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.

Hey! Did You Know That The CEO Of That Mega-Brand Was Born Here?

How many times have you heard that one or similar stories to it? Such and such a rock star, movie actress or mega-mind was born here, they attended university or did their internship here. As if to say being from here had a role in that success. The real truth is every community across our fair planet has their share of rock stars. What all these individuals have in common is not so much that they’re from here but that they looked outside of here to realize their dreams and goals.

Most home-town business people and other talents and skill sets for that matter build their futures close to where they were born. Local stars and celebrities. And there’s nothing wrong with this. Nothing at all, but what is worth noting is those “star” individuals that dream beyond their noses. They are the ones with global aspirations. The local tool shop with global locations to supply a world market, local fitness clubs that franchise and branch out across the country and consultants who market globally to share their expertise. These are the people who recognize opportunities in risk by looking to unfamiliar territories and seeking to engage and profit from them.

Municipal brands (I think) are missing out on a great opportunity, one that is right under their collective noses. Most of them (that I watch) spend a great deal of resources and energy drawing the brilliant minds inward rather than retaining what they already have here. There is very little effort and resources encouraging home grown businesses to stay put and headquarter their resources at home. Our towns and cities try very hard to lure business and industry to them. They use corporate welfare to entice them, while putting the burden back on what businesses choose to stay at home. The sad fact is most “stars” recognize early on that their best opportunity lies away. In many cases taking valuable jobs with them.

Distant opportunities slowly suck the life out of many business communities who fail to witness the growing talents at home and do nothing to encourage their success until it’s too late. These true entrepreneurs are our youngest and brightest minds. As they leave the void is filled with businesses who are afraid to look globally, They prefer to follow rather than lead. They do not look to distant horizons but prefer to be big fish in small ponds.

The best this scenario can produce is events that bring these stars in life back to do a keynote and have all the local leaders anguish over what could have been. It’s time they stopped gushing, and started to adopting long-term strategies that not only encourage outside investment but inside as well.

What A Failed Rocket Launch Can Teach Founders

Being a 70’s kid, I did not have the privilege of witnessing the Apollo 11 mission. However, I did not miss out on the Space Shuttle missions.

Each time I witness these take off’s I’m in awe, not just at the event itself but the creation, the many people who make it a possibility. All that hard work. When the mission is a success, there’s such tremendous joy and celebration but when a rocket fails – the disappointment is clearly evident.

Watching Antares go down in a fiery explosion, I felt its loss. One can only imagine how someone who’s been working on the rocket for extended periods would feel.

As founders of small businesses, failed launches should come as no surprise. It’s part of the package. We can only be thankful, as well as hopeful, that most of our losses aren’t as publicized. Rocket launching is an unforgiving business. Thankfully for us, few of our launches are that destructive. Most times, our failures are easier to recover from.

However, like the Antares rocket, that doesn’t mean we don’t feel the loss deeply. It’s OK to mourn the loss of months, sometimes years of hard work.

Despite that, we must review and move forward. In the rocket business, what amazes me is how quickly everyone gets back to work. I’m sure keeping their jobs is a big motivation but aside from that, there’s a spirit of “let’s see where we went wrong and fix this once and for all”. That’s why we still have rockets.

So what launch failures are you mourning over today? If it helps, remember the wins. Antares had 4 successful launches before the disaster. Surely not everything about the failure is to be tossed. Do your post-mortem. Your customers expect and do look forward to a bigger, better return. You are ahead now that you know what not to repeat. Coming back stronger can do wonders for your brand too. For now, it’s time to pick up the pieces.

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15 Holiday Promotion Ideas To Keep The Register Ringing

The holidays are right around the corner. Are you prepared?

Holiday Promotions Ideas


The beauty of a small business is, we can be light on our feet. Besides, you still have a little bit of time and if you’re stuck with what to offer, this list should get you started.

The Add-On Bundle

Include a not-usually-offered or not-offered-before add-on to your product(s). It could even be a service.

Example: Get a personal coaching session when you buy this today.

The Value Bundle

Gather your best selling products and bundle them at a meaty enough price for you not to lose money but at the same time, give customers a deep discount compared to buying separately.

The Complimentary Products Bundle

Work out a deal with another company who offers complimentary products. Offer a free entry-level product, free trial, discount price or coupon that they can redeem at the other company’s store when they buy from you.

Example: Order a logo design, and get a 20% off coupon for web hosting at ABC host, or business cards at XYZ printers.

The Lifetime Access Deal

This works very well for continuity programs. Offer lifetime access at price that would make the product an incredibly low price if paid monthly over years.

Example: Don’t pay $19.99 a month. From now until the offer expires, get lifetime access for only $199 and never pay monthly again.

The One Year’s Product Deal

Slight different from the lifetime deal if that sounds too crazy for you to stomach. Offer one year’s access or one year’s worth of product for a great price.

Example: You’d normally pay $60 a year but for a limited time, pay only $30 and get the rest of the year free.

The 2 For One

When people buy two items of the product of your choosing, they’ll get both for the price of one.


This might sound like the same but it isn’t although technically the discount would be the same as the two for one. Offer a free item when they buy one.

The Reactivation or Return Bonus

Give customers a bonus when they re-activate their account or return to buy from you. You could offer a discount in place of a bonus but you’d want to be very careful that this is a short term deal and not to be repeated too often. Otherwise, you may end up with people who cancel just to wait for the re-activation bonus later on.

The Pick 3 Deal

Similar to the bundle deal, except this time, you let the customer choose what they want in the bundle.

The 10 Orders & Get Free Deal

Our local grocery store runs this deal regularly. You get a free holiday meal when you shop there 20 times. They do also require each receipt to be at least $20 to qualify and though 20 sounds like a lot. They start the campaign quite early so you have about 10 weeks to earn it.

Your customers may not need to shop with you that often, so you can always adjust the number of qualifying orders e.g. 10.

The $10 off $50 Deal

Instead of giving a straight discount, get them to spend a little bit more with you to qualify for the discount.

The Store Credit Deal

Offer customers store credit or store dollars when they buy from you today.

Example: Buy this today and receive a $10 credit you can spend right away or on your next order.

Private Sale

Reward your most loyal customers by giving them a special offer not found elsewhere. An alternative is to reach out to performing affiliates and offer a special deal just for their referrals.

The You Might Also Like This Offer

Dig into your customer data. Find out who purchased what. Offer them a bonus or discount for a similar or related product. If you don’t have one, consider an affiliate product. You may need to reach out to affiliate managers for the products to do this but can be well worth your time.

The Upgrade Deal

When a customer orders a product, offer them a better product or a higher end package. Something they would consider an upgrade for less than the normal upgrade pricing.

Example: Package A is normally $10 and Package B normally $30. When a customer orders Package A, offer them an upgrade to Package B for only $10 more.

Are You Afraid of Your Own Thoughts?

Of late, I’ve noticed that my down time has vanished.

Poof. Gone.

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I wondered why and when the answer presented itself, it was simple and yet profound.

It’s not because there’s more work on my plate. There’s always a ton of work to be done. No. I realized one day, the real reason is because every bit of down time that presented itself, is filled with something else.

Every spare moment, minute, or hour that’s not spent actively doing, I’ve filled it. By:

  • Reading a book
  • Listening to podcasts
  • Watching a webinar
  • Catching bits of a tutorial
  • Reading RSS feeds
  • Reading a magazine
  • Watching TED videos
  • Consuming that course that I bought weeks and months ago
  • Just about anything I can think of

In short, I’ve been filling those precious bits of down time that pop in throughout the day, with other people’s ideas. Others’ processes and thoughts. There’s an intense need to catch up or finish every book, listen to every audio, learn everything there is to learn.

Somehow, I’ve come to be afraid to spend time with my own thoughts – even if it’s a few minutes.

The idea of sitting on the porch without a book makes me restless.

The very thought of doing laundry without having something to listen to makes me anxious.

I have a sinking suspicion I’m not alone and have a theory why we do this. Because we:

  • Have such great ideas that are dying to bust out, that we feel intimidated by them. Afraid they’ll take us to amazing, yet frighteningly unknown places. So it’s just easier to crowd them out.
  • Are postponing or ignoring a big decision that has to be made.

Sometimes, it’s a combination of both. So we cram our thinking time with lots of information and ‘learning’ to avoid making the decisions we really need to make, or avoid doing.

I’m not saying that reading, listening to podcasts, watching videos and learning from others is a bad thing. Neither am I saying that utilizing your spare moments such as commute time to learn something is unproductive. It is productive. That’s how I managed to lose weight and keep it off – by reading, listening and watching others while I worked out.

However, we do need to leave some of those moments for our own thoughts. Perhaps even go as far as scheduling thinking time if you want to be intentional about it. Thinking time doesn’t require you to have anything in particular to think about. It’s about giving your mind some breathing room.

Thinking time is important so we don’t feel like we’re on the go all the time. Thinking time is required for us to process all that great information we read. It is needed for us to formulate plans. It is healthy for our spiritual and mental well being which is so important for us business owners.

I challenge you. Next time you are waiting in line at the doctor’s. Next time you have a few spare moments in between tasks. Resist the temptation to read, listen or watch. You can read at other times but for at least one down time a day – spend it with your thoughts.

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7 Habits of Great Decision Makers

As a leader, decision making is part of the deal. Ultimately, everything comes down to what we want to happen and that means we make the final call. It’s tempting to think that small business owners are naturally good at decision making. Maybe. We do make more decisions on a daily basis but the truth is, decision making may not come easily all the time, and certainly not for all leaders. Wherever you are on the scale of decision making skills, we can all benefit from learning from those who are great at it.


Decide & Implement Quickly

When I was still working for someone else, I remember sitting at a meeting all frustrated. It was probably the 10th meeting we’ve had that year on the very same topic and I pushed my bosses – again – for a decision. I didn’t get it. They stalled. Again. Wanting more ‘data’. Again. I couldn’t move forward. Couldn’t do my job. Hardly surprising, our market share didn’t grow that year.

Sir Richard Branson, founder or Virgin has been reported to “make and implement decisions quickly — usually before our competitors in the market have held their fifth meeting on the same issue”.

We don’t make better decisions by stalling. Finalize and implement right away.

Be Brave

“Most people don’t have guts to make the tough decisions because they want to make the right decisions. So they make no decision, and that’s a decision.” Said Tony Robbins.

We aren’t going to make the right decisions every single time. We don’t have the ability to read the future, so the only way is to go forth bravely and try. Inaction is always the wrong decision. Think of it this way. We have the option of making the wrong decision all the time or the right decision sometimes. The choice is pretty clear.

Trust Your Instinct

This is the most intangible of all which can be scary. Perhaps that’s why many of us are afraid to go with out gut. Yet, it’s the one thing that many great decision makers and leaders rely on.

Tim Ferris says, “If you’re insecure, guess what? The rest of the world is too. Do not overestimate the competition and underestimate yourself. You are better than you think.”

Trust Your People

“If you want to hire great people and have them stay working for you, you have to let them make a lot of decisions and you have to, you have to be run by ideas, not hierarchy.” – Steve Jobs

Of course, you need to first trust you have hired the right people. If you aren’t convinced they are right for your company, why are they still there? Assuming they are the right ones – let go of that leash. It frees you up for other (perhaps) bigger decisions too.

Make Decisions Often

According to General Patton, “Be willing to make decisions. That’s the most important quality in a good leader.”

It is said that the skill of decision making is like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it will be. So ahead and work those muscles. It’s a sign of a good leader.

Make Decisions Based On What You Know Now

Sometimes, it isn’t possible for us to have all the information we need. More often than not, we only get glimpses.

Robert K. Greenleaf says it best in his book Servant As Leader. “On an important decision one rarely has 100% of the information needed for a good decision no matter how much one spends or how long one waits. And, if one waits too long, he has a different problem and has to start all over. This is the terrible dilemma of the hesitant decision maker.”

Have A Routine & Simplify Your Life

In his autobiography, Benjamin Franklin wrote, “The precept of Order requiring that every part of my business should have its allotted time” and he followed this with a now famous daily routine chart.

Having a routine means you won’t have to decide when you’ll do the daily stuff. Your mileage goes further when you simplify your life and reduce your choices. E.g. Eating the same breakfast daily.

This would make as many daily decisions as “automatic” as possible, leaving you more focus, more bandwidth for those critical decisions you may encounter througout the day.

This doesn’t mean your life has to become monotonous. Rather, you save the variety for areas or things you want to enjoy the most, and not on the mundane like what you’re going to eat for breakfast, or what you should start working on in the morning.

Did you find this useful? Don’t keep it to yourself. Share it.

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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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