How Brand Benefits Define your Position

Do your benefits attract the right customer?

Choosing the right lead benefits for your brand messaging dictates which customers you will attract. And a pair of hospital system giants in the San Francisco Bay Area exactly prove this point.

Why this is even more amazing: healthcare advertising is the WORST. Most of it talks about the exact same things and offers no real differentiated position for customers. In my advertising days, we used to joke that, with any hospital billboard or TV spot, you could just swap out a logo and it would be the exact same one as any other hospital in the country.

Here in SF, UCSF and Dignity Health are two separate hospital systems.

UCSF has gone big with promoting their commitment to advanced technologies and treatments. To their doctors’ experience and the medical breakthroughs that they are a part of every day. 

Their tagline: Redefining possible.Their ads and billboards, as this campaign video suggests, focus on technology and offer hope based on what science can do for medicine’s toughest challenges. They have created a brand that showcases them as leaders in medical advancement. If you want cutting-edge treatments for complex problems, go here.

This is one of my favorite ads, for UCSF’s Benioff Children’s Hospital.

Dignity Health differentiates itself based on the human experience. Their ads focus on how extraordinary acts of kindness create miracles every day. They have created a brand that if you want to be treated as a human, and not just a medical test subject, go here. Their tagline: Hello Humankindness.

You MUST watch some of these ads (get ready for all the feels!):

How far would you go for someone?
Kids playing hockey
We can face anything together
Is there a hero is all of us?

Both work as complements in the market, because they both claim a different space.

Obviously sick people care about getting well. But some people care more about the science and technology aspects. Others care more about their experience being treated as human beings.

Clearly, patients want both. But these different brand strategies each claim a separate space based on the main motivator (or buying driver, if you can call it that in healthcare) of their target audience. 

If your primary concern is getting cutting-edge treatment to achieve the impossible, and you care maybe a little bit less about how nice your doctor is (not that UCSF’s doctors are not nice, but if that is not your primary motivation), UCSF will appeal more. I think of data-driven thinkers, those comfortable with risk, those early adopters who want the latest science and technology.

If your primary concern is the patient experience, and you value that above all else to help you get well, Dignity Health will appeal more. This could be someone who had a traumatic experience at another hospital, or someone who knows they really need their hand held. Doesn’t mean Dignity Health’s quality of medical care is not also excellent, it just means they are more attractive to someone who cares more about kindness, respect and well….dignity.

Neither position is wrong or right. But each brand position is super clear on who they are talking to.  And that is why they both work.

Honda and Porsche both sell cars but they sell to very different drivers with very different motivations and needs.

Your brand must claim its space in a crowded market as well. And you do that through the brand benefits you choose to lead with. (TWEET THIS!)

Who is your brand talking to? What benefits do you lead with? Are you taking a position that people can clearly understand or can any company just slap their logo on your website and no one would be the wiser.

How to Make Facebook + Instagram Ads Work for Your Business: A Chat with Devani Freeman

Social media is a big part of promoting your business. Except for a few folks I know who have managed to build empires without it (believe me, they are outliers), social media is one of the best ways to boost your visibility and nurture a warm audience. It’s a fabulous way to share your content, and help people know, like and trust your brand.

Am I preaching to the choir?

But many of us don’t always understand the nuances of the platforms, especially when it comes to advertising. Yes, I’m raising my guilty hand on this one. I know branding, not social media…which is why I turn to experts like social media marketing expert Devani Freeman to guide me and share the latest and greatest. Algorithms and consumption habits change all the time, faster than we can keep up, or so it feels.

Social media platforms are changing all the time. Learn the rules and nuances to make your posts and ads successful and see ROI. (TWEET THIS!)

Devani specializes in helping clients generate leads and build audiences with Facebook and Instagram. Her company has helped me launch programs in the past and I’ve learned a ton from her, as well as built up my list with her strategies.

We sat down for this great video interview to share practical tips and surprising rules you MUST know so that you can spend your money wisely and get results from social media advertising.

YouTube video

Watch the video now and you just may rethink your entire social media advertising strategy – for the better!


* The crucial ingredient to REALLY standing out on social media (and why most people don’t!)
* Why and how to build a marketing funnel and not simply expect people to buy from you with one-click – and an easy one you can create right now.
* Practical action tips for how to build a strong community in Facebook so it works for you.
* How exactly to make your Facebook ads work and drive sales for a new offering or course – and how to nurture those leads.
* The surprising rules you need to know or else Facebook will reject your ads!
* How to make the most of Instagram stories for your business – and why you need to just on this platform NOW.

The tools are out there to boost your visibility. You just have to make sure you’re getting good advice on using them the right way!

Any tips particularly resonate with you? Please Tweet me or stop by the Facebook page and let me know!

4 Ways to Support Small Businesses, Not Just on #SmallBusinessSaturday

This week is Consumer Crazy Town. You know what I’m talking about: The post-Thanksgiving, shopping-binge, sale-frenzy that is Black Friday.

To be brutally honest with you, it kind of disgusts me. The unabashed display of consumer greed. The crowds lining up at 3 a.m (What the…?1?!) to save $300 on a new TV, trampling all over each other to get in the door. P.S. there is actual data showing that, for all that effort and pain, people don’t save as much as they think they do.

All I can think of is how these people’s children are seeing this behavior…and what they are learning from it. Yeah, they’re REALLY going to believe that you can’t buy love.

I’m ALL FOR a good deal. Believe me. The Nordstrom semi-annual sale. Finding an awesome piece of art at a garage sale. Scoring that cheap boutique sweater that becomes my staple for years. I just prefer sleeping in (or at least as much as my toddler will let me), enjoying time with my family and finding similar deals from the comfort of my own laptop.

With this commercial frenzy, comes the equally ambitious push to ditch megastores and instead shop small on #SmallBusinessSaturday.

Here are four ways you can support small businesses, not just on Small Business Saturday, but EVERY day:

  1. Shop there! While you might adore them from afar, how many small boutiques and cozy local restaurants have you actually given regular business? And then one day–POOF!­–they are closed and you just say, “Oh, that’s so sad!” Businesses can’t stay open without customers, so put your wallet where your mouth is. (TWEET THIS!) And this includes your favorite Etsy boutique or small online specialty retailer.
  2. Share an Online Review: Social proof is a huge marketing boost for any business. If you love your new hoodie or had a fantastic meal, don’t just keep that joy all to yourself. Leave an online review to help that business succeed.
  3. Give the Owner Feedback: I am notorious for falling in love with a local shop and, as an occupational hazard, giving them tips and pointing out issues. That’s how you know I care: when I point out your flaws (…just ask my husband.) You want your favorite haunt to succeed, right? Then let them know their menu is confusing, or the sweater pilled on the first day or that their store hours are not posted online. They may not know…and they need to know. You are not complaining if you do it with love – you are giving them feedback to help them keep more customers and stay alive.
  4. Tell Your Friends: Instagram and Facebook are tailor-made for sharing your next savvy find or amazing local experience. Don’t feel like a cliché in sharing your morning latte or food porn IF you also tag the small business and give them more exposure. Better yet, send an email to 10 friends and tell them about it. If I find out you’re holding out on me by not telling me that shop has fabulous locally-made necklaces, I’ll be very mad at you. This works for B2B businesses, too. If a consultant or coach rocked your world, share the love. Word of mouth is priceless.

Just like you shouldn’t wait until Valentine’s Day to tell your honey, “I love you,” don’t wait until #SmallBusinessSaturday to support your favorite small business.(TWEET!)

Otherwise, they may not be around this time next year!

And if you’re a small business on a budget, here’s how I’d like to support YOU: My popular digital course, Brand Bootcamp, will be going away at year end to make room for some new offerings. You can still access all this juicy value that has helped small business owners attract more customers, clarify their sales messaging, and get more buzz for a Farewell Sale price of just $49. Click here to learn more. The course will have it’s final curtain call on December 31, so if this sounds like just what you need for 2018, please enjoy!

Photo via Unsplash

3 Tips to Make Facebook Ads Work For You

Social media offers fantastic opportunities to increase your brand visibility, drive sales and build an audience. For those who do it well, you can get away with using the platforms for free and accomplishing all your goals.

There are lots of experts who can help you do this well, such as Lilach Bullock, Jay Baer, and Amy Porterfield. But they will also educate you that investing some money into the process through ads or promotions can exponentially increase your reach and grow your audience.

In the past few years, I’ve experimented with Facebook ads to boost my brand and increase sales. While I would never claim to be a Facebook expert, I’ve learned three incredibly important lessons about how to make Facebook ads work for you.

3 Tips I’ve Learned Firsthand About Making Facebook Ads Work

  1. Use Facebook Ads to Build Your List, Not Just Sell: Nordstrom can get away with simply offering a cute pair of red stilettos in their ad and having people click “Buy!” (ahem…guilty) That’s because it’s a product and I know their brand well. Initially, my old school advertising background kicked in and I mistakenly thought that I, too, could just promote a paid program in my ads and it would work. No. Even if you think your product is competitively priced, people may not know you yet…and you’re invading their personal News Feed with your ads. So, yeah, you’ve got to build trust. Duh. Using Facebook ads to promote a free offering FIRST (a cheat sheet, webinar or the like) works much better to pull people into your orbit and onto your list. You can then nurture them and create warm leads for when you’re ready to make the ask. Drive folks to a specific blog post (and offer a free download they can sign up for when they get there), offer a free guide or access to training videos. Anything they can easily sign up for with no risk.
  2. Create a Marketing Funnel for Your Campaign: Social media does not work, as mentioned, for most unknown brands as AD = SALE. Plan the journey you want prospects to take. Perhaps you build a campaign to launch a new coaching program that includes: A) Free guide, B) Free webinar or Facebook Live event and C) Free consult. Think through the steps and plan ahead.
  3. Leverage Lookalikes and Retargeting: Facebook has such cool features that enable you to laser-focus on your ideal client or customer. Mapping out who they are in crisp detail will make your ad efforts (in any medium, I might add) way more effective, trust me! Facebook allows you to create lookalike audiences of your existing email list and also retarget in many ways, including: website visitors, people who downloaded your previous offer or those who attended your last Facebook Live.

Once I learned these lessons, my Facebook ad results matched up to my expectations and I’ve gotten much savvier about how to effectively use them.

Now, I have no idea how to voodoo behind Facebook ads work–and I’m not the gal who wants to DIY this type of thing as I have no interest in being a Facebook Ads expert. That’s why I turned to experts to help me, including most recently the FABULOUS Devani Freeman and in the past, Tammy Martin and Gavin Bell. Seriously worth the investment.

With these tips, you can hopefully skip some of the learning curve I had to climb and get to success faster!

How to Create a Simple Marketing Plan That Brings You Joy

Do you want a simple marketing plan that actually works? If you're looking for easy marketing tips that won't overwhelm you, click through for marketing advice from an expert!

Are you narrowing your eyes at the title of this blog post, thinking “There’s no such thing as a simple marketing plan, Maria”?

If every marketing plan you’ve ever tried has made you feel overwhelmed, allow me to explain simple marketing via a story about milk and pasta.

Picture this:  Your husband opens the refrigerator and removes a carton of milk. He asks, “How long has this been in here?” and you shrug.

He opens the carton, takes a big whiff, and recoils in disgust. You think he might actually start crying.

“Ugh! I think this milk has gone off! Here, smell it.”

Are you kidding me? You have very clearly shown that what awaits me is horrific. With that ringing endorsement, no thank you. I’ll pass.


You’re in a restaurant with your bestie and, upon tucking into her gorgeous pasta dish, she rolls her eyes in ecstasy and moans in a very inappropriate way.

“Oh my gosh! You have got to take a bite of this. It’s amazing!”

With that kind of enthusiasm, hell yes. Of course, you take a bite. And enter into blissful euphoria yourself.

Whether people are trying to persuade you to take a whiff, try a bite, or buy that must-have new product, their excitement or disgust is what will–or won’t–sell you.

Now imagine if you asked the store owner if the milk they sell is good. And they said, “It’s okay, I guess.”

Or if the head chef said, “Here’s your meal. It’s no big deal. Maybe you’ll like it, maybe you won’t.”

If makers and sellers don’t talk about their own work with passion…or worse, talk about it with disinterest or disgust…are you going to be convinced to buy from them? 

If you hate marketing your “thing” and don’t promote it with passion…or worse, talk about it with disinterest, that’s exactly what you’re doing to your prospective clients, fans or customers.

To find more joy in promoting your work, simplify your marketing plan. Share on X

It’s the overwhelm that’s killing you.  You’re trying to do everything and doing it all…badly. And you think they can fool people by plastering on a sweet smile and phoning it in.

Not only can people tell your heart’s not in it, but you probably aren’t consistent and effective with your marketing efforts. If you hate blogging, will you really commit to doing it on a regular basis? Heck no.

Relax. You don’t have to be everywhere. In fact, you CAN’T be everywhere.

Here’s my simple marketing plan for you

Consider two factors:

  1. What do I enjoy doing? My joy.
  1. Where is my target audience? My tribe.

Seriously. That’s it.  This intersection of your joy and your tribe will give you your marketing plan. And the great news is that if your target audience plays in several places, you have a choice.

You may be crystal clear about #1 but if you’re clueless about #2? Ask them where they like to hang out and how they like to get new information about work like yours!

To simplify your plan and find your joy…and your tribe…please download this handy dandy little free worksheet I made for you (it’s actually a Sneak Peek Playbook from my powerful coaching program, MOMENTUM, so enjoy the free taste!)

It’s yours for free. My gift. Because this issue is killing you and I want you to love marketing your work, not detest it.

Try it. Seriously.

Why you are called to create something that matters

Do you want to create something that matters? A business that makes a difference? If you want to change the world with your work, click through for advice from someone who has!

Do you want to create something that matters?

That sort of seems like a trick question, right? Who says “I’d like to create work that’s superficial, boring, and disposable?”

Nobody, right?

But sometimes we’re reminded about the importance of putting good things into the world by … magazines in the grocery store checkout line.

There I was, three months after giving birth to my son and buying a few groceries in a rare respite outside of the house. As I waited in line, my eyes scanned across the magazine headlines screaming at me from the checkout stand:

“Hate Your Butt? 5 Secrets to A Body You’ll Love!”
“Miracle Cream Erases Wrinkles Forever!”
“How to Be Rich and Powerful…And Work Less Than Three Days A Week!”
“(CELEB) Tells All About Her Life, Loves and Drug Use in Hot New Autobiography Buy it Today!”

A wave of panic flooded over me as tears sprang to my eyes. Frustrated tears. Angry tears.

Was this the world my darling little boy has just entered? This is what he has to look forward to once he learns how to read? Yikes.

Maybe it was post-partum hormones but, really…no. Anyone who knows me knows I have hated hyperbolic marketing and trashy reality TV (worse, people who are famous just for acting like infants) for a while.

And the digital marketing world is no different: people promising riches, 6-figure incomes, and pretty much everything but an evil lair in your own mountain hideaway (although it’s probably out there).

Despairing, I surfed social media when I got home and just felt sicker. All the noise, empty claims, the “Buy This!” and “You Need That!” It seemed everyone was promising people – entrepreneurs and women especially – a pot of gold at the end of their own personal rainbow.

I’m all for optimism. But I’m also for truth and value. For putting in the hard work required to build something wonderful. And many people I know offer such value to their clients and customers every day. You just can’t always hear them above the din.

Then, I finally got it. It’s not about silencing the crazies. They will always be there, promising people the sun, moon and stars, and yes, they will find an audience to believe.

But the more of us who pledge to put something good out into the world, something decent, and thoughtful and true – the more the tide will rise and lift us all up. It’s not about stopping them. It’s about stepping up ourselves and ensuring the stories we tell are honest, the work we deliver is quality and, most importantly, the marketing we create has value and meaning.

We see examples everywhere, if we look hard enough. People like Marie Forleo, Alexandra Franzen, and Jay Baer market themselves and what they offer with integrity, hope, and meaning. These are the ones we should emulate. These are the people we should strive to become.

Make meaning. You owe it to this noisy world to create something amazing and market it truthfully. (Tweet this!)

Beneath the bling: Can you back up your “brand goods?”

We all know bling when we see it, right? It’s shiny, sparkly and distracts the eye from a person’s face, outfit or arrogant scowl (talking to you, Tabloid Divas). Crafters love the Bedazzler because it turns ordinary white t-shirts into dizzying love fests of color and light, temporarily blinding people as they walk past you on the street.

We can also use a little sparkle and fairy dust now and then. Hey, I love diamonds, too.

But sometimes brands get a little crazy with the Bedazzler. Instead of fixing their product or service flaws, they hide behind new bright shiny logos, cool websites, clever packaging or slick ads. Or their sales landing pages scream with neon arrows, BUY NOW! blinking icons and 80-feet of testimony and schmooze.


Maybe they think we’ll just tire out and click Purchase. Maybe they hope to distract us from their horrible customer service or cheaply made goods. Maybe they don’t really know the “10 Secrets to Creating a 6-Figure Business” and feel that with some shouting, sparkle and spitshine, they can fool us.

I don’t know. What I do know is articulating your brand strategy helps you make smarter design, messaging and yes, even packaging choices that promise to the right people what you can authentically deliver. I’m a HUGE fan of clever design and cool concepts. But as Jay Baer states in my upcoming 2nd edition of Branding Basics for Small Business: How to Create an Irresistible Brand on Any Budget (coming Apr 1, by the way – don’t forgot your Launch Week Goodies!) “Polish is the enemy of scale.”

If you have real value to offer and know how it needs to look and who really needs it, you can get away with filming useful and entertaining social media tip videos in your office like Amy Schmittauer (another expert in this new edition). You can publish a neat, well-written Word document turned PDF rather than an overly designed, fancy 90 page interactive worksheet if you can deliver the goods. You can skip the expensive Herman Miller conference room chairs if your tech start-up team is focused on building the best damn product under the sun.

Don’t write a brand check your business can’t cash. (Tweet this!) Instead, focus on continually delivering the right stuff to the right people with the right message and the rest will take care of itself. Bling or no bling.

Photo credit: Brandon Baunach, Flickr

Are you signed up?

My FREE teleseminar 5 Clever Ways to Boost Your Brand Online has limited lines so hurry and snag your spot for Wed, April 2 at 10 am PT/1 pm ET. By attending, you’ll be eligible to win a free signed book, or one of three FREE Brand Bootcamp digitial courses. It’s all part of the Launch Week Frivolity for Branding Basics for Small Business, 2nd Edition, coming next week. And don’t forget all the Digital Swag Bag launch bonuses you can get to boost your business if you purchase the book before April 7. Can’t even tally what it’s all worth!

The best Super Bowl 2014 ad…that never aired (and one that only aired in Savannah, GA)

The Internet is abuzz about how the much-anticipated and very expensive Ad Bowl fared in Sunday’s big game. Good thing: the game itself was such a blowout it was not one for the ages, so at least we had Bruno Mars and the ads to look forward to. Otherwise, that’s a lot of bean dip and chips that would have gone to waste.

I was underwhelmed by most of the ads this year. They were either retreads of creative ideas that were successful in years past (hello, 2011) or let-downs after weeks of sneak-peek buildup (really, hidden cameras? random celeb cameos? Yawn.) There were cute puppies making friends with Clydesdales that made me tear up (but not buy the beer). There were famous actresses selling homemade soda with the been-there/done-that sex appeal of a GoDaddy gal (again, yawn) but with a new twist of actually laughing at herself a bit (“My real job of saving the world?” Priceless). A little bit of unexpected physical comedy for Greek yogurt.

On the bright side, there was a clever spot from Audi about never compromising (the Doberhuahua). A  great one for Goldieblox to encourage little girls to play with more than just princesses and pink (and sponsored by QuickBooks in support of small business – nice touch), And this one for T-Mobile with Tim Tebow putting on a great performance (if only his QB-ing was as good). And I admit I kinda loved this Microsoft ad about how technology has changed lives (so moving).

But it was this campaign from Newcastle Brown Ale that I adored the most. A campaign which poked fun at the “Mega Huge Football Ad Newcastle Never Made.” One ad features a saucy Anna Kendrick, complaining about how Newcastle asked her to do the ad and then they didn’t have the money to make it. If you don’t already love her, you will after you watch this! I loved it because it was inventive, savvy (they took advantage of the Super Bowl hype without the Super Bowl price) and was on-brand for this very down to earth beer. This is how you create buzz, people (over 4 million views for Anna’s ad and counting…)

Still, I’m not sure there are words for this 2-minute epic local ad that only aired in Savannah, Georgia.  This guy has cajones, I’ll give him that. And a friend who thinks he’s the next Scorsese. But also kind of reminds me of Guns ‘n Roses November Rain video. I’m not sure I like it but I can’t look away.

What was your favorite (or most hated) ad during the Super Bowl? Please share in the Comments below (and include a link to YouTube if you can!)



Avoid the strong-arm: 3 tips for smarter small business marketing

I’ve been hearing some disturbing stories about Yelp‘s aggressive (and sometimes intidimdating) sales tactics to purchase paid advertising – and recently got to experience it on the phone firsthand on behalf of a local nail salon owner friend. I’m still gathering info about this to approach a WSJ reporter who could investigate these claims further and fairly get Yelp’s side of the story. (PS, if you have a story to share, please email me) Makes me not want to use them anymore, and I used to love them.

One small business owner I know claimed that when she turned the ad sales rep down, he said, “Well, this will destroy your business, you know.” Another story I heard was that someone had signed a year long contract with them – and claims it was the worst mistake he ever made and wished he could get out of the contract.

But since this is all circumstantial, and this is a blog of my own perspectives and opinions (and not an investigative journalism outfit), I wanted to instead share three must-do tips to avoid being strong-armed into making poor marketing choices:

  1. Know your audience: Sounds obvious, but be crystal clear on your target ideal customers. Not just “women” but what age, income? Where are they and what do they do for a living? What do they care about? What are their hobbies and interests? Build this character profile and you stand a much better chance of asking the right questions of advertisers to ensure you’re not wasting your money. (Tweet this!) For example, if your business appeals more to high-income working moms in urban areas, you can avoid spending money on advertising to stay-at-home moms or young teen women, let’s say.
  2. Ask about the ROI:  Ask for references, proof points or statistics. If they say their website traffic is “really good” ask to see a breakdown of unique visitors and where they are coming from.  If they say their other advertisers are seeing great results, ask for case studies or if they will let you speak to at least 3 of them as a reference check. Ask if there is any guarantee on performance or credit given if things underperform – do they provide performance statistics for you? Don’t be afraid to ask an advertiser to prove their claims. (Tweet this!) And make sure if you invest that you do so for a test period and track your sales and visits accordingly. Recently, I placed an ad with HARO and they have not responded to requests to provide click through data on the ad. Lesson learned: I should have done a better job of tracking that myself!
  3. Talk to others: Don’t be afraid to reach out to other local small businesses or others in your field and ask about what they are hearing regarding the outlet. Collaborate with others and don’t pretend you know all the answers. (Tweet this!) This will save your butt and avoid mistakes. For example, if you are part of the local SBA, merchants association or a networking group (even one online), ask others if they’ve invested in what you are considering and what their success has been. One small business owner I talked to shared that a business which could have been perceived as competitive shared his negative Yelp advertising experience with other similar businesses in the area, just to help them avoid the same mistakes. There’s enough to go around, and wee’re all in this together so ask about and share these lessons.

Now, I want to hear from you: Have any other hard-earned tips? And do you have a negative experience to share about Yelp or some other similar outlet? If so, please leave a Comment below (or shoot me an email at if you prefer).

Shared purpose and animated pigs that make you cry

Can an animated ad touch your heart and make you weep? It happened to me during the Grammy Awards last week. Everyone’s been talking about the Chipotle 2- minute long commercial that aired. My husband and I were literally turning the TV off and going to bed when it came on and stopped dead in our tracks in silence to watch the whole thing.

The killer choice of the mournful Willie Nelson song didn’t hurt, either.

Chipotle has built a brand around offering fresh, nutritious food in a convenient way. They have bucked the trend that fast-food needs to taste like crap – and be just as bad for you.

Lynn over at Power Chicks International did a great video interview with business coach Tara Gentile and they briefly talked about this ad. What I loved is Tara’s theory that this ad works because it’s about shared purpose. Chipotle communicated that they were on the same side as their customers, that they were after the same goal. As Tara states, if a multi-million dollar company can make you root for them, than any business can do the same thing.

But it comes down to a strong brand strategy and living that brand out in your actual operations, products and services. If it turns out Chipotle’s suppliers are actually mistreating animals and injecting them with all sorts of homones in horrible living condititions, then they will have a huge brand crisis on their hands. But I am an optimist – and I’ve also eaten their delicious food – so I hope not.

The reason I work with branding clients on their mission statement is that it’s the linchpin of your brand. It concisely articulates what you stand for, what you believe and gives you a guiding light for running your busines.  But it also gives your customers a shared purpose to support.

Watch the ad above. Then please tell us what you think about it in the Comments below and get some link love back to your site!