Is Your Brand Believable?

I’m struck lately by large companies who say one thing but clearly speak out of the other sides of their mouth. It strikes me that some PR person or ad agency is advising them to put a great spin on everything. Say it enough times and the masses will believe them. Reality has nothing to do with it. It’s all about the spin. It’s also timely that it’s election season in the U.S. and many of the negative ads are also following this pattern. It doesn’t matter that Anderson Cooper is “Keeping them honest,” drive it home enough times and it sticks. Sometimes.

Oil companies are incredulous how, on one hand their spin tells us how much they care about us and their beloved homeland (whether that’s Canada or the United States). They proudly outline how many jobs they create, how they support community, how much they influence innovation and on and on and on. Then they jack up the price at the pumps and collectively drive the economy into the ground. Everything comes from oil. If they “really” cared, they would charge a fee that allows them to make an honest profit, but not hold the world economy hostage. They would be an honourable citizen partner. But greed is really their brand. Wait until gas is $15 -$20 a gallon, wow, just think of all the great things they’ll be able to do for us.

Airlines too are heavy into speaking out of two sides of their mouths. Siting in your seat watching the CEO of the airline on the video spew out how much he appreciates your business, and then rambles on about how great they are and how wonderful they are – blah, blah, blah. What is incredulous here is that while you listen to this tripe, the hostesses are trying to sell you a pillow to use. A few dollars more for a headset. Earlier in your trip you were subjected to: pre-boarding fees, extra luggage fees, long lines and the humiliation of security. I had a friend recently who clicked the wrong button by mistake when purchasing a ticket online, only to be told it would cost $250. to make a correction. Today the worst part of any trip is the flight. They have sucked the pleasure out of it.

None of us can afford to have a brand that relies on spin to try and fool our customers. Airlines and oil companies know that for the foreseeable future we have no choice. They can play their games and win. BUT, there will come a time where they will fall, and fall hard. When faced with a choice our customers will show their dissatisfaction with their feet. You’ll get no second chance. If it is your intention to make your brand shine for years and decades to come it has to be built on authenticity. Your values have to be rock solid. Thank heavens most brands do exactly that.

One thing that greed brands do is is serve as an awesome mirror for everyone else. They reflect on how not to do it. Holding your brand up to them, allows you the opportunity to do the polar opposite and be great.

Publicity and Thought Leadership

branding strategy for branding expertsAs I sit typing this month’s newsletter article, I remind myself that all my subscribers are experts in what they do. You may not acknowledge this fact, but frankly it’s true. Life gives us experiences. Entrepreneurs take those experiences and turn them into businesses. It is this knowledge base, and the ability to exploit it that makes you an expert that people want to learn from. In my weekly tips, it never ceases to amaze me that some of the simplest tips get me some fantastic feedback. What I thought to be a throw-away, was actually an ah-ha moment for some. I have come to learn to not underestimate what may be important.

I have found (thankfully) in all my efforts to promote myself, that garnering publicity is one of the rewards to those efforts. When launching my strategy several years ago, publicity was NOT one of my goals – getting great leads was. To my surprise and delight, becoming a source for journalists became another way to get my information out there. When contacted for a story, I’ve found journalists to be engaging and thoughtful people. They recognize that we are helping each other. They put you at ease which of course is their job. It is up to you to not get too comfortable and say something off-brand that does you no good. But I am usually called upon for my opinion on a brand issue that is in the world view at the moment. ie: CNN calling to ask me if I felt that Rupert Murdock’s company News Corp can come back from such a brand fiasco? Or Canadian News calling to know if KFC’s changing their slogan from “Finger Licking Good” to “So Good” was a smart brand move or whether Blockbuster’s sale to a media company was a good move for the purchaser from a brand value perspective.
So far it’s always about a current event.

This is just a few of the publicity opportunities I have enjoyed. I should also share that I came within hours of a story with Nightline, but I was in the air when they needed their clip and thus was unaware until landing and checking email. But now I am on their radar. You may be asking yourself, who did Ed know to get action like this? The straight answer is “no one.”
The journalists found me through my blogging efforts or a Goggle search. All of my online activities play a combined role in making a search easier to find me. To make that point stronger – I am not involved in any real SEO activities, all my results have been from on-line marketing and social networking which involves blogging, linkedin and basic use of Facebook and Twitter. I also subscribe to a free service called HARO (Help A Reporter Out). This is a great resource that has journalists putting their need for an expert on a particular topic and having YOU the expert respond. There is no fee to pay. I have successfully garnered more publicity this way.

The overall benefit of publicity is of course awareness of Ed Roach of The Branding Experts. Every bit of exposure adds to my expert profile which in turn helps a potential lead build a comfort level in working with me. It plays into my brand of delivering valuable information very nicely. It is a great compliment to all my other efforts on and off-line to grow my influence.
As they say, “It’s not who you know, BUT who knows you.”

A Personal Branding Backfire

Personal brandingHow often do you get the opportunity to make a strikingly positive impression on people only to quash it with a bout of selfishness? An acquaintance of mine recently had the unfortunate circumstance of having their home burn to the ground resulting in the loss of everything. You can imagine their shock and sense off loss.

This person had on their schedule a booked and paid for networking workshop. In their state of affairs they contacted the organizer and requested a refund since they were in no state at this present time to focus on the event. The facilitator of the networking workshop made a poor choice.

Instead of sympathizing with their situation and taking the high road, they complained that the bank may now charge them fees to refund. They resisted making this person’s plight easier. They made it obvious that the money they would be losing was more important than that person’s loss. How small of them. Their brand diminished in a major way with that approach.

That told me that their brand wasn’t about helping it was about the money. Instead of jumping to help this person and suck up any financial inconvenience it may have cost them which would have caused this person to brag to no end how considerate they were being -they chose the opposite. This facilitator has done real damage to their brand. Any good will is now lost with one statement.

The gauling thing that added insult to injury is that this person ended the conversation with their feeling sorry for the person’s loss and if there was anything that they could do – just ask. Sad thing is they missed an opportunity and didn’t get it.

It’s not often our brands get an opportunity to really show the kind of stuff we are made from. Every day I try my best to over deliver for my clients. I don’t charge for every blessed thing. Over delivering is part of what my brand stands for. Our brands must stand proud in good times and in bad. Seizing opportunities when they present themselves is key to growth. My analysis of the situation outlined above is that the facilitator was in a hard place financially and only saw money leaving instead of opportunity coming. They didn’t really believe their own brand values which were probably determined in good times. This person had a helpful brand prior, now has a selfish brand. That few dollars lost to bank fees will now cost them thousands in future business.

10 Things I Hate About Branding

ONE:
Frankly it takes a lot of work to stay on top of my brand. If only I could just push a button like the Staples “Easy Button” ( which I have on my desk). I hate that I can’t!

TWO:
I hate having to remind businesses that their brand is more than their logo. I have every design shop and ad specialty shop to blame for the mis-information I guess. (I could be painting with big a brush too)

THREE:
I hate companies who don’t realize that branding is a top down initiative. Without the captain on board, who’s piloting the brand?

FOUR:
Just too many great books to read. I’m stuck on historical fiction right now and so slipping in books on branding is a tight fit – I hate that.

FIVE:
I hate those who confuse their brand message with their slogan. There is a difference. I guess since they are both important, I should be happy that they have anything.

SIX:
I hate followers. Why do some businesses still feel they must follow the leader in their category? A commenter to one of my articles recently lamented their displeasure at businesses who copy the leader’s image almost to the letter. Sheesh!

SEVEN:
I also hate people online who make the simple complicated in an attempt to screw a few dollars out of your pocket, only to reveal the obvious. If you see something online you want to get into, email the author – I’m sure they’ll help you.

EIGHT:
I love it when someone says, “Hey, you’re the branding guy!” I hate that it took so long.

NINE:
Sometimes I hate that consistency is worth so much to your brand. I get the itch like many of us to change things up a bit. BUT, my better judgement knows that that would diminish what I have achieved so far.

TEN:
Sometimes I hate focus groups when judging brand image. By their nature they look to criticize regardless if it is even necessary. Sometimes you just have to go with your gut. Was your brand built on consensus or instinct?

Thanks for letting me vent a small bit, I hate keeping it bottled up inside.

How To Start Your Business With A Great Brand

The world is mired in a recession, but opportunity is everywhere. All around me, I’m meeting people who are starting a business.

They refuse to let the economy deter them – as a matter of fact, frequently it is the result of the poor economy that has presented opportunity to them. Where doom and gloomers see defeat, entrepreneurs rise to the challenge.

It is these very bold attitudes that are the basis for powerful brand values. It is these values that will be the foundation of your new brand and upon them; a new successful business will flourish.

Basing everything on these values, an entrepreneur must dream up a great name for their new venture. The name should inspire your intended audience. It should be memorable. Your name is important as it identifies the brand.

Having decided on a catchy name, next comes the logo. Since the logo is the visual component of your brand name, it must accurately reflect the brand name. It too, must inspire. If you use an icon in your logo (ie: Apple’s apple and the Nike swoosh) try to keep it simple. In deciding a palette it is best to keep the image to two or three colors. This makes it easier on the eye. A full range of color, just over complicates. The logo should work as effectively in black and white and gray tones. It must be legible at any size. Color is a very powerful icon that can also represent a brand (ie: UPS’s brown). Color should convey the personality of the brand.

Once the logo is complete, how it looks and feels sets the tone for everything else you do. From your website to your marketing materials, everything follows the corporate color pallette. Consistency is paramount here. Deterring from your palette dilutes your brand and confuses your intended audience. Imagery used is determined from the brand personality. Even the way you tell your story should be consistent with your brand efforts to date. If you have a very traditional, old world image, how you speak in your marketing should reflect this attitude. The tone is as important as the intent. At this stage of your brand development, you are the absolute master of your destiny. Be sure that it jives with your brand values. To do otherwise wouldn’t make sense in the marketplace.

To get the message out, the modern entrepreneur must embrace on and off-line strategies to develop their personal and professional brands. Off-line they must develop personal, and business networks to extend their reach. Joining professional organizations will go a long way in establishing that all important local presence you will need. Give back to your community through actively participating in influential not-for-profits. Many of these organizations have people of influence on their boards. If your audience is predominantly female, then you would want to market to professional women’s groups, and the places they congregate. If you are a woman yourself, membership is key.

Don’t forget print marketing, speaking engagements, radio, television shows and special events are also effective ways to market your brand.

Online is a fantastic place to grow your personal brand by feeding your expert profile. There is no better way than blogging. Also, social media such as Twitter and Facebook gives an entrepreneur a perfect platform to display their expertise. Your website MUST be more than a brochure site. It should provide your audience with tools that help them grow. It has to prove that your brand is more than the competing brand. Show your expertise. A blog allows you that platform to put your opinion out there. Writing white papers and ebooks is another great tool in drawing in an audience. What is exciting is most of your competition do NOT have these tools on their radar. Google them and see that many websites are simply brochure sites.

Using ebooks, white papers, audio and video as lures for email harvesters, you can build your own niche audience of targeted individuals and companies. The opt-in email list is dynamite because it is exactly whom you want to talk to. Breaking your list down even further only makes your marketing efforts more powerful. Email marketing should definitely be one of your premium avenues for promoting your brand. Affiliate sales, on-line networking (ie: Linkedin.com) are incredible ways to get your brand known around the world.

Actively pursue alliances to jointly promote events to an online audience doubles your effectiveness. Personally I have several partnering efforts in motion with companies in different parts of the world. Our efforts not only increase our potential markets to earn new business, but it also expands our range of influence.

For more information on Branding Yourself Online, I have a free 33 minute video on this very topic, over at my website. It gives you to the point how to’s in developing your online brand. Some of which we touched on here. Your brand is a terrible thing to waste. Be sure that everything is consistent including your tone and message. This will make it cheaper and more powerful to promote. Look for assistance online for every aspect of your business plan. The resources at your fingertips are reasonable in cost and immensely beneficial. If you are looking to build a team for your new business, look not further than an associate of mine, who just launched her new blog: mybreakthroughbusiness.com Providing this link to a friend’s blog, is another form of cross-promotion. EVERY effort has long term benefit.

I hope that you enjoy your business as much as I. Building your brand properly can be very rewarding.

How To Make Face Time Work For You

Technology has changed the face of business in spectacular ways. It has enabled businesses to embrace a greater community, it has increased productivity, and simplified communication. There are so many positives that they would be hard to name here in this post. There is one aspect of technology that I find sad, and that is how it has made us lazy regarding personal contact or “face time” with customers and prospects. Email makes it so easy and efficient. But, you know what they say, “out of sight, out of mind.” In business this situation can be the kiss of death. If your entire relationship is email and text based, there is virtually no relationship.

Long distance customers take on a different dynamic, but customers within a few hours drive are worth having face time with. Companies like the investment company Edward Jones, does not allow it’s advisors to use email with their customers. They do allow personal, voice and snail mail contact only. This effort is rewarded repeatedly. Here are some other things that I do to make “face time” work for me:

Coffee chat: When a person contacts me to see how we might work together, I typically suggest we meet over coffee. This way I can size them up better and try to understand their motivation. I’ve struck up some terrific business relationships this way.

Networking meet-ups: You can use these events to spruce up your sales skills and put a face to a name. It gives you a chance to help someone on the spot.

In-person presentations: I like to present proposals in person. This shows that I want their business enough to get off my butt and shake some hands. I don’t want our relationship to be entirely virtual. Show you’re a real business.

Ignore email: Purposely visit customers. Showing up to chat WILL get you more business. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve taken something in personally that I could have just as easily emailed only to get other projects given to me on my way out the door. Seeing you reminds them of other ways that you can help.

“I’m in the area” opportunities: Sometimes, when “I’m in the area” I call to see whether I can pop in to say howdie. These friendly requests always brings a smile and some great conversation.

New service meetings: Recently, I emailed a number of old files and offered to bring them a coffee and discuss what I’m offering these days that might be of help to them. I hand a hand full take me up on it, and this effort resurrected some old business.

The point here is not to rely on convenience to grow your business. It’s not about you – it’s about them.

Choose Your Words Carefully

Once or twice a week, I walk into my neighborhood dry cleaners with an armful of shirts. As the clerk (and it doesn’t matter which one) approaches the counter, they hopefully ask “just dropping off?”

And I always reply, “Nope, I need to pick up as well.”

Then, as if it was a choreographed part of their business, they take in a little breath and turn back to walk to the computer, to look up my order number. I’m pretty sure they’re completely unaware that they do it. Or that it is so embedded in the culture of the company that they ALL do it.

But they message they transmit is “it’s kind of a pain to have to get your stuff for you. I wish you were just dropping off.”

I never leave feeling as though they appreciate my business. I leave feeling bad that I inconvenienced them.

Imagine how different it would feel if they approached the counter with a “do you have an order to pick up too?”

Tiny tweak. Major difference.

Are you sure you’re transmitting the message you want your customers to receive? Are you sure there’s nothing in your company’s culture/customer interaction that could use a tiny tweak?

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