Category Archives: Branding
Make sure you network the right way in the right place.
While saving money to return to college my sophomore year, I did a short stint as an international flight attendant with a little-known charter airline called Arrow Airways. I was delighted to work one particular flight from Denver, Colorado, to Gatwick, England because one of my fellow crew members was a hunky Italian named Alberto.
When we landed, I quickly accepted his invitation to join him for dinner. Although his accent was thick, I was sure he said he would be taking me to an Italian restaurant called Apple Luigi’s. So imagine my surprise when we arrived at our destination in downtown London, which was not a fine Italian eatery called Apple Luigi’s but a gay men’s club called Harpoon Louie’s.
Why would I share this humiliating story? Because the lessons I learned apply to successful networking for business:
- Shut up and Listen.
- Kill the Agenda.
- Check your Six.
Shut Up and Listen
Instead of just waiting for your turn to talk, pay attention when you are chatting with someone. If you practice active listening, you will stand out because most people approach networking events with mouths open and ears shut. If I had spent more time listening to Alberto instead of trying to impress him with flirty banter, I might have ascertained that he was not a viable romantic prospect.
More recently, I participated in a speed-networking event where organizers asked participants to rate fellow networkers. The top three had this in common: they listened more than they spoke. If you want people to think highly of you, listen to them.
Entrepreneurs often have “Type A” personalities who like to manage everything, often to their own peril. The reason I was surprised by Alberto’s revelation is because I came to the party with my own romantic agenda. But even though my time at Harpoon Louie’s isn’t what I had expected, I ended up meeting lots of interesting people. So, even though I had to find my own ride back to the hotel, the evening wasn’t a total waste.
Try to make the best of your circumstances because you never know what might unfold. Buckminster Fuller called this phenomenon the Processional Effect. As a Christian, I call it the Sovereignty of God. Whatever your belief system, try to let things happen naturally instead of trying to control the world. You might be surprised to make a friend, land a new client or learn something new.
Make sure you’re in the right place. Although you should go with the flow no matter where you end up, try to start off somewhere that makes sense. Before selecting networking groups to join and events to attend, figure out if regular attendees fall into your target market. Since I was interested in meeting someone I could date, Harpoon Louie’s was not an ideal location.
The good news is you don’t have to learn these lessons the hard way. Take a tip from me and network for maximum results on any budget:
When it comes to finding places to network, think outside the box. Networking opportunities don’t occur only at official mixers that are labeled “Networking Event.” You can meet potential clients, customers and associates literally anywhere and everywhere…in the real world as well as Cyberspace.
For those who regularly read my columns, please allow me to repeat myself. The most effective way to network for free is online. Join and maintain social media accounts like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. And, above all else, remember to be the same person you are online as you are in the real world.
On a Limited Budget—
In this troubled business economy, when time and money are often in short supply, carefully select which networking groups to join. Instead of spreading yourself too thin by signing up for several organizations, start small. Join one group and take a leadership role. Arrive early and stay late. Volunteer to help set up and clean up so people see you as an active member.
The Sky’s the Limit—
If the funds are available, sponsor your own networking event. This will position you as a leader in the business community and enable you to hand-pick attendees from your own target market. And you can host the event wherever you want…from Apple Luigi’s to Harpoon Louie’s.
Until next time, I’ll be Bowling for Business.
No doubt you’re familiar with the game of telephone, where you whisper something to the first person in a line and then wait to hear how the message gets scrambled on the other end? According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the current record-holding “telephone game” whisper is, “They inherited the earth and then the army came and scorched it.” The final words passed on were “Mayfield College.”
I’m confident the folks at Guinness would reevaluate the record if they came to my home, since we unintentionally play the game on a daily basis. My husband’s instructions to Kaitlin to “Clean your room” are heard as, “Watch television all day long.”
My requests to Lauren to “Take out the trash” are interpreted as, “Make brownies and destroy the kitchen in the process.”
As a family, we’re working on refining the communication model. Brent and I have recently discovered that while communication theories like repetition, parroting and paraphrasing do no good, threats yield results. Miraculously, the girls accurately discern messages like, “Vacuum the living room or hand over your cell phone.”
The reason our teenagers pay attention to this type of message is because we have made it relevant to their world. By engaging them on their terms, we make them an active part of the conversation. I’m embarrassed it took so long to adopt the practice at home since we do it all of the time when it comes to writing website copy for clients at Mountain Marketing Group.
In real life and Cyberspace, effective communication boils down to understanding and speaking to your audience from their point of view. When it comes to marketing, this relatively simple concept is revolutionary. Instead of designing and writing a website that looks like a billboard, remember that the reason people go online is to gather information. That’s why it’s called the Information Superhighway. Your site should provide help, not hype.
If finances are tight, write website copy, yourself, using the following tips—
- Personalize your message and involve readers.
- Be friendly. Use anecdotes. Don’t talk down to your audience.
- Let your passion about your product or service come through.
- Prominently feature testimonials.
- Be real. Avoid overly-technical explanations and corporate-speak. If you mean to say, “If there’s a problem,” don’t write, “In the event of an unsatisfactory experience.”
- FOREGO EXCESSIVE USE OF CAPITAL LETTERS, BOLD TYPEFACE AND EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!!
- Talk benefits instead of features. How will your product or service improve your clients’ lives?
- Leave your mission statement off of the homepage. Visitors don’t care.
- Include a guarantee or free trial.
- Proofread everything at least three times. Errors undermine credibility.
It’s exceedingly difficult to look at your own copy with objectivity. Left unchecked, your greatest asset, familiarity with your offering, can be a liability. So, after you’ve written the copy, run it by other people so they can give you their opinions. Be aware that friends and family will be biased. They already have at least a rudimentary understanding of what you do. So, try to get the verbiage in front of someone who has no preconceived ideas of your product or service.
On a Budget–
Hire a writer who specializes in creating direct response copy, which is designed to solicit a reaction that is both specific and quantifiable. An experienced writer will understand how to do all of the above and will be able to skillfully provide interesting information as well as a seamless call to action. And this is of paramount importance. After all, what good is a great website if it fails to improve the bottom line?
The Sky’s the Limit–
Hire a professional website development team, which will make sure your copy is stellar and that the artwork matches the tone and feel you wish to convey. A web team will eliminate the potential for your message to get lost in translation. And, unless you want to challenge the current record in Guinness, that’s a very good thing. Until next week, I’ll be Bowling for Business.
Tags: Biz Press, Bowling for Business, communication theories, direct response copy, for free, Guinness Book of World Records, Information Superhighway, Kathy Bowling, on a limited budget, point of view, POV, rimoftheworld.net, the sky's the limit, website
Just before Christmas when I was seven years old, my father walked with me to a small curiosity shop/drug store in our town called Rotolo’s. I was eager to spend the $5 I had earned raking leaves and doing odd jobs around the house. This was in the 70s. So he was able to wait outside the store while I walked safely up and down the aisles, searching for Christmas gifts.
I finally settled on a glossy ceramic piggy bank for my mother and a box of Little Debbie Swiss Rolls for my father. I was so excited when I exited the store, I could barely contain myself. Since I loved piggy banks and chocolate, I was certain I had found the perfect presents.
And, on Christmas morning, when they opened their packages, my parents’ reactions confirmed my assessment. They praised my taste and thoughtfulness. My mom immediately placed change into her bank and displayed it on her dresser, where it remains to this day. My father shared his treats and kept the empty package. We found it among his treasured possessions many years later, after he had died.
Only later did it occur to me that two thirty-year-old adults might not have chosen a piggy bank and packaged snack cakes had they shopped for themselves. My naïve gesture succeeded because my parents understood and appreciated my frame of reference.
However, when it comes to promoting your product or service, you can’t expect your customers to respond in kind. While it is natural to lean toward logos, colors, slogans and advertisements that appeal to your own tastes and preferences, the only way this strategy will work is if you just want to sell to yourself. If you would rather extend your customer base, you’ll have to broaden your advertising horizons.
Oddly enough, when it comes to selecting a target, many entrepreneurs take whoever they can get, however and whenever they can get them, without figuring out who they actually want to attract in the first place. If your product or service is worthwhile (and I certainly hope that it is), then you do prospective customers a service by figuring out who they are and properly communicating your message to them.
To hone in on their ideal markets, we counsel Mountain Marketing Group clients to follow the money. And you can do this regardless of the size of your marketing budget.
Use your existing client list to get a handle on your ideal target. Create a simple spreadsheet that answers the following questions:
- Who buys the largest quantity?
- Who purchases the highest ticket items?
- Who frequents your store most often?
- What do the above have in common?
After you import all pertinent information, go straight to the source. Call or email your best customers. Thank them for their business and ask them how you managed to land their accounts. Inquire about which publications they read, programs they watch, and websites they frequent. Focus your promotional efforts on the most frequent mentions.
On a Budget—
In many marketing circles, the shine is off the penny for email marketing campaigns. In fact, some pundits say that email marketing results have declined by 10 to 40 percent over the past five years. On the other hand, email survey campaigns are all the rage. If you have more than a handful of customers, the most efficient way to find out about their preferences is to write a customer survey email.
Perhaps anticipating the winds of change, email newsletter services such as Rate Point and Constant Contact offer user-friendly tools to create and distribute brief surveys. Since most people appreciate knowing that their opinions count, you probably won’t offend anyone by starting the practice.
The Sky’s the Limit—
When your firm can afford it, I recommend you hire someone to conduct market research. Ironically, although this is a crucial step for effective advertising, it is the tool most often overlooked by business owners. This is a shame, since good market research eliminates the unnecessary outlay of ill-spent ad dollars. And, as we all know, a penny saved is a penny earned…and sometimes stored in a high-gloss piggy bank.
Until next week, I’ll be Bowling for Business.
Tags: 1970s, Bowling for Business, bowling on a budget, christmas gifts, constant contact, email marketing, expand your customer base, follow the money, market research, marketing budget, mountain marketing group, publications, rate point, rimoftheworld.net, Rotolo's, spreadsheet, surveys, the Business Press, websites
This column first appeared in RimoftheWorld.net on Nov. 29, 2009
I’m not sure how I sliced off a chunk of skin from my left index finger while we were at the drug store the other day. But I couldn’t get the thing to stop bleeding. While I was digging in my purse for tissues, my daughter, Lauren, was scouring the aisles when she came across a new product that speeds coagulation. It’s called Wound-Be-Gone.
“Mom, this would be perfect for you,” she said, reading the fine print on the box. “It’s the only over-the-counter product clinically proven to accelerate healing, decrease inflammation, reduce tenderness, and prevent scar formation with both acute and chronic wounds. And it’s travel size, which is perfect for you since you are always hurting yourself.”
Though she sounded like an infomercial, I have to admit Lauren was right. My left hand looks like a “before” picture for burn cream, eczema medicine, and anti-bacterial ointment. The battle scars are from my curling iron, our oven, and several particularly menacing grocery store rotisserie chicken-heating units. So, to my daughter’s credit, Wound-Be-Gone was a lucky find.
Lauren’s slick salesmanship aside, the primary reason I made the jump from casual browser to paying customer was because the prospect of parting with $19.99 plus tax was less painful to me than the embarrassment and inconvenience of hemorrhaging all over the floor at Rite Aid. The manufacturers of Wound-Be-Gone made the sale because they met me at the point of my pain. And, in the end, every sale does the same.
The rub is how to articulate your ability to meet needs. You can do it with the name of your company, the name of your product, your slogan or your advertising campaign. Or, better yet, with all of the above.
Here are some examples of national brands that do this well:
Pain Point: My house is a disorganized, undecorated mess.
Solution: You can do it. We can help. (Home Depot)
Pain Point: I’m so sick that I can’t sleep.
Solution: The nighttime coughing, achy, sniffling, stuffy head, fever, so you can rest medicine. (Nyquil)
Pain Point: I have to deliver this package right away or I could get fired.
Solution: When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight. (Federal Express)
Pain Point: I’m fat.
Solution: Slim Quick
To make sure you are addressing your prospective customers’ points of pain, you need to define your Unique Sales Proposition. The reason I recommend creating a USP as a first step is because it will force you to look at your offering from the end user’s point of view instead of from your own. The good news is that you can create and support a good USP no matter your budget.
Ask your friends and business associates for ideas. A jewelry store owner and former member of my networking group developed a slogan by asking us for ideas. He finally decided to go with Everything Fine at Kelly’s on Vine. And while it isn’t necessarily my first choice, because it doesn’t clearly communicate his Unique Sales Proposition, it’s catchy. So he should use it with abandon. Once you settle on your tag, splash it on your business cards, letterhead and website and in your email signature.
On a Budget
If your budget puts you in an either/or situation, spend it to hire someone to define your trademark instead of on the advertising to promote it. With social media marketing and directory listings, there’s never been a better time to advance your brand for free. And when business improves and your budget increases, you’ll be proud of what you’re promoting.
The Sky’s the Limit
Find an agency to help you come up with a strategy to compliment your USP. One of our clients, Sandra, is a doctor of optometry. Before coming up with a tagline for her practice, we reminded her she is selling more than eye exams, glasses or contact lenses. She is offering the promise of clear vision. To accentuate her goal of superior customer service, we came up with a slogan that showcases her USP, Eye Focus on You. And, I’ve got a great spokeswoman on deck if she ever wants to do an infomercial.
Until next week, I’ll be Bowling for Business.
Tags: BNI, Bowling for Business, brands, company slogans, directory listings, drug stores, home depot, logos, national brands, nyquil, rimoftheworld.net, rotisserie chicken burns, slim quick, Social Media, unique sales proposition, USP, wound be gone
This column first appeared on RimoftheWorld.net on Nov. 9, 2009.
Because there were two girls named Kathy in Mrs. Dale’s kindergarten class, my mother agreed to let everyone call me Kathy Ann. The horror of it haunts me to this day.
Don’t get me wrong. Ann is a lovely name. Not only is it my middle name, but it’s the name of two of my favorite aunts. But my weak bladder, coupled with my classmates’ irritating ability to rhyme, produced a moniker that took me a long time to shake…Kathy Ann in the Can. In fact, the nickname stuck until we moved to another school district when I was in sixth grade.
When it comes to people and business, for better or worse, branding happens. And it doesn’t take much to get people to react to an organization’s emblem. Take the controversial 2012 Olympic logo, created at a staggering cost of 400,000 pounds. The image drew fire from a group called Epilepsy Action, which said that a video promoting the logo triggers migraines, epileptic fits and vomiting. The International Olympic Committee is set to investigate the logo which politicians say is childish and “looks like Boris Johnson’s hair.
Although causing people to puke is rarely the objective in professional trademark development, some believe there is no such thing as negative publicity. So, in that regard, the London Olympic logo designer’s efforts were successful.
A more conventional approach would be to create a logo that is:
- Instantly recognizable
Some famous logos that fill the bill include Google, Starbucks, Coca-Cola, Fed-Ex, and McDonalds, whose images you most likely pictured even as you read their names. The reason you recognize these brands, however, isn’t just because their logos are great. Superior products, excellent service and aggressive marketing help. Let’s face it, if your company sucks, coming up with an amazing image for it is lipstick on a pig.
But for a credible organization, finding the right symbol can mean the difference between obscurity and notoriety. This is especially true in the Internet age, where deep pockets to pay for full-color brochures and slick press packets are no longer necessary. Anyone with a computer and a low resolution, jpeg version of their logo can upload it everywhere from A1-Webmarks to Zaadz.com.
But commissioning a classic design can come at a hefty price. So how do you to produce an iconic logo if you’re on a budget? Whatever the price point, you have several options.
- For Free—if you have no money with which to build your brand, proceed with caution. Like it or not, the logo you choose today will be with your firm for years to come. Also, unless your business is graphic design or fine art, don’t buy do-it-yourself logo software in an ill-fated attempt to craft your own. Having access to a logo program won’t make you an artist any more than owning a calculator will turn you into a mathematician.
When money is tight, less is more. So try to find a nice, clean, clear font for your company name and then quit while you’re ahead. Avoid the temptation to add clipart to the mix. Also, when choosing typeface, skip Script and Old English, unless you’re shooting for an Addams-Family vibe.
- On a Budget—while I generally caution clients against ordering logos online, some companies do a respectable job for under $200. The problem is that, when left to their own devices, many entrepreneurs will ask their Internet designer to place their company name inside a blue and red oval, without realizing they like the look because they’ve seen it on cans of Bud Lite.
- The Sky’s the Limit—if you are in the enviable position of actually having money in your marketing budget, don’t skimp on the cornerstone of business communication. Find someone you trust and let them do what they do best so you can do what you do best. The right professional can help you define your unique sales proposition so your logo not only looks great and conveys your message to the intended target, but does so without inducing nausea.
Tags: 2012 Olympic logo, advertising, Boris Johnson's hair, Bowling for Business, bowling on a budget, Coca-Cola, do-it-yourself logo software, entrepreneur, Fed Ed, free logo, Google, graphic design, icon, logo, logo controversy, logo on a budget, marketing, McDonalds, on a budget, online logos, public relations, Starbucks, symbol, trademark, unique sales proposition, USP
This column originally appeared on RIMOFTHEWORLD.net on Sunday, September 13, 2009
Whenever I’m tempted to drone on in blogs and columns, I remember a particularly disturbing episode of the Twilight Zone called The Living Doll. In it, a talking doll named Tina has it out for her owner’s father, played by Telly Savalas.
Maybe her hatred is due to the fact he is bald. Or maybe it’s because he has a hideous mole on his face. Or perhaps it’s because he’s the only one who can hear her deliver eerie lines that are not a part of her programmed vocabulary. No one knows for sure.
Whatever the reason, Talky Tina spends the entire episode making Telly angry. In fact, by the end of the show, in a desperate attempt to shut her up, he forces her tiny plastic head into a vice grip and cranks away.
If nothing else, the show serves to remind me to stick to the script when it comes to writing or speaking in public. After all, the inspiration for the doll was Chatty Cathy.
But it’s hard to find the balance in blogging. The word “blog” sounds a lot like “blah, blah, blah.” And that generally communicates the idea that you should keep talking regardless of whether you have anything valuable to say.
In the early days of the blog, pioneers staked their claims with long, verbose diatribes. At the time, only a few writers were contributing to the blogosphere. Content was scarce. So people were patient.
In the intervening years, an era most social media pundits refer to as Web 2.0, the blog has became the quintessential tool for personal and business communication.
According to Wikipedia, in December 2007, the blog search engine Technorati was tracking more than 112 million blogs. At the speed of web, that number is probably into the billions by now. So how have the rules changed? Is it still important to blog? Why bother? How can that many people have so much to say?
When it comes to electronic communication in 2009, it all boils down to this:
The Good, the Blog and the Ugly
I believe it’s still important to maintain a blog in today’s business climate. Where business owners once hired professional website developers and designers to create state-of-the-art electronic brochures of their companies, and allowed those six-figure sites to rot in Cyberspace, the new order of the day is to slap something together and post it before the URL has time to rank.
Good is no longer measured in terms of a pleasant aesthetic. Today, most people are comfortable surfing the web. In fact, World Internet Usage Statistics puts the number of active Internet users at 1,668,870,408.
True, it may have taken most of us awhile to catch up with the early adapters. But we learned. And, now, we recognize that highlighted words are hyperlinks and widgets are click-able windows that whisk us from one world to another. So, we are no longer content to spend time on a single site. I call it Digital ADD.
The solution? If you can’t beat them, tweet them. Set up a website or blog as the hub of all of your information. And then, create several smaller sites that point back to the hub. In our advertising and public relations agency, Mountain Marketing Group, we explain the strategy like this.
Your blog should serve as a large body of information, like a lake. Social networking sites are like tributaries and streams that ebb and flow back to the lake, which is the source of your information. Since people want to click, let them spend their time clicking inside your site. And while they’re there, the best way to share your point of view is with a well-constructed blog.
How do you write a blog that people will actually read? When she first started blogging her way through Julia Child’s cookbook, now acclaimed author Julie Powell said that it felt as if she was sending her initial posts into a giant abyss. Was anyone reading? Did anyone care?
This is the litmus test for whether or not you have anything worthwhile to say. Is your heart beating? If so, then you have what it takes to create content. You are uniquely you. Only you can tell your story. Only you can sell your product.
So be bold. Blog. Be short and sweet. Talk to your readers as though they were sitting across the table from you. Tell them what you would if you were chatting in person. My clients hear this charge, often.
Be who you are in the real world. Just do it in Cyberspace.
Now that I’ve (hopefully) emboldened you to blog, let me touch on what not to do.
- Don’t pretend to know everything. You don’t. And everyone knows it. When they read your blog online, they are only a click away from checking every detail that you share. So be authentic.
- Don’t write long narratives without breaking up the copy with images, videos, hyperlinks and bullet points. If all your readers see is a sea of copy, they will quickly click away.
- Don’t forget that your words will live on in infamy. One of the authors of groundswell, equates trying to remove something from the Internet with attempting to retrieve pee from a swimming pool.
Don’t ignore your readers. Provide a place for comments. And when readers write, give the courtesy of a reply.
Whatever you do (and this is probably the most important tip of all), don’t irritate Talky Tina.
Until next time, I’ll be Bowling for Business.
Tags: blog, Bowling for Business, bowling on a budget, Chatty Cathy, groundswell, julia & Julie, julie powell, Kathy Bowling, Living doll, mountain marketing group, Social Networking, Talky Tina, Technorati, Telly Savalas, the blog and the ugly, The good, Twilight Zone, world internet usage statistics