Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

Business vs. brand

Al Ries at Advertising Age:

“Building a business or building a brand? That’s the most important question in marketing.”

I’m thinking this pithy statement sums up all the confusion in our economy today.  Through social media and the internet, because we’re truly now global citizens, we are transitioning to an economy that is based in brand rather than in business.  The vast majority, though, have no idea what this means.

If you spend all your time online, as I pretty much do, you can’t miss the emphasis on authenticity and brand building.  But in the brick-and-mortar world, huge gaps in understanding remain.  Most business owners and workers simply don’t have the time to research, so the important strides discussed on the web pass them by.

When I attend local networking meetings, I know my talk mystifies those present.  I tell them about virtual assistance and social media marketing, but they are skeptical.  Business, for them, is an exercise in self-defense; they are held in terror of not making quotas, not making budgets; the shame of failure threatens their well-being constantly.  Their souls are buried under mountains of  paranoia.

Did we boomers cause the present money problems?  Probably.  We discovered a new personal freedom through our hippie days of the 60s, but neglected to transfer its meaning to business.  While we became personally more open, very few applied the same thinking to business.  Until now.  Now, we find the intersection of commerce and personality to be the key to success, at least in terms of marketing.  Now, at last, we are becoming aware that branding and self-awareness are more valuable, richer, and much more durable than business.

But the average business person, however pervasive these ideas may be online, has not yet come to this understanding.  Part of the problem is that lifelong learning, an important aspect of brand awareness, is not part of the old business culture.  To many, the thought of having to learn an entirely new system is abhorent.  And of course, the concept that your life can be absolutely what you want it to be is still a suspicious one to these folk.

For me, the hard part is feeling the suffering.  If you don’t experiment with the processes of branding, if you stay stuck in the old business concepts, you’re likely to be suffering and afraid.  You have no idea how to progress in today’s economy.  You are still caught up in suspicion and competition, and most likely every day is a trial.

There’s a whole lot of gentle prodding to do.  Admittedly, this is a radical change for all of us.  And through hard times, perhaps it’s extremely challenging to keep believing in your brand.  But, as Ries points out, though it may at times test your loyalty, your brand will endure while your business will come and go.  

It’s a long row to hoe, but I see working with small businesses on establishing brand through social media as a way to relieve a whole lot of suffering in the world, to bolster belief in the self, and to free up business people from the oppression of the old style so that they may at last be able to offer their very best.

PLEASE NOTE:  This is the LAST POST of this blog on the WordPress site, and I’m off to live at my own URL from now on.  Please visit me there!

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Brand as discovery

Here’s a lovely line from Julie Anixter on Tom Peters’ blog yesterday:

“… we are all, already, walking brands. We just have to polish them so that we can see them shine.”

This is what social media is about.  It helps us to polish our personal or business brand, to give it a shine that brings you the attention you need.

Note that brand is not a creation, but a discovery.  You can try to project an artificial brand, but it won’t work in the long run.  Brand is an articulation of who we naturally are, the best of our compassionate selves, and it reflects self-knowledge as opposed to cleverness or charisma. Your brand is your birthright, as much a part of you as your face.

In the past, personal brand didn’t matter: one succeeded by conforming personal brand to industrial ambitions.  Education and culture did not foster understanding of self on that level.  Our new global awareness,  however,  makes self understanding and articulation of individual thought the first step in becoming a healthy global citizen.  It has become necessary to devote time and focus to who we are at core levels.

I’ve said it often, I’ll say it again, along with Dane Rudhyar:  to be creative is only to discover what essentially is.   Don’t worry about having to make something new; focus on discovering and then articulating the mysteries that are already present.

Social media and business evolution

Somehow this holiday season is dragging on interminably.  I’ve had a nasty cold, so it’s been an introspective time.  I’ve refrained from blogging, but did manage to renovate my website and also to make a Hub page about approaches to defining brand.  

Social media has me in its thrall, and I must admit that Twitter takes up a good deal of my time lately.  Not that I’m chattering much, but just going there and clicking on eight or ten links every visit, and spending an hour reading up on the suggestions from my follows.  It takes a good while to get a handle on how to use all the information.

I think social media is like a new, seriously tricked-out telephone.  People wonder if it’s a just a fad, but to me it’s clearly no more a passing fancy than the telephone or computer itself.  It’s here to stay, but how we use this amazing new tool will mature considerably.  Right now, we’re all just playing in the sandbox; at some point, you want to actually make something of all this shifting sand, all these glittery toys.

While learning about the technology and the huge range of tools available is currently making our heads spin, it’s so important to remain firmly glued to the truth that content is king.  It’s tempting to use the software and apps for their own sake.  But until you have something useful to say, all these delightful new megaphones will get you nowhere.  Nobody’s interested in amplified hot air.

My urge, when considering all this, is to use social media to help really small businesses.  The old marketing traditions had seriously eclipsed small enterprises, for whom print advertising was not only prohibitively expensive, but ineffectual as well.  With online social media, small businesses can finally gain the respect and following they deserve.

But the most awesome thing is that if a small business uses social media for marketing, that businessperson must be engaged in the meaning and impact of their work in a whole new way.   S/he must actively think, research, and respond regarding aspects of the business every day, and be able to enthusiastically live it online.  Parallels must be drawn between the business and larger life; compassionate understanding of clientele must guide every communique.  So these new tools democratize marketing, and simultaneously demand that we take our work with a deepened seriousness.  It’s simply not enough anymore to work at something you don’t care about.  This current technology forces us to find nurturing connections between our human-ness and our work.

The search for authenticity is just beginning.

Standing up against spikes

I’ve got a gripe, and it has nothing to do with this blog. But it’s my blog, and I have eight wonderful RSS subscribers who may by now be used to my flights in all directions, so I’m gonna ‘shout out’ about this issue.

(Now, I’ve been posting here with regularity 3-5 times a week for nine months, and so you may ask why I have just eight subscribers. Reasons may be many, but one for sure is that my viewpoints and voice are fairly peculiar, and perhaps not shared by huge numbers of people. Why do I keep writing? Just practicing scales, like any composer. I may be crazy, but I know this tool is here for my use however I see fit, regardless of the number of fans it attracts. I’m just that selfish.)

Here’s my gripe: spike heels.

I’m a compassionate person, and I don’t like seeing others in pain. The other day, we attended the graduation ceremony at a large university. Nine out of ten women (amongst the 1,000+ graduates) wore spike heels to accessorize their graduation gowns.

Of course, the same phenomenon can be observed on any city street, in restaurants and offices, any place where fashion matters.

Every time I see a woman wedged into these instruments of torture, I feel her pain. I am a woman, I know what it is to wear these modern imitations of the ancient Chinese feet-binding practice. I wear lipstick, low heels, and short skirts. But I simply cannot understand why women, who definitely choose the mutation, continue to patronize the tyranny of spikes.

(To be fair, I see the continued wearing of ties by men in this same anachronistic light. Note, however, that ties pose little health threat, while spike heels threaten the backbone, the core of our vitality.)

Okay, it’s the sexiness factor. Spike heels draw the eye to your butt, and their shiny pointy-ness lends an air of sado-masocism that awakens an excitement residing deep in us all, let’s go ahead and admit it. I understand the allure.

But they are painful to wear and walk in, they cause a dangerous sway in the backbone, they make one unsure of one’s footing, and they perpetuate the pedestal notion of the female. The pedestal notion keeps a woman on the shelf, an object to be used only when the real humans, the men or the masculine, have the whim to activate you.

A few years ago, I watched a high school choral presentation, and the same medieval oppression pervaded there. The girls wore tight dresses and high-high heels; the guys wore loose clothes, and sneakers. It made me so sad. I wish women would be more proud of who they naturally are, instead of accepting pain for the sake of fashion.

So I guess my gripe is not against spike heels themselves, but against the ignorance or weak will or paranoia or fashion slavery or bad education of the wearers. Haven’t decided which possible culprit is most to blame. The fact that these two events – a high school choral performance and a university graduation – were part of the education world certainly suggests our training does not counter this cruel habit.

If you ask a woman who’s wearing these stilettos if she enjoys the experience, she will probably gush eye-rolling thrill about it. But soon as she hits the car, the shoes are torn off with a deep sigh of relief. She thinks she enjoys wearing them, but the truth is she’s horribly uncomfortable.

The potential strength of a full population of comfortable women is not to be underestimated. We must get there, for the continued health of humankind! The reluctance of women to express their true selves, to get beyond vanity, slavery to the patriarch, and the mindset of second-class citizens retards our evolution.

OK. Enough already. Thanks for listening.

Holiday Surprises

Though I no longer count myself a Christian, at least not a practicing one, I was raised staunchly in the tradition. So I know enough to note the absence of one true ‘reason for the season’ in our modern practices – the element of surprise. With Christmas starting right around Halloween these days, surprise is not a word we can generally apply to the holiday.

Think about it, though. Kids creeping down the stairs at 4am, awed at the lit-up Christmas tree. And then finding presents! Isn’t this the stereotype? Santa creeps, too. Presents are supposed to be a surprise. Christ being born was certainly a surprise to everyone. Earlier, people celebrated the beginning of a new cycle, as the days began to lengthen again, and as their hope sparked even in the dead of winter.

Christ’s birth, or some unexpected gift, or the awesome mystery of light appearing in darkness constitute the symbols associated with this mid-winter celebration. As opposed to the circus of holiday frenzy that we know, the stress and press of obligations, temptations, crowds, and yearning that characterize these times; as opposed to something we must prepare for, Christmas, and its predeceasing centuries of amazement at the promise inherent in the darkest of winter days, are about the surprise of it. We’re taken unawares, that’s the thrill of it.

I hope we’ll all experience a good amount of honest surprise this holiday. Even if we generally ‘hate surprises,’ we can at least keep an eye out for the unknown, the brand new, the unplanned opportunities. As we attune to these whisperings, we authentically celebrate the meaning of the holiday.

This is the time when such surprises happen everywhere. If you look calmly and openly, you will see – and enjoy them! May you revel in the gifts you receive.

Social media and branding

When I first heard the term, social media, I dismissed it as a trivial amusement for those who have lots of extra time. Heck, when I first encountered computers, I avoided them as representing a new challenge, and life was challenging enough, thank you very much. Certainly, when I heard about Twitter, I just couldn’t understand why I’d want to share the messy details of life with the world. I’ve never been one for chattering, and these tools all seemed to encourage a lot of hot air for no more than shallow entertainment.

Of course, I was completely wrong about all these. The computer is now my mainstay, Twitter is a depth less source of learning. And social media is emerging as not only a great way to communicate about business, but also as a major aid to the changes we must make as a society, or perish in the attempt.

Social media is about word of mouth. It’s also about establishing individual brand. While we used to present a resume and hope that communicates our essence, now we can present online all the various aspects of our brand. Knowledge and understanding of any one individual can now far surpass the colorless lists on pretty linen resume paper.

The reason why word of mouth is such a big deal is that it really works. No recommendation is stronger than the opinion of trusted friends. Under the old print paradigm, those opinions meant only a tiny slice of your market. But with the global power of the internet, word of mouth has become the arbiter of nearly everything.

The reason why all this fascinates and uplifts me is that I see it as a return to self knowledge and open awareness. As a baby boomer, I’ve always bemoaned the lack of deep self knowledge in the adult world, and worked to tickle the soft underbelly that Pema Chodron always talks about. With the internet and social media, we are forced to consider where exactly each of us fits in the humongous puzzle. Without the direction, confidence, and passion of a personal brand, internet ramblings can be fun but useless.

But with a thoughtfully prepared plan, a detailed idea of brand, and generosity, social media now symbolizes our new world, where authenticity and helpfulness reign, where exchange is possible with anyone anywhere, and where we can find the niche that perfectly suits and nurtures us.

Why brand?

What is this branding stuff all about?  The term’s a household one, but I bet few can give a quick and confident answer to the question.  Is your brand your logo, your colors, your slogan, your coolness factor, your success rate?  Is it your preferences, your dreams, your skills?  If it’s all these many things wrapped up together, how can it be accurately expressed?

 

Rather than trying to fathom an image of your brand in terms of all these different factors, maybe it’s easier to think of it as the hub of a wheel; a single thing, rather than many things. 

 

How can you arrive at this one thing?  What is the single image that comes to mind when you think of your business?  If you’re considering personal branding, what is the single thing that comes to mind when you think of work that is fun for you to do?

 

Hold on a minute, don’t answer those questions yet.  Let them settle in your subconscious for a while.  Give it some time, and work your way towards the most bare bones honesty you can possibly muster.  No one is listening, at this point, so go ahead and be painfully (or gleefully or piercingly or whatever) truthful.

 

The deeper you get to the heart of what your business means to you – or what you mean to business, in the case of personal branding – the more powerful your expression will be. 

 

The more powerful your expression, the more attention you attract, the easier it is to amass leads for your business or professional progress.

 

Example:  Linda is a fitness coach.  She could opt for a generic logo, seek business mostly through referrals, make sure her phone answering machine is turned on, and get by. 

 

Or she could invest some time considering how who she is interfaces with what she does and with the world at large.  And by putting in this time at the start, she could realize major growth in returns as her practice continues. 

 

Why?  Because she took the time to examine her work in context with everything, and then differentiate it from everything.   This allowed her to develop a brand that very specifically defined her services.  Her message is crystal clear, and those who are attracted to it come flocking. 

 

Attaining warm leads, in other words, has become a cinch, because her branding does the work for her.

 

So Linda spends a few days contemplating the question: what is the one image (or word, gesture, sound, concept, or impression) that says succinctly what I’m all about as a fitness coach.  Very specifically, what impression do I want my clients to take away with them?  What do I want my reputation to be?

 

As any speaker or teacher will avow, it’s all about the take-away.  As any manager will tell you, it’s all about setting up agreed-upon criteria for success.  By defining your brand, you make it easy for others to know what to expect from you, to instantly see precisely what they can gain by interacting with you.

 

Through a few days of processing, Linda comes up with the image of a rocket ship.  Don’t ask me how she got there, it doesn’t matter.  But by exploring all the possibilities and dimensions, and playing/working continuously with the rocket ship concept, Linda is able to convey to clients and potential clients an extremely personalized – yet accessible – brand.

 

Maybe your brand is not an image.  It could as well be a sound, a pattern, a gesture, a mission or method.  Whatever form it takes, it is your guiding light, your home base, your signature.  If you give it the time required for deeper discoveries, it will serve you in return many times over.

 

P.S.  I suppose this post is for the go-getters who are impatient with any introspection.  It may pertain less to those who get caught in second-guessing and ponder issues too much, never progressing to action.  I certainly am not advocating spending all your time thinking about things. 

 

When considering how to identify the hub of your brand’s wheel, reap the best returns of three days at the most.  If your ruminations take much longer than that, you’re likely brooding, and it’s time to move on.  If you’re capable of adult decision-making, you can trust three days’ consideration of almost any issue.

 

Web and work

One of the maxims business experts like to throw about these days is that your business must cater to what the people want.  Certainly, in terms of making money this is true.  I tend to doubt that it’s useful advice, though, in terms of being happy.

Often, what you’re doing – especially in an entrepreneurial circumstance – is working on your deepest passions, and often there seems to be no interface with the public at large.  You’re developing a new widget, or offering a new service that you believe in 110%, but few others seem to appreciate your product.  You knew from the start that your focus differed widely from that of the masses, but it is the thing that floats your boat and involvement in some other direction would be simply inauthentic.

I do not approve of diminishing or watering down your offerings for the sake of popularity.  Will the madding crowds care a fig for you in the end?  Isn’t it smarter to stay loyal to your highest dreams, the ones you intuit will save your soul?  There’s no surer road to defeat than compromising your own truth, even if the path that is true to yourself  is rocky and full of potholes.

Thanks to the modern miracle of the internet, staying true to yourself is now more possible than ever.  With patience and commitment, you can find the precious few who appreciate your values, wherever they are in the world, and build a support (and feedback) structure that will enable your continued work.

If  ‘flipping’ or ‘scaling’ is what turns you on, the net can help you amass millions of supporters.  But if creating and developing are more to your taste, you can use the web even more productively, through dialogue, connections, and marketing.  So please don’t fall for the directives of people with base aspirations.  Please choose to find your own truth, and work on developing your gifts to their ultimate expression, and don’t worry if what you produce is not of the instantly popular variety.  As long as it nurtures your being, as long as you stay open to discovering, as long as you generously share, you’ll find not only rewards but sustenance.

The coincidence of massive layoffs currently, and the proliferation of the web seems serendipitous to me.  So many people, many of relatively advanced age, needing to find new means of support, while the web continues to open up all the resources of the world to each of us.  It’s an evolutionary leap:  perhaps instead of selling our souls to the corporation, we can now contemplate the very real possibility of developing our individual awareness and gifts.

Twitter thoughts

I’m a newbie at Twitter, having signed up just a couple weeks ago.  Touching in on it just now and then, I certainly haven’t wrapped my little brain all the way around as of yet; but I can say that it’s phenomenal in the extreme.

I follow, so far, a variety of types:  cohorts in the VA industry, as well as thought leaders of the highest calibre.  The tweets on my home page range from “taking the kids to school” to unabashed company promotions, to quotes from geniuses.

It’s the combination of business proclaimations, stimulating ideas, and superficial banter that’s confusing.  Many posts invite responses, so conversations of a sort do take place.  But it seems to cater more to the lone voice, regularly tossing out impressions to the world at large, hoping a few will resonate with your tone and contact you for business or other profitable projects.

It’s like a global billboard – an electronic one that changes constantly.  You’re looking for ‘followers’ on Twitter, which is a very different thing from ‘friends.’  Of course, a great many Tweetpeeps are not leaders, and their tweets don’t offer much to their followers, beyond recognition of the tweeter’s copasetic personality.  Which is important, but not very deep, not endlessly fascinating.

How does Twitter help your business?  If you are passionately engaged in what you’re doing, and have a persistent interest in all aspects of your field, it’s clear that Twittering will connect you to kindred souls and daily feed you stimulations.  I do wonder, though, about the efficacy of Twitter for those who lack this focus.  There’s little of value in their comments.  Perhaps Twitter is a tool they can use to deepen their commitments and focus their interests. 

In sum, I think Twitter’s a serious business tool, and really not a ‘social medium.’  It’s evidence that businesses must now include free sharing on a grand scale, and that we succeed best through cooperation, rather than competition in today’s world.  It forces us to consider the whole of our lives as dedicated to new discoveries; and to study the meaning of our work, 24/7, including its impacts on all aspects of our lives, and a continuing intensive study of how our actions and products affect others.

Your brand can bite you

Sheesh.  A couple things happened yesterday to give me pause.  One:  I responded to a Request for Proposals and was rejected from the job with the single comment to my proposal – “odd?”  Including the question mark.  Meaning my internet presences they checked out implied a strangeness, an abnormalcy.  Sigh.

And two:  I succumbed to curiosity and entered this blog URL at www.typealyzer.com.  There, my writing was characterized as INTP – Idealist, Intuitive, Thinking, and Practical.  Well, that’s all very nice, but what’s lacking are the Feeling and Sensing sprectra, implying that I am insensitive to others.

Ouch.  It’s true that I tend to the analytical, and choose to write succinctly about issues, offering my viewpoint on life today.  But I’ve always considered myself to be extremely sensitive, and concerned with the welfare of those around me.  Apparently, my writing here fails to reflect that side of my personality.

All this, then, points to the reality that a brand can easily take on a life of its own, and can even become the master when you’d expected it to be your servant.  Brand monitoring must be constant, and lively creativity is required to shape it authentically.  You have to live symbiotically with your brand, giving and taking with careful generosity.

I’ll have to let you know how I intend to modify the gloomy tangent my brand seems to have taken.  It’s going to require some intimate conversations with myself.  It’s an exciting challenge, though also a humbling one.  Discovering and sharing the fullness of self is a process that’s never completed!