Get Real! Brand Authenticity and You.

Today’s marketplace is a great place for brands and their advocates to exist. Traditionally, prior to the web, all a brand could do was to make their consumers “aware” of their brand was using advertising channels such as bill boards, transit, radio, TV and public relations. Once a consumer got wind of the brand that interested them, they would have to physically visit the bricks and mortar location for more information. Or they could look in their mail boxes for flyers, or their daily newspapers for inserts and printed ads etc. The entire buying cycle was initiated by the brand and reacted to by the buyer. Very straight forward and not very deep.

In today’s marketplace the consumer has a limitless access to the brand’s environment. Brand’s can more easily form strong relationships with their customers. Some would say today’s digital environment makes loyalty tougher. I believe it to be easier, so long as you’re willing to engage customers with a genuine brand experience. If the brand chooses to try and manipulate the experience based on an unrealistic expectation, they will more likely be viewed as not being authentic. That authenticity is a hallmark of proper branding.

But if your brand strives to provide an authentic persona, it’s a great platform to engage customers. You’re able to feed them your expertise on many levels. This acceptance allows you the potential to charge more for your services. If you’re a services based brand this open environment allows you to properly exhibit your expertise and this draws customers to you. Your are perceived as the expert your brand touts you to be.

The bottom line is to embrace the opportunities the digital world is serving up. You make think that there’s no space for you to play or that it’s over your head. Toss those barriers aside and embrace the web. You will be shocked with the results of your efforts over time.

Now’s the Time to Step-up your Game – AGAIN!

9673439_s2015 is the year that you’re going to do things a little differently. The time is right to step up your game. Without gazing at the past too much, recognize that that was how you used to conduct business. That’s when all you’re best strategies delivered on making your brand better, more memorable amidst your stakeholders. Give yourself a well deserved pat on the back.

That said, the fastest way to step-up your game is to change-up your game. Start doing business differently that anyone in your industry. Break the norms, shake the bushes and start acting in a way that has the competition questioning your sanity. “Bob’s finally lost it.” they’ll say. “Where’s he coming from” they’ll add. Those are comments aimed at a person who keeps ‘em guessing. These are brands who are following not leading. They spend more time watching the other guy’s butt to the point they have to keep putting the brakes on for fear of (I think you’ve got the picture).

There’s one strategy that will absolutely change the game once again for your brand and that is positioning your brand. I would hazard to guess that well over 90% of companies have never effectively positioned their brands or even considered it. They’ve certainly applied pretty catchy slogans but they’ve never given positioning a second’s thought. Many, if not most think the slogan IS their positioning. A slogan inspires the brand culture while positioning makes your brand the only choice. It absolutely resonates in the mind of your stakeholders. Jack Trout and Al Ries call it, “the battle for your mind.” The perception of your brand in mind of your stakeholders is your positioning whether you enjoy it or not. This perception is key to making 2015 your best year to date.

You see it all around you all time – more of the same. I often wonder why businesses just carry on all the same practices without any strategy in place to help them leap ahead of everyone else. Great brands sometimes get there in spite of themselves, others use strategy to their benefit. We all know there’s no magic answer – there is only effort and a willingness to change-up how your do things. Not only does it keep the competition ay bay, but it also reinvigorates your entire brand culture. Brands people like to talk about are inspiring by just how different they really are. These are the brands who walk the talk. You see, hear and read about them in the media and social channels. These are the brands that are well known within their communities. They are known and spoke about. They are judged favorably and are the ones who seem to bounce back fastest from brand foibles. But don’t kid yourself, these brands are there through shear effort. They keep their eyes on the ball and watch for any opportunity to step-it-up.

What can you do for your brand this year. Make it something that gives the competition the cold sweats. Help them out with a case of Ban Rollon.

Why Are You Afraid Of Me?

I’m seeing more and more of this -especially on tech sites. On the contact us page all they offer you is a form so that they can qualify you. What I don’t see is anything about where they are located, what they’re phone number is etc. For me, I want to know where you’re from. No particular reason -I just like to know. Sometimes you’re near other companies I know.

It concerns me that you don’t want to divulge that information. God forbid I actually call before you vet me. Already I can see that dealing with these hidden companies shows that they are all about their convenience not yours.

It is a pet peeve of mine, but I think it speaks to authenticity in a brand. I would bet that one of their brand values is service. They understand the word, not the effort that goes in to making service part of their corporate culture. If I was to somehow find their phone number what do you think the chances are you’d find a live body answering it?

Great service is not convenient it’s expected. Every little thing you do to diminish service is one step walking away from you. There are manufacturing companies in my region who have replaced live contact at the front door with a telephone and a directory. How’s a new customer to feel when they are forced to sit in a cold little seat searching a tacky directory to hale their contact to recover them from the vestibule?

Both of these examples are from the front end of the business. Both initial contact points. Sometimes saving a few dollars or being closed to connecting personally are small ideas that can cost you a huge amount of money in the long run.

Or it could just be me. I’m guessing a lot of professionals resent these tactics. Are you willing to bet
your brand on it?

The New Brand Benefit

bowIn a lot of ways starting a business and giving birth to a new brand can be an exciting process. No one knows who you are yet, so they have nothing to build an opinion on. On the other hand, since there is no formal introduction yet, everything about you is essentially rumour at this stage. A good place to start your brand is PR. Having a basic introductory website, and a weekly update to media, will help build interest and keep your information factual.
Any contact with suppliers and potential customers should alway be cordial. How you treat any contact at this initial stage, could set the tone of your new brand. Determine how you would like to be perceived and then strategize as to how you might influence this. Developing a positioning strategy that makes you the leader or the best at something will give your new brand resonance with your market. The worst thing you could do, is “follow the leader.” In doing this your brand offers nothing to the marketplace. Why bother existing at all? Every decision you make should assist in differentiating your new brand.
In discovering your difference, your launch can be exciting. You could be on your way to building a remarkable brand. Dream big! Don’t strive to be one of the best – strive to be the best. Just delivering good customer service isn’t enough – deliver the best service. Discover ways to over-deliver. Never forget that every thing you do affects the success of your brand. Don’t take designing your brand image lightly. An amateur attempt just reflects back on you. I’ve known some small businesses who took more interest in their decor than their brand image. Ultimately this shows in their success or lack there of.
Another important strategy is to build your “expert profile.” Your expert profile is your customer’s perception of your level of expertise. I typically recommend using Linkedin as a good start. Bringing your profile as close to 100% is a great way to get a handle on your level of expertise. Next round it out with a Facebook business page. But, I think that the number one activity that defines your expertise better than anything is blogging. It allows you to actively put your opinion out for all to see. With blogging the trick is to give away valuable information. It’s a lot of effort but the rewards over time can be extraordinary. I’ve not only gotten leads from blogging but press interviews and unique opportunities.
Your brand is in your hands. Ignore it and the competition will step up to define you. Own it, live it and strive from it.

‘Podcasting Renaissance’ – 5 Tips to Move with the Trend

‘Podcasting Renaissance’ – the fever that has caught the business owners badly. All are after having their own podcasts…rather their own Internet Radio Show.

Well, the reason might be the huge benefits that Podcasting have:

  •   Big or small, all business can use Podcast as a branding platform. Since podcast is simple and inexpensive
  •   Business has the chance to acquire a captivated audience with podcasts. Audiences can listen to the podcasts while keeping themselves busy in some other works.
  •   Podcasts literally echoes your business mantra inside audiences head
  •   Subscription to the podcast will automatically deliver it to your audience compared to emails or newsletters

trendsWill you like to become a podcaster? What will make your website or blog successful in that case? Why do business owners love to use podcasts?

The business owners should steer their venture with the current market trends. Podcasting is a million dollar business since an increased number of professionals have started to enter the game. To set the massive difference in the growth of your brand, business and audience, be the next big Podcaster.

  • Chalk Out a Plan for Podcasting

Podcasting is an excellent platform to share the content and is showing sign of resurgence with the thought leaders entering the Podcasting arenas in recent. (An excellent opportunity to have real good business profits)

If you want to enable a podcast for your business, have a plan and system for success. Podcasting is little difficult in the initial stage, but if you have a consistent approach then you can grow your business with an impact.

Take your podcasts as projects and ensure that they have a defined beginning and an end. Set up a workflow checklist for each episode. Have templates to show emails, follow-ups, pre-recorded intro’s video Screenflow templates, this checklist will help you to stay focused.

  • Focus On the Date You Launch Your Podcast

Do you want your podcast to strike the chord of market with a loud bang? Then consider the launch date. iTunes the latest podcast traffic driver has enabled a feature called: New & Noteworthy. The two top rows forecast the trendy podcasts in session. So from the launch date you have 8 weeks to be the top 100 in New & Noteworthy section in iTunes.

Utilize this 8 weeks, how will you use it? – Release at least three podcasts on the launch day. The first weeks you must reach out to your audience asking them to download all three podcasts, then ask to leave a rating and review.

Simple math works out here: 100 subscribers will have 300 download in the first week and this help you to reach the top 100 in New & Noteworthy section. Once you reach the summit sit and watch your podcasts outperform.

  • Voice Talent Makes Your Podcast Stand Out

Add a flare of professionalism by hiring a professional voice for your podcasts. Record the intro and outro in his or her to set the huge difference in your production value. Key ingredient of a podcast is its host. A talented voice will keep your audience engaged for a longer time. A talented voice can make a crappy content exciting to hear.

  • Podcast Length Is Important

Podcasts should be long enough to cover the essential details, but short enough to keep the note interesting to hear. If you are the sole speaker, then keep the length to fifteen minutes, and to extend the time you can add a few interviews. It is better to keep podcast short so that you do not exhaust the topic.

  • Get People to Visit Your Website or Blog

A podcast can help you to make people come back to your website or blog. While you run the show, remind your audience that they can always come to your website to get access to all the links mentioned in the episode. The listeners can easily browse through those links without playing the podcasts once more. Thus, you will be driving more traffic where all the actions take place. Make your journey easy with the use of redirect links or hub on your site where all your podcast shows stays listed.

Coming to the end of this blog piece, don’t you think to take up podcasting as your brand driver? In many aspects, podcasting is difficult than blogging, but one who hates to write will take up podcasting to make their brand perfectly.

Give it shot, as you have nothing to lose, create and re-create the new or stale content to boost up the traffic chart.

Author’s Bio

Jason Smith is a freelance tax consultant, financial writer (website) and a guest speaker is presently residing in NY. He is keenly interested in changing face of global economy, anything related to tech and social media. As a single dad, he often finds it hard to maintain the work-life balance but still manages to make time for his baby boy, his band and golfing buddies!

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You’ve Been Voluntold!

confusedIf you’re anything like myself – you do a great deal of local networking. At least two or three days a week, you might run into me at some event or another. Some are professional groups where my target customers lurk and others are general professional organizations local and national. In a few of these organizations I play a managerial role, (one I’m the president). As you may well understand this takes a great deal of commitment and effort. I absolutely believe that these groups help get my brand in front of the right people who desire what I’m offering. I have a strategy for my efforts and all involve being in control of my efforts. I’m proud that my brand commands the respect of my peers and as such I never have to suffer the the terrible affliction of being “voluntold.”

If you’re on a committee or two but fail to show up when you’re needed to participate, you will fall fate to joining efforts you are unaware of at the time you were induced. Some describe it this way – ” the fasted way to getting the worst job on a committee is to not show up at an important meeting.” At that critical meeting your brethren will take great pleasure in volunteering you, and if this happens – brother you’ve been VOLUNTOLD!”

Being Voluntold is the scarlet letter of organizations. If you’re Voluntold too many times your personal brand is going to take a beating. For the sake of your brand, be aware of the importance of meetings and your responsibility within a group.

You’ve been warned.

Eighteen Months After My Big Rebrand

It was more than a year and a half ago when I realized I needed to make a big change. After more than nine years in the ‘work at home mom’ niche, I had an empty nest and an increasingly awkward sense of self when I sat down to blog and podcast content for that niche.

When you love your niche the way I did (do!), you’re slow to notice that you may no longer fit in with the people you’re talking to. But that’s the key – when you realize you’re talking TO them, not WITH them. I realized I was having a bit of an identity crisis!

After much thought and consideration, I felt most authentic identifying myself as a solopreneur and decided to embrace that niche.

Solopreneurs are entrepreneurs who run a business on their own on purpose, light and tight. They don’t have plans to take on employees one day or grow into a big corporation. This sets them apart and means they need different resources than the typical entrepreneur who does dream of that sort of growth.

My First Rebrand Image

So in the summer of 2011 I made the big announcement, I was going to change everything up and rebrand from Work at Home Moms Talk Radio to Solo Smarts. Basically, I’d still be talking about building online businesses that can be done from home and interviewing the people who do it, just focusing on the online solopreneur (men and women) instead of moms.

When You Rebrand, You Worry.

How will my market respond? Will the moms I’ve been working with all of these years feel like I’m leaving them behind? Will they misinterpret my change as a message that I feel like I’ve outgrown them? I did not feel that at all.

Thankfully, I’ve always been transparent with my blog readers, podcast listeners and email subscribers. I was able to simply share my heart and the thought process I was going through. They knew my son was grown and out of the house. They knew I didn’t have the work at home mom lifestyle anymore.

Letting them in on everything in advance, I set out to change the name and look of my blog and podcast. Then I extended the change to my shopping cart and membership site. It was a lot of work. In spite of my efforts, there was some confusion in the months after as people who weren’t paying close attention noticed the changes and asked questions. I expected that and didn’t let concern me.

I was pleased to note that while I did lose about 15% of my mailing list over the next year, I actually experienced an increase in engagement with my subscribers. The subscribers who stayed loved the change and loved being on the inside, knowing what was coming and being able to watch it all take shape. I chose to believe that the moms who left my list did so because they really needed to learn from someone IN their situation. I wasn’t in it anymore so it wasn’t a rejection of me or my new brand, it was an embracing of themselves.

When A Rebrand Involves A Change in Gender Focus, You Worry.

My market was moms for so long and that meant I only talked to and worked with women. I never aimed even a tiny amount of my content to a co-ed crowd before. When I completed the rebrand to Solo Smarts I purposefully chose a man for my first podcast interview and continued to include men in my schedule. I loved it of course but I’ll admit it felt unnatural at first. I also intentionally avoided interviewing anyone focused on a mom niche. This meant turning down a lot of interview requests at first but that isn’t a forever thing. Work at home moms are usually solopreneurs and I still love the niche, so I’ll definitely be interviewing some great WAHMs in the future.

The reason behind leaving them out for awhile was to help me make a clean break. I wanted everything about my new brand to say this is for men and women and not all WAHM focused anymore.

I also turned down requests to be interviewed on WAHM focused blogs and podcasts. This was painful because I love any chance to get exposure but in light of the rebrand, it wouldn’t have been the right exposure.

I recently sought out my best guest blog content hosts and asked them to update my bio to include my new brand and update my link to Solo Smarts. They’re happy to do that. I’ve asked others to simply delete my content or remove my name if it’s not going to serve my new brand well. Again, they’re quick to cooperate and I appreciate that.

The wrinkle in the mix is my membership site. Mom Masterminds turned into Solo Masterminds but members wanted to keep it focused on women. I decided to embrace their wishes and only accept female members. The reason being that it has always been more than a business community, inviting men in would change the way we relate to one another. Every once in awhile a man will express some regret on this, but that’s OK. Everything else I do is non gender focused.

I’m Not Worried Anymore.

 

Eighteen months later, I believe I’ve accomplished my goals. It’s rare these days for someone to refer to me as being a ‘WAHM’. It’s unusual for someone to say that I’m the ‘mom business expert’. Opportunities to speak to a co-ed business crowd finally started coming in over this past year. I’ll be teaching on podcasting at a live event next month and I do believe the room will have as many men as women, that’s pretty exciting.

Solopreneurs are Smarter

One of the things I did that really help to cement my new brand was to write a book. Solopreneurs are Smarter is a small book where I get to share what a solopreneur is and what makes them unique. If you’ve made a big branding change or plan to, I encourage you to think about a book. What you’ve published says a lot about who you are and who you want to reach!