could have been written with him in mind.”

Get it on Amazon Here

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World

Until reading this book I didn’t realize that most of the traditional education on Genghis Khan is quite inaccurate.

Genghis Khan abolished torture, granted universal religious freedom, and smashed systems of aristocratic privilege. The Mongol culture and empire extended generations, across many continents, and had a huge influence on the modern world.

The book also spends adequate time dispelling a lot of misinformation and notions of Genghis Khan as a “brute,” which was very different from what I remembered learning about him in the past.

My favorite quotes:

“‘To you, God has given the scriptures, and you Christians do not observe them.’ He gave examples of how [Christians] loved money ahead of justice.

“He warned against the pursuit of a colorful life with material items and wasteful pleasures, [saying] ‘you will be no better than a slave.’”

Get it on Amazon Here

Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday

Ryan Holiday is one of my favorite modern authors. His recent books have been influenced by stoic philosophy, and are written in similar veins as books like “The 48 Laws of Power,” where many stories are told to express philosophical and cerebral subjects.

In the day and age of the “me” generations and an era that glorifies self-promotion, this book does an excellent job of showing how it’s often one’s own ego that is the biggest hurdle in great accomplishment and living a fulfilled life.

My favorite quotes:

“Our own path, whatever we aspire to, will in some ways be defined by the amount of nonsense we are willing to deal with.”

“‘Each fighter, to become great,’ he said, ‘needs to have someone better that they can learn from, someone lesser who they can teach, and someone equal that they can challenge themselves against.’”

Get it on Amazon Here

High-Profit Selling by Mark Hunter

This is my new “favorite” sales book.

The thesis of the book is that sales professionals rely one cutting price to close the sale, leaving massive amounts of profit on the table. This book has a ton of excellent sales philosophies in it, and is a great all around sales book.

In sales, especially in entrepreneurial based roles, it’s easy to cut price to close a deal, resulting in lost profits and generally, a poorer experience for the customer. The purpose of this book is to help sales people realize that, generally, price cutting is a cop out for not doing a better job in the selling process. Further, Hunter spends time explaining how this provides a more dishonest and lower level of service for the customer, creating a lose-lose situation for everyone.

My favorite quotes from the book:

“Value is what the customer believes it is, not what the salesperson thinks it is.”

“A salesperson needs to have at least three needs to discuss with the customer to keep the discussion from defaulting back to price. By uncovering three or more needs or benefits that the customer desires, you gain enough flexibility to not only craft a profitable sales proposal for the customer, but also to start laying the framework for your next sale.”

“High-profit selling is not about doing business with everybody; it’s about doing business with those customers who have needs and opportunities that align with your business model, and you want to win the confidence of those customers.”

Get it on Amazon Here

The Stranger beside Me by Ann Rule

Since I was a child I have been fascinated with notorious serial killers.

Not because of some morbid fascination with death or violence, but because I have grown to think that every serial killer was created by their circumstances, not by some “off” gene that created these monsters. In reading and understanding these people, I feel, we get a better insight into how we create (and can prevent creating) people that do these ghastly crimes.

This year I re-read “The Stranger beside Me,” which is one of my favorite biographies on serial killers. The story is written by a woman who worked with and was friends with Ted Bundy before, during, and after his violent rapes and murders that spanned across several states.

The realness of this book comes from all the people who knew him, and were shocked to discover how this “normal guy” was a monster. He took advantage of loopholes in policing, escaped several times, and (as described by all who knew him) was extremely handsome and charismatic.

My favorite quotes:

“I had always prided myself on my ability to detect aberrance in other humans… I have berated myself silently for a long time because I saw nothing threatening or disturbing in Ted.

The only clue I had was that my dog (who liked everyone) didn’t like Ted at all. Whenever he bent over my desk at the Crisis Clinic, she growled and the hackles on her neck stood up.”

“Dr. Hoshall was sitting next to one of Raiford Prison’s psychologist.

‘I asked him if there was any effective treatment for people like Bundy.’

He paused for a moment and said, ‘Only a sledgehammer between the eyes.’”

Get it on Amazon Here

How Personal is Too Personal With Branding?

One of the hot topics of personal branding is the question of how much of your personal life should you include in your content and interactions with people?

Do people really care about what you ate for lunch? Does it build rapport like you’ve been told—or is it just another form of useless self-indulgence? Should you talk about religion and politics, or is that still taboo?

Before I get into answering those questions, I’d like to talk about the goal of personal branding. The goal of personal branding is to establish yourself as an industry expert, unique individual, and eventually a “figure” in your industry others look up and respect as a leader. This is done by identifying a foothold in your niche—and then taking that foothold to market.

Unfortunately, most people don’t ever take that step—and use their personal blogs and business blogs as a form of “I have an opinion too; you need to listen to me.” I call this the “rock star” or “celebrity” mentality, where business owners and professionals start to shy away from helping their followers—and start to use their network and influence to push forward their own personal agenda.

You may ask me, “but Jerry—isn’t the whole point of personal branding to promote my personal agenda? Naturally to be perceived as an expert I’ll have to dictate to my followers my teachings and message.”

Right now I’m doing exactly that—sharing with you my advice and opinions on personal branding, based on my years of experience and education. Where that line would end, however, is if I used my blog as a platform to argue a personal viewpoint, that won’t educate my readers.

I recently thought about including an article to this blog about the 1st Amendment in the United States. Specifically, I wanted to talk about all of the comments I’ve seen online where people are arguing free speech—when it doesn’t apply. As I thought about it more, I realized this wasn’t going to do anything but extend an opinion that I was not expected, nor qualified to make. Not to mention, alienate my readers and clients who live in different countries!

My personal brand is focused on helping others use the internet to grow their brands, businesses, and/or annual revenue. Everything I do and teach is an extension from that. Politics, religion, social issues, and more—those are not what I help people do (and, in turn, is not a good subject for my blog). Not to mention, just because I have a blog does not mean I’m a celebrity, and the same is true for you. It’s very easy for business bloggers to let their reader base go to their heads.

For  example, I saw a local business (a food shop) post some scathing reviews of President Obama on their business Facebook page a couple of years ago. As expected, the comments were a mix of “support,” and a larger “I didn’t ‘like’ your page to see this garbage.” The owner responded to one of the comments stating, “I believe I am entitled to report on this, as I’m a small business owner. Most people don’t know what small business owners go through with taxes. I can inform them to help make better decisions for their community.”

I hate to break it to you, but most people don’t really care what small businesses go through with taxes. They care about what you’re doing for their needs.

The point of the article I’m writing is exactly this: your newfound soapbox does not mean you now have the right to “preach” down to your masses about subjects that impact you personally. You are not a celebrity, and your followers/peers/clients/employer does not view you as one either.

Now, I am of course not saying that you simply can’t go out there and preach your personal messages to the masses. I am saying, however, you cannot expect to say those things without alienating clients and other professionals.

I leave you with this. Keeping in mind I teach businesses and professionals how to use the internet to grow their brand and achieve their dreams, which would you rather see from me:

A Twitter post with a picture of my lunch, or:

A Twitter post during my lunch with a link to an interesting article I just read.

Think about that. Whenever you post anything ask yourself “does this fit in with the brand I am used to write, or is this something to stroke my own ego?”

Image Credit: Stefano Principato

How to Deal with Internet Trolls and Personal Attacks on Your Brand

how to deal with internet trolls

The internet is a dark and scary place sometimes. With an unfiltered and “anonymous feel,” it can become very easy for people to humiliate and degrade strangers, their writings, and their personalities. This can be in forms of nasty comments on your article, harassment to you, or shameless self-promotion across your network (including poaching your clients or connections for their own personal gain).

This is often one of the biggest and most concerned questions I receive when I’m helping a business or individual market themselves online: “How do I deal with nasty comments, trolls, and unnecessary aggression?”’ No matter what niche I’ve assisted in marketing there are ALWAYS people who feel the need to attack/destroy an article and ideas in the comments. They sometimes will even take it a bit further and attack the author, their beliefs, and their unique selling proposition.

It happens.

First of all, you will never become an expert in your industry if you cannot professionally and calmly deal with negative feedback. You will have competitors, they will have clients, and you’ll need to be able to fully explain why you believe what you believe. Remember, your articles are still your opinion (no matter how many times the subject or teaching has worked for you in the past).

This means, that your interpretation of situations can be different than what others have seen. While you may think haters will only do your business harm—it can actually prove as a way to better defend your position, change their view point, and disarm objection that the quite readers thought—but didn’t confront you directly about. When you receive a nasty comment or slight online, simply follow these easy steps:

  1. Don’t react right away. This is your court, not theirs. They have sent you the initial “attack.” If you attack back—you’re no better and will be viewed as unprofessional and uncollected by your audience. If you think clearly and with a level head—you’ll provide a much better response. Often times I’ll hear, “well he was an asshole first. I was just defending my name.” Ah yes, you met his unprofessionalism with unprofessionalism of your own. To everyone else, it’s just two assholes arguing.
  1. Think to yourself, is this a valid argument/point the attacker is making? If it is a valid argument, you must respond to disarm the argument. As discussed earlier, this is an opportunity to destroy the skeptics and move your ideas forward. Most of us have learned our greatest life lessons in being wrong and in failure. This is part of your journey in becoming a known expert in your field.
  1. If it is not a valid argument, thank the person for their contribution and then point out how stupid their point is (professionally of course). Avoid using “you,” statements, as in “you’re wrong about this,” and focus on attacking the subject, “I disagree because…” When you make it about you arguing against her, both she and you will quickly start attacking each other, and get personally angry. If it’s about the subject at hand, it easier for everyone to talk with a level head.
  1. If this escalates further, remove yourself from the situation. You’re online to establish your professional identity, and arguing with a troll will never help that message along the way. All it will do is frustrate, discourage, and anger you.

Remember, if you’re doing business blogging or content creation—then you’re online to make money, grow your network, and establish your expertise in your chosen field. You’re not here to argue with every troll that wants the internet to know how “smart” they perceive themselves. Remember, you’re using your writings and content to help grow yourself in your chosen industry and niche. There are people who simply have nothing better to do than “hate” on that, and try and destroy what you’re building. Never let someone else’s perception of you become your reality, and never let a negative person ruin your drive to build a personal brand, and achieve your wildest goals and dreams. Anything I missed? How do you handle trolls? Light up the comments below with your thoughts.

Image Credit: Kevin Dooley

Stand Out in the Crowd: How to Identify a USP and Own Your Brand


A USP (Unique Selling Point or Unique Selling Proposition) is essentially what you do better and/or differently than everyone else. While this can be interchangeable with a slogan, generally a company or personal slogan is an offshoot of your full USP.

When the company that is now known as FedEx came out, they knew they’d have to do something quite spectacular to compete with the Post Office. They focused on guaranteed overnight and express delivery. The USP, “we’re going to make overnight deliveries and guarantee your package,” is translated into the phrase of “when it absolutely positively has to be there overnight.” I’ll dissect coming to a USP like that in a minute, but let me ask you:

What’s yours? What do you do differently than anyone else?

If you’re like most of my clients and friends, your immediate response will likely be, “I provide a higher level of service.” Or, if it’s a business, “Our uniqueness is really our customer service. We care where other companies don’t.”

Ironically, I bet if you called and asking your competitors if they cared about their customers, they’d probably mention that “Actually, WE really care about our customers. All those other guys care about is money.”

As such, customer service is a terrible point for a USP. You need good and fair customer service to survive—otherwise you’re a con artist, not a professional.

So, what is a good USP? Let’s discuss the original FedEx USP:

“When it absolutely positively has to be there overnight.”

Notice that this USP does not: include any of the following:

  1. Mention their service/customer service
  2. Talk about pricing
  3. Is really a tacky slogan

Instead, this USP solves the customer problem. You (the consumer) need a package delivered overnight. Or, you need a package delivered quicker than the Post Office can deliver it.

Their USP is really about solving your needs. It’s not about how much better they are, it’s about what they do for their consumers.

So, we now know that a good USP is about solving your client’s needs, but how do you make that unique?

It’s much simpler than people think it is, so here’s what I want you to do:

  1. Write down why you do what you do. What got you in this industry in the first place?
    1. If you got into your niche/industry just to make a lot of money, or are having trouble with this, simply ask yourself, “why do I love what I do?”
  2. What does your target audience want?
  3. How do you solve this problem?

My answers would be:

  1. What does my target audience want?

Real world solutions to use the internet to grow their brand, increase their revenue, and better serve their clients with new technology.

  1. Why did I get into this industry in the first place?

I had learned a lot about marketing, sales, and branding by performing and leading bands, working in recording studios, and helping clubs promote themselves. In 2009, when business went “social,” business owners started asking for my advice, and I quickly realized I could help a lot of people achieve their dreams in the sea of “hype.”

  1. How do I solve the problem?

By applying my “Brand First” Advertising concept. Meaning, I get to the core of who the business is, help them shape that up, and then use the proper online marketing tools to grow their business and brand.

With that, you now have your brand and USP:

“I want to help business owners use the internet to grow their brand, annual revenue, and to better serve their clients with new technology. I spent years using online marketing before others even gave it a chance, and I learned a lot of lessons you can’t read in a book. As such, I have developed a ‘Brand First’ marketing concept—and use the proper online marketing tools to grow my client’s brand or business.

You see, I don’t regularly share the paragraph above, unless I’m teaching people this concept. I use it as an internal message to help me with:

  1. An elevator pitch (this is a short summary to quickly and simply tell people who you are and what you do professionally).
  2. A slogan
  3. Blog posts, articles, and content
  4. Your unique voice.

In later articles I’ll show you how to develop a good elevator pitch and the other two items, but I wanted to focus on how this became your “unique voice” in a matter of minutes. This is a private statement you can keep to yourself, to use to wrap your “public” statements. However, when you write this down—I bet you’ll find yourself reflecting to it the next time you’re “on the spot.”

Since this exercise has helped you become so hyper focused (why do you do this, how do you do this, and to whom do you do this for) it would be almost impossible for this voice to be copied exactly. While this process may seem overly simplified, your personal brand should be simple. The issue my firm runs into (in consulting, branding, marketing, and so on) is when we’re trying to coach someone who only does what they do for the money. I can promise you, if you’re doing what you do professionally only for the money—you will never be able to build a unique personal brand.

What’s your personal brand using these steps? Leave me a comment below and let me know.

Image: Credit Steven Depolo

The Basics of Building a Personal Brand

What better way to start my personal blog, than to talk about personal branding?

Although Jay Nine Inc. mainly does consultations for service and web based businesses, we are also contracted to help professionals and job seekers build their personal brand. This could be someone looking to make a company change, or an executive/key member looking to grow their network and influence.

One of things we insist upon with these clients is the importance of establishing a personal brand, and having content on the web where people can find out about you. In today’s day and age, it’s time to talk about what you’re doing to represent you online.

Here’s something I’d like you to do:

  • Do a Google search on your name (and location if you have a common name, another personal qualifier if you have an even more common name) and see what comes up
  • Do a Google search on your email and see what comes up

What does your personal brand say about you? Are you happy with it?

If the answer isn’t an immediate yes, let me give you some guidance on establishing your personal brand:

Clean Up Your Social Networks

I know you think this is obvious, but I’ve sifted through thousands and thousands of profiles in my professional career—and I bet yours needs work.  This goes beyond making everything “private.” In fact, I actually encourage most job seekers not to make everything private—only the truly private things.

Here are some things I see a lot:

  • Endless complaining in status updates. This is really unprofessional, and shows that you’re a “whiner” not a “doer.” Do you like working with people who complain about everything? Neither does anyone else.
  • Slutty pictures. This goes for both women and men. In fact, I’ve seen more shirtless drunk men pictures than I have scantily clad women when doing job searching and professional prospecting.
  • Party picturesThere’s a big difference between having a picture of you and some friends at a party or business mixer, and having a picture of you (or your friends) in a state of falling down drunk. Look at each one of your pictures and imagine this picture is blown up and behind you in a consulting or job interview.
  • Lame job descriptions for being unemployed. Identify yourself as a professional in the industry you’re looking for a job in. Being “unemployed” or another immature writing of “unemployed” will not get you anywhere. The purpose of your personal brand is to demonstrate your expertise. “Experts” are never “unemployed” or “seeking new opportunities.”
  • tYpn Lyk Tis. [Translation: “Typing like this”] or any other variation of “text speak,” and illiterate speak. A few typos here and there and non-perfect grammar is forgivable in most cases. Your potential employers are not morons and know this is your person life, and you’re not necessarily going to type with 100% accurate grammar. With that being said, if what you’re writing doesn’t make any sense—it is a reflection of your communication skills.

At the end of the day, you need to look professional—relative to whatever field you’re in.

Note: My clients and I have trashed just as many applications that have no information online, as the ones who have stupid information online. When you’re going through 100 or more applications, the ones that can’t be “prescreened” are garbage. This includes applications from vendors. Meaning, if you’re a business professional selling to other business professionals—your sales pitch will be ignored if I can’t learn about you without calling you first.

Establish a Blog and Website

A personal blog and website is a wonderful, wonderful way to showcase your thoughts, ideas, concepts, and tell the world (and your employers who you are). It will also likely help you become a better writer, and thinker—while helping you further develop your thinking strategies.

Try and develop the blog around your unique selling point (USP). In business, we refer to a USP as “what you have that none of your competitors do.” Or, what makes you “unique.”

This blog shouldn’t be your resume, but should help people identify who you are as a person. It should be a way that people can find out what you’re passionate about, what your strengths are—and even what some of your weaknesses are.

You can start off with low cost alternatives to establish and build this website—but I highly recommend hiring an expert to help you. Not only will a good one build you a tailored website—they’ll also provide an outside opinion on your area of expertise.

Spiff Up Your LinkedIn

So many people are missing out on using LinkedIn for professional growth. LinkedIn is a powerhouse in business marketing and personal branding. It’s time for you to take another look at what your LinkedIn looks like.

Here are some things that will put you above 90% of other job seekers:

  1. Have a good profile picture

Get a professional headshot done for your LinkedIn profile. If you can’t have a professional headshot, have someone snap a picture of you in a suit or something else that’s professional. Don’t post the picture of you at a basketball game or (worse) at a bar. In the age of smartphones, there is no excuse for you to have a non-professional picture on LinkedIn.

  1. Write a great LinkedIn Summary

Write your summary from the first person, and again, talk about who you are, and what you do. Talk about what your goals are, and talk about why you are the best fit for whatever industry you’re in.

Also, as some food for thought, consider which person YOU would contact for an interview?

I’m looking for new experiences and a position as an admin assistant.”

“I’ve been a top performing admin assistant for years, ensuring that my bosses see more down time and a better organized office.”

Be confident in who you are and what you offer when you’re writing your summary. Use text and stories to tell people about what you bring to the table, and spend some time getting it right. I wrote an article for my company that gives you more insight on writing a LinkedIn summary.

  1. Complete Your Profile

It’s important you have a “complete” profile. It helps you rank higher in LinkedIn’s internal search feature, and it provides potential employers with a lot more access to your work, work history, and who you are as a person.

  1. Add As Many Connections as Possible

Your LinkedIn “network” is based on how many connections you have. Use their tools to add your colleagues, classmates, friends, family and so on. Now, here’s the part where most other guides miss the boat—start interacting with them as soon as they accept your connection! It astounds me how many people’s friends don’t know what they do for a living. “Oh he does something with computers,” people will say about someone who does graphic design work.

Studies show that between 60 – 80% of jobs are found through personal relationships. Freelancer, independent contractor or business professional, and they will likely tell you that referrals are their best source of new business. Most of my best and biggest clients are people that were referred to me, or people that I knew personally (compared to cold sales or direct advertising). LinkedIn helps build and expand this network.

Following these strategies will help you identify and build your personal brand. Remember, a personal branding campaign never ends. Until you die, you should be constantly growing yourself as a professional—and sharing your journey along the way.

PS. On Passwords and Giving Employers Full Access

For job seekers: there is a new trend arising that employers will ask you for your Facebook/LinkedIn username and password before giving you a job. I’d highly recommend you don’t even consider giving them that kind of information.

First, it’s becoming illegal in most states and hopefully will be illegal everywhere very soon. Secondly, do you really want to work for the person who wants to go through all of your personal messages, thoughts and similar before they hire you?

While it’s one thing for  present employers to have access to email and work related networks (for example, my employees provide us with access to their LinkedIn profiles, so we can coach them with sales and marketing efforts) it’s a completely different ballgame for someone to want to go through your personal information before hiring you.

Image Credit: Ryan Rancatore