How To Stop Selling and Start Educating.

I’ve just completed a workshop teaching branding to graphic design firms from Canada and the United States. As part of that training, confidence in selling is a crucial element in delivering branding 10587534_sto their customers. On the surface it would appear that selling is a crucial first step. “Selling” is a difficult skill for many of us – myself included. It’s something I work at tirelessly. Defining my brand and working at it is one part of my overall branding strategy. To me selling is a bit of a misnomer. I don’t so much sell, as participate in a conversation. This conversation involves engaging the potential customer is a discussion about their brand challenges and understanding just what it is that hinders it.

Sometimes the barriers are self-generated. These are things such as culture or negative past histories. We all know people who get in the way of themselves simply because they don’t believe they have what it takes to deliver on a desire. That lack of confidence holds them back. Other barriers are market driven like bad economies, dying industries etc.

I recommend to businesses they should immediately change the conversation and watch opportunities present themselves. Customers cringe at the thought of someone selling something to them. Whereas they embrace conversations that help them. They also enjoy talking about themselves. I often enter into conversations where i am providing entry level branding advice on the spot. This is a great opportunity for me to show how fast I am on my feet, and how confident I am in what I do by my willingness to share. It’s no different than when in a networking situation – the wisdom is that you give before you get.

Challenge your comfort zones. Drive yourself to succeed. Don’t let the words “it’ll never work” or the “time just isn’t right” ever pass your lips. I believe confidence comes from challenging yourself and believing that customers really do find you a source of value. An expert lies within all of us. Don’t trap yourself by assuming you know how others think of you. Sometimes that blank stare isn’t that they can’t believe how stupid you are but it is more, they are pondering the brilliant thing you just exposed them to, and they’re wondering how they can use that nugget to their advantage. I experienced that last thought more times than I can image when speaking to groups of people at a speaking event or in a sales meeting. Lack of confidence makes you think the worst. But when you believe in what you’re saying, those blanks stares are gold mines to opportunities.

It makes me smile to realize that the quietest person in the room is actually your biggest advocate. The word ASSUME feeds on a lack of confidence and is the biggest killer of opportunity. When you assume the worst – worst is what you get. It’s not a hard concept to understand. Because I am aware that I have a difficult timing reading people, I have learned not to assume what lies before me. I often watch that person closer and give them time to react to what I’m saying and I’m often rewarded. All of this within the confines of a conversation on branding. I don’t think you can sell branding as much as you can build a hunger for more knowledge. Satisfying that hunger is something even the most shy can deliver. Imparting knowledge is enjoyable and the thanks awarded following such an exchange doesn’t feel disingenuous or contrived.

Trust in your experience. There lies the root of your confidence, and with that powerful conversations await you!

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Online Advertising How To Crash Course

To grow, every business needs new leads and new customers. Without a steady incoming flow of new customers, you would hit a plateau and eventually decline. There are different ways of achieving that but the quickest is to advertise. Doing it online means you get results faster. So how do you do it? Read on for a quick online advertising how to crash course. Let’s begin.

Online Advertising How To Crash Course

Who Are You Advertising To?

Do you know? Everybody is not an acceptable answer. While each online advertising marketplace you use will have their own target market options, you still need to clarify this up front. It’ll save you some time digging around later on and definitely make it easier for you as you navigate the different advertising marketplaces. So paint yourself a picture of your ideal customer.

  • Are they 30 – 40 year old men?
  • Women?
  • Do they have children?
  • What do they like to read?
  • What do they like to watch?
  • What is their idea of entertainment?
  • What other interests might they likely have?
  • What stage of life would they likely be in?
  • What could be their next lifetime milestone – e.g. Getting married, having a baby, children going to college, retirement.

Some people tell you, to only have one clearly defined target group. Personally, I think that depends on your product. Some of us have products that appeal to different types of people. They may consume your product differently, and even buy for different reasons. They are still a target group. So define these groups if they apply.

Who Are Your Competitors?

You may think it strange to think about competitors for advertising. Truth is, this just goes to show how far online advertising has come. You want to list out your competitors because in most ad marketplaces, you can target your ad to people who follow or are interesting in your competition. This is a fantastic opportunity to take advantage of. So know who your competitors are. Brainstorm and list as many as you can. Consider also indirect competitors.

Prepare Your Advertising Materials

Again, each online advertising marketplace will have their own requirements but there are a few things you can prepare ahead of time. Among the key things, is your core advertising message. What exactly are you advertising?

Are you promoting a sale? Do you want people to opt-in to your mailing list? Sign up for a webinar? Install an app? Pick up the phone to call you? Complete a survey? Download a cheat sheet?

Once you know this, then you can create some ads. For banners, this is somewhat easier because popular sizes are uniform across the Internet. For text ads, prepare a few variations since each channel will have different word count limit so you need to have some flexibility.

It would seem obvious, but in case it isn’t, prepare your landing pages. Make your landing page deliver or match up to your ad’s promise. Consider – what would you expect to see if you were clicking through your ad? Do everything you can to make it easy for people to take the next step so you’re maximizing your ad spend.

Locate Ad Marketplaces

Now comes the fun part. Placing your ads, but first, you need to know where. Here are some great places to get started.

Many of these places make it really easy and it’s all self-serve. Some may also assign a rep to help you. The actual steps differ from one network to another. In general, what you need to do is create an account, select your target and enter/upload your ad.

More Online Advertising How To Resources

Is it really that simple? The short answer is yes. However, this isn’t called a crash course without reason. There are a multitude of things that have been simplified and in some marketplaces, you have to make sure you’re playing by the rules or get kicked out. To cover those, this post could end up as book.

Thankfully, we don’t have to because some fantastic online advertising how to resources already exist. If you’re committed to advertising and want to make sure you don’t waste time nor money, check out the Bring Your Own Traffic course.

10 Financial Habits of Successful Entrepreneurs

Have you ever wondered why that delicious new restaurant that you loved and all your friends loved, that seemed busy ended up closed by the beginning of the next year?

10 Financial Habits of Successful EntrepreneursThe automatic assumption is that there is a lot of competition out there, so the restaurant just didn’t have a chance. Usually, there is a lot more to it than that. If you have a good business idea, and have done your due diligence there is no reason you can’t be successful no matter how much competition there is.

It all starts with having good financial habits. There are some habits that successful entrepreneurs have in common.

Write a Business Plan

Every business, no matter how small or what kind of shoe string budget you’re starting with needs a business plan. Even if you just write a one or two page business plan you need to go through the motions of writing the plan because it forces you to study your industry, the competition, and evaluate your own skill level.

Keep Accurate Records

Saving receipts along with using a financial accounting or bookkeeping software to help keep track of your records will help you evaluate your financial position on any given day. You should easily be able to look at what expenses you had for any given project, without understanding that, you can’t know if your prices are right. In addition, you should know exactly what you need to earn to keep your business running, otherwise known as your break-even point.

Have an Appropriate System

No business can run properly without a system, or even multiple systems. This is true whether you are working alone in a sole proprietorship or whether you have 500 employees. Without systems in place that you can perfect over time you’ll just be running in circles repeating mistakes. This can cost a lot of time and money.

Develop a Realistic Budget

Start with understanding your break-even point then around that create a realistic budget for all the different areas of your business so that you can run your business appropriately. A lot of business owners go out of business due to not understanding budgeting, the cost of doing business, and the idea of keeping their own hands out of the cash drawer until they make enough to pay themselves. Don’t be that person.

Track Expenses

I’ve already mentioned that tracking expenses is important but it’s amazing how fast little expenses here and there can ruin a business. A five dollar a month expense here and there seems small, but if you’re not getting the most out of each of these small expenses, it’s better to eliminate them when you can. Running lean and mean will get you further in your business and avoiding pennies leaking out of your business can ultimately save thousands.

Manage Cash Flow

Another issue that successful entrepreneurs understand is cash flow. If you have a service based business, no matter how big or small, you’re going to have varied levels of income over each week and month. You’re also potentially going to have issues with clients paying you on time unless you get the money up front. Even if you sell tangible goods the income of an entrepreneur isn’t exact so it makes budgeting ore of a challenge. If you find creative ways to manage cash flow you’ll find that you’re less stressed and more successful.

Understand Tax Law

One of the things that get a lot of businesses in trouble is the owners not understanding fully tax laws. If you live in the USA a great book to get is Small Business Taxes Made Easy – but do remember that tax laws change and that you’ll need to find out what’s changed and updated since the last publication. Business owners, even small business owners who work from home have found themselves in financial trouble due to not paying their quarterly taxes or self-employment tax. This needs to be part of your education and budget.

Save Money for the Future

Part of your budget should include saving money for the future of your business, as well as the future of your family and the two should be separate. You need to have a business account where you shoot to have six to eight months’ worth of money equal to your break-even point in the account. Plus, you should do the same for your personal savings account with liquid cash that is available for six to eight months of living expenses covered.

Understand the Value of Each Dollar

This might seem silly when you first read it. Of course, you understand the value of each and every dollar you spend and bring in. But do you really?  Are you spending time on your business doing things that someone else could do faster, and less expensively than the hourly rate you command? If you can do work that brings in $150 an hour and you’re dealing with customer service email you’re wasting about $130 an hour.

Get Professional Help

After you’ve educated yourself on the tax laws of your country, and understand basic financial vocabulary it’s important to seek out professionals that can help you. Hiring a bookkeeper or a CPA isn’t as expensive or as hard as you might thing and typically their value is made up in your savings and the business advice they can give you based on their knowledge of not just your business but the others they serve. One caution here is to ensure that you do understand everything you sign, like any profession, there are unscrupulous people. Get references, and check them.

Financial Freedom Finally, even if you already have a successful business without doing any of these things, if you want a long-term business that can be passed down to your children or sold when you are ready to retire, you need to back track and get started getting your financial plans in motion and developing financial habits of successful entrepreneurs so that you’re able to stay successful today and well into the future.

 

Is Your Brand Living Someone Else’s Life?

A brand is essentially the reputation of any company. In the day-to-day operating of a company, it’s confronted by a plethora of challenges. It takes a particular sort of person to grow a company while hurtling these obstacles. Brands that I admire are typically ones that are leaders in their category. There are the obvious ones that catch the global eye. Companies like Apple, Google and Virgin. But locally there are also companies whose brand shines. They are on the front lines and manage to lead in their own ways. Their positioning differentiates them and that difference rewards them.

Is Your Brand Living Someone Else’s Life-081314

Then of curse there are the other companies. They’re the ones living some other brands life. These are the obvious brands that rely on analyze what the leaders are doing and mimic them. They believe that since Nike uses a swoosh, then dah, if they use one too they will become as successful as them. This of course is quite a stretch. But you see it every day.

How many hamburger joints follow the McDonald’s model? I’m surprised they don’t adopt a clown of their own. Notice how all auto dealers look exactly the same. Grocery stores also follow each other.

Where someone dares to break the mold and forge out with a brand that screams leader, the public usually rewards them. The norm is broken and they rise to the top. iTunes changed the way music was sold. Amazon revolutionized book distribution. Whole Foods showed traditional grocery a thing or two. Richard Branson and Virgin break boundaries all the time. He seems to take normalcy as a personal challenge. Steve Jobs as well.

In my own community, I see companies copying other companies all the time. I recognize that a major cause is a complete lack of confidence. The desire to BE an entrepreneur but not the where with all to actually behave like one. They all have this wait and see philosophy. Odd, the thing is they’re not waiting for themselves – they’re waiting for you. You take the risks on an idea, if you have some success they’re quick to swoop in and copy you.

I had a leading window and door manufacturer who did a fabulous job retailing his product. He was flustered by the fact that once his flyers went out, the leading competitor would mimic everything he did. As a credit to his sense of humour, he grew so tired of this that a week before his flyer ran he’d send the owner of that company a heads up as what he would be offering. It gave him the last laugh.

All laughing aside it spoke to the lack of confidence that manufacturer suffered from. It made his brand an also ran. His company name should have been called “Me Too!.” You can look exactly like any company you wish. You can behave like any company but your can never BE that company. The cultures are different and the leadership is different. A brand has to be authentic to be successful. If you’re copying then there’s nothing authentic about your brand and it’s not fooling anyone. It’s the reason Apple outsells anyone else even with a substantially more expensive product. The other-lifer’s – THEY’RE NOT APPLE. THEY’RE NOT AMAZON OR GOOGLE.

You are you. It’s that simple. To be great your brand has to lead not follow. If you follow someone else you are by definition already behind. Following doesn’t put you out front. Living someone else’s life pays homage to the original. Makes sense when you think about it.

Brand Strategically: How To Tell When Your Graphic Designer Doesn’t “Get” Branding

Brand Strategically-060514There’s a great deal of discussion these days in regard to branding and re-branding. Typically branding is seen to be the domain of the big players in the marketplace. But what was formerly thought to be only available to them is now available to the rest of us – small and medium size enterprises (SME’s) who wish to use strategy to win. They are intrigued that they can absolutely succeed through taking a leadership position. SME’s turn to graphic designers to facilitate their “branding.”

It’s this writer’s opinion that a good percentage of graphic designers see branding or re-branding as nothing more than changing the logo and marketing materials – visual solution. The reasons SME’s have for needing branding typically have very little to do with visuals per se. Many are searching for a solution to flat sales, low moral, changing culture, up-dating of positioning, expansion , succession and any number of business issues. If you’re looking to have branding done properly, I’d recommend working with a firm that has a proven branding process that strategically looks at your brand and can develop strategies that position it as the leader in its category. If the graphic designers you’re speaking to only mention logo and marketing materials – hike up your britches and run like hell.

Avoiding these designers is imperative because they simply don’t “get” branding. They think it’s too complicated and frankly don’t have the confidence and expertise to deliver the real article so they deliver what they do have confidence in – a visual solution only. The unqualified designer will view a strategic, process-driven approach as counter-intuitive. I’m guessing it won’t to you when you understand that strategy is what the visual solution is based on. An experienced branding expert will deliver a strategic and visual solution together as an overall deliverable. Experiencing this properly allows you the customer to appreciate the value delivered. When delivered to your branding team, a qualified designer now becomes an integral strategic partner to your business. They will be able to assist you in not only developing a leading brand but also assist and facilitate launching it effectively.

Look for and demand that a branding process be utilized. A branding process allows everyone on your team to easily understand what is taking place. Your Team may not be used to things like branding, design and strategic brainstorming. A process allows everyone to see the deliverables as they emerge. They get that something comes next and over time builds into something very powerful and motivating. If you as an SME have experience in things like compliances, ISO and industry standards then a branding process with its validation components will make perfect sense to you with you.

As with anything an SME does to improve their business, it’s important to get it right the first time. Branding is no different. If you find it daunting to walk yourself through it, then it will benefit you to bring in qualified assistance. I’ve been branding companies for a while now and every time i facilitate the process with a business’s branding team, establishing a dominate position in their category has more impact than a slogan or a new logo. It reaches deep into the culture of the company and reflects the core values in it boldness. If branding is something you’re investigating but would enjoy some research in the matter, I’d recommend the book, “Blue Ocean Strategy” to help understand why positioning is the key deliverable from any certified branding expert.

For more information on how designers can work with a branding process, or for designers wanting to up their game and deliver a genuine branding experience, check out these two comprehensive brand training programs: “How to Talk About Branding,” and the Brand Academy Certification Workshop.
Designers should also catch the no-cost webinar, “How to Make $20,000 to $50,000 on Your Next Branding Project“.

11 Important Success Strategies for Small Business Owners

There is a seemingly endless supply of advice for small business owners to follow on their path to success. Here are 10 of the most important ones (and a few inspirational quotes from successful business people to back them up):

Success Strategies

1. Be Nice. Being a business owner doesn’t mean you can put your manners on hold. Be nice not only to your customers, but also your suppliers, business partners, and any one else you come in contact with on a professional level.

2. Take Risks. Owning a small business is in some ways the opposite of having a job and working for someone else. Small business owners sometimes need to take risks in order to succeed.

“If you are not willing to risk the usual you will have to settle for the ordinary.” – Jim Rohn

3. Don’t Give Up. Taking risks implies that sometimes you might fail. (After all, that’s why it’s a “risk” and not a “sure thing.”) What’s important is that you use your setbacks to teach and motivate yourself.

“Failure defeats losers, failure inspires winners.” – Robert T. Kiyosaki

4. Cherish Your Family. Successful business owners have a lot of support behind the scenes. Make sure you spend plenty quality time with your family as you work hard on your business.

“A man should never neglect his family for business.” – Walt Disney

5. Focus on the Customer. Remember that the success of your business will depend on the quality of the experience you give to your customer – focus on that.

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” – Bill Gates

6. Business is Personal. Don’t be afraid to bring your unique personality into your business.

“The NBA is never just a business. It’s always business. It’s always personal. All good businesses are personal. The best businesses are very personal.” – Mark Cuban

7. Have a Plan. Don’t think about trying to just “wing it” throughout your journey to business success. You should have a plan that covers virtually every aspect of your business operations. This plan should include all of your goals, and the steps you plan to take to meet those goals. Make sure to reduce this plan to writing; by doing so you’re making a commitment to yourself and your future success.

8. Be Flexible. While it’s essential to have a business plan, you shouldn’t resist changing it if it becomes necessary to do so.

“Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach.” – Anthony Robbins

9. Be Passionate. Obviously one of the reasons you own your own business is to make money, but your financial goals can’t be allowed to overshadow your passion.

“If you work just for money, you’ll never make it, but if you love what you’re doing and you always put the customer first, success will be yours.” – Ray Kroc

10. Keep Track of Your Business. Keep written records on every aspect of your business. It’s difficult to change and improve your business when you don’t have the data to do so.

11. Stay Healthy. Finally, make sure to keep yourself healthy. If you’re ill, your business will invariably suffer.

“One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important.” – Bertrand Russell

The Convenient Entrepreneur

Branding[Entrepreneur] according to Webster’s dictionary one who undertakes a business venture, taking both control and risk.

I would add to that – a commitment to one’s vision or dream. When you decide to put up that shingle, you’re making a promise to yourself and your customer to work in the best interest of both. In this world economy of ours many people found themselves out on the street for the first time in their careers through no fault of their own. Streamlining, down-sizing – whatever the cause has had a lot of people “re-inventing themselves.” You may have noticed a plethora of coaches, consultants, gurus, agents of change and what ever moniker these discarded individuals hoist upon their shoulders. Don’t get me wrong – there are a great many who are the genuine article and come with their guidance, a rich portfolio of wisdom. BUT, there there are many who lay claim to being something they’re not.

In your community, you see them everywhere. Individuals who love the idea of “entrepreneur” but lack the gumption and commitment to walk the walk. When they worked as an employee they may have envied the entrepreneur and even envied their “freedom” or perceived freedom. They answer to themselves (or so they thought). A true entrepreneur is the hardest working person in the room. They recognize that it’s not about who’s the boss. Their motivation is not simply the money but the satisfaction. They weather the risk and some even thrive in its uncertainty. An entrepreneur is a unique individual.

You see the cracks in psuedo-entrepreneurs very easily. They are the ones are looking for the short-term solutions. They are the ones who book meetings at their convenience. These are the people go into business and wait for the customer to somehow grace their door steps. They are the individuals who quit at 5:00pm, using (balance) as an excuse. The worst offence is these are the people who profess to love their business but secretly yearn that someone will come forth and offer them a full-time job with benefits. This is a dangerous individual. Companies that hire their ‘expertise’ are thrown to the curb at the first job offer. Instead of looking for opportunities to grow their businesses they try to play all the angles to minimize risk. The best way to minimize risk in business is to work harder and focus on your core competency. If that competency is being a great employee then focus on that and be the best employee there is. Businesses need great employees. They don’t need opportunists. They’re hard to rely on. Employees should do what they do best and that’s work for the visionaries. Be a great follower.

If you are the leader and are having a hard time with it – get out there more. Network – meet people who are making it happen . Talk to them, read about them. See what makes them get up in the morning. Try new things, put yourself in situations out of your comfort zones. Align yourself with individuals that you admire. Avoid negative people who will bring you down. Consciously try and stay positive and provide positive vibes to those around you. Start a mastermind group of brilliant business people who love the concept of sharing.

As Webster’s states – ‘…take control and risk.’ Stay true to yourself and you’ll end up where you ought to be. Pretending causing confusion and opportunities that should be yours avoid you until you are clear in your intentions.