I’m excited to share this guest blog post from my friend and frequent collaborator, Sandy Jones-Kaminski of Bella Domain Media. As I’ve mentioned before, Sandy’s a “social media life saver” and is especially adept at leveraging LinkedIn for marketing and business development. Here’s an awesome post from her full of some of her own secret sauce for generating leads and boosting her own brand on LinkedIn. Enjoy!
Recently, after speaking at an event where 80% of the room admitted that they were hardly leveraging LinkedIn at all, I thought I’d share the 10 things I do on LinkedIn each and every week as inspiration for others to do more on this powerful professional networking platform.
If you start doing even just a few of these things, I bet you’ll see some new (and welcome) outreach or activity.
Update the status on your profile with either news about a connection or an upcoming speaking engagement I have.
Share something worthy that a connection has posted.
Review your main stream and Like or Comment on things your network has shared.
Review who’s looking at your profile and see if there is anyone you want to connect with on the list. (BTW, don’t bother with the upgrade. I had it through a prior job and didn’t real see any real value in it as long as you check it every few days, which I do.)
Share an industry-relevant article, post or maybe a new service offering on your company page. Don’t have a Company Page? Create one!
Endorse what you’re comfortable endorsing for direct connections. (Does anyone really endorse people they couldn’t vouch for during a reference request?)
Research people or companies you’re interested in or are targeting for future work or collaborations.
Now it’s your turn: What do you think of LinkedIn as a business and brand booster? What do you do on LinkedIn on a regular basis? Please feel free to add your weekly To Dos on LinkedIn in the Comments below, so others can learn from you too!
In our instant gratification world of 140 character tweets, instant geo-location couponing, and lightning fast Internet speeds, we often forget that human nature is what it is. It takes time to build a strong reputation, for people to get to know you, trust you and believe your claims.
Simply rolling out a pretty new logo or website will not mean you’ll meet your sales numbers the very next week.
You’d be surprised how many CEO’s – especially in the tech start-up world – don’t understand this. They think that all they need to do is invest in more salespeople or run a cool email campaign and leads will come flooding in the very next day.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint. To gain the trust needed for someone to invite you into their email inbox, or attend your event or schedule that demo, you have to lay the groundwork – and beat that drum clearly and consistently over time.
This patience lesson is just as true for our lives. When we get knocked down and we have to start over, as happened to me with my brain injury, you have to accept where you are and make progress each day in the right direction. It’s not about going from 0 to 60 overnight. But as with a brand, you can measure incremental steps along the way to ensure you are on the right path and making forward progress.
In this lesson, I talk about how it’s easy to talk about patience when speaking to branding clients but it’s hard to accept being patient in your own life when you just want to go, go go. Being patient is not the same thing as being stagnant and people often get the two confused. Being patient means understanding there is a journey ahead of you and that by taking the right steps, you can get closer and closer to your goals over time.
What small steps do you measure in your business to ensure your marketing and message is attracting the right people?
BACKSTORY TO THE SEVEN LESSONS: What do recovering from a brain aneurysm and branding have in common? Quite a bit, it turns out. Recently, I got the wonderful opportunity to share my dramatic story at a Women Business Owners luncheon and I promised I’d post the lessons here for everyone. This is a seven-post series.
First off, GO PACKERS! I was excited to see them win if I couldn’t have the Jets in the game.
Secondly, was anyone else a bit disappointed in the ad fare this year? Given how much companies are spending these days for a :30 spot ($3.1 million, and that’s just for the airtime, never mind the production cost of the ad itself), you’d have thought you’d get….I don’t know, MORE.
Here’s what Brand Channel deemed the best and worst brand spots. Do you agree? Please post in the Comments.
I disagree with Telefora as a miss. I thought this was the best surprise of the night as to what I thought was going to be a schmaltz-fest with country singer Faith Hill – as many country songs and videos are known to be. I loved the surprise of the guys vulgar line at the end, combined with the “we’ll help you say it beautifully” message – because “clearly you can’t.” I also kind of liked the Richard Lewis ad for Snickers, although it was too lame of a bet to try to repeat the magic from last year’s Betty White ads. The reason it worked last year is that it was completely unexpected. Still, I thought Richard Lewis (and Roseanne Barr, for that matter) were nice obscure choices.
I do agree that the Career Builder ad was just tired and lazy, Kim Kardashian needs to go away as a spokesperson for anything and the Go Daddy ad was scary and horrible at the same time. Go Daddy’s branding always makes me sad because they are such a great company with killer customer service and tech support, and they don’t need to go the shock value route. Almost makes me NOT want to use them, which is kind of against the point of brand advertising.
And Salesforce.com, what the heck were you thinking? All that money, wasted on an ad that left people outside of the tech industry confused as to what Chatter does (made it appear like a competitor to Facebook, rather than a collaboration tool a la Sharepoint.) And securing the Black Eyed Peas involvement to boot? Ay yay yay. Thanks a lot. You just convinced other B2B CEO’s why investing in brand ads is a waste of money. Note to those CEO’s: If you do it right, it is not.
As for Best spots, I had not caught the Chevy Cruze First Date ad, as I was hosting, chipping and dipping our own party. But after viewing it online, I adored it. What a great way to show the differentiation between their FB capabilities and Ford’s. And it was just a sweet spot. And as much as I hate Justin Bieber, the Best Buy ad with him and Ozzy was hilarious. “What’s a Bieber?” is my new catchphrase. The Chevy truck ad was very well done, using references to both Lassie and the Balloon Boy (didn’t know that was possible) I think what was great about these ads is that they showed you can still communicate a brand message and differentiator while producing a clever, memorable ad. This is in stark contract to just trying to create a “buzzworthy” ad that gets people talking, without it communicating the brand position you want.
Case in point: Groupon. Another pronounced Hit that I call a severe Miss. They went for the shock factor and it backfired, in my opinion. Yes, I know they were poking fun at celebrity PSA’s and yes, I can take a controversial joke as much as the next guy (after al, I’m a Daniel Tosh fan). But poking fun at Tibet, endangered animals and the like seemed just pointless and off-strategy for Groupon, whose brand is supposed to be all about “community”, “supporting local business” and highlighting the “underdog small business guy.” That’s what happens when you aim for buzz rather than brand. Groupon may have just lost me as a customer – not because I’m offended by the ads, but more offended by the marketing stupidity that someone thought this was a good branding idea and wasted all of that money. The ads were just dumb. Period.
When companies get it right, they really get it right and show the world the power of effective brand advertising. Effective being the operative word.
Until next year…..! What do you guys think? What were your faves and misses? Please Share in the Comments.
Last week, I posted about 5 signs of a Power Brand. This week, I’d love to share this great list from Derek Daye and Brad Van Auken of BrandStrategyInsider.com, a super blog about all things branding. I’m adding their blog to my list of regular reading. With full credit to their powerful thinking, here are the 10 signs they say indicates a brand is failing. The list itself is to their credit; the “color” and examples are from Red Slice.
1. Your brand is mentioned to customers and potential customers, and there is strong negativity in their response: At workshops I give, people cringe when I ask them to tell me what words and attributes come to mind when I say “Walmart.” Usually it has to do with unfair labor practices and destruction of small local businesses.
2. Your brand’s external messages do not “ring true” with all employees: This is the most common one. A company says they are dedicated to friendly customer service, and you are met with a surly teen at the checkout counter who spends more time yakking to her co-worker than serving you.
3. Employees are not enthusiastic or consistent in recounting what makes their brand special: If you ask 5 employees what the company stand for and what benefits it offer and get 5 different elevator pitches, you have a brand consistency problem – and a confused workforce. Your employees are your #1 brand weapon. If they don’t live out the brand promise, you’re toast.
4. The brand’s market share is decreasing: Sales go down. Enough said. Doesn’t matter if you have the slickest ads or coolest viral marketing campaigns. Effective branding should lead to increased sales.
5. Competitors never mention your brand as a point of reference: If your brand is not stand-out enough for competitors to even be talking about why they are a better option than you are, that means you are not making a dent.
6. The press does not write about your brand: As mentioned in the Power Brand post, your brand should transcend what you sell and you should be seen as a thought leader in your category.
7. Your CEO does not have a strong vision for the organization and its brand. He or she talks more about financial targets than the vision: Vision matters. Mission matters. If your employees don’t know why they come to work every day, then that’s like a General failing to tell his troops the endgame of the mission. Everyone needs to be aligned around delivering the same value – and not dollar value, but customer value. I’ve seen start-ups fold because all they were about was chasing quarterly profits. They never stood for something bigger and more inspirational.
8. Your organization’s leaders never seem to “talk the brand” and “walk the brand talk.” Put your money where your mouth is. People are not stupid. Don’t write brand checks your company can’t cash. Everyone wants to be Apple, but if you deliver ugly, inferior, outdated products, then I’m sorry, you can’t claim to be like Apple. Walk. Your. Talk. Only promise what you are actually set up to deliver. Or, promise what you want, but then you’d better make sure you shift operations, policies and marketing to back it up.
9. Your organization fails to attract and retain high quality employees: When we talked about a Power Brand, we mentioned that customers and employees are proud to work with you. The opposite holds true as well. Good brand attract good talent. Failing brands do not.
10. Your brand fails to build customer loyalty: If your customers fall prey to discounted prices elsewhere or won’t drive the extra mile to your shop when there is a competitor closer, you have failed to build an emotional and connective brand. People go out of their way for brands they admire. Trying to rig the system with temporary discounts just to drive sales is a short-term solution that won’t have any lasting effects. That just means they are loyal to the price you are giving them at that time, not to you.
Any other signs you see when a brand is failing? Please share in the comments.
Clients often ask us, “How will we know when we’ve got a winning brand?” Rather than telling them, “You’ll know it when you see it” there are some guideposts along the way to tell you your brand is moving in the right direction.
At first, it starts small: increased website hits, increased referrals, uptick in positive social media chatter – even anecdotal evidence like more positive comments from customers or partners. You can look at metrics like newsletter signups, store visits, or customer phone inquiries. Obviously, it all leads to “more sales” but, let’s get real: the sales cycle is like courtship. You don’t propose of the first date, but there are little steps along the way that you must take to get to marriage.
If you launch a new brand or rebrand an existing one, you can put feedback mechanisms in place to see if you’re going in the right direction: focus groups, email surveys, sales trends, even just good ole fashioned talking to your customers and partners. Seek out unbiased feedback but make sure it’s from people that matter to your sales. Asking your 15 year old nephew or your spouse what they think is fine – if they are your target audience. Believe me, more often than not, they are not the right people to be asking, no matter how much your respect their opinion.
Here are some signs of a power brand to which you can map your progress, at whatever scale your business operates:
People are proud to say they work, partner or shop with your company: If customer, partners or employees find that they get greater cache when they sport your brand on their website, paycheck or shopping bag, you know you’ve got a winner. Your brand is transcending into a world where people want to identify themselves as part of your tribe and bask in your brand “halo effect” to make themselves or their business look good. Sort of like hanging out with the cool kids at school. Examples” Apple iPhone and iPad, Harley-Davidson
Your customers are advocates, spreading your story: Word of mouth is key and if customers are going around – unpaid – doing your advertising for you, then that is the holy grail of marketing. Are they chatting you up on social media, sharing unprompted referrals with friends (“You have GOT to shop at Zappos! They have the best customer service.”) creating “spoof” videos on YouTube, or even inking themselves with your logo (hello, Harley)? Then you’re doing everything right. Examples: Disney, JetBlue and Virgin Atlantic (ie customer-generated YouTube “ads” vs. other airlines)
Some people (outside your target) don’t like you: When you are effectively creating a brand, you have a clear ideal customer target and you serve them. This naturally means there will be those who don’t “get” you. And that’s okay. The Justin Bieber craze annoys me to no end, but it doesn’t matter: I’m not the target audience. Having people who don’t like you means you are not trying to be all things to all people. Examples: Dunkin Donuts v. Starbucks; Hyundai “Beware of 16-year-olds” campaign.
You can elegantly recover from occasional mistakes: If your brand has enough “brand good will” built up, it can withstand some gaffes and missteps along the way. It’s like a bank account: the more you put in, the more confortable you can be withdrawing every now and then. As long as you recover with dignity and transparency, a strong brand can withstand a lot. Examples: JetBlue during their infamous winter flight debacles, Apple’s recent flubs with the iPhone 4.
Articles about your company talk about your impact on the industry and/or the world: Rather that just talking about what you sell, press and organizations seek you out as a thought leader and innovator. Examples: People quote Zappos when it comes to innovative online customer service, not just shoes and accessories. Having transformed the coffee category by emphasizing flavor and experience, Starbucks last year introduced value packs in the supermarkets, which allowed them to stay competitive during the recession.
What are some other signs you look for when it comes to a “power brand?”
Many companies and brands have been a flash in the pan, remaining highly profitable for several years or even decades before they eventually fell by the wayside. Others have fallen foul of bad economic conditions, mergers, takeovers, and other business hurdles. Some, however, stand the test of time. Here are five of the most successful and recognizable companies with a long and and illustrious history behind them. They have survived two World Wars, the Great Depression, and the current economic crisis, and they serve as an inspiration to current business owners that it’s possible to persevere in the face of adversity.
Ford Motor Company was first founded by Henry Ford in 1903. Amazingly, 107 years later the company is still the most successful American automotive company. As Japanese companies like Toyota and Honda made in-roads into the American market, Ford’s place in the United States stayed very sturdy as it expanded internationally. The company managed to weather the current recession and turn a profit while other struggling American automakers had to ask for government intervention.
This soft-drink giant started as a very small company offering a medicinal elixir for a mere nickel in 1886. The company quickly switched gears by altering its product for non-medicinal consumption. The world of beverages has never been the same. Not only has Coca-Cola been extremely popular in the United States, but its presence internationally is staggering. Very few companies can say they sell their product in over 200 different countries.
The Hershey Company began its existence in 1894. Not only is it the oldest chocolate manufacturer in the United States, but it is also the largest. Hershey chocolate bars and Hershey Kisses have stayed relatively the same product for generations; however, they still remain two of the most popular choices with chocolate lovers to this day. On top of that, the company has introduced plenty of other successful chocolate and food based products over the years. The company will certainly endure for years to come.
Kellogg’s is a company that began its existence in the tiny town of Battle Creek, Michigan in 1906. 104 years later, it is the largest provider of cereals in the world. Not only has Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes and its other cereal brands remained some of the most popular in the world, but the company has also greatly expanded into other food based markets. Today, the company competes strongly in the market for breakfast foods, snack foods, cookies, crackers, and even vegan foods.
Heineken has been a very popular beer choice for many since 1873. Heineken International started as a relatively small company in the Netherlands. Since the late 1800’s, the company has expanded exponentially. Today, the company owns 119 different breweries and sells its product in 65 different countries. What is amazing is how well this European brand of beer has made in-roads in the United States. As a brand, it is often thought of as a hip beer choice in comparison to the much more American brand, Budweiser.
Red Slice recently chatted with Beth Buelow of the Introvert Entrepreneur where she coaches our less extroverted brethren on how to build a successful business. She helps them understand, own and leverage their strengths for personal and professional success. In today’s Ask the Expert, she shares with all of us – introverted or not – how to get off the treadmill of useless networking, blogging or “stuff creation” and build a powerful content strategy that turns lookers into buyers.
A certified professional coach, Beth works primarily with introverts and offers one-on-one and group coaching, teleclasses, webinars and workshops. Prior to becoming a coach, she enjoyed a successful nonprofit career, with responsibilities as diverse as fundraising, marketing, website management, grantmaking and public relations. Her obsessions include developing her advanced coaching skills, as well as deepening her knowledge of Jungian psychology, Voice Dialogue, and the Myers-Briggs assessment tool.
RS; Hi Beth! Welcome. How do we move someone from “kudos to client?” when warm fuzzies and cool newsletters aren’t paying the bills. BB: When you’re first starting out, there’s a certain amount of spaghetti strategy happening: you’re throwing things up against the wall and seeing what sticks. You’re probably churning out a lot of content. Much – if not all – is probably free. And you get good feedback and encouragement… just not the sales.
This stage is the thrashing stage, where you’re getting just enough positive feedback that you think if you just do more, faster, better, bigger, people will convert to clients. What’s missing is strategy and intention behind your content. People are most likely confused about what you have to offer, what your strength is, and how you are the solution to their problem. A confused mind always says no. It might say, “Great work, loved the newsletter!” but it doesn’t take the time to connect the dots that you have scattered all over the page.
RS: I love that: “A confused mind always says no.” Same holds true if your brand is schizophrenic! So what do I need to do to create a strategy for my content?
BB: My favorite approach is to look at it through the framework of Moves Management. Moves Management is a term used in the world of nonprofit fund development. Here’s one definition: “a system, a process and a plan for building a relationship that moves individual prospects to engaged, passionate donors.” (Alexander Haas Martin & Partners)
I use this expression because I have found that attracting clients is very similar to raising money for an organization. Donors – and in our case, clients – move through a process that is established by the organization. If the strategy is clear and intentional, and the organization knows exactly who it wants to attract, each touch point is designed to shift the relationship to a deeper level of connection. For nonprofits, the lowest level of engagement is awareness of the organization’s existence and being on the mailing list. The highest is a donor who makes a planned gift (allotting part of the donor’s estate to the organization upon the donor’s death).
The donor is not necessarily aware of the moves the organization is putting on them. If it’s all done smoothly, the donor moves from level to level rather seamlessly, and of their own volition.
The same is true for your prospective clients. A well-designed Moves Management process outlines clear steps for you to take (and clear content for you to create) that transitions a client from Casual to Convinced. Just like you don’t meet someone at a party then ask him to marry you, you don’t hand someone your business card then ask her to purchase your Platinum Package.
RS: This sounds just like the sales process or buying process that marketers live and die by. I talk about this in workshops as “Awareness, Education, Consideration and Purchase.” But Casual to Convinced sounds much cooler. What does that mean?
BB: I break the Moves Management funnel into four sections: Casual, Connected, Committed and Convinced. Each section represents a deepening of the client’s relationship and investment.
Offerings (blog, podcasts, Facebook fan page) at this stage determine a prospect’s first impression of you; they begin the journey of someone knowing, liking and trusting you. In general, unless the prospective client makes a comment or is required to provide an e-mail to access information, he can remain an anonymous lurker. People are standing on the edge of your business, with one foot in, one foot out.
Information products/services in this category require more direct communication and connection. The client declares herself and decides to share her information in return for a higher level of interaction from you. There is usually an exchange of value, typically of money or an e-mail address/contact info.
The content you deliver (workshops, newsletters, speaking, etc) is one-to-many. Your offerings reflect your expertise in a deeper way than at Casual, and they can be used in one of two ways: 1) give the client enough “DIY” information that she can take it from there, or 2) give the client enough information that he is inspired, curious and made aware of the benefits of moving to the Committed level.
At this level, the interaction and content shifts from one-to-many to one-to-one. The relationship is deeper and more personal. You’re working together through coaching, consulting, advising, mentoring or providing direct, custom services/products.
Working with a client at this level is the end result of her knowing, liking and trusting you. She is convinced that you and your business are the right fit for her needs long-term (which is relative to your business – could be months or years). She becomes an advocate and a source of quality referrals. She’s in love! You are delivering your highest level of services and products, in terms of quality, customization and financial investment.
As you create content, consider where it fits into your Moves Management funnel. Communicate clear benefits to your prospects, and have a compelling call to action appropriate to where they are in the funnel. Having a clear strategy puts you well on your way to getting warm fuzzies in the form of appreciation and compensation!
Many of us in the corporate world have at one time or another struggled to justify marketing expenditures to the powers-that-be. If I had a dime for every time I fought with a CFO over why we needed to pay for certain marketing activities (“No, I don’t know how to code HTML, thank you very much.”) I’d have enough money to have paid for those initiatives 10 times over.
And what happens when you are the CEO of your own company? How can you justify those expenses to yourself and still sleep at night?
CEO’s care about cash flow, sales growth and bottom line earnings growth. If you can track back your marketing efforts to any of those things, you wil score big.
You must first answer the question, “How does this work produce cash flow?” As a former marketing leader I worked for once said, “Marketing exists to help salespeople sell more easily.” So if you want markting to get the budget it deserves, you need to change the conversation with your CEO.
You must talk in terms of topline sales groth or bottom line earnings growth. You must care about ROI and have an infrastucture in place to measure it and track it back to specific markting efforts. You must say that your marketing activity will manage the lead pipeline, overcome price pressures, or help the sales funnel flow faster and reduce the time it takes to get from Lead to Sale.
So, where does this leave branding? The psychological, awareness activity? The activity that cannot be so easily tracked to the sales P.O. or the purchase decisions? We all know branding can work powerfully, but how do we prove it?
What I’ve always said is this: Branding and awareness activities in and of themselves do not drive sales. You can not just stop there and hope to move a person down the line towards the purchase decision. The buying process has 4 phases before getting to sale: Awareness, Consideration, Evaluation and Purchase. But…effective branding and awareness upfront will increase the ROI and effectiveness of your more “direct” marketing efforts later on. It provides air cover and context to all your direct marketing activity. If you try to do just the direct marketing efforts (a webcast invite, an email campaign, etc.) with no awareness or branding leading up to them, it’s like burning money.
Think about it this way: You as a businss need to earn the right to show up in someone’s email box. You need to earn the right to offer a special deal. You need to earn the right to get them to spend their precious time and money coming to your event. How can you do this if they don’t know who the heck you are? It’s like some sales guy showing up at your door during dinner. Who invited him?
You earn this right the old fashioned way: by introducing yourself to them and letting them know who you are, what you are about and what value you offer. That’s branding and awareness. That’s what advertising started out doing (before the Internet). No, you may not close the sale from just branding, but neither do you propose marriage on a first date You have to earn that right. If you “date” for a while, they will be much more receptive to your proposal than if you get down on one knee on the first blind date.
That is the function of branding. Creating an image, a story, fulfilling a need in the prospect’s eyes over time, so that when you want them to act (attend an event, trial a product, purchase) they will already know you, love you, and most importanly, trust you. And that is what makes the money spent on those direct marketing efforts a better investment, yielding better returns. Spending $50,000 to get $5,000 in sales is less impessive to a CEO than spending $250,000 on combined branding and direct marketing efforts and getting $2,500,000 in sales, don’t you think?