Archive for the ‘marketing’ 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.

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.

 

Basic Branding

The rules are changing all over the place these days, but probably the biggest change we are challenged to make in the 21st century is the move from victimization to self-responsibility.  Opportunity and possibility have taken on unprecedented largesse through technological advances.  To remain mired in your resentment over being ‘done to’  (at least in America) is an unneccesary choice.

Way back when I used to teach theater, I would tell my acting students not to worry about developing a ‘style,’ because if they just kept working at the techniques, their style would soon surface of its own accord.  But communications today require that we set as first priority the articulation of ‘brand’ if we wish to participate at all in the marketplace.

If you’ve been reading all the directives, discussions, and hype, perhaps you are plenty familiar with the concept of branding, but you may still have a hard time articulating your own.  Especially if you’re just starting out in business, or if job hunting is your current job, or if you’re launching your own business or consultancy – you may wonder what it really takes to create a brand that you can live with, proudly, day in and day out.  There’s a lot of information on disseminating your brand, but what about creating it in the first place?

So I have a few suggestions to offer as a start.  To be honest, the branding process is ongoing, you’re never completely done with it, because your awareness and experience continue to grow.  But these five focus areas will take you a long way towards beginning to communicate your brand effectively. As you consider them, do it in terms of your life, not your business.

1.  Values.  What three things do you value the most in life?   Take a few minutes to call those things to mind, and add details to the images, making pictures that reflect very specifically their value to you.  Write about or draw those pictures.

2.  Energy.  What makes you get up in the morning?  What do you do to get energized?  What keeps you going?  Make marks on paper that mimic (or flow with) how you perceive your own energy.

3.  Mission.  I won’t ask you to get all formal and high minded here.  I’m just suggesting that you consider that we all have capabilities and gifts, and we each can contribute to life in our own way.  What is your contribution as you understand it at this point?  What object or picture or song could symbolize your mission?

4.  Tastes.  Or preferences, or cultural conditioning, or whatever floats your boat.  Those immediate choices your sensibilities make without premeditation.  Colors, shapes, sounds, social mores. Don’t get too involved in this one, just take a quick inventory.  Maybe write a paragraph or two about your idea of what is beautiful.

5.  Dance when no one’s watching.  Find a moment, all alone, when you can move around in space according to the whim of the moment.  Keep moving, don’t let yourself snag on any one instance or thought.  Leave enough time at the end to quietly contemplate the experience. 

I know, that last one’s pretty wierd, and you may have no idea what to think, even if you try it.  Of course, there’s absolutely no right or wrong way to do it, but let me give a suggestion to those who may be stumped.  As you move around in the space, first do it with the awareness that you’re alone.  Then compare that experience to moving around while you imagine others are in the room with you.  What are the differences?  What stays the same?  What do you like best about yourself in the two different situations?  What elements of your subconscious could be helpful to you in the business world?

So now you have a few pictures and words and gestures.  What further ideas do you get when you put them all together?

Let’s talk more.  And please comment!

Web and wheels

It seems to be, in true Dickensian form, both the best of times and the worst of times.  Layoffs, bailouts … heck let’s be real and name it depression … dominate the news; but we are also on the brink of reforms through the Obama administration that seem likely to prepare for us a much more glorious future. 

And in the face of serious financial quandaries, as individuals we now have an exciting chance to become more truly ourselves.  Few of the middle class have escaped unscathed:  either your retirement, or your college education, or your job, or a combination of these now bears the consequences of  Wall Street’s disaster.  An innocence, a faith in American infrastructures has been destroyed.  And while that may be sad in a sentimental kind of way, it’s actually an unparalleled opportunity.

Jeremiah Owyang talks today about how employees are becoming more like migrants and gypsies.  As we evolve, the epithet of  ‘worker’ no longer pertains.  None of us is just a cog in the wheel; rather, we are realizing that to develop a personal brand is to live fully, and not to do so is to remain wallowing in ignorance and slavery.

What is your brand?  Can you articulate it in some way?  What are your keywords (for LIFE, not financial gain)?  What kind of circle is developing around you? 

We traditionally have sought to create one huge wheel of industry that spins our collective lives.  Now, we realize that each individual must create their own wheel.  The world is a fantasmagoric interworking of 6 billion wheels.  We can no longer control; we can only be aware and appreciative.

Our systems, especially in formal education, do not as yet support this understanding.  We do not teach our children about self-knowledge; we rarely teach them how to think (see this article about how universities in Great Britain are leading the charge to change this.)  Few active adults today have any notion about how to organize a personal brand – or more basically, where to start in identifying one for themselves.

Is your brand your responses to categories on your Facebook page?  Is it the colors you use in print?  Is it what others say about you, or is it more than that?  I’m curious about these and related questions.  Add a comment with your ideas, if you will.  I’ll incorporate your thoughts in follow-up posts here.

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!

Social media revolution

Studying intensely this strange animal called social media marketing.  As communications is the major focus in my work, I recognize the social media movement as revolutionary in the extreme.  It may upend not only our marketing practices, but every aspect of business planning and operations. 

One issue we encounter when establishing communications online is how to balance personal and professional posts.  Given the time involved in keeping up with, say, your Twittering, you’re probably inclined to have just one account there, and not try to maintain several different ones.  The culture of the ‘net requires a very soft touch in your marketing posts, with an emphasis on your personality more than on the services/products you offer.  Many folk in the social marketing course I’m taking wonder how to synthesize; how to be personable but also aim for an ROI.

In my opinion, this question is at the heart of the movement’s meaning.  We’re looking at re-inventing our economy right now, and a large part of the new global understanding is that we’ll succeed by being authentic, by aligning our personal goals with whatever we do in the business world.

This is a major difference from the past, when your job was generally regarded as something apart from your true self.  Our challenge now is to identify and focus on the things that are actually personally meaningful; to use our personal, native creativity in service to the world’s needs.  When what you do for money is closely aligned with your personal dreams and understanding of reality, posting and commenting online in a way that’s both personable and professional becomes second nature.

Does this mean you should change jobs?  Maybe.  But more likely, it means that if you apply foundational creative thought and practice to your daily grind, you will begin to see how your work is an expression of your self.   Whether you flip burgers at a fast food joint, run errands for the boss, make automobiles, or own the company, careful, creative observation will bring you an understanding of how this work aligns with your deepest motivations.  It’s from that place of clarity that we must all proceed.

The courage to change

I was thrilled last week to receive notice that I’d actually won a contest (maybe the first time in my life)!  Tanner Christensen, with the Creative Something blog offered a random prize drawing, and lo and behold, he drew my name.  So now I am the proud owner of Thomas Friedman’s new book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded.  If it’s anything like The World is Flat, I’m assured of an inspiring read.

We have a new mandate: we must learn to live together in health and peace on a planet with limited resources.  We must lose our perception of ‘us and them’ and assume a new outlook of ‘us and eternity.’  The enemy is not the other guy; the enemy is our own ignorance and lack of imagination.

A few things perceived over the weekend may help to illustrate.  We prepped the herb garden by spreading the soil with newsprint.  This involved going to the recycling center and scoring huge piles of the stuff.  Most of what I scarfed was that very day’s edition, and most of it was glossy ad inserts.  Within the past 24 hours, news happened, reporters wrote it up, designers created splashy ads, editors revised, printers sweated out the production, distributors scurried all over plastering the environs, and then vast amounts of the product were summarily dumped. 

This syndrome occurs daily all over the world.  We can’t seem to reduce the waste, simply because the newspaper industry machine is so huge, we’re afraid of stopping it.  Change is all very well as long as we have decades to accomplish it.  Don’t ask us to take our knowledge and actually apply it right away; we’re too lazy, or scared, or dependent on our habits.  We think ‘we need the eggs,’ as Woody Allen so marvelously put it.

But I also read in the past couple days about two individuals whose change is brave and phenomenal.  Anne Rice has found Jesus, and Joaquin Phoenix is quitting the movies.  The queen of the vampires and the king of Hollywood lovers do about faces.  Their courage in aligning with the urges of their hearts, even though it may work against all the world’s demands, is exemplary and a positive lesson for us all.  Anything is possible, and to perpetuate waste and destruction because we fear change is unworthy of our gifts as sentient beings.