Archives for July 2009

Is Your Online Radar Turned On?

Sitting in my office here in Leamington, Ontario Canada ( just 30 miles ‘south’ of Detroit, Michigan – sounds odd I know), I reflect on how the web has changed the way I do business and in return strengthened my brand. Ten years ago, my market was essentially within a 2 1/2 hour drive of here – North America’s industrial heartland. I marketed traditionally which is to say totally offline except the token brochure website. Those efforts brought me a comfortable living.

Today, I market myself 90% online and use networking strategies both on and off-line. My market is now the world. Through my efforts I have come to build connections to companies in the Czech Republic, India, Canada, England, Australia, and the United States. Consulting has grown into a viable service to customers in need of positioning. Without the internet, this would not have been in the cards.

I recently attended a mentoring supper with local top business students from the Odette School of Business in Windsor, Ontario. All of these young people were chomping at the bit to get into the work force. None were intimidated by the economy. They were filled with optimism. Unlike my generation, they have a massive advantage – the internet. Their dreams can be realized by marketing to a global market instantly. If they never left the online world, they have the potential to build a brand of enormous proportions. If; on the other hand, their brand is limited to a niche market, they can still potentially enjoy a very healthy income.

When I do speaking engagements to predominantly small businesses, I ask the how many blog or utilize html marketing? It astonishes me how many are NOT doing either. Worse than that, it’s not even on their radar. Their reasons for not engaging the web essentially has been their desire for instant results with little effort or cost. Even in the luddite world this is not possible. I imagine, due to a simple lack of understanding (from SEO gurus is my guess) that all they have to do is have a search optimized website, customers will beat a path to their door. When that didn’t happen, they become disillusioned by it all.

It’s no different in the off-line world. They run a few ads and wonder why the phone isn’t ringing off the hook. It all boils done to a realistic strategy and having an open mind and realistic set of expectations. For my business efforts, I came to realize that patience was indeed a virtue. I enjoy musing with colleagues that you never know what the next email will bring you. Not unlike every form of marketing it is longevity that gives birth to results. As your influence grows from community to community, your opportunities grow with it. Before you know it, your customers who benefit from your product or service come from locales outside of your traditional reach. Your brand grows with the increased exposure you get.

Time To Unlock Your Potential

Today I was Inspired by Yaro Starak’s recent Birthday Milestone Blog Post  “How To Become Comfortable With Yourself.” It’s great to see the journey Yaro has taken and how we can incorporate positive things into our lives to develop and unlock our potential.

You are capable of doing amazing things, of achieving all of your hopes, dreams and goals and living the life you want to live.  You were born with this ability.  So what happened?  Life happened.

Along the way, you picked up a few limiting beliefs, behaviors and some negative thoughts.  It happens to everyone.  The good news is there’s something you can do about it.  Here are a few tips and suggestions to begin to unlock your potential.

Recognize negative thoughts. We all have negative thoughts.  We think things like, “I’m bad with money or I’m just no good at _____” all the time.  We do it automatically, without thinking.  So the first step is to begin to filter these negative thoughts.  Start to recognize them.  When you do recognize them, change them to be positive thoughts.  For example, “I’m good with money or I am good at ________”

If that feels to forced then consider letting the negative thoughts go.  For example, you can say to yourself, “I have had some trouble with money in the past but I’m looking forward now and am good with money now.”

This strategy enables you to let go of your past mistakes, and believe me everyone has made mistakes, and to positively focus on the future and what you’re capable of.

Assess your strengths. Have you ever noticed that if you receive 10 compliments in one day and one criticism, you focus on the criticism?  It’s our nature to focus on the negative and the areas where we’re not so strong.  However, focusing on our strengths is much more productive and quite honestly your strengths are where you’re going to achieve your success.  So let those weaknesses go, ignore the criticism, and be proud of who you are.

Be grateful. You may have heard this one too many times however gratitude really is a tremendous success tool.  When you’re grateful for what you have and for the mistakes and lessons you learn, then you’re 100 times more powerful.  Gratitude not only helps you take a positive approach to almost everything you do, it affects how people respond to you.  They’ll be significantly more likely to help you, to want to work with you, or to buy from you if you radiate a positive and grateful glow.

Visualize what you want. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want and to visualize success right down to the nitty gritty details.  Visualization is a powerful process used by the most successful business owners in the world, by athletes, and by spiritual leaders everywhere.  Visualization helps your mind and body perform as if you’ve already succeeded.

Let go. Let go of limiting beliefs, or the idea that you can’t do something, that success isn’t possible or that you’re just not cut out for it.  When a limiting belief comes up, for example, the rich get richer, is a limiting belief if you’re not already what you would consider rich, right?  Explore why you have that belief and if you really believe it to be true.  If you don’t, let it go, it’s holding you back from achieving the success you desire.

When you’re able to clear away negative thoughts and limiting beliefs and embrace your strengths and your ability to visualize and accomplish your goals, nothing can stop you.  You really are capable of achieving anything you set your heart and mind to.

Life’s too short not to go for the gold!

PS. Yaro just turned 30… Please join me in wishing him a Happy Birthday!

5 SUPER Easy Tips To Grow Your Business With Blogging

Blogging is a great way to grow your business. It adds credibility to your business, helps brand you and your business and creates the kind of community and authenticity prospects are craving.

People no longer care to do business with a nameless faceless entity; they want to know who they’re doing business with and what they’re about. A blog helps you accomplish this, thus building your awareness and customer base.

Here are a few tips and strategies to use blogging to grow your business.

#1 Blogging is a fine balance of information and entertainment – People do want to get to know you and your personality however only if it relates to helping them solve their problems. So too much information isn’t necessarily a good thing. For example, let’s say you have a niche specific coaching business and you coach stay at home moms who are trying to open their own business.

Your blog will ideally offer tips, strategies and advice on how to handle the struggles that those moms face. You can, and should, mix in stories that relate to the blog posts however, blogging about what you had for breakfast or how the date you went on last night didn’t go so well, isn’t relevant or helpful to your readers. So be personable and share stories as they relate to your business. Ask yourself if it benefits the reader, if it doesn’t, get rid of it.

#2 Blog frequently – A blog helps draw traffic because it’s updated frequently and thus can achieve a higher search engine ranking than your website. Yet if you only blog once a month not only are you short changing anyone who subscribed to your blog, you’re shortchanging yourself because the search engine results are going to suffer. The great thing about blogging is that you can write thirty posts in one sitting and then schedule them to be posted over the next thirty days; you don’t have to sit down every single day and write something. Find a posting schedule that works for you and also benefits your readers and the search engines, a minimum would be once a week.

#3 Be sure to link to your website – One of the advantages of a blog is that people often land there instead of your website, due to the search engine optimization features. If you want to drive traffic to your website home page, make sure there is at least one link to it.

#4 Have patience – It takes time to build up a following and for some it doesn’t really ever happen. Does that mean your blog isn’t working to help build your business? Absolutely not. Many people may read your blog posts without subscribing or commenting but if the information they found was helpful, they’ll be more likely to buy from you.

#5 Choose your blog host wisely – There are many blogging hosts, wordpress, blogger, typepad and so on. Compare the features and functions each offers before signing up and building your blog. WordPress offers a number of SEO features, tagging, analytics and so on and is very easy to use. If you’re on my personal mailing list then you’ll know that I’ve recently switched hosting companies.

The reason? I’m so sick and tired of dealing with garbly-gook talk. I wish hosting companies would just tell it to me in plain english, so I’ve opted to go with a wonderful company with an amazing support assistance. I cannot tell you how relieved I am to feel like the host is actually working WITH me not AGAINST me. I recently switched over to Reliable Webs, awesome people!

Blogging helps you build your business in other not so obvious was as well. You’ll learn what your audience likes to read and comment on. You’ll also learn more about what their problems are and how you can solve them and thus build your business. All in all, blogging is an exceptional way to connect to your audience, build traffic, and sales.

You can find out more about the new host I just swit hosting company here.

It’s Not Too Much Data But Whether You Can Find It

This takes me back to the time I was working for someone else. Not long after I joined them, they began re-structuring the IT departments of all their companies world-wide. Up until then, each company had their own system that made is very hard to exchange information between each other and also report back to headquarters. Data

On a smaller, everyday level, the re-structuring made perfect sense too because it would allow each department to be able to generate reports that they want and still be able to share information freely. I was working in the marketing department at that time and it was super frustrating when I asked for a specific drill down or a report that turned the data another way and wasn’t able to get it.

They had the data. Lots of it. It just wasn’t accessible. So yeah. They needed better tools.

How does this all factor in to our small business? Well, one of the things that whole episode taught me is you should always collect data on your business lots of it but what’s more important is, being able to find and manipulate it so you can use it to draw a good picture of where you are, where you want to go and having the information when you need it.

Simple things like having a filing system on your computer may seem mundane and pointless but it really does matter. If you constantly throw your downloads into a virtual pile somewhere on your computer, you’re never going find it when you want it and you’ll waste precious time trying. It’s hard to get things done like that.

Maybe you have a desktop search utility installed and figure you’ll be able to find it later using that. But truth is, search is only as good as the organization of it. Remember the good old computing rule – GIGO, Garbage In Garbage Out.

If you don’t know where to search, you can’t find it or you can but it’ll take a long time. I don’t know about you but I have hard drive sizes in the Terabytes across the network. I’m not sitting around all day long to wait for the computer to find that one article I wrote.

If you don’t know the name of the file or the file type, all that makes it even harder too. So here’s the challenge for you. If you don’t already have a filing system, create one now. It’s not fun, it’s not sexy and doesn’t make your adrenalin pump but it can be just important to your success.

Photo courtesy of Guillermo Alvarez

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.

10 Cool Ways To Get People To Know More About You & Subscriber To Your Twitter Page

When it comes to Twitter, subscribers or “followers” are your key to building popularity. And popularity is a fundamental and very important concept to grab hold of. The idea is that by following someone, they’ll agree to follow you back.

The following are other ideas which can help with subscriptions:

1)  Connect your blog or social network site to your profile. By adding a link to each of your social media profiles to your Twitter profile, and vice versa, you are making sure everyone you know is able to reach you in all the places they have accounts as well.

2)  Ask others to recommend your profile.
A blog reader could recommend your social networking page, or other members of your social network could recommend your blog. Word of mouth can go a long way, especially in the world of social networking. Although you may not get every person who hears of you on your Twitter page, you can easily raise the number with a few referrals from friends.

3)  Purchase banner ads which in turn can be linked to your profile.
This way, when your website banner ads are clicked on, the link is automatically established to your Twitter page. This will prevent anyone having to search far and wide in order to find you.

4)  Use usernames and avatars which match either your business or other social networking sites. When you sign up for your Twitter account, use the same name you have on other social network sites. If this name isn’t available, try to use something as similar as possible. You can use the same avatar as well. Anyone who is familiar with you from another site will notice when you send out a tweet.

5)  Avoid spamming your Twitter. If you constantly drop in silly and unproductive comments several times a day, people won’t take you seriously for long. Make sure you are adding something of value when you post. While it’s fine to post your own URL, joining into conversations will show people you are approachable.

6)  Asking questions will show people you are not only looking for input, but you don’t consider yourself a guru either. Who knows – this may result in not only receiving an answer to your question, but with reciprocal following as well.

7)  Be careful when posting URLs in Twitter. If the link is too long, it will be shortened with tinyurl. If this happens, it becomes impossible to see the source link to figure out what the page is before clicking through. Before you post any links, it’s recommended you write a short description or the title of the page.

8)  Follow people from within your personal niche
. Not only will you be able to understand what they are talking about, but you may be able to bounce some ideas off them when you get stuck. Having similar concerns and experiences means they are more likely to follow you as well.

9)  The difference between bios and backgrounds is easy. Bios on Twitter are short and to the point, unlike an About Me page found on most blogs. People will get to know you from how and what you tweet, not from a novel written in your bio section.

10)  If at first you don’t succeed, try again. The most experienced in the internet world make mistakes sometimes. It’s part of life. If you find you have made a mistake in one of your tweets, fix it. If you find you have chosen the wrong person to follow, stop following them.

Take the time to work out the kinks on your Twitter page, and you will see how quickly everything else will fall into place.

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