Archive for the ‘marketing’ Tag

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.

 

Tree observations

Consider trees.  Here are a few observations.

1.  Some trees become very large and dominate the landscape.  They are strong and beautiful, but we must not forget that the smaller trees around them are kept in subjugation by the big tree’s glory.  And a big tree that stands alone is lovely but lonely.

2.  Trees branch and fractile, just as we are required to do in life.  Our global world encourages nothing if not spreading the word – about you, your business, your attitudes.  But you’ll notice that the twigs and flowers gracing the tips of branches are not possible without a strong and well-established trunk.

3.  Trees are naturally gorgeous, inviting, interesting, protecting, and endearing.  But all the parts of a tree that we appreciate most are mere decoration, and the vital, true life of the tree exists underground.  Hidden from sight, buried in darkness, the roots are the ultimate truth of the tree.  All the above-ground showy stuff can disappear, but the tree will live on if the roots remain strong.

What do trees tell you about your life? 

Three Big Words

It’s exciting and heartening to me that some key concepts in the Web 2.0 world match key creativity concepts.  By adopting these ways of working in our businesses, we are also developing personal creative strength.

What are these concepts?  Today, I’m thinking about three:  curiosity, engagement, and generosity. 

Curiosity means a keen attention to both internal and external worlds, and a willingness to explore.  The business that understands constant change; that is tuned in to the lives and responses of its clientele; and that keeps a constant watch for new opportunities is the successful business of our time.

Engagement means the willingness to be responsive on all levels of society.  The business that sees itself in the context of the entire globe; that is not distanced from pressing social issues such as pollution, poverty, and ignorance; and that uses its resources to benefit the world to the best of its abilities is the vital business of today.

Generosity means truly courageous effort.  It doesn’t mean giving away the store; it means conscientious, no-holds-barred follow through on committments.  It means intelligent planning and then all-out devotion to goals.  In order to get, it is necessary to give first, as generally evidenced by the Open Source movement and many other freebies offered on the internet.  The business that cultivates a reputation of true dedication to sharing the benefits it offers is the admired business in our world. 

These three concepts are foundational as well to the development of individual creativity.  I understand the close relationship of individual creativity and business today as our most promising hope for the future.  It’s a future in which the gap is significantly narrowed between the things we do for money and who we are as human beings.

Synthesis and our new economy

Chris Anderson, editor of Wired magazine and author of The Long Tail has written an exciting and enlightening article about the new *FREE* economy.  Check it out here.  This is mind bending stuff, and vital info for anyone in business today.

The bottom line is that the bottom line has become far more sophisticated.  The new perspectives and possibilities offered by the internet age have resulted in a new interpretation of value.  We still value money, of course, but the intangibles of reputation and attention suddenly have huge worth.  More and more every day, we are becoming aware that money is not to be obtained without these other values also firmly in place.  The three values are becoming so closely aligned that it’s now understood that by building reputation and attention, one simultaneously builds monetary wealth.

The synthesis of unlikely elements is a characteristic of creativity.  Interesting how the macrocosm of the overall economy mirrors the microcosm of personal growth.  As our economy migrates towards a more complex system of values, we’re also increasingly concerned with the well-balanced personal life and the creative approach to work and productivity.

If we follow the above threads, we can take a hint from this organic evolution of our society, to help develop our personal creativity.  Lay one reality on top of another and presto! you have a new expression.  

To practice, pick up any two objects on your desk and examine them as if they were one thing instead of two.  What are all the different ways they could go together?  If you’re well-tuned to your sensations, the simple act of bringing these two objects together causes an instant stream of images and stories in your head.  Though the actual content of these thoughts may be rather silly, without obvious application to your uses, it’s the process and your awareness of it that’s important here. 

After you become comfortable with this way of perceiving, try synthesizing bigger things:  your important meeting today combined with your craving for tacos; your broken washing machine combined with getting a haircut; your business leads list combined with your photography hobby. The fresh combination of any two things is the beginning of anything creative.

Cute, but is it really creative?

airdancer
Not only is creativity generally mistrusted and unexplored, it is also often mis-interpreted. 

Here’s an example of what I mean.  It’s tax time, and the race is on amongst professional preparers to attract our business.  One of them, who shall remain unnamed here, sends out a day laborer costumed in a robe and foam headgear to hawk on the street out front.  The costume is meant to catch the eye, and the hiree prances up and down the sidewalk, gawking and waving.

The business thinks this is a creative move that will bring new customers.  The reality is that we only feel pity for the poor sucker forced to gussy up and clown.  The costume unravels, the head gear slips, and the waving becomes half-hearted all too quickly.  Passers-by are only embarrassed for the business – a reaction not likely to increase clientele.

Another street-side marketing idea strikes me as incredibly creative, in contrast to the above example.  This is the balloon people (or animals or whatever) that bend and sway and contort impossibly, mechanically powered and usually larger than life.  I think they’re called airdancers.  It’s endlessly entertaining to watch the play of these lively signs.  This enjoyment easily morphs into an automatic appreciation for the sponsoring business.

See the difference?  The real person in costume is an old idea, one we’ve taken for granted as creative.  But since it does not evidence the liveliness  of authentic creative thought, it sadly misses the mark.  The balloons, on the other hand, take this old idea and invigorate it with the common sense and technical know-how of our time.  Synthesis, in creativity, is key.